AFTER TONIGHT, represents a work of startling beauty and one which is infused with Downing’s indomitable spirit of determination and a fierce faith.
Downing’s longtime friend and collaborator (this is their 10th project together) Rex Rideout, who has worked with Downing for nearly 15 years, serves as the album’s producer. Rideout also co-wrote six of the 10 tracks with Downing and laces the project with his adept skills on keyboards. AFTER TONIGHT was executive produced by Peak Partners Andi Howard and Mark Wexler.
AFTER TONIGHT kicks off with “Will’s Groove,” which ably showcases Downing’s rich-as-chocolate, smooth trademark baritone. The song was birthed during a telephone conversation between Downing and Rideout. “Will and I were on the phone one evening, and he asked me if I thought I could put music to this groove he came up with, and then he proceeded to just riff for a few minutes and what evolved, organically, was ‘Will’s Groove’,” says Rideout. “I think ‘Will’s Groove’ kinda represents what Will’s fans have always loved about his particular sound in the first place. His voice clearly is his instrument.”
Each song on AFTER TONIGHT is bathed in rose-tinged glow of romance and a velvety sensuality, with Downing’s voice deftly moving between his baritone, tenor and even his falsetto ranges, clearly demonstrating Downing’s vocal versatility and his well-honed musicianship. After Tonight,” the title track, is sultry and decidedly romantic.
On “Lover’s Melody,” a track bathed in sensuality and soulfulness and which provides the perfect aural inspiration for a romantic evening, the gifted and iconic vibraphonist Roy Ayers, embellishes the song with his electrifying and nimble playing while Kirk Whalum lends the “voice” of his tenor sax on both “All I Need Is You,” (which also features Audrey Wheeler-Downing on background vocals along with her husband) and the little known Bill Withers’ penned “You Just Can’t Smile It Away.”
One of AFTER TONIGHT’S many standouts is “God Is So Amazing,” a simple yet profound song of praise and gratitude that Downing sings with such a pure intention and an emotional innocence, his voice dipping and weaving yet remaining smooth and focused as he sings with a heartfelt sincerity: “Imagine someone who can change everything in your life/Someone who can take all of your wrongs and make them right …”. With “God Is So Amazing,” Downing stakes his claim as a man of immense faith and fortitude.