Marcus Miller, winner of two Grammy® Awards, the 2013 Edison Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz (Holland), the 2010 Victoire du Jazz (France) and appointed UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2013, is not only an exceptional musician— a multi-instrumentalist and world-renowned bassist— but also a highly gifted composer and producer. The legendary album Tutu, written and produced for Miles Davis, sealed his international fame when Marcus was only 25. Over the course of his career, has collaborated with artists as varied and talented as Eric Clapton, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, George Duke, Wayne Shorter, Lalah Hathaway and Herbie Hancock. He also has produced his own genre-defying albums, among them The Sun Don’t Lie, Tales, M2, Silver Rain, Free, A Night in Monte Carlo (with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra), and Renaissance. Along with international tours, Marcus Miller hosts a weekly program on SiriusXM radio show, “Miller Time.”
Since his 1992 debut album Trust, multi-platinum selling sax-man Boney James has racked up sales of more than 3 million records, four RIAA gold albums, four GRAMMY nominations, a Soul Train Award, nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and 10 CD’s atop the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. In 2009 Billboard Magazine named him the #3 Contemporary Jazz Artist Of The Decade (trailing just Kenny G and Norah Jones). Born James Oppenheim and nicknamed “Boney” in his mid–20’s when a meager touring per diem saw him growing thinner, he became seriously interested in music in the mid 70’s, a very vibrant and freewheeling period for popular music. “You could hear different genres all over the radio. Contemporary jazz was everywhere – people like Grover Washington Jr., Herbie Hancock and George Benson were stars,” he marvels. “Artists like Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire were incorporating jazz into what they were doing, and the jazz guys were mixing R&B into their sound. It was a great time to be a young musician.” James continues his artistic evolution with the dynamic Futuresoul, another genre-bending work following on the heels of his 2014 GRAMMY nominated album The Beat. “When people ask me what category my music falls under,” he says, “I always say, ‘It’s Boney James music’.”
The Ramsey Lewis Trio, with bassist Eldee Young and percussionist Redd Holt, became a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene, releasing their debut album, Ramsey Lewis & His Gentlemen of Jazz, back in 1956. Lewis earned his first gold record, as well as a Grammy award for Best Jazz Performance, for their swinging version of Dobie Gray’s hit “The In Crowd.” He returned to the pop charts in 1966 with versions of “Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade In The Water.” Throughout the years, Lewis’ trio has undergone membership changes, all the while staying true to Lewis’ high musical standards.
After Young and Holt left Lewis’ trio to form their own group, the pianist hired a new rhythm section with Cleveland Eaton on bass and Maurice White on drums. When White left the band to form Earth, Wind & Fire, Morris Jennings signed on as the trio’s new percussionist. White returned to produce Lewis’ 1974 smash album entitled Sun Goddess, in which Lewis first experimented with electronic keyboards and featured Earth, Wind & Fire on the album. In 1983, Lewis returned to the studio with Young and Holt for the album Reunion.
Throughout his illustrious career, Lewis, who is a NEA Jazz Master, has also joined forces with countless other artists to create new and innovative music, including collaborations with Nancy Wilson, London’s Philharmonic Orchestra,and Dr. Billy Taylor. In 1995, Lewis launched the side project Urban Knights, in which he collaborated with a handful of successful crossover jazz stars, including Grover Washington, Jr., Earl Klugh, and Dave Koz. In 1997, Lewis added disc jockey to his resume, hosting a popular show on Chicago’s WNUA-FM that ran until 2009. A new show was syndicated in 2006 under the name Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis and was broadcast on jazz radio stations across the country. In 2006, a well-received 13-episode Legends of Jazz television series hosted by Lewis was broadcast by PBS on public TV nationwide.
After having played for years in an acoustic trio, Lewis returned to his electric roots. The three time Grammy winner released a new CD Taking Another Look – Deluxe Edition. Showing no signs of slowing down, Ramsey is currently working on a new record which he will begin recording in August with his long time band known as the Urban Knights, an all-star jazz, R&B and funk band.
Season 3 winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Alonzo Bodden keeps the boat rolling—in laughter, rest assured—as comedian-in-residence for The Smooth Jazz Cruise. With a resumé that includes numerous appearances on the late-night circuit (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien Show, The Late Show with Craig Kilborn, The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show, and Comedy Central among others), television hosting gigs, voice-over roles and film credits, Alonzo entertains an audience masterfully. His talent has earned him international acclaim and presented the New York native with opportunities to perform in Canada, Ireland, Australia and the U.K., along with stops in Iraq and other places around the world where U.S. troops are stationed.
Brian Culbertson is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer who crosses genres between contemporary jazz, R&B, and funk and heralds from the musically rich city of Chicago. Starting at the early age of 8 on piano, he quickly picked up several other instruments by age 12 including drums, trombone, bass, & euphonium. Inspired by the great R&B/Jazz/Pop artists of the 70’s like EWF, Tower of Power, Chicago, David Sanborn, and others, Brian Culbertson started composing original music for his 7th grade piano recital and hasn’t stopped having self-produced 16 solo albums, most of which have topped the Billboard charts. The acclaimed musician also founded the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway, a 5-day celebration of wine, food, art and music that draws big entertainers and devoted fans year after year. Brian is always striving to push the boundaries of the contemporary jazz scene which is evident by his latest album, Funk! This new set is a throwback to the stanky P-Funk records from back in the day combining the throbbing bass lines, greasy horn lines, sing-a-long choruses and landing hard on the ‘One.’
Having toured the world over and collaborated with some of the biggest names in music (think Prince, Van Morrison, Lionel Richie and Beyonce), Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer brings her worldly musical perspective to The Smooth Jazz Cruise. With solo album sales exceeding the 2.5 million mark, the staple on the large festival circuit performs for sold-out crowds throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, Russia, the Baltic states and South America. Candy Dulfer’s hit, “Finsbury Park, Café 67,” ranked the most popular smooth jazz number on U.S. radio for a period in 2003, and the 1990 solo debut album she recorded at just 19, Saxuality, sold more than a million copies worldwide and earned a Grammy® nod.
“I just want to continue to explore the boundaries of what I am capable of as a musician,” declares acclaimed chart-topping trumpeter, composer and producer Rick Braun. Known for his impeccable technical chops, melodic wizardry and keen compositional prowess, the consummate Los Angeles based musician has been thrilling audiences for decades. Braun has made a mark staying true to his own musical voice and eclectic influences that have allowed him to collaborate across genre with some of the biggest names in music including Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, Sade, Natalie Cole and REO Speedwagon. Having clenched over 20 #1 Smooth Jazz hits, Braun has collaborated with all of the brightest stars in contemporary jazz. His 17th recording as a leader, Around The Horn, was released in February 2017, and is an adventurous mix of originals as well as exhilarating reinventions of hits by Coldplay, Alicia Keys and Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez.
There was a time when Braun was contemplating pursuing medical school, but music won out. In his long career he has crafted his own distinctive sound and become a staple on contemporary jazz radio. He has produced No. 1 hits for David Benoit, Marc Antoine and former Rod Stewart band sidekick Jeff Golub. Braun achieved collaborative success on massive hits with Boney James, as a member of RnR with saxophonist Richard Elliot and with BWB, a powerhouse trio completed by Grammy® winners Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown.
The youngest of 13 children, Jonathan Butler grew up in poverty in Cape Town, South Africa, ruled by Apartheid and segregation. Butler began his singing career at age 7, releasing his first album in 1973 and winning the Best New Artist Grammy in South Africa the following year at age 12. He made history by being the first black artist played on white South African radio while earning three gold records (“Please Stay” went double gold and “I Love How You Love Me” went gold) in 1975 as he became a teenager.
More than a decade later, Butler moved to London, England and released his first album internationally. The self-titled set went gold in 1987 in the United Kingdom and in the USA. He received Grammy nominations for Best R&B Song for his R&B-pop vocal hit “Lies” and for Best Jazz Song for the instrumental “Going Home.” His genre-busting material earned songwriter’s awards and received abundant airplay in multiple radio formats: pop, urban, contemporary jazz, adult contemporary and gospel. Butler’s 2004 album, Surrender, went gold in South Africa where he remains a superstar.
Butler is still taking care of people back home. Last fall, he launched the Jonathan Butler Foundation in his native country to fund music education programs that give children the purpose to overcome a life of drugs and poverty just as he did. His music has purpose, providing comfort and genuine inspiration. When he sings, he testifies to the glory and healing power of love. When he plays guitar, his fast fingers innately find notes of passion and divinity. Jonathan Butler’s recording career has carried him far, far beyond his wildest dreams. He’s living his dream and that is a blessing for us all.
Driven by the ever-evolving musical vision of core members – Brothers Eric and Billy Mondragon and close family friend Damon Reel – Southern California’s premiere R&B, funk and contemporary powerhouse band DW3’s deepening artistry continues to transcend a well-earned reputation as a high energy, fun and freewheeling party band. Eric, Billy and Damon all contribute lead and harmony vocals, while Eric plays keys (including synth horns and strings) and Billy adds percussion.
Building on the success of their single, “I Got You” featuring Gerald Albright, (#16 on the Billboard charts) and the “On The Floor” album that went #1 on the UK soul charts, DW3 has now expanded to nine a piece ensemble. The addition of a horn section really sets the tone for their live shows. The truth is in the twelve tracks of their “Vintage Truth” CD.
The band also continues to entertain Festival and Entertainment Cruise Productions guests several times a year. The versatile ensemble is rapidly emerging as a multi-faceted recording outfit in their own right.
Imagine how the juices will flow on the high seas for saxophonist Richard Elliot, who says he gets much of his creative inspiration from behind the wheel of his car in L.A. traffic. The Scottish-born musician has been on the music scene for more than three decades and released his 17th solo album, “Lip Service,” in July 2014. The project features seven original compositions along with three covers of soul and pop hits from the 80s (“Shining Star” by The Manhattans), 90s (“Anytime” by Brian McKnight) and present day (“When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars). Richard Elliot got his start at age 19 with the Chapman Stick-based quartet Kittyhawk, played in soul band Tower of Power in the 80s and has continued topping the charts and touring the world as both solo artist and with innovative groups like Guitars & Saxes and, most recently, Summer Horns (comprised of Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Dave Koz).
As the 90’s progressed and smooth jazz artists began incorporating more hip-hop and classic R&B grooves into the music which came to define the genre, Everette Harp found himself ahead of the curve. Raised in church and weaned on gospel and soul music, the Houston born saxman on his first two recordings, Everette Harp (1992) and Common Ground (1994), was already leaning this way, combining dynamic funk edges and urban textures into the mix. His popular 1997 tribute to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 watershed album What’s Going On combined the best of his two worlds, modern day contemporary jazz and the classic soul he grew up with. His album For the Love is titled not simply as a reflection of the very romantic vibe found in many of the collection’s titles. Rather, it refers to his overall intention to play from the heart for the love of the music.
Born and raised in Houston the youngest of eight children, Harp moved to Los Angeles in 1988, and his career as a sideman took off; after a brief tour with Teena Marie, he traveled internationally with Anita Baker (an association that went on and off until 1995), performed with Sheena Easton and Kenny Loggins and began developing his studio chops behind such artists as Patti LaBelle. Harp signed a solo deal with Manhattan/Blue Note in 1992 and recorded his self-titled debut between tours with George Duke and Marcus Miller.
That album’s popularity led to further developments which established Harp as one of smooth jazz’s greatest ambassadors — a date at the Montreaux Jazz Festival; a tour with labelmate Rachelle Ferrell; playing alongside President Clinton, and performing Your Mama Don’t Dance at the 1993 Inaugural ball (Clinton borrowed one of Harp’s saxes for the occasion!). His sax was heard performing the theme song for Entertainment Tonight, as well as the Soul Train theme. Over the years, Harp has performed and/or recorded with a wide variety of pop, R&B and jazz superstars — Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick, Jeffrey Osborne, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Al Jarreau, Natalie Cole, Chante Moore, Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Stanley Clarke, Michael McDonald and Larry Carlton among others.
Born and based in Los Angeles and a member of numerous local bands from his early teens, including a band composed of himself and his siblings, Paul Jackson, Jr. began his own solo recording career in the late 80’s. Paul has appeared on the recordings of other superstars such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Quincy Jones, Luther Vandross, Ella Fitzgerald, Natelie Cole, B.B. King, Selina, Jennifer Lopez, Luis Miguel, Jewel, Amy Grant, Bebe & CeCe Winans, Boney James, Kenny Rogers, Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Joe Sample, Barry White, Chicago, and many others. His musical maturity, much imitated distinctive style, and significant musical and technical skills made him a favorite among live audiences and he has become recognized by many as one of the most recorded guitarists in the world.
Paul has recorded many successful albums, containing several top ten releases. including I Came To Play (Grammy Nominated), and Out of The Shadows. More recently, Paul contributed his playing styles and composing chops to the Daft Punk CD, which garnered 5 Grammy Awards, was the #1 album in 104 countries and garnered Paul Grammy recognition for his contribution to the Album. Paul has recently released his new CD, Stories From Stompin’ Willie, is a tribute to his musical friendship with keyboard legend George Duke.
“I’m a science fan and like to watch youtube from videos from different lectures about various scientific subjects especially physics,” confesses Jeff Lorber. Those who know Lorber’s music are probably not surprised, as he is a force of nature. His pressure-cooked grooves are kinetic energy at work. The velocities of his virtuosic solos hitting the right momentum create an electric field of pure joy. Trailblazing pianist, composer, producer and bandleader Jeff Lorber has hit a career stride and shows no signs of slowing down. A groundbreaking Fender Rhodes pioneer along with Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample and Bob James, Lorber has triumphed as one of the most innovative musical minds in contemporary jazz.
Jeff Lorber Fusion came to life in the 70s when the pianist attended Berklee College of Music. A true clinician, Lorber has made it a point to study the long line of modern jazz pianists since 1945. “Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea have been major influences but I had to go back and try to figure out who they listened to and were inspired by,” says Lorber. “Some of these icons that come to mind are Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner and Bud Powell.” In 1977 Jeff Lorber Fusion released their self-titled debut. Their 1980 album Wizard Island made the introduction of a then little known Kenny G. The ensemble quickly gained traction and became one of the most popular jazz acts, touring nonstop. In 1982 Lorber made his solo debut with It’s A Fact. He scored his first Grammy nomination in 1985 for his radio hit “Pacific Coast Highway” from his album Step By Step. Last year Lorber marked his 40th recording anniversary and in January 2018, he scored his first Grammy win for his Jeff Lorber Fusion recording Prototype in the category of Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. This year also marks the release of his newest recording, Impact.
In Japan, it is said that if children begin music lessons on June 1 following their fifth birthday, they will keep studying for a long time. Pianist Keiko Matsui was taken to her first piano lesson on that very day when she was five and she hasn’t looked back since. After the release of her 1987 solo debut album Drop of Water, Keiko Matsui has become an icon of contemporary jazz, with nearly 1.2 million units sold in the U.S. alone and packed concert halls. Her elegant piano melodies and gentle jazz grooves have enormous appeal and never disappoint her loyal fanbase which Matsui has cultivated with over 20 albums and jaw-dropping live shows. No stranger to the upper reaches of the contemporary jazz album and airplay charts, Keiko was named Top Indie Contemporary Jazz Artist Of The Year by Billboard Magazine in 1996, among many other awards and honors.
In a career that spans nearly four decades, over a dozen solo recordings and countless performances, Peter White has maintained a reputation as one of the most versatile and prolific acoustic guitarists on the contemporary jazz landscape. Armed with an unparalleled combination of lyricism and energy, he combines elements of jazz, pop and classical guitar to create a sound that is singular and at the same time accessible to a broad audience. Barely a year after his first professional gig in England at 19 years old, he was invited to join Al Stewart’s band. In addition to opening for artists like Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel and Queen, White worked with Stewart in the studio on The Year of the Cat, which became a huge hit for Stewart in 1976. His twenty-year association with Stewart included co-writing Stewart’s 1978 hit, “Time Passages.” White launched his solo recording career with the 1990 release of Reveillez-Vous. On the road, he has participated in numerous “Guitars and Saxes” tours with players such as Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, Lee Ritenour, Kirk Whalum, and Boney James, and has established an annual “Peter White Christmas Tour.”
Eric Marienthal has won 2 Grammy Awards and has been nominated 7 times as a member of the Chick Corea Elektric Band and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. Having performed in over 75 countries and played on hundreds of CD’s films and TV shows, Eric has also recorded 14 solo CD’s including his latest entitled “Bridges” with guitarist Chuck Loeb. Eric’s CD’s have produced several top 10 radio singles including three #1’s. Eric is the recipient of the Berklee College Of Music Distinguished Alumnus Award for outstanding achievements in contemporary music. Eric was also named one of the top 3 alto saxophonists in Jazziz Magazine’s Reader’s Poll along with Phil Woods and David Sanborn. For the past 19 years Eric has organized an annual charity concert for the High Hopes Head Injury Program in Tustin, CA. These concerts have raised awareness for this great organization and have raised over 1.5 million dollars.
A unique, instantly identifiable vocal sound encompassing both Jazz and R&B, Grammy-nominated Soul/Jazz Maysa celebrates her 25th year as a solo recording artist this year.
Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Maysa Leak knew early on that she would be a musician. “I was six years old when my mom took me to see Purlie,” she recalls. “When Melba Moore came on stage and sang her heart out, I knew at that moment I wanted to make people feel the way she made me feel.”
Maysa’s journey took her from singing upon graduation with Stevie Wonder for a year to becoming the lead singer for Incognito in the 90s. In 1995 she recorded her first solo album.
After celebrating her 26th year as a solo artist, Maysa kicks off the summer with her new album, LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD, a hand picked collection of Maysa’s favorite songs, redone with her own unique soulful twist, solidifying her as the greatest Soul-Jazz singer of her generation-the latest in a distinguished line of singers that stretches back through Anita Baker, Chaka Khan, Will Downing, Angela Bofill, Marlena Shaw and more recently, Ledisi and Chrisette Michele.
Twenty-something music prodigy Vincent Ingala is no stranger to contemporary jazz audiences. His heartfelt, sweet and soulful mix has catapulted him to the top of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts, garnering him three Billboard #1s, and eight top 10 hits. He burst on the contemporary jazz scene in 2010 with the release of his critically heralded debut North End Soul. Two years later Ingala was crowned Billboard “Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year” and Sirius XM Watercolors “Breakthrough Artist Of The Year” in 2013. Ingala’s sophomore recording, Can’t Stop Now, was released in 2012 and Coast To Coast followed in 2015, featuring two singles that hit number one on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. Ingala is also a DJ on Smooth Jazz 24/7 where he can be heard weekly. With the release of his fifth solo recording Personal Touch, a collection of eight stirring original tracks and two surprising reinventions of R&B chestnuts, Vincent Ingala further asserts himself as one of the most exciting artists in contemporary jazz.
Damien Escobar is a world renowned violinist, author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, hailing from Jamaica, Queens, New York. His musical career spans over a decade, and his inspiring journey of making it big, losing it all, fighting to rebuild, and getting a second chance at success is as much apart of his brand identity than being among the top violinist in the world.
The now NAACP Image Award nominee and Billboards chart topping artist was once humbled by homelessness after calling it quits from his famed group, “Nuttin but Stringz.” The group, comprised of Damien and his brother, Tourie—known in NYC for playing their violins on the subway—gained global recognition when they appeared as contestants on “America’s Got Talent.” The competition helped to catapult the duo into stardom and they quickly experienced all the highs of being the most sought after musicians of their time. However, that glory was short-lived and the fall from grace was a hard hit, to say the very least; as the group disbanded and a bruised Damien made the decision to retire his violin. Looking back at his journey, Damien realizes it all needed to fall apart so he could be forced to grow while putting it back together the right way. Prevailing was a process and it started with unburying his talent– his love of playing the violin. In 2013 Damien released his first album as a solo artist, “Sensual Melodies.” Once thought of as a passion project, the album garnished over 200K downloads, landed on the iTunes Top 100 chart, and served as a springboard for a successful national tour that he headlined.
Damien has told his inspiring story to publications like People Magazine and Huffington Post; make appearances on “The Today Show and performed at notable events such as Oprah Winfrey’s “The Life You Want” tour. Among his entrepreneurial projects he has penned a children’s book, “The Sound of Strings” and built his very own line of custom designed violins. Motivated by his past and grateful for his fans and future, Damien went on to release his second album, “Boundless”, in 2017.
New Orleans-born Michael “Patches” Stewart blows from the summit of today’s trumpet players. Patches made his major recording debut at 16 playing in the horn section on LaBelle’s Allen Toussaint-produced classic “Lady Marmalade” in 1974. Upon high school graduation he passed on scholarships on the table from Berklee School of Music to head to Los Angeles and get busy. Patches grabbed the attention of the great Quincy Jones who took him on tour behind his The Dude LP in the early `80s. This was followed by work with artists ranging from English groove collective Soul II Soul to bohemian rocker Rickie Lee Jones to soulful divas Diana Ross and Whitney Houston. Patches’ first recordings as a leader were for the Hip Bop label: the acoustic jazz standards project Blue Patches (1997) and the electrified Penetration (1998). He is most vividly recalled for the 8 years he spent on the road with Al Jarreau followed by 16 years in the cutting edge band of bass chameleon Marcus Miller, who was heavily instrumental in the making of Patches’ third CD, Blow (2005).
Patches was extensively mentored by the great George Duke who he often recorded with – from the boundary smashing legend’s 1993 symphonic project Muir Woods Suite, all the way up to playing on four selections from Duke’s final album in 2013, DreamWeaver. Patches’ most recent recording is On Fire, documenting a scintillating wood-shedding collaboration between musicians in Warsaw, Poland (where Patches has lived for the last couple of years) with key American compatriots such as saxophonist Kenny Garrett, vocalist Raul Midón, drummer Poogie Bell and guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr.
Inspired keyboardist, composer, prolific studio musician and producer Brian Simpson is a master of all he purveys. His eloquent approach to playing, sophisticated harmonics sense, bluesy overtones, R&B flavor and keen sense of how to craft a song that stands the test of time have made him the go-to man for many. Through the years Simpson has been revered for his unparalleled ability to compose unforgettable melodies and irresistible grooves. Simpson’s soulful approach to music has made him first call for many including Janet Jackson, Teena Marie, George Duke, Stanley Clarke and Dave Koz. A chart-topping musical chameleon who wrote the #1 R&B hit “The First Time” for Surface in the 1990s, Brian Simpson has a knack for churning out timeless anthems.
Simpson’s approach is simple, “I’m following in the footsteps of those that laid the foundation of contemporary jazz music. The fusing of jazz and R&B is just what contemporary jazz is all about.”
Simpson’s breakthrough as a solo artist began in 2005 with the #1 radio hit “It’s All Good.” His follow-up single, “Saturday Cool,” went Top 15. In 2007 Simpson released Above the Clouds, which delivered the memorable radio hits “What Cha Gonna Do?” (Top 10) and “Juicy” (Top 15). Placing his success in pop aside, Brian Simpson has always been a working jazz musician. He has toured with some of the greats of recent jazz history, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Billy Cobham, and Gerald Albright. For a decade he served as the Musical Director of the ambitious and highly popular “The Smooth Jazz Cruise.”
Dave McMurray has cemented his reputation for versatility by playing with a vast array of musicians that include B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Hallyday, Gladys Knight, Albert King, Nancy Wilson, KEM, Bootsy Collins, Herbie Hancock, Geri Allen, and Bob James. McMurray sounds as assured and inspired in a rock, R&B, funk, pop or folk setting as he does playing hard bop. McMurray was a member of Blue Note Records’ president, and fellow Detroit native, Don Was’ genre-defying unit Was (Not Was), first working together on the band’s self-titled 1981 debut. He’s played on all of the band’s albums and many other Was produced projects in the years since.
McMurray attributes his saxophone sound and improvisational approach to growing up in Detroit. “Every time I hear an instrumentalist from Detroit play, it feels like they are singing. I don’t care if it’s Yusef Lateef, James Carter or Kenny Garrett. All of those saxophonists incorporated incredible technique too. But they had this singing quality in their playing. I think people hear that and connect with that aspect of it,” McMurray says.
While making his way on Detroit’s bustling music scene, McMurray played with the avant-garde jazz ensemble, Griot Galaxy, founded in 1972 by saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey. But McMurray’s catholic taste in music opened the doors for him to explore beyond the realms of jazz. “Any music that I heard – and continue to hear – I can see myself playing it,” McMurray asserts. “It could be rock, jazz, R&B, whatever.” And that’s a good explanation for his multifaceted career.
Stanley “Chance” Howard grew up in Pittsburgh PA. He began playing bass at an early age, then graduated to drums, then to keyboards, then to vocals, learning everything by ear. While in high school, I formed my first band (Qua’) and started to write songs, then joined his older brother’s band (The Fresh Band), and soon became the tri-state area’s hottest band. Chance then headed to Minneapolis, hoping to work together with Grammy Award winning producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who are best known for their work with such artists as Sounds of Blackness and Janet Jackson. After only two weeks, he got his wish, and began working with a wide variety of artists.
Chance has been a member of Morris Day and the Time. He was also in the bands of both Prince and the NPG at the same time, a distinction that has never been given to another musician in that circle.
In 2004 Chance met saxophonist Candy Dulfer (who is also sailing with us on The Smooth Jazz Cruise) while on tour with Prince, and since 2005 he has been a member of her band. Chance also has an EP titled—what else?—Chance, and a high-energy show band titled “Chance’s Boom Boom Room.”