Gerald Albright - My First "Real" Performance Was As a Recording Artist (8 Time Grammy Nominated American Jazz Musician)

Gerald Albright
PC - Brandon Albright/Snow Desert Productions

I realized my real passion for jazz when I was able to play with some stellar musicians during high school and college. I was fortunate to be in some great music programs, which made me improve my proficiency.

1. Tell us about your background and journey?

I'm from South Central L.A. (Watts, California). I grew up in the ghetto, but my parents made sure that I wasn't "of" the ghetto. I was introduced to music in my earlier years, starting out on piano at the age of 8 years old. I didn't like piano, so my music teacher, George Turpeau, changed my instrument to saxophone, which I immediately had an interest in. 

I played it  all through school, majored in Business Management and minored in Music Performance in college (University of Redlands). Fast forwarding, I'm celebrating 42 years as a professional musician, and 34 years as a recording artist, with 20 CD's and one EP to my credit.

2. What inspired you to pursue music as a career?

Music was in my household in a big way. We listened to gospel, R & B, and jazz. My initial inspiration on the saxophone was Maceo Parker. I, to this day, still love his sound and approach to the horn. In terms of career, music was the only vocation that made me feel complete. It became my passion.

3. What was the most memorable event of your life as a musician?

It's very hard to say what the most memorable event was in my life, as there have been many! But I would say that my first "real" performance as a recording artist, performing my own music in front of my own audience ranks very high.

4. How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

I use to get frustrated years ago, when I performed in a sub-par fashion. I'm a perfectionist, so it really disturbed me. But I later learned to just play through the mistakes, and as long as the genuine feeling was conveyed, the audience was still witnessing the story.

5. When and how did you realise your passion for jazz?

I realized my real passion for jazz when I was able to play with some stellar musicians during high school and college. I was fortunate to be in some great music programs, which made me improve my proficiency.

Gerald Albright
PC - Brandon Albright/Snow Desert Productions

6. What hardships did you face as a musician?

The hardships I faced usually involved money early-on. Before I became a recording artist, work wasn't as steady as it needed to be. I never considered myself be to "broke," but there were times when I wasn't sure whether or not I could pay bills in a timely manner. 

The other challenge was the politics of "getting in the door" in the LA scene. But tenacity and faith allowed me to become increasingly known for my work, and I never looked back.

7. What was the inspiration behind your song 'better days ahead'?

The pandemic was my sole inspiration for composing "Better Days Ahead." I wanted to send a positive message to the globe that we were going to make it through the hard times of Covid, racial tension, and substandard politics.

Gerald Albright
PC - Brandon Albright/Snow Desert Productions

8. Being a legend in the genre of jazz, could you please say a few words to our aspiring jazz musicians?

This is a great time for aspiring musicians to refine their craft. Back in my day, I had to go through the protocol of major record labels. These labels were (and are) specifically designed to take advantage of the artists they signed....some labels are better than others. 

But presently, a plethora of artists, including myself, are heading up their own independent labels, where artists can control their own careers, own their master works, and own their licensing of those works. In conclusion, if an artist successfully does the "real" work, both creatively and business-wise, they have a better chance of being both financially and artistically successful.

He launched his solo career in the infancy of what became the smooth jazz format, with Just Between Us in 1987 and has been a core part of the genre with chart-topping albums, countless radio hits and as a member of many all star tours, including Guitars & Saxes and Groovin’ For Grover. In the late 90s, he fronted a big band for and toured with pop star Phil Collins and did a dual recording with vocal great Will Downing called Pleasures of the Night. 

Between his last two Grammy-nominated solo albums Pushing The Envelope (2010) and Slam Dunk (2014), he enjoyed hit collaborations with two huge hits – 24/7 with guitarist Norman Brown and Summer Horns by Dave Koz and Friends (including Mindi Abair and Richard Elliot), which were also Grammy-nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Albums. 

He toured with Brown and Summer Horns, and most recently has been on the road with South Africa gospel/jazz singer and guitarist Jonathan Butler. Albright’s other albums whose titles perfectly reflect their flow include Smooth (1994), Groovology (2002), Kickin’ It Up (2004) and Sax for Stax (2008).

Interviewed By - Aliza Hussain

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