After meeting the man in person at the Newport Beach Jazz Festival, I had to admit, I got curious, and my curiosity had paid off. Finally! is a spectacular blend of influences; R&B, blues, and a lot of soul, and for a debut album of an up-and-comer, it’s a strong, decisive statement to make.
But enough introduction. Let’s get to the point, shall we? Say hello.
1. You ventured to Newport Beach, but not to play. How would you describe that trip? What made you go?
That trip was amazing. I have always wanted to be in California my whole life and, within a seven-month period, I visited 3 times. Maybe thats a sign? I went to take notes and network. I wanted to experience the summer jazz festival atmosphere from a fan’s perspective, and also from a vantage point of an up-and-coming artist who is growing nationally. I felt it was more important to connect with other artists who are part of this “New Generation” of smooth jazz and the Facebook fans alike. I surprised a lot of them by just being there to have fun, listen, and learn. It’s refreshing to have experienced that with so many people reaching out to me.
2. Lemonade Weekend 2011 is now past, but how does it stand out in your memory?
It shows the power of the passionate fan. It was gratifying to know that there are indiviudals, businessmen and women, fans, radio personalities, and artists who will come together and create such a sweet weekend out of a “sour” situation. I left feeling like I do have a chance as an indie artist to build my career, no matter what may be transpiring within the infrastructure of the genre. I had a great time. All of the artists were supportive and open to networking. The fans were as passionate and loving as if the awards were still happening. That weekend was the first time I felt like a “national” artist. I got a chance to play with Jackiem Joyner on his night at Humphrey’s in front of some very important people in the business and fans alike. A great memory for me, and a very unexpected invite from Mr. Joyner. The Anthology jam session and artist showcase was awesome. Everyone represented. Sharing the stage with Paul Brown, Bob Baldwin, Tony Moore, and the plethora of sax men was a real treat. I got some great PUB out of that moment of 16 bars, lol! I think I was the only cat playing soprano. How did that happen…hmmm?? Besides that, San Diego is my new favorite city!!
3. What reception did you receive at Lemonade 2011?
A great one. People were walking up to me, like “You’re Tony Exum, Jr!” and giving me the star treatment! Not used to that at all. I just wanted to play and hang out.
4. Whom have you played with, connected with, etc. who stands out in your memory? Do explain why.
Being from Colorado Springs, CO, one might not think I have much of a resume. I think the Most High saw that differently, however. I have shared the stage with the Temptations and Four Tops in the horn section for both groups, Nelson Rangell, Miki Howard, WAR, Nick Colionne, Gail Jhonson, Joey Sommerville etc. I have connected with Gerald Albright (he lives just a short 40 miles from me), my buddy Marcus Anderson, Mike Phillips, Paul Taylor etc. I think Mike stands out in my memory because he is such a humble guy and gives great advice. He taught me the idea of being a “brand” and opposed to being just another sax player or musician in jazz. He was very encouraging during 2009 and 2010 when I was breaking out, and took time to call and congratulate me on some of my accolades. Very appreciative of his support. I also connected with some in the hip-hop world. Carla Green (aka CMG) of the Bay Area legends The Conscious Daughters. Funny thing is, she found me I think. I will never forget how great it felt to get a FB message saying “Tony, you are illegal dope!” Next thing I know we are talking on the phone and I ended up recording on her first solo effort The Jane of all Trades on PhaseOne/RED/Sony records. A song called “Where Did the Time Go?” with Mike Marshall (aka Mike Meezy, the singer on “I Got 5Ive On It-Luniz fame and “Rumors” by Timex Social Club). Two absolute classics! Unbelievable! I was fan of The Conscious Daughters during my college days at Denver University, even used to have their single “Gamers” on full blast, scaring all the orchestra students! That was a real accomplishment for me and I am looking forward to possibly record on the next TCD album.
5. Write whatever you’d like!
2011 has been a watershed year for me on many levels. I have experienced the road as a solo artist, connected with the household names I dreamed of meeting, sold tons of CDs, developed a great band, and have started the process of the leap from wanting the dream to actually living it. I can only be thankful to my true friends, my manager Mike Reynolds, my business partner and friend from Musik Theory Armed Green, Cheryl Boone, and my TE Heartbreakers! (lol) Bettie Talley-Belcher, Lory Gardner, Tamara Collins, Anisha Wilson, and Anita Ross, whom I also call my fan-mily. Also to the radio people like Steve Hamilton, Bruce Nazarian, Richard Edwards, Graeme Holiday, Terri the jazz queen, Pamela Black, Coco Spencer and Dionne the jazz lady for playing my stuff. Actor/Comedian Shed G. of Tyler Perry fame has been a big help. My backing band, makeitgruv. My producer and musical director James Roberson, for creating such a strong project! I have had a lot of support and it means so much to me. One final thing I would like to say is this: PEOPLE, SUPPORT YOUR INDIE smooth/c-jazz ARTISTS! So much talent and variety is being overlooked by some of the powers-to-be in this genre. Please, reach out to us and listen, download our stuff come to our regional shows, recommend us to other jazz fans. You are missing out on LIFE when you don’t.
Seconded and thirded, Tony E!