Music Industry News Network [01-01-2002]

Hillsboro Jazz Takes Label To New Heights With Smooth Jazz Groove Debut By Mark Douthit


Hillsboro Jazz is about to break with tradition - traditional jazz, that is. And in the case of 1997 Dove Award winner for Instrumental Album of the Year, Mark Douthit, it's a Groove thing.

The EMI-distributed label, noted for its traditional jazz artists, will release saxophonist Douthit's smooth jazz debut, Groove, on Feb. 26. Taking the precedent even higher, Hillsboro Jazz has selected a Douthit original, "Voice of the Heart," as the first single to radio, on Feb. 11. It's the only soprano sax feature on the record, making for an interesting contrast to the tenor sax features that comprise the remaining tracks.

Comments Hillsboro Jazz vice president and general manager Greg Howard, "Mark is our first foray into the smooth jazz market. He's been a force around Nashville for many years, as far as his ability on tracks. He has recorded and performed with some of the biggest names in music, including people like Michael McDonald, Larry Carlton, and has fans among the upper echelon of artists here in town. He's never really had his time in the sun, so to speak and this is it. "I've always admired his talent," continues Howard, who executive produced Groove. "I knew that if I ever wanted to step out into smooth jazz, he has the kind of musical voice that I'd want to put out there."

Be it alto, soprano or tenor sax, Douthit's "musical voice" has accompanied a veritable who's-who of the musical gamut, including Whitney Houston, The Neville Brothers, Elton John, Patti LaBelle, Natalie Cole, The Temptations, Billy Preston, Take 6, Donna Summer, Don Henley, Vanessa Williams, Billy Joel and hundreds of others.

Douthit's diverse, yet cohesive Groove has already received resounding liner notes endorsements from Carlton, as well as Kirk Whalum. The album, which Douthit produced, is a balance of original compositions and emotive interpretations and arrangements of songs by Steely Dan ("What A Shame About Me"), Stevie Wonder ("You and I"), Earth, Wind & Fire ("Can't Hide Love"), Bill Withers ("Use Me"), Gino Vanelli ("I Just Wanna Stop"), and the only vocal track on the album, "What You Won't Do For Love." The jazz standard is sung by Groove guitarist Chris Rodriguez, who's a six-string player and backing vocalist with Kenny Loggins.

In addition to "Voice of the Heart," Douthit originals include "Linda," "What Was" and "Sunset Beach." Howard observes, "Mark makes some very nice choices for remakes, as well as being a good writer of his own material. He plays with unbridled passion and emotion, and that makes him stand out from the pack. You can hear his personality come through the music."

As for the vote of confidence he's received from Hillsboro Jazz, Douthit says, "I'm very grateful to them for the opportunity to do this record, and subsequent records. This is a very different type of record than any of their other artists, so far. It's breaking new ground, and I appreciate them having faith in me to be able to do a record of this type for the label. Hopefully, Groove will pave the way for not only more records by me, but also for other artists similar to myself that might pursue Hillsboro."

Hillsboro and Douthit are planning a showcase in conjunction with the album's release date.

The Nashville-based Hillsboro Jazz, which is part of the Spring Hill Music Group, released its first album in mid-first quarter of 2001. Groove marks Hillsboro's one-year anniversary.

Explains Howard of Hillsboro's expansion into smooth jazz, "We always knew that we wanted the label to be more than just a traditional jazz label, but we had the contacts and the talent to start there. There's so many ways you can go in jazz, and we want to pursue every direction within that format that we have the talent to do so, and do correctly." Noting that Douthit's project will further Hillsboro's long-term vision, Howard states, "As our first completely smooth jazz artist, we'll be doing follow-up projects with Mark and be looking for other artists to complement what he's doing for our label. In terms of musicality, Mark is a fresh voice in this market.

"We're going to keep evolving," Howard promises, "but our focus will remain music for your life."


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