Tell us about your new album and what you were trying to accomplish with it musically?
On my album In the Lite of Things, I chose popular songs that have stood the test of time and then I brought that music into a smooth jazz setting. I have played so many different styles of music over the years, I wanted to take examples of each of them, and offer listeners new arrangements they have never heard before.
Regarding your touring and gigs so far in your career, do any stand out as being particularly memorable or defining moments?
Even though I have had some fantastic gigs with my own band doing my own music, I spent so many years touring with top acts, I have lots of memories of those large-scale shows playing music that people truly love with all their heart. I toured extensively playing with R&B acts such as Brothers Johnson, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Patti Austin, Barry White, Shalamar, Mary Wells, the Marvelettes, Teena Marie, The Drifters, The Platters, Brenton Woods, Arpeggio, The Jones Girls, Mona Raye Campbell and others.
Who were some of your biggest influences?
My dad played a lot of jazz and standards, and began giving me piano lessons when I was four. Some of my earliest influences were all the Motown pop-soul acts and also Etta James, Ray Charles and Bobby Blue Bland. I started looking for jazz piano teachers and found Don James, who was a friend of Herbie Hancock’s. Don told me I should be listening to Herbie so I started buying his albums and every recording I could find with Herbie on it, and that led me to a lot of other great jazz like Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and Wayne Shorter.
What are some of the things you are proud of at this stage of your career?
My two albums, Love T.K.O. and In the Lite of Things. Having co-written “Love T.K.O.” for Teddy Pendergrass. Touring with a lot of talented musicians. I had some exciting moments appearing in a quite a few films and TV shows. Most of the time I was cast as a musician. I was in “Bird,” the Charlie Parker biography directed by Clint Eastwood, “City Heat” with Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, “Animal House” in Chuck Berry’s band, “Jo Jo Dancer” with Richard Pryor, “The Nutty Professor” with Eddie Murphy, “Against All Odds” with Jeff Bridges, “All of Me” with Steve Martin, “Inspector Gadget” and the Tina Turner biography “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”
Going back in your life as far as you can remember, what music do you recall hearing and being affected by?
As a child I lived in Chicago at the corner of 43rd and South Park, and right there was the 400 Liquor Store that played jazz loud all day long, and just down the block was a jazz night club, the Rose Room, so I heard music all the time.
Is there anything else you want to say about your new album In the Lite of Things?
When you listen to it you will hear that on most of the material I will take a solo on acoustic piano and then a little later I will do a solo on electric piano, back and forth like that. I like both sounds. Both instruments have so much to offer. I enjoy being able to offer both sounds within different tunes. I think it keeps it interesting.