Picture the scene as a fourteen-year-old Carl Stanley hears the track ‘Betcha Don’t Know’ from Najee’s debut CD ‘Najee’s Theme’ and as a result is never the same again. Despite his subsequent passage into the upper echelons of British contemporary jazz, it actually took him two more years to first get his hands on an alto sax. Then, armed with a tape of a Grover Washington Jr. album, he began to teach himself to play by ear. This self-tuition on alto with the aid of recordings by David Sanborn, Gerald Albright, Walter Beasley, Kenny G to name just a few continued in fine style, but on hearing the music of Kirk Whalum, was quickly redirected to tenor.
As Carl himself puts it “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This guy totally changed my approach to playing saxophone.”
It was a change that could not be ignored, and on being offered his first paid gig at age eighteen, Carl knew his future was destined to be in music.
His big break came in 1994 when after sitting in with legendary jazz funkster Roy Ayers, Carl was invited to join his band for a three week residency at the iconic Ronnie Scott’s Club in London. Subsequently Carl toured with Ayers for three years, both in the UK and Europe, and in so doing established his now significant reputation as being one of the most soulful and funky players on the scene.
The gigs kept on coming and after briefly touring with pop vocalist Will Young (for whom he played tenor, alto & soprano saxophones, flute & keyboard), Carl landed the prized position of musical director for UK soul sensation Mica Paris. He stayed with her for two years before taking up a similar role with UK X Factor runner-up Andy Abraham.
Despite all that Carl never forgot his smooth jazz upbringing and as more and more US based artists began to find their way to London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club, he became increasingly in demand. 2010 found him sharing its intimate stage with the incomparable Jeff Lorber and since 2012 Carl has been an integral member of Peter White’s UK touring band where the musical synergy that fizzes between them has to be seen to be believed.
Not only that, Carl has become a recording artist in his own right. His debut CD, the appropriately titled ‘A Beautiful Thing’, was released in October 2012 and proved to be an ultra cool collection of twelve self-penned contemporary jazz gems. With guest performances from guitarist Dwight Sills, keyboard player Oli Silk and vocalist Gianna, it was, and is, a superb example of how jazz can merge with R & B in the most delightful of ways while the track ‘The Way You Smile’ powered its way into the Smooth Jazz Therapy listing of top tracks for that year.