Saxophonist Gerald Albright has been a leading force in smooth jazz for years. He's recorded a string of best-selling albums and is a top draw at concerts and festivals around the world. Ironically, Albright earned a degree in business management with dreams of some day owning his own company. Albright put those dreams on hold while he pursued another longtime passion, leading his own band.

Gerald Albright claims his early interest in business was purely practical. He says getting a business degree was more about having "something to fall back on." As it happened, he never had to "fall back" on anything but playing music.

Albright grew up in the South Central section of Los Angeles. He grew tired of piano lessons but was thrilled when his music teacher brought him an old saxophone to play. The sax, while it's the instrument he's most associated with, is one of several Albright learned to play over the years. A saxophonist and bassist in his college jazz band, Albright was invited to tour with singing sensation Anita Baker. Of course, that led to other touring and recording dates, including session work with Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Phil Collins, The Temptations and Jeff Lorber.

Gerald Albright rose from sideman to bandleader when he signed with Atlantic Records in 1987. He also added flute, keyboard, drum programming and vocals to his repertoire, while maintaining a delicate balance between contemporary and traditional jazz styles.

His latest album, Kickin' It Up, goes beyond jazz altogether, incorporating classic pop and R&B, jazz funk and swing into his varied instrumental tracks.

The release of Albright's new album coincides with his concert tour Groovin' For Grover, a tribute to the late jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Junior. Musicians Richard Elliot, Paul Taylor and Jeff Lorber will join Albright on the upcoming tour.

Another great saxophonist who had an impact on Gerald Albright was the late Junior Walker of Junior Walker and The All-Stars fame. On Kickin' It Up, Albright dedicated his self-penned Walker's Theme to the memory of Junior Walker.