April 23 2010 12:00 AM

Jazz combo joins singer at The Loft Friday

Too Smooth For
Notes has been doing their thing around these parts since saxophonist Phil
Denny formed the band in 1993 for a high school talent show. This Friday
though, they'll be doing it with the Grammy-nominated jazz and R&B singer
Lalah Hathaway, who also happens to be the daughter of the late soul singer
Donny Hathaway.

The band will
not only open for Hathaway at The Loft at Harem Urban Lounge but will serve as
her backing band once she hits the stage. They landed the gig following an
audition — via Skype.

"We were
performing in my living room," Denny said. Apparently, Hathaway was
impressed with the band's chops. The feeling is mutual, said Denny.

"She knows
what she's doing," he said. "We have a mutual goal of taking the
audience to a place they haven't been."

Denny also
speaks highly of the men he's assembled to play what in the business is
referred to as urban smooth jazz (think less New Orleans, more mid-tempo,
laid-back grooves). The roster consists of himself, keyboardist Sebastian Wood,
bassist Arnold “AP” Pulliam, guitarist Irvin Williams, drummer Joe Amerson and
percussionist Craig Smith. Denny said this line-up has been the same for about
a decade.

While enthused
to share the stage with Hathaway, this isn't the first time they've had a chance
to play with heavy-hitters. They've also shared the stage with national and
international recording artists including Gail Jhonson, Tim Bowman, Howard
Hewitt, Penny Wells, Randy Scott, as well as a once-in a lifetime, "off
the cuff" (as Denny put it) performance with Stevie Wonder.

Wonder was in
town and stopped by to see the band based on a friend's recommendation back
when they held a residency at the now-closed Club 621.

The band had
already packed up for the night when they found out he was coming, but they
unpacked and began to play. At one point, Wonder was escorted to the stage to
do his thing with the band.

It is a nice
accomplishment for a band that has spent a long time on their music and has no
signs of slowing down. They have more gigs booked in the near-future, including
a closing set at Jazz Fest on August 7.