This National Recording Artist’s saxophone style brings to mind the sultriness of Grover Washington, Jr., the soulfulness of David Sanborn, the silky smoothness of George Howard, and the tender passion of Ronnie Laws.
Thomas “Tony” Exum, Jr. was born in Colorado Springs, CO. He spent much of his childhood travelling from Germany, to Mississippi, to New Orleans, and back, due to his military upbringing.
As a child, as early as age 3, Tony’s interest in “grown up” music was extensive. For Christmas, at the age of 6, Tony received Parliament-Funkadelic albums, but by then, he was already a huge fan of Slave, the Jacksons, S.O.S. Band, RUN DMC, LL COOL J, and of course, New Edition. He not only could recite the words to his favorite tunes, but could also identify any instrument!
At the age of 11, Tony picked up a saxophone given to him by his uncle Larry, a U.S. Army musician for Fort Carson, for the first time and soon developed a love for it. He later developed a passion for the sounds he could create with the saxophone, even being asthmatic; and this is where his journey began. “I knew I would be a musician of some sort. The saxophone intrigued me and quickly became the way my heart wanted to express itself musically.” says Tony Exum, Jr.
Tony Exum, Jr. attended the highly-acclaimed, prestigious Lamont School of Music, University of Denver, and believes that this is truly where his career began. In his developing years, Tony utilized his gifting by performing in stage plays, and as a side-man across the state of Colorado. He very quickly became a widely sought-after musician performing live more than 150 times a year. Tony credits the success he gained in the early years to the “greats” he shared the stage with like: the Temptations, the Four Tops, Dennis Edwards, Cheili Minucci & Special EFX, and the Chi-lites, and War – just to name a few.
In 2008, Tony took a leap of faith, began his solo career, traveled extensively with local backing bands he performed with and managed, and became a fixture in Denver’s famed jazz venue, Jazz@ Jacks where he continues to perform regularly. In 2010, he released his first album, “Finally.” Tony marks this release as one that catapulted him into the National scene. The next few years, the year 2011 specifically, not only grounded Tony, but molded and shaped his professional career. He began performing nationally at jazz venues like Blues Alley, Washington DC, Sedona Jazz on the Rocks Festival, JW Marriot Jazz Festival, Phoenix AZ, Yoshi’s, San Francisco, CA, and many others. This lead to the coveted award voted by over 10,000 listeners, the 2011 International Breakout Star Award by the Los Angeles based coffeetalkjazzradio.com.
In 2012, Tony released his sophomore album, “The One.” He co-wrote 11 of the 14 tracks, and it was this release that further developed him as a musician and writer. He describes these rhythmic tunes as a classy mix of “urban contemporary jazz funk meets R&B. As Ronald Jackson, of thesmoothejazzride.com, says: “Tony Exum’s sophomore effort called “The One,” contains much of the vibe and groove that brought his fans to his side in the first place: A combination of danceable jams, sensuously slow and appealing R&B’ish seductions, and an even punchier delivery on other tracks, if you can imagine that!” After this release, Tony began sharing stages with the Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Gail Johnson, Aysha, Troop, Nick Collionne, Gerald Albright, Dave Hollister, Norman Connors, Paul Taylor, Pamela Williams and Dave Koz.
As a live performer, Exum’s smile and sense of humor effortlessly connects him with his audience. He exudes the unique chemistry of passionately seductive soul, flirtatious solos reminiscent of old school R&B, all while bringing his captive audience to their feet as he teases them with (instrumental) battles with fellow band members. Exum commands the stage as if he owns it, while remaining humble, and always willing to share the stage with other industry greats.
Tony Exum, Jr. will star in the stage play, “Love is in Your Face” in the summer of 2014. Also, look forward to Mr. Exum’s 3rd CD release entitled “5" in 2015! Current albums are available via his website, www.tonyexumjr.net, Amazon.com, CDBaby.com and iTunes.
IN THE PRESS
“… all of the ladies say “Hey” when he drops his intoxicating harmonies. Mr. Exum's sophomore release, "THE ONE", in 2012, has picked up major traction all over the 'net and radio airwaves. As for T.U.M.S. players, they’d personally like for you to listen to one of his more passionate compositions from this album entitled, "Your Eyes, Your Lips, Your Smile.", produced by bassist Julian Vaughn, another guy on the cusp of major stardom. “Courtesy of ReverbNation.” thenewurbanmusicscene.com - The New Urban Music Scene
“Every track on “The One” exceeds expectations and is sure to please all of his fans. It screams with a sense of purpose and intensity and will instantly grab new listeners.” Carla Maniscalo - Mile High Music Notes
“Granted, smooth jazz isn’t exactly a staple of your friendly neighborhood Reverb column, BUT when it comes to top-flight jazz musician, Tony Exum, Jr., even our most hard-edged punk, metal, and hip-hop friends must acknowledge that the man is a consummate musician. Mr. Exum’s latest release features guitarist Tim Bowman, and saxophonist Marcus Anderson, performing a set of the saxophonist's seductively soulful originals. There's also a mellifluous cover of New Edition's late-'80s ballad "Can You Stand the Rain," featuring Terrill Paul (aka Rellion), who sings backup vocals for Bobby Brown, and the newest member of the popular 90’s R&B Group, Troop. Bill Forman - Colorado Springs Independent
“She, Aysha, was accompanied by a flavorful sax player, Thomas “Tony” Exum, Jr., who played each note like his rent was due.” Galaxy – connectingthadotz
Tony Exum, Jr. delivers a strong, R&B-heavy debut; and as far as smooth jazz saxes go, this is an album that is relaxing, and at the same time, intricate enough to make you rewind and listen twice.” Katherine Gilraine - The Index
“It's not often that you experience such a tranquil seductive sound that offers originality with a touch of similarity. Tony manages to combine the familiar sounds of George Howard, break it down and create a mind-blowing masterpiece that combines the style of a legend with the new artistry of “sax-full bliss”. His song entitled "Don't Worry Bout a Thang" is beyond stimulating, but every song on this cd is absolutely perfect. A Masterpiece! ” DeAnna Phillips - CDBABY.COM
“Refreshingly funky, yet measured and controlled in that soulful; and driven kind of way that is so reflective of much of today’s, and even a lot of yesterday’s smooth jazz. Sax man Tony Exum, Jr. steps forward to toss in his own pizzazz in the form of a quality debut production entitled “Finally” (a very telling title indeed). While compared in some ways to the late great Grover Washington, the late great George Howard, and the young, gifted Jackiem Joyner, this artist certainly carries enough firepower to ignite his own identity with no problem whatsoever.” Ronald Jackson - The Smooth Jazz Ride
“We LOVE Tony Exum, Jr’s eclectic, fantastic & electric (i.e. diverse, amazing, & hot) track titled “Give It To Me”! Tony is featured on our artist page, and is a part of our Smooth Playlist! Listen here at www.ussmoothjazz.com.” ussmoothjazz.com via facebook
“The debut CD of Saxophonist Tony Exum Jr. FINALLY is a disc that encompasses all elements one would expect from the sax man, combining a bit of funk with plenty of contemporary jazz. The record is thematic and consistent throughout. It brings a different kind of energy from that of many c-jazz discs of today. FINALLY contains soulful sax melodies, hard drums, and bass grooves that give the disc its definite and unique urban jazz feel. Noteworthy cuts include: Sweet Conversations, an upbeat classic-jazz cut, “4 on the Floor,” that will put a groove in your step, and “Music in Me” both thoughtful and insightful.” Elaine K. Miller - Urban Jazz News Finally CD Review
“You can’t help but compare to Grover Washington, Jr., George Howard, or David Sanborn; they show up in mentions of Exum everywhere you look online, but I’d like to add my own. If you like the heavier funky side of jazz, not just the high soaring soft melodic sax overlays you get with many straight tenor-sax type jazz, the funkiness ala the Yellow Jackets, or maybe the up-tempo Spyro Gyra songs like “Heliopolis” or “Jubilee”, or if you’re old enough, think Tom Scott and the L.A. Express – you will LOVE this album!” Butch Leitz - The Soundboard