This National Recording Artist’s saxophone style brings to mind the sultriness of Grover Washington, Jr., the soulfulness of David Sanborn, the silky smoothness of George Howard, and the tender passion of Ronnie Laws.
Thomas “Tony” Exum, Jr. was born in Colorado Springs, CO. He spent much of his childhood travelling from Germany, Mississippi, New Orleans, and Phoenix due to his military upbringing. As a child, as early as age 3, Tony’s interest in “grown up” music was extensive. His mother put in to sleep with the sounds of Grover Washington, Jr. For Christmas, at the age of 6, for example, Tony received Earth Wind and Fire and Parliament-Funkadelic albums, but by then, he was already a huge fan of Slave, the Jacksons, Prince, the Time, and Bootsy. He not only could recite the words to his favorite tunes, but could also identify any instrument! At the age of 11, Tony picked up a saxophone given to him by his uncle Larry Francis, Jr., a U.S. Army musician stationed in Ft. Carson, CO, for the first time and soon developed a love for it. He developed a passion for the sounds he could create with the saxophone, even battling chronic asthma; and this is where his journey began. “I knew I would be a musician of some sort. Drums, guitar maybe. The saxophone intrigued me and quickly became the way my heart wanted to express itself musically.” says Tony Exum, Jr. After high school, Exum attended the highly acclaimed, prestigious Lamont School of Music, University of Denver, and believes that this is truly where his career began.
In his developing years, Tony utilized his gifting by performing in stage plays, clubs, on demos with local artists and as a sideman across the state of Colorado. He very quickly became a widely sought after musician performing live more than 100 times a year. Tony credits the success he gained in the early years to constant practice and hard work. He shared the stage with likes of the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Chi-Lites, the Manhattans and WAR– just to name a few. In 2008, Tony took a leap of faith, began his solo career, traveled extensively with local backing bands he performed with and managed, and became a fixture in Denver’s famed venue, Live@ Jacks (formerly Jazz @ Jacks) where he continues to perform regularly. In 2010, he released his first album, “Finally.” Tony marks this release as one that catapulted him into the National scene. The next few years, the year 2011 specifically, not only grounded Tony, but molded and shaped his professional career. He began performing nationally at jazz venues like the famed Blues Alley in Washington DC, 2011 Sedona Jazz on the Rocks Festival, 2011 JW Marriott Jazz Festival, Spaghettini-Seal Beach, Ca and many others. This lead to Exum receving the 2011 International Breakout Star Award by the Los Angeles based CoffeeTalkJazz magazine and radio. In 2012, Tony released his sophomore album, “The One.” He co-wrote 11 of the 14 tracks, and it was this release that further developed him as a musician and writer collaborating with likes of national jazz artists Tim Bowman, Marcus Anderson (Prince, Cee-Lo), Julian Vaughn, and Nicholas Cole As Ronald Jackson, host of thesmoothejazzride.com, says: “Tony Exum’s sophomore effort contains much of the vibe and groove that brought his fans to his side in the first place: A combination of danceable jams, sensuously slow and appealing R&B’ish seductions, and an even punchier delivery on other tracks, if you can imagine that!” After this release, Tony began sharing stages with Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Kelly Price, Troop, Marion Meadows, Najee, Nick Collionne, Gerald Albright, Eric Darius, Dave Hollister, Norman Connors, Pamela Williams, Silk, Keke Wyatt, Donell Jones and more. His national appearances have since doubled with performances at the 2015 Atlanta Smooth Music Festival, St James Live-Atlanta, Humphrey’s Backstage Live-San Diego, House of Blues-Houston, and the 2017 Jazz at the Creek Festival in San Diego among many others. Audiences are attracted to Exum’s effortless command of the stage and his ability to project his unrestrained passion of the art of saxophone.
CURRENT AND UPCOMING PROJECTS
Exum is now working with smooth jazz indies Joel Del Rosario, David P Stevens, Michael Anthony Fields, and Marcus Anderson on his next project entitled “New Beginnings”due to be released in 2018 with the first single entitled “My Name’s Tony” in January. Current CDs available are Finally (2010) and The One (2012) and singles She’s Bad (2015) and Dance Close (2016; Euro Indie Top 200 Chart #38 in 2017) on his website http://www.tonyexumjr.com, Amazon.com, CDBaby.com, Google Play and iTunes, or wherever digital music is sold.
Exum plays Sax Dakota USA saxophones exclusively with Theo Wanne Mouthpieces and the newly developed synthetic reed company G-Reeds.