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TSJR’s Featured Smooth Jazz Artist

A profile of our selected smooth jazz artist of the month

Because we appreciate the talents and hard work of all of the many artists in our beloved smooth jazz genre, TSJR has made it a standard practice to highlight and honor one artist each month who has established himself or herself as an integral part of the smooth/contemporary jazz “engine.” For the next two month, we are honoring three artists each month and hope you enjoy reading and learning more about them. The two-part series is called Rising Ladies of Smooth Jazz. We now present: 

Selina Albright & Lindsey Webster – Rising Ladies of Smooth Jazz (Part 2)

Selina Albright

Factoid: Vocalist Selina Albright tried the saxophone once. She got dizzy, though, and that’s pretty much all it took for her to realize that the sax wasn’t for her.

“I’m just going to use my lungs for my vocal cords, and that’s it,” says Albright, whose father, Gerald, is renowned in contemporary jazz and R&B circles for his sax playing. “It’s really hard to play the saxophone. It sounded horrible. It sounded like an elephant when I tried it. I don’t think I have that calling.”

By her mid-twenties, Albright determined that she wanted to focus on her singing full-time, but her plan — initially, at least — was to finish school first.

“I was in the middle of a grad-school program, and I was going to school counselling, and they make you do counselling yourself to learn more about yourself,” she recalls. “They really make you do some soul-searching, and they help you rediscover some of the milestones you’ve gone through in your life.”

“I realized during the first — not even the full year — that I shouldn’t be here,” she goes on. “I need to be on the stage. I need to be flying around the country and the world, making money while I sing…and being about to take jets everywhere. I need to be doing something a little more glamorous.”

Selina Albright is a soulful singer-songwriter with versatility that comes from years of listening to many origins and languages of music. Her angelic tone adds character and emotion to any ballad, yet her powerful wailing and energetic stage presence command attention.

Albright developed her onstage charisma and vocal technique from being exposed to legendary artists such as Whitney Houston, Take Six, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Beyoncé, Lalah Hathaway, and Tina Turner. Her intimate, connective writing style comes from experiences and aspirations from her own life, so that when you listen to her music, you are introduced to a private piece of who Albright is, has been, or is becoming.

Albright’s R&B/Soul 2013 release entitled “Brighter” topped the UK Soul Chart for four weeks, and her sassy 2010 jazz original “You and I,” was featured on iTunes’ “Top 100 Downloads” list for the genre of Jazz in 2010. Her 2016 single release “Sun Comes Up” primed the market for her 2017 full-length R&B project entitled Conversations, featuring Billboard chart-topping, Grammy-considered singles “Eat Something” (feat. Kay-Ta Matsuno) and “Possible.” A Special Edition release of Conversations was released in 2017 throughout all Japanese territories and remained on the Sapporo Hot 100 chart for weeks in a row, among artists like Katy Perry and Rihanna. Pretty good company, I’d say. So, the decision to abandon the sax and focus like a laser beam on vocals, determined to pursue her dream of “doing something glamorous” has truly paid off well for this songbird.

 

Lindsey Webster

You know the holiday season’s begun once you slip past Thanksgiving and start the gentle slide towards Christmas Day. You can also tell that it’s that time of year once you start hearing those festive favourites that you’ve heard countless times before, but hey, it’s that time of year, right? Well, this year, it’s gonna snow on Christmas. Don’t just take my word for it, check out the classy Christmas single from Lindsey Webster. This is a beautiful Christmas tune, a nice full-on jazzy ballad straight out of the Nat King Cole school of Christmas songs. What else would one expect from a vocalist of the class of Ms Webster?

Originally a cellist, singer/songwriter Lindsey Webster held a unique achievement that she shared with renowned vocalist Sade –being the only musicians to sing their way to the top of the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart. Webster’s soulful “Fool Me Once” was the first fully vocals-driven No. 1 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart since Sade’s “Soldier of Love,” which reigned for three weeks in February and March 2010. In the history of the radio airplay chart, which began Oct. 22, 2005, the two songs were the only all-out vocals-fueled entries to hit the top (of 132 total No. 1s). Impressive.

Webster grew up in Woodstock, NY. She was fortunate to go a grade school that had a progressive music program where the youngster cultivated a deep love of music by learning the cello. After playing for 10 years, often in first chair, she moved to NYC to attend Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art & Performing Arts. As she grew musically, she transitioned from strings to voice where she heard her calling and found herself.

In 2009, Webster met her partner, Keith Slattery, and started performing professionally. Together, with a band of world-class musicians, they’ve performed over 600 shows in venues including Yoshi’s Oakland, The Iridium, North Sea Jazz Club, Pizza Express, Levon Helm Studios, Daryl’s House, Helsinki Hudson, The Falcon, The Bitter End, and the Bearsville Theater.

Her 2013 self-titled debut album straddled the space between R&B and smooth jazz, eloquently driven by some lush arrangements and that powerful Webster voice. She won “Best Acoustic Song” in the Independent Music Awards for the composition “Choices” that she wrote with Slattery.

The success of her second album, You Change, and achieving the only vocally-driven song to hit #1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart for four weeks (beating out Sade’s previous record of three weeks) caught the eye and ear of Shanachie Entertainment, with whom she signed to release her third album Back to Your Heart.
Back to Your Heart is one of those late-night, deep, soul albums that you always hear on those Quiet Storm radio shows and you promise yourself to get that in the morning, but you never do! Webster’s restrained approach on this album hides a truly powerful singer. At times, like on the title track, she sings with the gutsiness of Randy Crawford then, in contrast she hits delicate, background harmony high notes of such clarity that you wish she would show more of her prowess. Do yourself a favour, go get this one. It’s got something special. She’s something special. And remember, it’s gonna snow this Christmas! – Steve Giachardi