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Aaron Akins: Thinking Love

Esther Berlanga-Ryan By

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Aaron AkinsAaron Akins' music is something out of the ordinary. After all, a certain reminiscence of the voice of Nat "King" Cole wrapped up in the arms of a sophisticated Urban beat is not something heard every day.

Jazz is an alive music. Its rawness leaves an open door for pure artistry to grow and develop at its own speed; and whether it is under the influence of Urban music, a rather elegant hip hop vibe, or a classic vocal jazz spell, ultimately all that's asked for is some good music to talk to the heart. Stir and jazz it up, and Aaron Akins might be it. Produced by Darryl Swann (Macy Gray), the singer's second studio album Love is All Around (Vintrix Entertainment, 2009) combines the tradition of the Great American Songbook—with songs like "Mona Lisa," "Let There be Love" and "Nature Boy" absolutely reinvented and somewhat perfected under a brand new light—with house compositions like "God Made Women Beautiful," "I'm Nothin' -If It Wasn't for You" and "I Just Wanna Luv U," where Akins pours out a heart filled with love and positiveness, and brings a smile to the face.

Any artist's level of creativity can usually be measured by an ability to create something unique and brilliantly different. Being an artist and being creative is not the same thing. When Akins envisioned a song like "Mona Lisa" performed with a twist of hip hop, he may have not been aware that a new concept in music was about to be acknowledged. The late Carole Cole and Capitol Records felt the magic, and the tribute to Nat "King" Cole, Nat "King" Cole, Re: Generations (King Cole Partners, EMI/Capitol, 2009), was born, with Aaron Akins' name listed on the "everlasting thanks" of the liner notes. The album features Nat "King" Cole with the voices of Cee-Lo Green, will.i.am, Natalie Cole and Nas, among others, where jazz meets a grownup great-grandson named hip hop. Just like Akins felt it should be.

A brilliant songwriter for Kurt Farquhar's True Music company (Burn Notice, King of Queens, Lost, Lincoln Heights), and a vocalist of impeccable taste, Akins' voice is a prodigy of sensuality and elegance. Somewhere between Al Jarreau, Nat "King" Cole and Johnny Mathis, Akins creates a voice for a musically mature 21st century. Put Urban, jazz, Nu-Jazz and Neo-Soul together in the same room and you've got an artist named Aaron Akins.

All About Jazz: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Aaron Akins: I am someone who has loved music for as long as I can remember. I am a middle child that comes from a large, loving family. I am excited about the possibilities of helping my family remember what it means to be a human being. I am someone who chooses a lot of laughter, joy and happiness, and as a result I experience a lot of laughter, joy and happiness.

AAJ: How would you describe your music?

AA: I would describe my music as a blend of jazz, Urban and R&B. But my music is ever-expanding and evolving. I am perfectly capable of doing a classic jazz set, a pop set or an R&B set. I also write in various genres.

AAJ: What is music to you?

AA: Music is something that is pleasing to the ear. It has the ability to heal. I simply couldn't imagine a world without music. Music is soothing medicine to my soul.

AAJ: What is jazz to you?

AA: Jazz to me is a style of music that gives the artist the foundation to be creative. Music is something that the artist gets to be creative with, and that is what jazz does.

AAJ: Tell me a little bit about your beginnings.

AA: I was born and raised in Chicago, and as a kid I was truly involved in sports. I was the captain of my high school basketball team. I also played a bit in college in the very beginning. When I was nine years old, I was singing outside, in front of my house, and a famous singing group that lived across the street called me over because they heard I could sing. I went over and sang with them, and thought nothing of it until many years later. I really didn't sing much at all in high school, just for fun. But when I got to college, I had to declare my major, and I decided to major in music. In college I formed my first band along with Darryl Jones, who was snatched out of that band by Miles Davis, and went on to play for Sting and now plays for The Rolling Stones.

Immediately after completing college I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my music career. While in L.A. in the early years, I got into acting as a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and worked with people like Gene Hackman, Bernadette Peters, Tyne Daly and others, always performing at night and perfecting my craft. I went on to perform at some of the largest venues around the world, like the North Sea Jazz Festival.

AAJ: What is the main difference between Chicago and L.A., as an artist?

AA: L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world, so there is the possibility of more opportunity for an artist, but by the same token, Chicago is a very big blues town, so depending on your style and what you are into, the difference would be if you want to pursue acting, you would have to be more in Los Angeles, but if you are more into blues and jazz, you would be more productive in Chicago. In my opinion, as an artist, I don't think there is a difference between both of them as far as how I interact with what's around me. Whatever I bring to the table as an artist, I bring it wherever I go. So, wherever I am, however I am being at the time, that is how I create whatever I am creating, whether it's in Los Angeles or Chicago. It's important to say that whatever I am being while I'm doing what I'm doing will determine what I create, whether I am in Chicago or Los Angeles.

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