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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:

Urban Jazz Coalition – Cool, Steady Ambassadors of C-Jazz

Urban Jazz Coalition (UJC), now in its 24th year (with all original band members, mind you), has been one of the hottest live performance ensembles on the contemporary jazz scene and has produced some of the finest recordings in c-jazz to date.

On the live performance side, the band has electrified audiences time after time, performing its unique and energetic blend of R&B/Jazz/Fusion at a multitude of prominent jazz festivals around the country, including The Capital Jazz Festival, The Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Capital Jazz Fest Supercruise, The Boscov/Berks Jazz Festival, The Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, Jazz Fest West, The Russian River Jazz Festival, River Raisin Jazz Festival, and many more.

JazzTimes Magazine award winning columnist, Brian Soergel, has described the Urban Jazz Coalition sound as “flush with rhythmic grooves, funky bass lines, and beautiful melodies.” The band has also made a strong impression on radio with three consecutive releases achieving Top 30 status on multiple contemporary jazz charts. Their latest project, Covers, tips the band’s collective hat to some of the most influential artists of our time, ranging from Al Jarreau to Mariah Carey. With incredible creativity and an obvious intention to pay proper homage to those artists, the band does a marvelous job with its interpretations.

The band’s previous release, One Step Closer, generated two “Top 30” singles and is listed as one of the “Top 100 Records of 2014” on the prestigious Groove Jazz Music Chart.

UJC’s music has been featured on network television programming, international film soundtracks, national advertising campaigns, and as part of an eclectic group of artists on a Gospel/Jazz compilation project released by Capitol/EMI Records.

In addition to the notoriety that UJC has earned as a self-contained group, they have also become one of the most in-demand backing groups in the smooth jazz genre, having performed as sidemen for a number of top contemporary jazz artists including Peter White, Nick Colionne, Jeff Lorber, Paul Taylor, Chuck Loeb, Marion Meadows, Brian Simpson, Jackiem Joyner, Cindy Bradley, Tom Braxton, Althea Rene’, Oli Silk, Ken Navarro, Jessy J, Joey Sommerville, Marcus Anderson, Nils, Four80East, U-Nam, Lin Rountree, Paula Atherton, Matt Marshak, Elizabeth Mis, and Phil Denny.

When asked why this group has generated so much excitement in smooth jazz circles, former Radio & Records chart columnist Carol Archer once said, “A lot of artists aspire to sound as tight and as funky as The Urban Jazz Coalition…”

Bassist Phil Raney is the founding member of Urban Jazz Coalition. Raney has been the driving force behind the emergence of UJC as an internationally recognized jazz group, while composing material, producing the band’s music, and directing marketing and promotion for the band’s independent record label.
As a youth, Raney’s musical interest was first aroused while listening to his Aunt Edna play piano with the church choir. He would later go on to study violin and trumpet, and became a self-taught guitarist during his teenage years.

As a college student at Ohio University, Raney converted to the electric bass and gained his first professional experience performing with The Journey’s End Band. He also studied acoustic bass under the tutelage of Carl Thompson, Dean of Ohio University’s music school, and finished course work in both harmony and music theory. Phil gained valuable studio experience while working as a DJ and audio engineer for WOUB-FM.

Following college, the budding musician worked with a number of popular jazz and R&B groups in the Dayton and Columbus, Ohio areas. He also began to develop his production skills and began his career as a songwriter and producer, signing record deals for his music with independent gospel labels based in Detroit and Chicago.

Before founding UJC, Raney moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and quickly made a strong impression on the west coast music scene. He performed as bassist with gospel great Andre’ Crouch, and also recorded with legendary jazz drummer, Roy Porter.

“I’ve had a beautiful life…full of tremendous experiences,” says Raney. “I’ve been blessed with great parents, a loving family, and many good friends over the years. I’m just a firm believer that if you have faith in God, live your life the right way, and work hard, the Lord will make good things happen for you.” Certainly, having such polished and accomplished musicians as Hector Maldonado (percussionist), Brandon Howard (keyboardist), Richard Randolph (saxophonist), Rich “Rico” Adams (drummer), and Duane Tribune (guitarist) rank highly among those blessings and experiences.

Boasting consistency, professionalism, and commitment as major strengths and contributors to their longevity and musical prowess, UJC has earned its rightful place among the most competent and solid artists in the world of c-jazz. – Ronald Jackson

To view UJC’s discography, click here.