Where do you go from #1?
If you are veteran saxophonist Richard Elliot, long known as the “James Brown of Contemporary Jazz” for the intense soul inspirations of his recordings, a relentless tour schedule and joyfully exhausting onstage performances, you dig deep into your R&B/jazz roots.
With a bestselling discography of over 15 recordings since 1986’s Initial Approach, thousands of live dates spanning over two decades and one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in contemporary urban jazz, its incredible to hear Elliot declare: “What I’m doing now, enjoying this upward trend in my career, is seriously the most fun I have ever had.”
In the past, Elliot has never been big on starting off a new recording project with an overriding concept in mind, preferring to let each one develop more organically—but he came up with a unique starting point for “Rock Steady”, calling upon his roots and influences in R&B to create an overall vibe that had a retro feel while incorporating contemporary flavors.
“I see all of my solo albums as if they’re vocal albums and using my sax as the voice and offering the latest step of my evolution. When formulas work in the past, many artists have a tendency to do the same thing again and again. But it’s more exciting to forge ahead and try new ideas that fit into my natural growth as an artist.”
Elliot called on his deep all-star soul-jazz rolodex to find the perfect combination of players to help him realize his evolving “old school” meets “new school” vision. Beyond working with his longtime core touring band members Ron Reinhardt (keyboards), Dwight Sills (guitar), Nate Phillips (bass) and Ricky Lawson (drums), he ensembles with Braun, who is also the album’s co-producer.
Also of note are drummer Luis Conte, keyboardist Jeff Lorber, saxophonist Gerald Albright and trombonist Nick Lane. Lorber adds his clever keyboard flair to “Straight Up”. “Rock Steady” marks the first time these two powerhouse saxmen have recorded together.
The Scotland born, L.A. raised Elliot found his musical voice on tenor as a teenager and landed his first professional gig touring with Natalie Cole and The Pointer Sisters while he was still in high school. Before joining Tower of Power—which began a stretch that he calls the most influential period of my early career—he played in the adventurous fusion band “Kittyhawk”, “The Four Tops” and “The Temptations”. He later performed with Melissa Manchester and the Yellowjackets.
Embarking upon one of instrumental music’s most dynamic and multi-faceted career, Elliot’s sound played a huge part in pioneering the genre and radio format that became today’s contemporary urban jazz. Over the years, he has scored four #1 albums, “On The Town”, “Soul Embrace”, “After Dark” and “Jumpin Off”.
In addition to his participation in the current decade’s all-star tours, in the mid-90’s he helped launch the Guitars & Saxes tours, which he continues to participate in. At his peak, Elliot was annually doing over 100 tour dates.
“I think calling this new album, Rock Steady. was an obvious and inspired choice for many reasons,” Elliot says. “The music that inspired the CD has an enduring quality and is part of our American musical heritage. Beyond that, its the perfect metaphor for the good fortune doing what I love to do for so many years. I took a risk leaving Tower of Power for a solo career and never dreamed at the time that I would still have these wonderful opportunities to record and tour over 20 years later. I don’t gauge my career based on sales, popularity and money. What matters most is my personal and artistic growth plus those opportunities that reveal themselves as I evolve.”
Visit him online at www.richardelliot.com
Richard Elliot performs exclusively on and endorses DAKOTA TENOR SAX MODEL SDTXG-606 and STRAIGHT TENOR SAX MODEL SDTS-1022.