Ryan Welton

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Best new contemporary jazz sound comes from sax player Justin Young

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This is a totally self-serving post.

But if you enjoy contemporary jazz or smooth jazz and haven’t given saxophonist Justin Young a listen, do yourself a favor and check out his new album, “Blue Soul.” You’ll get to hear three tunes I wrote as well.

There’s the self-serving part!

Justin is currently based in Seattle, but I got to know him when he and his wife, Rachel, lived in Oklahoma City. She and I worked together at a TV station in town (not the one where I currently work). As soon as I found out that Rachel’s husband played sax, I sought out his music and was blown away — not only by his technical skill but also by his sound, which I found quite compatible with mine. When I write instrumentals, it’s often with a sax lead in mind, and I usually have had players like Dave Koz, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and many more in mind.

Luckily, I met Justin.

I immediately started combing through all my recordings in hopes of putting together a demo CD for him. The hope was that, maybe, someday, he might record one or two of them. It turned out that he liked many of them, and he and his dad hooked me up with recording equipment to start writing more, some of which you can hear on my SoundCloud channel.

That was an incredible opportunity for me because it allowed me to learn Logic Pro. I got pretty good at it, although I’m not a Mac guy and will probably have to start over with FL Studio soon on my new laptop.

Justin went into the studio, and I knew that he might use one or two of my tunes, but I didn’t know which ones. He ended up picking three, and was pleasantly surprised by two of the three he picked. The one I knew he’d pick was called “Sweet Release,” a tune I first put together about 15 years ago. He did an amazing job with it.

The first version here is the track I put together in Logic Pro, not the original original of this song that I did back in 2003. But I still kind of liked what I did. This was after only a week of tinkering around in Logic.

But then Justin killed it on the album version. Yowsa:

The first of the two tracks that surprised me was a song he ended up calling “Razzmajazz.” I called it “Moment of Indecision” when I wrote it 18 years ago. I’ll put my original up first and then his, and you can see just how much he and his team of musicians and producers livened it up. Wonderful job.

“Moment of Indecision”

“Razzmajazz”

And then the third track he included on the album is the title track, “Blue Soul,” a song I called “Night Things” when I originally put it together in 2000 or so. I wasn’t expecting this one to get picked, but Justin heard something in this composition and again blew it away on the album.

My version of “Night Things” here:

And then what Justin did as he turned it into “Blue Soul.” Amazing.

If you see this post, do me a favor and go follow him on Facebook or pay him a visit at justinyoungsax.com. If you happen to have Sirius XM, you can also hear Justin on Ch. 66, Watercolors.

 

The Weeknd: A smooth jazz interpretation

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Since I re-started posting videos to YouTube late last year on the knowledge that I could once again post cover songs, I’ve been looking for songs to cover. Given that I’m a electronic piano-loving creature of the late 70s and early 80s, finding music from today that could fit my style is tough.

Enter a fellow they call The Weeknd. His real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, and he hails from Canada. But he channels Michael Jackson in all the good ways. Smooth. Easy on the ears. “Off the Wall”-era MJ.

His latest single, “I Feel It Coming,” has been racing up the charts the past few weeks. I’ve been enjoying it on my run for months now, however, and I’ve been struck by how atypical it is for pop music in 2017.

Again: in all the good ways.

So, after I got home from work a few nights ago, I sat down to the keys and figured out the chords and melody. Its foundation is Eb-Ab-Bb with a lot of Gm7-Cm7 in between. Super easy to learn from a technical perspective, but it’s a wee bit trickier to maintain the smooth groove from the record itself.

If you enjoyed my rendition, I hope you’ll stop by my YouTube channel and check out more of my covers and original songs!

PHOTO: Courtesy of “The Come Up Show,” via Flickr’s Creative Commons.

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