ALEX BUGNON & MARC ANTOINE
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Jazz pianist Alex Bugnon has been a prolific, energetic force on the contemporary music scene for more than two decades. A renowned musician/composer/bandleader, Bugnon hales from the picturesque town of Montreux, Switzerland – site of the world famous Jazz Festival. No doubt, the annual convergence in his hometown and in his own home, of some of music’s most illustrious names played a role in his decision to pursue a musical career, as did his early friendship with Herbie Hancock. The fact that his uncle was the legendary Donald Byrd only served to further his decision.
Bugnon left Montreux to continue his training at a music conservatory in Paris before landing in Boston to further hone his skills at the famed Berklee School of Music. It was here in the U.S. that his exposure to a diversity of musical styles – from R&B to gospel and funk, began to shape and influence his personal sound. He toured the south playing with Gospel Leviticus and after graduation from Berklee, had the opportunity to play in bands backing R&B greats Patti Austin & James Ingram, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson and Keith Sweat. In between gigs he drove cabs and taught French at the Berlitz School as a means to support his musical career. But it would be his encounter with saxophonist Najee that would ultimately turn the tide for him. Signed to Orpheus Records, Najee would make the introduction that would result in Alex’s first recording contract.
His first album, Love Season (1989), with the fledgling record label, catapulted the virtual unknown to prominence and set him on his musical course. The album rocketed to number 2 on the R&B charts and was nominated for best jazz album at the Soul Train Awards. In 1991 Alex released his second album for Orpheus, Head Over Heels and like the first, it became a chart topper cementing his position as a radio and fan favorite on the R&B and smooth jazz circuit, earning him Black Radio Exclusive’s, Best New Artist Award.
It was no coincidence that Alex was embraced by an R&B/soul audience, after all his love of music was rooted in an appreciation and understanding of classic jazz and soul-based artists, “from Memphis Slim and Bill Evans, to Herbie Hancock, Thelonius Monk, Art Blakey and Earth, Wind and Fire.” This was his inspiration and it easily translated into his own compositions and in his delivery of the standards.
In 1991, he parted ways with Orpheus Records and signed with Epic to record his award-winning third album, 107 Degrees in the Shade (1991) for which he received a Soul Train Award. He would release one more album under the Epic label, the best selling, This Time Around (1993), before signing with RCA for, Tales from the Bright Side (1995), before taking a five-year hiatus from recording.
As the new century began, Alex was also beginning anew. Signed to the Narada/EMI label he resurfaced, with the first of four albums for the label; As Promised (2000) followed by Soul Purpose (2001), Southern Living (2003) and Free (2005).
Then in 2007, a chance meeting with award-winning producer and label founder, Michael Cuscuna, resulted in a comprehensive compilation album, The Ultimate Alex Bugnon, featuring cuts from each of his past recordings, and giving Alex a taste of what he had always been in search of – control. The Ultimate Alex Bugnon was released on Michael Cuscuna’s Mosaic label and provided Alex the time needed to give thought to his creative process and allowed him to return to what was important to him as an artist, as a composer and as a musician.
Bugnon continued touring, but used the in-between time to reflect and re-evaluate every aspect of his personal and career journey. The result of this introspective period was his 2010 release, Going Home, recorded under his own label, Xela Records. The album incorporated a traditional sextet format, with trumpet, saxophone and trombone added to his trio, and featured old friends, drummer Poogie Bell and bassist Victor Bailey.
Over these past few decades, Alex Bugnon has built a strong and loyal fan base across the country and around the world. His tour schedule has never eased, even besting the great Dizzy Gillespie’s record of appearances at Washington, D.C.’s Blues Alley. He makes it a point of never missing a day of piano practice or of writing. If he is not composing, he is listening to his favorite artists and biggest influences: Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Red Garland, Kenny Kirkland, Mulgrew Miller and Keith Jarrett.
As the year comes to a close, Alex has released his 12th album – HARLEM, the second on Xela. HARLEM is a mix of original compositions and his personal take on beloved and well known songs including the classic, A Night in Tunisia, Curtis Mayfield’s Pusherman, Stevie Wonder’s Summer Soft and Burt Bacharach’s A House is Not a Home.
Alex makes his home in the historic village of Harlem, New York, and maintains his connection to his beloved Montreux.
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