You need someone to talk to about smooth jazz. Who ya gonna call?
How about Ray Parker Jr.?
The Detroit-born “Ghostbusters” hitmaker is a recent arrival in that genre with his latest album, “I’m Free.” but Parker says he’s not sure what to make of this particular classifi cation.
“It’s not jazz; it’s more like instrumental music — Top 40 or R&B, with instruments playing the melody,” says Parker, 52, who played in Stevie Wonder’s band during the early ’70s before forming the group Raydio and then striking out on his own.
“On every single record I ever made, I always had at least one instrumental. I never did a record with no vocals, but I had a smooth jazz radio guy come to me and say, ‘I can break this.’ I figured, ‘Well, why not ...’
“So it was sort of a big accident, but I’m having a good time.”
The instrumental album also allows Parker to concentrate on his fi rst love, the guitar. Despite his own hits (“The Other Woman,” “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)”), Parker always has considered himself a player fi rst, and his credits include Boz Scaggs, Euge Groove, Aaron Neville and Smokey Robinson’s latest album. Calling his new album “I’m Free,” Parker says, conveys how he feels about this approach.
“It definitely gives me more space to do musical things and stretch out a little,” he says.“I was feeling very free on the album. There’s a blues song on there, some Mexican, island sort of music, even a reggae song.
“I got a chance to record whatever I felt like recording. For the first time in my life nobody was standing over my shoulder saying, ‘I don’t think this fi ts.’ It was really great.”
Ray Parker, Jr. performs Saturday night as part of the Ribs ’N Soul Festival at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. The festival runs today through Sunday and also features performances by Howard Hewitt, Calloway, Sir Nose and Adina Howard. Admission is free.
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