Pushing The Envelope

Gerald Albright

Pushing The Envelope
  • CAT # HUI-31976-25

    1. What Would James Do? 5:33
    2. Get On The Floor 4:56
    3. Bobo's Groove 5:02
    4. Capetown Strut 4:52
    5. Close To You 4:55
    6. I Found The Klugh 5:36
    7. Embrace The Spirit 6:01
    8. The Road To Peace (A Prayer For Haiti) 5:10
    9. Highway 70 4:53
    10. From the Soul 5:39

Jazz and R&B icon Gerald Albright is considered to be one of the most innovative and successful artists of the last twenty-five years. With the release of Pushing The Envelope on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, Albright’s super cool side is back. With its polished soul/jazz vibe, Pushing The Envelope is a showcase for Albright’s remarkably fine balance of songcraft and musicianship, and features special guest appearances by Fred Wesley on trombone, Earl Klugh on acoustic guitar and George Duke on acoustic piano.

Produced and arranged by Albright, Pushing The Envelope provides the perfect opportunity for this master musician/saxophonist/songwriter to exhibit his skills. He plays soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, flutes, bass guitar, and keyboards, and also handles synthesizer, EWI and drum programming. Albright’s band on most of the album includes keyboardists Tracy Carter and Luther “Mano” Hanes, guitarist Ricky Watford and drummer Ricky Lawson. In December 2010, Pushing The Envelope received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Alongside eight Albright originals, Pushing The Envelope offers two cover tunes: a fresh new take on Michael Jackson and Louis Johnson’s “Get On The Floor,” and Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s classic hit “Close To You.” Albright’s daughter, Selina, also contributes her vocal skills to both of these well-polished tracks.

“I was in Nairobi, Kenya last year, and I woke up singing the tune ‘Close To You,’” recalls Albright. “I heard the whole arrangement in my head that morning. I jotted down some notes and it was one of the first tunes I recorded for the album.”

Albright dedicates “Bobo’s Groove” to the life and music of American jazz percussionist Willie

Albright’s distinctive tone heats up again on “I Found The Klugh,” which spotlights Earl Klugh, considered by many to be one of the finest acoustic guitarists today. “Earl and I have been friends for a long time,” Albright says. “I’ve appreciated his music for a number of years, and when I wrote this tune, I heard Earl on it. He has a sound all his own.”

One of the biggest stars of R&B, contemporary and straight-ahead jazz, Gerald Albright has earned his reputation as a “musician’s musician.” Born in Los Angeles, he began piano lessons at an early age. Albright’s love of music picked up considerably when he was given a saxophone that had belonged to his piano teacher. By the time he enrolled at the University of Redlands, he was already a polished saxophonist. Albright decided to switch to bass guitar after he saw Louis Johnson in concert. A few months after graduating from college, he joined jazz pianist/R&B singer Patrice Rushen, who was in the process of forming her own band. Later, when the bass player left in the middle of a tour, Albright replaced him and finished the tour on bass guitar.

During the ’80s, Albright became a highly requested session musician, playing on albums by a wide variety of artists – including Anita Baker, Ray Parker, Lola Folana, Atlantic Starr, Olivia Newton-John, the Temptations and Maurice White. He also toured extensively with Les McCann, Jeff Lorber, Teena Marie, the Winans, Marlena Shaw, Quincy Jones, and Whitney Houston, among many others. Albright also went on to record numerous successful solo albums for Atlantic Records. Two albums hit the number one slot on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Chart, and were nominated for GRAMMY® Awards in 1989 and 1990. Phil Collins asked him to front a Big Band in 1998, and they toured together. The two of them also recorded one of Albright’s tunes, “Chips N’ Salsa” on Collins’ Big Band Project, entitled A Hot Night In Paris. Later that year, Albright released Pleasures of the Night with Will Downing on Verve Forecast, which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart as well.

Over the years, Albright has appeared on numerous TV shows such as A Different World, Melrose Place and BET Jazz segments, as well as piloting a show in Las Vegas with Designing Women star Meshach Taylor. Albright was selected to be one of 10 saxophonists to play at President Clinton’s inauguration ceremony. Along the way, he has sold over a million albums in the U.S. alone and has appeared on nearly 200 albums by other artists.

Pushing the Envelope is easily Gerald Albright’s most rewarding session to date. “The title reflects all the tunes on the project,” Albright says. “I didn’t want to hold anything back. I really wanted to push the envelope and give people a little more edge. I come from the era where we didn’t think of a formula – we went from the gut.”

Find out more about Gerald Albright


“As a composer, instrumentalist, arranger/producer/artist, he truly redefines the word ‘consummate’ and raises the bar for the meaning of the word ‘musician.’” – Michael McDonald, from the liner notes

For four decades, the million-selling, GRAMMY®-nominated saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist/ composer/bandleader Gerald Albright has put his serpentine-fired, solo signature on many of the greatest hits of the latter half of the twentieth century; from Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots,” to Quincy Jones’ “Setembro.” And, he’s been one of the most accomplished contemporary/traditional jazz artists on the scene, as evidenced by his fourteen records as a leader.

With the release of Slam Dunk on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, Albright continues his reign supreme as the genre’s most compelling and consistent artist. Fans will hear his searing and soulful sax lines on this twelve-track recording. And, they’ll be in for a surprise, as Albright shows off his chops as a bassist, along with his ebullient tenor, baritone and soprano saxophone arrangements on his own compositions, and his super covers of classics byPhil Collins and James Brown, with special guest vocalist Peabo Bryson.

“This record is synonymous with my previous records, in that it has the direct influence of James Brown, the Philly International sound, and the Motown sound,” Albright says. “But what we wanted to do on this record was to take those instruments that are normally in the background – bass, flute and horns – and bring them up front. In terms of being a bassist, I was inspired by Louis Johnson [of the Brothers Johnson] back in college. A lot of people don’t know that I play bass, flute and some of the other instruments…so we decided to make it – no pun intended – a slam dunk project, and bring all of those elements to the forefront.”

Recorded in Denver, Colorado and Wallingford, Connecticut (hometown of co-producer/co-writer/keyboardist Chris “Big Dog” Davis), Albright is also supported on this CD by drummerJerohn Garnett, guitarist Rick Watford, and his daughter, Selina Albright, on vocals.

“The musicians are handpicked,” Albright says. “They’re guys I’ve known for a long time, and I trust their artistry. Chris has been my keyboard player on and off for several years. I like his energy. And the way he approaches both production and the keyboards is unique. My regular drummer, Jerohn, the newest member of my touring band, is also a dynamic multi-instrumentalist in his own right. Rick is from Atlanta. He’s a dynamic guitarist in the gospel world, but he also plays R&B. And my daughter, Selina, is a recording artist in her own right.”

Slam Dunk rings with Albright’s moving and muscular alto saxophone sound, laced over some ingenious synth shadings and his punchy, baritone, tenor and soprano sax arrangements. The title track pulses with Albright’s funky, thunder-thumbed basslines and his driving sax conjures the spirit of a basketball game. “Split Decision,” which features bass and sax alternating in the lead, and the Chuckii Booker-bounced “Sparkle in Your Eyes” are both high-energy tracks. “Because of You” is Albright’s poignant, mid-tempo tribute to his wife of forty-two years, Glynis, and the reverent Sunday service air of “The Gospel Interlude” and “The Gospel” are moving elegies to his late mother-in-law. The festive Latin spirit of “Fiesta Interlude,” which features Albright’s flute solo, is a worthy companion piece to his earlier composition “Bobo’s Groove;” his tribute to the great Afro-Latin drummer Willie Bobo, who hired him as a bassist and saxophonist.

Another touching tribute is “The Duke,” an upbeat, medium-grooved track dedicated to the late George Duke, who tragically passed away last year. “I always called him my Poppa G, my industry dad,” Albright says. “We used to hang out and talk about music; talk about anything. I was blessed to spend a lot of time with him. George was one of those wonderful, approachable brothers you felt close to. I’m still processing his loss.”

The beautiful ballad “Where Did We Go Wrong?” features the legendary tenor voice of R&B/Quiet Storm icon Peabo Bryson. “We’ve been friends for a long, long time,” Albright says. “I had the pleasure of doing a saxophone solo on his hit, ‘Show and Tell.’ We recently performed together at the Berks Jazz Fest, and his voice was in rare form. After the show I said, ‘man, I’m doing this record, and I have a song that you’d be ideal for. Would you be interested?’ He said, ‘absolutely.’ So we have this wonderful friendship and camaraderie, and it’s reflected on ‘Where Did We Go Wrong?’”

What has made Albright such an enduring artist is his genius at putting his own jazzy John Hancock on another artist’s music, as he does with Phil Collins’ “True Colors.” “I had the privilege of working with Phil for several years,” Albright says. “And whenever we did this tune, I looked forward to my soprano sax solo. Even though I loved Phil’s arrangement, we decided to do more of an R&B type of thing and make it our own.”

Albright’s down-home rendition of “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World,” is the highlight of the CD. “It’s hard for me to do a record without channeling James Brown,” Albright says. “We didn’t want it to be like the original version. We started with a kind of subtle, chordal thing that led up to the initial sax melody. It’s one of my favorite tracks.”

Slam Dunk is a testament to the musical longevity of the Los Angeles-born, Colorado-based, Albright; which spans the entire saxophone spectrum. “My sound is a marriage between Cannonball Adderley and Maceo Parker,” he says. “Cannonball expanded on the improvisational side of my playing, and Maceo alluded to the rhythmic sound of my horn. Those are the bookends of my influences, along with Grover Washington, Jr., and Stanley Turrentine.”

The entire range of Gerald Albright’s saxophone artistry is in full effect on Slam Dunk.

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