Papa J SEZ Trumpeter, Joey Sommerville

Contemporary Jazz musician, trumpeter Joey Sommerville, was born in Detroit, Michigan. His music can best be described as a funky musical gumbo of jazz, R&B and gospel.

As with a lot of musicians, the root of his musical essence was during his formative years in the Baptist Church. “I've got two big influences,” Sommerville says. “The first was Sister Yvonne Murrell. She was the pianist, organist and choir director at the church where I grew up. When I was a teenager, I would judge the caliber of my playing by the number of people in the congregation who 'got happy'! The Holy Ghost isn't bound by a building; I have church in the club!! This is in one of the songs on my new Papa J Sez album. It’s the same energy. When people get happy at church, you feel the same thing when you're in the club! It doesn't matter where I am, it's the same, but it's different... same're just in a different room.”

 Tenor sax player and blues singer, Big Joe Burrell, was Sommerville’s main mentor. Burrell played with Count Basie and BB King for a number of years. “I played with him and the Unknown Blues Band throughout his solo career. He taught me how to be an entertainer. You NEVER stop being an entertainer”. When I inquired about his greatest achievements he replies, "That's a tough one, I don't really think of it like that. All of them are great achievements, and you just try to do it again the next time. I live in the present and look forward to the future not worrying about the past.” He continues, “If you aren't touching the listener's soul, then you aren't really playing music. Communication is the key.” Sommerville chuckles, “My wife gets a free show every day…all the time. I'm putting on a show half the time when I'm at home. I tell her she might get mad at me, but she'll never get bored! My personal life is entertainment; my entertainment is my personal life. My family and I have a good time all the time.”

His album, Like You Mean It garnered international airplay and led to numerous accolades and awards, including The American Society of Young Musician's All That Jazz Award for 2009. His 2011 album was The Get Down Club. Jazz veterans Jeff Lorber, Marion Meadows, Bob Baldwin and Najee all appeared on this album. Sommerville says, "Music is a collaborative art form and I want to take my version of it to the next level. At the time The Get Down Club was the ultimate expression of my artistic vision.” Sommerville’s 2014 album titled Overnight Sensation received excellent reviews including an endorsement from USA Today. This project featured Sommerville along with notable guests, Jeff Lorber, Jeff Bradshaw, Elan Trotman and jazz guitarist, Earl Klugh. He has also performed and recorded with mega-rock group Phish and played with Ronnie Laws, Phil Perry, Wayman Tisdale and many others. Sommerville’s performances have included major venues and festivals nationally and internationally. Among them have been Nashville's Music City Jazz and Blues Festival, The Seabreeze Jazz Festival, The Atlanta Jazz Festival, Jazz Summer Festival in Nassau (Bahamas), The Uptown Market Festival (Bermuda) and The Smooth Jazz Festival Augsburg (Germany). For the last four years he hosted Joey Sommerville's The Get Down Club on The Capital Jazz SuperCruise.

I wanted to know where the name Papa J came from, laughing he said, "Papa J came from my grandson Solomon. I had to figure out a name for myself and I wasn't going to be called Grandpa. Papa J stuck and I thought it sounded cool and decided to roll with it on stage.”

Sommerville’s advice to others starting in the music business is to always be yourself. Papa J Sez, “If you do you, there is NO competition. Trying to be like someone else…I've never seen that end well. Embrace your uniqueness. Stay educated and know what's going on. Be selective about those you are surrounded with to make sure they are of good character and integrity.” He wholeheartedly stresses that character is more important than talent.

Look for Sommerville’s new album, Papa J Sez! He excitedly says, “This album has a funkier, contemporary blues vibe, but it’s still me…Papa J!

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