Kevin Toney is a true modern music renaissance artist. Throughout his career, he has continually pushed the envelope on contemporary music and has not allowed any genre to limit his creativity. All the while maintaining his unique musical voice. With an outstanding career spanning four decades and two Grammy nominations, three RIAA Gold Record awards, an NAACP Image Award, National Endowment For The Arts Fellowship Grant, Kevin continues to delight audiences everywhere.
An award-winning pianist, composer, author and speaker, Kevin first started playing piano at age five in his city of birth, Detroit, Michigan. His first teacher was his sister Hefen. At eight, he added cello and alto saxophone to his skill set. He later attended the prestigious Cass Technical High School and performed with many of his city’s top musicians. Kevin graduated to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he earned his B.A. in composition and jazz studies. During his tenure, he became the leader of The Blackbyrds, the innovative jazz-R&B fusion sextet founded by jazz trumpet legend Donald Byrd. Kevin wrote and co-penned many of the band’s most memorable music including the funk hit “Rock Creek Park”, the lovely harmonica-laced instrumental ballad “All I Ask,” and the brassy Grammy-nominated scorcher “Unfinished Business.” After six `70s Soul classics, Kevin left the group and recorded his first solo LP, Special K in 1982.
Kevin Toney truly came into his own with his 1994 release Lovescape, featuring his composition “Kings” which became a staple of then burgeoning smooth jazz radio. Kevin’s song “Aphrodisiac” is also a top “Steppin” Chicago style instrumental song. Over the next decade-plus, Kevin’s solo career and sound blossomed on Ichiban Records and Shanachie Records, with acclaimed albums including “Pastel Mood”, “Extra Sensual Perception”, Strut”, “Sweet Spot” and 100 Degrees And Rising”. This period found him experimenting in nearly every contemporary music palette. Among the honors he earned was having his 2001 album Strut selected by the 2002 Winter Olympics Committee as “official music” alongside that of Paul McCartney and Alicia Keys. He also became a fan favorite presence on the American jazz festival circuit.
By 2005 Kevin was transition and in line with his personal spiritual evolution he wanted his music to make thematic statements as well. Thoughts of a trilogy emerged within conversations with his thought collaborator, Don Mizell. The first chapter was the 2008 solo piano recording Heart of Gratitude (a.k.a. A Grateful Heart). This CD takes the listener on a spiritual journey through music in hopes of encouraging a deeper connection with God.
Kevin’s most recent album release is the second chapter and blends traditional acoustic jazz trio music with the compositional expanse of classical movements. Titled New American Suite (2012), the album introduces the artist’s dynamic new band, Kevin Toney 3 featuring Michael Bradford on bass and Chris Coleman on drums. Gigi Brooks, Jazz Times writes…”In Honor Of American Music. The entire album recreates jazz as we know it.”
Kevin Toney’s theatrical arrangements, compositions and orchestra music present the third chapter and blends all of his musical experiences in a new fresh approach. Kevin adapted and re-orchestrated The Gershwin’s – Porgy and Bess Score from Diedre L. Murray version and created a superb new score for a five piece jazz ensemble. Kevin’s bold jazz interpretation this great American classic was perform at the Ensemble Theater Company in Santa Barbara, CA earlier in 2017 and received great reviews. Kevin’s composition ‘Kinsey Suite For Piano and Orchestra” accomplishes the task envisioned by Antonin Dvorak and later by George Gershwin in finding a true national identity for American music. Kevin brilliantly depicts the historical American landscape that marries Jazz, Gospel, Blues and African music traditions with virtuosic improvisations into the canvas of a symphonic orchestration in a new and compelling way.
Beyond his own music, Kevin Toney has performed with an impressive survey of major artists that includes Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Sonny Rollins, Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, Kenny Burrell, Shania Twain, Isaac Hayes, Carl Anderson, Shirley Caesar, Oscar Brown Jr., Edwin Hawkins, Pink, Ray Parker Jr., Andrew White, Bobby Womack, Norman Brown, Peter White and more. He also scored a few films including films: the period drama “Kings of the Evening” (starring Lynn Whitfield and Tyson Beckford), Clarissa’s Gift directed by Obba Babatunde, and the documentary “The Kinsey Collection” (about a married couple that assembled the largest collection of African and African American art and artifacts in the United States).
In 2013 Kevin put together “The Donald Byrd Acoustic and Electric Sessions as a tribute to his early mentor Donald Byrd. This ensemble has featured Nicholas Payton – trumpet, the legendary Gary Bartz on Alto Sax, and Donald Harrison on saxophones, Dominique Toney/Vocals & Keys and Kevin Toney 3. They have performed successful shows at Yoshi’s in San Francisco and at the Winter Jazz Fest in New York, City.
In 2014 Kevin introduced singer/songwriter Dominique Toney (his daughter) to the world. He produced and released her debut album “A Love Like Ours” on K-Tone Enterprises. They have since then toured together through out the United States.
Kevin Toney also maintains a thriving life outside the performing stage and recording studio. Although God has blessed Kevin with a long successful striving music career, his greater purpose is “Helping Families Grow Through Faithfulness In Relationships.”
As an author, Kevin’s books include The Virtuous Man~Breaking The Men’s Code (2011), His latest book titled Super Glue Your Love Relationship (2017) is a powerful resource to help married and unmarried committed couples attain and sustain love in a relationship. Kevin’s other published books are The Kevin Toney Collection Volume I and Heart Of Gratitude-Piano Solos.
As a speaker, Kevin has shared his powerful message and music at Hour Of Power/ Crystal Cathedral, Praise The Lord (TBN), Fathers and Families Coalition Of America, Phi Beta Sigma National and Regional Conferences, Southern California Women’s Health Conference, Women N Power International Ministries (Dallas TX), Plymouth United Church Of Christ (Detroit, MI), Hearts Of Fire Conference (Atlanta, GA),) Youth Leadership Conferences (University of Southern California), Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church California Men’s Leadership Conference and more.
Kevin leads the Men’s Ministry at Lynwood United Methodist Church in Lynwood, California. He is a mentor for the ‘Menformation Project’, a Los Angeles faith-based group mentoring and Rites-of-Passage setting that brings together 10-18 year old boys with Godly minded men in a safe fun environment. Kevin and his wife – renowned costume designer Phyllis Toney – also started The Toney Family Foundation, focusing on arts and music related philanthropy. Kevin is also a member of the Phi Beta sigma Fraternity.