While still a student at Howard University -- where he would later receive his B.A. in composition and jazz studies -- Toney was discovered by trumpeter and jazz studies department head Donald Byrd, who would put together a group of his best students; Toney became the leader of this groundbreaking jazz fusion group called the Blackbyrds. He recorded seven albums with the group, three of which were certified gold, and many of their hit songs, including "Rock Creek Park" and the Grammy-nominated "Unfinished Business," were Toney compositions. He has numerous albums to his name as a solo artist, including Retrospectives, 110 Degrees and Rising, Sweet Spot, Strut, Extra Sensual Perception, Lovescape, Pastel Mood, and Special K. Strut was selected by the 2002 Winter Olympics Committee as part of its "official music" alongside works by Paul McCartney and Alicia Keys.
Toney has performed at major jazz festivals and concerts throughout the United States including the Capital Jazz Festival, the Playboy Jazz Festival, the Long Beach Jazz Festival, the Jazz and Blues Festival in Denver, the Pasadena Jazz Festival, Chene Park, and others. As an educator, he conducts master classes and makes guest artist appearances at universities and schools around the country, including CSU Los Angeles, UC Irvine, East Carolina University, Howard University, Columbia College, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
Toney has recorded and or performed with many top artists, including Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, Sonny Rollins, O.C. Smith, Oscar Brown, Jr., Stevie Wonder, Kenny Burrell, James Newton, Andrew White, Carl Anderson, Whitney Houston, Pink, Shirley Caesar, Edwin Hawkins, Ted Neeley, Brenda Russell, George Strait, Shania Twain, En Vogue, Monica, Ray Parker, Jr., Isaac Hayes, Bobby Womack, James Ingram, Hubert Laws, Sonny Stitt, David "Fathead" Newman, Gerald Wilson, Bill Summers, Bill Withers, Cheryl Lynn, Norman Brown, Peter White, and more. In addition, Toney has showcased his musical versatility as a conductor and arranger for top recording and performing artists including James Ingram, Patti Austin, Stevie Wonder, Babyface, Enrique Iglesias, Brian McKnight, Tyrese, Ja-Rule, Musiq Soulchild, Edwin Hawkins, Gloria Gaynor, Michael McDonald, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., Freda Payne, and Bill Withers. He has served as conductor and arranger for theatrical productions of Ain't Misbehavin', Five Guys Named Moe, Sophisticated Ladies, Harlem Suite, Wild Women Blues, The Magic of Motown (A Tribute to Berry Gordy), and Atlanta. He also scored the full-length feature film Kings of the Evening. In 2012, Toney released the gospel-oriented A Grateful Heart, his first ever solo piano recording. The following year, he reunited with members of the Blackbyrds for several reunion shows and organized the Donald Byrd Acoustic and Electric Sessions concerts in San Francisco and New York. Toney then produced 2014's A Love Like Ours, the debut album by his daughter, vocalist Dominique Toney. In 2015, Toney kept busy as musical director for the theatrical production Words by Ira Gershwin. ~ Jonathan Widran, Rovi