Jazz musician Gerald Albright spoke to the News-Press two days after he got off the week-long Smooth Jazz Cruise, where he and the late George Duke were inducted into the Sirius XM Watercolors Hall of Fame.
“It was just very touching and I was very honored to be recognized like that,” Albright said. “So it was a special week.”
Albright spent last week on a cruise, but this week he’ll be in Washington, D.C. tonight through Jan. 25, playing at Blues Alley. He said that the metropolitan area is one of his favorite places to play.
“My records always do better in that region of the country than others, and that’s including my hometown,” Albright said. “It seems that people there run out and get the CDs a lot quicker…and I’ve always been humbled by that. So I always make it a point to get to the east coast as much as I can, especially those areas like Maryland, Virginia, D.C and Baltimore.
“It’s just a good place where you can celebrate music. People are very attentive to the music and very knowledgable about the music.And if they love you, they love you for life. If they’re not feeling you, they’ll you know. They’re very honest people and I love that about them.” He’ll be playing tracks from his latest, Grammy-nominated album Slam Dunk (August 2014) at those shows.
The album starts out with the fanfare you’d hear at an NBA game and goes right into album’s title track, which is also its lead single. Albright, who grew up in Los Angeles but lives near Denver, said he’s a Lakers and Nuggets, fan, but that the album isn’t about basketball. It’s really about him making a definitive statement about what he does, and can do, as a musician.
“The premise behind this project is giving the listener a real no-holds-barred-look at what I do as an artist,” Albright said.
“A lot of people don’t know about the other instruments that I play, like bass guitar or flute, and I sing a little bit. They don’t know about the other saxophones that I play. So, this was just kind of a reminder of that…I’m doing flute solos, I’m doing bass solos…and then on one song, “Because of You,” I’m singing all the backgrounds on that.”
Sure enough, the title track from the album was a slam dunk – it reached number one on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart and is still in the top ten, while the album reached number two on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart.
After his D.C. Dates, Albright and his band are flying to London before coming back to the U.S. for the Grammy Awards on Feb. 8. According to him, Heads Up, the label that released Slam Dunk, is getting ready to put out the second single from the album, an instrumental cover of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.”
He said that the legendary soul singer and, more specifically, Maceo Parker, had a major influence on his career and musicianship. “I’ve been listening to his music since I was really young,” said the 57-year old Albright. “My older brother, who was eight years older than me, he had literally every James Brown record in his collection and this is what I used to heard in the house everyday, along with the gospel music that my mom played.
“So when I started playing saxophone at about nine years old, I heard the saxophone players on James Brown records, mainly Maceo Parker, he really struck my ear at an early age and I really enjoyed his style of play and the sound of his horn”
He said in a video he did for Concord Music Group in support of Slam Dunk that Brown’s music was so influential he tries to channel Brown on every one of his records. “I always seem to channel James Brown,” Albright said. “Because that’s what feels good and feels genuine to me.”
• For more information about Gerald Albright, visit geraldalbright.com.