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  • Smooth Jazz Network

Randy Scott: Behind the Beats

Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week, an extended interview with Randy Scott. Voted 2020's Breakout Artist of the Year, he's got a new single, "Affection," on the way!

You have recorded 7 solo albums and your latest “Elevation” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Chart. Congratulations on a truly “Breakout” year!

I first want to thank you so very much for selecting me to be interviewed. You’ve come in contact with so many amazing musicians; many of whom are my music superheroes. So, I’m very honored to have been chosen for this interview.

I am so incredibly grateful for the success of this latest album. I’ve played on several records that have had significant success, but I’ve never had one of my own to reach that #1 spot. When I received the call from the record label, the best word for me to describe how I felt after receiving the news is “grateful”! …Grateful to the label for believing in me, grateful to radio for playing it, grateful to listeners for digging it, and grateful to God for the journey after 7 solo albums.”

We have played your tunes on smooth jazz radio for several years now. “Joyride” was your highest charting tune, hitting #1 on our Smooth Jazz Top 20 chart. Tell us more about the tune and what went into it.

’Joyride’ was written and produced by the amazing Michael Broening, who literally has the “Midas-touch”! Everything that Mike does is a hit; simply put. He has a knack for musically connecting with every artist he produces and allowing them to be themselves. My dear friend and mentor was the late Grover Washington, Jr. who I miss dearly. I met him when I was 12 years old, and we remained good friends until his passing. “Joyride” has every hint of Grover, and Mike was responsible for that. That track also includes the incredible Mel Brown on bass and the ever so funky, Freddie Fox on guitar. After Mike had the basic layout of the song, he emailed it to me and I made it “me” by interpreting it in my own way and adding a background horn arrangement to it. Then, Mike sent it Mel, and Mel Brown did what Mel Brown does! Lol!!! Mel’s interpretation of every song he plays on takes them to the next level! Mike then added a bit more “ear-candy” and then topped it off with Freddie Fox, whose guitar playing is both tasteful and funky. Each of these amazing musicians took this track to a place of pure joy, and what better place to listen than in the car while cruising on a sunny day. …hence the title; ‘Joyride’.

Tell us about your experience with the Gospel Wow projects.

It’s funny how my quest to be a jazz artist began with deep roots in studying classical saxophone and gaining soulfulness by playing gospel music in church. It was my gospel roots that eventually led to me working with Grammy award winning singer/producer, Fred Hammond. I am very grateful that Fred had me do horn section work on the Kirk Franklin Nu Nation record, which went double platinum. My work on that record caught the attention of another Grammy award winning gospel legend named, Rance Allen. As a result, Rance hired me to do horn arrangements for 3 songs on the Rance Allen Group “All The Way” album. One of those songs was a Billboard #1 and was placed on one of the Wow Gospel compilation CDs that earned a Gold & Platinum Record for reaching 1 million sales. Wow Gospel is a compilation series featuring Billboard #1s from various gospel stars each year. I was also hired to complete a horn arrangement for gospel great, Vickie Winans on a song called, “How I Got Over”. That song was also placed on a Wow Gospel record, which earned a Gold record.

Tell us about some of your musical influences.

My biggest musical influence was my friend and mentor, Grover Washington, Jr. He advised me to focus on my classical playing in order to improve my tone and technique. I had a scholarship to Berkley (in Boston), but Grover encouraged me to take advantage of my classical scholarship at Michigan State University. He helped me with that decision. I am also heavily influenced by the great Kirk Whalum who I believe is one of the most versatile and emotional players ever. Lately, my studies have revolved around John Coltrane, who I’m amazed by every time I listen to his recordings. Despite naming just a few of my influences, there are so many more; many of whom are vocalist and masters of other instruments.

What would be your dream collaboration with any artist living or not?

Some of my dream collaborations would be with Grover Washington, Kirk Whalum, Stevie Wonder, Jonathan Butler and/or H.E.R. (my new favorite R&B artist). I did have the opportunity to produce a song for Tim Bowman that Kirk played on, which was a thrill!

Tell us about the Detroit area music scene and who you have collaborated with.

Many people may not know that I am originally from Baltimore, Maryland, and I also lived just outside of Philadelphia for 10 years. After attending Michigan State, I ended up staying just outside of Detroit. What I’ve learned in living in each of those places is that the “vibe” of the music varies a bit and is strong! Musicians in Detroit have a musical feel that is not only unique, but very soulful and undeniably great. After college, I worked for mega-producer, Michael Powell who is responsible for most of Anita Baker’s hit songs, as well as hits for countless other artists. I learned so much from him as a producer, as well as a recording artist. I’ve also been very fortunate to have collaborated often with my friend and label mate, Lin Rountree, and I’ve been a member of Tim Bowman’s band for the past 15 years. Tim has been a dear friend and mentor, and I’ve collaborated with him more times than I can remember.

You are also a successful producer…

I used to work for a few advertising agencies producing commercials for radio and television. That fast pace world of 30 to 60 second jingles gave me a huge education as a producer, and eventually led to me producing for local rappers and vocalists. I couldn’t afford to hire anyone to produce my solo records, so I produced my own projects as well. I got better with each project and was a sponge as I learned from great producers like Michael Powell and Fred Hammond. I was very grateful to have had the opportunity to produce 9 songs on Tim Bowman’s self-titled 2008 album, which went to #1 on Billboard. I also had the pleasure of producing 4 songs on Vickie Winans, “Woman to Woman” album, as well as many other records for various artists across different music genres.

I see that you are also a band director at a public school.

I’ve taught instrumental music in the Southfield Public School district for the past 26 years. Despite having taught on every level (from Kindergarten through college), I have a passion for teaching middle school. Middle school students are not so young that you have to “baby” them, and they’re not so old that you can’t influence them. They are also very “real” and brutally honest! Lol! The best part of teaching music for me is taking students who have no idea what a note is (or even what instrument they’d like to play) to winning national music competitions within a year or two. My middle school bands have won first place in national competitions for the past 23 years, and have beaten as many as 15 high school bands at each competition. Factoring in that many of these students are underprivileged and even homeless, makes it even more gratifying.

How have you been coping with COVID?

My wife is a doctor and has been on the front lines during this pandemic. So, I have a unique perspective and an even greater appreciation for frontline workers/heroes. I understand that this ordeal has taken so much from all of us, but for many of us it’s given time to slow down a bit. It’s given me time with my family, time to practice, time to write music and time to reflect on what is truly important and what is not. Aside from the occasional cabin-fever and Zoom burnout, I am extremely blessed and equally grateful.

Anything else I have missed that you’d like to cover?

It’s important for me to note that everything good that has happened to and for me is a direct result of my faith and relationship with God. I am so very grateful for the journey; complete with all of the bumps, bruises and stumbles. There are so many who are more deserving of the success I’ve seen... Nevertheless, I have such gratitude for those who thought enough of me to give me such amazing opportunities and accolades.

Thanks again for having me do this interview for BEATS. It’s been a blessing and an honor to share my story with you.

Learn more about Randy Scott on his website.

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