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A musical trendsetter with nine (yes nine) top 30 Billboard hits to his name writer, producer and guitarist extraordinaire Emmanuel “U-Nam” Abiteboul has shaken the world of smooth jazz to its core with an approach that is both innovative and daring. Indeed since moving to the USA from Paris, France in 2007, his reputation has skyrocketed and now, as the founder and owner of the niche label Skytown Records, he is reshaping the genre in a way that makes him stand out from the crowd.
Yet all this seems light years from his Parisian upbringing where he began playing guitar at the age of 12 and progressed to study for three years at the Paris-based CIM, an institution regarded as the leading European school for jazz. The experience crystalized his belief that a career in music was his destiny and on turning professional at age 19 he not only became a sought after session player in studios right across Paris but also a renowned producer and re-mixer where his work with the likes of Barry White, Kool & the Gang, Honeyz, Louis Fonsi and MC-Solaar earned him several Gold and Multi-Platinum records.
In 2005, while still in Europe, his solo recording career burst into life with the critically acclaimed ‘The Past Builds the Future’ but it was following his relocation to LA that U-Nam made his first significant breakthrough with his sophomore album ‘Back From The 80’s’. It laid the foundation for a dazzling discography that has more than stood the test of time and included the #1 hit ‘Street Life’ which stayed in the top three on the US Billboard Charts for three months and in the top ten charts for an entire year.
Opportunities to tour as a solo artist rapidly followed and his performances captivated audiences from the USA to Europe and Russia to Japan. Along the way he played festivals, clubs and cruises sharing the stage with the likes of Dave Koz, Mindi Abair Oleta Adams and Brian Simpson while building his credentials as an artist who, in his approach, is both exciting and fearless.
‘Unamimity’ (which boasted the US Billboard Top 30 charting ‘Shine On’) followed in 2009 and by the time the sensational ‘C’est Le Funk’ hit the streets in 2014 his standing as a purveyor of high-octane guitar driven smooth jazz was well and truly established. A real landmark moment in U-Nam’s illustrious career came when he undertook the ambitious project of creating a tribute to the great George Benson. Titled ‘Weekend In LA – A Tribute To George Benson’ it included an all-star line up of musicians, many of who had originally appeared on Benson’s historic albums. Benson also wrote the liner notes to the album and, at the time, commented:
“This monumental project includes some of my superstar friends who are among the world’s best known artists of our time. It is a privilege to be honoured in this way by U-Nam, a new, bright guitar and musical star.”
Within two weeks of its release, the album had reached #1 on iTunes Japan for Jazz, #1 on Amazon US for Neo-Soul, and #1 on Amazon US for Smooth Jazz. The project also received Grammy consideration with 10 entries over 6 categories.
In 2015 U-Nam even found time for his side project, Groove Ltd, (in which he collaborates with that great saxophonist Shannon Kennedy) to release the album ‘First Class’. Proving to be a run-away success, it made its debut at #1 on the Amazon US chart of smooth jazz best selling albums.
Fast forwarding to the present, his Skytown initiative is enabling fresh new talent such as Mattias Roos, Soweco, James Day and Valeriy Stepanov while his creative genius as a recording artist and live performer shows no signs of diminishing. His hot 2016 venture ‘Surface Level’ only served to strengthen U-Nam’s grip on all that is good in smooth jazz while 2017 has seen the unveiling of his musical life with the ‘The Essential Collection’ that has left his legion of fans savoring the memories whilst looking forward to the next exciting chapter.