Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Preparing for Fame

The legendary Bob James mentioned once that aspiring artists should "be ready" 

-- but is anyone ever really 'ready' for such a life-changer?

For the past 5 months, I have done little else in the entertainment world but eat, sleep, breathe, and love the music of my label's international co-sponsorship of Camera Soul.  This powerful 10-member jazz-funk ensemble has challenged and captivated my songwriting time, my ears, my wallet, my marketing abilities, and above all, my hopes for possibly scoring a Grammy nomination in 2013.  

As an avid music fan and musician, I have watched the Grammy Awards every year for as long as I can remember.  In 2008, I became an associate member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), home of the coveted Awards, and this past year, due to my songwriting and production credits, qualified to become a bona-fide voting member of this longstanding artistic collective.  These achievements alone have been a tremendous honor, given the prestige of The Recording Academy and its annual Awards, known the world over; however, the next emotional and mental step, that of possibly regarding myself and any group that my label supports as future Grammy-nominated (let alone Grammy-winning) artists, is simply mind-boggling.  More so than fearing losing a shot at the Award, the fear of success poses a greater and sublimely more powerful 'threat'.

Artists get used to failure over time - we have doors constantly slammed in our faces.  We're consistently told "No" or "Your sound isn't what we're looking for."  It often is deemed a rarity that an independent artist tastes a true success. In that case, what happens if and when someone of industry prestige, such as fellow members of The Recording Academy, actually says, "Yes! You're in!"?  What if the success that we wish for literally comes roaring in overnight and we're woefully unprepared?  What happens if and when "music's biggest night" literally becomes the biggest night of your music career

The Grammy Awards wield an amazing power and hope, especially for an aspiring artist.   For example, in 2012, CBS reported that the 55th Annual Grammy Awards drew the highest number of viewers since 1984 (think Michael Jackson's smash album, Thriller, released the year before).  Over 39 million households tuned in to see not only who would win (compared to about 26 million in 2011), but also to witness how the Recording Academy would treat the memory of superstar Whitney Houston.   

Furthermore, the Grammys proved to be beyond profitable for Adele’s United Kingdom-based independent label, XL Recordings.  Sales of Adele’s multi-platinum and six-time Grammy-winning album, 21, took the label from an approximately $4.9M entity to grossing over $53M in the space of twelve months, most of which after the Grammys were won, and allowed the songwriter-vocalist to move on into a major label recording contract and voice the theme of the 2012 James Bond movie, Skyfall.

This is a classic case of an event that until now has always “happened to someone else”.  Now, on the eve of the nominations this Friday, December 6, I’m experiencing a case of butterflies in the stomach and a bit of dry mouth in anticipation.  I feel almost like a young King Arthur on approach to extracting Excalibur out of the proverbial stone. Am I worthy?  Will the sword even budge?

In this case, this kind of fame, power, and glory could next happen to me and those close to me on the project.  Camera Soul has been submitted in 12 different categories and may stand a good chance at snagging a nomination in at least one of them.  The music on this album truly is strong enough, we’ve gotten a fantastic response to it from worldwide radio and fans, the Akademia Awards, and finally from fellow NARAS members, so there is definitely a chance -- albeit slim when competing against the majors in R & B -- but a chance nonetheless, for a Grammy nod.

On the plus side, achieving this supposed level of fame could literally launch the members of Camera Soul’s careers for the rest of the artists’ lives.  A Grammy win could yield the kind of money to the co-sponsoring labels (Azzurra in Europe and TIMKAT in the U.S.) the funds to make even more music than ever before, without worrying how we will pay for the studio, the sessions, the group's travel expenses, if we'll even sell any tickets, and therefore resorting to begging the public for help via crowd-funding campaigns. We would finally have the opportunity and financial backing to take this large band of 10 members on tour, do global talk shows and in-person interviews, and perform at music festivals and more venues around the world.  Lastly, money and fame aside, and perhaps most importantly for the long-run, a Grammy nomination and/or win would place us among artists that are truly at the top of their game and would solidify not only our confidence, but nicely reward many years of music education, study, and practice. The ultimate reward from the ultimate people. Yet, with each step up the ladder, I am also aware that this ascent carries along a new and different set of consequences.

For instance, after I’m done fantasizing about how wonderful it will be when the whole world hears, shares, buys, and enjoys Camera Soul’s album, “Not For Ordinary People”, my imagination turns to darker possible realities.  Should we actually win a Grammy, I don’t want the whole world to know about every little scandal and event that happens to the members of the band behind the scenes.  I don’t want us constantly judged on “whom we’re wearing” (because it might be from Walmart), what we looked like when we left the house to walk the dog and neglected to put on enough makeup.  I shudder to think about gossip -- true or false -- about us splashed on the cover of every rag that believes that by us having won such a prestigious award, this also means that our lives now belong to the public, are the ultimate means to an end of selling magazines, and therefore satisfy some insatiable and likely false public “need to know”.   No one would need to know anything outside of our ability to make world-class music.  I picture weirdo stalkers in the bushes around mine and my family’s homes.  Then I shake my head to rid myself of the thought, just as I realize that the album would need to sell and go super platinum just for me to be able to afford to pay new bodyguards … God, do I even want bodyguards?   No.  Not even if they are cute.  

In terms of social media, my dark imagination also fears undeserved fallout.  I don’t want to answer to snobby reporters and bloggers that ask why we only have a certain amount of Facebook ‘likes’, Twitter ‘followers’, and YouTube views, when compared to some arbitrary and imaginary scale for typical Grammy-winners that we didn’t even know existed in the first place.  How many likes and followers should one have to be considered “valid”?  Why is this even a scale when judging quality music?  How shallow have we all become?

In my darkest hours of contemplating this level of success and insanity, I finally come to the conclusion that I wouldn't even want the Google Maps van to drive by and take pictures of my neighborhood anymore.   

It is in these rare occasions that I begin to understand what the legendary Bob James said to Coffee Talk Jazz Radio friend and host Bridgette Lewis during a fantastic interview last year.  The most important thing he said was that artists should simply, “enjoy the journey” of songwriting, creating, performing, and generally working their way through the music business.  However, Mr. James also mentioned that when fame comes, and it will, if one works as hard at one’s craft as possible, one should “be ready.”  I imagine the fears mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg.   And yet, I also remember still more advice from stars across the movie, television, and music worlds:  Take this new-found world with a grain of salt, because even though the money may be real, the rest of it is not!  As the song Paper Moon goes, "It's a Barnum and Bailey world, just as phony as it can be ..."   Too true. 

In the interim, I have begun to write a Grammy speech, hoping that if blessed with 3 minutes to read it, that I remember to thank all of the amazing promoters, radio program directors, producers, artists, bloggers, Recording Academy members, and fans that have taken us this far.  I am shopping for an outfit that at the very least is Red Carpet worthy (as if I know anything about this!)  I am reveling in the invitations to the Grammy Awards, after-parties, and gatherings of fellow independent artists that will be in Los Angeles on January 26.  But most of all, I remain grounded, no matter the outcome.  I am grateful and happy that I am even in the position to promote and be a part of the team behind one of the world’s best jazz-funk ensembles, Camera Soul.   But just in case, I wouldn't turn down a lunch date with Adele just to learn about how to cope with this possible new world.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Athon blends classic jazz fusion, hornlines, and a taste of alternative pop to create a unique vibe on his debut album

I have always been a fan of jazz, rock, and pop music that strongly defy category.  When I listened to Joe Athon's "Portrait of the Man," I was deliciously happy to find another artist to add to my list of musical geniuses.

I must confess before I review that I know Joe personally. We worked together as classmates in the music program at what is now the University of Central Missouri, over twenty years ago.  At that time, Joe was a fellow (and precociously advanced) student with me under Dr. David Aaberg in the jazz program. Outside of school, Joe headed an amazing funk band called "Purple Skunk Funk."  Several of my classmates and I would often go see PSF perform live in the Warrensburg, MO clubs whenever we could. 

At the time, while still a teenager, Joe was a fantastic alto saxophonist, who later played with Dr. Aaberg at my wedding, together with my father, vocalist Tim Ballard.  Between Athon, Aaberg, and Ballard, the people at that wedding likely had no idea what level of talent was truly in the house! 

At least fifteen years have passed since I have seen Joe, as I moved to Denver and he remained in Kansas City.  This year, we were reunited in cyberspace by Twitter and Facebook, and through that connection, it has been a wonderful surprise to learn that he released an album in October 2011.  So on with the formalities of the review!

"Portrait of the Man" is an appropriate moniker for the album, as it is an excellent testament to Athon's growth from teen prodigy to formidable composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist.  It is a shining example of a young man coming into his own musically.   And as a lifelong fan of generally "unclassifiable" songwriters and artists such as Joe Jackson, Walter Becker, and Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Athon's original songwriting, classy hornlines, complex chordal structures, and smooth vocals put me under their spell immediately. 

Fans of Elvis Costello will immediately be drawn to Athon's deep storytelling and natural vocal journey on cuts such as "Right Here". Fans of Steely Dan and/or Donald Fagen will appreciate and gravitate toward the complex jazz polychords and warm, reassuring, sax and trumpet lines on gems such as "Rainy Midnight Walk."  Treasures such as the title track, "Portrait of the Man”, power ahead, guided by progressions similar to Fagen's work on late-career albums such as "Everything Must Go" and "Morph the Cat."  Athon is also sure to attract brand new fans that just love a good story, as the album's lyrics are profound, exploring the ups and downs of daily joy and heartbreak.

JOE ATHON: “Portrait of the Man” is available on CDBABY at I regret that this review was over a year from release, but with the fantastic music I heard on the album today, it was well worth the wait.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
President, Independent Reviewer
TIMKAT Entertainment LLC
Denver, CO, USA

Twitter: @timkatent

Sick of Corporate Radio? Turn it off!

Kathryn Shut October 11, 2012

This evening, I took a rare few minutes off, sat down in front of the TV, and started watching what turned out to be a fairly boring science-fiction movie. While the plot was mediocre and my empathy for the characters non-existent, one thing stood out about the story where I identified.

The year was 2093 and everything had gone completely corporate, including crappy space missions like the one in the story.  In the movie, corporations owned everything and because of their vise-like grip on humanity, they could dictate exactly what society was and wasn't allowed to do, simply because money talked.

Unfortunately, in the entertainment and media world, many of us already feel that we need not wait until the year 2093 for corporate tyranny to take over.  Movies are rife with product placements, so-called reality TV shows often have a product agenda, and even music has succumbed to the vanilla and boring police state that is terrestrial radio.

In this not-so-make believe land of manufactured music, payola rules the day, and big record labels dictate which same 10 songs one gets to hear in an hour.  Big labels are convinced that everyone loves rap, hip-hop, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry, and therefore attempts to establish some de mode coolness factor by ensuring that they are always on the cover of every pop magazine.  The same 10 people also tend to show up on every program (also corporate) everywhere; the little indie guys are forgotten in the mélee.

However, it's only partially true today that corporate media has completely taken over.  One saving grace that the discerning listener has is the Internet, and there are literally millions of fantastic, independent (not Pandora, not Yahoo, not AOLMusic, not even Spotify - and I'll pick that bone later) - truly independent radio stations worldwide, dedicated to the eclectic mix and the freedom that comes with breaking free of corporate saccharinated swill.  Therefore with this first-hand knowledge of how good independent Internet radio can be, I hereby declare:


I know it will seem like a dark, scary, and eerily silent landscape once the car radio's squawking falls mute. I know that you'll feel like a traitor and be convinced that Sirius/XM will show up immediately via helicopter and wrecker to repossess your car, starting with the stereo.  I know you'll feel like a hopeless jerk.  But resist the corporate-imposed guilt; seriously, switch that swill off and feel your soul take flight!

The only way to send a message to the "big record labels", in cahoots with corporate trash radio, that one doesn't care about their incessant playlists is to switch to independent radio on the Internet. Only here can you interact directly with DJs, program managers, and music enthusiasts to hear exactly what you want.  Only here does the freedom still exist to discover an incredible new band.  Only here can the corporate shackles be broken!

I am not saying that independent radio stations may not have commercials from time to time; they have to pay their bills as well.  However, in the majority of cases, these ads exist to promote new artists that do not have a big label behind them and therefore are just trying to get the word out.  They are not part of a huge agenda and don't have super deep pockets.  Most ads do not come from a hungry machine that already has plenty of money to blow and greedily must have more, and most do not disturb the music but for a couple times an hour.  Finally, you may not enjoy every song you hear; indie Internet radio is not a paradise.  But you probably don't like every song you hear on corporate crap radio either, which is why you're still reading this blog!

Now that I've said my peace, where does the new wayfarer go?  Here are some suggestions for stations that have been welcoming, open, eclectic, and truly friendly places for the independent artist to be heard.  (This is but a tiny list, as I know there are other amazing stations out there.)

  • Radio Kaos Caribou (Ermont, France) - Follow @RadioKC on Twitter
  • KINGFM World (Berlin, Germany) - @KingFMWorld and/or @TomKolbe
  • Awesome Sound Wave with Online Don.
    (USA, classic rock/oldies from 60s - today) - @Sound_WaveRadio
  • Radio Wey
    (United Kingdom, eclectic mix, classics)  - Mandy Morrow @toucan2
  • WDGP (Maryland, USA)  - @WDGRPRadioCom
  • 40 Foot Hole Studio (New Jersey, USA) - Eclectic Mix - @40FootHole
  • Simphony Tandil (Tandil, Argentina) - @SimphonyTandil
  • RadioIO  (Florida, USA. Every genre possible) - @TheRadioIO or @mmatheny
  • Coffee Talk Jazz (California, USA) Mainstream and Smooth jazz) - Bridgette Lewis - @CoffeeTalkJazz
  • Soul City Radio (Baltimore, USA) - (Soul/RnB/Smooth Grooves) DeWayne Alston -

Be assured that NONE of these stations has paid me anything to mention them.  None of them has asked me to take a stand.  None of them even knows that I am writing this article (yet).  They are simply stations that have invited new music into their rotations, made it to my bookmark list, and are amazing supporters of the independent artist above all.  Furthermore, it is through these stations that I too have learned about some other fantastic talents!

Finally, as the president of an entertainment company, I also understand too well how cold the corporate stations can be.  Again, if one is not from a big label, sending a CD to local program managers gets you nowhere.  They do not bother to thank you. They do not play your music.  They don't care how good it is. It very likely ends up in a pile with every other independent artist, or worse, flies right into the trash can, dismissed as futile rubbish from the indigent masses.  Corporate entities such as Sirius/XM, Pandora, Clear Channel, Premier, and Intercom have never even so much as graced me with a message to piss off, and we have sent program managers in key market areas several of our albums to enjoy.  They are obviously too buried in their Arbitron Ratings to realize that the crap on their stations isn't anything most people want to hear.

Want proof?  Do you remember who the #1 album seller was this last summer?  I'll give you a hint.  It wasn't Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, LMAO, or even Madonna.

It was Tony Bennett, and Gaga knows it, because she is now making a jazz album with him.
That's staying power, that's talent, and that's a huge barometer of who the record-buying public really is.

So since probably you're in the majority of people with some modicum of taste, take the airwaves back. Turn off the corporate crap (including Internet corporate crap) and start exploring more independent mavens.  And if you find one that I need to add to my growing list, let me know at Twitter: @timkatent.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
TIMKAT Entertainment LLC
Denver, CO, USA

Web Portal:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, TIMKAT!

Kathryn Ballard Shut
October 3, 2012

Tomorrow, October 16, 2012, TIMKAT will celebrate five years of being in business.  When I stop promoting, tweeting, 'Facebooking', and writing press materials long enough to ponder this moment, I cannot help but want to thank so many people for their support and love in helping this tiny company reach that landmark place in time, especially in light of having been founded during one of the most difficult economic periods in history!

For many that may not know, TIMKAT actually started as a casual phone call between my father (Tim) and me one night, about two years before he lost his battle with lung cancer.  At the time, Tim was going through heavy chemotherapy treatments and we were very hopeful that the sessions would help to place the deadly disease into remission.  Some days left him feeling strong and ready to fight on; others simply left him sick, weary, and almost ready to give up.

At one point in our conversation, Tim asked me if I knew anything about the new social media page, MySpace, and I said that I did; that I'd easily created a couple of pages and that people from all over the media world were "befriending" me on it.  He mentioned that he too, had a page, but had no idea what to do with it - would I help him to improve it?  I promised that I would.  However, the next thing he said resulted in the birth TIMKAT.  He said, "Do you think that we could use those pages to sell my albums online?  And do you think that we could go further, say, into getting TV, movies, and commercials to notice us?" 

Since that idea, TIMKAT has suffered its setbacks (including the loss of Tim in 2009) but more importantly, has grown into a company that continues to carry the torch for the independent, up-start, talented Jazz, Soul, and now, House music artist, that otherwise gets lost in the stream of corporate media and payola rotations.  We have built a strong social media presence that includes pages on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, ReverbNation, Jango, Google+, LinkedIn, MusicSubmit, TuneCore, CDBABY, Spotify, all major global mp3 download sites, About.Me, Blogger, JazzTimes, Thumbtack, StoryAmp, and many more outlets.  We are a company that by and large ties its existence and continued growth to the Internet.

We have grown from sponsoring the music of one signature artist (Tim Ballard) to include five additional ones; two of these groups are from Italy, making us a truly international presence in more than just social media spaces, forging distribution and songwriting contracts with partner music agencies and publishers, such as Azzurra Music of Verona, Italy and PLG Music Group/Blue Pie of Chicago, IL.  See the complete roster listing at the end of this article.

Regarding social media and fans, as of this writing, TIMKAT proudly interacts daily with just under 4,000 "followers" (we call them "citizens" of our music community) on Twitter, all legitimately interested parties, thanked individually, and followed back, per our promise never to 'buy' support for what we do or to become distant from the wonderful people who support our efforts In addition, the Tim Ballard Facebook  page is home to over 1,700 people who love his music, and visits to our ReverbNation page grows every day, with new fans becoming turned on the eclectic mix of the world-class jazz, soul, and house music that we offer.

Furthermore, since 2008, we have forged very strong connections with growing Internet radio stations around the world, becoming veritable partners with station directors at (US-FL & SC), (US-MD); Coffee Talk Jazz (US-CA); KING FM World (Berlin, Germany); Radio Kaos Caribou (Ermont, France); Radio Wey (United Kingdom), AwesomeRadio featuring Indie Showcase (Australia/Canada), Sound Wave Radio (US) and AllStars70s (France).  Each station has taken a personal and active interest in learning about TIMKAT's mission and we simply cannot thank them enough for their support and partnership.

Finally, as President, I have also been honored personally and professionally, first in 2008 with inclusion into The Recording Academy (Grammy, Los Angeles Chapter), then again as a publisher and songwriter in ASCAP in 2012, and finally as a businesswoman into Who's Who Among Entrepreneurs (2012).

The key to our success so far has been very simple.  It is imperative to be respectful, gracious, and honest, and timely in business dealings.  Even though the music business can be cold, cruel, and cut-throat, there is no reason to succumb to a level of madness that dehumanizes people and steals their work.  We believe in the music of our artists, but also commit to being ethical, fair, and giving to those who sacrifice and work hard to make their sound a reality.  There is plenty of room for great musicians out there, and not just limited to the sacred few that pay to be played on corporate radio.  At the end of the day, as many a jazz artist would have said back in the day, it's all about your sound.  Get a great sound first; worry about showing off later.

While we may not be the most prolific or famous company on the block, we appreciate today, and will continue to appreciate tomorrow, the support from each and every person with whom we cross paths.   Just ask those so-called "followers" on Twitter.  Most of the people that began with us months ago are still with us today and continue to share us with their friends, which has been a true blessing.  They know that we're the real deal on the musical block, and to us, they have never been followers -- they are in fact leaders for others to find great music -- the "cool kids" on the block that found the gold first.

So happy birthday, TIMKAT; may we celebrate five more years and beyond of working toward the goal of "world-class jazz, soul, and house music!"

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
Denver, CO, USA

Web Portal:


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: MARCHIO BOSSA - "Radio Bossa Channel"

Marchio Bossa’s swansong melds Bossanova style of the 1960s and '70s with modern soul and funk, together with classy horn arrangements, all sung in English, Italian, and Portuguese.

(Posted also on JazzTimes Community Pages by Kathryn Ballard Shut.)

Have faith, friends, there are still intelligent and elegant songwriters in the world, with songs that feature more than three chords, lyrics that endlessly intone 'baby, baby, baby', and monotonous bass lines designed merely to blow out our car speakers. Thanks to the efforts of Bari (Italy)-based brothers Piero and Pippo Lombardo, one can enjoy this musical intelligence on the latest – and last – album from Marchio Bossa, Radio Bossa Channel.

The twelve-member southern Italian ensemble, produced and recorded at Azzurra Music (Venice) by veteran Mr. Marco Rossi, paints a veritable landscape of aural delights on the final album expected from the troupe. After a decade together, the Lombardo Brothers are focusing future efforts on a new project with Cámera Soul (also known in English as “Soul Chamber”) and leaving the suave sounds of the 1960s and 1970s behind. One can hear lead writer Piero Lombardo’s attempt to cross over to a more “soulful” sound, even in his work with Marchio Bossa.

In earlier efforts, Marchio Bossa’s signature sound remained within the straight-ahead, cool Brazilian-bossa realm that appealed to dedicated fans of the genre. However, beginning with Italian Bossa Bar (2010), the Lombardos began to write more complex harmonies in keeping with legendary soul songwriters, such as Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire), Lionel Richie, and Stevie Wonder. These modern harmonies, found on a few tracks on Italian Bossa Bar (i.e. “Ama” and “Your Smile”), translated well into Camera Soul’s debut album in 2012, Words Don’t Speak, and the Lombardo Brothers’ transition from writing strictly for a straight-ahead jazz ensemble to a modern soul and dance combo was made.

With the exception of “Maravilha”, however, Radio Bossa Channel generally tends to stay true to Marchio Bossa’s traditional Latin jazz roots. The compositions are deceptively complex and elegant behind the scenes, but clean and simple in delivery, led effortlessly by Francesca Leone’s soft, relaxing, pitch-perfect, and round vocal style.

As in earlier Marchio Bossa efforts, the members of the Lombardo Brothers’ group offer clean, flawless, and gorgeous playing within each chart’s deep harmonic structures, not only in the guitar chords, light bass lines, and phrasing, but also in piano solos and iconic horn lines (featuring trumpet and saxes on this effort.) Pippo Lombardo delivers well on charts such as the self-titled track, with a beautifully-constructed (and all too short!) piano solo. As the solos never tend to stray beyond one chorus, no horn solos are featured, and all twelve tracks remain under five minutes, it is evident that Marchio Bossa intends this album to be for commercial release and radio airplay.

On the other hand, due to the complex horn lines, one could argue that the group is also attempting to continue to appeal to devoted Latin jazz lovers. It is a delicate balance, but due to Marco Rossi’s talented production and the Lombardo Brothers’ writing, Radio Bossa Channel achieves it. I am just sorry to hear that this is the group’s swansong album, but am also heartened that the Lombardo Brothers will continue to write great music under the guise of Camera Soul.

Radio Bossa Channel may be purchased worldwide directly from on the Azzurra Music site (click here). Pricing is in Euro, but converts to the standard $.99 USD per track and is available both on physical CD and downloadable media.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
President, Independent Reviewer
TIMKAT Entertainment LLC
Denver, CO, USA

Web Portal:
Follow on Twitter @timkatent

Monday, July 16, 2012

REVIEWS: TIM BALLARD - "Singing Positive to the People"

The reviews are just beginning! Here are some of the wonderful things that people in the music industry are saying about the music of Tim Ballard's "Singing Positive ..."

GOBSMACKED!  I must admit to never having heard of Tim Ballard before today! I can tell you one thing: Tim Ballard is not a name I am likely to forget in a hurry now! What a Voice! An incredible mix of smooth and rugged. A voice that mixes 1970s funk with timeless soul. Think Teddy Pendergrass indeed, but I also think if Tim were here today he could go head to head with Cee Lo Green, especially as he has an unbelievable range which encompasses the high notes so classic of Cee Lo. … The arrangements are so unique as to make them almost stand alone hits without reference to their former glory.  
A true gem of an album which deserves to do extremely well.

Mandy Morrow
Broadcaster, Radio Wey
United Kingdom
Twitter: @toucan2

Listening to Tim Ballard is not just another record in your playlist or CD collection;  
it's like a long-awaited friend as a guest for dinner and who will always stay close to your soul. 

Jerome Dumortier
General Manager, Radio Kaos Caribou (RKC)
Ermont, France
Twitter: @RadioKC

Hear for yourself - purchase the album directly from TIMKAT at

Friday, June 29, 2012

Radio Kaos Caribou - "Radio KC"

Forward-vision French media company embarks on redefining trendy Internet Radio through the creative use of Mixcloud Podcasts

(Also posted to

Most are familiar by now with Internet Radio in its various incantations, either through Pandora's "Music Genome Project", which customizes automatic radio stations based on a listener's favorite artist or group, all the way to conventional radio stations that broadcast or "stream" terrestrial radio feeds over the Internet to fans worldwide. But take this concept one step further; borrow from the conventional podcast, blend with fullness of Internet radio, and fuse the mixes into an ever-changing palette of music styles and genres, and you've got Radio Kaos Caribou, known as " Radio KC. "

Born in April 2012 from the suburbs of Paris, France (Ermont), RKC's founder, known as "DJ NT" uses the service Mixcloud to concoct amazing musical cocktails, designed to tell a story, set a mood, and always flow from one idea to the next. Using spoken vignettes from film, together with world-class music, DJ NT weaves together palettes that include classic rock (complete with rain effects) from the Doors' "Riders on the Storm", but that winds its way to the Doobie Brothers and disco, and eventually lands on Diana Ross' version of "Good Morning Heartache." The mix itself could include multiple music genres, such as smooth jazz, driving funk, Mexican mariachi music, a power ballad or two, and all within the space of 10 minutes - a delight to the attention-deficit and musically-curious among us.

Each mix in French is called a "decoupé" and the RKC Mixcloud site skillfully shows the names of each of the tracks so that if a track catches one's attention, listeners can either buy the single directly from the site, or at least know the name of the band long enough to research it further.

What makes RKC so much fun is that with each podcast offering, upon pushing PLAY, the listener has no idea what to expect, other than the blissful absence of commercials and other annoying pop-up ads. Each podcast, while prepared in advance, comprises several hours' worth of nothing but music, claims that many other online stations no longer can make. Furthermore, each podcast underlies a distinct theme, such as appropriate for Friday night clubbing, current political climates and social issues, or something as simple as Sunday morning coffee and toast.

At present, two mixes are available for RKC's site, but DJ NT indicated earlier today that RKC is ready to release over 30 new ideas in the course of the next few months, and I will certainly be listening for more independent artists and fresh ideas as a result of the station's "decoupés."
RKC does offer a traditional radio feed in addition to its eclectic podcasts at; however, to experience DJ NT's work, visit Mixcloud at

Best wishes and enjoy,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
President, Independent Reviewer
TIMKAT Entertainment, LLC
Denver, CO, USA

Web Portal:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Curtis Fuller Still Has What It Takes To Bring Us 'Down Home'

The latest release from Fuller on Capri Records recalls the best of Fuller's Blue Note sensibilities, coupled with present-day mastery from well-known Colorado and Midwestern US musicians.

In an era where jazz is often "smooth", it is always a blessing to find a recording that recalls the straight-ahead glory of the genre once ruled by classic labels such as Blue Note and Verve. This is exactly what happens on Capri Records with Curtis Fuller's latest release, "Down Home."

Armed with a jazz powerhouse combo that hails from Colorado and the Midwestern United States, Fuller delivers six brand-new original compositions ("Down Home", "Ladies Night", "Nu Groove", "Sweetness", "Mr. L.", and "The High Priest") where the first two items on the list brightly open the album. Fuller collaborates tightly with trumpeter Al Hood, tenor saxman Keith Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker, and drummer Todd Reid, and the sextet brings such a level of professionalism that it seems as though it had played together for years, and not for only three days in a studio.

In addition to bringing performance excellence, both Stephens and Oxman also contribute as polished songwriters on two originals ("C Hip's Blues" and "Jonli Bercosta", respectively). Stephens' tasty chart is a cool shuffle that very well could have been a midnight secret meeting of the music of Horace Silver and Neal Hefti (aka "Señor Blues" meets "The Odd Couple"), and Oxman's chart is also blissfully remniscent of Hefti's and Mancini's hard-driving shuffles of the late 1960's. In any event, both are complimentary to Fuller's songwriting, conform to the classic theme, and fit beautifully within the context of the entire album.

There is only one non-original track, an Oxman tenor feature entitled "Then I'll Be Tired Of You", which the group has claimed as just a valid of a family member of the set, as if they had written the cover themselves. The instrumentation and overall balance of the horn and rhythm sections are a harmonic delight, and Burns' dexterity in the studio ensures that listeners get a crystal-clear, front-row seat to hear the musical conversation.

Finally, Oxman writes a great homage to Fuller in the album's liner notes, especially when he states, "Repeatedly, I have witnessed Curtis's remarkable thoughtfulness and sacrifices for others." This generosity is keely felt on each track of the album; even though Fuller may be the lead, the album conveys a basic understanding and celebration of each man's immense talent, original soloistic ideas, and therefore grants proper space for each to tell his own story.

For keepers of the jazz flame that wax nostalgically on Blue Note days gone by, "Down Home" is a veritable time machine that instantly transports the listener right back to the golden age of the label in the 1950s and 1960s; however, this album was masterfully produced by well-known jazz enthusiast, producer, and Capri record label proprietor, Mr. Thomas Burns in May 2011. Burns rightfully endorses the effort on the back cover as "truly Curtis Fuller's band and they play together as one ..." and that the album is "now among my personal favorite Fuller recordings of all time."

"Down Home" is set for general release on June 19, 2012. One can visit the Capri Records' Curtis Fuller artist page at, where the album is likely to be offered for sale at mid-month.

Best wishes always,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
President, pianist, jazz lover, independent reviewer
TIMKAT Entertainment, LLC
Denver, CO, USA
Web Portal:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Independent Album Review: CAMERA SOUL - 'Words Don't Speak" (Azzurra Music, Italy)

Album:  EURO: 9,90 or USD: $12.50 
Individual Tracks: EURO: 0,79 or USD: $1.00


Serena Brancale – Vocals
Pippo Lombardo – Keyboards
Francesco Palmitessa – Guitar
Beppe Sequestro – Bass
Mimmo Campanale – Drums/Percussion
Luca Toso – Saxes
Stefano Cavallin – Trumpet

Music: Piero and Pippo Lombardo
Lyrics: Serena Brancale (English)
Arrangements: Pippo Lombardo

Recorded at Azzurra Music Studios (Verona, Veneto, Italy) 
and ODB Studios (Bari, Puglia, Italy)
Produced by Mr. Marco Rossi of Azzurra Music

If Words Don't Speak, it is evident that the music, arrangements, vocal expertise, engineering, and production from Italy's CAMERA SOUL most certainly do!  

The new album from the Bari- and Verona-based troupe is cleverly infused with professional songwriting, full horn line arrangements, intelligent soul, jazz, and blues soloistic ideas, and possesses the ability to appeal to a broad range of music fans, ranging from Pop, Disco, House, and Soul, to R&B and finally all the way to jazz. 

Produced by Mr. Marco Rossi of Azzurra Music, led by songwriter / musician / arranger powerhouse brothers Piero and Pippo Lombardo of Puglia, the southern "California of Italy", and all-English lyrics written and sung by the talented Serena Brancale, the album is the culmination of a ten year project that features eleven diverse tracks; only three of which are covers.  The remaining eight charts showcase original and complex songwriting, as well as thoughtful lyrics on par with the legends covered (Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, and Earth, Wind & Fire) and the production value of the album exposes the professional lineup of musicians to such transparency that there is nowhere to hide and no room for error. There is no need to worry about that though; every voice, even in the most layered and complex arrangements, is well-heard and holds its own to create a masterwork that brings 1970's soul directly to us in 2012.

The first three tracks on the album are Lombardo Brothers and Brancale originals, beginning with the title track ("Words Don't Speak").  This is a sunny and soulful jazz waltz that would likely appeal to fans of early 1980s smooth jazz and soul, heralded by Brancale's smoky, sultry vocals and accompanied later by the warm, delicious guitar of Francesco Palmitessa.   With the second track, "Again", Lombardo and Brancale step up the complexity of the songwriting, especially during the innovative bridge section, to create tension as Brancale pleads with her lover not to "cry again".  Both of these tracks would play very well on either soul, blues, or even smooth jazz radio stations.   With the third track, "Born to Be (Forever) Mine", Camera Soul winds down into a soft and intelligent slow jam, again featuring Palmitessa's luxurious guitar solo work and Pippo Lombardo's masterful horn arrangements (tightly delivered by Luca Toso, saxes and Stefano Cavallin, trumpet). 

Midway through the album, Camera Soul delivers a fantastic upbeat house/disco edition of Lionel Ritchie's classic, "Love Will Conquer All", followed by another Lombardo/Brancale original soul ballad, "All Dark", showcasing Brancale's wide vocal range and deep emotion as she tells the story of a love that is not being experienced the same way between two people.  Next, Camera Soul expertly takes on a tight and sublime rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire's seldom-heard chart, "Miracles", and through its many layers of instrumentation and accompaniment, does not disappoint.

Camera Soul keeps the funk train rolling on the eighth track, "I Am", featuring fun and well-written unison horn lines, and drives hard to my favorite track of the album, "Zigzags" -- the pulsating disco highlight of the party that spotlights (among all else!) the tightness of CAMERA SOUL's rhythm section.  Beppe Sequestro, ever flawless throughout the entire album, hits the 70s style on the head with his excellent slap bass; Francesco Palmitessa doesn't miss with his essential guitar rhythms and vamps, and drummer Mimmo Campanale drives the groove relentlessly, with Pippo Lombardo completing the section with a great (outside/inside) piano solo.  This track alone is a perfect example of the amazing songwriting, soloistic capabilities, masterful arranging, vocals, and harmonic complexity that this professional band of musicians brings to the table.

The album closes with first the classic Stevie Wonder track, "Whereabouts", well-arranged and executed by the group, and finally to the last Lombardo/Brancale original, a deeply emotional, bluesy ballad called "Suddenly".  Regarding Brancale's vocals, while her work on the entire project is tasteful and excellent, this final track allows us to hear deep emotion of her heartache.  To further set the mood and groove of the story, the Lombardo Brothers include a nice addition of Hammond B3 organ about a minute into the track.  The style of the tune reminded me of Lenny Kravitz's "The Difference Is Why" from Mama Said and is a good closer to a fantastic album.

CAMERA SOUL features a professional lineup from both north and south Italy, intelligent musicianship, songwriting, lyricism, and arranging, and is a must-own for fans of classic 1970s soul, disco, and R&B.   For more information, including US distribution opportunities/sponsorship, please contact Mr. Marco Rossi of Azzurra Music at

My deepest thanks go to Mr. Piero Lombardo for having found TIMKAT on Twitter and for sending the album to me to review; it was truly an honor and delight to hear this work. I will enjoy it for times to come and look forward to future offerings from the Lombardo Brothers, Azzura, Serena Brancale, and the members of CAMERA SOUL.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Ballard Shut /shoot/
TIMKAT Entertainment, Inc. 
Denver, CO, USA


Album:  EURO: 9,90 or USD: $12.50 
Individual Tracks: EURO: 0,79 or USD: $1.00

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TIMKAT Introduces PLG Music Group's 'THE TOUCH'

THE TOUCH Infuses Chicago Deep House Style To Create New Magic From Classic Jazz Standards
A powerful force has burst onto the worldwide stage from the Windy City's South Side Thanks To Music Industry Partnerships and Keen Social Networking Skills

Hear and Purchase:
(Direct from TIMKAT Now, only $1.50!)
Download from All Major Worldwide Sites Avail. Summer 2012

Known as THE TOUCH 

PLG Music
Chicago, IL, USA

House Candy Music, Star Child Music,
Celebrate Grace Recordings

The TIMKAT Groove feat. THE TOUCH 
Star Eyes (Chicago Deep House Magic)

In Feburary 2012, Kathryn Ballard Shut (/shoot/) of Denver, Colorado-based TIMKAT Entertainment resurrected her tiny and dormant jazz entertainment company with a new vision of creating enduring industry partnerships and continuing to produce great music.  However, instead of working exclusively within jazz circles, Shut decided to see if there were also the possibility of creating a marriage of musical styles that she loved -- in this case, mixes of classic jazz standards from the Great American Songbook and Deep House -- to create fresh, soulful, modern, and infectuous new musical offerings for a wider global audience.

The result was the serendipitous discovery on Twitter of Chicago's PLG Music Group (Pathway Label Group or "PLG"), headed by William "Deephouse" Wilson, a Chicago native and House Music professional of over 30 years.  Under recording labels such as House Candy Music and Star Child Music, PLG, like TIMKAT, endeavors to produce world-class, inspiring, and positive music, as well as to foster such relationships within the music industry. The kindred meeting of the two companies was like love at first sight, especially in such a competitive, cutthroat, and deceptive industry.

PLG's soulful roots stem from founder Wilson's leadership and involvement in music ministry and devotion to various Christian churches in Chicago; therefore, the company was originally founded as a means to deliver "gospel house" music - music that transcends into one's soul and enables one to give joyful praise, a motive very similar to the deepest essence of jazz, blues, and soul music, of which ultimately have their roots in the African American church.  It was through this full-circle channel that TIMKAT and PLG found a common voice and a kindred spirit through connections online. 

Due to strong business and personal ethics, both companies share a commitment to partnership and support of each others' distinct goals.  TIMKAT, for instance, is dedicated to becoming a premier source of world-class jazz, soul, and R&B music, both in live performances and studio recordings, for sale online and beyond.  PLG in turn endeavors to continue growing as a premier, full-service, and full-scale entertainment company.

Regarding the partnership's latest release, THE TOUCH bring over 40 years' combined studio, Deep House production, and music experience. Together with Wilson's production and engineering expertise, combined with solid backing, marketing, and distribution of TIMKAT, the partnership has lit a veritable fire already with its first single, Star Eyes (Chicago Deep House Magic).  Inspired by the vocals of Tim Ballard on his album, Easy Does It the Chicago pair quickly delivered a tight, soulful, and infectuous track that starts in your ears, reaches through your soul, and ends up at your feet. 

This new creation on "Star Eyes" heralds only the beginning of collaborations for TIMKAT and PLG, but the fruits of that labor can be enjoyed and downloaded today on CDBABY for only $1.50 for the single (6:22 of pure Jazz and Deep House fusion pleasure!)  

To stay current on new music and projects, follow both companies on Twitter (@timkatent and @housecandymusic) and/or Facebook (TIMKATPLG).