French guitarist supreme U-Nam was born Emmanuel Abiteboul in 1970 (U-Nam is "Manu" backwards) and began playing guitar at age 12. As a teen he studied at CIM, the Paris-based jazz school, before becoming a sought-after studio musician by the time he was 20.
He broke out on his own in 2005 with the album The Past Builds The Future, which included the European hit "I'm Only U-Nam," and made a few converts in the US for his George Benson-influenced playing that mixed traditional jazz elements with a modern, urban sound.
In early 2007, U-Nam released Back From the 80s, a disc that mixed covers of classic soul and smooth jazz songs along with new U-Nam compositions that directly or indirectly hearkened to that era. The first single was a solid version of the Crusaders' "Street Life," a song that has already been done-to-death, and versions of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It" and Lionel Richie's "Love Will Find a Way" were similarly enjoyable, if not exactly ground-breaking. U-Nam especially paid homage to George Benson, playing an instrumental version of "Turn Your Love Around" while making nods to "Breezin" and "Give Me The Night" elsewhere, as well as introducing the new tribute song "Mr. GB." 80s also included a hidden treat: A bonus CD The After Show Party, which included a handful of cuts with guest vocalists, including Phil Perry and Leedia. Best of all was the excellent dance cut, "Love's Taken Over" featuring Rahsaan Patterson, which alone was worth the price of admission for the package.
In 2009 U-Nam returned with Unanimity, an even stronger album that again hightlighed his George Benson influence and which featured a strong lineup of guests including Marva King, George Duke and Najee. It received strong critical acclaim and kept the young artist's star rising.
By Chris Rizik