The Jawanza Kobie Band
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The Jawanza Kobie Band

Wilmington, Delaware, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Wilmington, Delaware, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
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"Review for CD 'Feels Bettert Than It Sounds'"

This Is Book's Music

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REVIEW: Jawanza Kobie’s “Feels Better Than It Sounds”

Published February 17th, 2013 at 11:58 am in Music Reviews with no comments
Tagged with Bruce Middle, Buddy Fambro, Jawanza Kobie, jazz, smooth jazz, soul

Jawanza Kobie photo Jawanza_cover_zpsc12cec8b.jpg Locally, there used to be a smooth jazz radio station that I listened to from time to time. I’m not particularly a fan of smooth jazz, but some of it reminds me of the soul I grew up listening to, just without vocals. Then the radio station was taken over by a new station and format, and while I could listen to whatever radio show NPR has on the weekend, I figure “eh, I’ve had enough smooth jazz in my life, perhaps it was best”. Then comes the music of pianist/keyboardist Jawanza Kobie, whose sound I was not aware of until I put the CD in, so he could have played anything. But Feels Better Than It Sounds (JKobie Music) is an appropriate title, for while this is very much smooth jazz, it is smooth jazz at its best because this one slams.

What I liked about the songs here is that it sounds like some of Earth, Wind & Fire’s instrumentals, as if Larry Dunn decided to split himself and make more music than he does. The track listing goes back and forth between slow jams and mid-tempo dance tracks, many of which touch on the jazz/funk of the mid to late 70′s and early 80′s, so if it feels like something you’d expect to hear on a Hiroshima, Pat Metheny, or Eric Gale, that’s good, and part of that comes from the guitar work of Buddy Fambro or Bruce Middle. The only downside is when some tracks pull in a real horn section while others have Kobie substituting them with his keyboards. He can play, no doubt, but I would have preferred to hear real horns during these moments.

It’s mellow when it wants to be, smooth when it needs to, and incredibly funky and passionate at the right moments. Kobie understands because he probably knows the true power of music. If it feels good, do it, and he does it with style on here. - This Is Books Music

"Jazz Journalist 2013 Top 'CD's"

Jazz Journalists Association - 2013 JJA 'Best of'
Live Performance of 2013
Melissa Aldana - The 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition Melissa is rewarded for what she already proved in her first two albums--that she is the future of Jazz sax.
YouTube Performance of 2013
Mike Prigodich & MPEG - “Lucy Goose” Live @ Jimmy Mak’s 8/26/2013 Prigodich is a masterful composer/pianist and is joined by the the best of the best in Damian Erskine (bass) and the amazing Reinhardt Melz (drums). Watch the bass solo. It sounds like flamenco on bass.
2013 Crossover Artist of the Year
Berta Rojas - Salsa Roja (Onmusic Recordings) Berta is a classically-trained guitarist who is at home in any genre. Stunning beauty.
Best Surprise of 2013
Jawanza Kobie - Feels Better Than It Sounds (JKM) Jawanza Kobie has had a great career writing film scores and soundtracks but this is him doing what we wish he had been doing for 20 years. But it has been worth the wait.
2013 Jazz Composer of the Year
George Colligan. With two albums this year and with musicians going from Jaleel Shaw and Donald Edwards to Boris Kozlov and Jack DeJohnette, Colligan writes ideal passages for each musician, especially for himself on piano. Colligan is a genius.
2013 Jazz Album of the Year
Spyro Gyra - The Rhinebeck Sessions (Crosseyed Bear Productions) Sometimes derided as pop-Jazz, Spyro Gyra has inspired and entertained for nearly 40 years. With a new drummer, they have been re-energized and have shown that they will be around for a long time.
Add comment - Jazz Times Jazz Journalist Association

"'Feels Better Than It Sounds' CD Review"

New jazz releases offer global and local successes
By Karl Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: May 30, 2013

Jazz keeps getting more international, as this review of recent album releases shows. Top players are coming from Japan and even India - via the American diaspora.

At the same time, Philadelphia artists continue to evolve. City native Christian McBride, the über bassist of his generation, continues his string of successes with a new release, while a SEPTA manager, Jawanza Kobie, gets into the act, too, with a credible CD and a release party scheduled June 21 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

In a bow to social media, McBride invited fans to suggest the name of his band, Inside Straight. The title of his new acoustic outing, People Music (Mack Avenue *** out of four stars), suggests yet more crowdsourcing but the results still seem highbrow.

McBride's quintet with saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Peter Martin, and drummer Carl Allen covers a lot of post-boppish ground. The quirky melody of "Ms. Angelou" feels more intellectual than poetic, while Wilson puts some fine blowing into the bluesy "Unusual Suspects."

All in all, not the rousing "people music" as claimed but still inviting and intelligent.

The cool-toned Quartette Humaine (OKeh/Sony, ***) marks the first linkup between keyboardist-composer Bob James and alto saxophonist David Sanborn since their big-selling album Double Vision in 1986. Gone are the usual smooth jazz and R&B values that have juiced their careers. In their place is real improvisation as the four interpret the largely ballad implications of six originals by James and three by Sanborn. The lone standard, "My Old Flame," gets a nice, earthy run.

The set still retains some smooth jazz tendencies - a heavy melodic glow, a fondness for major keys - but there's real interplay, too. The set is heavy on relaxed tempos. Sanborn can never seem to play quietly, but it sounds real.

From the first percussive tones of Move (Telarc/Concord, ***1/2), pianist Hiromi lets you know that she's an unusual player. The Japanese-born, Berklee-trained keyboardist is an expressive and quirky leader who can play with metronomic ferocity, as on the title track. But she can wax pretty, too, as on "Brand New Day" and the Beatles-esque "Fantasy." Drive and momentum - and even some funk - reign on this vivid trio outing with drummer Simon Phillips and contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson.

Whew! Rudresh Mahanthappa isn't afraid to offend. The Indian-American alto saxophonist continues his quest for a jazz amalgam, and Gamak (ACT ***1/2) is acidic, querulous, and quite intriguing.

The quartet with pianist David Fiuczynski goes into advanced Coltrane orbits, led by the leader's keening alto. Bassist Francois Moutin bends tones like a sitar. The tune "Abhogi" merges an Indian raga with American country, while "Stay" is surprisingly pretty and "Majesty of the Blues" is a hard-rocking fest. This set reinvigorates jazz with juxtapositions that astound.

Trombonist Michael Dease was impressive at last year's Exit Zero International Jazz Festival in Cape May. He shows monster technique and emotional pizzazz on Coming Home (D Clef Records, ***) with pianist Renee Rosnes and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., another head-turner at the Shore festival.

Working through a mix of originals and standards, Dease fashions a good straight-ahead session that oozes respect for tradition. He shoulders through the changes of Oscar Peterson's "Blues Etude" with a singer's sass. Bassist Christian McBride offers his classic "The Shade of the Cedar Tree," which sounds like an old-school bop tune.

Dease even dedicates "All Heath" to tenor man Jimmy Heath and his hometown, Philadelphia.

Speaking of Philly, Jawanza Kobie is a SEPTA manager who schooled at Settlement and Berklee and worked with soul heavyweight Billy Paul back in the day.

Now, Kobie is back himself with Feels Better Than It Sounds (JKM ***), which could be played hourly at the Market East stop. The set feels like a cross between Pat Metheny and Grover Washington Jr. Kobie dabbles with smooth jazz, but the session is deeper than that and is studded with local luminaries, such as bassist Lee W. Smith, the father of Christian McBride.

Making it as timely as one of SEPTA's newer trains is a CD release party, set for June 21 at 7 p.m. at the African American Museum, 701 Arch St. The $25 tickets include a discount for the CD.

Contact Karl Stark at 215-854-5363 or - The Philadelphia Inquirer

"'Feels Better Than It Sounds' CD Review"

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10/31/13 Albums By Travis Rogers
Jawanza Kobie's "Feels Better Than It Sounds" Feels and Sounds Incredible.
The debut release of his original compositions

Jawanza Kobie has just released one of the most enjoyable albums of 2013. All of the ingredients are there for the compositions themselves to be heard as they should be. There is no distracting standout that draws away from the pure sound that the listener is meant to hear. There are no flaws in recording or performance.

Jawanza Kobie intends for you to hear his compositions and that is what you hear. The balance between the musicians and the music is so well struck that the hearer is not left with the memory of a performance but rather of what was performed.

As a young boy Jawanza was taken with the music of Beethoven, Gershwin and Copland and began to study piano at six years of age. He had listened to the Jazz that his father showed him and was influenced by Oscar Peterson and Ramsey Lewis. Later his influences included Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock in Jazz plus the Beatles, Sly & the Family Stone, Bob Dylan, Quincy Jones and more.

He learned to chart his own music at nine and, as a teenager, studied music at the famed Settlement Music School in Philadelphia where he was first introduced to theory and composition. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in composition from Berklee College of Music where he lead a Jazz-funk big band. After graduation, Jawanza taught music and worked as a songwriter and producer.

Now,and finally, Jawanza has released his debut album featuring his own compositions. He is joined by brilliant musicians and together they bring to glorious light what has heretofore been in the shadows--the compositions from his own pen. The album is “Feels Better Than It Sounds” and was recorded during 2012 and released on January 15, 2013.

Perhaps intended to be a play off Mark Twain quoting Edgar Wilson Nye's remark that "Wagner's music is better than it sounds," Jawanza's title is a spot-on comment about the beautiful feeling of the music on this album.

The lead-off piece is entitled “Monk.” The groove is not the Be-bop you might expect but is instead a cool funk groove. Guitarist Buddy Frambo cuts through with equally cool jazz-funk licks and, on occasion, recalls lines from the Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine.”

When it is Jawanza’s turn, however, the piano is straight Jazz on top of all that funk. His synth horn blasts serve as punctuations in this lyrical lecture on how to make the listener indeed feel good.

The rhythm section of Webb Thomas (drums) and Lee Smith (bass) keep the drive alive and interesting. “Monk” is a great hook for the rest of the album.

“A Pineapple Between Us” follows and it feature3 great horn work from Dwight Sutton (trumpet) and Terry Thompson (also sax). Fambro’s guitar again presents a splendid dialogue with Sutton’s muted trumpet. The quick time signatures enhance the post-Miles fusion atmosphere. It is a fascinating piece that quite simply enthralls the attention.

The third track is “The Dancer” and opens with Jawanza’s solo piano before being joined by the rhythm section. It has a light and cheerful Vince Guaraldi feels to the introduction then builds on that into the swinging Jazz trio before Jawanza backs away with the synths only to return to the piano for the uplifting close-out. The just might be my favorite track on the album.

“Webb T’s Blues” brings back the horns. Thompson’s sax just wails and Sutton’s trumpet soars. Webb Thomas’ drumming is incredibly rich and deliberate. The 6/8 waltz pacing of Jawanza’s piano has a gospel groove going on with Smith’s beautiful acoustic blues bass lines.

Some of the finest changes of the whole album are heard in “Can’t Take the News.” Bruce Middle weaves a double-helix of delicate and destructive guitar. Dexter Sims appears for the first time on this track and his approach to the electric bass is more aggressive which is perfectly suited for his interaction with Middle. Jawanza’s keyboards are almost majestic in the broad and climbing crescendo to the end.

It is almost impossible to say enough in praise of “A Good Day.” It is inspiring and encouraging and grateful. The only group who consistently creates such an atmosphere of pure joy is Spyro Gyra. That is not a comparison of the music as much as an association of emotion.

Thompson’s alto sax delightfully textures the happy swing of Thomas and Sims. Jawanza brings the jazzy piano with the percussion of Leonard Gibbs and creates a breezy jazz of jubilation.

“They’ll Only Know What You Do” is the only track to contain vocals on the album with Devon Patterson taking the lead vocals. Backing vocals are provided by Karen Domino White along with Jawanza himself.

The piece brings back Lee Smith on bass and introduces guitarist David P. Stevens in his only appearance on the album. His Carlos Santana-style guitar is so very appropriate to the drift of the song.

The piano-bass-drums are the focus of “Rare Bird Ballet” featuring Leonard Gibbs on percussion once more. It is a Latin swing that shows just how broadly influenced and nuanced Jawanza is as a composer. The employment of those Latin rhythms with the synths brings to mind the early albums of Patrick Moraz. Jawanza, however, brings a reverent maturity that escaped those early Moraz recordings.

Perhaps the most brilliantly constructed piece on the album is “Night Shift.” The galloping bass and steady ride cymbal underscore the piano’s warm chord structures as the guitar glides over all. As beautiful as Bruce Middle’s guitar is, it is the exquisite keyboards that are the most rewarding.

To my mind, this piece in particular reveals the man Jawanza Kobie. It is almost agonizingly beautiful in the chord changes. It is also open to the work of the fellow-musicians. It is democratic in its division of the attention.

The gentle loveliness speaks of a soul full of joy and kindness. This is not the sappiness of “smooth jazz”; it is the triumph of a thankful spirit. I confess. This is my very favorite track on the album and I think I listened to it about six times in a row. I can’t get enough of this very touching piece.

“Carnival de la Samba” is the album’s closing track. Buddy Fambro takes up the acoustic guitar for his role in the samba and he executes exceptionally. The rhythm section of Thomas, Sims and Gibbs carry off the support extremely well as Jawanza provides a sweeping keyboard that is both broad and profound.

The point of the album was not to highlight Jawanza’s splendid skills on the keys; it was to offer a showcase for his incredible composing. The heart of Jawanza Kobie is laid bare on this album and it reveals a warmth and generosity and affection that is touching.

The album itself is sailing, soaring and spiritual in all the right ways. And maybe, just maybe, it “feels better than it sounds”... but it sounds so good.

"Feels Better Than It Sounds" can be purchased at, or on iTunes. - Jazz Times


Still working on that hot first release.