Will Downing Takes Listeners On A 'Sensual Journey'

"Sensual Journey," Will Downing's ninth album and first for GRP Records, validates the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born singer's assertion that he is a flag-bearer for the jazz-tinged adult R&B . "I feel like

He rightfully considers himself a flag-bearer for the jazz-tinged adult R&B that enjoyed considerable popularity from the mid-'70s through the late '80s via such artists as Al Jarreau, George Benson, Phyllis Hyman, and, later, Anita Baker, Brenda Russell, and Carl Anderson.

"Sensual Journey," Will Downing's ninth album and first for GRP Records, validates the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born singer's assertion. "I feel like I was one of the people from my generation who was handed the baton for this kind of music," he explains. "It's a very strange place to be, because I'm not 'old school.' I'm just trying to pick up the ball and make this music contemporary."

Downing's approach is what GRP hopes will not only satisfy the loyal base he's developed during the past 14 years but expand the audience he fostered with "Pleasures of the Night." That acclaimed 1998 Verve collaboration with saxophonist Gerald Albright spent several weeks atop the Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Due May 7 and featuring production by Downing, longtime musical associates Ronnie Foster and Rex Rideout, VMG labelmate Lee Ritenour, Kashif, and others, "Sensual Journey" is an 11-track set that enables the Grammy Award-nominated Downing to showcase his instantly recognizable vocal style on diverse cuts. These include three tunes Downing co-penned and four carefully selected remakes, such as a superb revamp of the Stevie Wonder- and Susaye Greene-penned "I Can't Help It" featuring Boney James, and a cover of the Main Ingredient's "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely."

Downing is planning a North American summer tour with Albright and Patti Austin. International touring plans are also in the works. And the artist says the opportunity to tour and continue to make albums is not something he takes for granted.

"Times have changed," he reflects. "I think of Luther Vandross as the standard-bearer for adult vocalists, and there aren't many of us around. Musically, I may straddle the fence between R&B and contemporary jazz. I'm just happy with what I've got as an artist and that I'm working with a company that lets me make the kind of music I want to make."

Excerpted from the May 4, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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