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Take Five with Tony Hightower

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Meet Tony Hightower

Singer/Songwriter Tony Hightower is taking up the mantle to be a bridge that ushers R&B audiences into Jazz...Real Jazz. With years of experience as a musical performer and actor with familial roots that place him firmly within the music's firmament, Atlanta-native Hightower is still just getting started on this benevolent turn in his journey. And he is bringing a lot of young people with him.

His sophomore project, Legacy, finds Hightower exploring Jazz vocal stylings from a dazzling prism of angles. The 10-song album moves confidently and assuredly from original compositions such as the soulful scat-laced "All to the Good," the seductive Brazilian bossa nova of "Rendezvous" and the tender carnal Jarreau-esque love beg "I Need You" to swingin' covers of Earth, Wind & Fire's classic Skip Scarborough-penned "Can't Hide Love," a mean shuffle boogie groove through Al Green's "Love and Happiness" and a smoldering upright bass accompanied tiptoe through the 1929 Andy Razaf standard "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You" made further famous in 1944 by one of Hightower's greatest and earliest Jazz vocal heroes, Nat "King" Cole. That one'll make the women wiggle.

Your Instruments

Drums, a little bit of keys, and I peck on the bass.

Teachers and/or influences?

Wow, it's such a wide range being that my background is hip hop and r&b, In Jazz I love Nat King Cole, Al Jarreau, Mel Torme, R&B Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Betty Carter, Anita Baker, Nancy Wilson, Freddy Cole, Sarah Vaughan, my Mom -Theresa Hightower is my number one influence -all of these influences make my sound in jazz a little different than the norm.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I was old enough to talk. LOL. Both my mother and father were professional entertainers. I knew this was what I wanted to do. There is not a plan b for me. I've loved performing since my mom took me on stage with her when I was a kid.

Your sound and approach to music.

My sound is a hodge podge of many genres, but the focus is jazz at this juncture in my career. My approach is trying to make records feel like what you experience in my live show.

Your teaching approach—your philosophy when it comes to teaching students

I try to make sure that once you understand breathing and tone, everything else comes from a real place.

Your dream band

An orchestra directed by Quincy Jones much like the work he did with Frank Sinatra.

Road story: Your best or worst experience

Hmm... I can't think of one right now. I guess that a worst experience could be—A few years ago while traveling back home from a promo tour, we got pulled over in a rural town for no apparent reason. Either I or one of my band members was driving, and my A&R at the time was a woman, and she made us switch seats with her because she had a gut feeling that it would not have been a positive outcome for a black male driver to be pulled over late at night in a small southern town. We covertly changed seats, without the officer noticing a thing.

Favorite venue

Church Hills in Atlanta, GA

Your favorite recording in your discography and why

I don't know that I have a favorite, but I love," All Belongs To You"—musicians were telling me that they were looking for it in the Great American Song Book!!!

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

In this jazz genre, I know that it may not be what "jazz" typically looks or sounds like, but that very thing is what I am bringing to the table. I think that I am bringing a different, but fresh and relatable approach to jazz. I hope that the jazz enthusiasts dig it.

Did you know...

I love to roller skate.

The first jazz album I bought was

All Fly Home by Al Jarreau

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

The state of jazz today is that it is evolving and has an expanding fanbase.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

An essential requirement is for jazz connoisseurs to continue to appreciate the music from staple artists, while staying flexible to accept varying approaches from emerging artists.

What is in the near future?

In the near future I am releasing my new single, then my album entitled, Legacy, in November 2021. Legacy is a tribute to both my mother and grandmother.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

My greatest fear when I perform is to lose my voice. I'm serious about protecting my voice especially close to show dates.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"When the Gates Swing Open"

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

I don't have a favorite but I do love to sing and write new songs while in the shower.

By Day

During the day I write, record and rehearse.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be

in another part of the entertainment industry such as working as an A&R, producing and writing for other artists.

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

My Grandfather, because he passed before I got a chance to know him.

What artists have you recorded and/or toured with?

Lionel Richie, Jimmie Jam & Terry Lewis, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Freddie Cole and Gerald Levert.

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