A world-renowned jazz recording artist and musician, composer/pianist Kevin Toney's music covers a broad range of styles and is timeless and classic yet always contemporary. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, he attended the prestigious Cass Technical High School and performed with many of the city's top jazz musicians including Marcus Belgrave and Donald Walden. His early musical influences included a mix of Bach, Debussy, Chopin, Art Tatum, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.
While still a student at Howard University -- where he would later receive his B.A. in composition and jazz studies -- Toney was discovered by trumpeter and jazz studies department head Donald Byrd, who would put together a group of his best students; Toney became the leader of this groundbreaking jazz fusion group called the Blackbyrds. He recorded seven albums with the group, three of which were certified gold, and many of their hit songs, including "Rock Creek Park" and the Grammy-nominated "Unfinished Business," were Toney compositions.
He has numerous albums to his name as a solo artist, including Retrospectives, 110 Degrees and Rising, Sweet Spot, Strut, Extra Sensual Perception, Lovescape, Pastel Mood, and Special K. Strut was selected by the 2002 Winter Olympics Committee as part of its "official music" alongside works by Paul McCartney and Alicia Keys.
Toney has performed at major jazz festivals and concerts throughout the United States including the Capital Jazz Festival, the Playboy Jazz Festival, the Long Beach Jazz Festival, the Jazz and Blues Festival in Denver, the Pasadena Jazz Festival, Chene Park, and others. As an educator, he conducts master classes and makes guest artist appearances at universities and schools around the country, including CSU Los Angeles, UC Irvine, East Carolina University, Howard University, Columbia College, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
In 2012, Toney released the gospel-oriented A Grateful Heart, his first ever solo piano recording. The following year, he reunited with members of the Blackbyrds for several reunion shows and organized the Donald Byrd Acoustic and Electric Sessions concerts in San Francisco and New York. Toney then produced 2014's A Love Like Ours, the debut album by his daughter, vocalist Dominique Toney. In 2015, Toney kept busy as musical director for the theatrical production Words by Ira Gershwin. ~ Jonathan Widran