Jazz pianist Alex Bugnon has been a prolific, energetic force on the contemporary music scene for more than two decades. A renowned musician/composer/bandleader, Bugnon hales from the picturesque town of Montreux, Switzerland – site of the world famous Jazz Festival. No doubt, the annual convergence in his hometown and in his own home, of some of music’s most illustrious names played a role in his decision to pursue a musical career, as did his early friendship with Herbie Hancock. The fact that his uncle was the legendary Donald Byrd only served to further his decision.
Bugnon left Montreux to continue his training at a music conservatory in Paris before landing in Boston to further hone his skills at the famed Berklee School of Music. It was here in the U.S. that his exposure to a diversity of musical styles – from R&B to gospel and funk, began to shape and influence his personal sound. He toured the south playing with Gospel Leviticus and after graduation from Berklee, had the opportunity to play in bands backing R&B greats Patti Austin & James Ingram, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson and Keith Sweat. In between gigs he drove cabs and taught French at the Berlitz School as a means to support his musical career. But it would be his encounter with saxophonist Najee that would ultimately turn the tide for him. Signed to Orpheus Records, Najee would make the introduction that would result in Alex’s first recording contract.
His first album, Love Season (1989), with the fledgling record label, catapulted the virtual unknown to prominence and set him on his musical course. The album rocketed to number 2 on the R&B charts and was nominated for best jazz album at the Soul Train Awards. In 1991 Alex released his second album for Orpheus, Head Over Heels and like the first, it became a chart topper cementing his position as a radio and fan favorite on the R&B and smooth jazz circuit, earning him Black Radio Exclusive’s, Best New Artist Award.
It was no coincidence that Alex was embraced by an R&B/soul audience, after all his love of music was rooted in an appreciation and understanding of classic jazz and soul-based artists, “from Memphis Slim and Bill Evans, to Herbie Hancock, Thelonius Monk, Art Blakey and Earth, Wind and Fire.” This was his inspiration and it easily translated into his own compositions and in his delivery of the standards.