Embracing moments of performance and baring my soul.

Saxman Jeff Ryan is excited and for good reason. The contemporary pop instrumentalist’s debut single, “Up and Up,” flew to No.1 on the Billboard chart as well as on three other charts in the US and UK. Even before his debut album, Embrace, drops Friday (July 13) on Woodward Avenue Records, the buzz surrounding Ryan helped him score the final performance spot in the all-star lineup for the venerable Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival, a confirmation that the Bay Area native is the genre’s breakout new artist at the midyear point.

Ryan’s producer and writing partner on “Embrace” is noted keyboardist and chart-topper Greg Manning. One of the saxophonist’s primary goals is connecting through music and performance, and “Up and Up” is an upbeat tune celebrating the winning chemistry and connection he shares with Manning. “‘Up and Up’ is the first song we wrote together. It’s a relevant track that captures our great connection. It was two positive people, and the music flowed naturally and easily,” said Ryan about the single that also vaulted into the No. 1 position on the Mediabase, Smooth Jazz Network and British Smooth Jazz charts.

Born in Walnut Creek, CA and raised there and in Asheville, NC (with one teenage year spent in Atlanta), Ryan was born around so much music that it was begging him to play. His dad is a classical concert pianist, his mom played tracker organ and viola and his grandfather was a music teacher. He started playing piano at age six and took violin lessons upon the urging of his grandfather, but he knew he had found his true musical home when he started on the sax at age ten. “Performing-wise I did not relate to the sound of the piano, and upon finding the sax it immediately clicked. The saxophone allows me to exactly express how I feel musically,” he says.

Ryan was in jazz ensembles throughout junior high and high school, but felt a deep connection to contemporary jazz saxophone greats, from smooth/urban icons like Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright, Dave Koz and Grover Washington to jazz legends Michael Brecker, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon. Some of his other influences include Jeff Lorber, Norman Brown, Rick Braun, Wes Montgomery, Lee Ritenour, Earl Klugh and Jonathan Butler. Studying these musical mentors led to Ryan’s increasing focus on developing a truly emotional and unique style of performing. After starting his college years at Diablo Valley College in Concord, he attended the famed Berklee College of Music as a performance major. He later returned to Northern California, where he studied music production at the Pyramind Sound Institute in San Francisco.

After years of playing in a variety of regional soul, funk and even big band ensembles, the San Francisco Bay Area based saxophone sensation has captivated thousands with his robust, heartfelt vibe at numerous prominent Northern California jazz festivals – including a four year run at the Stockton Jazz Festival, where he has opened and performed along with urban jazz greats Marion Meadows, Eric Darius, Paul Taylor, Nick Colionne and Julian Vaughn. Fans in Southern California have seen him jam with guitarist Nils at Spaghettini. Now, with the release of “Up and Up” and his multi-faceted debut album Embrace, Ryan is in prime position to join their ranks as one of contemporary jazz’s top emerging artists of 2018.

“Throughout my years as a performer, I have learned one of my strengths is being able to relate to people. Every time I am on stage, my goal is to inject emotion and passion into my playing as if I am communicating to each person individually,” Ryan says. “If anything will keep me going strong and moving forward in this genre, it is the fact my sound is relatable to people, especially those who love this genre of music. I love connecting with the audience, keeping things spontaneous and seeing the way everyone responds. When I am up there baring my soul and speaking to the crowd through music, I embrace those moments. The expression is always worth it.”

Locking in the groove, rhythm and tone!