EDDIE BACCUS JR. BIO
After 15 years of recording and touring with famed urban jazz ensemble Pieces of a Dream, saxophonist Eddie Baccus, Jr. stepped out on a lush, soulful and funky Journey To Love, his independent debut album. Though it has been extraordinarily well received, Baccus is excited about a remixed and remastered version of the collection, which also features three new songs. The Cleveland born and raised, Virginia based artist will be releasing the revamped version as part of a package with his soon to be released follow-up album whose title perfectly reflects Baccus’ life and career as he reflects on the last 20 years and looks forward to the future: Living The Dream.
Baccus is currently putting the finishing touches on the new album, which will feature jazz greats like keyboardist Russell Ferrante of the Yellowjackets, fellow saxmen Eric Marienthal and Elan Trotman, blues guitarist Robben Ford and a special guest appearance by Baccus’ father, organist Eddie Baccus, Sr., whose legendary resume includes stints with jazz legends Sonny Stitt, a young George Benson and Gene Ammons. Some of the new production touches Baccus has put on the new edition of Journey to Love include live drums throughout and live horns (featuring trumpeter Greg Boyer, who has played with Prince) on the Grover Washington, Jr. dedication “You’ll Be Remembered Always.” Brand new tracks include the nostalgic jazz song “Central Park”, the old school R&B tune “A Night To Remember” and a soon to be determined contemporary R&B hit.
Like his hero Grover, Baccus switches artfully between soprano, alto and tenor, and on Living the Dream is also playing baritone sax and EWI. Since leaving Pieces of a Dream, he has been recording and performing live with his band Straight to the Point, a powerful group of musicians who live in the Beltway region (Maryland and Northern Virginia) and are “the best guys I’ve ever played with in my life.” His music is driven by the simple desire to connect with audience: “I always want to make music that is fun but that is also timeless and heartfelt. The story of the song ‘Journey To Love’ sums up how I feel perfectly. I wrote it four or five years ago and the first time I played it for an audience was on tour in Mozambique with Pieces. I hadn’t even recorded it yet the people there clapped along and were moved by it so deeply. That’s exactly what I want to achieve each time I perform, to touch people through my music and make a difference in their lives with songs move the soul. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to share a new version of my first album with those who haven’t heard it as well as a new project I have put my heart and soul into.”
As a touring member of Pieces of a Dream for a decade and a half, Baccus had the opportunity to perform with and alongside a virtual who’s who in the traditional jazz, urban jazz and R&B words: Luther Vandross, Jeffrey Osborne, War, Candy Dulfer, Rick Braun, Grover Washington, Jr., George Duke, Bobby Watson, Greg Abate, Lester Bowie, EWF (Earth, Wind and Fire), Regina Carter, Dianne Reeves, Vesta Williams, Norman Conners, India Arie, George Benson, Miki Howard, Jean Carne, David Sanborn, Will Downing, Phil Perry, Najee, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Marcus Belgrave, Benny Golson, Bobby Lyle, Jeff Lorber, Ricky Lawson, Aaron Graves (Piano “Little Jimmy Scott”), Lenny Castro, Lil’ John Roberts, Phil Davis, Chris Coleman, Andre Gouche’, Giovanni Hildago, Eric Marienthal, James Carter, Curtis Fuller, Regina Belle, Rachelle Farrell, Ronny Jordan, Rhonda Smith (Prince’s Bass Player), Gerald Veasley, Average White Band, Stevie Wonder, Peter White and Walter Beasley.
With his own band Straight to the Point, he has established a strong presence in the Beltway region via shows at venues like Proud Mary’s in Ft. Washington, Maryland, the Fish Market in Clinton, Maryland and numerous private functions. The band has performed with singer Vesta at the awards ceremony for the annual “100 Black Men” event and has toured behind Angela Bofill and Frank McComb. With the release of the Journey To Love/Living the Dream package, Baccus will be embarking on his first solo tour in 2013.
Though Baccus is taking a more organic approach to re-recording the tracks on the new version of Journey to Love, the vibe, grooves and melodies of the original recordings endures. The opening title track is a dreamy, easy grooving “in the pocket” soprano ballad, a swaying romance that gives way to the adventurous; improvisation filled jazz fusion of “Far Far Away”, which also features a lead soprano voice. The eloquent late night ballad “I Adore You” opens the door for a morning full of simmering old school easy funk on “Checkmate”, which features snazzy soprano doubling and a crisp electric guitar solo. The Grover tribute “You’ll Be Remembered Always” is a balmy and breezy slice of tropical flavored whimsy, highlighted by Baccus’ wistful soprano and a strumming acoustic guitar. Other highlights include “Keep It Movin,’” with Baccus’ lighthearted soprano dancing over a clapping pocket funk groove; the gospel and blues tinged “L.T.’s Groove” (featuring organ and EWI), the buoyant old school soul-jazz jam “On The Up and Up”; and the sparsely arranged, slightly traditional jazz leaning “San Antonio Dreams.”
FROM THE BEGINNING
Eddie Baccus Jr. began playing oboe in high school under the tutelage of John Zipay, then switched to sax after returning from vacation to find the student he loaned it to had broken the original instrument. After graduating from John Hay High School, he attended Berklee College of Music’s five-week summer program, during which he received a full scholarship. Baccus then went to New York, where he performed at the world famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem and studied with acclaimed saxophonist Joe Lovano. Returning home, he volunteered for a year at the Cleveland School of the Arts.
Baccus launched his professional career touring with a play called “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, directed by David Payton, and touring with world-renowned trumpeter Lester Bowie. He then began his most renowned association with Pieces of a Dream, a 15 year stint that included Baccus recording on eight recordings, including Ahead To The Past, Acquainted With The Night, Soulful Embrace Vol. 1 & 2, Love’s Silhouette, No Assembly Required and Pillow Talk. Over the years, he contributed numerous of his own compositions to these projects. He also appears on two Shanachie Records compilations, Touch Me In The Morning and Smooth Jazz Does Motown’s Greatest Love Songs.
In recent years, he attended UDC (University of the District of Columbia) on scholarship and played in the big band at the production of “Sophisticated Ladies” at The Historic Lincoln Theater in DC in 2010.
“Fifteen years making joyful noise around the world with Pieces of a Dream would be enough for some talented saxmen to call it a career – but for versatile saxophonist Eddie Baccus, Jr., that was just a warm-up for what he’s doing as a solo artist and the big plans he is making with his new band. The original version of Journey to Love was a vibrant showcase for his work on soprano and other saxes, showing off a smooth silky side on the in the pocket tunes but also getting more aggressive with more traditional jazz improvisations. Though he struck the perfect balance, Baccus is taking the tremendous step of stripping these songs down and recording them more organically for a highly anticipated re-release. Not many artists will do this kind of in depth in revisiting previously recorded material, but it reveals the powerful love that Baccus has for his music and his fans. The new project sounds exciting as well, and its title says it all about what he’s doing since Pieces: Living the Dream. –Jonathan Widran
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