The saxman's soulful creative juices are flowing anew as he makes a fresh start with a move to Colorado, a signature saxophone series and New Beginnings on Peak Records. 

By Jonathan Widran

After two successful releases on GRP (Groovology and Kickin’ It Up), Gerald Albright is excited about his fresh-start relationship with Peak Records and his new deal with Cannonball Musical Instruments, for which he’s designed an alto and tenor sax as part of the Gerald Albright Signature Horn Series. And on March 18, he hits the stage with Kirk Whalum as part of the 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest in Reading, Pennsylvania. 

Dividing his touring time last year between the ongoing all-star Groovin’ for Grover phenomenon, a handful of solo gigs and 27 dates over nine weeks last fall on Phil Collins’ “Final Farewell Tour,” Gerald Albright traveled to a lot of exotic destinations he’d never been to before.

While the third year of the Grover tour kept the saxman groovin’ stateside with Whalum and Jeff Lorber, Collins––with whom Albright has toured on and off since 1998—played before crowds of up to 50,000 throughout Europe and the Middle East, in places like Romania, Croatia, Beirut, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

While he found his down time roaming as a tourist in those places fun and very educational, Albright’s real joy in 2005 was returning home––not to the Los Angeles area where he’d lived his entire life, but to the beautiful, fresh-air-filled town of Castle Rock, Colorado, where he and his family (Glynis, his wife of 25 years, and kids Selina, 24, and Brandon, 16) relocated last February. This move from Moorpark, California, is just one of the new beginnings the title of his brand new album refers to.

Albright first discovered the magical, mountainous charm of the Denver area when he was there in October, 2004, to perform at a charity event for Elijah’s Rainbow Foundation, which raises money to help pay for sick children’s medical bills. “I’d performed there many times in the past, but, as is typical when you’re in and out of places so quickly, I had never gotten to see the city,” he says. “Vernon Barbary, the gentleman who spearheads the foundation, has a business partner who is a realtor, and the realtor, who is now a dear friend of ours, took me and Glynis around to check out the local real estate.

“We just fell in love with the place,” Albright adds. “We had no immediate intentions of moving, but for weeks all we could talk about was the Mile High City. For the past decade, we’d been looking at different areas to move to. Turns out that the last house we saw on the day before our return was the one we eventually bought. We just loved the neighborhood, the warm feeling we got from the people, and the layout of the house was conducive to what we needed. But we had to convince the kids. Selina was working in Simi at Score!, a chain of tutorial services, but looking for a change. Brandon was more of a challenge because he’s still in high school. But when we took him there for a second trip, and he saw all the golf courses, he saw the potential. It’s been a great move for all of us.”

Living in a new location that Albright refers to as “God’s Country” ––where he marvels daily at the sight of deer grazing on his property, with mountains rising in the distance––the saxman felt his creative juices stirring on a regular basis. Being away from the big city smog and traffic put him in a relaxed and refreshed state of mind, which he found very conducive to writing and developing tunes at his own pace. But the creative freedom Peak provided gave him all the time he needed to write and choose the songs and pick the guest artists and musicians who would be on the album.

“I was able to take some stylistic liberties here as well,” he says. “My songs are more R&B than anything, incorporating all of my influences like Motown, Philly and James Brown. I know I’ve always talked about how Cannonball Adderly’s mix of improvisation and soul inspired me, but my first hero was and remains Maceo Parker from the James Brown horn section. Every time I meet him, I feel like I’m in the presence of royalty. All the elements in my writing these days are more powerful and energetic than a lot of what you hear on smooth jazz radio. It’s cool not to be pigeonholed. My tunes are adaptable to smooth jazz, but not specifically that. With the exception of ‘Georgia on my Mind,’ I pretty much kept the same arrangements on the studio versions of these songs that I’ve used in live performances.”

While most of Albright’s previous albums found him hiring top studio musicians, this time he recorded most of the tracks with his longtime regular touring band, including bassist Melvin Davis, guitarist Darlene Moreno, drummer Tony Moore and his newest member, keyboardist and musical director Tracy Carter. There are a few cool guest stars, including his old Locke High School classmate, R&B/jazz keyboardist Patrice Rushen, and Walter and Scotty Scott, two original members of the Whispers, who contribute vocals to a reworking of their signature hit “And the Beat Goes On.”

Once again, Albright also co-writes and produces tracks with his Groovin’ for Grover touring mate Lorber. The Albright-Lorber connection goes back to the early ’80s, when the young saxman replaced the soon-to-be-famous Kenny G in the Jeff Lorber Fusion band. Almost 20 years later, Lorber, as co-writer and co-producer, helped Albright score three #1 radio singles, including “Ain’t No Stoppin” (from Groovology) and “To the Max” (from Kickin’ It Up).

“Jeff creates a wonderful comfort zone for me,” says Albright. “He has a keen ear for knowing what everyone’s going to like but that will also keep me challenged. He’s all about making music with substance. What came out on New Beginnings was genuine Gerald. I worked with people I love to play with, and having longtime friends and my regular band created a total comfort zone.”

Throughout his career, Albright’s true comfort zone has always been his family, which to his delight has not only adjusted well to the move to Colorado, but is truly thriving there. Many longtime fans have been asking him about Just Sweet Enough, Glynis’ health-conscious, low-sugar baked goods company. The saxman and devoted husband assures them that, despite the relocation, the company is very much alive, but Mrs. Albright has taken her interest in “healing through baking” one step further––she’s also back in school to earn a certification in nutritional therapy, with an emphasis on enzymology. She attends a private school called the Institute for Alternative Medicine, and she also studies privately with a practitioner.
Selina and Brandon are thriving as well. Coming into her own in the new surroundings, Selina has established her own tutorial business and is developing an active social life. Brandon is still a sports nut, as he was back in Moorpark, and is on his high school golf team; he is also a paintball fanatic.

“Our family communicates a lot with each other,” says Albright. “We’re really good about getting together and talking things out. When we have issues, our dinner table becomes a family forum. Whether it hurts or not, we process our struggles the best we can. As a dad and musician, I’m constantly swinging the pendulum between work and family. I get to see a lot of cool cities and countries, but, even with the kids being older, I want to spend enough time at home to make sure there’s that fatherly presence. We’ve been a close-knit family from day one, and it’s great for all of us to have that mutual support system on an ongoing basis.”

Gerald Albright is scheduled to perform two shows with Kirk Whalum during the 16th annual FirstEnergy Berks Jazz Fest. The concerts will be held on March 18, 2 and 10:30pm, at the Wyndham Reading Hotel Ballroom, located at 5th & Washington Streets, in Reading, Pennsylvania. For more information regarding this event, log on to www.berksjazzfest.com.

Albright’s website can be accessed online at www.geraldalbright.com.

 

Discography:
1987 Just Between Us Atlantic
1989 Bermuda Nights Atlantic
1990

Dream Come True 

Atlantic
1991 Live at Birdland West Atlantic
1994 Smooth Atlantic
1995 Giving Myself to You  Atlantic
1997 Live to Love Atlantic
2001 The Very Best of Gerald Albright Atlantic
2002 Groovology GRP
2004 Kickin’ It Up GRP
2006 New Beginnings Peak

top of page

The contents of this website are the exclusive property of
Smooth Jazz News.  Use by permission only.
© 2000-2006 Smooth Jazz News