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Jazz Renaissance with Saxophonist Mike Phillips

Who is Mike Phillips ?

If there’s one particular word which comes to mind while both describing critically hailed saxophonist MIKE PHILLIPS and an ongoing theme of his illustrious music career within the jazz, R&B and even hip-hop worlds, it would be “authentic.” Phillips’ unusually high appreciation for music since early childhood, which manifested into everything from absorbing and learning musical instruments and immersing himself into all things music – his widely-noted, soulfully warm saxophone-driven sound sonically and melodically personifies the term.

Phillips latest groove-driven smooth-jazz musical offering, Pulling Off The Covers, cleverly turns out to be not only the soundtrack of his life but many of ours as well. “When you’re doing a cover, you do it your way…you do it how you do it,” Phillips explains of both the title and overall approach to his multi-influenced new set. “The song has to have swag and personality, and a harmonic or melodic outlook on something that already exists. The secondary meaning is you’re getting deeper into the song from an instrumental standpoint and maybe pulling off a layer. My perspective is getting deeper into songs.”

Born and raised in (“Money-Earnin’)Mount Vernon, New York (hometown to Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Al B. Sure and Heavy D) during the onset of the hip-hop generation to parents who fully encouraged his affinity for music, young Mike sampled multiple instruments before officially embracing the saxophone by the second grade. Yet it was a particular gift from his mother during this time which he says signaled an opening of musical floodgates for him. “After my mother gave me a record player, there was this jazz station, 89U I used to keep my radio on,” recalls Mike. “Then I would put the radio dial all the way up on the other end of the dial on Friday or Saturday nights to listen to Mr. Magic (popular early rap radio show). I was all over the place, but jazz was a big part of everything. This dual musical upbringing of sorts – which ranged from street corner rhyming and beat-boxing to honing his musicianship chops – prompted the decision to play professionally by the age of 16.

Hence, after making an impromptu debut at New York City’s Wilson’s nightclub in 1993, it came as no surprise when MIKE PHILLIPS not only became a regular presence at various open-mic jam sessions in Manhattan’s live music scene, but soon thereafter found himself scoring sessions and sideman work within jazz, R&B and hip-hop circles. Brought to the attention of the owners of Hidden Beach recordings, who quickly signed him and put him on the road opening for then label-mate Jill Scott in 2001. With noted, successful releases like 2002’s You Have Reached Mike Phillips, 2005’s Uncommon Denominator and M.P.3 (2010), received well by music critics and audiences alike, Mike simultaneously found himself amidst musical greatness when he was entrusted and embraced as saxophonist for the one and only music icon, Prince. “I played with him from 2004 to 2012,” recalls Mike. “He didn’t keep people that long, but I rocked with him from Musicology all the way up to those L.A. Forum shows.

Loaded with valuable lessons and experiences, MIKE PHILLIPS never ceased carving his own music destiny and identity, as his just-released Pulling Off The Covers signals not only the commencement of the ownership of his masters (via his deal with new label home SRG-ILS /Universal Music Group), but finds him musically moving forward… always, with hyper-creative authenticity.

Having more than paid his dues and proven a most comprehensive student of the masters, his quest for creative freedom is fully realized amidst the warmly intimate, most contemporary-sounding smooth-jazz grooves of Pulling Off The Covers. Concurrently premiered by his easy-bouncin’ take on The Doobie Brothers’ “What A Fool Believes” and his harmony-riddled lo-fi-hip-hop-meets-jazz-funk spin on Craig Mack’s Bad Boy-era “Flava In Ya Ear” (featuring Stevie Wonder, Trombone Shorty, Keyon Harrold & Blu2th) as its first singles, Pulling Off The Covers seamlessly melds classic jazz with everything from 70s Quiet Storm soul and 80s funk/R&B, to 90s hip-hop and even an all-time classic TV music theme. “The integrity of the song that exists shouldn’t exist when you’re trying to push the envelope with the cover,” says Mike on his approach to covering well-known songs.

Whether sonically navigating listeners through a smooth-coasting contemporary jazz “People Make The World Go Round” with Naturally 7 (The Stylistics) and a sassy harkening back to jazz/R&B crossover’s pioneering hit “Just The Two Of Us” featuring Butterscotch (Grover Washington, Jr with Bill Withers), or fusing Euro-funk with his signature jazz alongside a dependably mellifluous Brian McKnight on “Watching You” (Slave), maintaining the classic R&B chill of “Don’t Ask My Neighbor” featuring Angie Fisher (The Emotions) and even daring a jazz re-imagining of the classic Bad Boy multi-artist remix of “Flava In Ya Ear” (swapping out the rap posse for an R&B posse boasting Stevie Wonder/PJ Morton/Raheem DeVaughn/Naturally7/Eric Roberson/Leela James/Avery Sunshine (Craig Mack), this latest musical offering most represents the full life experience of the true MIKE PHILLIPS. “I want people to clearly understand that I am a product of hip-hop, the funk and everything that comes by way of the negro spiritual,” he reflects on the all-encompassingsound of Pulling Off The Covers. “I can roll the dice, and no matter what I throw out there I’m gonna make them proud because I’ve studied it and played it.”


World Renowned and Award Winning Saxophonist, Mike Phillips partners with The SRG-ILS Group to start a new Jazz Record label, "Keep It Moving Music" (KIMM).

As the 20th year anniversary of the release of his debut project, "You Have Reached Mike Phillips," approaches, Mike Phillips felt it was the right time to make this move and start creating the path for the new generation and the SRG-ILS Groupis the perfect fit. SRG’s founder and CEO, Claude Villani is a musician and producer himself and the company’s infrastructure is rooted in the genuine love of music, so the environment is conducive for growth and maintaining the integrity of the music.

Throughout his musical career, Phillips has experienced many shifts.

He is known as one of the hardest workers in the industry and has taken what has come to him as far as change in the industry and has consistently pushed forward, reinvented as needed, but never stopped moving. Keep It Moving Music will serve as a platform for young jazz artists that are extremely intentional about their musical growth, willing to work hard and want to learn the dynamics of the business. Artists that partner with KIMM will be developed, educated, mentored, and will potentially be exposed to working with other established artists on the SRG roster such as Brian McKnight, Raheem DeVaughn, After 7, and many more. Where radio was once the main avenue to share new music, KIMMwill work with their artists to utilize social media, curated playlist, NFT platforms and other cutting-edge technology to market their product.

In a time where contemporary jazz has become a cesspool of cultural appropriation, Phillips is determined to make sure that the shoulders upon which he stands on such as contemporary jazz artists like Grover Washington, Art Porter & George Howard, and legacy jazz artists such as John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Charlie Parker are respected and preserved. “We are responsible for the energy that we put into the musical space and that we patch up every hole that appears when an icon leaves us by working to build a new generation of jazz musicians that respect and connect with the culture”.

Phillips credits Wayman Tisdale for his current success and part of the ‘why’ behind KIMM. “Wayman is a huge reason why this vision is so important to me. As a young player, he took me under his wings, signed me to Tisway Productions and developed me as an artist’, Phillips says. “It was in that singular movement that I felt the energy of someone being extremely intentional in making sure that they used their power, relationships, musical insight and business acumen to propel me somewhere that I didn’t know I could get to on my own”. In life, things tend to happen in cycles and it’s important to complete your cycles. “Just as Wayman impacted my life by creating an opportunity for me and told me to take my rightful place in the music industry, I am completing the cycle by impacting and inspiring the budding artists coming behind me”.

Mike Phillips also commemorates the 20th year anniversary of his partnership with the Jordan Brand as the Air Jordan 17 turns 20. “The Culture of Cool" incorporates Fashion, Music, Art & Sport. The Air Jordan shoes have always been at the epicenter from a footwear perspective. The Air Jordan 17, was 1 of the first shoes, to overtly bring musical artistry to footwear design. MJ's moves on the court, were never scripted. They took on the impromptu nature like the world of jazz. It was quite fitting that we were inspired by the artistry of a young saxophonist like Mike Phillips. The musical genre with a blend of sophistication and hip hop style, was a perfect representation of the man and the product designed for The Man!," mentions Gentry Humphrey,__ Former Vice President of Jordan Footwear.

Text provided by his PR Team


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