Choice Cuts is a blog series where we ask the question all music obsessives love to answer: “What is your essential music?” This time it’s Tony Dawsey’s turn.
He’s well known for mastering hip-hop classics, but not as many music fans know about Tony Dawsey mastering jazz. So the title Tony selected for his first “Choice Cut” might surprise some readers: Urban Knights‘ self-titled album, released on CD by the GRP label in 1995.
“That’s my favorite album of all time I’ve worked on,” Tony says. “Maybe it has something to do with it being jazz; it’s upbeat and it puts a smile on my face.”
The album, which has instrumentals and vocal tunes, features a core group of Ramsey Lewis (piano), Grover Washington Jr. (saxophone), Victor Bailey (bass), and Omar Hakim (drums).
Ramsey Lewis started his career in the 50s, playing straight-ahead piano trio jazz, and scored his first hit in 1965 with the iconic soul-jazz album “The In Crowd”.
Grover Washington, Jr. started in the soul-jazz field in the 60s, and started making records under his own name in the early 70s for Motown and Verve. Like Ramsey, Grover eventually had “crossover” hits in R&B.
Victor Bailey got his first big break replacing Jaco Pastorius in Weather Report. Talk about having some shoes to fill! He’s gone on to be an extremely in-demand sideman in jazz, fusion, funk and R&B as well as a leader of his own projects.
Drummer Omar Hakim also spent some time in Weather Report, but he got his first break with Carly Simon. He made serious waves playing with David Bowie on “Let’s Dance,” and Sting on “Dream of the Blue Turtles” and has been on many hit records since, while still keeping up his fusion chops.
So “Urban Knights” is a sort of soul-jazz / R&B / pop supergroup.
“I can listen to it any time,” Tony says. “I’ll listen to it when I’m home — I can sit down and listen or it’s something that’s nice to have on when I’m doing stuff in the yard or whatever. I’ll play it in the car — though it depends on what kind of driving I’m doing. Sometimes it’s Biggie Smalls in the car! But probably not a month goes by that I don’t listen to Urban Knights. Some people will probably be surprised at that, thinking I listen to hip-hop all the time or something. I do listen to hip-hop, but I listen to a lot of other stuff too.”
Check out Tony’s profile at the Masterdisk website.