Grammy-nominated singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer Jonathan Butler refers to his new emotion-packed urban album So Strong, being released TOMORROW, May 11 via Mack Avenue, as the three Fs: fun, flavor and feeling.
So Strong celebrates the healing power of music, despite a difficult year where Butler lost both his mother and close friend Wayman Tisdale and supported his wife through her battle with cancer. “The album is optimistic and positive,” says Butler. “It’s all about just letting go. The songs reflect my romantic side, my passionate side and my fun side.”
Butler’s first Urban Adult Contemporary single from So Strong is the vibrant title track. With its syncopated disco beat and jazzy electric-guitar riffs, “So Strong” offers hope at its get-up-and-dance best. Two other versions of the future hit-a steppers mix and an urban AC mix-are part of the 14-track release.
His slow-tempo cover of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” complete with gospel choir, heightens its spiritual optimism. “The song is a confirmation that seasons will change,” says Butler. “We need to stand together in faith and prayer in spite of the numerous challenges we face.”
Not only did he write or co-write all but one song, Jonathan Butler produced and arranged the album and plays guitar, bass and keyboards. Contributors include noted trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonists Dave Koz and Michael Lington and drummer Gordon Campbell. Butler’s daughters, Randy and Jodie, supply background vocals.
The great Angie Stone pours her heart and soul into “Be Here with You,” a romantic duet featuring Lington on sax. Koz plays sax on the instrumental smooth-jazz single “Make Room for Me,” and Braun’s trumpet animates “Good Times.” Optimism and rich Butler vocals abound in songs “You Got to Believe in Something,” “Factual,” “Feels So Good,” “I’m Right Here” and “Color Green” (inspired by Jill Scott).
Butler breaks out his electric guitar for “Avia/For My Baby,” a Brazilian cha-cha-inspired instrumental honoring his granddaughter. He says “I Pay Respect,” his tribute to his South African heritage, is reminiscent of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Miriam Makeba. “I’m paying respect to my country, to the people who influenced me and to my faith,” Butler says.
Butler will hit the road from June through August 2010 with saxophonist Dave Koz on the North American Together Again tour, playing tracks from So Strong, as well as, such enduring Butler hits as “Sara Sara, ” “Lies,” “Mandela Bay,” and his hit version of James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain.” The tour kicks off June 17 in Detroit and ends August 29 in Temecula, CA. And thanks to his crowd-pleasing performances and intimate connection with his fans, Butler has once again been invited to be a headlining performer on the annual Smooth Jazz Cruise, with the 2011 edition to set sail to the Caribbean in late January of next year.
6/17 Detroit, MI Sound Board at Motor City Casino
6/18 Atlantic City, NJ Showboat Atlantic City House of Blues
6/25 Hampton, VA Hampton Coliseum – Jazz Festival
6/26 Dallas, TX House of Blues
6/27 Houston, TX House of Blues
7/16 Minneapolis, MN Weesner Amphitheatre/Apple Valley
7/17 Hammond, IN The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
7/18 Milwaukee, WI Pabst Theatre
7/23 Austin, TX Riverbend Center
7/24 Las Vegas, NV Sunset Station Hotel and Casino
7/30 Baltimore, MD Pier Six Pavilion
7/31 Kettering, OH Fraze Pavilion for the Performing Arts
8/6 Saratoga, CA Montalvo Arts Center
8/7 Healdsburg, CA Rodney Strong Winery
8/13 San Diego, CA Humphrey’s
8/14 Long Beach, CA Long Beach Jazz Festival
8/20 Honolulu, HI Blaisdell Concert Hall
8/27 Seattle, WA Benaroya Hall
8/28 Temecula, CA Thornton Winery
8/29 Temecula, CA Thornton Winery