Emitting an abundance of light on the front and back covers, contemporary jazz keyboardist Mark Etheredge describes his forthcoming “Connected” as the happiest album he’s ever made. Listening to the ten-song Vipaka Records release produced by two-time GRAMMY® winner Paul Brown, the upbeat melodies and optimistic grooves are spirit-raisers, written by a man who is quite comfortable in his own skin. But the inspiration behind the project that is scheduled for release February 26, 2016 is anything but comfy. While growing up, the tall and gawky Etheredge was bullied. He felt alone and disconnected. One of four boys born to a father who was a minister, Etheredge grew up singing and playing in church yet as he discovered his sexual identity, he felt further isolated. He was different and he knew it.
“I had a deep feeling of being disconnected from humanity. Later, I realized that these feelings were all in my head. We are all connected in this world, and what we do affects each other. ‘Connected’ is a celebration of our human connection - across geography, race, language, class, gender, sexual orientation and beliefs,” said Etheredge. "I've wanted to make an album like this for a long time. Working with Paul Brown and the high caliber of musicians was a real treat for me, and I'm thrilled to share this album with listeners."
While most of the tunes on “Connected” offer a treasure trove of lilting piano and keyboard harmonies, the tension is palpable on “Lost In The Shuffle,” an instrumental account of Etheredge’s bullied past provoked by Brown’s menacing electric guitar and horn section stabs from saxophonist Greg Vail and trumpeter Lee Thornburg. It took decades before Etheredge could feel at ease composing a soaring affirmation like “Be Who You Are.” Championing our differences and connectivity, the disc’s deep-pocketed title track will be the first single shipped to radio after the New Year for airplay.
The urbane outing produced to sound live also makes room for the lighthearted with the carefree romantic romp “Groovin’ With My Baby”; the rousing “For Your Love” highlighting ace guitarist Chuck Loeb (Fourplay); the frivolously-titled “Bing Bang Boom,” which packs an explosive wallop along with combustible Latin sounds; and incorporates R&B and gospel into the mix with Andy Suzuki’s soul-stirring tenor sax appeals as Etheredge demonstrates his proficiency on the Hammond B3 and Wurlitzer on “Soul Clap Honey.”
Throughout the album, drummer Gorden Campbell, bassist Roberto Vally and percussionist Richie Garcia form a taut rhythm section from which Etheredge’s nimble and vibrant piano and keyboard melodies leap to the fore, bolstered by Brown’s guitar prowess.
“Connected” denotes a return to instrumental music for Etheredge following 2012’s adult contemporary vocal session “Change Coming,” which was driven by “The One,” a single graced with backing vocals from dance music diva Jeanie Tracy that received international airplay. His debut date, “As Dawn,” was a New Age record released at the height of the genre’s commercial power and reissued in 2010. “Connected” is Etheredge’s first collection recorded in Los Angeles after his relocation from the Bay Area two years ago, leaving a job in the tech space to fully focus on following his musical muse.
“I realized I wanted to do something more meaningful, make a more positive impact on the world and share my passion for music,” said Etheredge, who will be performing at album release concerts at Spaghettini near Los Angeles on February 28 and at Bay Area jazz club Angelicas on March 19.
Etheredge’s “Connected” album contains the following songs:
“Groovin’ With My Baby”
“Be Who You Are”
“Connected” featuring Paul Brown
“Lost In The Shuffle” featuring Paul Brown
“For Your Love” featuring Chuck Loeb
“Bing Bang Boom”