Renowned multi-saxophonist Walter Beasley's sure to get a great reaction on his next tour as his loyal following is certain not to be disappointed with the release of Go With The Flow, his seventh CD overall and first for the N-Coded Music label. Neither, for that matter, will any fan of R&B-tinged smooth jazz grooves. Packed with seductive quiet-storm melodies and hypnotic contemporary rhythms, Beasley's latest project, as with past discs, is distinguished by its heartfelt instrumentals and soulful vocals.
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"My ability to sing is what makes me different from many of my smooth sax peers," confides Beasley. "Singing enables me to communicate in ways others can't. On the flip side, I can evoke emotions and stimulate imagination when I pick up the saxophone. When you combine both of those elements with the fact that my background is R&B and I come from a soulful, instrumental tradition, there is, I think, a certain uniqueness to the music I create both as an instrumentalist and a vocalist."
That instrumental tradition, exemplified by the likes of such Beasley favorites as George Benson, Cannonball Adderley, David Sanborn and others, is evident throughout Go With The Flow. The CD's title track sets the tone with a rhythm track so funky it's virtually impossible for listeners to not bop their heads, tap their feet or get some otherwise serious body rhythm going. "My Pleasure" and "Brother," a tribute to a beloved uncle who recently died of leukemia, are also reminiscent of that instrumental tradition from which Beasley flows.
"Let Me Watch (You)" keeps the torch burning rhythmically, but with an added twist: it has a freaky side not normally associated with Beasley. "I'm not sure what kind of mood I was in when I laid that one down," laughs the native Californian, now Massachusetts resident. "But it's definitely uncharacteristically out there."
On the mellow side, Beasley's saxophone caresses to perfection on tracks like "Precious Moments," "Over And Over" and the mid-tempo "West Hamilton Groove." As on past CDs, the singer/songwriter/ producer/instrumentalist weaves his spell on a few choice cover tunes. His vocal chops are masterfully showcased on Billy Ocean's "Suddenly," George Howard's "Cross Your Mind," which he dedicates to his dear friend, the late, great saxophonist George Howard, and his own "Don't Know Why." As on last year's acclaimed Rendezvous, Beasley, who says he's blessed to be teaching at his alma mater, manages to utilize former students on various songs. Two shining examples are composer/instrumentalist Kevin Hoo and Abria, who once again adds her unique brand of the spoken word idiom, this time on "All I Want," another original song.
Beasley's diversity comes from within, but he benefits from the youthful energy he attains from his students. "Being a professor has afforded me the opportunity to consistently be around eager, creative minds. It's a symbiotic relationship. I give them the tools to break down the walls and they, in turn, give me the tools to keep my music fresh in terms of both current trends and current technologies. They're longing to do things that are different and so am I. It's a great situation because we all feed off each other."
Over the years Walter Beasley has mastered the ability to share his art with other equally serious musicians. He also has learned how to feed off of them. While a student at Berklee, his classmates consisted of such heralded talents as fellow saxophonist Branford Marsalis, vocalist extraordinaire Rachelle Ferrell and Tonight Show guitarist/band leader Kevin Eubanks. Additionally, he has toured and/or recorded with the likes of Stephanie Mills, Vanessa Williams, Brian McKnight, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Dexter Gordon, Bob James, Ronnie Laws, Everett Harp and Norman Brown.
Since recording his self-titled debut album in 1987, Walter Beasley has remained committed to opening doors for up-n-coming musicians and working whenever possible with established artists. The academician in him comes through loud and clear when he earnestly expresses his concern over the lack of opportunities for his students and other young musicians desirous of honing their performance skills. "Funding has become a critical issue because budgets have been steadily drying up," he says. "And the lack of government programs has created an unfilled and unacceptable void in the area of live performance."
As long as he's recording, Beasley insists at least a handful of new artists will have an outlet. "In the huge scope of things, the little that I do might not amount to much. But," he adds, "for a small few, it can make all the difference in the world. So I'm determined to do what I can." Wherever that determination leads him, he'll continue to Go With The Flow.
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