Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Jonathan Butler spent his youth under the shroud of apartheid, and official government policy of political, legal, and economic discrimination against non-whites. His escape was music. The youngest of twelve children, he began singing publicly in South African townships at age 7. Not yet in his teens, Butler’s talents as a singer and guitarist were recognized and he soon toured his poverty stricken country in a traveling variety show. In his travels, the he could neither comprehend the extreme destitute nor the harsh treatment he endured and bared witness to under the reign of Apartheid. Afrikaans was his native tongue, but he learned English on the road. After signing his first record deal as a teenager with British record producer Clive Caulder’s Jive Records, Jonathan’s premier single made him the first black artist to be played on white South African radio stations. The single won a Sarie Award, South Africa’s equivalent to the Grammy.
His self-titled debut album also put him on the map internationally and garnered two Grammy nominations; one for the R&B-pop vocal statement “Lies” and the other for “Going Home,” a poignant instrumental. His 2005 release, “Jonathan” is rich in content and joyous in emotion. Though music took him away from the world he grew up in, the album features tributes to his past, as all the songs are tinged with world music sensibilities, relics of his childhood in Africa. Other releases include “Gospel Goes Classical” (2006) with Juanita Bynum, “Brand New Day” (2007), “So Strong” (2010), and 2012’s Grace and Mercy, filled with the soulful sounds and insightful lyrics fans have come to expect from the veteran performer.
Sheila Escovedo started playing with family instruments at age 3 and was influenced by her father Latin jazz legend and timbalero Pete Escovedo (then band leader of the influential band Azteca) while watching him rehearse. At age 5, she made her concert “debut” at Oakland’s former Sands Ballroom, invited on stage by her father to play a solo before an audience of 3,000. At that moment, she knew exactly what she wanted to do: she was going to be a percussionist. Since age 17, she has recorded and toured extensively with renowned artists such as Babyface, Billy Cobham, Natalie Cole, George Duke, Pete Escovedo, Gloria Estefan, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Nicks, Patti LaBelle, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Ringo Starr, Tito Puente, Don Was, Stevie Wonder and more. In 1983, she caught the attention of Prince and changed her name to “Sheila E. ” Prince helped her record her first solo album, “The Glamorous Life.” The title track and first single written, performed, and directed by Sheila E., was released in 1984, earning multiple Grammy and American Music Award nominations and an MTV Best Video Award. The album also yielded another hit for follow-up single, “The Belle of St. Mark.” After 3 months of sold out shows in Europe and the US, Sheila began touring as the opening act for Prince’s 1984-85 sold out Purple Rain Tour, while composing her follow-up album, “Romance 1600.” The August 1985 release raced up the charts with its mega-single “A Love Bizarre.” A 3-month gig opening for Lionel Richie followed a headlining tour in spring 1986. In 1986, she made her acting debut in the film “Krush Groove” and contributed “Holly Rock” to its soundtrack.
Her third album, “Sheila E.,” had another smash single, “Hold Me,” that hit #1 on Billboard’s chart. Instead of touring to support the album, she joined Prince’s band on drums and percussion, for his European “Sign o’ the Times,” tour, that Rolling Stone Magazine readers rated as the 15th best tour in music history. She toured again with Prince in ’88 and ’89 on his “Lovesexy” World Tour. More film roles, albums, and tours followed. In 1998, she became late night TV’s first female bandleader on Magic Johnson’s variety show “The Magic Hour.” In 2004 she joined Prince’s “Musicology” tour and also performed “The Glamorous Life” at the 7th Annual VH1 Divas, a benefit concert for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. Sheila, a philanthropist, continues to devote her talents and time to the Elevate Hope Foundation, a charitable organization she co-founded and co-chairs, which assists the needs of abused and abandoned children through music therapy.
Elan Trotman, has quickly become one of contemporary jazz’s most thrilling and emotive performers, and continues to stand out and push boundaries as a composer, performer, and recording artist. He’s becoming the go-to saxophonist for smooth jazz artists including Peter White, Paul Brown, Keiko Matsui, Brian Simpson, Rick Braun, and had a guest spot on the Dave Koz 2012 Cruise to Europe. Though inspired by Grover Washington, Jr. and Kirk Whalum, among others, Elan displays his own fresh ideas and distinctive tone. He is a 3-time winner of the New England Urban Music Award for Best Jazz Male, 2-time nominee for a Boston Music Award, and winner of Instrumentalist of the Year (Barbados) in 2011. Born and raised in Barbados and educated at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Elan approaches jazz in his own way.
Blending Caribbean rhythms with skillful horn textures, his playing is full of surprises. With four Top 25 Billboard singles, he takes pride in always writing and producing his music. “Love and Sax,” his 5th CD, debuted at #20 on Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums in June 2011. The single “Heaven In Your Eyes” (featuring Brian Simpson) reached #11 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs Chart. In fall 2011, his single, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “As” with trumpeter Lin Rountree, reached #16 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Radio Chart. His sixth release, “Tropicality”, co-produced by guitarist and good friend Peter White, proudly showcases Elan’s Caribbean heritage and features guest appearances by Paul Brown, Terri Lyne Carrington and Nick Colionne.
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