Ellicott City Record Label Gives County Artists A Positive Outlook

Karukas, Matthews Find Success With Positive Music

April 24, 1992|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

There's nothing like keeping a positive attitude about your work to get some nice career momentum going.

Just ask pianist Gregg Karukas, who included a song titled "Severna Park" on his latest album, andsinger Sue Matthews, who lives in Annapolis. Both record for Positive Music Records of Ellicott City, run by guitarist and entrepreneur Ken Navarro. And each has newly released albums among the top 50 nationally in their respective formats, according to a San Francisco-basedmusic industry trade magazine, The Gavin Report.

As of April 23, Karukas' "Sound of Emotion" sat at No. 6 on the Report's list of the top 50 alternative adult (contemporary jazz) albums. Matthew's debut album of classic jazz standards, "Love Dances," entered the top 50 jazz listing at No. 45.

Karukas' album, his second on the Positive label, includes "Severna Park," described on the jacket sleeve as being "named after a very nice place in Maryland."

But for the composer, the local connection is deeper than mere nostalgia.

"Severna Park," was inspired in part by a visit Karukas madeto the area last summer, with fiance Yvonne Di Simone, following a 10-year absence.

Karukas, born in Baltimore and raised in Bowie, said "Severna Park is a pretty special place for me, especially the Round Bay section. Our family spent a lot of holidays there, especially Thanksgiving, at a cousin's house when I was growing up. So for me it's kind of a bittersweet story, because my cousin was killed in an accident later."

The song is also a tribute to someone else in Karukas' early life.

"One of my first music teachers lived there, (the late) Bill Armiger, who was a composer for the U.S. Army Band at FortMeade. He later moved out to Los Angeles before I did, and we kept in touch."

Karukas said his new album represents a small departure from the way he usually works. "The way I write music, I don't alwayshave the title in mind, so I just live with the music for a while. But for this record, the titles came easily, and they just felt right."

Matthews, who lives in Annapolis, released "Love Dances" locally, on the private SIR Records label, earlier this year, before signingwith Positive Music.

Signing with Positive Music was "the best thing I could ever have done," she said. "Ken Navarro is just wonderful, and the fact that we debuted at No. 45 is very exciting. We are looking forward to seeing how the record does, and maybe getting it ontosome of the other charts.

"The album has not just debuted, but splashed all over the charts," Navarro said, "which is a hard thing to accomplish, especially when so many established jazz vocalists released albums at the same time."

"I'm very proud of this album," Matthews said. "I've performed many different styles of music in my career, and this style truly comes from my heart. I was fortunate to be backed by such a superb rhythm section, led by my dear friend and giftedmusician Stef Scaggiari. They all contributed selflessly to create the gentle acoustic sound that characterizes 'Love Dances.' "

"I'm really encouraged by what Sue's album has done," said Scaggiari, an experienced composer, recording artist and band leader, "because it's real hard to cut through the kind of product that's already out there. There's lots of competition, especially from the major labels, so this is great."

Matthews was a member of a 1970s local jazz fusion group known as Wooden Hands. She acted for a time on the Maryland Public Television comedy show "Crabs."

Karukas, the original keyboardplayer with the jazz group The Rippingtons, has played with such contemporary artists as Stevie Wonder, Diane Schur and David Benoit.

He has also performed music for ABC's "Moonlighting" and its mini-series about Gen. George A. Custer, "Son of The Morning Star."

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