Featured Smooth Jazz Artist Archives
Our archives of previously profiled smooth jazz artists of the month
Will Downing – The Master of Sensually Soulful Ballads
Will Downing lives up to his name “Will Power” as you will see through his monumental journey of music and personal life. He’s a singer, composer, music producer, humanitarian, and family man. He’s been in the music industry for over two decades creating remarkable recordings and intimate performances around the globe. He’s recognized as the premier male vocalist for his baritone voice which embodies a sensuous blend of jazz, R&B, and pop. Downing is all that and more. He is also one of the early musical alchemists that fused melodic soul music with demanding jazz grooves, giving birth to what is now called “smooth jazz.”
Will Downing, born Wilfred Downing on November 29, 1963, is a native of Brooklyn, New York. The soulful artist gets his inspiration from musicians like Donnie Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire and The Ohio Players. He started his musical journey in junior high where he sang in the Brooklyn Borough-Wide Chorus. This was around the time that he realized girls liked guys who could sing, and he knew this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Around 1978, he enrolled in the famed performing arts high school Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York. The high school had one of the strongest performing arts programs in the city and included among its alumni singers Barbra Streisand and Stephanie Mills, record company executives Clive Davis, founder of Arista Records, and Kedar William Massenburg who later became president of Motown Records. Coincidently, Downing eventually recorded for Motown. Read full article
Alan Hewitt – The Musical Force of Nature
Alan Hewitt is a jack of all musical trades and a master at everything he pursues. The composer, producer, recording, performing artist and keyboardist, in addition to being a smooth jazz entity, has been associated with the iconic English rock band The Moody Blues and has a huge list of credentials.
Hewitt hails from Petoskey, Michigan where his musical career began at the age of 10 when he took up the drums. By the age of 12, he was well-known by area musicians for his musical chops, and often jammed with the best the area had to offer.
In the early ‘70s while attending Petoskey High School, the keyboardist was part of the popular regional power-trio rock band Rasputin known for their wild outfits and stage antics. After high school he went off to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music in 1976 and, while there, took up piano and keyboards. While in college he played in bands (T-Bone Walker) and even appeared on the original “Star Search” TV talent search show, eventually landing a demo deal with Warner Brothers. Read full article
Jessy J – The Heat Is On
This beautiful Oregon-born, California-raised performer draws her inspiration naturally from several unique musical wellsprings. While she was growing up, her Mexican-born father and mother, a native of Texas, had parties at their house where festive, live Latin music—including La Banda music of her dad’s home country—flowed all night long. She was a huge fan of Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, but also loved pop. After graduating from USC with a degree in jazz studies—she was named Most Outstanding Jazz Student of her class—she jumped quickly into recording sessions with artists like Michael Bublé and toured with The Temptations (2005-2006) and Jessica Simpson.
A true musical prodigy, Jessy began playing piano at age four and spent most of her childhood as a competitive artist, performing at major conferences, competitions and festivals. These childhood experiences and the discipline and work ethic she gained from them would prove to be a great testing ground for her future career in the industry.
In 2004, Jessy joined the cast of the off-Broadway show Blast! and drew on her multitude of skills as an actress, singer, dancer and sax player as she performed in the U.S., London and Japan. It was during this time that she started to have a strong desire to write and perform more of her own music, the dream she fulfilled with her first recording, Tequila Moon.
The Spanish-speaking saxophonist is also heavily involved in music programs connected with the Hispanic community, including performing with the Hispanic Musician Association Orchestra. In 2006, Jessy had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall as part of the Latin Jazz Project put together by one of her true sax heroes, Paquito D’Rivera. She did a similar project with the Henry Mancini Institute performing with legendary artists like Burt Bacharach. Currently, Jessy is working with the Disney Organization on Disney’s Jazz Celebration, their annual event for young performers. Jessy also enjoys working with Selmer Musical Instruments to provide saxophone clinics for young people across America. She also currently serves on the board of directors for The Young Musicians Project, a non-profit organization that brings music education to inner city youth in Los Angeles. Read full article
Candy Dulfer – Princess of Funk
To say Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer has earned a star anywhere she wants to have one placed is truly an understatement. Alive with spirit, energy, and drive, the lovely Dulfer has cranked out hit after hit dating back to the ‘90s, each one full of power, funk, sass, and sexiness. It gives me great pleasure to profile this unstoppable engine personified.
Performing since age seven, Dulfer has been the bandleader of the band Funky Stuff (beginning at age fourteen), an international recording artist since age nineteen, and has toured the world since age twenty. She has recorded and/or performed with artists like Prince, Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics), Van Morrison, Maceo Parker, Sheila E., Mavis Staples, Lionel Richie, Beyoncé, Pink Floyd, Chaka Khan, David Sanborn, Larry Graham, Marcus Miller, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Cliff, George Duke, and so many others that I could turn this entire profile into a list of who’s who of those with whom she’s performed.
“Lily was here,” her first collaboration with former Eurythmics Dave Stewart in 1989, was a number 1 hit all over Europe. Its infectious, driving groove captivated jazzers here In the States, as well. In 1999, the two artists worked together on the soundtrack of the Robert Altman motion picture “Cookie’s Fortune,” and in 2002, they toured Europe with Stewart’s project Da Univerzal Playaz, featuring reggae legend Jimmy Cliff.
Dulfer’s 1990 solo debut album Saxuality was recorded when she was nineteen, sold over a million copies worldwide, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Read full article
Johannes Linstead – In the Wide World of Jazz, the Voice of the Guitarra Del Flamenco y Fuego
Johannes Linstead, a master of the Latin guitar, believes that all of the inhabitants of the planet Earth are one people, and the concept of “no borders” represents the kind of true personal freedom that guitarists of his World and Latin influence and the original gypsies have always appreciated.
The gypsies in Spain were the first to develop the Spanish guitar sound, flamenco and many Latin music motifs. Linstead has always had a bit of the wandering gypsy spirit. Born and raised in Canada to European parents, he now spends part of the year living in Canada near Toronto and the other part in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. When he was a child, his father, who passed down a passion for Latin culture, took the family on numerous trips to places like Spain, Mexico, South America and many islands in the Caribbean. Now Johannes, who has been to approximately 25 countries, travels both for pleasure and to perform concerts in such diverse places as India, Cuba and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
This award-winning artist and his music are internationally acclaimed. His albums include and include such gems as his latest Tales of a Gypsy, bestselling albums Sol Luna Tierra, Kiss the Earth, Guitarra del Fuego, Zabuca, Mediterranea, Cafe Tropical, and Mistico.
Most of his albums have risen high on the prestigious Billboard New Age sales chart and are regularly Top 10 on various radio airplay charts. Linstead’s last album, Mistico, went to #1 on the eMusic World Music and Jazz/Blues charts and Top 10 on the Zone Music Reporter international radio chart, and the recording also was the winner of “Best World Album” and “Best Acoustic Instrumental Album” at the ZMR Awards. Read full article