Fort Wayne native and smooth jazz saxophonist Kris Brownlee will return to town for a performance at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Calhoun Street Soups, Salads & Spirits, 1915 S. Calhoun St. Cost is $20 per person.
Brownlee, 35, who now lives in Bristol, east of Elkhart, and has signed with Megawave Records, answered a few questions via email. Here's what he said:
Q: What were your musical influences early in life growing up in Fort Wayne?
A: I was a very accomplished DJ at very young age and spent the majority of time listening to R&B and Soul groups like the Whispers, Earth Wind & Fire, Prince, Cameo and Michael Jackson. However, I quickly grew tired of listening to similar music all of the time and was looking to expand my music palette. So my ears perked up when I was turned on to smooth jazz by listening to Kenny G on the radio one morning before school, which lead to my biggest musical influence, Boney James.
Q: What led you to move out of Fort Wayne, and when did you do that?
A: Attending Manchester College, where I obtained two bachelor's degrees (music performance and psychology), led me to move out of Fort Wayne back in 1996. After graduation in 2000, I moved to northern Indiana.
Q: How did you get into playing smooth jazz, and how would you describe that style of music?
A: When I decided to make music my career choice, I knew the style I wanted to perform was smooth jazz, due to my R&B influences. But before that, I studied for years learning the basics of the instrument and studied lots of classical (music) material as well.
I would describe smooth jazz as blend of Latin, pop, R&B, funk and, of course, jazz, which is performed by a lead instrumental player. Though vocal smooth jazz artists exist, they have to be careful not to fall into sounding like an R&B singer that has been reclassified.
Q: You released a CD earlier this year. What was involved in making it happen, and what will people hear when they listen to it?
A: My new CD, “Sincerely Yours,” involved a lot of studio work that took place over the course of two years, and even a couple of trips out to Arizona to work with Grammy Award-winning producer Michael Broening and Michigan to work with producer Jeff Keefer. I was also able to work with other top-notch talent like Cindy Bradley, Gabriela Anders and Jay Soto as featured special guests.
As people listen and read the liner notes, they will notice I played the majority of the instruments myself and also served as songwriter, producer and studio engineer. The feel and sound of the album is a little bit of a throwback to vintage smooth jazz with a modern twist, filled with lush harmonies and accented grooves.
Q: Tell us about your live show here Friday. What can people expect to see and hear?
A: For this show, Andrew Hauser, Chris Chapman and Jeff Keefer will be joining me on stage. I will be performing 10 of my new songs from the CD. Audiences can also expect to see great interaction between the band and a special rare appearance of me performing “live” on guitar, which is something I haven't done for two years. These days, I usually stick to playing saxophone, unless I'm in the studio.