Saxophonist Gerald Albright says he spread his instrumental wings for his current record “Slam Dunk.”
“It was a long time in the making, but it was the right time to bring the bass guitar and the flute out front,” said Albright who was born in Los Angeles and currently lives in Colorado. “Each CD has represented a chapter in my life and we as musicians are always looking to expand. I started recording ‘Slam Dunk’ late last year. I recorded ‘Split Decision’ then I went over sees and then I started recording again in February of this year and finished up in April. It was a fun process.”
The end result is a tight-12 track collection of original compositions and super cover songs—like James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” and Phil Collins’ “True Colors”—that showcase Albright’s soaring and soulful track lines and his tenor, baritone and soprano saxophone arrangements. He also shows his prowess as a bassist.
“It’s hard for me to do a record without channeling James Brown. We didn’t want it to be like the original version. We started with a kind of subtle, chordal thing that led up to the initial sax melody. It’s one of my favorite tracks,” Albright said. “I had the privilege of working with Phil Collins for several years and whenever we did ‘True Colors’ I looked forward to my sax solo. Even though I loved Phil’s arrangement, we decided to do more of an R& B type of thing and make it our own. I have to send the track to him and see what he thinks of it.”
During the recording of “Slam Dunk,” which is set for release on August 5, on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, Albright got the chance to reconnect with co-producer, co-writer and keyboardist Chris “Big Dog” Davis. He is also supported on this project by drummer Jerohn Garnett, guitarist Rick Watford and his daughter, Selina Albright, on background vocals.
“The musicians for this record were handpicked. They’re guys I’ve known for a long time, and Chris has been my keyboard player on and off for several years. I like his energy and the way he approaches both production and the keyboards is unique,” Albright said. “My regular drummer, Jerohn, the newest member of my touring band, is also a dynamic multi-instrumentalist in his own right. Rick is from Atlanta. He’s dynamic guitarist in the gospel world but he also plays R& B and my daughter, Selina is a recording artist in her own right.”
Selina is preparing to release her second solo album.
“We love blending together when we sing together. It’s a nice platform for spending time with my daughter. I have two kids and my son and I spend quality time together golfing,” said the proud dad.
Albright began piano lessons at an early age but his love for music grew considerably when he was given a saxophone that belonged to his piano teacher. By the time he entered college at the University of Redlands, he was already a seasoned saxophonist. However, after seeing Louis Johnson in concert while in college, Albright decided to switch to bass guitar.
“I was a fan of the Brothers Johnson in the 1980’s and Louis was one of the bass players and I got to see him at a festival in California. Louis did an amazing bass solo and my mouth dropped open and I said I want to do that. The bass allowed me to make money in college. I’m still loving the bass,” he said.
A few months after graduating from college, Albright joined Jazz pianist/R & B singer Patrice Rushen who was in the process of forming her own band. Later, when the bass player left in the middle of a tour, Albright replaced him and finished the tour on bass guitar. During the 80’s, Albright became a highly-requested session musician playing on a variety of artists’ records including Anita Baker, Atlantic Starr, Olivia Newton-John. He toured extensively with Teena Marie, the Winans, Quincy Jones and Whitney Houston among others.
He went on to record numerous successful solo records for Atlantic Records. Two albums reached number one on the Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Chart and were nominated for Grammy Awards in 1989 and 1990.
“Slam Dunk” will be Albright’s 15th record. He is planning a 2015 tour to let his fans see what he can do musically. He hopes to put Pittsburgh on his tour schedule. Albright was in Pittsburgh during the summer of 2013 when he performed with fellow musicians and friends Dave Koz, Mindi Abair and Richard Smallwood during the group’s “Summer Horns” tour.
“This record is synonymous with my previous records in that it has the direct influence of James Brown, the Philly International Sound and the Motown Sound,” Albright said. “A lot of people don’t know that I play bass, flute and some of the other instruments so we decided to make it—no pun intended—a slam dunk project and bring all those instruments to the forefront.”
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