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Imagine Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye making a midnight rendezvous to the hip hop poetry spot just as the vibe is easing into an after hours flow…THAT’S the vibe of Impromp2. Comprised of singer/trumpeter Johnny B and rapper/singer Sean E. Mac, Impromp2 represents equally high levels of musicality and lyrical sensitivity that will bring out the lover in you. We’re talking “love” from the source definition--often spoken yet never as clearly understood as it’s about to be. Following a hiatus, the duo is back with their third and finest album, The Definition of Love (Big3 Records), a 12-song smorgasbord rich in emotive lyricism and aural vibration that is destined to bring Impromp2 a level of success long overdue.
The essence of The Definition of Love can be found in the track “Bring It Back,” a beautiful message featuring special guest Boney James on saxophone that poses the question, “Whatever happened to romance?” In the hearts and minds of Johnny and Sean, the concept never left. This song carries the thread that runs through all of Impromp2’s work – the real meaning of love. Johnny states emphatically, “We feel this is the best of Impromp2–musically, spiritually and all points between.”
The first single from The Definition of Love is “Mocha Soul,” which finds them collaborating with poet/actress Kim Fields, a Big3 Records label mate who has her own album, Uninhibited, forthcoming. Over a gently bumpin’ sample from `70s jazz keyboard wizard Lonnie Liston Smith, the gentlemen let an alluring poetess know they’ve got to “have a taste of her love” with the smoothest of finesse. Impromp2 composed the song in Philly with Darren Henson and Keith Pelzer ( Jill Scott). At first, Johnny and Sean had another neo soul diva in mind to be the female counterpart. However manager Qadree el-Amin (also the CEO of Big3 Records) convinced them they should choose someone who could promote the song and tour with them instead of just doing the record. Kim Fields was the answer, fitting their mold like a velvet glove. “Kim was the ultimate professional,” Johnny shares. “Not only did she come up with such a beautiful lyric, she directed the video some of which was shot in Haiti.” A performance by the threesome on Soul Train has already whet the appetites of fans old and new for The Definition of Love.
Impromp2’s third album is overflowing with spicy feel-good music for the soul. Johnny and Sean had a hand in writing all but one of the 12 songs, working primarily with their producer of choice, Steve Harvey. Among the highlights is “All The Woman,” Sean wound up writing his part on the day they recorded it, spontaneously inspired by reflections of his relationship with his wife. “Fellas take heed / One woman is all the woman you need / You call yourself a playa / That ain’t nothin’ but greed / Respect the woman that gave birth to your seed / I’m trying to shed some light so recognize / All the woman you need may be right there by your side.”
Two other standouts from The Definition of Love reflect Impromp2’s spiritual side while staying deliciously true to their smooth signature style. First is the title track, “The Definition of Love.” The chorus reads, “Love is something that you do / We can say I love you `til our faces turn blue / But there are so very few / Who know how to love someone like they’re supposed to.” The other related composition is “Without You,” Impromp2’s first overtly contemporary gospel song. “That song gets the most passionate reaction when we perform it live,” Johnny states. “From here on out, we would like to include one song on every album that gives thanks to the Lord.”
Also of interest is "I'll Do Whatever," a song that has long been a concert favorite of fans over the years. For The Definition of Love, Johnny and Sean have revamped the chord progression and added a new bridge, vastly improving upon the sexy come-on crowd pleaser.
Impromp2’s working concept has always been only the best will do. Among the incredible array of musical talent assembled for the album are guitarists Wah Wah Watson, Ray Parker Jr., Al McKay, Dean Parks and Jimmy Macon, keyboardist Clarence McDonald, bassists Sekou Bunch and “Ready” Freddie Washington, and drummer James Gadson. Jazz legend George Duke is featured on “Is It Cool.” Renowned string arranger Benjamin Wright (Earth, Wind & Fire) scored several of the songs with a live string orchestra.
Impromp2 was formed in 1993 when Johnny Britt, originally a solo artist, decided he wanted to meld his smoky jazz trumpet and romantic soul singing with a like minded rapper. Johnny was inspired to explore this direction in music upon hearing Miles Davis’ final/posthumous studio project, Doo-Bop (1992), a collaboration with street producer Easy Mo Bee that provided a looking glass into the possibilities of marrying jazz, soul and hip hop in funky fresh ways that could appeal to mature audiences.
Cleveland native Johnny “Johnny B” Britt grew up singing in the church choir and playing trumpet in high school bands. He traveled overseas to Paris, France, to attend its prestigious Conservatory of Music in Versailles, studying trumpet and composition for three years. His musical influences stretched from the obvious Miles and Marvin to Maurice Ravel, Archie Shepp and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Upon his return to America, he was personally hired by Otis Williams of the Temptations to be the Motown super group’s Musical Director, a gig that lasted three years and included Johnny landing writing credits on two of their albums; Emperors of Soul (a box set) and Milestones. His side credits range from appearing in the video for rocker David Bowie’s “Black Tie White Noise” (syncing parts originally played by the late, great Lester Bowie–a friend) to singing background on Luther Vandross’ Songs album. Wanting to do his own thing, he came up with the idea for Impromp2 then auditioned nearly 50 guys before finding the perfect partner in Sean Thomas.
Sean “Sean E. Mac” Thomas is a Los Angeles native whose interest in rap stems from the expression’s fabled “back in the day” with acts such as The Treacherous Three and Rakim. However, Sean was most deeply inspired by multi-faceted musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Prince and Michael Jackson. A smooth touch was brought to Sean’s love of hip hop by the poetic lyrics of Michael Franks, all of which blended to mold Sean into one very uniquely laidback linguist. He and his brother started the group Rappinstine, among the first acts on L.A.’s legendary Ruthless Records label (the company that launched, among many, another of Sean’s most influential artists, producer Dr. Dre). Sean pursued another interest, standup comedy, before he answered the call of Johnny and began the Impromp2 story.
Impromp2 was among the first acts signed to Motown Records’ short-lived subsidiary MoJazz Records. They released their first album, You’re Gonna Love It, in 1995, capturing the urban radio world’s attention with their unique group make-up and musicality. The album was produced by Scotland’s Steve Harvey, a master of smooth groove who would prove to be a key element in the polishing of the Impromp2 sound. Their early radio/video hits included “Enjoy Yourself,” “Get Me Off” and “Summer Nights,” the latter for which they even recorded an instrumental version that was embraced at NAC, Quiet Storm and smooth jazz radio formats, significantly broadening their audience.
For Impromp2’s sophomore album, Can’t Get Enough (1997), Motown’s new executive regime elected to tweak their sound by having them collaborate with a younger set of producers that included Eddie F, Big Bub, and Harvey Mason Jr. Unfortunately, just after the album was released, the MoJazz division was closed. Impromp2 soldiered on, though, performing before former President Bill Clinton at the White House and participating in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. And while their own songs were still receiving airplay (including the previously mentioned “I’ll Do Whatever”), their writing was also represented with saxophonist Boney James’ crossover smash “I’ll Always Love You” (which featured the vocal group Shai singing their lyrics).
Just as Johnny was about to hit the road playing with Maxwell, he bumped into entertainment mogul Qadree el-Amin, who he knew from his days of managing former Motown superstars Boyz II Men. Qadree remembered Impromp2 because not only did he like their music, his wife, Suzanne, was a fan of their work. He snapped up Impromp2 under his personal management wing. When he presented the demos to the record company, they were personally signed to Big3 by label founder and chairman Bill Edwards. Big3 is established in the industry with acts such as veteran rockers Cheap Trick and multi-cultural boy band Prymary Colorz. With their superb third offering The Definition of Love, Impromp2 will be the label’s first urban-based signing.
Sean and Johnny broke their new 5-piece band in with a performance at the 2002 Impact Convention in Florida and have since been sharing their flavor everywhere from Brandy’s baby shower and Magic Johnson’s Mardi Gras to the Essence Music Festival! After warming things up in Puerto Rico, Bahamas and St. Lucia, they will start their summer tour in earnest to promote The Definition of Love to the masses in the U.S., the U.K…and beyond.
From the bleaker realities of the love thang on “Drama” to the sweetest of possibilities in “Making Love” to their socio-political answer to “What’s Going On” titled “When Will Things Change,” Impromp2 knows the ins and outs of righteous living and romance like no other. Now, Impromp2 is ready to share the wealth of their knowledge and experiences via the most backbeat buttah slow jams to ever slide inside your earhole, melt your heart and soothe your soul.
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