Walter Beasley is a composer, producer, music professor and jazz artist whose music and soulful live performances have spanned over two decades. Recognized as one of the world’s top five saxophonist, Beasley is well versed in the language of sax.
His initial experience with the saxophone began in the early 1970’s when Beasley was around the age of nine. The gift of a Grover Washington, Jr. record from one of his aunt’s, proved to be invaluable, as it demonstrated to young Walter the unlimited qualities of the saxophone. Later, Beasley bought the classical Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway album, which further ignited his passion. He recalls, “I fell in love with Hathaway’s voice as well as the writing on the album.”
But the ‘icing on the cake’ turned out to be when he heard Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘That’s the Way of the World’. Together these records lit a fire in Walter that is still evident in his current musical style. He stated that, ‘all he wanted to do was figure out how he could move people the way these songs had moved him.’
Beasley, who grew up in el Centro, California, went on to sing in a Spanish band during his early teen years. The band, called the Los Elegantes, performed at various nightclubs in southern California. Audiences were intrigued that Walter, a young Black man was singing in Spanish. These songs introduced Walter to the element of romance in music. Further, they showed him how romance could enhance a tune, and subsequently affected how he would choose to relate his musical messages to future audiences.
In 1984, Beasley graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, a school known for awarding its students degrees in all facets of music. Degrees in music at Berklee include those in composition, production and engineering, to name a few. Following graduation, Beasley accepted a teaching position at the school. He had originally planned to only stay for one year, however, he enjoyed the position so much he has remained there for almost 25 years. Beasley is very enthusiastic about mentoring his students, showing them various techniques. In fact, he is thrilled to be a Berklee music professor, to be able to “give something back”.
Walter Beasley’s sound is unique because he uses a combination of both vocal and instrumentation in his compositions. His musical style, which consists of a blend of contemporary R&B and contemporary jazz, has been classified as “smooth jazz”.
Some of the many other “smooth jazz” artists with whom Beasley has either toured or recorded with are: Brian McKnight, Gerald Albright, Vanessa Williams, Stephanie Mills, Bob James, Ronnie Laws, Art Porter, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, and Rachelle Ferrell. In fact, Ferrell and Branford Marsalis were two of his classmates when he graduated from Berklee.
Among Beasley’s greatest hits are: ‘I Wanna Know’; ‘Precious Moments’; ‘Slowly But Surely’; ‘I Feel You’; ‘ Ready for Love’; ‘People Make the World Go Round’; ‘Rendezvous’; ‘For Her’; and two of my favorites, ‘Nice and Easy’; and ‘Coming at Cha’. ‘Coming at Cha’ earned Beasley a SESAC National Performing Activity Award in 2001. Other awards include: Boston Music Outstanding Jazz Artist; Berklee College of Music Trustee Award; and South Middlesex Men’s Club Leadership Award, all in 2001. Additionally, Beasley earned a SESAC National Performing Activity Award for ‘Rendezvous’ (2002); as well as another Boston Music Awards Jazz Album of the Year for ‘Go with the Flow’ (2003).
Most recently, Beasley has released the ‘Free Your Mind’ CD (2009); and his current CD, ‘Sax Meditations’ (2010). While the ‘Free Your Mind’ CD has been well-received, ‘Sax Meditations’ is the CD Beasley truly treasures. The artist says this particular CD is a compilation of therapeutic songs. The songs on ‘Sax Meditations’ are self-healing, because they make him “feel good”. Although Beasley remains ‘true to form’ on this CD, the songs are slower and more relaxing than his earlier works.
If ‘Sax Meditations’ happens to possess any of the great qualities of Beasley’s previous works, I know it will be treasured for generations to come. It seems Walter Beasley has accomplished his mission: that of moving people and stirring our souls with his beautiful saxophone compositons.