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Erie Times-News

Smooth jazz musician Kevin Howard brings his refined, ear- pleasing trio to Baybreeze on Friday.

He recently toured with Ronnie Laws, who was so excited by one of Howard's new songs he pulled him up front to do it each night.

1 Your music is described as smooth jazz; do you like that term?

It's contemporary jazz or smooth jazz, either or. They kind of lump everybody together to put a title to it. I guess I consider smooth jazz as a mixture of R&B, fusion, traditional jazz, rock and pop. My interpretation is pretty broad as far as smooth jazz and contemporary jazz.

2 Do you play all originals?

Most of them are original. I have three CDs out, the current one is titled 'Special Edition.' So I'll be doing a few songs from that. I'm also working on a new CD, 'Out in the Shadows.' Everyone will get a sneak peak of


3 Which covers do you sneak in?

We're doing a couple Michael Jackson covers. Got to pay homage to Michael. And I like Jeff Lorber; he's one of my biggest influences. I play some Jeff Lorber compositions.

4 What drew you to jazz?

I heard a Bill Evans' song and said, 'Wow.' It was so beautiful and so melodic and harmonious. It drew me in to actually play the piano. Before that, I wanted to play the saxophone and I do love the saxophone. I play a little but not enough to do any songs or solos. But I will say, I play all over the country. This past year I was on tour with Ronnie Laws, who is like a great sax player. And I played with Najee, Marion Meadows. The list goes on.

5 Biggest goose-bump moments?

Definitely (playing with) Ronnie Laws. ... And, of course, George Benson. He came to one of the historical places, Crawford Grille in Pittsburgh. We did 'This Masquerade.' That was 'Wow.' I had a chance to sit and talk with him and have dinner. It's one of those moments I will remember for a lifetime.

-- Dave Richards

HEAR IT Kevin Howard Trio performs Friday at 8 p.m. at Baybreeze, 25 E. 10th St. Admission is $5.

Bryan Lanser

While at NAMM 2015 I stopped past the Muse Research Booth with whom I'm endorsing the Muse Receptor Trio and spoke with Bryan Lanser VP.  I gave him an EP from my upcoming CD project and wanted to share the response he emailed me.
I found your CD to be really exciting, really fresh.   I think you are really on to something... its like "Smooth Jazz Fusion" or "Down Tempo Funk" for lack of better terms.  It has all the warmth and relaxing qualities of smooth jazz, but with a fusion edge that makes it really interesting.


I hope you don't take offense at me trying to describe your music in words, but if Return to Forever were to make an album in a Chill style, this would be it.  Its great.  Really.   Thanks SO MUCH for sharing it with me.  Really outstanding musicianship throughout.                                                        
I am SO happy you are using Receptor.  Can't wait to hear what you do with it.                             Until we meet again,
Bryan

The Smooth Jazz Ride

Kevin Howard
The Tavern at Fire Station 1
Silver Spring, Maryland
January 16, 2016, 7:00 PM

The alarms at The Tavern at Fire Station were abuzz when The 2016 Kevin Howard Tour touched down in Silver Spring, Maryland, this night. The pianist/keyboardist, flanked by bassist Kenzy Piersaint, saxophonist Steve Garrison, drummer Greg Morris Jr, and fellow keyboardist Eddie Botts, brought his style of dynamic contemporary jazz to bear full force on us jazzers. Settle back and enjoy this account of a really Smooth Jazz Ride steered by the vibrant musician as he showcased several tracks from his latest release Travels.
Kevin HowardFS1_17
The venue was packed to capacity for this evening as Howard took center stage, covering one my favorite tunes “Always There.” The jam certainly captured everyone’s attention as Piersaint open the cut with some serious funky bass riffs. Next, we jammed out to “Tahoe” from Howard’s new release. Garrison’s sax play was brilliant, and a superb complement to Howard’s piano solo on the groove. The chemistry of the band was even more evident on cuts such as the CD title track, as well “Sedona” and a cut from the Special Edition CD titled “Night Moods.” These cats knew how to bring the heat.

Kevin HowardFS1_12“Random Groove” featured Piersaint on the bass, and I was in a state of awe when this cat started the cut with lighting precision on the strings. Howard and the band joined in, making the up-tempo jam a most colorful treat. If there was room for a dance floor here tonight, it would have been packed. The audience was undoubtedly exuberant when Howard stepped to the other side of the keyboard to play the synthesizer virtually upside down. Incredible.

I have a special place in my soul for great timpanists, and Morris Jr cannot be left off the list of some of the best I have ever appreciated in concert. He and Howard seem to have that kind rhythm and timing that flows extra smooth when playing jams like their cover of The Stylistics classic “People Make the World Go Round.” The collaboration continued after the 15-minute break, and the exhausted fans still craved more. Our expectations were met as the grooves kept coming.Kevin HowardFS1_30

The band’s energy was seemingly taken to another level when Morris Jr .showed his stuff during his fascinating drum solo here on title track, I must say the audience appreciated that score just as much as I did by rendering a standing ovation – Morris Jr, your grand–uncle, the late Billy Strayhorn, was surely smiling down from the heavens at you, my friend.

I can’t miss mentioning the funky smooth jazz fusion groove of “Deep Thoughts,” or the encore cover songs like Tom Brown’s “Jamaica Funk,” and Grover Washington’s’ “Mr. Magic.” Whew! Did Howard and the band have us rocking out for rest of the evening!

 

Howard then took his Keytar into the audience, displaying that fabulous creativity on the keys as stopped by table aft er table. Piersaint came back with some crisp bass, and Morris Jr. hit us with a lively drum solo. Botts brought his talents on the keyboards after holding down the luscious melodies all night. It was really hot by now, but even though the show came to a close shortly thereafter, you could tell that many could have gone much longer into this night.

I recommend you place a date somewhere in your 2016 calendar to see this show, especially if you are a fan of Howard like me. For me, all of the compositions were of the utmost authenticity and represented the contemporary jazz genre well. No doubt many in attendance were in agreement. – Mike Sutton

The Smooth Jazz Ride

Kevin Howard
The Carlyle Club
Alexandria, VA
Thursday July 20, 2017, 7:30 pm

Along with possessing totally adept, almost second nature skill, keyboardist/pianist Kevin Howard is one of the most humble, personable, centered artists I have ever met. His humility is so evident that you wonder how he stays so focused in an industry chock full of bloated egos that are often more pronounced than the level of talent. Still, he does so brilliantly.

At the classy, quaint, acoustics-friendlyCarlyle Club in Alexandria, VA, on last Thursday night, Howard – who I have seen and heard on a couple of other occasions with less than complimentary acoustics – put on a display of smooth jazz and general keyboard/piano mastery that had to be heard and seen to truly appreciate.

Equipped with a baby grand, synth, and keyboard and accompanied by impressively skilled support musicians –Chris Ghee on drums (who  was absolutely explosive), in-the-pocket Wardell Howell on bass, and Isaac Parnham on saxes), Howard aroused and wowed the audience both with his choice of material and a few choice theatrics.

Now living in the Washington, DC area in Waldorf, MD, the keyboardist attracted the locals who were most appreciative and supportive of his work. While not a huge audience, I’m sure that the attendees would all agree that this is one true musician who should have long ago been placed in a very conspicuous place on the map of most competent smooth jazz artists. If the smooth jazz “umbrella” is truly inclusive, Howard should have definitely been invited under it ages ago.

Opening with a snappy version of the Bill Withers’ classic “Lovely Day,” Howard quickly set the tone for the evening. He transitioned

 

 

 

 

from there to his own classy and abundantly smooth “In Motion” from his Travels CD. Following with an impressive cover of the Ronnie Laws classic “Always There,” it was obvious that he had secured the audience’s undivided attention for the evening.

 

 

Settling down to the luscious groove “Desert Morning” from his Travels CD, the mood became quickly transformed to a cushiony, relaxed one – but not for long as he then introduced his original “Random Groove” tune, a spirited piece that turned out to be the showstopper as he rolled out his personal pièce de résistance, reaching an intense crescendo of action by playing with his elbows, playing backwards, and even playing with his face – that’s right, his face! Remarkable is a most insufficient word to describe this point in the performance.  As performers and their impressive theatrics go, Brian Culbertson and James Lloyd should truly create a space for Howard on that particular stage.

 

Wrapping things up with a handsomely soulful version of Usher’s “Here I Stand,” his own “Tahoe,” and the title track from his Travels release, Howard left quite a mark on the Washington, DC metro area’s smooth jazz goers in attendance. Along with his outgoing personality, his music should take hold here easily. – Ronald Jackson

Photos by Dwynn Barr

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