Year In – Year Out, Mr. Albright has sizzled his audiences from the bandstand to the music flowing out of their iPods. Recently, Terrill from T.U.M.S. sat down with Gerald to discuss the making of his new album on Heads Up International entitled, “Pushing The Envelope”, to be released June 15th, 2010…The featured artists slated to appear on the project, his perspective on smooth jazz music & much more!
TERRILL: He’s back on the scene again folks with a new LP about to break here in June, “Pushing the Envelope”, we welcome back Mr. Gerald Albright! What’s up Gerald?
GERALD: I’m good Terrill. How are you doing?
TERRILL: I’m feeling good man. To tell the truth about Pushing the Envelope, it’s an extraordinary release personally because I played it back myself and you got a little more hip, little more old school on this man – what’s happening?
GERALD: Yeah, well my thing is I’ve never been a smooth jazz artist. You know I was around before the smooth jazz term was even around you know and I was more of the quiet storm/contemporary jazz guy back in the mid 80’s. So I come from a bit more R&B, urban background. This new record reflects that. And it’s basically a ‘no holds bar’ on this record. I wanted it to be something that I didn’t have to think about limiting for smooth jazz. Some type of smooth jazz. You know, a program director said okay well that’s too flaunty, or it’s too notey, or it’s too harsh. You got to kind of fit things in a box of smooth jazz. I just took the approach from this particular project that I wasn’t going to limit anything in terms of the production, the feel of the tune, the way I did my improvisation. I just came straight from the soul and the heart and gave 200% of genuine Gerald, and that’s what this project’s all about.
TERRILL: I really appreciate those comments. I was actually going to say at a later part of the interview with you that the state of this thing called smooth jazz and your music, in my personal opinion, doesn’t really fit that box. You’ve always been a much more edgier approach to urban R&B jazz and you had released a tremendous amount of great singles and sold a great amount of units. And ‘Pushing the Envelope’, you went back to a little more funkier edge as you stated. And speaking of which… Fred Wesley, you know you got some stuff on there with Earl Klugh and George Duke.
GERALD: Yes. Absolutely. And I had the pleasure of writing and producing pretty much all the whole record – I had only two cover tunes. One with Michael Jackson, the Off the Wall project and did ‘Get on the Floor’ which is a tune, it wasn’t a single on that particular project, but it was one of my favorites on that project and of course Louis Johnson who was one of my main mentors on bass. A lot of people don’t know that I play bass guitar also.
GERALD: He’s one of my main mentors. He was like the first guy who inspired me to learn how to play and he played on that particular track. In fact, he was one of the writers on that track, along with Michael Jackson. So I decided to do my own arrangement of that and we also went with a cover tune from the Carpenters called ‘Close to You’, which is a another whole arrangement from the original. We just kind of took those two and made them our own. Then we have the balance of the project being all original material that I had the pleasure writing and producing.
TERRILL: That’s refreshing man! I tell you, there’s nothing better in the world than hearing some nice, original, and also some covers done by you Mr. Albright. Because your track record have always done some sweet covers man. The way you’ve changed those arrangements from over the years. I mean you’re coming and busting out. And again we are talking 200% here. You’ve come a long way through with this.
GERALD: I appreciate that man. Thank you for saying that.
TERRILL: No, I’m really serious about that man. I mean people need to know that. Because we’re talking about the days when You, George Howard, Najee….you guys came and really kicked down the door at a time for Contemporary Jazz. I really think that this is the time to reflect. This is the year and more years ahead that your music should stand for what it is. I mean some real strong, contemporary jazz. Some really laid back, kick back urban R&B jazz tunes. It’s really refreshing to hear that you’re coming back out and you’re standing up and saying, ‘Hey, This is Gerald Albright’.
GERALD: Well thank you. You know, as they say – we’re on a mission and this is my passion. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time. And I just really feel confident about the direction that I’d like to go in. I’ve been so blessed over the years to have wonderful fans who had kind of swayed with me with the directions that I’ve gone, both traditional jazz and contemporary jazz. I just want to thank all the folks who had supported me for those many, many years – that I’ve been out there blowing my horn man.
TERRILL: And Concord, Heads Up – you guys got this all tightened up with the tour schedules and stuff? Are you getting ready to go around the world with this?
GERALD: Yeah, actually I’m very happy about the tour I’m going to start in the middle of next month. We are going to start out in Sacramento, California. It’s called “Guitars and Saxes”. It’s a tour that I’ve been doing for about four or five years now. There were different members and different artists in different years. This year it’s going to be myself, Kurt Whalum, Peter White and Jeff Golub. So we’re hoping to do at least, you know thirty to thirty-five cities across the country and hopefully take it abroad and maybe go to Japan or Europe if we can, you know.
TERRILL: Okay. Alright. Any music videos about to pop out on this CD? I remember those music videos man.
GERALD: Well, because jazz has taken such a turn, I mean there’s not too many jazz artists doing videos unfortunately these days. I mean, again back in the day when I was deemed to being more urban and quiet storm, I was being played on the R&B charts back then. So yes we did many videos back then. But these days the budgets aren’t as fruitful as they used to be. Record companies are kind of holding back, obviously because of the economy and other reasons. And so it forces us as artists to be more inventive and to figure out other ways to get our music out there. Those are discussions I’m having with my current record company right now. As to how we can just kind of get out there in a very unique way via the internet and getting on as many talk shows and news shows or whatever that we can get on to make the presence of this record what it needs to be.
TERRILL: It’s big marketing man, but I miss those days of your previous music videos and the impact of those videos had on listeners. How it can relate to jazz as well as R&B and what not. There’s lots of visual associated to music as opposed to listening to everything by ear. Otherwise, Are you going to play any of these tracks off your new album at the Playboy Jazz Festival this year? (2010)
GERALD: Yes definitely! Playboy…., we’ll probably do one or two cuts off of the new project and then on the ‘Guitar & Saxes’, anything more because we have four artists on the stage. The only drawback of those kind of tunes is that you don’t get a chance to have as much time on stage as you would like to because if all the artists played all the songs they wanted to play, it would be a five or six hour concert. In most markets obviously we can’t do that length of a show. But we’re just going to take the cream of the crop of all of our tunes that people love to hear and we’re going to have a big party man. Have a good time.
TERRILL: Oh that’s what I’m talking about man. I look forward to seeing you, as always. You know we’re always out there supporting you man. Now back to the album – You have Fred Wesley on the project. A trombone player. I mean that’s an talented brother man…
TERRILL: …please tell me about your experience with Fred Wesley in the studio for the project.
GERALD: Well, let me just say, we go way back. Fred and I have known each other for years. And I’ve had the pleasure of doing American Idol with him and doing some live shows. Basically, I put this tune together for the new record called, ‘What Would James Do’, and of course James is James Brown – who is one of my main influences on my production and song writing. And of course Macio Parker was another influence of mine. So that whole James Brown experience is heavy in my heart man. And Fred Wesley of course was with James for many, many years and is the principal trombone voice that you heard on all those live records.
TERRILL: Right On!
GERALD: A lot of people don’t know Fred Wesley did all those horn arrangements for James throughout all those years and all those hits, you know.
GERALD: And so working with Fred, it’s just the biggest compliment. When I wrote this song, ‘What Would James Do’ for the new project, um it was just calling for his sound. I called him up and said, ‘Fred man, you got to play on this record’. He was just very amenable to it man and he did a great job. I’m just so happy that he’s a part of this record. This is the first time that he has recorded on one of my personal solo records and so we kind of broke the ice on that and I’m so appreciative.
TERRILL: That’s so cool brother. And then, the return of guitarist Earl Klugh and your collaboration with him. Talk to us a little bit about that…
GERALD: Well, Earl of course, when we’re talking about everybody I used as far as featured artists on this project, they have a ‘niche’ print sound. I mean you can listen to Earl Klugh’s guitar, hear two notes and you know it’s Earl.
TERRILL: That’s right!
GERALD: With the guys.
TERRILL: That’s right.
GERALD: And that’s a special thing to have with the plethora of guitar players that are out there. To have your own sound like that and again in the studio putting a tune together. It was just haunting for this acoustic guitar. I’ve always wanted to record with Earl and we had done jazz festivals together from over the years. We’ve been, of course, friends throughout the years, but we had never recorded together. I saw him in January on the Flute Jazz Cruise. He was also a special guest artist on that cruise and we just got to talking man. I mentioned to him, I said ‘hey I’m getting ready to do my record man, I have this tune that’s just calling your name‘. And he said, ‘I’d love to do it’ and that’s when it all came together.
TERRILL: That’s great man! And last but not least, you know I’m going to bring up the big man, Mr. Dukey Stick – George Duke to the plate. Man, what was it like for you guys to come together and knock out that African vibing piece, ‘The Road to Peace’. When you two came together, I mean your two beautiful musical, jazz worlds came together, it’s always going to come up with something blossoming. Something fruitful.
GERALD: Oh and it was fruitful for me man, it was musically nutritious for me if I can say that.
GERALD: George has recorded with me on a couple of other projects and I call him Papa G because, you know we just kick it all the time and it just amazes me how much of a genius he really is. I’ve seen him work in different scenarios in the music business and he, along with guys like Quincy Jones, I mean you can name him in the same sentence. I mean he has just done so much for music. It’s a thing where he knows that he can call me on any project that he’s doing and I can call him. He’s like, ‘yeah man I got your back’. And it was just a real easy thing like that. And what came out was ‘Road to Peace’ – which is a original tune that I dedicated to the people of Haiti. Obviously with the devastation that they went through a few months ago. It was just the right touch, the right element of piano that was needed for the production and George did a stellar job on that.
TERRILL: I tell you what, that CD going to be a knock out man! I’m going to talk like I’m on Live TV….”Ladies & Gentlemen, Please look out for Pushing the Envelope, June 15th, 2010″.
Mr. Albright, Man I appreciate so much of your time today. Gerald, your music has stretched all different boundaries of jazz. And since we’re in a musical society where people like to label a particular artist, there’s no label (genre) associated to you is there?
GERALD: Yeah, and I’ve been trying to prevent that for many, many years. You know you make a good point. People try to pigeon hole you because jazz is infinite. I think our approach to it should be infinite and I’ve just kind of limited myself when it came to my productions. I think the people who go to buy my records, they want to hear, what we talked about earlier, they want to hear Gerald do 200% of whatever he’s feeling at the time and it should be genuine. People are very, very smart. They’re very intuitive when it comes to music. Again, they know when somebody’s half stepping and they know somebody’s trying to just bring it.
TERRILL: That’s right.
GERALD: But I’ve never…
TERRILL: That’s right!!
GERALD: …I’ve never just taken the intelligence of the audience and listening ear for granted. So I’ve just tried to bring it as best I could man with God’s help. So what you’re hearing on this new project it’s just that. I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
TERRILL: That’s what I’m talking about man! Cheers to you and the CD brother & thank you for stopping by the urbanmusicscene.com. Is there any words you would like to share to our readers or your listening fans out there?
GERALD: Well once again – many, many thanks for all support during the years. I got my calculator out the other day and just kind of figured out how many years I’ve been playing this horn and it was pretty impressive. I’ve been doing it….you’re talking about some, twenty-five, thirty years! As a professional doing this and it was my audience that allowed me to sustain what I’m doing. There’s a small percentage of people who have the ability to do what they love to do in life and make a living at it and I just want to thank my audience and all my supporters from day one for allowing me to do that.
TERRILL: And let me think back on a day for one minute – the music video that was rotated heavily on BET, when you came out and jammed the cover of Luther Vandross…
GERALD: “So Amazing”?
TERRILL: That’s it. That’s still your music today my brother! Thank you so much for your time Gerald. I’ll see you at the Playboy.
GERALD: I’ll see you there Terrill. All the best, thank you man.
You can visit Gerald Albrights Official Website for more News, Concert Information, Bio & Much more by clicking here!