Billy Valentine

With reactivating the iconic jazz label, Flying Dutchman, veteran singer and songwriter Billy Valentine became the perfect musician to reintroduce the imprint with his sensational new album, Billy Valentine & The Universal Truth.

Possessing an empathic, lissome voice, Valentine draws upon the soul-jazz legacy of such iconic Flying Dutchman singer and songwriters as Gil Scott-Heron and Leon Thomas, on his new album as he delivers testifying renditions of message songs originally recorded and written by Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Eddie Kendricks, War, Prince – and of course, Scott-Heron and Thomas. 

Valentine says that he’s always been drawn to message songs. He remembers witnessing the civil rights protests through the Deep South in the United States, the Kent State University shootings in 1970, and the Vietnam War and its devastating aftermath on many military veterans returning to civilian life. “So, the music on my album speaks to me,” Valentine says, “I think this is the most important music that I’ve done yet in my life.” 

Produced by Bob Thiele, Jr. – the son of Flying Dutchman Records’ founder, Bob Thiele – the album features an array of jazz luminaries that included tenor saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, trumpeter Theo Croker, bassist Linda May Han Oh, guitarist Jeff Parker, vibraphonist Joel Ross, percussionist Alex Acuña, pianist/keyboardist Larry Goldings, bassist Pino Palladino, and drummer James Gadsen, among others. 

The album opens with a plaintive makeover of Mayfield’s 1970s “We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue,” a sobering ballad about projecting racial pride and Black humanity in the face of insurmountable odds. That theme continues on Valentine’s righteous rendition of Kendricks’ 1972 Black Power anthem, “My People Hold On.”

Valentine tips his hat to Scott-Heron and Flying Dutchman Records’ legacy with his haunting take on “Home Is Where The Hatred Is,” a soul-stirring testament about the struggles of kicking substance abuse. The label’s rich legacy continues with Valentine’s mesmerizing cover of saxophonist Pharaoh Sander’s signature song, “The  Creator Has A Master Plan,” which originally featured vocalist Leon Thomas, who co-wrote the classic, and later recorded his version on his 1970 Flying Dutchman Records debut LP, Spirits Known and Unknown. 

The album continues with Valentine’s poignant reading of Prince’s 1987 socio-political masterpiece, “Sign O’ The Times” followed by a biting rendition of Stevie Wonder’s sardonic 1974 hit, “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” Valentine then draws upon his own legacy with his enthralling version of “Wade In The Water,” a Black American jubilee gospel tune that has been covered by many musicians, including the Young-Holt Unlimited, whom with Valentine once sang background. The album continues with a razor-sharp cover of War’s 1972 signature tune, “The World Is a Ghetto.”

Valentine began recording the album right before the coronavirus pandemic. As the sessions proceeded, the world erupted in protest after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department. “Making the album suddenly became very cathartic,” Valentine recalls, “The pandemic was one thing. Then to see what happened to George Floyd – that just broke my heart.” 

Although the songs on the album were written decades ago, Valentine ties many of their specific topics and themes to modern times, particularly the rise of the Back Lives Matter movement.

“All of these songs speak to everything that we are going through now,” Valentine explains. “It feels like history is repeating itself. Once I stepped into these songs, beautiful things happened, because I’ve studied each of them. With each song, I was able to find a place within my soul.”

The making of Billy Valentine and the Universal Truth seems to have started more than 30 years after Valentine first met Bob Thiele Jr. in the late-1980s. Around that time, Valentine had recently ended his partnership with his brother John. Together, they’d performed, toured and recorded as the Valentine Brothers. Beginning in 1979, the Valentine Brothers released a handful of (now rare groove) modern soul LPs on Source, Bridge, A&M, and EMI Records. Some of their most renowned singles include 1982’s “Lonely Nights” and “Money’s Too Tight (to Mention).” The latter was covered three years later by the British soul group, Simply Red. 

Around the time of performing with the Valentine Brothers, Billy’s recognition as a songwriter emerged after penning songs for other artists such as Ray Charles, and the Neville Brothers. He also worked with Jesse Johnson and Vesta Williams. 

Valentine grew up in Columbus, Ohio, after he from West Virginia. In Columbus, his parents owned a nightclub, Club Faces, where his five brothers and seven sisters worked. “We had people lined up around the block to get in because my mother and father greeted you at the front door,” Valentine recalls. “And my sisters would work the cash register while my brother and I worked the stage. When there was a break, we would call our sisters to come up on stage to sing with us as well. It was a family operation.”

With his older brother, Alvin being a noteworthy Hammond B-3 organist, a young Valentine grew up during the height of 1960s and early-1970s jazz movement. In addition to touring with the soul-jazz trio, the Young-Holt Unlimited, Valentine opened for such musical icons Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. When he and his brother, John, moved to Los Angeles to further their musical career, they soon got hired to sing in the vocal orchestra for the U.S.’s first run of The Wiz. That gig lasted three and half years. 

After the demise of the Valentine Brothers, he struck a songwriting partnership with Thiele, Jr., which led to him singing demos for Warner Chappell songwriters, such as Gerry Goffin, Mark Isham, Burt Bacharach, and Hal David. “I was singing demos for writers, who were trying to plug songs for Michael Bolton, Al Green, or Bonnie Raitt,” Valentine recalls. “I started to truly make a living singing demos.” 

Singing demos opened doors for Valentine to work in television and movies too. He worked with filmmaker Robert Townsend on his 1991 classic movie, The Five Heartbeats, on which he provided the singing vocals for fictional lead singer, Eddie King, Jr. On television, Valentine sang on songs produced for Boston Legal and Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. And on Sons of Anarchy, over its entire 7 season run, Valentine’s voice would become a staple on so many memorable cover songs produced by the  series’ composer Bob Thiele, Jr.

Now we have an illustrious and multifaceted career that spans more than 50 years, Bobby Valentine is ready to be reintroduced to the world with the glowing, Billy Valentine & The Universal Truth.

The jazz sensibilities within his own vocal, interpretative prowess and within the splendid arrangements will certainly catapult Valentine in a head-turning late-career renaissance, especially given the acclaim the Los Angeles’ West Coast Get Down and Jazz Is Dead scenes are receiving. 

 “On this album, I was able to stretch my vocals and express my music in a different way.” Valentine says. “This really feels like my true debut album as an artist.”

 

Walter Smith III

August 5, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
August 25, 2019 Da Camera
Houston, TX, USA

Steve Lehman Trio // "The People I Love" US Tour

September 19, 2019 Kuumbwa Jazz Center
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
September 20, 2019 SFJAZZ Center
San Francisco, CA, USA
September 21, 2019 Constellation
Chicago, IL, USA
September 22, 2019 Bop Stop
Cleveland, OH, USA
September 24, 2019 – September 25, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
September 26, 2019 Regatta Bar
Boston, MA, USA

The Jazz Gallery All-Stars

September 1, 2020 – October 18, 2020 AVAIL Worldwide

Tigran Hamasyan

April 30, 2020 Lawrence University
Appleton, WI, USA

Theo Croker 'Star People Nation'

September 14, 2019 Lodge Room
Los Angeles, CA, USA
September 16, 2019 Springfield Technical Community College
Springfield, MA, USA
September 20, 2019 – September 21, 2019 Blue LLama
Ann Arbor, MI, USA
September 23, 2019 Dizzy's Club (Big Brother Big Band)
New York, NY, USA
October 22, 2019 CBE
Cologne, Germany
October 27, 2019 Grillo Theater
Essen, Germany
November 1, 2019 The Loft, UCSD
San Diego, CA, USA

Gerald Clayton Quartet US Tour

September 23, 2019 – September 24, 2019 Lied Center (Solo)
Lawrence, KS, USA
September 27, 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey, CA, USA
September 28, 2019 – September 29, 2019 Moss Theatre
Los Angeles, CA, USA
October 1, 2019 Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix, AZ, USA
October 3, 2019 The Outpost
Albuquerque, NM, USA
October 4, 2019 Santa Fe Music Collective
Santa Fe, NM, USA
October 6, 2019 Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society
Half Moon Bay, CA, USA
October 7, 2019 University of Nevada
Reno, NV, USA
October 8, 2019 The Triple Door
Seattle, WA, USA
October 10, 2019 – October 13, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
October 16, 2019 Blues Alley
Washington, DC, USA
October 19, 2019 The Factory at Franklin
Franklin, TN, USA
November 20, 2019 Herb Alpert Music Center (Solo)
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Buika

August 1, 2019 Patio Theater
Chicago, IL, USA
August 3, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA

JD Allen

January 25, 2020 Jefferson Center
Roanoke , VA, USA

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

September 1, 2019 Detroit Jazz Festival
Detroit, MI, USA
December 13, 2019 – December 14, 2019 JALC with René Marie
New York, NY, USA

Marcus Lewis Big Band

September 3, 2019 Des Moines Jazz Festival
Des Moines, IA, USA

Camila Meza & The Nectar Orchestra

August 4, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
September 14, 2019 Lake George Jazz Festival
Lake George, NY, USA
September 28, 2019 Tempe Arts Center
Tempe, AZ, USA
October 12, 2019 Mondriaan Jazz Festival
The Hague, Netherlands
November 8, 2019 SFJAZZ
San Francisco, CA, USA
November 11, 2019 Arcata Playhouse
Arcata, CA, USA
November 15, 2019 – November 16, 2019 Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Marcus Strickland 'Twi-Life'

August 4, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA

Joel Ross 'Good Vibes' 'Kingmaker' Release Tour

August 3, 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Newport, RI, USA
August 30, 2019 Chicago Jazz Festival
Chicago, IL, USA
September 13, 2019 White Plains Jazz Festival
White Plains, NY, USA
October 17, 2019 Kummbwa Jazz Center
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
October 18, 2019 Vashon Center for the Arts
Vashon, WA, USA
October 19, 2019 Earshot Jazz Festival
Seattle, WA, USA
October 20, 2019 Holocene
Portland, OR, USA
October 21, 2019 Brubeck Institute
Stockton, CA, USA
October 25, 2019 BRIC Jazz Festival
Brooklyn, NY, USA
November 21, 2019 Annenberg Center
Philadelphia, PA, USA
December 29, 2019 – January 1, 2020 Umbria Winter Jazz Festival
Umbria, Italy

Sullivan Fortner Trio

July 20, 2019 – July 21, 2019 Cola Jazz Camp
Columbia, SC, USA
July 28, 2019 Woods Hole Jazz (Solo Piano)
Falmouth, MA, USA
September 19, 2019 Temple University
Philadelphia, PA, USA
September 22, 2019 – September 23, 2019 Boise Jazz Society
Boise , ID, USA
October 1, 2019 Exuberance
Philadelphia, PA, USA
October 3, 2019 – October 6, 2019 Jazz Standard
New York, NY, USA
October 26, 2019 Clermont-Ferrand
Clarmont-Ferrand, France
November 18, 2019 – November 19, 2019 Paris Philharmonie
Paris, France
December 29, 2019 – January 1, 2020 Umbria Winter Residency
Umbria, Italy

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