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Nat Simpkins

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AboutNat Simpkins Biography

Bluejay Recording Artist Nat Simpkins is a soulful, bluesy saxophonist in the Texas Tenor tradition of Arnett Cobb, Gene Ammons, King Curtis and Stanley Turrentine. Born into an artistic family in Boston, Simpkins was surrounded with creative energy at an early age: his mother painted and played concert violin, his father was an actor and a writer, and his uncle appeared in Cecil B DeMille's movies alongside Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard. Simpkins took up the piano at age eight. At thirteen, he switched to the saxophone on the advice of a doctor recommending it as a cure for asthema. When Simpkins' family moved to Bermuda, the gentle breezes and island rhythms inspired him to devote himself to the saxophone as a cure and a vocation.

As a teenager, Simpkins snuck into Jazz Clubs in New York to hear Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and the Gerry Mulligan Band at Birdland. He absorbed the innovative sounds of Thelonius Monk and the Bobby Timmons Trio at the Five Spot Cafe. Soon after, Simpkins moved back to Boston and fell under the influence of the great Texas Tenors from the Count Basie Band: Buddy Tate, Arnett Cobb, Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Budd Johnson and Houston Person. He sat in with them in Boston and New York, which led to gigs for Simpkins in New York with Buddy Tate and Scott Hamilton at the Village Vanguard, appearances at Birdland with the Count Basie Band, a gig at the West End gate with Buddy Tate and Branford Marsalis, and a concert at the U.N. with Buddy Tate and Jamil Nasser.

Nat has been working steadily since the 1980's, performing with many jazz names including Houston Person, Grady Tate, Major Holley, Jay McShann, Norman Simmons, Al Grey, Joe Henderson, Jackie McClean, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Dave Braham, Cecil Brooks III, Larry Goldings, Ray Bryant, George Duvivier, Alan Dawson, and Papa Jo Jones.

Nat Simpkins' recording career began in 1990 with his first release
as a leader for the Muse label, Just Friends. Produced by Houston Person and recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's studio, this historic recording featured three generations of Texas Tenor greats: Nat Simpkins, Buddy Tate and Houston Person. Charting in the top 20 on the Gavin Radio Charts, the record also featured Major Holley on Bass, Grady Tate on Drums, and Stan Hope on piano. Nat followed this with his CD Cooking With Some Barbeque, featuring Nat on tenor with Gloria Coleman on organ, Russell Malone on guitar and Cecil Brooks III on drums. On the strength of these highly sucessful records Simpkins' career began to skyrocket.

In 1998, he traveled to New Orleans. Over the course of the next eight years he returned frequently, performing with Donald Harrison, Kermit Ruffins, Jason Marsalis, Marlon Jordan, Wessell Anderson, Irvin Mayfield, Herlin Riley, The Rebirth Brass Band and the Neville Brothers at Tipitina's, the Red Room, Sweet Lorraine's, the House of Blues, Jazzfest, and Satchfest.

Ready to build on his success, celebrate his New Orleans connections and take on more artistic control, Simpkins partnered with Cecil Brooks III in 1998 to start Bluejay Records. Both men are established recording artists with stellar reputations as producers. Brooks and Simpkins combined their powerful talents to create top ten hits, using a winning combination of artistry, production skills, and business acumen.

In April of 1998, Nat's CD Crescent City reached #18 on the Jazz radio charts.

In May of 2000, Nat's CD Cape Ann Escape reached #6 on trhe Jazz radio charts.

In March of 2002, Nat's CD Crescent City reached #1 on the Jazz radio Charts and # 35 for radio play of all Jazz CDs for the entire year of 2002.

Nat Simpkins continues to perform, record, write and produce music as a record company executive, composer, arranger, writer and teacher. In addition to his first love—the saxophone—he plays and teaches piano, guitar, flute, clarinet, bass, and drums.

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