Celebrated keyboardist, composer and studio musician, Brian Simpson has been the ‘go-to’ man for everyone from Janet Jackson and Teena Marie to George Duke, Stanley Clarke and Dave Koz, for whom he has had the distinction of being musical director for the past 15 years. The chart-topping musical chameleon who wrote the #1 R&B hit “The First Time” for Surface in the 1990s confesses, "Ultimately, my listeners inspire me to make my music.”
Known for his ability to sculpt timeless love songs, soulful party anthems and melodies that stay on your mind, Brian Simpson is truly a master at his craft. South Beach, his inaugural album for Shanachie Entertainment, delivers on every front. The album’s title track, with a jubilant vibe reminiscent of the Ramsey Lewis smash hit “The In Crowd,” is already top 20 on multiple jazz charts, two months prior to album release. ”I'm very happy we chose ‘South Beach’ as the first single,” confides Simpson, “because it's probably the song that's most indicative of my style. My travels take me to some pretty nice places, but my favorites are always the ones with beaches. In the last year I've been to Hawaii, Bali, Indonesia, and several beaches in Florida. The wind, sea, and sand really inspired the melodies you'll hear.
Hailing from Gurnee, Illinois, Brian always knew music would play center stage in his life. “Our house was filled with music. My older brother and sister both played instruments, and my brother's rock band rehearsed in our living room every weekend. I never really considered any other lifestyle,” shares the keyboardist. Simpson’s breakthrough as a solo artist began in 2005 with the #1 radio hit “It’s All Good.” The title track of It’s All Good proved instantly and joyfully prophetic, as it hit #1 on the Radio & Records Smooth Jazz Airplay chart and remained in the Top 5 for four months.
After graduating from Northern Illinois University, Simpson relocated to Los Angeles where he quickly immersed himself in the local jazz scene. Late night jazz sessions found him playing alongside everyone from saxophonists Everette Harp and Boney James to guitarist Norman Brown. The free-spirited musician soon found himself taking a temporary leave of absence from the jazz scene, touring the world with pop divas Teena Marie, Sheena Easton and Janet Jackson. His foray into the pop world didn’t end there; in January 1991 he co-wrote the #1 Pop hit “The First Time” by Surface, which conquered both the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts.
Placing his success in pop aside, Brian Simpson has always been a working jazz musician. He has toured with some of the greats of recent jazz history, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Kirk Whalum, and Jonathan Butler. Brian has been the musical director for jazz saxophonist Dave Koz for the past 15 years, and for the last 8 years the Musical Director, of the highly popular “Smooth Jazz Cruise" featuring Marcus Miller and David Sanborn.