Smitty: You know I’m excited when I get one of the most flamboyant sax sounds in the world here as a guest at Jazz Monthly, and I must say his great new project speaks for itself, a very appropriate title, it’s called New Beginnings, please welcome Peak recording artist Mr. Gerald Albright. Gerald, how ya doin’, man?
Gerald Albright (GA): Fine. How you doin’, Smitty?
Smitty: All right, my friend. Well, wow, I must say when I got this new record, man, I said “Whoa, he has stepped it up another notch!” This is great stuff, man! Wow!
GA: Thank you so much. I’m really excited about this project, man. It’s feeling real good doing it.
Smitty: Yes. And, you know, this title is very appropriate. I mean, this is a follow-up from Kickin’ It Up, which was just busting at the seams with vibes.
GA: [Laughs.] Yeah, well, you know, New Beginnings is definitely reflective of a lot of events that have occurred in the past year. A little over a year ago I moved to Denver, Colorado, and this is after being on the West Coast in Los Angeles all of my life, and so the family moved last February and we’re so happy here. The pace is a little slower, the air’s a little cleaner, it’s just a win-win for us and everybody’s happy to be here. And the other side of the “New Beginnings” concept is the fact that I just signed with Peak Records in May of last year and the project New Beginnings is the first CD reflective of that relationship and I’m real happy to be at Peak Records and they’ve been very supportive, so a lot of great things going on and I’m just a happy man right along here.
Smitty: Yes, you are and rightly so. Man, and talk to me about this Cannonball Musical Instruments deal.
GA: Yes, they helped me design a horn, both an alto and tenor saxophone for Cannonball. The company is out of Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Laukat family [Tevis and Sheryl], who own the company, have been so supportive and just been right there for me, and I just got word that my signature horns are back ordered til July, so we’ve gotten a lot of orders in and we’re just trying to keep up with the pace, you know? You know, that’s been a very successful venture as well.
Smitty: Yes, it is. And speaking of successful, you just come off the road with Groovin’ for Grover, Phil Collins, man, talk about some of the wonderful things that were associated with these great tours you’re doing.
GA: Well, with Phil Collins, who I’ve been working with since 1998, it’s always….I call it the cream of the crop tour. I mean, that’s one of the tours that you wanna be on because Phil is very, very into selecting the right people for, you know, the tour in terms of not only their musical proficiency but their personality, so it’s one big happy family on the road and we did two months, all of which was international.
We went to the Middle East, we went to Europe, and went to places like Beirut and Tele Aviv and Romania, Croatia, you know, places that are not necessarily vacation spots at this time, but the people wanna hear the music, and we went down to give them some fun shows and to just give them a two-hour release from all the, you know, the burden of the political scene down there and wartime and things like that, so, you know, as well as it being fun, it was also an honor to be a part of the tour because you got a chance to be, you know, one-on-one with all these different people who were reflective of all these different cultures and, you know, walking where Jesus walked in Jerusalem…I mean, it was just….it was a crash course in other cultures and it really, enlightened me in so many ways and let me know that I should take nothing for granted, you know, with all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me and the family here.
Smitty: Yes for sure.
GA: And the Groovin’ for Grover thing is an ongoing thing which happened three years ago. It’s been from a performance that we did in Cleveland, Ohio at the Palace Theater, and initially it was just kind of a one-show idea that we wanted to, do in terms of honoring Grover Washington [Jr.] and his music and the man that he was away from the music and, you know, after that one gig the promoters were like “Well, we need to put this on the road and other people need to see this show,” and it’s been a wonderful annuity for the past three years and we’re still doing it, and right now the current lineup is myself and Jeff Lorber on keyboards and Kirk Whalum on sax. So it’s just been wonderful, man. It’s been a well-rounded experience of travel over the past several months.
Smitty: Yeah, it’s great. That tour, to me, just….it seems like a….such a great celebration-type tour. Everybody’s having a great time, we’re remembering Grover and all the great things he did, and you guys really kick it with the music.
GA: Well, thank you. Thank you very much. We’re enjoying it and it’s an honor to be chosen to help to keep his legacy alive and, you know, it’s common knowledge that there’s millions of Grover fans out there and when they come and hear the hits that he has, you know, left behind, man, you know, everybody really reacts in a positive way, and I’m still in touch with Grover’s family, Christine and the kids, and they’re doing fine. And the real cool thing about the Groovin’ for Grover tour is not only do we get a chance to play Grover’s music, but part of the proceeds of the tour go to Grover’s foundation, which is called the Protect the Dream Foundation….
GA: ….which is geared toward implementing education on the musical side of things in schools on the East Coast, so it’s a win-win for everybody, really.