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“Growing up, I learned that it ain’t SOUL if you don’t feel it in your bones and get that tingle down your spine,” declares saxophonist, composer and producer Marion Meadows. It is this creed coupled with Meadows’ consummate musicianship and quest to connect with his audience that have earned him a place as a mainstay on the Contemporary Jazz charts for several decades. “I always hope that people will feel inspired by my recordings,” shares the strikingly handsome saxophonist, who has been known to moonlight as a brilliant digital designer/photographer and semi-professional cyclist. “My purpose is to keep humanity moving forward,” shares Meadows who has collaborated with such luminaries as Stevie Wonder, George Benson and The Temptations among others. Meadows’ earnest desire to offer his music as a force of positivity coalesces on his new and 14th recording as a leader, Soul City. It is a star-studded affair that unites the saxophonist with such luminous talents as vocalists Will Downing, Peabo Bryson and Maysa, guitarists Peter White and Norman Brown, among others.
Imagine a city defined by soul, where the rhythms of the city keep all things moving in the right direction. Marion Meadows has created the soundtrack for such a world on Soul City. Surrounded by an all-star line-up and co-produced by Meadows along with Chris “Big Dog” Davis, and Rahni Song, Marion Meadows takes us on a euphoric journey. Meadows, whose mantra is “Health, Happiness and Love” says, “When we get into the studio each song is a canvas, on which we all paint and create.” The ten-track celebration opens with the intoxicating and breezy “Soul City,” showcasing Meadows’ jubilant and soaring soprano, the agile guitar of Norman Brown and simmering trumpet of Joey Sommerville. Meadows shares, “Norman is a living legend and will certainly be in the history books as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. He is also one of my best friends! Joey is a great musician, a gentleman, a man of all seasons!” The lovely and dynamic soul/jazz diva Maysa is highlighted on the yearning, beautiful and Spanish-tinged “Dreamin’.” Meadows calls Maysa a “Consummate professional with a voice from heaven. The track also features guitar maestro Peter White. Meadows describes White’s performance on “Dreamin’” as “amazing guitar playing that soothes the soul!” The song “You” takes us to the funky side of town with a soulful romp showcasing the talented young bassist and vocalist Will Gaines and trombone extraordinaire Jeff Bradshaw.
Another highlight on Soul City is the new jack swing tinged and fierce grooving “Merry Go Round” featuring vocalist Latrese Bush.” The lone cover on Soul City is a superb rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s number one hit “Time After Time,” which was also famously covered by Miles Davis. Marion Meadows’ twist on the timeless 1980s hit unites him with the great R&B balladeer Peabo Bryson. Together, Meadows and Bryson create their own memorable melodic wonder. “Peabo is a national treasure with a gift that has blessed so many world renowned recordings,” states Meadows. “I am blessed to have him on this album.” Meadows co-wrote the R&B flavored “Consequences” with Chris “Big Dog” Davis who co-wrote four of the album’s tunes with the saxophonist. “Chris and I have been friends for many years and he is the man! He and I share a zest for life that always comes through in the music. We raised the bar on this one!,” confides Meadows. Meadows co-wrote the melodic beauty “Be With You,” featuring vocalist Kim Flemming with Rhani Song. ‘The Prince of Sophisticated Soul,’ Will Downing, joins Meadows on the scintillating “Samba De Playa” and singer Dana Lauren takes center stage on the hypnotic “No Wind, No Rain.” Soul City closes with the meditative ballad “Only,” featuring Meadows’ nephew from Hawaii, guitarist Kaimi Hananoeau. “I am so pleased to feature his incredible guitar talents on this album!” exclaims Meadows.
“I came up listening to Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington but at the same time musicians like Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan, Chicago and Parliament Funkadelic,” confesses Meadows who early on cut his teeth playing in Avant-Garde jazz groups alongside heavyweights Rashied Ali and James Blood Ulmer.
Hailing from West Virginia and raised in Stamford, CT, Marion Meadows began his musical endeavors at age eight, studying clarinet. At age 15, after hearing iconic saxophone masters like Sidney Bechet, Coleman
Hawkins, Johnny Hodges and Stanley Turrentine, Marion Meadows’ switch to saxophone was imminent. The stars aligned for Meadows one evening at New York’s Grand Central Station. While waiting for the trian, Meadows took out his sax and started playing. His saxophone was mysteriously overheard reverberating through the Big Apple’s oldest railway. Emmy-winning TV composer Jay Chattaway (Star Trek fame) was headed for his train and was so enchanted by the sound that he introduced himself and shortly after introduced Meadows to Grammy-winning pianist, producer and label owner Bob James, who helped Meadows to launch his career as a solo artist.
Meadows initially had his sights set on medical school and a career as a veterinarian. Upon high school graduation, he attended the renowned Berklee School of Music in Boston, later transferring to SUNY Purchase School of the Arts. While still a student, the ambitious saxophonist worked steadily as a sideman. He jokes that he “got a graduate degree playing clubs.” He was also fortunate to study with the best including Joe Henderson, Dave Liebman and Eddie Daniels. While at Berklee, Meadows had another serendipitous encounter, this time with drummer producer extraordinaire Norman Connors, who was then playing with legendary saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. Meadows says, “Norman Connors was really the guy who discovered me as an artist. The man who gave me my first shot.” Connors recorded Marion’s song “Invitation” and later extended an invitation to Marion to join his band. Connors, who collaborated with many of R&B and jazz’s greatest singers, afforded Marion the opportunity to work alongside such dynamic voices as Jean Carne, Phyllis Hyman, Glenn Jones, Angela Bofill, and many others. “That was a nice graduate school, so to speak,” laughs Meadows. After graduating with honors from ‘Connors’ University,’ the well-rounded saxophonist spent time honing his chops on the avant-garde circuit in the ensemble “Aboriginal Music Society,” which featured guitarist James Blood Ulmer, percussionist Juma Sutan and pianist Kasa Allah.
In 1990 Marion Meadows made his recording debut, For Lover’s Only, featuring Eliot Lewis, Porter Carroll, Brian Keane and Average White Band alumnus Alan Gorrie. Two years later he joined forces with Will Downing, Bob Baldwin, Angela Bofill and Norman Connors for his sophomore recording Keep It Right There. Further solidifying his rightful place in the pantheon of great saxophonists, Meadows released Forbidden Fruit in 1994. He was joined by special guests Eric Benet, Don Grusin and Dori Caymmi, among others. Body Rhythm followed in 1996 and Pleasure was released the following year. Around this time Marion Meadows relocated from Connecticut to the Valley of the Sun – Phoenix, AZ. He also settled at a new recording home, Heads Up International, where he released his sixth album, Another Side of Midnight in 1999, calling on a little help from some friends Bob Baldwin, Omar Hakim and Norman Brown, followed by Next To You in 2000 and In Deep in 2002. Player’s Club in 2004 spawned two hit singles, “Suede” and “Sweet Grapes,” which have gone on to be Marion’s signature songs. Dressed To Chill (2006) included memorable renditions of hits by R Kelly and Luther Vandross and joined Meadows with Chuck Loeb and his longtime touring keyboardist and vocalist Will Brock, among others. Secrets and its title track topped the Smooth Jazz charts in 2009. The anticipated Whisper followed in 2013 showcasing the stunning Top Ten Billboard hit “Black Pearl” and in 2015 Meadows released Soul Traveler featuring another Top ten hit, “Humanity.”
Several decades into Marion Meadows’ enviable career, a string of radio hits under his belt, scores of sold out international shows, a catalogue of critically heralded albums, and the saxophonist is still inspired. “Each recording is a continuation of my journey,” concludes Meadows. “I feel as though I have grown as a musician and a storyteller. It is all about my life and the fellowship of sharing.” So get ready for the ride of your life and come on into Marion Meadows’ Soul City.