A hugely popular regional sensation since forming in 2006, the Charlotte, North Carolina based group 5th and York is stirred up the urban smooth jazz landscape with the release of its
infectious and eclectic debut album Nascentum. The group’s saxophonist and co-founder Derwin Friday is the jazzy core of the group who has been playing with bassist Dewarren
Tate for over ten years; Friday’s first cousin, guitarist Derrick Friday, is a rocker who adds powerful electricity to their infectious melodies and driving grooves. Keyboardist and
musical director George Mason is a renowned musician in several different genres of music including Gospel and Hip Hop. Drummer Johnny Gillard lays down the rhythmic foundation
for the band, and is a contemporary jazz natural who is coveted by many bands throughout the area for his uncanny ability to, as Derwin says, “keep time like a human metronome.”
Lead vocalist Tra Mason, has shared the stage with various gospel and R&B stars, including Glen Jones and Ginuwine.
5th and York’s dynamic, multi-faceted follow-up to their infectious 2011 debut album Nascentum, entitled ALL IN offers a clever overview of the Charlotte, North Carolina rockin’ urban jazz ensemble’s musical mission this time around. On the spoken word only intro “The Casino”, leader/saxophonist Derwin Friday and the group compare their fortunes as an indie band in the competitive music industry to a hand in a poker game. They create a powerful metaphor for their hopes of continued success and the ongoing struggles of taking their game beyond the realm of “regional sensation” – which they have been since forming . On musical second prelude, has powerhouse female lead vocalist Tra Mason makes an affirmative declaration (sounded by a rock-jazz vibe and fiery horns) that they’re going for broke and putting their best, envelope pushing vibe on the line and are truly “All In.”
5th and York has come a long way and undergone several lineup changes since their first gig at The Jazz Café in 2006. In addition to headlining at regional festivals and playing local clubs, they have opened for legendary artists Frankie Beverly & Maze, Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago, as well as R&B greats Anthony Hamilton and the late Gerald Levert. The main attraction as the weekly house band in the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte for the past three years, Fifth and York opened the Uptown Charlotte Jazz Festival (whose lineup featured Peter White and Euge Groove) this past summer, and have done more out of town gigs lately, in cities like Atlanta and Greenville, SC, which has become a popular contemporary jazz hub in the region. The band also continues its involvement with numerous charities, performing at galas for such organizations as A Better World – a local charity helping develop after school and summer programs for children from low income and single parent homes. They also have performed for the local chapter of the Red Pump Society on behalf of World AIDs day various times
5th and York’s profile in the Charlotte region increased tremendously with an ongoing connection at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre which had them opening for many of the superstar pop and R&B artists performing in town. Before the Ritz, they performed regularly at the House of Jazz in Charlotte and Brown Street Tavern in Greenville, South Carolina (where they also have a strong following), in addition to all their philanthropic work and festival gigs. Recent festival appearances in Charlotte and Greenville include The Derby Festival (held the weekend of the Kentucky Derby), Sunset Jazz Festival, Sip and Stroll Festival (a wine and music event) and the Fall for Greenville Festival.
5th and York offers the distinguished Smooth Jazz and R&B connoisseur something new and fresh. The bands unique sound breaks new ground with brilliant melodies and captivating rhythms and it’s all showcased beautifully recordings and performances.
The centerpiece of All In, which draws equally from jazz, funk, old school R&B, hip-hop and rock and roll, is an explosive cover of “Maputo”, the classic, Marcus Miller penned smooth jazz format staple that was originally recorded by Bob James and David Sanborn on their Grammy winning album Double Vision. It was the first contemporary jazz song that Friday introduced gospel/hip hop keyboardist George Mason (who is now the group’s musical director) when he joined the band. Fifth and York’s new version is slightly slower, allowing the band to bring out the deeper emotion of the song via sultry, dark and more expressive edges. Towards the end, electric guitar takes the track to transcendent levels with a blistering solo
“The clever opening preludes that Fifth and York uses to launch their eclectic, spirited and emotionally compelling new album All In let listeners know that while it’s tough out there trying to make a mark and survive in the music industry, they’re committed for the long haul. Which is a great thing for adventurous urban jazz fans, because what Derwin Friday and his crew offer once again is a mix of great songcraft, daring production, an exciting mix of R&B styles (old school to modern funk), bright exciting keyboards, deep pockets, wild electric guitars and some great horns – including Derwin’s straight to the heart sax playing, brassy textures where appropriate and that crafty trombone touch that underscores one of the set’s key emotional moments. For sure, the focal point for most will be their explosive cover of “Maputo” – but there is so much more to enjoy on this engaging set. Fifth and York takes urban jazz to places it needs to be – so it’s our good fortune that they’re not only still around, but All In.”