Vocalist John Finley, has a career spanning 6 decades as a hit songwriter and a dynamic performer of r&b, jazz, blues, gospel and popular music in Los Angeles and his native Toronto. This summer he'll release an album entitled “John Finley, Soul Singer", produced by Lou Pomanti, highlighting his roots expressed in the genres John so joyfully reveres.
“Let Me Serenade You”, John Finley sings and writes. His extraordinary soulful style has been a testament to his musical life and career.
At age 17, he worked his first professional engagements, performing the music of his favorite blues and R&B artists while discovering the music of jazz & gospel greats such as Monk, Davis, Coltrane, Mahalia, the Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Staples Singers.
By age 20, John had become a potent soul singer in Toronto's Jon & Lee & the Checkmates, pouring out his searing personal pains and joys with gospel fervor. His performances caught the eye of hit producer, Paul Rothchild, who recruited John for an idea that would become ELEKTRA’s hit recording group, Rhinoceros. Working with other emerging young artists encouraged John’s innate songwriting talent and afforded him the opportunity to meet and work with many accomplished gospel, soul, rock and blues acts.
In the 70’s, John settled in Los Angeles where he penned songs for Three Dog Night, Ben Vereen, Ivan Neville and Melissa Manchester and many others and performed as a studio vocalist on projects with Andre Fischer (Rufus, Natalie Cole), Michael MacDonald, Donna Summers, Joe Sample (the Crusaders) and many others.
John has also now spent over 35 years performing within the Southern California gospel music community with Alexander Hamilton & the Voices of Inspiration and in concert settings with greats such as the Rev. James Cleveland, Andre Crouch, Daniabelle and Walter & Edwin Hawkins as well as the L.A. Mass Choir. He’s been a featured soloist on recordings with the Voices of Inspiration and the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir.
During the 90’s, John’s interest returned to another of his earliest roots: Jazz. With associate Danny Ironstone, John embarked on the SOULBOP project. This concept began with reinventing historic classics such as “Blue Skies” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” in addition to original pieces in musical partnership world renowned personnel such as Phil Upchurch.
After the millennium, John returned with increased frequency to his native Toronto, reconnecting with the revived Checkmates, a reunion of Rhinoceros and many greats of the Toronto Sound who’d been a part of his musical life in Canada. He’s performed at major venues such as Massey Hall & the Kitchener Blues Festival, on Canada’s premier jazz station, JAZZFM91, at LUMINATO and was featured in Bravo Canada's 60's music documentary, "Yonge Street (Rock & Roll Stories)".
Over the past 5 years, Jaymz Bee of JAZZFM91 has become a central figure in John’s reborn Canadian career. Jaymz along with partner Lorenzo DiGianfelice, with their newly formed Vesuvius Music have taken John into the studio with award winning producer, Lou Pomanti to record “John Finley, Soul Singer”.
And now, the show goes on!.
John fronts Toronto Soul icons, Jon & Lee & the Checkmates twice opeing for the Rolling Stones. In October `65, John & the group make an emphatic statement on their second show with the Stones.
John meets Paul Rothchild of ELEKTRA Records, who’ll later invite John to Los Angeles to be a member Rhinoceros. The group records 3 albums, all charted on the Billboard Hot 100 as the group tours the U.S. and Canada.
As a songwriter, John works with several major music publishers such as 20th Century Fox Music and Warner Music. His “Let Me Serenade You” becomes a hit single by Three Dog Night.
John performs as a soloist in the L.A. Gospel music scene with Alexander Hamilton, the Rev. James Cleveland and many other nationally renowned gospel music artists.
John is produced by Bobby Eli of Philadelphia International for 20th Century Records.
Studio vocal work for recording artists, producers such as Gene McDaniels and Andre Fischer and jingle companies (national spots), movie music staff work with Paul Rothchild while he continues performing in the gospel music field
Co-writes with Kenny Lee Lewis (member, Steve Miller Band) “Why Can’t I Fall in Love”, recorded by Ivan Neville for New Line Pictures’ “Pump Up The Volume”.
Co-produces “SOULBOP!” Album with Danny Ironstone (former Anita Baker M.D.), featuring famed Jazz and R&B alumni such as Phil Upchurch, Michael Daigeau and Louis Van Taylor in L.A. , subsequently performing throughout SoCal at various jazz & blues festivals.
Begins his return to Toronto, performing locally, opening for rockabilly legend, Ronnie Hawkins at Massey Hall.
John is featured in Bravo Canada’s “Yonge Street (rock and roll stories)” with interviews, historical clips and closing the 3 part miniseries performing over the 1964 Levon & the Hawks tracking of the James Brown classic, “Please Please Please” produced by legendary CHUM radio alumni, Duff Roman.
John performs as part of the “Soulsville (the music of stax)” Review led by award winner, Lance Anderson.
John is introduced to producer Jaymz Bee (Vesuvius Music) while “sitting in” on a Lou Pomanti gig. Jaymz makes every effort to bring John to the forefront of the Toronto scene, by booking him and making introductions Toronto's fine musical community. John enters a partnership agreement with Vesuvius Music (Jaymz Bee and Lorenzo DiGianfelice for the recording his upcoming album "Soul Singer" produced by the legendary Lou Pomanti.
John's extraordinary! - Robbie Robertson
He’s a natural! - Kurt Elling
That little John Finley put everything into his song, man. - Ronnie Hawkins
John Finley sings so well, he makes me proud to say ‘Canadians got soul!’ - Paul Shaffer
Great record by a great artist. John sings the hell out of the songs and Lou Pomanti's production is superb. My favourite is "Let Me Serenade You”. Good luck with this John ... Long overdue and well worth the wait. - David Clayton-Thomas - Blood Sweat & Tears
Soul Singer is an apt description of Finley’s talents: this is a decidedly soulful album that ranges from the out-and-out fun of Party, Party to the funk of GO and the romantic slow-burn of Save Your Love For Me. ★★★★ - Bruce Lindsay – Jazz Journal
Nearly all 11 compositions on this album were penned or co-penned by Finley, and first at bat is Let Me Serenade You. Gospel motifs saturate this soulful, B3-driven tune and Finley’s well-lived-in, elastic tenor swoops and dips through this joyful track, replete with exquisitely placed horn lines and swinging, rhythmic, background vocals. Other highlights include GO, an uber-cool journey into a deep cave of funk and also the enervating closer, Who Will the Next Fool Be – a languid, down-home blues tinged with just the right amount of ennui, vigour and regret by Finley. This exceptionally conceived, produced, written, arranged and performed album is one of the most musically and emotionally satisfying recordings that I have had the chance to experience this year. - Lesley Mitchell-Clarke – The WholeNote
John Finley / Soul Singer - Starting off the album is his ‘Let Me Serenade You’, which was a hit for Three Dog Night in 1973 and still sounds like a cool track. ‘Go’ is a little funky gem and very well sung and his take on Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ is touching and soulful. Finley’s unique singing is supported here by Lou Pomanti as the producer and on piano, organ and keyboards, Marc Rogers on bass, Larnell Lewis and Davide DiRenzo on drums, Danny Weiss, John Findlay and Sam Pomanti on guitar, William Sperandei and Tony Carlucci on trumpet, William Carn on trombone, Allison Young on saxophone and Robin Newman, Gavin Hope, Amoy Levy, Ciceal Levy and Katherine Rose on background vocals. A wonderful vocal album with great tunes and a charismatic and very individual singer. A real surprise!! - Wulf Muller
Finley delights listeners throughout, including a heartfelt take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” while the original “Money Love” is an original that may evoke The O’Jays classic “For the Love of Money.” The latter number has a solid groove and excellent backing vocals behind Finley’s expressive singing. Finley delivers a superb jazzy vocal on the Buddy Johnson classic “Save Your Love For Me,” while his evocative vocal on the rendition of Charlie Rich’s “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” is equally top-flight. Allison Young’s tenor sax solo adds to the fervor of this marvelous performance that closes out an outstanding album of blues-eyes soul and jazz-tinged songs and vocals. - Ron Weinstock – In a Blue Mood
Let Me Serenade You was written by Finley and recorded by Three Dog Night back in 1973. This new performance of the song is a powerhouse performance. - David Reed – Brantford Expositor (PostMedia)
An elder statesman of blue eyed soul in Toronto, singer John Finley has never been one to let the meat loaf… The songs roughly come out along Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Pop, and Soul lines, with Finley’s supple vocalizing and warm wit evoking all the right moods. Faves round here include “Who Will The Next Fool Be”, “Money Love,” “What Time Can Do” and the majestic “Hallelujah” but there’s lots to like on the album’s 11 tracks. - Lenny Stoute - Cashbox
Vocalist John Finley sings like a veteran that has made a living working the clubs on this stylish collection of standards and originals… My money’s on the late night tones, but that’s to be expected from a guy who sounds like he’s seen a lot and felt even more. - George W. Harris – Jazz Weekly
John Finley's dynamic vocal range and the excellent choice of songs for the album make this a tender and top-flight production. Combining upbeat numbers with heartfelt ballads and elements of soul, r'n'b, jazz and funk, this is an all round collection of world class music that is instantly accessible and enjoyable from start to finish. - Marty Delia – The Jazz Music Blog
A rock survivor that even has opening for the Stones in ‘65 on his vitae, rolls it all together for a tour de force that's loaded with soul, makes a passionate stop at Leonard Cohen and reprises his hit single for Three Dog Night before it's all over. From when big voices were more important than bombast and rock was loaded with soul roots, this recidivist release gives you whip lash as it moves forward and backward all at once. A real tour de force for real rock fans. - Chris Spector – Midwest Record
The gray-haired gentleman looking at us from the cover of the Soul Singer album is a true Professional. Finley prepared it along with producer and arranger Lou Pomanti, who was very famous in Canada……. Most of the compositions were written here by John Finley himself or with his participation, but there are also several covers, among which I cannot but single out the famous Hallelujah of his countryman Leonard Cohen. Finley's version, would have been applauded by Cohen himself. Truly, music knows no racial differences, and white John Finley performs soul and rhythm and blues no worse than his best black colleagues. So, the album is rightfully named with full justification: Soul Singer. - JAZZQUA -Russia - Leonid Auskern
Vocalist John Finley sings like a veteran that has made a living working the clubs on this stylish collection of standards and originals. Produced by keyboardist Lou Pomanti, Finley weaves stories backed by Larnell Lewis-Davide Direnzo/dr, Marc Rogers/b, Danny Weis-John Findlay-Sam Pomonti and a variety of vocalist and horn players. He sounds most comfortable when making a mood like a late night saloon as on an intimate take with Pomanti on Charlie Rich’s “Who Will The Next Fool Be” and the noirish “Save Your Love For Me”, going deep, soft and delicate on “The Boys Song”. The musty voiced leader shoes a funky side on the R&B ish popper “I’m On Your Side” and a soulful “Party Party” and “Money Love”. My money’s on the late night tones, but that’s to be expected from a guy who sounds like he’s seen a lot and felt even more. - George W. Harris - Jazz Weekly
John Finley has been an R&B singer in Toronto since 1964, with bands including the Checkmates, Rhinoceros, and as a solo artist. He performed all over the Yonge Street and Yorkville scenes, and has played Massey Hall. He even opened for the Rolling Stones at Maple Leaf Gardens. Now in his mid-70s Finley has released another album of feel-good songs backed by a killer band including Lou Pomanti (piano, organ), Larnell Lewis and Davide Direnzo (Drums), Marc Rogers (bass), Danny Weis (guitar) and an extended horn section. Now in his mid-70s Finley has released another album of feel-good songs backed by a killer band including Lou Pomanti (piano, organ), Larnell Lewis and Davide Direnzo (Drums), Marc Rogers (bass), Danny Weis (guitar) and an extended horn section. - David Reed - Brantford – The Expositor
“I’ve worked with a lot of singers, but never a trapeze artist like John Finley,” Pomanti says. He flies solo without a net, way out on a limb where there is no safety zone. He rarely sings the same thing twice, and I wouldn’t want him to. I’ve seen John in tears after a vocal take, and I’ve seen him laughing out loud after the next one. You never know what you’re gonna get, but you know it’s gonna be great. He is a rare breed.” - Lou Pomanti - Producer
John Finley – Soul Singer is OUT. Finley’s first thought was to have Grammy and Juno winning producer and arranger Lou Pomanti at the helm. Pomanti also plays the keyboards on a set of performances ranging from strong blue-eyed soul to very fine jazzy cabaret singing. There is a touch of church music in the accompaniment of the opening “Let Me Serenade You,” that Finley wrote. Pomanti’s keyboards caress Finley’s high tenor testifying set against terrific backing. It sets the table for a varied program that follows with a romantic soul ballad, “I’m On Your Side,” and then “Go,” with its funky dance groove. Tony Carlucci’s muted trumpet helps create a late-night feel for the jazzy, atmospheric vocal on “What Time Can Do.” - Ron Weinstock - In a Blue Mood - Blog