If ever there was a man who could testify to the power of creating, sharing and enjoying music, its smooth and soulful saxophonist Jimmy Sommers. His infectious alto sax playing has proven time and again to be a sound at once dramatic, spirited and funky, yet seductive and unabashedly romantic.
Jimmy Sommers' debut album, James Café, introduced him as a strikingly fresh presence in the NAC arena. Its 2001 follow-up, the self-produced 360 Urban Groove, took things to another level by featuring his masterful cover of Boz Scaggs' classic "Lowdown," which went all the way to #2 on Radio & Records' Smooth Jazz Chart ("I saved my #1 charter for the new album," Jimmy quips). Now, just in time for the summer of 2003, Sommers presents his most scorching yet intoxicating collection to date, Lovelife, slated for release August 5 on his own Gemini Records imprint via Higher Octave/EMD.
"The concept, if you want to call it that, is simple," Sommers states. "I love music...and I love life!"
Simplicity is a beautiful thing in the hands of a performing natural like Jimmy. It means that you stick to and improve upon formulas that are true to your heart and good for the souls of the masses. For Sommers, that means serving up funky-fun dance grooves and sensually romantic ballads in well-balanced proportion, then spicing the result with special guests/friends from both the R&B and smooth jazz worlds. In the past, those guests have ranged from Norman Brown and Les Nubians to Raphael Saadiq, Ginuwine and Eric Bene't.
On Lovelife, the most surprising of the guests is eccentric soul-rocker MACY GRAY, who sings the horn-spiked title track, "Lovelife," for which she wrote the lyrics. The song was co-produced by Jimmy with longtime collaborator PETER MOKRAN (Maxwell/R. Kelly). Other special guests are neo soul singer/songwriter extraordinaire RAHSAAN PATTERSON on the sunny, mid-tempo "What Am I Gonna Do," Baltimore soul duo RUFF ENDZ (who scored a chart-topping R&B hit last year with "Someone To Love You") on the heart-tugger "The World To Me," and New York-based smooth jazz trumpet star CHRIS BOTTI on the sexy romp, "Why Must I."
For Lovelife's first single, Jimmy once again works his cover magic on Kool & The Gang's "Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)," which topped the R&B charts in the Fall of `81. Sommers faithfully attended the funk super-group's shows every summer as a teen and pays tribute to them with a cool groovin' cover.
From the rubber ball bass pulse of the retro "Ride, Ride, Ride" (complete with strings a la the `70s band Chic) and the Latin-spiced House tune "Havana Nights" to the irresistibly inviting toe-tapper "This Weekend," Jimmy knows how to get a party started. There is also the smooth "Grant Park," named after the Downtown park in Chicago where Sommers spent many a memorable summer (blessed with a sweet touch of organ by Herman Jackson). Closing out the 10-song smorgasbord is the soothing lullaby "He Loves Someone," featuring the voice of TARA ELLIS, wife of the song's co-producer JAMIE JAZ. Would you believe she was eight-months pregnant when she graced Jimmy with this sweetly serene vocal performance?
Charismatic and alluring, Sommers is intimately accustomed to the spotlight. He picked up his first alto saxophone at the age of 10 and made his first recording as a featured soloist with the MacArthur Junior High School Jazz Band. By age 16, Sommers was often asked to sit in with blues legends such as Buddy Guy at some of Chicago's hottest nightclubs.
Now, Sommers is creating ambiance a new with releases like Lovelife, a project that deftly showcases his abilities to be both eclectic yet massively appealing. His sound - rooted in the blues tradition - today stretches into an all-inclusive aesthetic that includes jazz, soul, rhythm and blues, pop and hip-hop. "You could call it music without boundaries," says Sommers. "My goal is to wrap listeners in a sound that's funky yet smooth and makes them feel good."
However, music is just the starting point for the intensely passionate entrepreneur. Along with a successful career as a talented player and performer, the exceptionally ambitious Sommers is involved with two other exciting endeavors - he co-owns the highly regarded Los Angeles sushi restaurant, Koi, and is a staff producer/major shareholder in Baby Genius, the best-selling line of music and videos for toddlers.
Baby Genius publishes and distributes high quality classical CDs, cassettes and videos geared towards the developmental well being of infants and young children. Studies have revealed the benefits of classical and instrumental music to babies from the earliest months of life. "The Baby Genius motto is: Music Makes a Difference," Sommers shares. "By exposing children to music, their abilities to process information can be enhanced, their language development stimulated, and their listening skills increased."
For his music and related enterprises, Sommers has been profiled by People Magazine as one of America's "Top 50 Eligible Bachelors." He's also been a featured guest on the top-rated television programs "The Today Show," "Dateline NBC," "Live with Regis and Kelly," "Good Day New York," "E! Entertainment," "TV Guide Channel," "The KTLA Morning Show," "BET Tonight with Ed Gordon," "BET on Jazz: Impressions" and "The Tavis Smiley Show."
Jimmy Sommers has evolved into quite the enviable Renaissance man-an artist long familiar with the wisdom that loving and embracing life brings. And he never forgets that it all began with his first love. "My biggest inspiration comes from living life, loving life and making music."
--- from the official Jimmy Sommers website