Gerald Albright has been bringing his A-game to the smooth jazz circuit for twenty-five years and he still continues to maintain his title as one of the more consistent musicians around. Even after all his accomplishments as a reputed jazz musician, Albright is a humble man who exudes such a positive aura; after the interview it was clear that Albright was in the business for the love of the music and his fans, and not necessarily for resting on his own laurels.
Grooveability is Gerald Albright’s signature move on every CD that he makes and there is a lot of that going on when you listen to his new CD called Pushing the Envelope, which is due for a June 15th release. The CD’s title was intentional according to Albright, since there is a lot that separates this compilation from his previous works. "I think it (the CD) kind of mirrors the title. We didn't think about the limitations; something that smooth jazz has where the song can’t be too funky, busy, too many notes, no screaming through the horn or anything like that. We decided to do this project from the heart and soul and give the audience what they want to hear: 100% Gerald within different moods of each song."
According to Albright, the new CD also has more "edge with no limits to the improv aspect of it." Albright said that he started working on Pushing the Envelope back in October/November of 2009 and that it is a project he managed to squeeze in while he was on tour. Albright said that he worked a little on the CD before going on the road to perform, as they pushed for a March completion date. Joining Albright on his CD are respected musicians like guitarist Earl Klugh, pianist George Duke and trombonist Fred Wesley musicians who Albright holds in high esteem as supportive friends and colleagues. Given each of their hectic schedules, Albright explained how they all got together to make this CD happen. "Through the wonders of technology, I was able to get them to do their parts in their studio and then get it to me. George Duke has appeared on previous projects of mine; I call him my "industry dad." We have been friends for a long time; Earl Klugh too."
The process of making this CD also involved coming up with the nifty titles that are featured here and said Albright about the naming process, "Most of my concepts and titles come to me when I’m taking a long drive. I tend to record first and then get the titles later. Once the music is completed, I have to live with the music and digest it afterwards." Ten cuts deep, the CD is quite personal to Albright as it features a few tributes and some classics that he injects with new blood.
The CD opens with the funky and soulful "What Would James Do," a track that pays homage to James Brown. Fred Wesley guest appears here on his trombone adding to this festive romp. This track is followed by the Michael Jackson and Louis Johnson’s "Get on the Floor," a single that is sure to be in heavy rotation over the summer, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s "Close to You," two tracks that are given a modern treatment, with Albright’s daughter, Selina, lending her beautiful and sultry vocals.
Selina is no newcomer to the music scene; she has previously appeared on a few of her father’s earlier recordings. "She used to sing on my demo tapes and in 1998, she first recorded with me on the track called 'Live to Love.' Now her voice has matured over the years since that recording; she did a great job." Aside from singing with her father, Selina currently has a NuJazz single release, which is gaining tremendous attention on Itunes. Albright's next musical project is to work on songs with her and get her a recording deal.
Albright’s latest CD continues to show versatility with the Latin-infused, "Bobo’s Groove," a track that Albright wrote for jazz percussionist Willie Bobo who he gives credit for introducing him to playing Latin jazz music. Other tracks on the CD include the mellow, "I Found the Klugh," which features Earl Klugh on guitar and "The Road to Peace (A Prayer for Haiti)," a heart warming track that has an uplifting arrangement that would definitely give you a feeling of hope for this troubled country. Albright expressed how deeply saddened he was about Haiti’s disaster saying that "it impacted my life greatly. No one should be homeless; all people should have a fair shot at this planet for the type of life they want to have and it is unfortunate that it (the earthquake) has happen. When you lose so many people in a disaster, it’s hard. I donated funds and reflected on this whole disaster through this song. If there is some way I can provide additional funding via a concert or so I would be definitely interested in doing that."
For ballads, no one does it quite effortlessly as Albright and this is evident on the sultry "Embrace the Spirit," a track that is right up there with Albright’s take on Luther Vandross’ "So Amazing" a few years ago. Also listen out for the chord progressions on "Highway 70," a tribute to Earth Wind and Fire that is one of Albright’s personal favorites, his other favorite being, "The Road to Peace (A Prayer for Haiti)".
Even before the CD drops, Albright has his eyes set on a few projects that should keep him busy well into the next year. For starters, he will be commencing a "Guitars and Saxes" tour, an event he says has been going on for the last 13-14 years. He also has the spring and summer months booked with performances. And if that is not enough, he will start production work on his daughter’s solo CD. He is hopeful about doing a few personal musical projects that would include producing CDs featuring different genres, including blues, gospel and a bass guitar compilation.