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Kevin Toney

Kevin Toney

Although keyboardist Kevin Toney’s latest album, Strut (Shanachie), features the kind of easily accessible, urban-flavored tunes that render the album appropriate for smooth-jazz radio, its intricate compositions and Toney’s sophisticated playing evince his rock-solid jazz, blues, and gospel roots. “At the heart of what I do is always jazz,” says Toney. Growing up immersed in jazz, the Detroit-born Toney learned to play standards and the music of jazz’s legends at an early age. “I was trying to play John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ at age 16, 17, and listening to Art Tatum and trying to figure those things out.”

As a student at Howard University, Toney was a member of the Blackbyrds, the successful college group founded by educator and trumpeter Donald Byrd. The young group performed with the likes of Grover Washington Jr., Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and the Crusaders, and the exposure to such artists helped broaden Toney’s repertoire.

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