WHO IS TEJ
This National Recording Artist’s saxophone style brings to mind the sultriness of Grover Washington, Jr., the soulfulness of David Sanborn, the silky smoothness of George Howard, and the tender passion of Ronnie Laws.
Thomas “Tony” Exum, Jr. was born in Colorado Springs, CO. He spent much of his childhood travelling from Germany, to Mississippi, to New Orleans, and back, due to his military upbringing.
As a child, as early as age 3, Tony’s interest in “grown up” music was extensive. For Christmas, at the age of 6, Tony received Parliament-Funkadelic albums, but by then, he was already a huge fan of Slave, the Jacksons, S.O.S. Band, RUN DMC, LL COOL J, and of course, New Edition. He not only could recite the words to his favorite tunes, but could also identify any instrument!
At the age of 11, Tony picked up a saxophone given to him by his uncle Larry Francis, Jr, a U.S. Army musician stationed at Fort Carson, CO for the first time and soon developed a love for it. He later developed a passion for the sounds he could create with the saxophone, even being asthmatic; and this is where his journey began. “I knew I would be a musician of some sort. The saxophone intrigued me and quickly became the way my heart wanted to express itself musically.” says Tony Exum, Jr.
Tony Exum, Jr. attended the highly-acclaimed, prestigious Lamont School of Music, University of Denver, and believes that this is truly where his career began. In his developing years, Tony utilized his gifting by performing in stage plays, and as a side-man across the state of Colorado. He very quickly became a widely sought-after musician performing live more than 150 times a year. Tony credits the success he gained in the early years to the “greats” he shared the stage with like: the Temptations, the Four Tops, Dennis Edwards, Cheili Minucci & Special EFX, and the Chi-lites, and War – just to name a few.
In 2008, Tony took a leap of faith, began his solo career, traveled extensively with local backing bands he performed with and managed, and became a fixture in Denver’s famed jazz venue, Jazz@ Jacks where he continues to perform regularly. In 2010, he released his first album, “Finally.” Tony marks this release as one that catapulted him into the National scene. The next few years, the year 2011 specifically, not only grounded Tony, but molded and shaped his professional career. He began performing nationally at jazz venues like Bestheda Blues and Jazz, Bethesda, MD, Blues Alley, Washington D.C., Sedona Jazz on the Rocks Festival, Sedona, AZ, Atlanta Smooth Music Festival, Mableton, GA JW Marriot Jazz Festival, Phoenix AZ, Yoshi’s, San Francisco and Oakland, CA St James Live, Atlanta, GA and many others. This lead to the coveted award voted by over 10,000 listeners, the 2011 International Breakout Star Award by the Los Angeles based coffeetalkjazzradio.com.
In 2012, Tony released his sophomore album, “The One.” He co-wrote 11 of the 14 tracks, and it was this release that further developed him as a musician and writer. He describes these rhythmic tunes as a classy mix of “urban contemporary jazz funk meets R&B. As Ronald Jackson, of thesmoothejazzride.com, says: “Tony Exum’s sophomore effort called “The One,” contains much of the vibe and groove that brought his fans to his side in the first place: A combination of danceable jams, sensuously slow and appealing R&B’ish seductions, and an even punchier delivery on other tracks, if you can imagine that!” After this release, Tony began sharing stages with the Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Gail Johnson, Aysha, Troop, Nick Collionne, Gerald Albright, Dave Hollister, Norman Connors, Paul Taylor, Pamela Williams and Dave Koz.