2024 Uptown Music & Arts Festival

May 25, 2024

Hours: Gates open at 2:30 pm
Festival Hours: 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm
  • DW3

  • José Valentino & Charlton Singleton

  • Kayla Waters

  • Rob Zinn & Andrew Neu

  • Tim George

DW3

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Since 2003, brothers Eric and Billy Mondragon and close family friend Damon Reel have set the high energy mood on cruises (Smooth Jazz Cruise, Dave Koz Cruise, Soul Train Cruise & 80’s), at jazz festivals, showrooms, and clubs, including hundreds of performances at their longtime home base of Spaghettini in Seal Beach, CA. They also played a key role on Dave Koz and Friends’ Grammy nominated Summer Horns project. With four Billboard charting hits – including “I Got You” (featuring Gerald Albright) and “Let the Music,” “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “California Dreamin’” from their hit 2013 & 2015 albums On the Floor & Vintage Truth – DW3 have also established themselves as a popular national recording group.

The three chose to self-title their latest Woodward Avenue Records recording to reflect the culmination of their steady and inspiring evolution from ultimate, first call party band to multi-faceted artists, songwriters and producers fulfilling their own singular musical vision. “We’re really excited about this album,” Damon says. “Sonically, our concept was to capture the same types of vibes we convey onstage,” Billy adds. “We’re a high energy live ensemble that also love lush, sensual ballads, and we kept that in mind when we were recording these new songs. We’ve had a lot of success with covers, and when we do our cover tunes, we’re all about the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, and our original material captures those eras with a fresh flavor. The album’s got a lot of grooving dance beats with some cool, smooth stuff in there to create the perfect balance. Our challenge was to integrate our old style with a fresh new sound and contemporary melodies. We still love doing classic songs, but the whole point of composing is to draw from those influences to move forward creating our own unique flow.”

The set list for DW3 offers a perfectly artful balance between smooth, seductive ballads and up- tempo dance/funk jams. If you’re in the late night, slow swaying candlelight zone, the band’s got your number with the silky and sensual, blues tinged ballad “Like There’s No Tomorrow” (featuring Rebecca Jade) the hypnotic, slow simmering “Your Body” (featuring a silky solo by Boney James), the sexy and sultry “Groove With You” (also spotlighting Jade), and two compelling versions of DW3’s re-imagined Con Funk Shun classic “Straight from the Heart” – the second a stripped down, nearly a capella version featuring DW3’s sparkling vocal harmonies and the passionate sax intensity of Eric Darius. When you’re ready to groove, hit the 80’s spiced, synth-funk driven “Now That I’ve Found You,” the spirited, high octane party anthem “Let’s Have Fun Tonight” (featuring Richard Elliot on sax and EWI), and “Never Gonna Stop,” which Billy calls the band’s “El DeBarge meets Michael Jackson with a new hip, fun flavor to it.”

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José Valentino

Maintaining an vibrant career as an internationally touring cross-genre performing and recording artist (flutist, saxophonist, and bassist), four-time GRAMMY® Award Winner, EMMY® Award Winner, 15-time Global Music® Award Winner, and fifty-three-time Downbeat Music® Award Winner, José Valentino has performed 1400+ concerts  as a headlining artist in festivals, performing arts centers, and  conferences on six continents; led 40+ non-profit mission trips; delivered 110+ keynotes, concerts, workshops in academic sectors;  consulted numerous Fortune 500 companies; produced 140+ albums and 10 documentaries; and published 54 peer-reviewed research articles. Valentino is Resident Media Composer at Hayden5; CEO at JV Music Enterprises; Founding Program Coordinator of UF Music Business & Entrepreneurship; Director of the Global Institute for Music Research’s Commission for Entrepreneurship and Leadership.

Legendary artists describe Valentino’s artistry on bass as “Very soulful and heartfelt!” (John Patitucci) and “Amazing and incredible!” (Victor Wooten); on saxophone as “Genius!” (Paquito D’Rivera) and “Openly and unequivocally speaks beyond” (Pedro Eustache); and on flute as “Playing the flute with fire!” (Hubert Laws); and “The best improvisor on flute!” (Jim Walker).

Valentino’s academic scholarship is published in the International  Journal of Music Performative Research, International Journal of Music  & Cultural Studies, International Journal of Music Entrepreneurship  & Leadership, Open Journal of Music Education, International Journal  of Health and Music, International Journal of Music Pedagogy, Artivate:  A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, Journal of Arts  Entrepreneurship Education (x2), Journal of Popular Music Education (x2), National Association for Music Education (x3), Association for Popular Music Education (x5), International Journal of Community Music, International  Research Forum for Music Performance & Artistry, International  Research Forum for Music & Wellbeing, International Research Forum  for Music Business & Innovation (x4), International Research Forum for  Music Administration & Governance (x3); International Research Forum for  Cross-Cultural Music & Issues; International Research Forum for  Music Pedagogy & Practice, International Research Forum for Global  Music Education, International Research Forum for Music & Multimedia  Production, International Research Forum for Music Improvisation &  Composition, International Trombone Journal, Music Teacher National  Association E-Journal (in press); Music Teacher National Association  Business Digest; Kansas Music Review (x2); Voyage Magazine, Canvas Rebel  Magazine (x2), Bold Journey Magazine, The Conversation (x2), All About Jazz,  and other scholarly outlets. Moreover, Valentino’s business ventures, productions, and leadership initiatives have been recognized by various global media outlets such as Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, The Economist, Downbeat Magazine, New York Times, LA Times, Billboard Magazine, and Rolling Stone Magazine (x2). In 2023, Valentino had the distinguished honor of serving as Co-Editor of the flagship journal in the field, Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts.

Credentially, Valentino holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Music Theory, Master of Music (M.M.) in Instrumental Performance, Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) in Global Outreach & Missiology, and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Music Education.

Charlton Singleton

Charlton Singleton is a Grammy Award winning trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He leads his own ensembles that vary in size and style. Charlton has performed in France, Great Britain, Scotland, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands, as well as many great cities throughout the United States.

Charlton is a founding member of the GRAMMY® Award winning quintet Ranky Tanky. Ranky Tanky performs timeless music born from the Gullah culture of the southeastern Sea Islands. Their debut album was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and the TODAY show. It also soared to the #1 position on the Billboard, Amazon, and iTunes Jazz Charts. Playful game songs, ecstatic shouts, and heartbreaking spirituals can all be found on their latest release Good Time, which also offers the group’s first original songs inspired by Gullah tradition. The group is a quintet that interprets the sounds of Gullah from the Southeast Coast of the United States. In 2018, Ranky Tanky reached the top of the Billboard, iTunes, and Amazon Contemporary Jazz charts with their self-titled debut recording. In 2019, the band accomplished the same feat with the release of their sophomore effort, “Good Time”, which was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award.

“Just watching him conduct, play piano and trumpet draws you in, captivates you. He turns a non-jazz person into an enthusiast in a single concert.” Randi Weinstein (CJO Patron) – Charleston Magazine

In addition to performing, Charlton is in demand as a speaker, clinician, composer, and arranger. He has also shared the stage with and worked with some of most talented entertainers in the world, including Bobby McFerrin, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, Houston Person, Darius Rucker, Fred Wesley, and Cyrus Chestnut.

Kayla Waters

Artistically poised pianist Kayla Waters is a chart-topping recording artist, composer, producer, and film-scorer. After signing a new record deal with Shanachie Records, Kayla victoriously releases her brand-new musical offering Presence, a life-giving creative work alluding to the beauty of the ocean and God’s abundant love. Beautifully composed and eloquently written, Presence is a stunning addition to her repertoire following albums Coevolve and Apogee. As a 4-time Billboard number 1 artist {I Am, Zephyr, Full Bloom and Open Portals}, Kayla made history by becoming the first female pianist to reign atop the chart for 6 consecutive weeks. Recently, Kayla’s musical achievements have been extolled on prestigious platforms, as she was honored with the Rising Star in Jazz Award {Black Women in Jazz and the Arts Foundation of Atlanta} and the Best Jazz Artist Award (The Wammies & The Musicianship) in Washington, DC where she is based. The spotlight has humbly created opportunities for Kayla to play and perform with music legends and prominent recording artists including Stevie Wonder, Patrice Rushen, Avery*Sunshine, Maysa Leak, Sheila E., and Dave Koz to name a few. Passionately alluring, Kayla gracefully flourishes on stage, having played exhilarating and exuberant concerts at intimate venues, illustrious theaters, and acclaimed festivals worldwide. Laced with purpose, the luminous artist shined brightly on national television at BET’s acclaimed “Black Girls Rock” awards show, revealing her tenacity and musical diversity by performing with legend Gladys Knight, Marsha Ambrosius, Corinne Bailey Rae and Imani Uzuri. Kayla was also graciously invited to be a featured keyboardist at the inaugural Fender Rhodes Fest in Los Angeles alongside a host of music contemporaries.

A classically trained pianist who grew up in a jazz household, Kayla’s parents observed her innate passion for music when as early as 10-months old, “baby Kayla” frequently made her way into the living room and began “playing” the family’s Brentwood piano. Enrolling in piano lessons at the age of six, she instantly fell in love with music and fervently began mastering her gifts. As the daughter of iconic jazz saxophonist Kim Waters, Kayla closely examined the inner workings of the music industry by studying and admiring his successful career. Kayla’s musically plush observations naturally inspired her to pursue her calling and passion-purpose as a pianist. In addition to being featured on several of her father’s albums, she tours and performs with him at a myriad of concerts and jazz festivals internationally. These rich experiences nurtured her creative artistry, serving as fertile ground for Kayla’s evolution as an emerging pianist, composer, and producer.

With aplomb, Kayla is elated to be an official Yamaha Artist and a voting member of the Grammy’s Recording Academy. As a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Howard University where she earned her degree in Piano Performance, Kayla credits the institution for her pianistic success. Spiritually grounded, she revels in the opportunity to share her God-given gifts of music in ministry on each and every stage she graces. Firm in her faith and wholly aware of her unique purpose, Kayla never loses sight of God divinely orchestrating her every move.

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Rob Zinn

In 2016, veteran vocalist, trumpeter and flugelhornist Rob Zinn launched an exciting new phase of his distinguished, multi-faceted career, emerging as an internationally recognized independent smooth jazz artist and composer with his critically acclaimed albums Walk The Walk (2018) and Yesterday Again (2016). Walk the Walk was selected for the 61st Grammy Ballot for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.  Rob’s latest album, Anything Can Happen, was released on April 7, 2023. Once again working with producer Paul Brown, as well as first time collaborations with producers Greg Manning, Roberto Vally, Jeff Canady, John Cassidy, Dennis Johnson, and Adam Hawley.  The latest album is heavy on contemporary grooves, Rob Zinn style, with a few surprises thrown in and features an all-star list of musicians such as Paul Brown, Jeff Ryan, Greg Manning, Andrew Neu, Ragan Whiteside, Blake Aaron, Eric Valentine, Sean Uliasz, Tom Schuman, Roberto Vally, Bob Baldwin, Lew Laing Jr., Adam Hawley, Jeff Canady, Chris Fischer, and Carlyle Barriteau. Songs from the album received airplay on over 125 smooth jazz stations around the world with a listening audience of 154 countries.

Zinn, an endorser of Chicago based Phaeton Trumpets released his sophomore album, Walk The Walk in April 2018. Produced by 2-time Grammy winner Paul Brown, Walk The Walk is an explosive collection of a multitude of styles that Zinn has performed over the years, including funk, Latin, R&B, rock, pop and urban jazz. In addition to showcasing his infectious songwriting and versatility on horns, it included guest appearances by East Coast based genre great Andrew Neu (saxophones) and West Coast great Michael Paulo (saxophones) and of course Paul Brown’s tasty guitar licks on several tracks.

Rob’s songs have charted top 50 on such prominent outlets as the Billboard Smooth Jazz National Airplay and Audience charts, America’s Music Chart powered by mediabase, the Smooth Jazz Top 50 Album chart, Smooth Jazz Radar chart, Smooth Jazz Indie chart, Smooth Jazz Network Top 100 chart, Groove Jazz Music Chart Top 30 and the RadioWave Internet Play chart and received “Most Added” designations on Nielsen/Billboard numerous times. Zinn has performed at numerous jazz festivals such as the Mallorca Jazz Festival, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival, Intimate Smooth Jazz Festival, Lake Arbor Jazz Festival, Berks Jazz Festival, Sandy Shore’s Jazz Weekender, Sweet Jazz Festival and the Jazz Legacy Foundation Jazz Festival as well as venues throughout the country. When not playing with his own band, Rob often appears as a sideman with guitar player and double Grammy winner Paul Brown.

“It is amazing to be able to take these ideas rolling around in my head, commit them to a demo, and then be part of the process of bringing a fresh composition to life with amazing musicians,” he says. “The most gratifying thing, though, is playing my songs live. It’s great being a working musician interpreting other people’s compositions, but there’s nothing like making meaningful connections with my own music. I want people to feel something when I play, feel the emotion in what I’m expressing – whether it’s through the melody, chords, or performance – and to create a special moment in time for them. That’s the ultimate for me.”

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Andrew Neu

By blending a unique mix of jazz, R&B, classical and Latin music, Andrew Neu is one of the most exciting, multi-genre musicians today. He is well respected throughout the industry for his work as a saxophonist, woodwind player, arranger, composer, educator, and Billboard charting recording artist.

Having toured the world with Bobby Caldwell, Diane Schuur, Norman Brown and Smokey Robinson, Neu has shared the stage with Elton John, Patti Labelle, Mellissa Manchester, Mel Torme, Joey DeFrancesco, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Philly Pops, The Four Tops, and The Temptations among others. He has recorded with Sister Sledge, Manhattan Transfer, Minas, David Sanborn, Gerald Veasley, Jeff Lorber, Brian Bromberg, Rick Braun, Brian Culbertson, Chuck Loeb, Paul Brown, and Buddy DeFranco. He was a featured soloist on Peter White’s number 1 song and record, ‘Here We Go’ and composed the horn arrangement on Brian Bromberg’s number 1 track Coupe De Ville.

After releasing four contemporary jazz CDs, 2018 marked the debut of Andrew’s big band jazz CD, “Catwalk,” recorded in Los Angeles. It features all of Andrew’s arrangements and soloists Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, Gordon Goodwin, and Eric Marienthal. He was the conductor and arranger for Bobby Caldwell’s CD, “After Dark”, conducting members of the Airmen of Note. Bernie Dresel has recorded 6 of Andrew’s charts with his big band.

Andrew began conducting the jazz ensemble at Swarthmore College in 2014. In high demand as a clinician, he has led clinics in high schools, colleges and jazz camps throughout California, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Japan. He’s conducted the jazz program at Lower Merion High School since 1999 leading the band on four tours of Italy.

Andrew is a graduate of Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music with additional studies at University of the Arts. His big band charts are published by Kendor Music and Marina Music.

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Tim George

Bassist Tim George has served as the Musical Director and Stage Manager for the Uptown Music & Arts Festival since 2019. Tim’s resume’ is like a Who’s Who in the jazz world. In the contemporary jazz genre he has been lucky enough to perform with and in some cases served as Musical Director with such contemporary jazz artists as Richard Elliot, Euge Groove, Mindi Abair, Jeff Lorber, Kim Waters, Nick Colionne, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, Marc Antoine, Jeff Golub, Rick Braun, Peter White, The Sax Pack, Brian Simpson, Richard Smith, Jackiem Joyner, Marcus Anderson, Paul Taylor, Elan Trotman, Jessy J, 480 East, Mat Marshak, Jonathon Fritzen, Will Donato, and Blake Aaron. In other genres of jazz, he was fortunate to play with Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Louis Bellson, and Ed Shaughnessy.

In today’s world, where most people want to get rich quick and have their name in lights, Tim is a very humble standout. He is quite content with his role as a sideman and takes it very seriously. “If you are looking for more notoriety or more attention, you need to become an artist and not a sideman, in my humble opinion. I am happy being in the back, out of the limelight but still being a huge part of the show. I think of myself like the center in football where I am in on every play, a vital part of the team, but not in the limelight like the quarterback and receivers. I like it that way and don’t think I deserve any extra attention. Being hired to play the gig is more than enough gratification for me, as there are a LOT of great bass players out there who could easily get the call as well as me.” But, there is a lot of his own music that Tim wants to share with everyone, so he is working on his solo CD. “It will be more than just smooth jazz as I love all styles of jazz and improvisation.”

2024 Uptown Music Festival

May 26, 2024

Hours: Gates open at 2:30 pm
Festival Hours: 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm
  • Eric Darius

  • Alex Harris

  • Adam Hawley

  • Paula Atherton

  • Tim George

Eric Darius

With a trademark jump and crowd-captivating energy throughout his live show, Eric Darius is breaking the mold of modern jazz.

The Billboard chart topping, American saxophonist, songwriter, producer, and performer shines in a vibrant new light as he reinvents himself through ‘Unleashed’, an expansive and ambitious genre-spanning album brimming with passion and purpose, soul and sweat, charisma and charm.

“It’s called Unleashed because I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone on this project and truly unleash my full musical potential in a live studio setting,” Eric shares. “This album is an honest reflection of myself and my growth both musically and personally over the past several years, and it really takes the listeners on a musical journey from start to finish! This album feels like it’s the first time I’ve truly expressed myself in every single way in a musical sense and I’m unleashed like never before.

Unleashed is a long time coming for Eric Darius, and without a doubt his proudest work to date. He credits part of that achievement to the creative freedom he’s gained as an independent artist; Unleashed is Eric’s second album released through his own label SagiDarius Music, following 2018’s Breakin’ Thru.

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Alex Harris

Singer, actor, and philanthropist, ALEX was born the middle child of eight, on September 9th in the quiet town of Manchester, Georgia. Fathered by James Harris, a pastor at the local church, and his mother Carolyn Harris who was a teacher, there were no inclinations of ALEX becoming musically inclined. So, young Harris had limited opportunities to indulge his hunger for rhythm.

Their father was quick to notice the talent that his children had and swiftly brought them in to sing at his church. At the age of 7, he was the lead singer of the new family band; the A-Boys, later reinvented as A7, six kids with all their names starting with an A, and the seventh member being the presence of God. With the rise of their success, the brothers began touring the US during the summer when out of school. Although in a band, each brother made academics their top priority throughout high school, college, and even graduate school. After graduating high school, ALEX enrolled at LaGrange College, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and Psychology. He then went on to receive his Master’s in Theology and Social Work from Boston University, did an extended graduate study in Adolescent Counseling at Harvard University, and he is currently working on his doctorate in Organizational Leadership at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Alex is no stranger to the entertainment scene. ALEX started his entertainment career at the tender age of 7 years old, traveling throughout the southeast region with his siblings. As his artistry developed from 7yrs old until now, his audience continues to expand with him as well. ALEX HARRIS has a growing following world-wide because of his electrifying and soulful performance, with a style that is captivating. His polished lyrical styling and dynamic energy is a breath of fresh air with a very earthy twist that transcends multiple audiences everywhere he performs including 2 of the Presidential Inaugural Galas, Premier of Bermuda Gala, Prime Minister of Ireland Gala and many other prestigious galas, schools, colleges, corporate events, and festivals world-wide.

ALEX HARRIS has not only headlined his own shows, but has graced stages with entertainers and actors, such as Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Rush, Eric Benet, John Legend, Kirk Franklin, Lamman Rucker, Leon and many others.

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Adam Hawley

Guitarist and Producer Adam Hawley has burst on to the scene as a celebrated and innovative artist, composer, and band leader. Handpicked by Maurice White (founder of Earth, Wind, & Fire), Adam first debuted on the legend’s label Kalimba Music. In all, Adam’s four albums and work as a producer has spawned an incredible 13 Billboard #1 Hits. In its first week, the 3rd record “Escape” was the #1 Selling Album in the Nation, outselling every other contemporary jazz album as per Nielsen. The debut single went on to become the Billboard and Smooth Jazz Network Song of the Year for 2020. He followed this up with the 4th album “Risin’ Up;” it’s title track again reached the top of the Billboard charts in late ’21. 2022 was particularly successful including four more #1’s, culminating with 2022 song of the year. Coupling this with a robust touring schedule throughout the world, the best is yet to come.

In addition to touring as a leader, he has also played for Jennifer Lopez, Natalie Cole, Lalah Hathaway, The Manhattan Transfer, Brian McKnight, and appeared on American Idol in the house band to name a few. He also is an educator holding a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

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Paula Atherton

Saxophonist and flutist Paula Atherton has enjoyed a long and varied career in contemporary and mainstream jazz. Her acumen on her instruments is poised and adept. Her full-length album ‘Can You Feel It” has already begun to garner real accolades with her single also titled “Can You Feel It,” landing a #1 hit, three weeks in a row on Billboard. What is even more cementing about this accolade is she also landed #1 slots on Mediabase and #1 on the Smooth Jazz Network. Each track is produced by various producers including, Bill Heller, best known as the legendary keyboardist for the Ripppingtons. Longtime collaborator guitarist Lou Gimenez has co-written several of Paula’s tunes historically. Other co-writing and production credits include keyboardist Greg Manning, multi-instrumentalist Matt Godina, including multi-instrumentalist Nathan Mitchell, Paul Brown, and the notable Schuyler Deale known for his work with Billy Joel, Michael Bolton, Jeff Lorber, and more. So, what does this all-star line-up of producers and contributors add up to for Atherton? Simply put, a canvas to which Atherton can shine her abilities in the highest preeminent way on her latest album “Can You Feel It.”

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Tim George

Bassist Tim George has served as the Musical Director and Stage Manager for the Uptown Music & Arts Festival since 2019. Tim’s resume’ is like a Who’s Who in the jazz world. In the contemporary jazz genre he has been lucky enough to perform with and in some cases served as Musical Director with such contemporary jazz artists as Richard Elliot, Euge Groove, Mindi Abair, Jeff Lorber, Kim Waters, Nick Colionne, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, Marc Antoine, Jeff Golub, Rick Braun, Peter White, The Sax Pack, Brian Simpson, Richard Smith, Jackiem Joyner, Marcus Anderson, Paul Taylor, Elan Trotman, Jessy J, 480 East, Mat Marshak, Jonathon Fritzen, Will Donato, and Blake Aaron. In other genres of jazz, he was fortunate to play with Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Louis Bellson, and Ed Shaughnessy.

In today’s world, where most people want to get rich quick and have their name in lights, Tim is a very humble standout. He is quite content with his role as a sideman and takes it very seriously. “If you are looking for more notoriety or more attention, you need to become an artist and not a sideman, in my humble opinion. I am happy being in the back, out of the limelight but still being a huge part of the show. I think of myself like the center in football where I am in on every play, a vital part of the team, but not in the limelight like the quarterback and receivers. I like it that way and don’t think I deserve any extra attention. Being hired to play the gig is more than enough gratification for me, as there are a LOT of great bass players out there who could easily get the call as well as me.” But, there is a lot of his own music that Tim wants to share with everyone, so he is working on his solo CD. “It will be more than just smooth jazz as I love all styles of jazz and improvisation.”