Favorite

Tony Exum Jr.'s sound advice 

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Colorado Springs-based national recording artist Tony Exum Jr. grew up seeing the world with his stepfather, an Air Force sergeant, and spending summers here in town with his father Tony Sr. and family. His mother influenced his taste in music at an early age, putting him to sleep to Grover Washington Jr.’s Inner City Blues and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Head to the Sky albums. He discovered his love for the saxophone through an uncle at age 11, and has since worked with a seemingly endless array of collaborators — including Keke Wyatt, Dave Hollister, Sunshine Anderson, Miki Howard, Tim Bowman, Aysha, Najee, Marcus Anderson, and CMG of the Conscious Daughters. He also backed The Temptations and the Four Tops at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium in 2005. We caught up with him recently to ask about some of his favorite recordings.

First record I bought with my own money: Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full. I bought the, um... tape... remember those? It was from Columbia House. I think I might still owe them money.

Essential Saturday night listening: It varies for me. Sometimes, it’s my boys New Edition and Bell Biv Devoe. Other times, it’s D’Angelo, Grover Washington Jr. or my buddies Gerald Albright and Najee. Then, I may switch up and listen to some DJ Quik, like Rhythm-al-ism or Live at the House of Blues, which is especially essential before a gig. If I’m not working, I may throw on some Earth, Wind & Fire, Mint Condition or Parliament-Funkadelic. “[(Not Just)]Knee Deep” is my personal theme song. Play this when I walk in the room, or at my funeral, or both.

Essential Sunday morning listening: Take 6 is often my choice, or Kirk Franklin or Fred Hammond. But if I’m not in the gospel mood, I will listen to Jill Scott, Amel Larrieux or Conya Doss. My soul-jazz bassist friend Julian Vaughn is always good for the “on the way to church” vibe.

“Wish I’d written those” songs: Every song on the Heart Break album by New Edition. In the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis catalog, it would be the entire Alexander O’Neal Hearsay album and Janet Jackson’s “Come Back to Me.” Also, Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend.”

“Wish I could unhear that” song: So many to name, but one that really gets me is “You Sexy Thing (I Believe in Miracles)” by Hot Chocolate. That song is mad cornball. And please don’t play “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing! Oh my goodness, you just killed my vibe with that joint.

My latest online discovery: Rapper, producer, singer and saxophonist Masego. That young man is incredibly gifted. I really admire and support any artists who seek to push the envelope sonically, lyrically and visually. Those that strive for originality always grab my attention.

Artist more people should know about: From here in Colorado, two incredibly gifted vocalists: Kayla Rae and Chantil Dukart, who’s my fellow host on Jazz 93.5 FM. Both of them are innovative, creative, hardworking and self-sufficient artists carving their own niche in the independent musician game. Honorable mention would go to Denver’s Ellice Zoé. Look out for her.

Guilty pleasure: A large spoonful of peanut butter, or two, or three...

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