SAXOPHONIST SHAWN RAIFORD SET TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM, THE NEXT STEP.
By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs, Editor-In-Chief
If you're not familiar with Shawn Raiford, it may be time to expand your musical horizons.
The talented, saxophonist from Vallejo, California has been performing contemporary jazz, pop, R&B, gospel, and rock music since 1999 with his band, the Shawn Raiford Experience.
The group consists of keyboardists Javance Butler and Ivan Johnson, guitarist Vincent Cole Dutcher, bassist Michael "Tiny" Lindsey, and drummer Jonathan Frazier.
The Shawn Raiford Experience have been performing throughout California and opening shows with artists such as R&B singer/songwriter/producer and multi-instrumentalist Chuckii Booker, Teddy Riley, Yolanda Adams, Freddie Jackson, Pete Escovedo, Eric Darius, and Jeff Ryan in support of their upcoming album, The Next Step. It is due out later this summer and features the new single, "Forever," produced and co-written by Grammy-Award winning artistDerek "DOA" Allen (Lionel Richie and Janet Jackson) and a breezy/soulful rendering of Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak's Silk Sonic cut, "Leave the Door Open."
N2Entertainmnet.net caught up with Raiford prior to his tour. We discussed by phone, his upcoming CD, The Next Step, his musical journey, collaborating with Derek "DOA" Allen, growing up in Vallejo and his biggest musical influences.
Here's what the affable sax man, who now calls Sacramento home, had to say.
Q. Did you know at an early age you wanted to be an accomplished saxophonist and musician?
A. Oh no, not at all. I thought my only claim to fame was going to be class clown when I was a student at Vallejo High School (Laughter). I loved music, but I didn’t play in the band or anything like that. I was a late bloomer musically. I remember My grandmother had an event at church. My aunt asked what I wanted to do. I laughed and said a sax solo. We all laughed. I went and got a saxophone. The only thing I had to play was "When the Saints Go Marching In." I think I've improved a lot since then. (Lots of laughter). Along the way I was inspired and learned a lot too from Claude Roberson, the Minister of Music at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Fairfield, California and from keyboardist Reggie Graham. I was 55-years-old when my first album, Man with a Horn was released in 2020. The Next Step is my follow-up. I'm 57 now but am enjoying every minute of making music and performing, especially at this stage of my life.
Q. Were you worried about a sophomore slump with The Next Step?
A. No. Not with Derek Allen by my side. He's amazing to work with and a musical genius. He produced tracks on Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 album and was on her world tour. Derek (Allen) also worked and toured with Lionel Richie and Bobby Brown. When we talked, Derek (Allen) would say that I was doing great things, and if I ever needed anything, just to hit him up. I started thinking about the next album and bringing something different for the second go round and we were able to get together and make it happen.
Q. How would you describe your musical style?
A. It's a mature, deep, sultry, and sensuous sound. I'm a huge Sade fan. I wanted something that represents Sade. I wanted that smooth vibe on the single "Forever." It took a few months to get it like I wanted it to sound. I co-wrote "Forever" with Derek Allen and saxophonist Ashley Jemison. It features Andre Delano (Maxwell, Christina Aguilera, Usher, and Cameo) on sax and Quintin Paris on vocals. She's the one who sings that nice hook on the song.
Q. Who are your musical influences?
A. Without a doubt, Grover Washington Jr. I fell in love with how he played the saxophone. Anytime the band performs, it's like an homage to Grover Washington Jr. There are others too that inspire and influence me like Gerald Albright, Cannonball Adderley and even Kenny G. (He laughs). I know a lot of people don't like Kenny G, but I do. I like his musical style. I'm also encouraged at the direction jazz is going thanks to young guns like saxophonist Eric Darius, Bryan "B." Thompson, Riley Richard, and Marcus Anderson. They are the up-and-coming artists that are changing the jazz landscape.
Q. Live jazz shows were a big thing back in the day (1990s and early 2000s) in Sacramento. I remember going to clubs like The On Broadway and the great Radisson Hotel. Both are no longer around, but I saw Junior Walker, Gerald Albright, David Sanborn, Joshua Redman, Dave Koz and so many others. You've performed at venues around Sacramento, most recently, Rock & Brews. Is there a resurgence of sorts for jazz music in clubs/restaurants and do you feel that your group is leading the way now?
A. Well, first, let me say that I am blown away that you got to see the late, great Junior Walker. Now that's a legend who could blow a horn. (Laughter). Junior Walker and the All-Stars. They had classics like "Shotgun," "Roadrunner," "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" and "Shake and Fingerpop." But you're right, Sacramento really had some big acts that performed at several small venues here in town. Now, that COVID is thankfully in the rear-view mirror, it does seem that there is a big interest again in jazz/pop music shows. I think people want to get out and enjoy as many concerts as they can. Big artists. Small artists. It doesn’t matter. I’m just thrilled to be part of that interest and hope it lasts for a long time.
Q. What sax player would you like to work with or tour with, past or present?
A. Grover Washington Jr. and Junior Walker for sure.
Q. Vallejo is where you grew up and it holds a special place for you. What do you like most about the city?
A. It's a hotbed of musical talent. My favorite group from Vallejo is Project Soul, aka Con Funk Shun and my guy Michael Cooper and Derek Allen are from Vallejo too. Home is always special and I’m actually working on a song about Vallejo. Stay tuned.
Q. What's next?
A. The Next Step. (Laughter). I'm excited that we are putting the finishing touches on the album The Next Step and will start doing more shows and continue to bring audiences some soulful, smooth jazz.
Editor’s Note: For more information on Shawn Raiford including tour dates please visit https://shawnraifordsax.com.