Whether he’s crafting hard-hitting melodies for your favorite rappers or performing endearing “old school” ballads, it’s safe to say that jazz musician Dontae Winslow creates music that everyone can enjoy.
Throughout his 10-year career, Winslow has worked as a producer, songwriter and arranger for a bevy of noteworthy artists including Jay Z, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Jill Scott, among many others. He’s also a talented trumpeter and is currently touring with Justin Timberlake on his “20/20 Experience” tour.
Winslow, who originally hails from West Baltimore, is one half of WinslowDynasty, a powerhouse jazz/soul/hip-hop band that also includes his wife Mashica. The couple has a son, Jedi, who also lends his musical talents to the group.
On Feb. 11, WinslowDynasty released their latest album, Enter the Dynasty. The 11-track project includes features by artists including Questlove, Dennis Chambers and Roy Hargrove.
The AFRO recently spoke to Dontae Winslow about the album, his life on tour with Timberlake and jazz music.
The AFRO: It seems like you had a good time putting this album together. How has the experience been?
Dontae Winslow: It’s been amazing. In the middle of working with Jay Z and Justin Timberlake’s “Legends of the Summer” tour, I took all of the musicians who were performing to the studio and that was amazing. The special part is that at least 95 percent of the songs were recorded in one take. I listened back and said, “Whoa, this sounds like an album right here.” It reminds me of the original way that jazz was recorded. The classics—no overdubs—just a live band in the room. Doing it that way, you get that great, natural organic feeling of what music should sound like.
AFRO: On the album, you have a couple songs that are dedicated to your hometown. What’s the story behind them?
DW: There a few on there that reminds you of Baltimore. “BaltimoreCrabCakes” is the first song. Crab cakes are one of [Baltimoreans’] favorite delicacies. The song speaks for the soulful part of the city and incorporates the church and the street. I wanted to get something that captures the height of what Black music can sound like on record like it used to in the old days. Today, they use Auto-Tune and they fix things and try to make stuff sound so pretty. I wanted this track to sound gutter, emotional, raunchy and heartfelt.
Another song that is dedicated to Baltimore is “2304 West North Ave.” That’s the house that I grew up in. It was a beautiful home when I was very young. But by the time I got to high school, my mother sold drugs and the home was raided. It was such a painful environment to live in. So, I just wanted to paint the intimacy of a child who’s making straight A’s and has to come home to a crack house.
AFRO: It’s no secret that young listeners don’t know much about jazz. How do you bridge the gap and appeal to listeners of all ages?
DW: The album is No. 18 on Billboard and No. 1 on Amazon and No. 2 on iTunes. I think part of that success comes from [the fact that it’s] a different sound. I love to make music that is multigenerational. It’s something for young people and it’s something for older people. If you like jazz already, you’ll be pleased with what you hear. If you don’t like jazz, you’ll be surprised.
AFRO: You’ve been performing on Justin Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience” tour for quite some time now. How has it been?
DW: It’s just mind-blowing. Everyone who comes to this show says it’s one of the best shows they’ve ever seen. It has great choreography and the band is one of the best bands in music. For me, it’s been a great experience. There are so many influences in Justin Timberlake’s music that all generations get something out of it when they come to the show.
AFRO: What other projects are you currently working on?
DW: Most recently, I worked with singer Aloe Blacc for his single, “I’m the Man.” I played trumpet on that track and did all the horns and the string arrangements on his whole album. It’s definitely going to be a big one this year.
[My wife and I] are also very much into giving back to the city of Baltimore. We have a nonprofit called Music Motivating Minds. We try to help kids with goal-setting to inspire them to pursue their dreams. We just ask people to support our nonprofit and support our music.
“Enter the Dynasty” is now available on iTunes and Amazon.com. On March 16, Dontae Winslow will perform at MaGooby’s in Timonium, Md.
For more information: http://www.winslowdynasty.com.