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Band R&B Soul


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Still working on that hot first release.


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Kevin Kirkwood, drummer & percussionist for Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson was the backbone of their 1996 tour, as stated by Val, in every sense of the word. Kevin infuses his drumming expertise and melodic keyboard styling in passionate array colors that envelope the listener’s heart. His percussive influences stem from the African Rhythms, Funk, Contemporary Jazz, Jazz Fusion, American Jazz, and Western Classical. His influences of Hip-Hop and underground counter rhythms add a different dimension to the songs he composes and records. While playing concerts for Diana Ross, Kevin was often acknowledged as the “kid” the Jersey Shore, with an ear on the pulse of the drummers from the Motown Era. First cousin to the popular, band leader, composer, and arranger, Ray Chew, Kevin, is well on his way to creating his own eclectic footprints on the sands of the Jersey Shore. Jennifer Holiday’s earth shaking vocal colorings were complimented by Kevin’s soulful supportive patterns & beats on stage.
In the mid-eighties Kevin decided to expand his creativity to the next stratum. He embarked on a journey of keyboards, not for the faint-at-heart. He effectively fuses various rhythmic textures from around the globe, emphasizing the universal concept of groove. Yes, this “kid” is still hip, yet sensitive in the melodic encounters and shadings, that will charm and influence the listeners for many years to come. Kevin was created to make music for the planet, to savor the innovative flavors he has served to audiences for many years. A unique and accomplished drummer/percussionist, Kevin is constantly striving to extend the parameters of current musical styles and incorporate his keyboarding skills in his compositions. His diverse musical interests have become the catalyst in him, a desire to invent new sounds by blending musical practices with modern-day influences.
The beaches of Maui reflected as a backdrop, while George Benson and Kevin spoke of future collaborations in George’s studio. One day George decided to show Kevin the city of Maui. George took the wheel of his Mercedes, and the smooth engine purred as background music, as they drove along the pristine beaches, engrossed in their conversations about Asbury Park, NJ. Both artists shared their visions of creativity for contemporary jazz. Kevin was raised in Neptune, which was one quarter mile west of Asbury Park. Kevin surprised George when he told him that he had performed in a local club, many times, known as the “Orchid Lounge”, on Springwood Avenue, in Asbury Park. George also mesmerized audiences at the same club in the 60’s. A soulful and serendipitous moment… They decided to stop at one of the local restaurants, when during dinner, their conversation flowed and focused on the beauty of the island and how much George’s family enjoyed the island and its diverse scenery amenities.
Las Vegas was also very exciting and intriguing to Kevin, as he toured with Nick and Val. The energy from the crowd took Kevin to another level, as he had been so accustomed to the laid back east coast arenas. During the first concert of the tour, Kevin and the band opened for Diana Ross with “Found a cure”! What an awesome crowd!!! Singing along, dancing in the aisles!!! The audience sang every song, with Diana, during this black-tie affair. Concert-goers, dressed as “Diana” each imitator, larger than life made her appear as royalty. Kevin played his solos, on stage with high energy and no holds barred attitude!!! When Kevin arrived back on the east coast, he performed another show with Diana, This elaborate show, at the Waldolf Astoria, was a tribute to her fantastic career. The First Lady of Motown’s fans were again decorated, mirroring her elegance. The professionalism and artistry of his peers encouraged Kevin to strive to surround himself with mentors, who offered inspiration and guidance.
He had another gig on the west coast. When he arrived at the airport, he decided to reach out to some of his friends in LA. Luther Vandross, his buddy was in town and took him for a ride and went over to Ocean Front Studios. While driving down Sunset Boulevard, moon roof open, city lights dancing, Luther began to croon in the voice that was uniquely his. Kevin could not resist tapping percussive accompaniment on the dashboard of Luther’s Rolls Royce Corniche. Kevin would always cherish and appreciate the conversations he and Luther had about family, life, and the music industry.
Kevin style is an eclectic blend of beats, inspirational conversations with musicians with their fingers on the pulse of perfection. Kevin’s musical colorings present a tapestry of shadings in ethnic percussion instruments, and digital sounds. Selections of indigenous instruments such as frame drums, shakers, kalimba and djembe, as well as traditional jazz instruments such as digital and acoustic mix of drums, combined with state-of-the-art