Will Downing - "The Prince of Sophisticated Soul" What could be a better way for singer extraordinaire Will Downing to embark upon his first mini-tour since rebounding from Polymyositis (a debilitating muscle disorder) than to do so among friends during the most joyful time of the year? That's precisely what he is doing with the triumphant return of his "Soulful Christmas 2008" tour, featuring special guests and fellow Concord Music Group label mates, singer Lalah Hathaway and saxophonist Gerald Albright. Both are longtime friends of Downing's who will bring not only outstanding musicianship to the program but the holiday cheer that comes from people who truly love each other sharing the stage and their artistry together. The tour, which kicks off on November 28th at the Detroit Opera House, will reunite Will with fans in his major fan belts of Washington, D.C., Memphis, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Atlanta.
Will started doing these special holiday shows back in 2004 when he released his wonderful Christmas, Love and You project. For three years between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, the jazzy prince of sophisticated soul would host like-minded friends such as Kirk Whalum, Vesta, Norman Brown, Regina Belle, Mike Phillips, Phil Perry and the ever-present Gerald Albright to perform a balance of hits and holiday favorites that swiftly became the all-star bargain of the season. But shortly after the 2006 tour, he was diagnosed with Polymyositis, the rehabilitation process for which was long and arduous, forcing him to pass on doing the tour in 2007. Though he considered producing a 2007 tour from the sidelines, it ultimately proved too physically taxing to carry out.
However - with the love and support of family and producer Rex Rideout - Will did make the Herculean effort that year to release the studio album After Tonight, which debuted at #1 on Billboard's R&B chart. Though he did not have the strength to perform, he still got face time with those who love him by traveling to do a series of unforgettable chat sessions with fans in key cities, educating them about his disorder, health in general and music, reassuring them that he would be back soon to croon them into heavenly states of bliss once again.
Now, the future is here - the momentous occasion of Will Downing and friends celebrating this very special holiday with their fans for "Soulful Christmas 2008." Downing - who made his first dynamic return to the stage at a summer concert in Los Angeles which also included Hathaway - reflects, "It just feels so good to finally be back onstage doing what I know, enjoy and was put here on the planet to do! That could be any time of the year, but it's especially nice to do this during the holiday time of year. Last year was rough for me physically, so this is going to be an extra special treat...for us and our fans."
World renowned singer Lalah Hathaway - a supremely gifted wonder of the soul and jazz vocalization - is currently supporting her fifth album, Self Portrait (her first for the Stax Records label via Concord) - an especially personal project as she had a hand in composing or co-composing all of the material herself. Her current single is "That Was Then." Not only are Lalah and Will mutual admirers of each others' work, but Lalah and Gerald have a history of touring and recording together as well. In keeping with the spirit of love and giving of the season, Lalah's activist role as a "Circle of Promise" Ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness will also take front and center along with the music.
Electrifying saxophone player and performer Gerald Albright is a recent signee to Peak Records (via Concord). His second album for the company (and eleventh solo album of his career) is titled Sax for Stax - a salute to the classic music and soulful vibration of the Memphis founded company's rich musical legacy. Gerald and Will are close friends and clockwork regular collaborators on each others' projects. Not only is Will a special guest on Sax for Stax (saluting the late, great Isaac Hayes and his timeless rendition of "Never Can Say Goodbye") and Gerald a special guest on Will's latest Peak Records release After Tonight, Will and Gerald also recorded a magnificent duo album together back in 1998 titled Pleasures of the Night that reflected the effortless simpatico smoothness of each others' styles.
Eagerly anticipating the show, Downing teases, "The holiday season brings out the best in people. And for creative artists like Gerald, Lalah and me, it makes us pick our game up even higher. So I think you're going to see a bit of friendly competition which makes for an even better show. None of us want to be on the low end of the totem pole! It just so happens I'll be on the stage with one of my best friends and one of the most talented ladies in the business. So we look forward to sharing our all and entertaining you in the spirit of the season. It's great to be alive!"