Jean and Marcus Baylor aim to create an uplifting concert experience
by Cynde Cerf, Chandler Center for the Arts
When first meeting Jean and Marcus Baylor, the husband-wife duo of The Baylor Project, you are struck by their easy, comfortable demeanor. They finish each other’s sentences. They banter stories back and forth with fun and love. There is a dynamic between them that explains the magnetism they create on stage.
Both started their musical careers in musical groups of note. Marcus as a member of the GRAMMY-winning jazz band, Yellowjackets. Jean as a member of the chart-topping R&B group, Zhané. They had done projects together and liked the artistic freedom they had performing as a duo. After playing a nine-month gig, packing a small jazz club in New York, they were creating buzz with their performances.
They began to do their own management, promotion and booking.
“We started playing concerts and waking up with purpose,” says Jean. “Since both of us had experience to go on, we started setting goals and managing our expectations. We have exceeded what we thought was possible.”
Their debut album, Journey, was released on their own label in 2017 and came out #1 on iTunes jazz charts. The album garnered two GRAMMY nominations for Best Jazz Album and Best Traditional R&B Performance.
Their next GRAMMY nomination would come from the single they released in 2020 called, “Sit On Down.” The song originally started as a spontaneous live video on social media and then was developed from there.
“Anything can inspire a melody or song,” says Marcus. “A conversation, the sound of windshield wipers. We are just comfortable with creating.”
The duo have certainly been influenced by Black music, from The Commission to Miles Davis, Ray Charles to The Winans, Hip-Hop to church music.
“My influences are diverse,” says Jean. “Hymns, Aretha Franklin, ‘80s Hip-Hop, rock and pop. I didn’t get into jazz until college and then it has been Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughn, Betty Carter and Anita Baker.”
Who influenced Jean to be a performer? “Bobby Brown. I saw him in college. He was up on the stage, singing and dancing. I saw how the audience was reacting. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
When the two talk about their music, it is evident that they put a lot of themselves in what they create. There is certainly a soul, a spirit, to their performances.
“After a performance, we want people to walk away feeling uplifted,” says Marcus. “They come to a show and we want them to leave their burdens behind.”
“We want them to be lifted, inspired. Feeling better about life. There is hope,” adds Jean.
The duo released their new album, Generations, on the eve of Juneteenth, June 18, 2021. The music on the album is “a cultural anthology rooted in everyday life experiences that celebrate love, family, faith and community.” The album features collaborations with Dianne Reeves, Jazzmeia Horn, Kenny Garrett, Jamison Ross and Sullivan Fortner.
Their expertise is not just put to use in the music they make, but also in other ways in the music industry. Marcus was recently appointed as a GRAMMY Trustee and Jean as a local GRAMMY Governor.
We are excited to present The Baylor Project on the CCA’s main stage on Saturday, January 22, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. With an eclectic sound that is influenced by gospel, blues, soul and jazz they deliver ballads with storied grace, elegance and grit. Be prepared to be swept up on original compositions and new arrangements of classic pieces of music that will inspire and move you.
Tickets are on sale now, $36 - $56, online at chandercenter.org or by calling the box office at 480-782-2680.