Flute-playing soul-jazz phenomenon Ragan Whiteside has become one of the genre’s most consistently dynamic and popular artists. Thanks to her incredible skill and creativity on her chosen instrument, as well as her charismatic presence on stage, Whiteside is at the top of her game. That was demonstrated in October 2022, when she became the first artist to win the competitive Best Contemporary Jazz Artist Award at the inaugural Jazz Music Awards, held at the Cobb Energy Centre in Atlanta. Whiteside is also a 2023 NAACP Image Award Nominee and four-time nominee for the Smooth Jazz Network’s Best Artist Award.
That distinction is well-deserved, as the Atlanta-based musician, songwriter, and vocalist has become one of very few women players to excel in the male-dominated instrumental sphere, garnering eight consecutive Top Ten Billboard airplay singles by 2022. And she’s done it as an independent artist, releasing projects on Randis Music, the label she founded with her husband, producer, and composer Dennis Johnson.
Her most recent full-length project, 2022’s Thrill Ride, is her sixth career album to date and it lives up to its title, demonstrating Whiteside’s breathtaking virtuosity and melodic skills on a thrilling journey through a landscape of dynamic grooves. The project features eight songs, which are largely produced by her longtime collaborators Dennis Johnson and Bob Baldwin. Other producers include Chris “Big Dog” Davis on the sexy update of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing,” and James Lloyd of the veteran group Pieces Of A Dream, who contributes “A Toast At Sunset” as writer and keyboardist as well.
Her third single from the project, “Full Court Press,” is a smooth and sexy groove co-written by Whiteside with the team of Johnson and Baldwin, who produced, and featured guitarist Phil Hamilton and drummer Rich Harrison, also known as the artist RAH.
Whiteside’s previous single was the title track, “Thrill Ride,” which was also written and produced by Johnson, Baldwin, and Whiteside, and features guitarist Hamilton and drummer RAH. The single peaked at No. 1 on five radio charts, including the Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart, Mediabase, the Smooth Jazz Network, Radiowave and Groove Jazz Music. Her previous single from the set, “Off The Cuff,” not only peaked at
No. 7 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay chart, where it spent 17 weeks, but it also earned her the Jazz Music Awards nomination that she ultimately won.
In addition to her projects, Whiteside has been a busy collaborator. Over the last two years, the native New Yorker also charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay chart for her collaboration with Kim Scott’s 2022 remake of Ashford & Simpson’s 1978 mega-hit, “I’m Every Woman” along with Althea René, which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz chart. Whiteside also co-wrote Bob Baldwin’s top-charting hit, “B Positive,” with production partners Dennis Johnson and Baldwin. Additionally, she is featured on “This Time Around” with contemporary jazz artist Jarez, from his latest project, J Funk City. In 2022, she appeared on two tracks, “Seven Eight” and “Solo,” on veteran jazz drummer Billy Cobham’s new album, Drum’N’Voice Vol. 5.
Whiteside has continued to delight fans and critics alike with her engaging, upbeat melodies and exhilarating flute playing. Tunes like “Thrill Ride,” “Off The Cuff,” “JJ’s Strut,” “Reminiscing,” “Jam It,” “Early Arrival,” “See You At The Get Down,” a nd the Billboard No. 1 “Corey’s Bop” have burnished her reputation. But while Whiteside has made her mark fusing inspired flute melodies and breathtaking solos with hip upbeat grooves, she gained her musical acumen by training as a classical flutist.