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Offering up a fresh and exhilarating vibe with his full length debut Nothing Between Us, trumpeter and composer Sam Hankins draws on a powerhouse resume as a music educator and R&B/jazz sideman that includes multiple awards as a middle school bandleader and performances with numerous legendary artists, including Al Jarreau, Clark Terry, The O’Jays, The Temptations, The Dells, The Impressions, Aretha Franklin and the Glenn Miller Big Band.
Armed with an impressive array of degrees and multi-faceted musical credentials, the multi talented Oklahoma born and raised, Chicago based musician is widely recognized in educational circles for his tenure as Band Director at Edison Middle School, where he led numerous ensembles from 1995 through 2006. Hankins led a struggling band program with limited participation into one of the premier middle school instrumental music programs in the United States. During his first year as Band Director, he led two bands to place first in division ratings in the State Music Competitions. The program subsequently earned extensive recognition as one of the premier middle school band programs in Illinois and nationwide by winning numerous Division I ratings, State and National awards and recognitions.
During this time, Hankins was invited to be a Guest Conductor for Jazz and Concert bands as well as a guest soloist. He also founded, organized and directed The East Central Illinois Jazz Institute, a summer jazz camp of approximately 20 students from throughout east-central Illinois. In 1998, he received The White House Letter recognizing the Edison Middle School Band Program signed by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
A prolific composer, Hankins had composed over 150 pieces before he took his wife’s advice and began pursuing the next phase of his diverse career, as a solo recording artist. He laid the groundwork for Nothing Between Us by releasing Dream Catcher, a compilation of his catalog of music in every genre from smooth jazz and dance to techno. Building up a supportive network of fans via social media, he blended old school R&B/funk with cutting edge grooves, dynamic melodies and wild brass sizzle on the new project, which is produced by bassist Paul Richmond and features Zorn McGuire on drums. Hankins has already received airplay on numerous internet outlets, including the GHP Radio Network and LUTG Radio.
“From my many years of working with different producers and in various studios, I’ve learned what people like to listen to, and generally they love music that keeps things simple,” says Hankins. “I certainly had a lot of material that was artsy and complicated but for my first urban jazz project, my goal was to create tracks that people can enjoy that I personally felt good about. I admire popular contemporary trumpet players like Chris Botti and Rick Braun, but I take a different approach with my horn that makes my vibe unique to the genre. As a composer, I always want to write songs that uplift people’s spirits and make them happy, or get them thinking about things. Because it mixes R&B and jazz, Nothing Between Us really gets me back to my roots as a musician.”
Hankins has enjoyed a long history of doing gigs with many legendary jazz and R&B artists—from Al Jarreau to Aretha Franklin and Clark Terry. Over the years, while maintaining an active educational career, he has played with funk bands, circus bands, cruise ship ensembles and different “combos”. He is currently putting things together for more solo live performances and has numerous skillful musicians that he has previously worked with on eager standby.
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Hankins draws urban jazz fans into the pocket from the get go, playing a lighthearted trumpet melody over an infectious funk groove and soaring symphonic old school R&B textures on the opening title track. His dreamy and soulful melody on “We Come Together” is backed by cool ambience and easy rolling percussion; the tune features a hypnotic horn hook and tradeoff sections between the trumpet and saxophone. Hankins’ Earth, Wind & Fire influence is front and center on the high energy “See Me”, who’s bright brassy horns accent and provide a dynamic foundation for a playful lead trumpet melody all over a cutting edge funk groove. The trumpeter chills out and takes the tempo down a few notches on the sweet and romantic “I Can Be”, a vocal ballad sung by his brother Marcellus Hankins. The groove kicks back up only slightly on the sensual, light funk driven “Soft Touch,” whose 70s styled soul textures give way to a more 80s styled synth jam energy on the bass driven “Reach For Me”; the track features a playful interaction between Hankins’ dancing trumpet melody and the synthesized grooves. He ventures into brassy gospel territory (complete with textured vocals) on the jangling funk explosion “Give It A Try” before moving into more hypnotic, lyrical territory on the easygoing, crunch groove driven “Where Am I.” Some infectious wah-wah guitar and old school synth bounce adds flavor to the horn-splashed funk of “You Should Have”. Hankins moves from old school to contemporary hip-hop on the final track “Get Back Step Back”, whose dramatic orchestral intro gives way to bouncy hip-hop with street signs and a spirited anthem-like rap.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Samuel Hankins had the great fortune to be born into a musical family that would help cultivate his own talent and ambitions. His maternal grandmother played the piano and sang gospel. His father played harmonica and vocals in various R&B bands, and his brother Marcellus (who performs on Nothing Between Us) plays the piano, majored in voice and teaches elementary school music. Encouraged by his father, Samuel Hankins Sr., young “Hank”” began with the guitar, then switched to his trademark trumpet in middle school and began playing in churches, professional bands and orchestras.
After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Hankins joined the Air Force Jazz Band, The Pacesetters, stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. He remained with the Pacesetters as a trumpeter until the Air Force Base closed in 1991. Sam then returned to school, earning both a second Bachelors Degree and a Masters Degree in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Hankins left Edison Middle School after 11 years in 2006 to pursue an international teaching career in the country of Bermuda. He then returned to the U.S. in 2008 to teach at McKay High School in Salem, Oregon, again leading their Jazz Band & Marching Band to place within the top three in state competitions. In 2010, the trumpeter returned to Chicago, where he was hired as Band Director at Christ Our Savior Catholic School in a temporary position; when this band program was terminated due to a lack of funding, He also founded, organized and directed The East Central Illinois Jazz Institute, a summer jazz camp of approximately 20 students from throughout east-central Illinois. In 1998, Sam received The White House Letter recognizing the Edison Middle School Band Program signed by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sam’s achievements are just too numerous to all mention here. In 2011 Sam concentrated on pursuing his other passion in music, arranging and composing. This led to the release of 4 CD’s; “Dream Catcher” in July 2011, his smooth jazz CD, “Nothing Between Us” in May 2012, his “Joyous Celebration Christmas CD with David McLorren in November 2015 and his latest Cd release “Do That Thang” in March 2016.
All 4 CD’s have received lots of radio play around the world and in the US. Sam also accepted a position as Band Director at Crete-Monee Middle School in Chicago 2012-2015. Sam is also an Adjunct Music Professor at South Suburban College and works for Merit School of Music as an elementary/middle school band director in Chicago IL.
Sam Hankins was awarded the Best Jazz Artist of the Year 2014 award from the IMEA (International Music & Entertainment Association). In addition, he also won 2 virtual awards for The Best Trumpet Groove for “See Me” & The Best Woodwind & Brass Instrument Lead for “Nothing Between Us” at the GHP Radio Virtual Music Awards 2014. For more information on Sam Hankins awards click on his award tab.