New Album Review: Will Sumner
Artist: Will Sumner Album: Meadowlark Release 2023 Will Sumner's latest release Meadowlark on Guitar One Records is his tenth in a long line of fantastic releases dating back over 40 years. All of which have been extremely well-received by the smooth jazz scene and are still getting airplay today on radio. Born in Los Angeles, attending college for music in Boston and then spending his young adult life in Minnesota, Will played the clubs and led jazz bands for decades as he worked toward composing his first album, Tropic Zone, released internationally to critical acclaim in 1980 and has had a steady and strong creative output since. As a virtuoso on guitar, piano, and violin he is more than a triple threat, as he is also a composer with a long list of credits. He functions at radio in the smooth jazz world, but his music feels much more adult contemporary than smooth jazz to this writer's ears. With lots of Latin flavored percussion and lush productions he creates soundscapes that are difficult to pigeon hole into contemporary groove based jazz. Like the band Fourplay, the music is mature and smooth, but not quite smooth jazz. One of my favorites of the seven cuts is And So Ends The Night. A very memorable melody that reminds of the great Larry Carlton, simmers over a thick synth pad with subtle percussion, setting up a delightful listen that is drenched in patience and maturity. Star Wish is to my ears the most pocketed smooth jazz effort from the whole album. It has all the "go to" moves that smooth jazz fans expect from the guitar players in their playlists. Tasteful guitar lines, robust production, a melody played with octaves and interplay between the instruments that is hinging on flirting. I suspect this song will do quite well on the smooth jazz radio charts. Red Flag Day is my favorite track from this fine album. A wonderful summit between distorted electric guitars and nylon string guitars dancing to a prominent drum part that draws quite a bit of attention to itself without being overbearing in any way. A fretless bass solo and tasteful piano are the icing on the cake of this hypnotic piece of music! The album as a whole walks a tightrope between smooth jazz, easy listening and adult contemporary. The musicianship and compositions are exactly what they need to be in order to get the point across that Will Sumner is a pro on every level. There are moments that feel like they'd be at home on a Steely Dan record as well as tracks that are so chill they should be served in a rocks glass. If you like music that prioritizes the listeners experience over the musician's need to impress with virtuosity this is an album you will likely enjoy!
Check out the interview with Will Sumner as well!
Who are your musical and non-musical influences? My favorite musical influences are: Mozart, film composer Jerry Goldsmith, Jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Chick Corea, George Benson, Rock legends Led Zeppelin and Blues artist Albert King.
My favorite non-musical influences are all writers: Hunter S. Thompson, Ray Bradbury and my Dad who was a newspaper editor, White House correspondent and a great writer himself. What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far? Producing 9 so far and now ready to release my 10th CD. Writing Symphony #1 which was performed by the Riverside CA philharmonic orchestra. What's the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you? Scales, scales and more scales. Describe your favorite and or least favorite part about being a musician. The best part of being a musician is creating music people enjoy. The worst part is having to talk about it. Tell me about your favorite performance in your career. Playing live at the World Theater in St. Paul, MN, and with it being broadcast live on NPR nationally, knowing friends on both coasts and in between were listening.
If you could change anything about the music industry today, what would it be? To go back to the day when we had more local radio stations that support, play and even and get to know local artists. Give us some advice for new musicians just starting out in the industry. Treat your bandmates like a sports team with everyone contributing but knowing there has to be a leader/coach to guide it. Tell us a fun fact about yourself. My father wanted me to be a baseball player and I almost listened.