Take Five with Aaron Akins

Aaron Akins By

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Aaron Akins' music is something out of the ordinary. After all, a voice strongly reminiscent of Nat "King" Cole wrapped up in a sophisticated urban beat is not something heard every day.

Stir the ingredients, jazz it up a little, and Aaron Akins might be it. Produced by Darryl Swann (Macy Gray), the singer's second studio album Love is All Around combines the tradition of Great American Songbook. Songs like "Mona Lisa," "Let There be Love" and "Nature Boy" were absolutely reinvented and performed in a brand new light. In his own compositions like "God Made Women Beautiful," "I'm Nothing-If It Wasn't For You" and "I Just Wanna Luv U," Akins pours out a heart filled with love and positive vibes, bringing a knowing, appreciative smile to the listener's face.

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), was born, with Aaron Akins given "everlasting thanks" in the liner notes. The album, which features Nat King Cole with the voices of Cee-Lo Green, will.i.am, Natalie Cole and Nas, among others, is where jazz meets a grownup great-grandson named hip hop. Just like Akins believed it should be.

Teachers and influences:
My parents and my teachers were the biggest influences on becoming the person I am today. Nat King Cole and many other artists have all had a strong impact on my development as an artist.

I knew I wanted:
When I heard a singing group who lived across the street from me in Chicago called "Heaven and Earth." They asked me to sing for them, telling me I could sing when I was only nine years old. I didn't start singing professionally, however, until I declared my major in college.

Your Teaching approach:
The first thing I look for when I begin to teach is passion. I believe someone needs to have a passion for singing in order to be a good singer. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to stop doing music some time down the road. It is very difficult to sustain any career unless you have passion for it.

Your dream band:
There are a lot of masterful musicians but I can tell you a dream band I would like: Joe Sample, keyboards; Steve Gadd, drums; Marcus Miller, bass; and Eric Clapton, guitar.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
I was touring with an all Indonesian band and I was the front man. We were in Holland at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the musicians didn't speak English well and I sure didn't speak Indonesian. Not surprisingly, we really didn't want to hang out with each other. So I headed out in town to meet some Americans and ran into these black guys that looked just like me with clothes like they were from Los Angeles. I went up to them and said: "Finally I meet some people from the States," and when they opened their mouths to talk I couldn't understand a word they were saying because they spoke Dutch. Imagine my surprise!

Another great story was, one day I was walking down the street with my good buddy Darryl Phinnessee (Michael Jackson's This Is It) and he asked me if I would like to sing for the Pope, John Paul II (1999) and the next thing I knew I was flying to the Vatican to sing for the Pope. It remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Favorite venue:
Joe's Pub in Manhattan. Just really enjoyed the sound system and the vibe. There are so many great names that have played there and you can almost feel their presence. A truly special place.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
My first album called Into the Cole, produced by Darryl Phinnessee, with great players like Lance Morrison on bass, Bill Steinway, on keyboards, Darryl Grone on guitar, Michael Thompson on keyboards.

Also, another song I wrote which is on my second album, produced by Darryl Swann (Macy Gray), entitled God Made Women Beautiful. I love it because it just such a meaningful song to me.

First jazz album I bought:
Michael Franks' Tiger in the Rain.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
I think the most important thing I am contributing musically is with my song "God Made Women Beautiful." Just to remind women they are beautiful just by the nature of who they are!

Did you know...?
I have numerous very close friends (one being a professional comedian) that for decades have told me that I'm funnier than most comedians they know.

CD's you are listening to now:
I'm listening to an album that was released after Michael Jackson's death called Xscape. I absolutely love it!!!

Desert Island picks:
Nat King Cole, Michael Franks, Miles Davis, Al Jarreau...

How would you describe the state of Jazz today?
I wish everything went back to the 40's type classic jazz like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, when music had meaningful words and classic melodies.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and going? I think more people should go out and see and hear jazz instead of everyone trying to listen to everything on the internet. There is nothing like the connection with the artist and his audience!

What is in the near future?
I'm enjoying exposing as many audiences as possible to my solo performance which I wrote about Nat King Cole. I'm continuing to sing my original songs which includes "God Made Women Beautiful," and just want to continue to remind women all over the world that they are beautiful because they are gift from God!

What song would you like played at your funeral?
My song: "God Made Women Beautiful."

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
"Mona Lisa" by Nat King Cole

By day!
I am going to continue to get to know myself.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
A welder, like my father.

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