Mad Romance: Aim High

Mad Romance

If you like vocal groups like Manhattan Transfer or New York Voices I have another classic vocal quartet from Miami for you: Mad Romance. The group released in 2011 a very nice album called “Aim High”. The CD presents songs from the Great American Songbook, with some beautiful and refreshing arrangements done by leader Rick Harris who is also a professional trumpet player. Harris has re-formed this group with some big names from the Miami Jazz scene: Lisanne Lyons (voc), Wendy Pedersen (voc) and Greg Diaz (voc, sax).
The CD starts with a very funny version of “Pick Yourself Up” which features Rick Harris followed by “You Don’t Know What Love Is” which I introduced to you some weeks ago. This song is a classic vocal quartet arrangement with a nice call-and-response solo by trumpet and saxophone.
The next song on the CD is a Salsa-inspired version of “How Long Has This Been Going On” featuring Wendy Pederson on vocals supported again by trumpet and saxophone.

The promise the band makes with these first three titles is kept throughout the CD. Every song is perfectly arranged and shows a different side of the technical and musical capabilities of the group.

“From This Moment On” is a swinging up-time Jazz standard, “Time of the Season” is a cover version of the Zombies’ hit from the late sixties and “Yesterdays” a typical Jazz standard ballad.

“Aim Low” is a composition by Rick Harris and is somehow the title song of this album. The lyrics are very sarcastic, like “You wanna work, so aim low” and shows the arrogance and ignorance in the music business. The CD ends with “The Thrill Is Gone” which is again arranged as a Salsa.

I think the whole CD is brilliant and the voices fit excellently together. The variety of the arrangements is outstanding and the musical and instrumental skills of Rick Harris and Greg Diaz make this album a great experience. The best part for me are the Salsa arrangements, a Miami based vocal group should know how to do that. I hope I will have the chance to see this quartet once.

I created again a playlist for you, so you are able to listen to the songs:

The group has a website where you can download the song “Aim Low” and where you can find some more information about the band. Please look at Unfortunately I do not see any updated concert information.

The following video is also found on the website but since I think it’s very entertaining I added it right here for you:



Stefan Sonntag – Jazz Guitars


Let me introduce to you a luthier from my hometown Augsburg, Germany. His name is Stefan Sonntag and he is one of the finest luthiers in Germany. He is not only able to build excellent guitars but he is also very actively organizing workshops with some great guitar players.

Typically he organizes an autumn workshop in France and this year for the second time a spring workshop in Italy.

I just received the invitation for the workshop in the south of France from  October 21. – October 25. 2014. This year Stefan invited Mimi Fox from San Francisco and Ulrich Hoffmeier from Berlin.

The spring workshop in Bolzano, Italy might also be quite interesting for vocalists. Jazz-vocalist Jeanne Gies and Jazz-guitarist Howard Alden from New York together with Helmut Nieberle, a long-time friend from Stefan, are the instructors at this workshop which takes place from April 25 to April 28 and there are still seats available.

During the workshops you can also play and try out Stefan Sonntag’s instruments and if you are interested on playing a real “classic”
archtop Jazz guitar, excellently constructed and built, with a perfect acoustic and electric sound then this is the perfect opportunity.

I am a lucky owner of one of Stefan’s guitars and I’m very happy with this instrument. Stefan is able to fulfill many different ideas and visions and he is capable to build an instrument according to your specifications.

I wanted to have an archtop guitar (“archtop” means that the top of the guitar is arched) with a 17″ size body and a floating pickup. I tried out some guitars but I always found one or more things to complain about the guitars I tested, so in the end I had a list of things which I didn’t like and a vague idea of how the guitar should look like and went to Stefan Sonntag’s factory and tested some guitars to find the right size of body and neck.


The picture here on the left shows the model I ordered. It is a J17 Standard guitar which is his “more elaboratly decorated version of the solid built Sonntag archtop”. The guitar has a full acoustic sound,  can be very loud even without amplifier and produces the perfect Jazz sound. I had to wait for some months to get the  guitar to be built, but the waiting was worthwhile: I got my perfect guitar.


If you want to read more about Stefan Sonntag please check his website under: 

There is also a nice video (in German) where you see Stefan explaining how to build a guitar. For those of you who do not understand German here is the summary: “Take a tree and cut away everything that is not part of the guitar.”