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Will Downing – “Tick Tock”

December 11, 2009

I love Will Downing’s sultry, smooth voice – a musical blend of Luther Vandross  and Issac Hayes comes to mind.  

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Downing enrolled in the famed performing arts high school Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York. The high school had one of the strongest performing arts programs in the city and included among its alumni singers Barbra Streisand and Stephanie Mills, and record company executives Clive Davis, who founded Arista Records, and Kedar Massenburg, who later became president of Motown Records. Downing, who eventually recorded for Motown, graduated with Massenburg in the class of 1981. Downing then attended college at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. In the mid-1980s he moved back to New York City worked on albums by Jennifer Holiday, Kool & the Gang, sax maestro Gerald Albright, Billy Ocean, Regina Belle, Mica Paris and others. Later he went onto singing with Arthur Baker’s group, Wally Jump Junior, Downing then used Baker as a producer after he signed with Island Records.

In 1988 Downing signed a recording contract with 4th & Broadway Records, and his first solo album, Will Downing, was released that same year. The critics singled out Downing’s version of the John Coltrane classic jazz piece A Love Supreme as one of its highlights. It reached No. 4 on the Billboard Charts, Downing stayed with 4th & Broadway for just one album and switched to Island Records for his second release, Come Together As One, in 1989. Like his first album, Come Together As One was a pop- and dance-oriented collection of R&B songs that also reflected Downing’s love of jazz.

Switching labels to Mercury Records for his fourth outing, 1993’s Love’s the Place to Be, Downing scored his best-selling album to date with about 235,000 copies sold in the United States and over 300,000 copies in Great Britain. He remained with Mercury for two more albums, Moods in 1995 and Invitation Only in 1997, both of which sold well to Downing’s core fan base. The CD All the Man You Need received a Grammy Awards nomination for Best Traditional R&B Album in 2000.

In 2002 he received the International Association of African-American Music Diamond Award.

Since December 2006 Will has been suffering with a muscle disorder called polymyositis that has left him unable to walk and confined to a wheel chair.

On April 22, Will Downing – “the prince of sophisticated soul” – began a series of one-on-one speaking engagements / listening parties in various markets throughout the U.S. The events marked his first public appearances since being diagnosed with polymyositis at the end of 2006. Downing sat down for intimate conversations in which he discussed his current illness, his faith and family’s support, his musical career (including his new CD, After Tonight), and his exciting upcoming touring plans. A meet and greet closed out each evening.

In conjunction with Peak Records, local chapters of prominent African American organizations were invited to co-promote these fundraising events. Proceeds benefitted the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Corporate sponsors / partners for the speaking engagements / listening events include: Ambassador Magazine, EUR Web.com, Heart & Soul Magazine, Soul Music.com, Soul Tracks.com, The Urban Music Scene.com and WHUR.

Downing has been making milestone strides on personal and musical fronts. Thanks to hard work, faith and family, Will has made miraculous progress in his battle with the muscle disease Polymyositis. Where at one point he was not able to lift his head, let alone leave his bed without assistance, Will is now able to get up and walk on his own with the aid of a walker – a major development!

Will’s latest album After Tonight – his first for Peak Records and thirteenth overall – is his fastest selling to date since its October 2007 release, and will continue to do so with the release to Urban AC radio of its second single, “Fantasy (Spending Time With You)” – a Corvette cool love man’s groove produced by Rex Rideout and featuring the soulful guitar of Randy Bowland. In addition, Will just recorded a performance to be featured on saxophonist Gerald Albright’s June 24-slated salute to Stax Records project, Sax for Stax, singing a version of “Never Can Say Goodbye” inspired by the classic 1971 rendition from Isaac Hayes’ seminal double-album, Black Moses. Plus Will is optimistically pushing himself to be ready for a concert tour by fall of 2008!

Chalk it all up to the sheer “Force of Will” of a man who refuses to let adversity keep him from living the life he intends to live. “My doctors gave me a very accurate diagnosis,” Downing shares in regards to Polymyositis. “They said that for a year I was going to ‘catch hell,’ but after that I’d be able to do things that I wasn’t able to do before. And sure enough, within a month after the first year, I was able to get up. And every week after that, I could do something else I wasn’t able to do.”

“For a minute, I thought my new title was going to have to be The ‘Ironside’ of Soul,” Will concludes in characteristic good humor, referring to the wheelchair-using TV detective of old. “But through the grace of God, my wife, daughter, family and friends, every day I get closer to the Will I really am. It’s been an enlightening experience…”

Will makes his debut back to the stage on July 26, 2008 and the LA Jazz and Musical Festival.

New album release date is 16 June 2009 entitled “classique”

Resent write up on soultracks.com

Will DowningTaking his inspiration from the French term Classique – an author, artist or work of art, of the highest excellence – Will Downing returns with his 14th collection of sensual grooves and true love primers. Classique is his second album for Peak Records (in stores June 16 via the Concord Music Group) and a triumphant encore presentation following the challenges he faced creating his Peak debut, After Tonight (recorded while battling the muscle disorder Polymyositis). Back in top form, Downing’s sensitive touch is felt throughout the project – singing, writing, arranging and producing, the latter mostly in collaboration with his dear friend and much-in-demand ace Rex Rideout.

Highlights of Classique include the hypnotic tick-tock pulse of “More Time” (a recurring theme of Will’s regarding finding more hours in the day for love), the feel-good summer groove “Something Special” and what will surely become this album’s top contribution to his personal best canon “I Won’t Stop,” a passionate backbeat driven declaration of eternal love. He waxes especially spicy on the clever “Just Think About It” and in the sexy vocal he shares with singer Sherrida on the funky call and response breakdown of “Love Suggestions.”

As always, Downing respectfully dips back into the timeless wax of old for three numbers. Interestingly, all three of them are songs originally made famous by three legendary gentlemen of Soul. The first is “Baby, I’m For Real,” a monumental 5-weeks-at-#1 smash first penned, produced and arranged by Marvin Gaye in 1969 for his favorite Motown vocal quartet, The Originals. Will recaptures that group vibe by sharing the mic with Phil Perry, whose powerful tenor and trademark falsetto flights play dynamically against his own smooth baritone. Perry, who was a member of just such a singing group called The Montclairs, taps into that experience with overdubbed harmonies. Next is a stroll through Barry White’s very first hit from 1973, “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby,” Will’s version of which also recently graced the Rideout-produced compilation The Strength of a Woman (in support of breast cancer research for African American women). Finally there’s Will’s version of original Temptations lead tenor David Ruffin’s 1976 solo masterpiece “Statue of a Fool” (a.k.a. “Name It After Me”), a cover of the 1969 Jack Greene country classic that is among Ruffin’s most poignant recordings. Will tenderly delivers the evocative lyric as well as the heavenly backing harmonies for a rendition that goes straight to the heart.

Beyond the music, Downing is a conscientious humanitarian, proven by his role as a spokesperson for the American Stroke Association which has become even more important to him in the wake of prominent victims such as Luther Vandross, Ron Isley and Coretta Scott King. Whenever possible on tour, Downing conducts the charity bowling event “Strike Against Stroke” to raise funds towards greater stroke awareness and education in the African American community, which is disproportionately affected. The American Heart Association awarded Mr. Downing for his efforts, honoring him as a Celebrity Ambassador in their Power to End Stroke national campaign. Off the road, Will indulged his love for photography by self-publishing the 2005 coffee table book Unveiled Series I, and relishes his ultimate life roles of loving husband and father.

Classique is quintessential Will Downing from start to finish…a quiet but emphatic statement on the strength and confidence this Brooklyn native has garnered as he celebrates his 20th anniversary as “The Prince of Sophisticated Soul” – a career in which the man and his artistry have been recognized for excellence from NARAS to the NAACP.

From Wikipedia

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