Tony Exum Jr. 

Jazz (Solo)

click to enlarge Tony Exum Jr. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Tony Exum Jr.


Colorado Springs' best-loved crossover jazz artist has had a lot to celebrate since winning this category last year, not least of which is his marriage six months ago to Victoria Exum — who also happens to be his manager. The saxophonist and bandleader has also been gigging regularly, primarily at Stargazers, and recently joined the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which means other local musicians can start lobbying for his Grammy vote.


Back in June, Exum released his new single, "She's Bad," via iTunes in anticipation of his forthcoming fifth album, 5. If you pick up on an old-school vibe in the arrangement, you're not mistaken. The track's producer, Monte Colter, is best known as the musical director for Alexander O'Neal, who had five Top 10 R&B chart hits in the mid '80s, including the forever-ubiquitous "Saturday Love."


When Exum isn't playing his own music, count on him paying homage to some of his biggest influences. Over the past year, the artist has stepped up to the mic for two tribute concerts: one devoted to the music of the late soul crooner Luther Vandross, and the other to Maze frontman Frankie Beverly. "It just hit me while driving to a gig, like a musical epiphany," he says of the latter show. "Frankie Beverly's Maze is to barber shops, Saturday-morning chores, and backyard barbecues, what sugar is to Kool-Aid."

Second place: John Wise

Third place: Wayne Wilkinson


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