Simpson Is Joined By An All-Star Line Up Including Boney James & Peter White
"The melody is still king," declares chart-topping keyboardist, composer, prolific studio musician and producer Brian Simpson. A master at crafting unforgettable melodies and timeless anthems, Simpson's soulful approach to the music has made him first call for many including Janet Jackson, Teena Marie, George Duke, Stanley Clarke and Dave Koz, for whom he has had the distinction of being musical director for close to two decades. Brian Simpson's newest masterpiece, Persuasion, is the perfect amalgamation of influences that are close to the pianist's heart: Jazz, R&B, Funk, Soul and his late father Bill Simpson, to whom the CD is dedicated. "My dad listened to jazz with such a keen ear. I learned to enjoy the beauty of a great jazz solo and how to discern the musicians with great phrasing from listening to music with him."
Persuasion is Simpson's seventh recording as a leader and fourth CD for Shanachie Entertainment and features all original music. Front and center throughout the CD is Simpson's eloquent touch, sophisticated harmonic sensibility, bluesy overtones and R&B stylings. His approach is simple. "I'm following in the footsteps of those that laid the foundation of contemporary jazz music," says Simpson. "Fusing jazz and R&B is just what contemporary jazz is all about." Joined by an all-star ensemble, Simpson takes his mission to new heights and aligns himself with an all-star cast of friends including contemporary jazz stars saxophonist Boney James, Peter White, bassist Alex Al (Michael Jackson, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé), composer/guitarist Steve Oliver, saxophonist Steve Alaniz (Bobby McFerrin and Nancy Wilson), guitarists Darrell Crooks (Gregory Porter, Ledisi, Boyz II Men, Will Downing) and Kendall Gilder (Jennifer Lopez), percussionist Ramon Yslas (David Sanborn, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Patti Labelle), and drummer Omari Williams (Boney James, Ruben Studdard, Rick Braun, Jessy J).
The CD opens with the title track "Persuasion." Not much coaxing is needed here to be enticed by Simpson's funky, R&B flavored and rhythmically charged anthem that sets the tone for a joyous excursion ahead. Boney James' soulful tenor, Ramon Yslas' percussive magic and Alex Al's rock solid bass provide the perfect launching pad for Simpson's improvisatory genius to take flight and that he does! "I have been a fan of Boney James for years," confides Brian. "Earlier this year we had the chance to work together for the first time at a jazz festival in Indonesia. Soon after that I sent a demo of a new song to him, which he liked and the rest is history. I loved what he played on the track "Persuasion"...so much so I decided to make it the title track and first song on the CD!" "Wonderland," the album's first single, is an exuberant dance-inspiring number with an insatiable groove. Brian Simpson shares about the album's first single, "The song 'Wonderland' is very different for me yet is a logical musical progression in my evolution as an artist. It was co-written with Steve Oliver and I was thrilled with the "drive" we had created rhythmically, harmonically, and melodically, but it was after the percussion of Ramon Yslas was added that it transcended the original idea. We ended up with a very unique song, so I was compelled to name it 'Wonderland!'"
"One And Only" is a soaring romantic composition that showcases Simpson's skill with melody and phrasing. Persuasion also showcases the breathtakingly beautiful "Lost in Love," which unites Simpson with guitarist Peter White and offers beautiful interplay between the dynamic duo. "This is the second time Peter White has been featured on a song of mine," says Brian. "I was once again reminded why he continues to be one of the most popular artists in contemporary jazz. The emotion he evokes from the melody of "Lost In Love" is simply magical. I can't imagine anyone else doing this song with me." The mystical "Need You Now" of EDM and reggae rhythms, while the gritty and blues-tinged "Supernatural" takes it to the dance floor and beckons you to let loose. "Take It Up" is a towering musical procession with mounting intensity, sweeping melodies and rhythmic fancy. "Starbound" is a sublime track that passionately explores sonics and space creating an ethereal tapestry of magnificence. "Surreal Theme" opens with the summoning percussion of Omari Williams and Ramon Yslas and swings in and out of various exhilarating movements. The album closes with "Always Here For You," a soothing and tender composition and the perfect closer for the album. Brian Simpson has always been there for his fans and continues to deliver the goods.
Hailing from Gurnee, Illinois, Brian always knew music would play center stage in his life. "Our house was filled with music. My older brother and sister both played instruments, and my brother's rock band rehearsed in our living room every weekend. I never really considered any other lifestyle," shares the keyboardist. Simpson's breakthrough as a solo artist began in 2005 with the #1 radio hit "It's All Good." The title track of It's All Good proved instantly and joyfully prophetic, as it hit #1 on the Radio & Records Smooth Jazz Airplay chart and remained in the Top 5 for four months. His follow-up single, "Saturday Cool," went Top 15. In 2007 Simpson released Above the Clouds, which delivered the memorable radio hits "What Cha Gonna Do?" (Top 10) and "Juicy" (Top 15). After graduating from Northern Illinois University, Simpson relocated to Los Angeles where he quickly immersed himself in the local jazz scene. Late night jazz sessions found him playing alongside everyone from saxophonists Everette Harp and Boney James to guitarist Norman Brown. The free-spirited musician soon found himself taking a temporary leave of absence from the jazz scene, touring the world with pop divas Teena Marie, Sheena Easton and Janet Jackson. His foray into the pop world didn't end there; in January 1991, he co-wrote the #1 Pop hit "The First Time" by Surface, which conquered both the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts. Placing his success in pop aside, Brian Simpson has always been a working jazz musician. He has toured with some of the greats of recent jazz history, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, George Howard, Billy Cobham, and Gerald Albright. Brian has been the musical director for jazz saxophonist Dave Koz for close to 20 years, and for close to a decade the Musical Director of the ambitious and highly popular "The Smooth Jazz Cruise." In 2010 Simpson released South Beach whose title track snagged a #1 slot on the charts. Just What You Need followed in 2013 featuring the Antônio Carlos Jobim/ Vinicius de Moraes classic "The Girl From Ipanema" which hit #1 on the charts and "Emerald City," a top 3 hit. 2015's Out Of A Dream featured the Top Ten single "Skywatcher."
With the anticipated release of Persuasion, Brian Simpson further asserts himself as one of the most thrilling and innovative pioneers on the contemporary jazz scene. He concludes, "I have the greatest job in the world. I feel like a painter with a huge canvas as I begin the process of writing songs then arranging and recording the bass, drums, guitar, piano, and other instruments that complete the musical picture. I never take for granted how fortunate I am to have an audience and fans around the world that continue to motivate me to keep painting!"