Gregg Karukas – Soul Secrets

SoulSecretsThe “Secret” is out! 2013 Grammy winner Gregg Karukas is back with a new collection featuring his signature piano touch, pristine production, and melodies that are both soulful and sophisticated. Organic, funky, and melodic is how the original Rippingtons keyboardist describes his latest, long awaited 12th solo project, Soul Secrets. Gregg’s elegant grand piano melodies and infectious grooves are everywhere; this time around he digs into his roots, featuring the classic Fender Rhodes, Wurlie, Minimoog and B3 keyboards quite a bit.

At a generous and expansive 14 tracks and no covers, “Soul Secrets” reveals Karukas as an artist who has refined his sound to be instantly recognizable while constantly exploring a wide range of styles and grooves – from old school soul-jazz, with hints of gospel, R&B and funk to the world/samba grooves he immersed himself in while touring with Brazilian legends Sergio Mendes and Dori Caymmi. The album’s debut single, “Elegant Nights” is classic Karukas; it was the #1 Most Added Track in its first week on radio. The live interplay sizzles as Gregg surrounds himself with an all-star guest list that includes his friends Rick Braun, Euge Groove, guitarists Ricardo Silveira, Michael O’Neill, Adam Hawley and James Harrah; violinist Charlie Bisharat, Luis Conte, Eric Valentine, Nate Phillips; vocalists Shelby Flint and Ron Boustead and 21 year old rising sax star and occasional touring partner Vincent Ingala.

A prolific, genre-crossing veteran of Smooth Jazz, Brazilian, and R&B/Pop, Gregg won a Grammy Award in 2013 for producing, composing, playing all keyboards, arranging….and engineering the Echoes of Love CD, a collaboration with Omar Akram, winning Best New Age Album. Since his 2009 release “GK”, Gregg has also been busy touring with guitarist Peter White and Rick Braun and served as musical director for the annual Dave Koz and Friends at Sea Cruises 2011-2013. After traveling the world with Koz and supporting all the artists, Gregg made a deliberate career move in 2014 to focus more on his solo projects and finally found time to bring 14 new songs to life.

Beginning with his 1987 debut, “The Nightowl”, Gregg has released 11 critically acclaimed projects that have generated countless radio hits, and his musical versatility, easygoing nature and pro work ethic has kept him in demand as a musical director and keyboardist for many of the top artists in the smooth jazz and R&B/pop genres. He has toured with Boney James, Ronnie Laws, Peter White, Rick Braun, Dave Koz, Melissa Manchester, Larry Carlton, Sergio Mendes, Brenda Russell, Jeffrey Osborne and been featured in various all-star groups in recent years. Gregg has received multiple Best Keyboardist nominations at the Oasis and National Smooth Jazz Awards and has produced an array of artists at his own Nightowl Studios, including Kirk Whalum, Peter White, Craig Chaquico, Gabriela Anders, The Pointer Sisters and New Age/crossover pianist David Lanz. His songs have been recorded by Jessy J., Richard Elliot, George Benson, Chaquico, Arnold McCuller, Pauline Wilson, Kenia and Deniece Williams, and his best-known radio hits, “Girl in the Red Dress” (#4), “Nightshift” (#1), and Jessy J’s #1 hit “Tropical Rain” all beautifully showcase Gregg’s funky, melodic compositional style that is instantly familiar to his fans.

“People say my music sounds romantic and uplifting – and I look so happy on stage,” he says. “It’s totally true. For me, the best music comes out of an inner feeling of either intense happiness or sadness. We all have unspoken Secrets inside, and every song I write is my attempt to connect to this mysterious and powerful force. The whole process, the journey, the wonderful feedback I get from listeners is what keeps me going back to the piano. Revealing Soul Secrets.”

Gregg’s uplifting attitude shows in his concerts, where his ever-present joyful smile lights up the stage, and he has emerged over the years as one of the genre’s most dynamic and inspiring live performers since he hit in 1987 with the original Rippingtons at the very first Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival. Gregg has headlined the event 3 times since then, and most recently he has taken his energetic show around the world to Java Jazz in Jakarta, Manila and The Mallorca (Spain) Smooth Jazz festival.

Early days: Gregg spent his preteen years close to the jukebox in his father’s roadside tavern in Bowie, MD absorbing the all the hits of the sixties from The Beatles to Motown. Growing up his role models were the great composer/keyboardists Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Carole King, Leon Russell, Joni Mitchell, Joe Zawinul, and the recently departed George Duke. “Thanks to them, I was inspired by the idea that you could touch people’s emotions with melodic songs and lyrics that meant something,” Gregg says.
While still in 8th grade, Gregg became a member of the award winning Bowie High School Starliners big band. At age 16 (1972) he bought his first Minimoog synthesizer, stacked it on his Fender Rhodes and continued to hone his multi-keyboard, songwriting and album production skills in the garages, studios and clubs of Washington, DC. He joined with former Airmen of Note saxman Tim Eyermann to form East Coast Offering (their answer to Tom Scott’s LA Express) which quickly became the Mid-Atlantic region’s top jazz/fusion band. Later, he branched off to form Natural Bridge, which included future solo bass star Michael Manring (Windham Hill, Michael Hedges). Both bands were regulars at the famous Cellar Door, and later, The Wax Museum, opening shows for artists such as Angela Bofil, Larry Carlton, The Robben Ford Band (pre-Yellowjackets – this is where Gregg met Russell Ferrante), Billy Cobham, Jeff Lorber (w/Kenny Gorelick….G.), and many others. In late 1982 Gregg made the move to Los Angeles to widen his musical horizons.
Thanks to recommendations from Yellowjackets keyboardist Russell Ferrante, Gregg soon found himself in the company of top session players in the bands of Shelby Flint, Grant Geissman and Richard Elliot. His first major LA sessions were playing synthesizers and bass lines for Rockwell’s Motown Gold Album “Somebody’s Watching Me”, then arranging and playing the theme songs to Disney’s Ducktales and Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers. Gregg worked for many years as composer assistant, Synclavier programmer and engineer for Film/TV composer Craig Safan (Cheers, Stand and Deliver, Last Starfighter, Life Goes On, Mr. Wrong). He eventually formed his own group and kept developing his own original contemporary jazz catalog in the LA clubs and as the house band for It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and other TV shows. As a key player in the emergent LA Smooth Jazz scene, Gregg’s early bands and CD’s included young undiscovered sax talents Dave Koz, Gary Meek and yes, Boney James, before his breakout Warner Brothers deal.
In 1986, Gregg hooked up with Russ Freeman and founded the Rippingtons, playing all keyboards on their groundbreaking debut album “Moonlighting,” which Jazziz Magazine chose as the Most Influential Contemporary Jazz Album of all time. During production, Russ needed a signature, expressive EWI (wind synthesizer) sound so Gregg suggested Dave Koz and the rest is Smooth Jazz history. In 2011 their long friendship came full circle when Dave began his own Dave Koz and Friends at Sea Cruise and asked Gregg to be Musical Director, establishing what has become one of the ultimate “destination concert” events. In a deliberate career move to focus more on his solo projects, Gregg has taken “shore leave” and is hitting the studios and the road on his own in 2014.

Soul Secrets is now on sale at CDBaby.

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