...Born on December 25th in Detroit, Michigan Althea René began her musical journey at the tender age of four years old. She studied classical music while attending Howard University. For more than 10 years she worked as a Wayne County Deputy Sheriff (in Detroit, Michigan) during the day and performed in jazz clubs at night. Today, she endorses renowned hand-sculpted Altus Flutes as a full-time performing and recording artist.Althea René gained musical inspiration from her father Dezie McCullers (one of Motown's original Funk Brothers). She has since developed her creative style. Some regard her as a "master of her craft" and one of the world's most exciting solo improvisational soul-jazz flutists. The multiplatinum and Grammy-nominated saxophonist Najee playfully refers to her as the “Maceo of the flute”. In May 2013, she released her hit project titled "In the Flow". Collaborating with Grammy award-winning producer Michael Broening, she co-wrote the title track that made history as the first flute featured single to be ranked “number one” on the Billboard and Smooth Jazz charts. This scorching hot single topped the charts for several weeks. With a passionate mission to mentor women in the entertainment industry, Althea René authored an autobiography titled "Becoming Chocolate Barbie - a guide for professional women in the music business" in June 2018. The book was written in an interview format so that readers may easily use it as a reference resource. Everyone who aspires for a life in business can appreciate the insights that she shares. Althea René is the proud recipient of the 2021 Presidential Volunteer Service Award which honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities and encourages those around them to take action. She is a co-founder of the non-profit arts organization Colors & Song. Althea René conducts flute masterclasses and workshops with various universities and music-based organizations. With a passion to educate, entertain, and inspire people with music and art, Colors & Song promotes academic excellence and social justice via a wide range of activities. The organization’s focus is to promote goodwill, civic, and social awareness in the community.
Keyboardist James K. Lloyd
...Keyboardist James Lloyd, along with friends, bassist Cedric Napoleon, and drummer Curtis Harmon, founded Pieces of a Dream in 1975 in Philadelphia when they were all teenagers. The group based their name on “Pieces of Dreams,” a cover tune by Stanley Turrentine that they performed. The trio became internationally known when jazz legend, the late Grover Washington Jr., announced that he was starting a production company and that Pieces of a Dream would be his first act. Lloyd was only a senior in high school when his first album was released. Grover subsequently took Pieces all over the world allowing the trio to open for him as well as including them as part of his band. Just before their third world tour together, however, Lloyd broke his wrist. Recollection of Lloyd playing in a cast is a priceless memory many have seen and continue to share stories about to this day. Lloyd played with his wrist in a cast for three months.Fast-forward 38 years and 20 albums later under his belt with Pieces, Lloyd has written and/or produced songs for many other recording artists aside from Pieces. Those artists include Latin Grammy award-winning flautist Nestor Torres, Walter Beasley, Alexander Zonjic, Eric Darius, Nick Colionne, Jeff Kashiwa, Everett Harp, Gail Jhonson, Hiroshima, former-NBA-player-turned-bassist the late Wayman Tisdale and two-time Grammy nominee Najee, just to name a few. You can also catch Lloyd on recordings with Grover Washington Jr., Eddie Murphy, Phyllis Hyman, Regina Bell, Loose Ends and Ornette Coleman. James has played keys for many artists including Joe Williams, James Brown, Lou Rawls, Dave Valentin, Najee, Marion Meadows, Clark Terry, Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Hendricks, David Sanborn, B.B. Wynans, and Babyface, and opened for artists such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, Miles Davis, Mercer Ellington, and Count Basie. Arising out of a venture with Heads Up recording artist Walter Beasley, came James Lloyd’s first No. 1 hit, Ready for Love . Ready for Love climbed to the No. 1 position on three different smooth jazz charts. A second No. 1 hit, Steady as She Goes , was also a Lloyd/Beasley project which spent weeks at No. 1 on Billboard. Billboard named Steady as the No. 1 Smooth Jazz song for 2009. Lloyd’s television and film credits include, The Merv Griffin Show, Soul Train, City Lights, New York Undercover (where he performed with Al Green, Luther Vandross and Jon B.), The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and Spike Lee’s School Daze. Other highlights of Lloyd’s career include Album of the Year for Love’s Silhouette at the 2003 AFIM Indie Awards and International Group of the Year at the 2010 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. Today, Lloyd is producing and/or writing for well-known and up-and-coming artists alike from his home studio in Canfield. Those projects include Nick Colionne’s new album, saxophonist B.K. Jackson, as well as another Pieces of a Dream project. On March 17th, 2015, Lloyd released his very first solo CD titled, “Here We Go“, on Shanachie Records. This project includes guest appearances by long-time friends Najee, and Gerald Albright.
Saxophonist BK Jackson
...Bernard “BK” Jackson is an international-performing saxophonist, electrifying audiences across the globe with his unique playing style, energetic stage presence and unparalleled passion for music that touches the soul. A native of Tampa, Florida, he goes by the stage name “BK Jackson” and has crossed musical paths with industry giants such as B.B King, Brian McKnight, Bruno Mars, Hunter Hayes, Chaka Khan, Fantasia, Juvenile, Mannie Fresh, Zac Brown Band and more. Most notably, BK spent four years touring domestically and abroad with musical icon Prince, performing timeless hits for sold out arenas night after night as a member of his 11-piece horn section, known as New Power Generation (NPG) Hornz. Currently, BK can be found rocking the stage with New Orleans front man Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews as a member of the multi-talented musician’s touring band, Orleans Avenue. BK first picked up the saxophone at the age of 11 and quickly began making a name for himself as a young performer to watch. Snagging numerous awards and recognitions for his undeniable talent and skill, BK was voted as the Tampa Bay Entertainer of the Year (First Annual Black Diamond Award) and was a NAACP ACT-SO (Afro Academic Technological Scientific Olympics) Gold Medal Winner. At 16, BK also won the Fifth Annual Capital Jazz Festival Challenge in Columbia, Maryland, becoming the youngest person to ever do so. Most recently, BK has been voted Smooth Jazz Network’s 2019 Breakout Artist of the Year. This award recognizes artists for their success on radio and live show experience. BK Jackson’s sophomore release, Life of the Party, is the personification his electric personality. Mixing today’s mainstream pop, hiphop, and r&b music into a jazz format, this album is titled perfectly because a party is exactly what this music starts. Alongside BK are some of the industry’s finest artist, including: Trombone Shorty, Adam Hawley, Ro$ Mac, Sherwood & The Loudpack, Nicholas Cole and more!!Life of the Party has the traffic jams to get you through rush hour, it’s your happy hour theme music or the perfect vibe for the entire family to musically agree on. Blending the high energy and sonic movements of pop with the syncopated and intriguing intervals of jazz, BK has been referred to as “young and fresh” and “exactly what the genre needs” by industry icon Dave Koz. Koz also broke both singles from Life of the Party on his SiriusXM Watercolors radio show. “Paradise” is the first of two leading singles from Life of the Party. This single debuted #2 on Billboard Smooth Jazz,SmoothJazz.com and Groove Jazz Music’s most added charts and finished 2018 on Smooth Jazz Network’s Top 100 singles for 2018. BK’s latest single, “Velvet Ropes” followed suit debuting #1 onSmoothJazz.comand#2 on Billboard Smooth JazzMost Added charts. “Velvet Ropes” would go on to place inside the top 20 on three different smooth jazz radio charts.