Blue Note Hawaii ~ Will Downing
Giorgio Armani once said: “I love things that age well–things that don’t date, that stand the test of time and that become living examples of the absolute best.”
While he was most likely referring to his own sartorial preferences, that quote is a perfect summation of one particular artist and his body of work, ”The Prince of Sophisticated Soul” Mr. Will Downing. More than his considerable sales and accolades, this quote may hold the perfect key to best measure his ever growing legacy. The music of Will Downing has aged well, and has stood the test of time. Over the course of a 27 year career he has unquestionably become a living example of the absolute best that smooth-R&B and soul has to offer.
Downing has certainly put in his time. Before signing with Island Records in the ’80s, he received his first national exposure as a much sought after backing vocalist. He recorded two albums with modest success domestically before his self-titled “Will Downing” release spawned a major hit in the U.K. with a Top Ten charting cover of “A Love Supreme” catapulting the album to platinum sales there. Downing’s big stateside breakout album, “A Dream Fulfilled,” in 1991 perfectly showcased his distinctive baritone vocals and began to unveil his gift as a song interpreter with an array of diverse tracks such as War’s “The World Is A Ghetto”, Paul Davis’ “I Go Crazy” and a stunning version of Angela Bofill’s “I Try.” Both the “I Try” single and album hit the Urban Top 25 Charts with critical acclaim.
“A Dream Fulfilled” began a period of musical identity for Downing and led a string of successful albums that focused on smooth, ballad driven romantic music. While greatly influenced by his friend the late Luther Vandross, Downing was actually creating his own brand of love music that was less urban and more jazz influenced. Despite the stylistic comparisons and contrasts, he shared Luther’s sensibilities and flare for singing to women on a truly emotional and romantic level.