In The Spotlight, Jimmy Sommers
by Bonnie Schendell
The glow of the fire, the jingling of bells, the feeling of peacefulness…Christmas is approaching. Each year at this time, there is a flurry of CDs released full of holiday music. This year is no exception. While most take the approach of the upbeat, childhood memory holiday songs, one CD has taken a different approach. A Holiday Wish, released by Jimmy Sommers on his own independent label, Gemini Records, has a very adult feel. Jimmy, who is known for his R&B influenced sax playing, took the sexy, romantic road to bring you some wonderful songs in a minimalist way. Just like most Christmas CDs, this one is filled with covers of some old favorites, but arranged in a way that is perfect for background music for an adult Christmas party…or a romantic gift-giving time. The CD opens with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” featuring a wonderful duet of Jimmy’s sax and Chris Botti’s trumpet. The melody is slow and seductive, and is a great choice to set the mood for the CD. A soulful rendition of “What a Wonderful World” follows, adding a feeling of an old-time club. A few favorites, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “The Christmas Song,” bring back sweet memories of Christmases past and are performed in a most elegant, adult fashion. Jimmy makes a mood change with the very playful “My Favorite Things.” The arrangement on this track is almost waltz-like, and makes you want to take a spin around the dance floor. “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,”“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and Greensleeves” are upbeat and just fun! And “Santa Baby” is so sultry, that you can feel the heat building. The CD ends with the very solemn “Silent Night” and leaves you with that all-over peaceful feeling. While this truly is a different approach to holiday music, it is a very welcome change, and one that should be added to any collection of Christmas CDs. Jimmy Sommers is definitely my Holiday Wish.
In The Spotlight, Jimmy Sommers
By Baldwin “Smitty” Smith
The Jazz Nation
The Jazz Nation (TJN): I’m sitting with one of my friends and a great sax player…he’s Mr. 360 Urban Groove, his latest album, Love Life is fantastic. I’m talking about Mr. Jimmy Sommers. Jimmy, how’re you doing?
Jimmy Sommers (JS) : Great!
JS: (Laughing) It’s great to have you here in Houston this weekend. I remember you telling me that you chose the sax at an early age because of the way it looked and sound. Tell me how that happened
JS: One day, band day, while in fourth grade…Usually people start in fifth grade, but they came and they had all the instruments laid out. And of course, when you’re so young, 10 years old, you really don’t know what each instrument sounds like, so I kind of went for the coolest looking instrument. Well not only was it the coolest looking instrument, but it sounded the coolest! I got lucky with the sound. I ended up picking it up, and all my friends tried it. It’s funny because usually if there are too many saxophone players, they push you to something else, and thank God that didn’t happen.
TJN: Even though you got started around fourth grade, by the time you were 15 or 16 years old, you were you getting invitations to sit in with some very cools cats.
JS: We actually ended up doing an album in seventh grade, which was really fun to do. I got to perform a solo and it was recorded in a major studio…that was my first taste and it was like “Wow, this is really neat.” Those were the days of the one-takes…you get right and that’s it. You get like two shots…it wasn’t something you cut it up and paste. I kind of got hooked on that stuff, recording and playing my horn. And of course I had to be in Marching Band, which is always…rough! So then I ended up playing football to get out of it and got the crap beat out of me in football (both laughing). So my senior year, I said I wanted to play in the Jazz Band and that’s it… otherwise I’m not going to play. So I ended up pulling a hard-nosed move and they all wanted me in the Jazz Band, and all the other mothers got mad “Why does Jimmy not have to be in the Marching Band like my son?” During high school I’d go to Chicago and jam with Buddy Guy when I was 16 or 17, sneaking into this club, Kingston Mines, jamming with these guys…it’s always fun when you’re so young and going up there and they’re saying “What’re you doing?” Well that was one way of doing it. I had a great fake ID.
TJN: That’s one way of doing it! Did you get to perform?
JS: I ended up playing and they would ask me when I was coming back!
TJN: So at what point did you say to yourself, “I want to make a career of this. This is something I really want to do” and get serious about it?
JS: I’ve always been serious about it, but I know it’s very hard to make a career out of it, so I went to college and got a scholarship for music. I majored in Engineering because I know how hard it is to make a living out of this. So I graduated in 3 ½ years and moved out to LA…
TJN: Like most musicians…
JS: Yeah, to get a record deal and you know! 10 years later (both laughing). Yeah, it took a while. I wasn’t in the right place yet. I mean I played with bands around town but it was more of a party…it was more fun than college. Then I ended up going to Europe with a couple of people, did the tour thing. That was fun, but I moved back to Chicago in 1996 and met Eric Benét, he turned me on to his music and I just loved it. He’s from Milwaukee and I ended up doing my first record with him and his producer, his cousin. That got me. I finally got it, how to make records. And that record came out and it’s called James Café. So that kind of gave me the bug again…I finally get it, I finally know how to make records and produce them. So I moved back to LA and things just started cooking. I’m now on my third record…I’ve got two more I’m doing this year. I’m doing a chill out record, with Victor Duplay. I don’t know if you know him.
JS: Real hip. It’s a DJ-chill-out, real funky. Then I’m finishing a Christmas record, and trying to do a dance record…sort of experimenting a little. I’ve been very fortunate, out in LA, to meet a lot of great musicians…great players, great singers. I’ve always liked that, instead of just a saxophone record, because I’m going to have a lot of saxophone records out there…I mean some people have ten records and it’s all saxophone.
TJN: You mean records that sound the same?
continue article: www.thejazznation.com
Paula Edelstein, All Music Guide
Jimmy Sommers surrounds himself with top names from R&B, rap, hip-hop, and smooth jazz on his sensational 360 Urban Groove. The saxophonist lets it rip with the likes of guitarist Norman Brown on the title track, with R&B superstar Ginuwine on the funky party jam "Let''s Go Party." Further in the set, he is comped by Coolio''s rap on a cover of Boz Scaggs'' "Lowdown" and then segues into the ever-so-soulful smooth vocals of heartthrob Eric Benet on "Stay a While." Benet proves his staying power on this one, and together he and Sommers give their listeners many reasons to stay tuned to their emotional calls and responses. This song oozes with sincerity and gives you a glimpse of what happens to a listener''s imagination when two great voices -- Benet''s vocals and Sommer''s sax voice -- are paired in a great song. Sommers plays an array of alto saxophone solos that span the style spectrum -- from steamy to feel-good, from sexy and funky to romantic and serene -- his range is completely entertaining. To the contemporary ear, Sommers is the reigning prince of the alto sax voices and has a sound that can be compared to and would harmonize with that of Dave Koz''s soprano saxophone voice. He wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on this program with the exception of "Lowdown" and "Lovin'' You," which tells you a lot about his compositional integrity and his ability to write for artists outside of the smooth jazz genre. The highlights on this great CD is Jimmy Sommer''s excellent sax stylings that wrap listeners in his sexy, intimately smooth sound with labelmates Les Nubians on the opener and surround Sparkle''s great vocals on "Lovin'' You." Sommers blows a great set that makes this CD a must have.
Jimmy Sommers At The WNUA Smooth Jazz Thursdays at the Chicago Historical Society
By Randi Ostro. www.RANDIO.COM/
Last night, I discovered the joy of sax. Most people my age have been enjoying it for some time. But you could call me a late bloomer. Or perhaps, I just had not found the right one. But when he made his grand entrance on a Harley, sax in hand, I knew I was done for. His name is Jimmy Sommers, and he, like me, is in his 30s. My mother would be pleased. Now this is not the sax I had come to know sitting in the back seat of my mom's car, that adult contemporary jazz sound that always seemed a little too mature for my eclectic tastes. This new attitude of jazz, Jimmy Sommers wore a black t-shirt and jeans, and his music and movements as he danced around on stage and in the audience had a hip hop party feel, though it really was jazz. This is music I could relate to! When he first started playing, it took me a moment to get over what my eyes were seeing versus what my ears were hearing. His looks and playing attitude defy the maturity of the voice that bursts out of his sax. He was playing outdoors at the Chicago Historical Society, with a backdrop of the John Hancock and other buildings towering behind this WNUA-sponsored event. When he played "360 Groove," I felt like I was strolling through a back alley in New York to enter a secret club as nighttime was falling, and even the words "Smooth Jazz" on the banner at the back of the stage had a hint of spray painted graffiti. At one point, the DJ started to spin a record a'la hip hop, giving an even more urban edge to the moment. His latest cd, 360 Urban Groove, (released in June, 2001 on Higher Octave's Jazz label), features Sommers playing with musicians including Les Nubians, Ginuwine, Norman Brown, Eric Benet, Raphael Saadiq and Sparkle. Sommers told me that the toughest part of making music for him is coming up with the lyrics. No real problem, as the artists he works with have readily stepped in to put words to his tunes. And it seems that he doesn't really need words to say what he means anyhow. A cover of Boz Sgaggs "Lowdown" had Sommers serenading--or maybe I would call it seducing--women in the audience. Thanks to a cordless mic, he had the freedom to wander, dance and woo anywhere in the area. On one knee, on two knees, grinding and charming, he spoke the words any woman would want to hear. No matter they were notes on the sax, the point was clear. At the end of one jam in the center of a group of after-work women, he punctuated his message with a kiss on one woman's cheek. Sommers has the confidence of a man who was born with a silver sax in his mouth. But he is a likeable, down to earth guy, too. While he plays up the sax appeal with the women, the men in the crowd were just as enchanted. It was all good fun, good grooves. At times, it seemed that he was conjuring music as if he were a snake charmer: it slithered from his soul into his breath and through the sax. And then, moments later, the whole audience was waving and swaying to the lyrics, "Let's go run, let's go play, let's go party." 26 year-old Isadora Gailey came up to me at the end of the show, thrilled beyond belief. "I checked out the web site before coming," she said. "I thought, 'He's a hottie pants!' Come on, a Harley and a sax? It can't get better than that!" Anyone got a cigarette?
Contemporary jazz .com Jimmy Sommers 360 Urban Groove Higher Octave Review
by Jeff Charney
This is not your typical smooth jazz recording. It is a mixture of jazz, soul, rhythm & blues, pop and hip-hop. The second release for Sommers finds him collaborating with quite a few music stars. The first track is a tasty piece featuring the vocal group Les Nubians in an uptempo, Sade style with Sommers wailing on the background. It's very pop radio oriented. My favorite piece is track two, "360 Groove," featuring Norman Brown on guitar. Mid-tempo in nature, funky and soulful. Of course, Brown is his usual self which is excellent! Another pleasant song is the Boz Scaggs classic "Low Down" with help by Coolio doing some underlying rap. On "Falling For You," Sommers lets the guests stay home and does a romantic mood piece. "Promise Me" is a more happy, feel good song that will stay with you after you put down the CD. Same goes for "James Cafe," except in a slower vein. One wonders why those two songs are on the CD since they were on the first release, James Cafe. Ginuwine, Raphael Saadiq and Eric Benet also contribute to this CD, but more in an R&B way. I’m trying to figure out which direction Sommers wants to go. Is it R&B or is it smooth jazz? Both styles are on this CD. I like his smooth jazz style very much. As far as his R&B style, it sounds like all the others to me. Buy it now at CDnow!
www.trafficzine.com Urban Groove, Jimmy Sommers
Style Kimberly St. Val Arts Editor Speed Limit: 95 MPH 9/23/01
Smooth jazz, as I would like to describe it, is the love child of melodious R&B and sultry jazz tones. It highlights the instrumental aspect of music (such as the sax) and settles around the zone of romantic love. For city slickers and for people with an ear for modern smooth jazz, CD 101.9 is a safe haven from all the Bing-style music that emanates off the airs. Since we can’t get CD 101.9 in Binghamton, we can get the newest album from Jimmy Sommers: 360 Urban Groove. With it oh-so delectable melodies and off-the-wall cords, this album epitomizes instrumental talent. I decided, one day, to purchase some new music to expand my limited collection. Since I was a very selective buyer (I only scanned through familiar names and albums) I almost never purchase any name or album that isn’t popular. While browsing the R&B section, I realized the music that hummed through the store was increasingly to my liking. With each new track, I realized that that was the album I came for. Inquiring about this album, I realized that I had never heard of the artist before, but, with every new song that graced the sound waves, it was apparent that I desired this one. Without deliberation, I bought the album and went straight home to stake out the other songs I missed. The verdict: Nothing short of a masterpiece. Playing the alto saxophone since the age of 10, Jimmy Sommers definitely has what it takes to roll with the big names. His hit "Low Down" (feat. Coolio) has been burning the sound waves on popular radio stations ever since the album came out. It’s THE song you’ve hear and jammed to, but never knew the name! Some other famous voices on this album are, Ginuwine, Eric Benét and Sparkle. "Cruisin" located in the very midst of the album is by far the most captivating song on the album. The aural vibrance of this piece really boosts the romantic and sometimes serene atmosphere set. There are instances you crave the company of fellow Café users as this song mixes a Café feel with a homely taste. "Cruisin" features the-ever-talented Raphael Saadiq (formally of Toni! Tony! Tone! And who got a Grammy for writing D’Angelo’s "Untitled") This song is definitely a futuristic rendition of smooth jazz. In a day and age where Cafés and Coffee shops are multiplying, his album is sure to be a plus at these establishments. Each song on the album features a mixture of vocals and instrumentals that naturally calms the troubled soul. It is perfect for an idealistic indoor date with the candles and dinner or even as an accompaniment to a good book or solo supper. For anyone who relishes good soulful music with all its genuineness, originality and perfection and a pinch of spice, this album is the best. To hear "Low Down", "Cruisin" or any of the songs on 360 Urban Groove or to hear Sommer’s prior album "James Café" check out: www.amazon.com
Write an online review and share your thoughts with other customers. Saxxy Saxxy, September 2, 2001
Reviewer: Don Vince (see more about me) from Owings MIlls, Md. I was first introduced to this CD by hearing Menage a Trois with Les Nubians over the radio. I'm a great fan of Les Nubians from their first CD. When I heard the song, I thought to myself, "that brother can really jam on the sax." Little did I know that the "blue-eyed brother" was the featured artist, Jimmy Sommers,who I was not familiar with. A few days later, I went to a music store, put the earphones on, and listened to several other cuts. I was hooked! He features several guest artists such as Norman Brown, Eric Benet, and Raphael Saadiq, but make no mistake . . . he doesn't take a back seat to any of them. I just love the instrument of the saxophone in cool jazz, Dave Koz and others. Jimmy Sommers is the latest innovator. Buy this CD, YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful: The man rocks!!!, July 17, 2001 Reviewer: victor rodgers from FPO, AP United States This is one of those that I took a chance on...and I was not disappointed! The flow throughout the CD was jazz with a R & B funk! None of his guest artist "mails it in". I kept waiting for that one that I wanted to skip, and it didn't happen. If you're trying to turn a young lady on to the world of smooth jazz, put on the candles, break out the wine, and play this...it's on!!
Jimmy Sommers 360 Urban Groove Higher Octave
Take your parents' jazz, add talk about a threesome, Coolio, and sexy saxophonist Jimmy Sommers, and you've got 360 Urban Groove. The second project from jazz fan Sommers, it's a total love album and from one song to the next, it's nothing but class. If hip-hop, jazz, and Sade had a child, this album would be the soundtrack. Ginuwine stirs it up on the third track, "Let's Go Party," proving that this is definitely not your parents' jazz. It's a weak attempt at a Top 40, but it's somehow still very highbrow, very classy. Who ever thought you could clean up Coolio, but somehow Sommers has managed to scrape some of the grime off of his reputation and his cameo on "Lowdown" leaves him smelling like, well, a rather clean rapper. Most of 360 Urban Groove makes one think of hipsters strolling to late dinner parties, what expensive boutique stores play to get you in the mood to drop way too much cash on things you'll never use, or lighting a fire with your special someone, in more ways then one (for which the appropriate song would be "Lovin' You," featuring Sparkle). It's also a great disc to kick back with and polish off a day; as a fan of my parents' jazz, this is a favorable attempt to recapture the true class of jazz music. Meet Jimmy Sommers; Kenny G, only younger, actually good looking, not releasing a Christmas Album, and oh yeah, he doesn't have that scary hair thing going on either. Ick. Regardless, 360 Urban Groove is a rock solid good CD. Be the first person you know to experience the full-on coolness only well played jazz can bring to your life.
Give it up to Chicagoland native turned Southern Californian Jimmy Sommers for winning over a crowd at the Chicago Historical Society with that magic saxophone of his after zooming onto the Georgian-style building’s patio on a Harley-Davidson with blond streaks among his auburn locks. The crowd was comprised of industry folk and paying customers on the patio and the non-paying groundlings on Lincoln Park’s adjacent green. But don’t be fooled by the smooth jazz label that been attached to his genre and current LP album 360 Urban Groove (Higher Octave Jazz). No Kenny G. clone is he (who began axing at the tender age of 10). With cordless mic attached to the bowl of his sax, Jimmy can stealthily pimp walk into a crowd and make em holler till they’ve had enough. In fact, plenty of buppie scum dames found themselves clutching their chests or cooling off with church fans behind his handiwork (or should we say mouthiwork?). Considering the heavyweight talent Jimmy has on the album, his salt-and-pepper girl backup made the live performance versions sound better than many of the recorded originals. Steve Huff the man behind R. Kelly, Joe, and Avant’s sound appeared just in time for the performance of Lovin You, featuring Sparkle’s guest vocals on the Hollywood-recorded album. As well Steve should have. He wrote the song, produced it, and even added some instrumentals on the recorded version (Steve also intimated that he’s currently working on Avant’s second album, which should be released around December). In any case, Steve and Avant couldn’t stop shaking their heads and the rest of their bodies all over the patio throughout Jimmy’s set. Milwaukee native Eric Bent couldn’t make it for the performance of his 360 Urban Groove single Let’s Go Party, but we can’t have everything we want in the Midwestern scheme of things. Although they’re not Midwestern, also 36o guest appearances to check for are Les Nubians, Ginuwine, Raphael Saadiq, and Coolio. Or course WNUA and WGCI could stand to give some more love (maybe shifting to Power 92 and webcasting college radio could extract it out of them). If that Chicago Historical Society gig was Jimmy’s way of demonstrating how to bend the rules of jazz and hip-hop while making the twain meet, may he never go straight again! Or as we say in the Midwest, before you get cold you first got to get hot.
Paula Edelstein, All Music Guide
Jimmy Sommers surrounds himself with top names from R&B, rap, hip-hop, and smooth jazz on his sensational 360 Urban Groove. The saxophonist lets it rip with the likes of guitarist Norman Brown on the title track, with R&B superstar Ginuwine on the funky party jam "Let''s Go Party." Further in the set, he is comped by Coolio''s rap on a cover of Boz Scaggs'' "Lowdown" and then segues into the ever-so-soulful smooth vocals of heartthrob Eric Benet on "Stay a While." Benet proves his staying power on this one, and together he and Sommers give their listeners many reasons to stay tuned to their emotional calls and responses. This song oozes with sincerity and gives you a glimpse of what happens to a listener''s imagination when two great voices -- Benet''s vocals and Sommer''s sax voice -- are paired in a great song. Sommers plays an array of alto saxophone solos that span the style spectrum -- from steamy to feel-good, from sexy and funky to romantic and serene -- his range is completely entertaining. To the contemporary ear, Sommers is the reigning prince of the alto sax voices and has a sound that can be compared to and would harmonize with that of Dave Koz''s soprano saxophone voice.
He wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on this program with the exception of "Lowdown" and "Lovin'' You," which tells you a lot about his compositional integrity and his ability to write for artists outside of the smooth jazz genre. The highlights on this great CD is Jimmy Sommer''s excellent sax stylings that wrap listeners in his sexy, intimately smooth sound with labelmates Les Nubians on the opener and surround Sparkle''s great vocals on "Lovin'' You." Sommers blows a great set that makes this CD a must have.
Carmen Meyer Out of 5:
If you’re looking for intense and passionate smooth jazz, then you’ve come to the right place. With his second album, "360 Urban Groove", saxophone prodigy Jimmy Sommers captivates his audience by way of stroking smooth vocals from his smoking brass instrument. The album is a surround-sound of steamy solos, feel-good beats and inspired grooves. Mind you, Sommers is certainly not a new kid on the jazz block. The Chicago-born saxophonist first picked up a sax at 10, and by 16 he was such a proficient player that he was performing at local clubs with such blues legends as Buddy Guy and Dion Patton. Since then, he has established himself as a headliner whose career is moving from strength to strength. While Sommers’ musical style has its roots in the Chicago blues tradition, his eclectic sound incorporates jazz, soul, R&B, pop and hip-hop. Of this mix Sommers says simply: "I play the music that I make. My goal is to wrap listeners in sound that’s funky yet smooth and makes them feel good." Besides Sommers’ smooth sax, “360 Urban Groove” also features an incredible array of big-time jazz artists such as Raphael Saadiq, Ginuwine, Eric Benêt, Coolio and Les Nubians, who are also signed to the Higher Octave record label. Asked why there are so many collaborative tracks on the CD, Sommers responded, "There are a lot of talented people out there. Why not create with them?" On the album’s title track Sommers joins forces with Norman Brown on guitar, creating a sensational collaboration that is mid-tempo in nature, funky and soulful. The hedonistic mood continues on “Let’s go party”, featuring the vocal styling of R&B superstar Ginuwine. The album is truly unique and flavourful and recommended for the urban contemporary crowd, for those who want to chill out and snuggle up or for those who want to do a bit of jazz dancing. There’s no excuse not to buy it.