ROSE AVE — It’s been a challenging year for many. Unemployment is on the rise along with foreclosures. Confidence in elected officials is waning as the state’s debt keeps climbing. In this unpredictable time, it can be difficult to remain positive.

That’s where Jazz musician and Santa Monica High School alum John Beasley comes into play. The versatile composer/producer is trying his best to get people out of their funk with some funk … and soul, bossa nova, bop and even some nuevo tango. All of these rhythms can be found on Beasley’s Grammy-nominated, ninth studio album “Positootly,” a 10-track jazz gem of musical positivity that is inspired by the swinging grooves of his youth, growing up in Shreveport, La.

In the vein of lyricist Johnny Mercer and composer Harold Arlen’s “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” Beasley’s “Positootly,” aims to inspire and inject some hope for the future, featuring chord progressions that make for forward motion.

“I really wanted to come off with something positive and something to give people hope about recovering from all this crazy stuff we’ve been going through,” Beasley said during an interview from his home-studio in Venice. “I started writing the songs in 2009 when I was living in New York. … We were experiencing the financial crisis, and the election was happening. There was a lot of drama going on in the country and the world. I wanted to create my own small alternative to that, with a message that if we stay positive, we can pull through this together.”

This is Beasley’s first Grammy nomination as a solo artist, however, the third-generation musician has an impressive resume, having performed with the likes of Sergio Mendes, Miles Davis, Steely Dan and the late James Moody, whose album “Moody 4B” is also up for the Best Jazz Instrumental Album Grammy.

“I’m feeling very humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as these guys,” Beasley said of being nominated. “And to know that I was selected by my peers, that really feels good. That makes me feel like I’m reaching somebody that has a real interest in the music I make. … I’m over the moon.”

While Beasley’s Southern roots (he spent time in both Louisiana and Texas) are prevalent in “Positootly,” he still has strong ties to Santa Monica, the city where he spent his high school years. His parents were music educators at Santa Monica College. His mother, Lida Beasley, also taught music at John Adams Middle School. When she passed away earlier this year, the family was touched by the tributes made by former students who have gone on to be stellar musicians, including Lenny Kravitz, Beasley’s wife, Lorna Chiu said. Chui works as a communications consultant with Doctors Without Borders.

While at Samohi, Beasley was heavily involved in the music program. With his mother teaching close by, Beasley said the other music students and teachers became extended family. He remembers his friends from the orchestra had a tradition called the “Snatch Breakfast,” where they would wake up an unsuspecting student around 5 a.m. and take them out to breakfast in their pajamas.

“I was kind of a night owl back then because I was really into jazz, doing gigs as soon as I moved out here,” Beasley said. “They snatched me up, and I was so cranky, like ‘I’m not going.’ But once you where there you had a good time.

“Playing in the orchestra at Samohi was a real gift because the teachers there were so very good. We were playing Dvorak and Bach, heavy music for high school. We used to go on trips in a big group, and that was always fun, hanging out on the bus.”

Since his parents were heavily involved in music, it was natural for Beasley to pick up an instrument. His first was a drum set he created using various items from around the house, including pots and pans. His family started giving him various drum parts until he had enough to make a legitimate drum set. When he was 8, his parents made him take piano lessons. Like a typical pre-teen, Beasley was more interested in sports than the piano. Then he hit his teens and suddenly music became a passion. He played guitar with some friends in a band and then moved to the piano when a bandmate quit. He started writing music in junior high and after graduating from Samohi, he hooked up with Sergio Mendes.

Over the years, Beasley has composed for television and performed on box office hits like “Wall-E” and “Austin Powers.”

Diversity is Beasley’s formula for success. Living on the Santa Monica/Vencie border, Beasley said he is lucky to be exposed to so many talented musicians. He also credits the area with helping him remain humble while adding a street element to his music.

“Venice is the city of art and crime,” Beasley said with a laugh.

He credits time spent with various musicians, each representing a different style, with inspiring him to try new rhythms and also experiment with his craft.

“I learned from all these artists, like Miles Davis and Steely Dan, that they were very meticulous and worked hard at their art. That made a big impression on me,” he said. “Being an artist means you never stop learning. They were continuously aware of their work, even if they were not in front of their instrument. It was something in their soul.”

Then again, even an artist needs time to step away from the canvas. When Beasley is not creating music, he can most likely be found at a farmer’s market or at a restaurant ( “I’m a bit of a foodie.”) He and his wife also like to go hiking and bike riding. He’s a big Lakers fan and enjoys time at the Ocean Park Library.

“Living by the beach, it’s a pretty nice lifestyle.”

He also keeps a close eye on his daughter, Cierra Beasley, a former Santa Monica College student that is close to graduating from Cal State Long Beach.

If he wins the Grammy, Beasley said he will “try to convey humility and be thankful and respect the people I’ve learned from.

“And give that message of positivity.”

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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