Keyboardist and composer Brian Simpson is a sought-after studio musician and musical director who has regularly crossed from jazz to pop and R&B. He initially garnered attention in the 1990s working with saxophonist Dave Koz. On his own, Simpson has released several Top 20 jazz albums, including 2010′s South Beach, 2015′s Out of a Dream, and 2018′s Something About You. In 2020, he collaborated with guitarist Steve Oliver on Unified, and he returned in 2021 with All That Matters.
Born in 1961 in Gurnee, Illinois, Simpson grew up in a musical family and eventually earned his music degree from Northern Illinois University. After graduating, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he found work performing with such artists as Boney James, Norman Brown, and Everette Harp. This led to stints touring with a variety of pop artists, including Janet Jackson and Teena Marie. In 1991, Simpson garnered more attention after co-writing Surface’s number one hit R&B single “The First Time.” As a studio musician, Simpson has worked with such artists as Stanley Clarke, Kirk Whalum, and George Duke. Since the late ’90s, he has acted as musical director for saxophonist Dave Koz. Simpson has released several solo albums, including 1995′s Closer Still and 2005′s It's All Good, the latter of which reached number 37 on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums chart. Two years later, he delivered his fourth full-length, Above the Clouds, which hit number 21 on the jazz chart.
With 2010′s South Beach, Simpson moved to the Shanachie label. Showcasing guest appearances by George Duke, Euge Groove, and Peter White, the album cracked the Top 20 of the jazz chart. Three years later, he was back with his second Shanachie release, Just What You Need. The album featured contributions by Gerald Albright, Marc Antoine, Elan Trotman, and Jonathan Butler. The title track hit number three on the smooth jazz songs list, helping push the album to number six on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums chart. Out of a Dream followed two years later, boasting appearances by Jonathan Fritzén, Norman Brown, Maysa, and Najee. Bouyed by the hits “When I Say Your Name” and “Skywatcher,” the set hit number eight on the jazz chart.
In 2016, Simpson returned with his seventh solo effort, and fourth for the Shanachie label, Persuasion. The album featured performances with a cast of smooth jazz luminaries including saxophonist Boney James, guitarist Peter White, bassist Axel Al, and others. Something About You arrived in 2018, and included the single “Morning Samba.” In 2020, Simpson paired with guitarist Steve Oliver for Unified, which debuted at number 21 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. The following year, he delivered All That Matters, featuring guest spots by Najee, Nicholas Cole, Steve Oliver, and others. ~ Matt Collar