Not many musicians can say their first concert, at age six, was hearing the debut album of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. But keyboardist Alex Bugnon can. Thanks to the encouragement of his father, a jazz musician, Bugnon (pronounced Boo-nyon) literally grew up at the festival, happily immersed in a multitude of influences, from Memphis Slim and Bill Evans to Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk.
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"My thing when I was growing up was funk - and Santana. I saw the movie 'Woodstock' when I was eight or nine and freaked out. Sly was the most incredible thing I'd ever heard!," Bugnon enthuses. "I love bebop...and horn section melodies... and textures of Art Blakey and the Messengers or the Gil Evans/Miles Davis era. You'll hear that kind of flair in my music - with a bottom line that's grooving all the time."
At 16 Bugnon enrolled in the Paris Conservatory of Music for two years, then left for Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he also gigged with gospel groups Clara Mahomes and The Gospel Leviticus. He spent four years in New York City backing, touring and recording with Patti Austin, Freddie Jackson, James Ingram, Keith Sweat and others before making his first solo debut recording in 1989.
THE NEW ALBUM Bugnon's first Narada Jazz release "ALEX BUGNON...AS PROMISED" joins five previous recordings. He's been twice nominated for Best Jazz Album (Soul Train Awards); logged the highest-ever entry by a jazz album on the R&B charts; been honored by Black Radio Exclusive as "Best New Jazz Artist of 1990" and released several R&B chart-toppers.
Now, more funky jazz is headed our way in ALEX BUGNON - AS PROMISED! This soulful jazz excursion is Alex Bugnon's personal response to his fans. "I stayed on the road nearly four years, playing mainly in the U.S. and at European festivals. Every time I'd perform, people would ask me when my next album would be out. I'd always say, I promise you, soon, even though I knew it would not," he admits. "The title really speaks to the people who asked me. They will know, it's very personal to them."
Bugnon added hip-hop drum machine grooves to his live rhythm section, and used acoustic piano, Moog, several keyboards, and vintage rock n roll and funk instruments from the 70's and 80's to produce the R&B feel he loves. His Narada Jazz debut features eight of his own tunes, plus one written by Lauryn Hill, "All That I Can Say," (from Mary J. Blige's latest album), and John Coltrane's distinctive classic, "Naima." Other cuts, such as "Buhaina," his tribute to Art Blakey, and "His Coolness," "a tune for anybody that's cool in the jazz world, like Miles" harken back to his jazz roots.
Still others like "All That I Can Say" and "Scirocco," (named for the wind because it comes in, out of nowhere, and opens up, like a flower), reveal his taste for R&B and funk-laced rhythm. "I've been trying for quite a while now to finally bring together, and incorporate, what I like to hear. More than any other record I've done, this one is more complex, and more simple, at the same time it' really, really, really funky."
Just as promised, Alex Bugnon fulfilled a commitment to his fans with one mighty set of music. Bugnon praises his band for a real group effort. Everyone treated this project as their own, with a lot of interest and excitement. Their brainstorming made the whole process very dynamic. His grooves on the keyboards are joined by a group of artists that reads like a "who's who" in jazz and R&B: Christopher Williams (All That I Can Say); Gerald Albright (As Promised); the sensational Angie Stone (Won't Be A Fool); and Branford Marsalis (Chasing Spirals), among many others. The sounds all come together to make a slick, exciting set filled with urban, jazz and R&B pulse.
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