In keeping with their tradition of the last several years of featuring wildly popular singers out in front of a major orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl will be filled with the sexy soulful stylings of Brian McKnight on Weds., Aug. 8.
It’s (Mc) the Knight and Sir Duke.
Asked about his knowledge of the god of big band music in a recent phone interview— like Duke Ellington — and how he prepared for the current tour with the Duke’s orchestra, and it quickly becomes apparent that no preparation was needed: McKnight, who grew up in Buffalo, NY, sang in the choir of the church where his grandfather was the minister of music. Everybody on his mom’s side of the family sings and plays, he adds.
The music of the Duke — and other giants of the day — filled the McKnight household. He and his three brothers (including older brother Claude McKnight of Take 6) were immersed in music. The way McKnight sees it, “It’s [Music’s] in our blood. There’s nothing we could do to get it [music] out of our lives even if we tried.”
His musical career began in childhood when he and his brothers had a barbershop-style quartet called The McKnight Brothers. In the group, he sang all the high parts; Claude (the oldest), now a falsetto, sang bass; and his other two brothers, Freddie and Michael, sang “the middle parts.” They regularly sang in church, as he says, “not because we wanted to —it was something we were made to do!”
Laughing, he turns serious, saying he hopes parents will “drag their kids out … to this majestic place playing this majestic music by one of the greatest American composers there ever was …”
He says it’s “an honor” to play with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Devoted fans know McKnight as a swooner (i.e., one who makes women swoon) of a plethora of adult contemporary music that includes the release of 11 albums and the sale of 20 million albums all over the world. He’s also won Soul Train Music awards and Image awards. Fans also know that he’s co-hosted “The Brian McKnight Morning Show” on 94.7 WTWV The Wave as well as a weekly night show.
Fans of Brian’s music can take a sigh of relief as, in addition to gems from the Ellington songbook, McKnight will sing the ballads he’s best known for.
Of late, McKnight’s sons Brian Jr. & Nikolas have been on tour with dear old dad and can be seen on stage with him for many a live performance. Not this one, though.
Is there any artist or genre of music he’d like to do that he hasn’t yet? McKnight responds: “You know, I never really think of it in those terms …When opportunities arise, I decide to do them or not … “ So, he says, when [country legend] Willie Nelson called, “I worked with him … so when things come across my desk, if it seems we can do something together — collaborate, then I’m always down for that …”
McKnight sees himself as a writer first: “Whenever I have the opportunity to write something new, then that’s always something I’m looking forward to doing …” And he loves sharing his knowledge of music with young people on the most basic level through the McKnight 360 Foundation.
What’s next? As one who’s in the touring business — not the record business — he’ll take time out to do an album at the end of this year and is back in the studio now writing music.