ULTRABLUE, is a gathering of some of the East Coast’s leading names from the world of contemporary jazz, including saxophonists David Mann and Pete Belasco, guitarist Dave Stryker, pianist Rachel Z, Downbeat Poll winner KevinMahogany, and others. Their debut album, “Dusk 2 Dawn,” is a cool and sensual collection that beautifully blends smooth jazz, r& b, and contemporary grooves.

Producer/keyboardist John Smatla weaves stellar performances from the all-star cast into tight arrangements on nine hook-laden originals.
There is also a spirited remake of Stevie Wonder’s classic, “Love’s In Need Of Love Today,” featuring Kevin Mahogany’s stylish vocals. The album maintains a sophisticated ambience, while embracing a wide range of styles. Check out the steely funk of “That Was Then” – the sultry and hynoptic “Oasis” – the latin-tinged “Brasilia” and the soulful ballad, “Blind.”

Dave Stryker has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene since the early 80’s. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Dave established his reputation as one of the jazz scene’s most respected guitarists through his tenure with organist Jack McDuff, from 1984-1985 and the legendary saxophonist, Stanley Turrentine, between 1986-1995. Since then he has also been the guitarist for recent Downbeat vocalist of the year, Kevin Mahogany, (who makes a guest appearance on “Dusk 2 Dawn”) Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias, and Blue Note Recording Artist, Javon Jackson. Dave has played with a number of legendary jazz giants, including Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard. Through the SteepleChase Record label, Dave has released 14 CD projects, covering a wide range of jazz styles. His most recent project, TRIO MUNDO, also on KHAEON RECORDS, features former Weather Report percussionist, Manolo Badrena. Dave’s lyrical guitar work is the common thread on all 10 tracks of “Dusk 2 Dawn.” (Visit Dave’s website, www.DaveStryker.com)

Saxophonist David Mann, hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan and is now makes his home in New York City. He grew up studying the music of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, attended the New England Conservatory of Music, and began releasing his own music in the late 1980’s with two solo albums on Island Records. He also worked as a sideman for James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Tower of Power. David’s most recent album, “Touch” was released on the N-Coded Music Label and features contributions by Bob James, Chris Botti, and Chieli Minuchi. David has become an in-demand producer, having contributed compositions and productions to recent albums by Wayman Tisdale, Nelson Rangell, and Kim Waters. (Visit David’s website, www.DavidMann.net)

Keyboardist Rachel Z, was born and raised in Manhattan and went on to attend the New England Conservatory of Music. In 1988, she toured with smooth jazz star, Najee, and subsequently, cowrote his hit album, “Tokyo Blue.” She then worked with the heralded jazz-fusion super group, “Steps Ahead” until 1996. Rachel was music director for jazz legend Wayne Shorter, and was a close collaborator with him on, “High Life”, which won a Grammy Award for best contemporary jazz album. Rachel has also worked with such artists as Angela Bofill, Special EFX, Larry Coryell, and Mike Mainieri. In 1998, she released a popular smooth jazz album, “Love is the Power” on GRP Records. Rachel is now one of the country’s premier keyboardists. She is currently on tour with Peter Gabriel. (Visit Rachel’s website, www.RachelZ.com)

Contributing his distinctive soprano saxophone to "Oasis," the sultry closing track of "Dusk 2 Dawn," is multi-instrumentalist, Pete Belasco. Pete created a smooth jazz radio hit a few years back, with "Love Train," from his "Get it Together" CD on Verve Records. Pete, a long time resident of New York, has worked with his share of jazz heavyweights, including Christian McBride. Recently, he has been playing sax for Jeff Lorber. Last year, Pete was signed by Herbie Hancock's Transparent Records and he has finished recording a new solo album, tentatively titled "Deeper." As soon as we have updated information on the album's release, we will include it here.

Vocalist Kevin Mahogany offers a creative interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Love’s in Need of Love Today” in a guest spot on “Dusk 2 Dawn”. Kevin started out as a saxophonist in his hometown of Kansas City, at the Charlie Parker Academy. He put down his sax for the last time, as an undergrad music student at Baker University in Kansas and began concentrating full time on his singing career. Kevin went on to work with plenty of jazz greats, including Elvin Jones, Kenny Barron, and T.S. Monk, among others. Since releasing his first solo album, “Double Rainbow” in 1993, Kevin has ascended to the top of recent Jazz polls, such as DownBeat’s famous Critics and Readers Poll, for favorite vocalist. His most recent album is “Pride and Joy”, a 2002 release on Telarc Records.

John Smatla, a new name to smooth jazz fans, is a major architect of the “Ultrablue” sound.  Five of his original compositions are featured on “Dusk 2 Dawn.”  John’s piano and keyboard work, and his programming and music production are heard on every track of the album.  A native of Cleveland, Ohio, John graduated from the Kent State School of Music as a classically trained pianist. A series of music jobs led him to the New York area, and he began to gain a reputation as one of the city’s most talented keyboardist/producers.  John’s versatility helped him land gigs with an eclectic range of artists. He played keyboards for the rock band “Quiet Riot,” became musical director for pop princess Debbie Gibson, and worked with “The System’s, Mic Murphy,” to name some more famous examples. In 1995, John had an international “new age” hit when his piano music was featured on an album called “Heartkeys.”  More recently, John has worked extensively with certain artists on this album, including Dave Stryker and Pete Belasco, leading to the creation of “Ultrablue.”  On “Dusk 2 Dawn,” John’s affinity for smooth jazz is evident.

Other contributors of note on “Dusk 2 Dawn” include bassist Paul Frazier, who plays for David Byrne (Talking Heads) and is a busy player and producer in the
New York area. Singer/songwriter Jose Loo, is one of the most talented, largely undiscovered artists in the country. For years, his band, “Line Drive”, has been the most popular “r & b” band along Jose’s native New Jersey Shore.