Grammy-nominated guitarist/songwriter/producer DOC POWELL’s signature guitar sound is sealed in music history on over 200 songs by some of the biggest artists in every genre of music and has earned him over 12 gold and platinum records. Fifteen years of recording and touring with the Pavarotti of soul, Luther Vandross, has kept him at the forefront of contemporary jazz, rhythm & blues, and gospel music, contributing to some of the biggest live concert tours and major recording projects by some of contemporary music giants including Prince, Chaka Kahn, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Kirk Franklin, and Yolanda Adams among many others.
After a six-year hiatus from his solo career, Powell was back on track with the October, 2016 release of his 12th solo project This Is Soul which was released on his DPR Music Group label and distributed independently. Over half the project (seven songs exactly), were written by Powell, proof that some things are worth the wait.
The first single, a remake of Beyonce’s giant hit “Love On Top,” was co-produced by premier producer/songwriter James “Big Jim” Wright, (Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis production/Mariah Carey), NY-based star mixer Michael Brauer (Vandross, Coldplay, John Mayer) at world-renowned Electric Lady Studios – is a win-win musical collaboration.
The single was a hit a second time around for Powell & Wright. It quickly climbed up Billboard’s top 20 smooth jazz charts where it stayed for 8 weeks. It also reached #20 on smooth-jazz radio and is still at the top of many major radio stations playlists around the country.
The follow-up single “So Cool” (a Powell original) spotlights the talents of newcomers trumpeter Melvin Jones and smooth upright bass player Kevin Smith. It topped the Billboard chart at #5 and was the #1 most played song on SiriusXM Radio as well. It reached the top 10 on iHeart Radio, Pandora, Smooth Jazz Network and made the Top 5 on smooth-jazz radio. Other popular songs on the project include “This Is Soul” featuring the timeless performance of Patrice Rushen interacting with the funky trombone licks of Wilbert Williams, the original dream girl Ms. Jennifer Holliday on “Exhale” with background vocals by three of L.A.’s best; Lynn Fiddmont, Bridgette Bryant and Kim Parchman and gospel sensation Nikki Ross (Kirk Franklin) on “Tomorrow”. The gem of the entire album (penned by Powell) is the mesmerizing “A Song for our Prince,” which he wrote and recorded on the day of Prince’s death.
Doc Powell’s musical journey started in Spring Valley, NY, when he began playing guitar at age six and by the fifth grade, he had joined a band and was earning money playing at dances and bar mitzvahs. He played on his first professional recording session at the age of 15. After high school, he studied at the University of Charleston, WV, but left after a couple of years to try his hand as a session musician in New York City.
As a struggling young New York musician, Powell was handpicked by Italian producer Fred Petrus, who invited him to play on an album for an unknown group called Change, that was being recorded in Italy. The group’s lead vocalist was a talented jingle singer named Luther Vandross.
The meeting between Powell and the late Luther Vandross, catapulted them into world-wide performances and live recordings of some of Vandross biggest hits such as “Busy Body,” “Give Me The Reason,” “Forever, For Always, For Love,” and the infamous guitar solo on the mega hit “Stop to Love.”
Powell also performed with Vandross on his 10-day sold-out performances at Wembley Stadium (1989), making history for breaking the previous record held by Elton John. When Vandross penned “She Loves Me Back” and sang the line, ”This man is the Doctor”, it became Powell’s formal introduction to the music world and the name would stick with him forever.
Shortly thereafter, he became the most sought-after guitarist in New York, recording and performing with some of the biggest names in music including Aretha Franklin’s (on her comeback record Jump To It), the late Grover Washington Jr., Quincy Jones, Gerald Albright, George Duke, Bob James, Stanley Clarke, Randy Brecker, George Benson, Dave Koz, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle, Shirley Caesar, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Jeffrey Osborne, and Vanessa Williams. He also started getting calls for television commercials, soap operas like One Life To Live and movie soundtracks such as Down and Out In Beverly Hills, Turner & Hooch, The Goonies, Hero, and The Five Heart Beats.
His big solo break came when he scored a gig at Mikell’s, one of Manhattan’s hottest jazz clubs at the time. It was a popular haven frequented by many iconic jazz veterans like Art Blakely and The Jazz Messengers, McCoy Tyner, George Benson, Miles Davis, and legendary playwright James Baldwin. The owners, Mike & Pat Mikell, decided to take a chance and book him for a weekend. Powell quickly built a loyal fan base that grew exponentially and spurred his solo recording.
In 1987, Powell landed a solo deal with Mercury/Polygram and his label debut, Love Is Where It’s At, earned a Grammy award nomination for his breathtaking cover of Marvin Gaye’s classic, “What’s Going On.” The track featured background vocals by none other than Luther Vandross. However, even with a hit single under his belt and an emerging international fan base, it took another five years before his second record was released.
Powell decided to set up his own label, West Coast Records (now called DPR Music Group) and financed his second release, Inner City Blues. Initially licensed by JVC in Japan and later by Discovery/Warner Bros. in the U.S., the album scored Powell a huge radio hit with the self-penned “We’ll Make It Last,” which re-ignited his popularity at radio. The project was recorded in its entirety with a Korg M-1 sequencing keyboard, which was a birthday present from Luther Vandross. “I took all the money I made touring with Luther to finance the record, and was ready to sell it door to door,” informed Powell.
Doc Powell’s resilient artistic spirit and perseverance started when he read a quote that his older brother Michael had hanging in their room growing up that read, “The mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work unless it’s open.” Powell says, “When I look back on my career, I see how that quote was instilled in me, from styles of music, to my versatility as a guitarist, bassist, composer, and producer.
“Keeping an open mind gives you endless possibilities to your goals and opens you up to new territory.”