Equally skilled on keyboards, guitar, drums and bass, Jon B. is an in-demand songwriter who has written or co-written hits for Toni Braxton ("In The Late Of The Night"), Az Yet ("Secrets"), After 7 ("Damn Thing Called Love," "Save It Up," "What U R 2 Me"), and Color Me Badd ("From The Back," "Ooh Tonight"). Now Jon B. breaks out with his second Yab Yum/550 Music solo album, Cool Relax - and it seems certain to take the Rhode Island-born, California-bred artist's career to a new level. Cool Relax showcases Jon B.'s maturity as a songwriter, his deeply soulful touch, and his way of finding that smooth groove that makes you want to tap your foot, bob your head, or maybe just turn the lights down low.
For Jon B, the new album represents the culmination of several years of steady growth. "My first album helped me find my own style and my own voice," Jon explains. "Now I've found my niche and the new music reflects it. This record feels natural. When I was writing, the music just flowed out."
Cool Relax is Jon B.'s most accomplished and most accessible work yet. From the open-hearted soul of "Love Hurts" to smooth, hip-hop influenced "R U Still Down" to the easy flow of "Let Me know," he proves himself at home in weaving the best of contemp orary styles into his own special musical tapestry. Cool Relax kicks off smooth with the opening cut, "Shine," then moves on to the hip-hop influenced "R U Still Down," and winds up cool and sexy with "Tu Amor."
"This record goes from easy-listening to a little taste of hip-hop to sexy smooth to upbeat," says Jon B. "There's a little something for everybody here." The first single, "Don't Say," a reaffirming love song, features Marc Nelson formerly of Az Yet on vocals. "It's a song about keeping your word and being true," says Jon B. "Love Hurts," about finding common ground in a troubled relationship, is a gorgeously arranged ballad that feature Jon's plaintive voice rising over a background of rich harmonies. "Shine," an exhilarating song of new love, effortlessly fuses Jon's light touch with a sultry style that lends the song an alluring warmth. "Pride & Joy" is the expression of a guy falling head over heels for a lady.
Jon's personal favorite is "They Don't Know." "I wrote this one night after fussing with my girlfriend," he remembers, "it's a song about two people having the courage to do what is right for them, and not worrying about what other people say." .
Jon's abundant talents continue to attract well-known artists, several of whom lent their skills to the present album. "Love Hurts" and "Pride & Joy" were written by Grammy-winning producer-artist Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. The captivating love song "Tu Amor" was written by Diane Warren, composer of countless hits for the likes of Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Aretha Franklin. Cool Relax also features studio collaborations with an impressive cross-section of talent, including the late Tupac Shakur, vocalists K-Ci and Jo Jo of Jodeci, and producer / deejay Ali Shaheed Muhammed of the progres sive hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest.
Some of these collaborations began as improvisations and jams between Jon B and his guest artists, later refined into full-fledged songs. "Tupac chose me out of a group of people that wanted to work with and called me up," Jon recalls. "I came to the studio where he was recording, and we wound up taping for three hours. He went to extra lengths to make me feel comfortable." Their collaboration now is one of the highlights of the album: "R U Still Down" features Tupac rapping over a slow, bumping Jon B groove.
K-Ci and Jo Jo also made time to record with Jon B., on both the lush, sexy "Can We Get Down" and the Babyface penned "Pride & Joy." "We just hit it off right away," Jon says. "They are two down-to-earth guys who have great voices." Jon's collaboration with Ali Shaheed Muhammed "brought such a positive vibe that really inspired me," Jon B. says, and the positive vibes of their joint effort imbue the title track of Cool Relax. Jon: "That cut has a cool bounce that I really love. The message of that song is for people who enjoy life and don't take everything so seriously. It's okay to just take it easy sometimes."
It's no surprise that Jon B. should come equipped with so many skills. His father is a professor of music, his mother a concert pianist; his sister plays the violin and his brother, cello. His grandparents owned a record store, which exposed Jon B. early on to all kinds of different sounds. On Cool Relax , Jon B. was influenced by the work of several great old school artists - including Donnie Hathaway and Marvin Gaye.
This reverence for the past combines with an eye on the future to make music that's deeply personal, yet universal. " I hope my songs speak to people as individuals, and I hope they speak universally as well," Jon explains. Cool Relax brings Jon B.'s soulful panache to the forefront, the work of an exciting young artist who speaks the truth in his music, and who's music speaks a truth of its own.