Performing Arts: Actor/Actress, Music
When a person wants to hear fresh music after not hearing it for a while, the first thing out of one’s mouth is finally! Tony Exum, Jr. felt much the same in releasing his debut album of that name. Born in Colorado Springs, CO, and growing up between the Springs, Germany, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Exum’s musical interests were started by his uncle, Larry Francis, Jr., also a saxophonist who had played in the Ft. Carson, CO army bands, and his mother’s vast record collection, which featured such jazz heavyweights as Jeff Lorber, George Howard, Charlie Parker, and Najee, to name a few. His interest sufficiently piqued, Exum entered the prestigious Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver, and began his tutelage under the world-renowned M. Lynn Baker, M.A. and Art Bouton, M.A.
In 1996, Exum joined with Meadowlark Jivin’, a funk-filled jazz/blues/soul group local to Ft. Collins, CO, spearheaded by Brian Hull, and toured and recorded with them for 7 years. Throughout it all, Exum stepped out on his own within the Colorado music scene and soon found himself opening for and performing with such notables as the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Manhattans, Chieli Minucci & Special EFX, Nelson Rangell, Marion Meadows, and many others. Exum’s debut album, aptly titled, "Finally!" is an example in arranging. He effortlessly blends his saxes with R&B, soul, and funk flavors, complimenting his own composition skills with the production work of keyboardist/drummer James Roberson. Contemplative with "Thinking Of You," sharp and funky with "Give it To Me," and sleek R&B-tinged "Music In Me" serve as proof positive to Exum’s versatility.
Tony Exum, Jr. still resides in Colorado Springs, CO, routinely travels to both perform at and attend jazz festivals, and released "Finally!" in May of 2010. The album is available via Amazon.com, CDBaby.com and iTunes.
Review: "When it comes to saxophones, I’m picky enough as it is, and when I get a new album by a saxman, I always take the tack of “show me what you got.” Tony Exum, Jr. delivers a strong, R&B-heavy debut, and as far as smooth jazz saxes go, this is an album that is relaxing and, at the same time, intricate enough to make you rewind and listen twice. Listening particularly to "Don’t Worry About a Thang," one will be pleasantly surprised. The Grover influence is clearly heard through Exum’s soprano, and the electric guitar-and-keyboard bridge adds a refreshing feel to the track overall. "T.E. Heartbreak" gives off an impression as though this could be the quintessential “smooth jazz radio” cut, but the R&B gives it an extra bit of juice. Strong R&B rhythms all over, and an excellent backing band bring Exum’s saxesforward. Exum, however, makes it shine. Another excellent track that showcases Exum’s prowess as a composer is "Sweet Conversations." This one satisfies even someone as picky as myself. The album overall shows that Exum is a phenomenal arranger. He has a very clear idea of the sound that he wants to develop and evolve, and this debut album attests clearly to the fact. I look forward to seeing how Tony Exum, Jr. will follow up this debut. K.G."