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Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Keyan Williams now makes his home in Meriden, CT after many years in Phoenix, AZ. The multi-talented musician started playing the sax at age 8 and by the age of 16 he was playing jazz sax and classical flute. When saxophonist Keyan Williams released his debut album The Art of Living in 2006, the smooth jazz format was already contracting, leaving steep challenges for new independent artists to find avenues to get their music heard. One of his radio station contacts suggested some unique grass roots approaches to promotion, including placing the tracks up on GarageBand in the contemporary jazz category. Williams’ tunes created an immediate sensation, averaging a rating of 4.5/5 stars; the most popular of these songs, “Thought I Told You About That” stayed on the chart for over four months, leading to terrestrial airplay on stations in Phoenix (where Keyan lived from 2000 to 2008 and recorded The Art of Living with musicians Jeremiah Norah and Raymond Love) and Reno. Williams also submitted his CD to The Weather Channel, which spun four tracks for over a year and a half, exposing his music to millions of people. Another sweet success from the album was the techno-house/jazz influenced tune “Swift Kick”, which was a huge hit on the college radio circuit. Williams was also one of only four artists chosen (out of 400 entrants) for a digital distribution deal with Iris Distribution via Sonicbids—and the only jazz artist.
Williams built such an enthusiastic fan base that his few years away from recording due to personal issues and other business endeavors led many of his supporters to reach out asking when he would be back in action, and supporting him every step of the way as he did so. While still grounded in the style of his personal musical hero Grover Washington, Jr., Williams takes some outside the box risks on his second full-length project It’s All About You. Explaining the title of the album, he says, “While my fans were asking me about the next CD, they would tell me what they loved about the first one. So I decided to create a CD based on what they said they loved. It’s about my fans, those people who kept me uplifted during this challenging time in my life. I’m always writing songs that reflect everything I’m going through, and my goal was for them to identify with my music. I started out with 25 songs and chose the ones that stuck with me and which I felt they would enjoy best.”
Williams is the founder of Told U So Productions, a company for which he works on developing artists while he continues writing and producing. In addition to his own projects, he is currently collaborating with other artists, looking into producing two singers and working on a project combining poetry and jazz with four poets. He is also a major endorser, with nine total endorsements for mouthpieces, reeds, mics and sax accessories; he is an endorsee of P. Mauriat Saxophones. He has performed for several of these companies at the NAMM convention over the past few years.
Truly a diverse and dynamic work centered around solid grooves, infectious melodies and emotional and inventive improvisations, It’s All About You launches with the laid back, old school cool funk (with hand clap percussion and few ambient and exotic twists) of “Blazin’” before bubbling over on the strutting, buoyantly romantic (and perfectly titled) “Bounce With It.” Williams then invites his listeners to the “Funky House (where a snappy electric guitar leads into an easy flowing, gently percussive melody) for some sizzling “Indigenous Heat” (a dreamy and sensual bit of late night smooth featuring Williams on soprano). The title track opens with a trippy synth atmosphere, and then evolves into a graceful soprano ballad that opens the saxman’s heart to his fans via a little romance and a touch of horn texturing. The pocket groove ballad “Midnight Blue” blends sensual wistful light funk with a hypnotic soprano sax-synth swirl. One of Williams’ favorites is the sensuous, candlelit “My Lady”, a sweet balmy love affair with lush synth string textures. Williams takes us on a whimsical stroll through his hometown on the slow jam ballad “Sax 5th Avenue”, then gets tribal and shuffling with some creative percussion, which drives the edgy and emotional melody of “Steppin’ Out With Key”. He closes with a colorful gospel blues number, “Why Not,” which features a dynamic organ textures swirled with percussive piano chords—truly a dramatic ending for a powerful set of music.
As a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge, he played in the marching band, participating in halftime competitions against the bands at schools like Grambling. He launched his career back in New York playing in blues bands. Influenced by Grover Washington, Jr. as well as other greats like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery and Stanley Clarke, Williams has been gracing the stage since his very early years, playing at various venues like Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall—and the trendy club Jazzmania—in various band situations during his high school and college days. He has had the honor of sharing the stage with Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Junior Cook—experiences that have helped make him the performer he is today.