After acquiring positive reception from his label debut Emotions and reaching #1 on the Smooth Jazz Billboards with his first single Taboo, Skinny Hightower seeks to stake his claim as a smooth jazz powerhouse with his third effort RETROSPECT, available now.
Skinny Hightower (born November 12, 1985) is an American jazz pianist, drummer, bass player, and producer. He is known to have worked particularly within the smooth jazz community as a producer and session musician for nearly a decade but didn't begin working as a solo artist until 2015. He claims to listen to nearly every genre of music excluding smooth jazz, stating that he wants to always have a fresh perspective without presenting a stale expression of his interpretations.
Skinny Hightower was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas by both of his parents. After constantly hearing Hightower bang on random objects within the house, his father allowed Hightower to sit on his lap and play the drums at the age of two years old. Within a few years, Hightower had picked up the ability to play drums proficiently and began playing in church at the age of eight. Henceforth, he studied piano under the instruction of his mother and picked up bass at the age of 12 after watching his uncle play guitar. In middle school, Hightower downloaded a free production software and began making drum patterns. At that point in time, Hightower had surrounded himself with music, listening to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, The Temptations, Diana Ross, and gospel sensations Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Commissioned, along with many others. During summer breaks, he would practice eight to ten hours a day between drums, bass, and piano.
Hightower attended high school at South High School in Wichita, Kansas where he played in the marching band, jazz band, concert band, and pep band as a drummer, vibraphonist, and percussionist. During his senior year of high school, he began working part time at a drum shop. It was then that he began exploring the drum set heavily, watching and mimicking drummers such as Dennis Chambers, Buddy Rich, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, and others. After graduating from high school, Hightower began playing drums for various local artists and bands across a very broad range of genres to include jazz, R&B, hip hop, gospel, country, rock, and alternative. He earned a full ride scholarship to play drums in college, but turned it down to help support his family financially.
Hightower stated that his exposure to music was due to his parents' collection of records and CD's which consisted mostly of gospel and jazz as they wouldn't allow him to listen to R&B or rap as a child. Later, he explored other genres of music and redirected his attention toward older releases by artists such as Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. Of his reasons for not listening to smooth jazz, he says “I don't have anything against smooth jazz. I just prefer to listen to other styles of music. I do enjoy making smooth jazz, but I want my style to be my own. I don't want to end up accidentally or purposely copying someone else's style.”
Skinny's piano influences include Bill Evans, Joe Sample, Oscar Peterson, Earl Hines, Bud Powell, Keith Jarrett, Michel Petrucciani, Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Phineas Newborn Jr., and Thelonious Monk. After diving more into the instrument, Skinny claims that his favorite pianist is Bill Evans while Joe Sample has had the strongest influence on his playing since the release of Emotions.
"PEOPLE DIDN'T REALLY GET TO HEAR MY PIANO INFLUENCES ON EMOTIONS AS I WAS JUST GETTING A FEEL FOR THE INSTRUMENT. BUT ON RETROSPECT, PEOPLE WILL DEFINITELY GET TO HEAR IT."
- SKINNY HIGHTOWER
In 2012, Hightower joined the Army and served for five years. During his tenure in the military, he was deployed to Afghanistan. Three months into the deployment, he got word of his mother’s passing. The loss of his mother took an enormous toll on him causing him to exit the military under honorable conditions. But in the end, his mother’s death only strengthened his desire to pursue music. Upon returning from Afghanistan, Hightower self-produced his first album Cloud Nine in dedication to his mother. A year later, he was signed to Trippin ‘N’ Rhythm Records, releasing his label debut Emotions. He now releases his third effort RETROSPECT, what he hopes will be a highlight in his music career as he navigates the trail of becoming a smooth jazz great.