“I just had to take a step back and make a career decision,” Denny said. “The turmoil the mortgage industry was experiencing at the time (inspired me to) pursue music full time. I made it a business for me.”
That risk has already paid off for Denny. Earlier this year, he was invited to participate in the 10th Annual Dubai International Jazz Festival, allowing him to rub elbows with talent such as Jason Mraz, James Blunt and Spyro Gyra. And this Friday, Denny is dropping his debut album “Crossover” at an exclusive CD release performance party at south Lansing’s Best Western Hotel ballroom. While Denny has been playing the saxophone for 22 years, “Crossover” is his first venture into original arrangements, all of which will be featured at Friday’s show.
“Until recently, I played a lot of cover tunes at (local) bars and events,” he said. “This is my chance to really identify who I am as an artist on my instrument. This is my voice at this point. People can identify the tone of my horn and some of the melody writing. I put a lot of effort into those things.”
Denny listeners may hear traces of his heroes, like Grover Washington Jr., Kirk Whalum, Richard Elliot and Boney James, but his scope doesn’t stop at one genre.
“I’m kind of across the board with influences,” he said. “From R&B and neo-soul to smooth jazz and guitar sounds from the ‘80s, the new album infuses a lot of different rhythms. It has melodic hooks — some reviewers are calling them infectious grooves. It’s got a bit of that sexy, sultry side to it, and it’s also got the up-tempo stuff that breaks outside of the traditional smooth jazz box.”
LaToya English, Denny’s event coordinator, said Denny’s dedication is evident not only in his music, but his diligent promotional tactics.
“Phil is very dedicated with music, (and) his hard work shows,” English said. “He goes out and passes out his own fliers and talks to people. The VIP section sold out weeks ago, (and) we’re actually thinking of asking the hotel to open up another section of the ballroom so he can accommodate more guests.”
“It’s been a great transition so far,” Denny said. “I’m my own boss, but I still have an agenda every day. I work eight to 12 hours a day. It’s more than performing on the stage. It involves building relationships, networking on social media and doing things in the community. But I’m also a father, so at the same time it’s opened up my schedule for the kids.”
Phil Denny “Crossover” Album Release Concert
Friday, Aug. 10
8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show
Best Western Plus Hotel ballroom
6820 S. Cedar St.
$15 advance, $20 door