Smooth jazz and a 'Red Hook Summer'

David Goodson | 8/10/2012, 10:18 a.m.
Smooth jazz and a 'Red Hook Summer'

South Central L.A. The mention of that area conjures images of decay, menace and danger that makes other 'hoods call it the 'hood. While the media plays a major role in projecting this likeness, some of the biggest proponents of this image are recording artists from that area.

However, other stories hail from that neck of the woods. Take for instance a 9-year-old boy growing up in the hub of the infamous Watts Riots who used music to make it out. Bored with his weekly piano lessons, his music teacher presented a new instrument that would turn the tide of his life and modern music.

"[My teacher] had an old saxophone that he cleaned up and brought to one of the lessons. I was fascinated with it. It was like a toy. I could blow through it, and then when I learned the scales, I discovered I could develop a pretty decent sound fairly easily from it, is when I got attached to it and it's been my friend ever since," he revealed.

Now after over 25 years as a professional recording artist, with his last full-length album, "Pushing the Envelope," garnering a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album, that young boy, Gerald Albright, is considered one of the most innovative and successful artists of the last 25 years. His work in the fields of R&B, contemporary and straight-ahead jazz has earned him a reputation as a "musician's musician."

Excelling in both jazz and R&B is a fact that shouldn't be overlooked, as the two genres are thought to be mutually exclusive. "I can honestly say that with all the jazz artists I've been able to write with, produce with, perform with, record with and tour with, we write music for the globe, with the pure intentions of having every age group, creed and color embrace our music and, at the same time, educate people about where this music came from. Jazz as an art form is a springboard for all the music that you hear today," said Albright.

"It's important that we can reach the younger listeners with this message because it's dually noted that music enhances studies of every kind because it sparks the creative aspect of learning. Also, if you want to excel and be the optimum through music, the dedication you need is second to none. There are no shortcuts. Even myself, with three-plus decades as a professional musician, I'm still a student because music is infinite. So with that in mind, it's a long-term, lifelong dedication. If you want to master an instrument and build a brand, you have no time for Pirus or Crips. You gotta be about your business," he said.

Albright is currently out on the road on the Summer Jam along with guitarist Norman Brown in support of their first collaborative project, "24/7." The duo set sail in New York on Wednesday, Aug. 22 with shows at 6:30 and 9:30 as part of the Smooth Cruise series aboard the Spirit of New York, departing from Pier 61 at the Chelsea Piers on 23rd Street. As a prelude to that show, next Wednesday, Aug. 15 features a dynamic vocalist I think you may have heard of--Rachelle Ferrell! For more information and tickets, visit http://spiritofnewyork.com/New-York/smooth-cruises or www.smoothjazznewyork.com.

I'm out, but make sure you check for the new Spike Lee joint "Red Hook Summer" when it opens this weekend. Holla next week. 'Til then, enjoy the nightlife.