WD2. Diane Reeves
WD3. Hubert Laws
WD4. Marcus Miller
WD5. Regina Carter
WD6. Ronnie Jordan
WD7. Bob Baldwin
WD8. Bobby Lyle
WD9. Chaka Khan
WD10. Chante Moore
WD11. Dave Koz
WD12. Jill Scott
When Will Downing's self-titled debut (Will Downing) was released in 1988, music aficionados were forced to sit up and take notice of his rich and sensual baritone voice, a voice that is, at turns, as soft as cashmere and as soothing as a waterfall. It was his voice which captured the ears and hearts and seeped into the consciousness of fans of R&B and smooth jazz around the globe.
Now, at the age of thirty-nine and releasing his eleventh album Downing's career is a case study in true artist career development, spanning two decades during which he released Will Downing, Come Together As One, A Dream Fulfilled, Love's The Place to Be, Moods, Invitation Only, Pleasures of the Night, All the Man You Need, and Sensual Journey. In the course of his career, Downing has shown a remarkable ability to continually evolve as both a gifted song stylist and talented composer. His 1992 hit single, "I Try," not only displayed Downing's range as a vocalist, but also showcased his innate sense of elegant phrasing and deeply emotional delivery.
Now Downing is opening the door to the inner sanctum of his heart and mind with his upcoming release emotions (Verve/GRP), a ten-track offering which is an intimate, intensely sensual 'no-holes-barred' look at his current state of mind. Downing sets it off at the top by intoning: "This is for the fellas ." "With emotions , I wanted to get things off my chest," says the accomplished vocalist. "A person listening to my music can get a clear and vivid composite of where I am in my life. emotions offered me the opportunity to challenge myself," Downing adds. The album took eight months from start to finish, and Downing appreciated the fact that Verve gave him carte blanche to explore and mine his artistic vision.
The genesis of emotions began with a conversation Downing had with his friend music retailer, George Daniels, about how music serves as a trigger which can take one back in time and to a recollection of a different event. Music and memories are often inextricably linked together, and certain songs can serve as emotional signposts of significant events - both good and bad -
in one's life. Using this idea as his inspirational template, emotions is about Downing's personal experiences, his inner life, and his feelings about love, a topic of great interest to us all.
There are several talented and equally dynamic individuals who lends their talents and make guest appearances on emotions - among them are: Norman Brown who appears on "King of Fools," jazz great, George Duke, on "Beautiful To Me," Gerald Albright who sings background on the cover version of Aretha Franklin's "Daydreaming," tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum shows up on "Hey There Lonely Girl, and Nicholas Payton lends his expertise on "Anything." Notable producer, Barry Eastmond who worked on Downing's 1991 release A Dream Fulfilled co-wrote "Riding on A Cloud" with Gordon Chambers (known for writing Brownstone's hit single, "If You Love Me"). "I just had to have 'Riding On a Cloud' because it is so lyrical and the feeling behind it grabbed me completely. It was also good to reconnect with Barry because he's consummate producer and excellent writer. I turn myself over to him," says Downing.
These guest artists all serve as complements to Downing's unique vocal stylings and along with his writing partners Armstead Christian and Rex Rideout, Downing has created a new work that is tender, honest and engaging. In describing his collaborative work with Christian and Rideout, Downing says: "Though Armstead, Rex and I are distinctly different in terms of personalities, when we come together to write, it's as if we morph into one giant organism which thinks and feels the same way about music and what we're trying to accomplish."
One of the album's many standouts is "Beautiful to Me," which is a musical ode to the special relationship, which exists between fathers and daughters. Downing's relationship with his youngest daughter served as the inspiration for the song, which describes a father's feelings as his watches his daughter, grow and transform into a woman. "I wrote this song in my daughter's bedroom, surrounded by her Barbie dolls and stuffed toys," offers Downing. Adding rich texture to the song is George Duke who Downing notes is "an especially sensitive pianist who understands what you're saying. Working with George is like being surrounded by a big blanket."
"Falling in Love" is a ballad written by Downing, Chris Davis and Rex Rideout. It is the story of a man who comes to terms with being in love. "All the things that you feel in a new relationship - the anxiety, the excitement, the confusion, the desire - I wanted to put into this song. Men are so used to being in control. When you fall in love you have to come to the realization that you're not in control, and when you can finally surrender to it, that's when it all comes together," says Downing.
Downing's cover of Aretha's beloved "Daydreaming" is also one of the album's standouts. "I was driving in the car one day listening to one of those 'oldies' stations when that song came on. For the next couple of days, I couldn't get it out of my head." Downing reached out to Rex Rideout and they arranged the song giving it a new take from a male point-of-view. Saxophonist Gerald Albright contributes his signature sound and further enhances the song. "Gerald is a perfect fit to my musical puzzle, which is often very complex," Downing says with a knowing smile.
Emotions Downing's appreciative nod and vocal homage to such artists as Sarah Vaughn, Donny Hathaway, Nat King Cole, Luther Vandross, DJ Rogers, Anita Baker, Walter Jackson and Michael Wycoff all of whom he has long admired and whom Downing has synthesized in his own vocal delivery. "These people are sources of inspiration for me. I've emulated parts of them to create my own style," says Downing.
Born in Brooklyn, New York Downing, studied music at Erasmus Hall High School and later attended both Virginia Union University and Brooklyn College where he continued to pursue courses in music and composition. His professional career began as a lead "ghost" vocalist for many 12-inch dance records in the early eighties as part of various groups (Pilot, N.V., Wally Jump Jr.). Later, Downing launched a successful career as a background singer and worked with a number of notable R&B artists including Billy Ocean, Kashif, Dionne Warwick, and Stephanie Mills, among others.
His critically acclaimed debut, Will Downing, did well Great Britain, and throughout Europe, and eventually reached "Gold" status in the UK turning him into an immediate concert headliner in the UK. Will was nominated for a Grammy Award, Best R&B Traditional Vocal Album in 2000 for his All The Man You Need album and two NAACP Image Awards in 1993 and 2003 for Outstanding R&B Male Vocalist (A Dream Fulfilled) and Outstanding Jazz Artist (Sensual Journey) respectively.
Downing sums up his latest release with: "My goal was to create ultra-fine, quality music with a team of brilliant collaborators. The result is a sincere, scintillating trip into the universal feelings of the soul . that's why I named the album ' emotions '."
Philadelphia, PA (April 28, 2004) ArtJaz Gallery is very pleased to present an exhibition of photography by the Grammy nominated vocalist, Will Downing. This exhibition titled “Jazz” will be on exhibit June 4 -26, 2004. Partial proceeds to benefit the American Stroke Association. The opening reception will be held on First Friday, June 4, 2004 5PM to 8PM.
Will Downing known for his deep, rich, baritone voice has captured audiences in the United States and abroad with his sensual, emotional delivery of memorable ballads. In the year 2000 Will Downing was a Grammy nominee for best R&B Traditional Vocal album “The Man You Need”. In 1993 and 2003 Downing received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding R&B Male Vocalist and Outstanding Jazz Artist respectively. In his first gallery exhibition, Downing’s voice is illuminated through another artistic medium, photography. Downing captures common and uncommon moments of R&B and Jazz greats. Downing’s photograph of Regina Carter playing the violin with grace and intensity, allows the viewer to see and feel that Carter is one with her music. Downing’s works offer a glimpse of R&B and Jazz greats in performance and in casual repartee that captures the artistic elements of the artist and their art form, music.
Also on display, are paintings by the artist known as Bernard, who has created a distinctive interpretation of Downing’s photographs. These works on canvas are alive with vivid colors, and dramatic flair. Known for his use of vibrant colors, Bernard was inspired by Jazz Legends like Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Bernard has been painting since childhood. He earned his BFA from Benedict College. Bernard believes in taking the truth and bringing it to life through his art. In “Jazz” Bernard brings truth and beauty to life from the photographs of Will Downing.ArtJaz Gallery is a premier contemporary fine art gallery located in Old City, Philadelphia, specializing in the art of emerging and established artists of color in Philadelphia and throughout the United States.” Jazz” photography exhibition by Will Downing with guest visual artist, Bernard will be on exhibit June 4 – June 26, 2004. Will Downing is a spokesperson for the American Stroke Association and partial proceeds from this exhibition will benefit the American Stroke Association. The opening will be held on Friday, June 4, 2004, from 5pm –8pm. For more information call 215 922-4800 or visit www.artjaz.com.