His masterful mix of sounds and grooves is the memorable variable that makes flutist Dwayne Kerr, of the Erykah Badu Band (Neda Stela), a rising figure in contemporary music today. Playing an instrument that traditionally has been heard more often than seen, Kerr has put the flute up front on display with his unique playing style in his debut CD, “Flutation,” which was released on DManns Records in January 2003.
While touring and recording with Erykah Badu for the last five years, Dwayne added his sound to recordings including Ms. Badu’s version of the Chaka Khan hit, “Hollywood,” which is on the soundtrack/CD to the Spike Lee movie “Bamboozled,” on Motown Records and Erykah’s song, “Today,” which is on the Red Star Sounds compilation CD on Epic Records. Kerr played on Erykah’s latest CD, “Worldwide Underground,” and her previous CD, “Mama’s Gun,” on Motown Records.
The benefits of the invaluable experience and insight he acquired while working with Erykah are obvious on Dwayne’s debut CD, Flutation described by Kirk Whalum as “melodic and inspired”, and even more so on his sophomore effort, Higher Calling, on which Whalum as well as Erykah add their genius as guest artistes.
On Flutation, Kerr blends contemporary jazz, R&B, soul and dance rhythms to create a sound he calls SoulJazz. Kerr shows his versatility at the CD’s outset as he rides the pulse-driven dance cut, Street Jazz, into the next song, Flutation, a smooth, yet funky groove. As Kerr settles down into some soulful R&B tracks such as Janice Love Theme and Strollin’, the richness of his tone comes alive as his flute fills your speakers with silky long runs and his signature technique, the staccato, double-tongued riff.
“I use my flute as a vehicle for my musical expression without regard of the usual limitations expected from a flutist,” Kerr says. “I want the listener to get an emotional experience that goes beyond me playing the flute.”
On Higher Calling, his sophomore release, Kerr combines neo soul, funk,r&b with smooth jazz; a heavy dose of groove with a pinch of the unexpected spicy, sweet flavor that only the flute can deliver. The result is what critics have called “jazz music as beautiful as it comes… something very special.” Ain’t No Sunshine, the first single from Higher Calling debuted at #26 on the R&R indicator chart and #42 on the smoothjazz.com chart. The follow up, Smooth, fared even better, debuting at #24 on the R&R indicator chart and has so far reached as high as #30 on the smoothjazz.com top 50 and #12 on R&R indicator top 30 chart.
Kerr is proving to be a brilliant flutist who is moving the flute into genres of music not often explored. Raised and still residing on Long Island, New York, Kerr attended New York colleges Nassau Community College, SUNY-Stony Brook and SUNY-Old Westbury, where he was trained classically and in jazz. A solo performing artist since making music his business several years ago, Kerr so much impressed Erykah that he was hired to play in the Grammy Award-winning vocalist’s band in 1998. A decade later, he hasn’t looked back. “As I watch my friend in amazement,” Erykah said of Dwayne, “the high tones and the trills become part of me, helping me to grow on stage. I don’t know which is sweeter, his tone or his soul.”
In recognition of his ascending career, Kerr was signed to a deal with AKG Acoustics in 2001 to endorse an AKG wireless headset system. His performance credits include the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the Jazz & Broadway Concert at the United Nations and at halftime of several National Basketball Association games. Dwayne has performed on shows with or opened shows for Erykah Badu, Regina Belle, Roy Hargrove, Marion Meadows, Stephanie Mills, Vanessa Rubin and other noted artists playing in Africa, Italy, Japan, throughout Europe and Scandinavia, on the all-female artists Lilith Fair Tour and appearing on television on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, MTV’s Real World, The Oprah Show, Live! With Regis and BET Live.