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Axon Radio Releases Naptown Hustle Featuring Paul Brown


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When we approached producer Darren Rahn about guitar players, Paul Brown was at the front of our mind.
—Travis Brant, Drummer / Co-Founder Axon Radio
Two-time Grammy winner Paul Brown and Billboard hitmaker Darren Rahn team up with the Indianapolis duo on “Naptown Hustle,” which began collecting playlist adds this week.

While the video for contemporary jazz group Axon Radio’s new single looks like a modern love letter to their hometown, Indianapolis, the roots of “Naptown Hustle” run nearly one hundred years deep. The duo that makes up Axon Radio, drummer Travis Brant and bassist Cory Carleton, set out to honor Indianapolis’s jazz history by affectionately crafting an instrumental tribute. Building upon the foundation of a taut rhythmic groove, melodies came from the single’s co-writer and producer Darren Rahn, a multi-time Grammy nominee who has architected 27 Billboard No. 1 singles. Electing to go with electric jazz guitar as lead instrumental voice, two-time Grammy winner Paul Brown, a producer of more than sixty number one singles, plies his bluesy, cool jazz touch to the track. Axon Radio’s third single was released this week on the Def Left Ear imprint and became one of the most added singles on the Mediabase chart, scoring an instant add to the SiriusXM Watercolor playlist, and debuting on the iTunes top 40 UK jazz singles chart prior to release.

Back in the 1920s, Indianapolis had a vibrant jazz scene, belying the bucolic city’s sleepy reputation for which the media affectionately coined the nickname “Naptown.” Guitar legend Wes Montgomery was born during that era and carried the mantel proudly when he came of age alongside fellow Indianapolis native and trumpet great Freddie Hubbard.

The “Naptown Hustle” (video) takes viewers on a tour through the streets of Indianapolis, visiting cultural landmarks, hot spots and other historic locales. The mostly black-and-white video has a cosmopolitan look and a neighborhood feel while the track itself has a distinct retro sound.

“When writing 'Naptown Hustle,' we felt the song had a strong seventies vibe. It was written on drums and bass, which is typical of most Axon Radio songs. When producer Darren Rahn heard the track, he expanded on the idea by adding strings and other instrumentation (Rhodes, organ, synths and programming) to the mix. We all wanted a title that represents both our hometown and the seventies vibe so, we added 'Hustle' to the title as a throwback to the seventies dance, The Hustle,” said Brant.

Since Axon Radio’s approach to songwriting is somewhat unique, they often pursue collaborators to illuminate their work. Brant and Carleton reached out to Rahn, being fans of his saxophone playing and songwriting skills. Initially, they weren’t aware that Rahn was also a producer who has a stellar track record.

“We happened to be looking for a new producer so finding out Darren could fill that role made this collaboration a great fit," said Carleton.

“From the start, we wanted guitar to be the lead instrument. Not only does it fit the song's vibe, but it would also serve to differentiate us in a genre that can be heavy with saxophone artists. When we approached Darren about guitar players, Paul Brown was at the front of my mind. Again, as luck would have it, Rahn and Brown have a long-standing work history. Shortly after, Paul was on board and ‘Naptown Hustle’ was complete," said Brant, who has been playing and writing music with Carleton for thirty years.

Before forming Axon Radio, Brant and Carleton performed as a drum and bass duo for a decade, creating an alchemic sound of jazz, funk, and fusion with live looping and interactive audience experiences. They released an experimental jazz fusion EP in 2020 titled Shadow Logic, which highlighted fusion guitarist Oz Noy as soloist. Then the group decided to take a deliberate turn towards making more commercial music, teaming up with contemporary jazz headliners such as nine-time Grammy nominee Gerald Albright and chart-topping saxophonist Michael Lington.

Carleton said, “Our approach to songwriting is fairly unique as every song is written starting with drums and bass. This often makes for an eclectic mix of time signatures, key changes and rhythms. We’ve enlisted top-tier producers and arrangers to help smooth things out.”

Among those producers and arrangers are Bud Harner (Mindi Abair, David Benoit, Keiko Matsui), keyboardist Matt Rohde (Jane’s Addiction, “The Voice”), and now Rahn (Dave Koz, Najee, Blake Aaron).

Axon Radio’s first single, 2021’s “Prom Drama,” featured Albright along with A-list session players Michael Thompson (guitar) and Luis Conte (percussion). Last year, the group spotlighted Lington on “Forklift Judy.” Both singles were accompanied by imaginative videos that contained hidden messages and QR codes to download free music. The band will neither confirm nor deny that they utilized that tactic in the “Naptown Hustle” video.

For more information, please visit axon-radio.com.

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