I recently had the honor of interviewing the great Saxophonist Gerald Albright for his upcoming Detroit performance at the Aretha Amphitheater. What made this interview special was the fact that Gerald Albright has a chill, respectful vibe, causing us both to immediately relax, where it felt like two musicians just kicking it rather than a formal interview.
Gerald was born on August 13, 1957, in South Central Los Angeles (also known as Watts). To begin, Gerald spoke very highly about his parents Mattie Albright and William Albright, as well as his big brother William Albright Jr. He spoke about was how blessed he was to have such a supportive family growing up and said that they protected him and gave him a warm, loving, focused, disciplined, upbringing with the materials needed to build his personal, spiritual, mental, and musical Foundation.
The soundtrack in the Albright home was filled with the sounds of his mother’s Gospel records, including James Cleveland and Edwin Hawkins, as well as a lot of Motown and James Brown played by his brother, which is how Gerald heard the funky and soulful sounds of saxophonist Maceo Parker (a member of James Brown’s band).
Gerald’s saxophone studies began at the age of nine, during elementary school, where he joined a small combo that continued to into middle and high school, which is where he studied under band directors Frank Harris and Don Dustin at Locke High School. During our conversation, Albright said that the music program was unique under the direction of those two-band directors because the Jazz Band, Marching Band, and other ensembles performed material ranging from R&B, Jazz, Funk, Classical and even a Marching Band arrangement of Earth Wind & Fire! The program was also unique because the band directors had connections within the recording industry of Los Angeles, so students were able to record and make their own albums. Additionally, the program had master classes and workshops from giants in the industry, like Saxophonist and Composer Yusef Lateef.
This inspired Gerald and helped him grow musically, and towards the end of high school Gerald told his father that all he wanted to do was play music and tour. His Father said that he could do whatever he wanted after attending college first, so Albright enrolled at the University of Redlands, majoring in Business Management with a minor in Music. While attending college, Gerald’s saxophone style was heavily influenced as he began to explore the improvisational side of Cannonball Adderley, who was a member of the Miles Davis’ Quintet and a master of Bebop with a soulful, bluesy, and rhythmic sound.
Albright said that he wanted to play soulful, funky, and be able to improve so he built a saxophonist bookshelf, where the bookends are Maceo Parker on the left and Cannonball Adderley on the right, with Earl Bostic, Stanley Turrentine, Ronnie Laws, and Grover Washington Jr. in the middle. Specifically, these are the elements that make up Gerald Albright’s musical cells.
Equipped with a strong family support system, unique musical library, and specific saxophonist library after College, Albright worked as a studio musician with some of the industry’s biggest names like Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, and Quincy Jones. Albright’s first solo album entitled “Just Between Us” was released in 1987, and he has not looked back since, recording solo albums, and appearing on other artist albums to the present day.