The U.S. Postal Service and the Jazz & Heritage Foundation will honor Ernie K-Doe on its 15th annual Jazzfest commemorative envelope. K-Doe is the latest in a long list of local musical legends who have been honored on the collectible limited edition envelopes in years past. Previous New Orleans musicians who've been honored include Fats Domino -- who headlines opening day at this year's Jazzfest on Thursday -- Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, Doc Cheatham, Sidney Bechet, Allen Toussaint, the Neville Brothers and Ellis Marsalis Jr. Only 3,000 envelopes have been printed. They sell for $12 each and usually are sold out within minutes of the opening of the gates on the festivals's first day.
LOVE MAN ON THE MEND
Honey-voiced R&B crooner Luther Vandross spent his 52nd birthday Sunday recovering from a stroke suffered last week at his home in Manhattan, N.Y. Though the stroke was described as serious by a source close to Vandross, he is reportedly conscious. The vocalist, known for the hits "Here and Now," "A House Is Not a Home" and "Any Love," had recently completed a new album, said J Records spokeswoman Lois Najarian. Vandross has a history of hypertension and diabetes-related health problems.
POINT OF VERCH
April Verch, the award-winning Canadian fiddler, step dancer and composer, has a new album out, "From Where I Stand," on Rounder Records. Produced by fellow Rounder recording artist and acclaimed old-time fiddler Bruce Molsky, "From Where I Stand" is grounded in her native Ottawa Valley fiddling style and explores French Canadian, Scottish, Irish, Latin and Appalachian influences. The album features a variety of contemporary and traditional fiddle tunes, including six originals and Verch's singing debut on five songs. Highlights include Greg Trooper's "Light in the Window," A.P. Carter's "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight," the traditional gospel hymn "I Will Arise," as well as her musical tribute to the late John Hartford, "A Riverboat's Gone/Bumblebee in a Jug." The lovely "August 19" was composed by Verch for her wedding and features a stirring string arrangement by Darol Anger. On the traditional "Dixie Hoedown," she shows her fondness for bluegrass and old-time music. Verch begins a national tour in support of the album May 16 in Newburyport, Mass.
Though their name means "it is written," much of the music on Seattle-based Maktub's Velour Music Group debut "Khronos" didn't first appear on paper. In a unique practice for a band with foundations in rock and soul, the members of Maktub often write songs by improvising chord progressions and melodies, crafting -- as lead vocalist Reggie Watts puts it -- "pop tunes out of thin air."
Maktub's songs are thoughtfully structured with infectious hooks and gripping dynamics, but the grooves on which they're based often materialize as a result of the band's on-stage chemistry and musical telepathy. Maktub honed its improvisational skills by playing live in the Seattle area's experimental rap, R&B and jazz scenes, often taking the stage three nights a week at clubs such as 700 Club, the Baltic Room and the Scarlet Tree. Watts and his bandmates -- bassist Kevin Goldman, drummer Davis Marn, keyboardist Daniel Spils and guitarist Thaddeus Turner -- created chord progressions, melodies and lyrics on the fly and honed them into the sinewy rock and silky soul of "Khronos."
STILL SMALL VOICE
Soul-jazz guitarist Paul Jackson Jr.'s new album, "Still Small Voice," is due out on Note Records May 20. The album, Jackson's sixth solo effort, could be the breakthrough Jackson has been waiting for since he received a Grammy nomination for his debut solo collection in 1988. Jackson had a hand in writing and producing 11 songs for the record and he called upon friends Gerald Albright, Brian Culbertson, Sheila E., Jeff Lorber, Harvey Mason, Billy Preston, and Patrice Rushen to help bring the compositions to life. Stylistically the songs span the gamut from R&B, jazz, hip hop and pop to soul and gospel.
The first single is a cover of The Spinners' classic, "It's A Shame," which features the Earth, Wind & Fire horn section. Since his arrival on the scene in the late 1970s, Jackson earned a reputation as a first-call session guitarist. Jackson has recorded with Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Celine Dion, Steely Dan, Quincy Jones, Destiny's Child, Mary J. Blige, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross and Brian McKnight. Jackson covers McKnight's "Back At One" on "Still Small Voice."