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Since emerging onto the smooth jazz scene in 2012 much traction has been made by the efforts of saxophonist and businessman, Phil Denny. Some might describe him as a people’s musician having developed a very active and loyal fan base even before the release of his internationally recognized 2012 debut, Crossover; an album which has already earned him two Billboard charted hits. A buzz has been rippling from coast to coast as either his music or marketing prowess reaches those who follow smooth jazz almost always earning him a new fan. Described as a passionate and soulful player who has a way of captivating audiences with his smooth, sexy yet energetic style. In fact, Phil has sold out every show he has produced since the summer of 2012 and continues to build quite the international following.
After spending more than half a decade as vice president for a mortgage broker firm, Phil decided it was time to concentrate his efforts on his passion for music, a decision that has already led to some incredible opportunities. Although no stranger to the stage, he was eager to take his music to a new level and do so independently while relying on his business experience and trusted industry friends to guide him.
Crossover, Phil’s debut release was described by Critical Jazz as “an album that works on every imaginable level from sophisticated cover art to a non pretentious approach to where contemporary music should be heading.” The acceptance of the album was immediate and “Push,” the vibrant first single to radio debuted at #29 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz National Airplay chart and later peaked at #21 as well as spent more the 20 weeks on the SmoothJazz.com charts. Currently at radio is the up-tempo “Traffic Jam” which debuted #30 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz National Airplay chart and has since risen to #25 and can now be heard nationally on Sirius XM Watercolors. Crossover, produced by Grammy nominee, Nate Harasim, was bred to be a powerhouse debut that not only highlights the proficiency and flair of Denny, but his mastery of infectious lyricism. The project also welcomes a host of musician friends to round out the experience including trumpeter Cindy Bradley, guitarists Nils and Matt Godina, bassist Terrance Palmer and vocalist Anna Stevenson. This ten-track debut demonstrates a level of artistry that has been described as parallel to veteran artists in the genre, though brings on a fresh new vibe.
Born in Sarasota, FL, Phil was raised by a loving single mom and has one older brother. They relocated as a family to Michigan where he would later discover his love for music. Formal education began as part of his sixth grade band curriculum in the Lansing public school district. It wasn’t long before a strong interest in music took over a long-time interest in sports. Phil began studying privately with graduate students from the nearby Michigan State University and later attended two summer sessions at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp where he discovered jazz music leading into his freshman year of high school. Phil recalls learning music and valuable life skills from Everett high school band teacher and mentor, Joshua Hicks. Diligent studies led him to perform with the Lansing Community College jazz ensemble while still a high school student and later attended the college to study general business and music while continuing to perform with the ensemble. After graduating Lansing Community College, Phil earned a B.A. in Business Administration and marketing from Olivet College.
Phil describes his influences as those artists he felt played with space and feel. His ear was drawn to saxophonists Grover Washington Jr., Richard Elliot, Kirk Whaulm and Boney James in the early 90’s and recalls spending countless hours in front of his brother’s disc changer listening to and emulating their sounds. “ I have always been drawn to a more urban vibe in my musical preference and like the idea of space; this give the listener time to feel and translate the music.” Smooth jazz journalist Brent Black describes Phil as having “the control and phrasing of Grover Washington Jr. and the lyrical chops of Stan Getz.”
Now, with a unique and identifiable style and personality of his own, Phil has been cultivating a loyal and diverse fan base while building an impressive resume. Performance highlights to date include an appearance at the 2012 Dubai International Jazz Festival, the 2013 Arizona Jazz Festival, a sold out debut performance at Spaghettini Grill & Jazz club, performing as sideman to guitarists Peter White and Tim Bowman, opening for RnR, playing alongside Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun, Lalah Hathaway and jamming with Stevie Wonder. Additional accomplishments include a sold out 2012 hometown Crossover album release concert, a sold out 2012 inaugural Phil Denny & Friends Christmas Collective and producing a successful on-going monthly jazz series in his hometown of Lansing, MI.
Knowing how to play within himself and simply let the music lead the way is how this rising-star sax player approaches his music. He is but the vehicle. The next time you’re looking to wander a new journey, dial in Phil Denny.