As one of the most talented musicians in the Pikes Peak region Tony Exum, Jr. brings to mind the soulfulness of a David Sanborn, the sultry sounds of the late great Grover Washington, Jr. and silky smoothness of the late George Howard. Not a carbon copy of these greats but a distillation of those influences that formulates a unique approach to the saxophone and thus creating a voice of his own. Tony hails from Colorado Springs, CO and was raised between Biloxi, MS., New Orleans, LA, and Kaiserslautern, Germany by his mother, an accountant, stepfather, a now-retired USAF ATC instructor and father, a Colo Sprgs, CO firefighter. His musical interests were sparked by his uncle Larry Francis, Jr., a saxophonist in the Ft Carson, CO. army bands and his mothers vast record collection containing the sounds of jazz and funk such as Jeff Lorber, the aforementioned saxophone of Washington, Sanborn and Howard, Charlie Parker, Ronnie Laws, Najee, P-Funk, Slave, Boosty Collins.... the list goes on and on. At age 18, Exum began studying music at the prestigious Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver under world renowned saxophonist M. Lynn Baker, M.A. and first call woodwind doubler Art Bouton, M.A. These days at D.U. brought the world of music with challenges and achievements that found Exum discovering the vast world of music and the possibilities within. In 1996, Exum joined Ft. Collins, CO. based band Meadowlark Jivin, a funky, jazzy blues and soul outfit spearheaded by singer-songwriter Brian Hull. He toured with them for 7 years recording two CDs in the process. Throughout this time with Meadowlark Jivin on the local CO scene he performed with and opened up for such notable acts like The Temptations, the Four Tops, the Chi-Lites, the Manhattans, WAR, Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Review, Lenny Williams (formerly of Tower of Power), Chelli Minucci and Special EFX, Nelson Rangell and Andrew Woolfolk, former saxophonist of Earth, Wind and Fire. Exum also performs extensively with Denver based group Soul School and Musik Theory. Recently "Sweet Conversations was included in a compliation CD produced by Denver's SmoothJazz.com (formerly WJCD 104.3FM) for the Jazz Garden, a division of the African-American leadership conference in Denver, CO. Exum currently producing his next CD project with his drummer/keyboardist James Roberson and Bassist Kyle Smith.
With a resume this diverse and almost 15 years of live performing experience Tony Exum, Jr. is NOT your average saxophonist or musician for that matter. He is a sign of things to come and promises to bring a fresh voice to the world of jazz. As Independent Records, a Colorado Springs, CO music retailer of 27 years describes, "Exum's display of stellar sax playing just might need a bigger spotlight......" Music fans needs not to be concerned because like Grover Washington Jr's 1982 hit record suggests.The Best Is Yet to Come......................
The Tony Exum Group was formed very informally and very quickly. Quite frankly it was a "SIDE" thing to begin with initially. I put together a group for a local juneteenth celebration. I was a member of a hard working R&B/FUNK cover band called Soul School at the time as had no intentions of leaving that at that time. After the gig, however, the buzz was strong and people started calling. I took the initiative and just started booking some dates. And now well here we are...My bandmates are definitely some of the best in the biz..Andrew Buckner (also a member of Soul School) has played with Danny Serafin and is the most talented soloist anyone could ask for. Kyle Smith is one of the funkiest cats around Denver hands down. He has played with Steve Cole, Kevin Toney, etc. James Roberson the drummer is TOO talented for words. This young gentleman is equally inept on keys and is the sole producer of my new project. His ear for music and his imagination is something to be heard. I feel like James should be a nationally known songwriter/producer and I think he is on his way to that level. On keys, we have Mr H. Bee Boisseau!! This young brother from Richmond, VA is a monster. His vibe, his spontaneity, and his soloing chops are unmistakably unparalleled. Bee has toured with Jackiem Joyner, Jill Scott and is one of the first cats to be called when national smooth jazz acts stop in Denver, CO. Also on keys is the elder statesmen of the group, Lawrence "L.C." Clark. L.C. hails from Queens, NY and has played with Sister Sledge, Bernard Wright etc. L.C. brings a great level of maturity and experience to the Tony Exum Group. These five cats on one stage is just NASTY. I am so proud to play with these gentleman.
I love performing live. I think sometimes the studio is like a litmus test. It gives people an "idea" of what you sound like. But ultimately the live situation makes things more tangible so to speak cause its right there in your face. It the part of music that can never be replaced or overshadowed by things we all do in the studio. I usually play here at home in Colorado in local venues and I contract my service to different "major " acts that come through the state. For example I have worked just recently with Grammy Award Nominee Miki Howard on a private show in Denver. Probably the most special moment for me was performing with my mentor, friend, homie and UNCLE Larry Francis (RIP). He and I played in the horn section for the Chi-Lites back in 2000. It was a special night for me. I was the opening act doing a tribute to one of the greatest musicians of our time, Grover Washington Jr. He had just passed away six months before and I got the gig cause Andrew Woolfolk (formerly of Earth, Wind and Fire) couldnt make the date. I was recommended!!!! and we brought the house DOWN!!!! Later that same night I had to play with the Chi-Lites in the horn section. My uncle was backstage with me and it just so happened we were short an alto player. I usually play all three saxes so I talked him into playing with me. He was scared str8 since it had been a few years since he gigged but he torn it up! As we were playing the "Chi-Lites overture" and the Chi_Lites walked onto the stage the light came on and my family (huge family in CO) didn't know he was playing that night. So when the curtain went up and my grandfather saw us both on that stage it was magical. I have never seen such pride in him until that night. And me and my uncle well we came full circle from me listening and watching him thru out his profesional life to the lessons to being on stage in front of 5,000 people. I will never forget that day. Larry left us a few years back but he is in my heart always.
My influences reflect such a musically divergent range of genre. As far as my "jazz" influences are concerned, I would say Grover Washington Jr, Jeff Lorber, David Sanborn, Bird, Trane, Dexter Gordon, Bobby Watson, Steve Watts of Dotsero, Nelson Rangell, George Howard, Najee, Gerald Albright, Kenny Gorelick, Ronnie Laws, Cannonball Adderly, Jackie Mclean, Brecker, Maceo, and of course my Uncle Larry. Others would include Prince, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, LA Reid and Face, Jaco, Kenny Garrett, Everete Harp, Marcus Miller, P-FUNK, Slave, New Edition, The Jacksons, Jason Atkins, Jackiem Joyner, Dayve Stewart, Armed Green of Musik Theory, Distrakt, Tribe Called Quest, NWA, MURS, Ras Kass, Speed, DJ Quik, Dr. Dre. RZA, George Benson, Logan, Moe ZMD, Pac., etc etc.
I am currently playing on a Keilwerth SX 90 Soprano and AS 640L Pro Model Alto from Saxophone.com. I use Vandoren Reeds exclusively (V16 #3 on alto and Java #3 on soprano). I have just recently started using Hahn Synthetic Reeds #3 also. My mouthpieces have changed recently. I am using an ARB 7* on Alto and Soprano I am using a D8 Bobby Dukoff or a Rico Royal zz. For my ligatures I am using Rovner Lite ligatures on both horns. My microphone setup is a wireless Samson AH-1 mic system.
As Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire replied to me on another site. I would say to tell other indie artists like myself his words: "Measure your success by the people you touch and not by the records you sell"