It's hard to keep up with Robin Thicke. During the past decade he's evolved from songwriter-to-the stars into a platinum-selling solo artist. After his fifth album, 2012's Love After War, hit the R&B Top Ten, he embarked on a completely different project: appearing as a judge on the ABC reality television show Duets, which also features fellow vocal superstars Jennifer Nettles, John Legend, and Kelly Clarkson, among others.
Phil X is one of those rare players that seem equally comfortable adding the perfect guitar hook to an American Idol track or rocking stadiums with monster riffs.
"Dude, I'm a chameleon!" says the Greek-born, Canadian-raised, Los Angeles-based axman. "The way I see it, my mission is to enhance the song. A song is supposed to take you on a journey during the verse and make that chorus climax. That's equally true whether I'm playing with Kelly Clarkson or Avril Lavigne. I'm very good at secondary parts that complement the vocals and each section of a song. I just have this instinct, and I keep getting called back."
It's not exactly news that the violin is a great jazz instrument - violinist Joe Venuti proved it back in the 1920s, and players such as Stéphane Grappelli, Stuff Smith, Svend Asmussen, and Jean-Luc Ponty have all reinforced the point. Yet jazz violinists remain a relatively rare breed, and it can still be an act of rebellion for young players to choose Miles over Mendelssohn.
Singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins doesn't just hear music - she sees it. "I see all music in colors," she explains. "My last album, Mondo Amore, had lots of browns and golds, coppers and ambers in it. Some songs are blacks and greens. In fact, if I start writing a song and don't see any colors, I don't finish it."
From his origins as an independent songwriter to his current gig recording and touring with Maroon 5, keyboardist PJ Morton has moved steadily from one success to another. Now he's come full circle with the release of his own EP, Following My First Mind, on Lil Wayne's Young Money imprint. "People are really digging it," he says. "I think my audience mirrors the type of fan that I am: a person who listens to all types of music, with very eclectic taste, but always energetic."
It's tough to find a groove-oriented bass player who wasn't influenced by vintage Motown tracks, especially the inspired fretwork of bassist James Jamerson. But Joe Karnes puts a new spin on that beloved old sound when he plays with Fitz & the Tantrums, the neo-soul combo that burst from the LA club scene with their 2010 album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, and its hit single, "MoneyGrabber."