496 West performing recently at an event. Their new album Rules of Engagement is produced by Atlanta’s DJ Pnut.
By Skip Wilson
Group breathes life into smooth jazz with signature sound audiences have enjoyed for more than ten years.
DETROIT, MI — The popular Michigan-based jazz group 496 West is on a mission to disprove everything you’ve heard about the decline of smooth jazz. Led by musician and producer Charlie Wilson, 496 West has become a staple at many of the Midwest’s signature music festivals and community events.
The band’s latest album, Rules of Engagement, is already receiving airplay. As many jazz festivals and music events begin to come back online after a long hiatus, the energetic group is ready to break out of the woodshed and entertain with this latest project. Listeners are sure to be delighted with this evolution of the group’s sound.
Album Rules of Engagement by 496 West
Rules of Engagement combines original songs and covers that add to an already impressive music catalog. The album includes covers of Ella Mai’s Boo’d Up and Bob James & David Sandborn’s Maputo. The title track from the album boasts a hauntingly tuneful theme belted out by the saxophone and supported and embellished by layers of well-balanced sound.
Produced in collaboration with Atlanta’s own DJ Pnut, the surprising choices in chord progression and phrasing will keep listeners on their toes as well as tapping their toes the entire ride.
Similarly, the track Soul Catcher puts the stylings of a muted trumpet front and center with the backing of a band you might find in a gospel church — piano, bass, drums, and organ. Combining these sounds provides this album with an instant feeling of familiarity but with a few surprises that keep it excitingly fresh.
There are also new favorites to add to an already impressive catalog of originals from 496 West. The tune Dilla J, a song written for Wilson’s grandson connects jazz to hip hop as if this evolution of sound were an evolution of the Wilson family history.
In this mix, the composition displays the undeniable fusion and lineage between hip-hop and jazz. And much of that connection comes to the audience through improvisation. And whether we call it freestyling, improvisation, freeform, or contemporary, listeners will be delighted to hop on the journey from the old school to the new school.
DJ Pnut, commented, “Hip hop, like jazz, is a creative voice of a people who have historically been silenced. Both have allowed the world to feel and hear the beat of our culture. It’s important to continue to recognize the roots that ground us; for they provide the path back home. The same is true of the chord progression and in hip hop. You can move away from the foundation. You can experiment. Go in a different key or a different time. But eventually, you return home. Gospel, Jazz, Blues, Hip-Hop are all of the same house and when we hear it all together, it is a harmony like none other.”
Having just returned from an Alaskan adventure, producer and bandleader Charlie Wilson had this to say about this latest release, “Two years is a long time to be away from the stage. And during that time, we had the ability to sit down and develop as artists and develop our sound. While staying true to smooth jazz, we created an album that puts a fresh spin on the sound and offers music-lovers something a little bit updated. The challenges of bringing this project together during the pandemic were tricky, but they helped us grow. We’re looking forward to bringing this sound to audiences as we get back out on the road this summer.”
The album Rules of Engagement by 496 West is out now and is available on all major streaming music platforms. Visit 496West.com for more information.
About 496 West:
Based in Lansing, Michigan, and formed by guitarist Charlie Wilson, 496 West has continued firing up stages since their debut performance in 2008. As a collective, 496 West is experienced and professional. They have garnered a reputation of being one of the best live bands based in mid-Michigan.
496 West offers soulful vocals, a powerhouse horn section, killer keys, silky strings, and indispensable percussions grounded in the soul, smooth jazz, and R&B genres with a sprinkling of the blues and gospel jazz.
Delivering original songs and reimagined covers, 496 West provides a full music experience and rich production. Along with a versatile repertoire of songs for different crowds and musical preferences the format includes music–from slow to jam and listening to partying. To complement the mood, their creative signature is a mix of instrumental songs and outstanding soulful vocals.