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TSJR’s Featured Smooth Jazz Artist

A profile of our selected smooth jazz artist of the month

Because we appreciate the talents and hard work of all of the many artists in our beloved smooth jazz genre, TSJR has made it a standard practice to highlight and honor one artist each month who has established himself or herself as an integral part of the smooth/contemporary jazz “engine.” This month, we honor:

Oli Silk – Groovin’ With Funk & Technology

U.K. keyboardist Oli Silk began writing and recording music as part of jazz funk duo “Sugar and Silk”—consisting of Silk and bassist Danny Sugar — in the late 1990s. The pair released 2 albums to much European acclaim, and this grabbed the attention of Trippin’N’Rhythm Records’ CEO Les Cutmore who signed Silk on a multi-album deal which first gave us his debut solo CD So Many Ways in 2006.

Let’s go back a few years before this, however.

Silk first started playing keyboards at age 11 and was recording at age thirteen (even though it was a simple cassette recording done in his bedroom – just him on keys and some background music accompaniment. “But it kind of as a teen opened my eyes as to what I could do with a little bit of technology and some knowledge of keyboards,” he says.

At that point, Silk became very interested in establishing a musical identity. At that time, 1990-91, what was going on in England was very much production-based dance music. So, for a few years, Silk was very much into dance music, into his technological phase. He still played keyboards and improvised, and still played jazz. By then, with a bit of formal training, he had acquired a knowledge of music and basic theory.

When Silk first met Sugar in college, it was his first experience of actually encountering guys his own age and who were also good accomplished musicians, because previous to that, when he was in high school, there wasn’t really anyone I could relate to. They were playing classical stuff, and then there was Silk, doing full composition work, doing a house music track, or a nice smooth groove track. To his music teachers, it wasn’t something quite like they’d ever heard before, a 16-year-old kid playing this material. This created a bit of isolation for him in his class as others couldn’t really relate to him musically. Then, in college, along comes the 17-year-old Sugar and a drummer named Bernie. This provided Silk with his outlet. Silk and Sugar tried fusing their Smooth Jazz ideas with a few others, and the result was a “sort of bizarre trying-to-be-Weather-Report sound,” as Silk puts it.

From that point, things just came together. Their first album came out over in the U.K., and it became quite a nice little cult album.

Fast forward to the current time, and Silk now has 5 solo CDs to his credit, all under the Trippin’N’Rhythm label. The most recent, released in July 2016, is entitled Where I Left Off, and the first single features one of Silk’s musical mentors and pals, English guitar guru Peter White.

Silk has had many chart-topping radio singles over the years, most notably one of the biggest hits of 2009 “Chill or Be Chilled,” and the 2014 chart-topper “At Your Service.”

Silk remains one of the most dynamic and energetic keyboardists in the genre, and his unique mix of jazzy instrumentals, funky vocal cuts, and downright dirty ol’ school keytar and vocoder, give his live shows that super punch that has garnered him a loyal and dedicated US fan-base.

Silk’s skills as a keys player have made him the UK go-to guy for some of the genre’s biggest artists such as Gerald Albright, Chuck Loeb, Boney James, Dave Koz, Euge Groove and Peter White. His credentials as a musical director are also far reaching, most notably for 4 years at the Dubai International Jazz Festival – overseeing some 30+ artists on the Jazz Garden Stage.

When off stage, the keyboardist is a sought-after smooth jazz producer, composer and mix engineer whose recent clients include keyboardists Nicholas Cole and Tim Watson, and saxophonist Michael J Thomas. Silk has also composed music for TV (Oprah Winfrey, MTV, Miami Ink) and hi end smartphone apps (Zynga Games).

When asked why he hasn’t let his success go to his head, the artist replies simply, “Probably because I’m English. We’re deeply cynical people. We just know that something bad is coming around the corner! Seriously, I never have. You know when you meet famous people and stuff, and some people get so star struck? We’re just like, well, they’re just human beings who are good at what they are, and we just give them their respect. You don’t let it consume you too much, if you do, it comes across to the audience. It’s very nice to be humble. People pick up on that.” Words to the wise. – Ronald Jackson

To view Oli Silk’s complete discography, click here,