*For Will Downing, the R&B/jazz baritone vocalist, writer, producer and recording artist, there’s no slowing down when it comes to making great music. Since 1988, Downing, also known as “The Prince of Sophisticated Soul,” has released 18 albums that have been described as rich, smooth, soul-stirring, and love-themed recordings.
Downing has recently released, “Chocolate Drops,” which continues his domination of love songs of greatness. He has once again collaborated with Chris “Big Dog” Davis, a keyboardist who has been a main production and writing colleague with Downing for years.
The new album’s first single is, “I Could Never Say No To You,” which Downing describes as, “a mid-tempo expression of the sometimes crazy desire to always please and never disappoint the ones we love.” Another song off the new album that’s raising eyebrows is, “This Song Is For You,” which has a stepper’s tempo, punctuated with Downing’s trademark vocal offerings.
Additionally, “Chocolate Drops,” contains Downing’s mastery of other artists’ songs, which he calls “reinterpretations.” Such renditions are inclusive of Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You,” “Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers’ ” Motown classic, “Does Your Momma Know About Me,” and “Atlantic Starr’s unforgettable, “Let’s Get Closer.”
With 27 years, 18 albums, and numerous hit songs in his career portfolio, Downing reflects on his longevity in an industry where it’s difficult to stay relevant.
“I think that I’ve weathered the storm, and I’m still weathering the storm, because I don’t rely completely on a record company to do what I could do personally,” said Downing. “I’ve always reinvested in myself in order to keep this thing going. Musically, I’ve never chased trends. What I’m doing now is what I’ve been doing for the last 27 years. You can put my very first record on and put on ‘Chocolate Drops’ and hear what I’ve consistently done musically for decades. Great songs last forever.”
Downing admits that he doesn’t want grass to grow under his feet between recordings. Yet, he doesn’t have any set dates for when he puts a record out, “That’s the joy of being independent,” said Downing, who is the CEO of his record label, Sophisticated Soul Records. “You don’t have to worry about meeting deadlines. However, you don’t want to go too long between recordings, because out of sight, out of mind.”
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Downing, after graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in The Big Apple and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, pursued music with a passion. In the early part of his career, he was primarily a background singer who worked with a bevy of well-known recording artists. However, he ultimately enjoyed a major hit record in the U.K., with his solo rendition of jazz icon John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” The song became a top-ten hit for Downing.
Soon afterwards, Downing’s career began to elevate in the United States. In 1991, he released “A Dream Fulfilled.” He charted with such songs as “War’s” “The World is a Ghetto” and Angela Bofill’s memorable, ‘I Try.”
While often compared to the late-great Luther Vandross, who was his good friend and influencer, Downing, nevertheless worked to create his own identifiable brand and style of singing rich, smooth, and silky smooth ballads. He has also refused to be locked into one genre of singing, as he has mixed and included R&B, jazz, neo, and even pop-favored vocalizations into his 18-album discography.
Moreover, just like Vandross was considered perhaps the best in the business at covering other artists’ songs, Downing has the same vocal acumen. In other words, when Downing covers another artist’s song, according to many music critics, he virtually “owns it for the betterment,” just like Vandross always did.
Songs that Downing has rendered his “reinterpretations” have included, Teddy Pendergrass’ “Turn Off The Lights,” “Cuba Gooding and The Main Ingredient’s” “Just Don’t Want to be Lonely,” and Paul Davis, “I Go Crazy.”
Now, Downing takes his new “Chocolate Drops” album on the road with a national tour. “This is an exciting performance tour where we will perform songs from the new album, along with many songs from my other albums,” said the Grammy nominated artist. “It’s going to be incredible.”
Downing has also recently launched a web-based series which will allow him to share professional vocal and recording advice with new and upcoming singers. He also hosts “The Wind Down,” a web-based radio show where world-wide fans and communities can stay connected with the legendary artist.
Downing on other future endeavors.
“I would love to do what Stevie (Wonder) has done and what ‘Steely Dan’ has done occasionally,” said Downing, SoulTrack Readers’ 2014 “Male Artist of the Year.” “They have recreated songs from a particular album for a whole show. That way, people will know which songs they will hear at a concert by these artists. It’s something that I really have thought about doing.”
For more information on Will Downing, his new album, “Chocolate Drops,” or national tour dates, log on to www.willdowning.com.