Music is the last true magic in the world. It changes your chemical balance. Love comes, love goes. You still have the music, like your funk tattoo. You can’t see it, like music.
We were so young. We started off a local little thing. Then we got to drive from LAX to Hollywood Boulevard. Go to New York. Going to America was amazing. Doing shows in Paris. Meeting Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau. Playing the big jazz festivals sharing the bill with the legends.
Classic Brand New Heavies - "Dream On Dreamer"
Getting to hear people say that our music changed their lives is wonderful. Hearing people say that our music touched them, even saved them, is something else.
This is an exciting year. We are just finishing an album that will be released in August. We are making it with super-producer Mark Ronson, and we’re just now adding a track for which I am recording the guitar-part tomorrow. We have our original singer and a new singer on the album as well as secret guests. The record company loves the album, which is always a good thing. We are planning a tour during the year.
The Brand New Heavies live December 2018
I also have my side project with Nick Van Gelder, the drummer I met recording Jamiroquai’s first album. We did an album titled “On Top” a few years ago. And I am doing a new album with that project.
It allows me to express different sides as a performer, and it makes for exciting times.
I think keep on funking is all we can do. We can’t make money from records anymore, but we can from going to see people.
I am just as busy now as I was in 2014, when I first did an article with Musiciansʼ Corner.
I came into the new year with a few exciting gigs. Iʼm working with a lot of incredible artists. Tab Benoit and Ani DiFranco are two of my regular gigs.
Iʼm also working with producer Don Was. A couple of years ago we did The last Waltz 40th tribute show at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and the tribute turned into The Last Waltz 40 tour. That lead to a Bob Marley tribute lead by the Marley brothers, which lead to an Elvis 68 Comeback special tribute filmed for NBC - and a tribute to Willie Nelson in front of 18 000 people that was filmed for A&E. I was part of the house band on side of Don Was and we backed at least 12 different country artist including Vince Gill and Willie Nelson. That was my first country gig, but it was as if I had always been playing country music… Those shows are really special once in a lifetime-events, so I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of those performances.
On top of that I'm working with a new project with John Medeski (of Medeski Martin and Wood) with his group Mad Skillet which was born out of a few late night jams in New Orleans during the NOLA jazz fest. Medeski produced a Dirty Dozen Brass Band record in the late 90ʼs entitled Buck Jump. So it was good to reconnect with him, and now there is a fresh release titled “Mad Skillet”.
I play locally with my band Swampgrease and other projects that I put together, but generally Iʼm too busy doing other peopleʼs projects.
Terence Higgins on the drums with Swampgrease live (2015)
I grew up listening to a lot of different music, and now I get calls to go do cool gigs, across all genres. I just do what I do naturally. I paid a lot of dues, and I take peopleʼs music seriously. Don Was could have called any A-list drummer in the world to play these huge shows. I think it takes a lot of trust to and level of comfort to offer the drum chair for these incredible star studded events. Iʼve been really busy juggling all my regular gigs and as soon as I see a break in my schedule thereʼs another call – and I'd like keep the ascending trend.
I live in New Orleans, but I feel like Iʼm just visiting. I always have my bag packed. Sometimes there are several offers at once. The people I work with keep our relationships family-oriented and they understand that I have to prioritizeʼ. If I canʼt make an Ani show she will do her gig solo. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band allowed me the freedom to take other high profile gig offers without jeopardizing my position.
On the side of the touring gigs and studio sessions I have also been involved in producing a few drum sample packs. The most recent was the Greasy Groove pack released by the Loop Loft, who has recently partnered with Native Instruments.
- Music is therapy. Music is meditation. Music is an exercise in discipline.
But most of all music is freedom.
Music has the same color as the air. You can close your eyes but you can’t close your ears.
If you play it well,that’s the only thing that matters
- The world would be a mistake without music. Whatever you’re doing everything is so much easier with earphones. And rhythm is all around us.
- Music to me is life. Music is spirituality. Music is me telling a story. I believe in a creator and in carrying a message. I believe in reaching out to people with an open heart and mind. Not everybody has that.
We all learn by going back. We don’t listen to our parents until we see what they talk about. If you get lost you go back to the basics and realize that it doesn’t matter how modern a building is, it still needs a foundation or it will fall down.
- Music is just a sonic expression of me – of us – who are playing it. I usually play in a group, and then music is a sonic expression of us in the group. It’s an expression of what we are interested in, and of what we like and don’t like – cosmically, spiritually politically, nutritionally etc. It’s an expression of what’s going on. Everything that we are – that’s what music is to me. It’s the same way that Charlie Parker would describe it. I have heard that generation express this the same way: Music is an expression of what we see. Someone from Germany doesn’t see the same things as someone from Mississippi. And even with modern technology actually being somewhere physically is going to be a lot different to having international contacts on your phone.
LONNIE LISTON SMITH
- Music is life. People don’t realize that music is the only universal language that we have. Music helps people feel better, and music can heal people.
From Day 1 my life was all music. It was the whole thing, and there was never any doubt about what I would do in life. My father was a famous gospel performer and there were always famous musicians coming to our house. For me that was natural, something I took for granted.
- Music to me is a combination of sound, rhythm, melody and harmony – and I guess we have to add technology too now – organized by a human.
People are programming AI to compose and arrange music in the future. I’m not a fan of that as you can imagine
I have a special friendship with music, that is like no other friendship. It keeps surprising me. It keeps comforting me. When I was younger it helped me express myself and articulate things that I would otherwise have not been able to say. I am more articulate now, but music still is an avenue of expression.
In 2019 I am planning on finishing what I started this year. I have been doing most of the work on an autobiographical book, together with my co-writer Seve Chambers. Everything is written now. We have to organize the text, and hopefully it will be published next year. I have also been working on a new album. It contains ideas that I have had in my brain for many years. I need to let them out.
"A Toast to the People" performed by Brian Jackson and Gregory Porter
I have been working with a trio. It’s something I have been taking around. We have done the music of Brian Jackson and Gil Scott-Heron, and told the backstory and related many anecdotes. A lot of people like to hear it, and we have had a lot of fun with it. In ways it has been a precursor to the book and ties into the writing-project.
I’m the kind of artist who works well in collaborations. I’m inspired by the ideas of others. Artists can reach their peak through interactions. I don’t know that that’s very different with my solo-projects. I’m still working with musicians… We still feed off each other.
I knew that I wanted to be a professional musician when I was taking music lessons for my music teacher Mrs. Ross. She told me that it was a good idea to learn to play instruments, because I could get jobs and get an income that way. So I took her advice and joined three bands!
New York is home. It is also a creative Mecca and still a place where creatives come to prove themselves. There is always so much happening, and everything is available. You can witness it. You can always be sure that you are close to the cutting edge. It’s not an absolute rule that artists need to be in metropolitan areas to develop to their fullest, but being in a large urban center gives you access to more people and the chance to connect with more people.
Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson "Bridges" (1977)
An article with Michael Ray. In this photo we see The Cosmic Krewe: Laranah Phipps-Ray and Michael Ray
There is no way that you can walk upon this Earth without music. You can’t communicate without music. People stay strong through music. Sometimes it’s the world against them. But music remains true.
The Cosmic Krewe have a new single out, which was recorded in Santiago. It contains highlights from two performances. We have been going for quite some time, and there were even two versions for a while. I also just did a recording with the Sun Ra Arkestra and Bono.
The Cosmic Krewe in action
It’s always very busy for me. I work with Kool & The Gang, and with them it’s pretty much the same show in the same way all the time. I work with the Arkestra, and with them there is no telling what’s going to happen during a performance - and it’s what comes after five to twelve hours of rehearsal.
Kool & The Gang at B.B. King's
It’s hard to be involved in as many things as I am, but it’s fun to be on the road. I stay in shape. I have been in most places, so there is no point in going out much. I stick to doing what I’m doing, and when I go on vacation I do nothing at all.
Some people are so creative and they don’t even know it. They hum where they go and can’t hear it themselves. You need to be in tune with the planet, and nurture that energy. The world can be like a long, plastic hallway. You need to stay true to yourself.
U2 with Sun Ra Arkestra at the Apollo
Michael Ray is presented thus by his partner in music and life, artist Laranah Phipps-Ray: - Michael is so well respected even in the most remote places. They love him and they might not speak the same language. He is very hard-working, very detailed, very technical, and keeps the excitement of a beginner. I am always inspired by him. He is fast-moving, energetic and exhausting - and we are both eclectic, and this keeps us drawn to each other.
TK Blue remembers his friend Randy Weston, on Musicians' Corner
An article by TK Blue. The pictures show two great musical friends meeting for the last time in this realm, in August of this year.
On Saturday Sept 1, 2018 we lost a true musical giant, innovator, NEA Jazz Master, and a warrior for the elevation of African-American pride and culture. His compositions disseminating the richness and beauty of the African aesthetic are unparalleled. Randy was born during the era of extreme racism, segregation, and discrimination in the United States. His life's mission was one of unfolding the curtain that concealed the wonderful greatness and extraordinary accomplishments inherent on the African continent.
I am blessed and honored to have been a member of his band for 38 years. Baba Randy was a spiritual father and mentor for myself, and so many people. Our last public performances were in Rome, Italy July 19th and Nice, France July 21st with Billy Harper on tenor sax Alex Blake bass Neil Clarke percussion and T.K. Blue alto sax and flute.
I will always remember his extreme kindness and generosity. My first four impressions of Dr. Weston reveled who he was and what he cherished:
--Early 1970's Randy in performance at the East in Brooklyn with his son Azzedine on African percussion (a clear demonstration of his love and mentorship for his children. I also remember Randy inviting the great James Spaulding to sit in on flute)
---Late 1970's I performed with South African legend pianist Abdullah Ibrahim at Ornette Coleman's Artist House Loft in Soho NYC. Randy attended this show with his father Frank Edward Weston and his manager Colette (his profound love, respect, and reverence for the elders and his admiration for other artists, especially from the continent of Africa)
----Late 1970's I had the first opportunity to perform with Randy at a fundraiser for SWAPO and to raise funds for support against Apartheid in South Africa (another demonstration of his commitment to struggle for civil and human rights world-wide)
During the summer of 1980 I was overjoyed having my first hired performance with Randy and his African Rhythms group at the House Of The Lord Church in Brooklyn which again displayed his support and commitment to keep jazz alive in black community and his in-depth love for the African-American church)
Lastly when my mom Lois Marie Rhynie passed in 2014, there was a last minute issue with the church piano. Dr. Weston paid for the rental of a beautiful baby grand piano and performed gratis.
Randy Weston is the last pianistic link between Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. His forays into improvisation are clearly a manifestation of the highest tier regarding a creative genius with astounding originality. His compositions are in the pantheon of renowned jazz standards.
Words are inadequate to express my love, admiration, appreciation, and gratitude for such an incredible human being. May his spirit rest in paradise for eternity. We will miss you Baba Randy!!!
Sincerely, T.K. Blue
This beautiful text was written by T.K. Blue in the memory of his close friend and mentor Randy Weston. We are so grateful to T.K. Blue for sharing this with us and our visitors. Thank you, T.K., for putting this wonderful text for the giant, Dr. Weston, here.
Both Randy Weston and T.K. Blue are contributors to this site, something that we are needless to say extremely proud of.
To me music is my life and what I am driven to do. It is what I will be doing until I am under ground.
Even at the time when Aretha Franklin was really sick she was still working on an album.
There is never the last album.
Music is the air I breathe, the food I eat, and my gasoline that keeps me going.
L.J. Reynolds' new single "You and Me Together, Forever" off the forthcoming new solo album
I am just now releasing a new solo album, “You And Me”, featuring the single “You And Me Together, Forever”. It is a great record, one of the best I ever made. It was recorded in 2018 and will be out in a few weeks. It includes a remake of “Key To The World”, from my self-titled solo album, which has been a big hit in my solo career, and which the public demands to hear at The Dramatics’ gigs too. I am trying to top what I already did. You can always do anything even better. The new record also for example includes a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me”, where I have added to the lyrics. It is a line-dance product. My records are great stepping records. I have an extensive solo career that features solo albums and gospel albums, with songs such as “Touch Down”, which was a single from my album "Lovin Man" , and albums such as "Travelin" and “Tell Me You Will” . I for example covered Aretha Franklin’s “Call Me”, so she called me and said that I had asked her to. That was really funny! She sometimes also came out after that song at my concerts.
It was suggested to me that I should cover something from Motown, and my video for “Come Get To This/Stepping Out Tonight” has nearly a million views on YouTube right now.
A lovely and popular video for YouTube to safekeep: L.J. Reynolds' "Come Get To This/Stepping Out Tonight" off the release "Get To This"
My daughter has passed away. I am nearly in tears when I talk about it.
L.J. Reynolds' solo hit "Key To The World"
A typical day in the studio back in time with The Dramatics, if I wasn’t producing, was a good eight hours long. We made sure that we had fun, and we allowed very few people to come to our recording sessions. We were focused, and always focused on how to outdo each other.
After eight hours we had a record.
The Dramatics - as good as it gets - "(I'm Going By) The Stars In Your Eyes" on Soul Train, where this act appeared 20+ times
It wasn’t work and it isn’t work now. It’s the traveling that is the work – on stage I’m at home. And the most fun of all is when you get paid.
We had thirty-seven hits. I have many favorites. I wrote a couple that are favorites… I can list them – it would take a while.
The music business is rough on all. I have the gold records, but there has been obstacles, the shift to the digital world, production companies that didn't pay us, drugs, managers that weren’t fair with the money, changes of labels, offers that didn’t come through. There has been a lot happening that the younger acts now aren’t exposed to as much, and I have a saying that I want you to make note of: - If you’re not in control of the money the money is out of control.
It takes its toll living this lifestyle. Being an entertainer can shorten your life, like cigarettes. Tragedies are what they say: Tragedies. I have lost all of that now. And it says that I have to keep the legacy going. None of us are getting out of this alive. There is great feeling and great faith about what you do. We want to be great. I lost my only brother. I lost my daughter. I turn that into song. I have been compensated well, so why more money as the prime driving force? I can only eat so much salmon. I want to do more music. I want to please the public. Artists fight to be liked.
I don’t think that you can ever go back. You can only always go forward.
L.J. Reynolds is a legendary singer, composer, arranger, producer, manager and entrepreneur, based in Detroit. He joined the phenomenon that is the massively successful singing group The Dramatics in 1972, and has since been one of the famous voices and faces forever recognized as The Dramatics. This group indeed has a dramatic story, but more than anything it has had outstanding and legendary voices and has a very long string of immortal songs to its name. The Dramatics are an important part of modern American history. L.J. Reynolds' brilliant solo career includes several studio albums and two gospel albums to date.
Being a rock star in Italy in 2018 is not easy: often the famous major record companies are not interested in a policy of international music development, especially if we are talking about rock music in English. Radios that deal with promoting original rock music belong mainly to a local circuit. That’s why it’s important to have a good promoter, and to choose an agency that can work properly with your product on social media channels. The independent labels are the only resource to try to be known by the big audience.
Klee Project "Still Waiting"
After the first album "the long way" released in 2016 I really wanted to summarize the style of the Klee Project. In the summer of 2017 I’ve released 11 tracks in just two weeks! But Klee Project is a team, and not a personal project. For this reason, I wanted to involve great friends, musicians who could make this new work unique: Chicco Gussoni (Lead guitar), Daniele Iacono (drums) e Lorenzo Poli (bass). The lyrics have been written by two American singers, Mike Botula and Blitch Vizioli, who described incredible stories and sensations. The desire to represent myself in this style was so strong that I did not think of so many thrills. Essential, powerful and so strong!
To be able to express what music represents for me is certainly not easy. The feeling and the passion for this art are so strong that being able to explain it is the hardest thing to do. Surely I can say that it has always followed me, and I am happy to be able to live with music. When you live off music there is no sadness, despair, boredom, frustration, anguish - but only love and time stops magically, waiting for a new creation. An amazing world in which you can express your personality as it’s best.
Music to me is communication. It is a universal language. I can speak to people anywhere through music and they will understand me.
Music is also love. You can’t really express hatred through music. There was gangster rap, but it didn’t last long.
Music is love, unity, freedom. Music ignites freedom. It’s about people expressing their wish for freedom where there is none. The Civil Rights Movement started in music. Music is where people come together.
"Yum Yum" by Jean Chardavoine, performed by the Chardavoine Band.
I grew up in a family with a father who was a professional Haitian musician. My mother didn’t want me to be a musician. She had seen the drinking, the women… It was only when I came to the US that I could start playing. There was a lady next door who had a guitar. I cleaned her house, and she gave me her guitar, and said that it was my payment for cleaning her house. I kept that guitar by my bed at night, scared to lose it.
If you are Haitian you basically have three professions to choose from. You can choose to be a doctor, a lawyer or an architect. I was playing Hendrix by ear in High school. I went on to higher education to study medicine, but everybody seemed to have a guitar, and I went to a concert and lost my mind: “That’s what I want to do!”. So I majored in composition and orchestration instead of medicine.
I first fell in love with Hendrix and the rock era. Then came jazz. About fifteen years ago I got into my Haitian musical heritage, which is a rich and vast area in terms of melody and rhythm. About two years ago I found out about Dahomey music, which is a family of rhythms in unusual time signatures, like 7/4. You can still dance to them. Their roots are from Africa, and I started to explore them on my last album. My music is a bit like gumbo. All my favorite foods may go into the pot.
"Karamell" by The Chardavoine Band
I stayed away from Haiti for forty years. My father experienced persecution and I was told not to go back. I’m the only man in my family, I have five sisters. Then I went back in 2015, as I was invited to play at the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival, and since then I have been back eleven times. I fell in love with the country. They can’t keep me away now.
I am currently writing for a new CD, going deeper into the Haitian flavor. It will be a producer album, meaning that I am going to feature a lot of singers.
Jean Chardavoine is a musician and composer based in New York. He embraces hs Haitian roots in his musical output, and has received many accolades.
The musical highlight of my life was when I realized that I could say things with my instrument that I couldn’t otherwise say, and touch people with music. I treat this as the greatest resource.
Other than that being alive is what gives me joy.
Music is love, joy – sometimes it’s anger, moments of fear… I don’t take it away from my human experience.
Music is life in real-time.
24-7 Spyz with Ronny Drayton live in New York
I started out as a drummer first. I started playing drums in elementary school, and I went to a Catholic school, and played with the Junior Corps, and with a band that was Seventh-Day Adventists. My drum teacher had been teaching many great drummers, Billy Cobham among others. I was coming up the ranks as a drummer.
People would come to our house in Queens to rehearse. It had a large foyer, and the instruments would be left there when we took a break. I was in many bands as a drummer. In one band I used to pick up the guitarist guitar I understood I had a sound. Played his guitar at a rehearsal one night and got kicked out the band by his father. I was way ahead of him and them ..........It's funny now but then it wasn't nice.
Ronny Drayton with Defunkt
Ronny Drayton with Shock Council
I really started playing guitar at about 14, or possibly slightly younger than that, and went into it hardcore at around 17. My grandma gave me a guitar, and I still have it. I was in many bands, got kicked out of one, and met Hendrix in those years. The second someone turned me onto him I said that I was going to meet this guy.
What I fell for about the guitar was the pitch and the tone, listening to guitars combined with singers. There is a great connection between the human voice and the guitar.
What matures an instrumentalist is personal development, the development of character.
I have been through the melting-pot of consciousness of freeing my son from being wrongfully accused. We brought him home after almost 6 yrs on Rikers Island where we endured him being in solitary confinement the stabbings no contact etc. He went through "2 trials on a 9 count inditement". Looking at 28yrs to life. We would have won it all in the 1st trial if it were not for one witness who was a police aficionado. I did not want him chosen. That set of lawyers didn't listen to me. PS: Donovan had 6 lawyers and 5 judges........Evil to the end the system.
I did the time on the outside with him and countless visits to that hell hole called Rikers Island from all over the world. I experienced so much during that time. I received donations from people all over the world, and they were saying ‘We get you as a man, as a human being’. It almost killed me also. There were comments on social media as well, and people were scared for me. A lot of it turned out to be ending points. I was done living in the house that had been my home for 56yrs. the place my grandmother Julia Drayton gave me to grow and learn life and my craft. The balance was gone for me. And I recalled what my grandmother, who gave me the house, used to say, and it was ‘Focus on your love’.
Some days I felt like I could play, other days I felt like I couldn’t. At times I felt as if everything was coming out, at other times everything was locked. That kind of experience consumes you. There is not a lot of space for other things.
Now I feel connected in a way that I haven’t been since I was 19.
I kept journals through this period, and I have started making songs again. It will be heard on the new Spyz album, which will probably be out in September.
I am working on stuff of my own, I play gigs, I have been playing with Nona Hendryx and with Robert Fulton lately. I have also been doing corporate stuff, and I’m contemplating getting over to Europe.
RONNY DRAYTON is a guitarist based in New York. He appears on numerous albums, is a frequent tourer, and is a member of 24-7 Spyz.
An article with Steve Coleman Photo: Tracy Collins
just a sonic expression of me – of us – who are playing it. I usually play in a
group, and then music is a sonic expression of us in the group. It’s an
expression of what we are interested in, and of what we like and don’t like –
cosmically, spiritually politically, nutritionally etc. It’s an expression of
what’s going on. Everything that we are – that’s what music is to me. It’s the
same way that Charlie Parker would describe it. I have heard that generation
express this the same way: Music is an expression of what we see. Someone from
Germany doesn’t see the same things as someone from Mississippi. And even with
modern technology actually being somewhere physically is going to be a lot
different to having international contacts on your phone.
I was born
in Chicago, and so that’s a part of what I see that I can’t escape. I had no
choice there – I have my roots there. It has had a huge influence on my life. It
has a strong blues scene, a strong rhythm and blues scene, a strong jazz scene,
and it’s a very segregated town. I didn’t know anybody white until I was 18,
and I didn’t realize how segregated Chicago was until I left.
Steve Coleman and Five Elements
traveled a lot, and it was something that I always wanted to do. I wanted to
travel from the beginning, but I had no resources then. I got into music
professionally in 1977-78, and in 1993 I was able to travel the way I wanted
to. Traveling isn’t about places to me, but about cultures. It’s about how
people interact with music in different cultures and express their ideas. My
travels were not about doing gigs in these places. They usually didn’t have the
infrastructure to set a tour up.
We are not
trying to recreate music from the past or from other places. That is not what
it is about ever. We are trying to express our culture today and our problems
today, but we have a tradition and a history doing that.
to hear things from the past a lot. They want to hear what they are familiar
with. This has always been true, and I was told about this early on in my
career: - If you want to be creative you will be underground.
On my path
I have played with top big bands. For that you have to read music well, blend
well, and play different instruments. I didn’t want to play different
instruments. Then they ask you if you want the job or not, and you want the
job. I learnt a lot working with big bands, and with Thad Jones especially. I
also for example worked with David Murray’s big band, and with Murray’s octet
too. Murray is a very strong individual with strong opinions, and I learnt
confidence from him.
I worked a
lot with computer software, but there are many ways of using computers, and
even though computers are present everywhere in music now, nobody is doing the
same thing as me yet. I programmed software to improvise. It was a form of AI
you could say. I learnt a lot from George Lewis in this area.
Steve Coleman and boxer Sadam Ali
I am about
to embark on a tour of Europe with a new version of my band, including alto,
trumpet and an MC – who is not your normal MC. We do not play hip hop, even though
the media sometimes says so. We recently did a recording at the Village
Vanguard, which will be released next year, as the second volume in a series of
recording from the Village Vanguard. The first one, recorded last year, is
about to be released in 2018. We will be
touring Europe several times this year, as well as South America and the US.
Steve Coleman is a saxophonist, band leader and composer, who is also known for his musical software work. On his path he has been a member of big bands, such as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and collaborated with artists such as Cassandra Wilson and David Murray. He and his band Five Elements have an extensive catalogue to their names.
Music to me is a combination of sound, rhythm, melody and harmony – and I guess we have to add technology too now – organized by a human.
People are programming AI to compose and arrange music in the future. I’m not a fan of that as you can imagine.
It meant everything to me to grow up in an artistic family. My mother was a painter and an artist, my father a wonderful musician, my sister is a pianist and harpist, and then there was of course my brother. We had a family band, and we grew up with music, art and creative thinking before we even knew it was the case. Now my wife Ada is a saxophonist, and both my daughters are singers and instrumentalists.
I was exposed to a lot of great musicians in Philadelphia. I had it all at my fingertips there.
When I started out as a professional I was so young, and I just wanted to play. I did a sixteen week tour of Asia in 1966, and spent time in Europe that same year, where I met a lot of artistic people. We were all in our early 20s. I took part in a jazz competition in Vienna where Art Farmer, Cannonball Adderley and Ron Carter were some of the judges. After that I moved to New York and enrolled at New York University. My goal was to be a freelance musician in New York, and I immediately got work, with Clark Terry and Mel Lewis – and shortly after that with Blood, Sweat & Tears, for which Fred Lipsius was in charge of the horn arrangements.
The legacy of the Brecker Brothers is heart-warming and embarrassing at the same time. People come up to me and tell me how much the music meant to them, and it’s amazing that people still want to hear the music forty – forty-five years after it was first made, but I’m still just learning how to play.
Brecker Brothers live in Barcelona
I usually remember the projects the best where we had to fish something out quickly, out of all the projects I have been involved in. For example, when we came to record Bruce Springsteen’s ‘10th Avenue Freeze-Out’ there was sheet-music put up, but it was empty. We had to come up with something, and in the end Steve Van Zandt saved the day and gave us some lines. I don’t recall much about recording ‘Berlin’ with Lou Reed because the sessions were very well organized. Everything was set there, and we didn’t contribute much. We miss Jaco. He was a tragically fated man, but he could play any instrument and anything he touched turned into music. He was our Mozart.
It takes a number of things to be a good instrumentalist. It takes God given talent. But the bulk of what it takes is spending time in the practice room. It takes the dedication to spend the tens of thousands of hours in there that it requires. You need to learn your instrument and your language. And you can tell who has put in the time. Composing is also an element in shaping an instrumentalist. If someone has the perseverance the talent will come through and something is bound to happen.
Randy Brecker with UMO and Mats Holmquist
This year I am doing a lot of projects. As for records there is one release with the Umo Jazz Orchestra and the Swedish composer Mats Holmquist, and one with the NDR Orchestra in Hamburg. There was also a DVD/CD-pack released two weeks ago with the Randy Brecker Quinted live from 1988, featuring Bob Berg, David Kikoski, Dieter Ilg and Joey Baron – and I am recording my wife Ada Rovatti’s music for a forth release. I will also be touring Europe, Asia and the USA, and co-leading a band with Mike Stern.
The legendary RANDY BRECKER is a Grammy Award-winning peformer and composer, who can look back on a 50 year plus long career, as well as working with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa. The Brecker Brothers is a true trademark in music, and Randy Brecker continues to inspire fellow musicians as he looks forward to a busy and fully booked future.
For three years now we have given out the Music Journalist of the Year-Award. And we intended to do so this year as well. This award is given to a journalist for work done in the previous year. And during the previous years the nominations for the award have been up to par with the expectations for quality that you need to be able to find in a music journalist receiving this award. However, this year, after putting the artist jury together, we find that the nominations this time around are a bit too weak. We don't give this award out for the sake of it, or whatever. It is intended to highlight quality journalism about music, and should we start giving it out no matter what that would decrease the value of the award, of having received it and receiving it in the future. It does actually go to someone who in our opinion has produced great articles about music, or it doesn't actually go out at all.
We would like to thank you so very much for your nominations. The journalists you nominated gave YOU something as you read them. That certainly is an achievement in of itself.
Find out more about the award and the recipients in the previous years here.
At the behest of Ra Alumnis Trombonist/composer Craig Harris, who was moving on to other musical pursuits and was thusly providing Sunny with a 'trade off' by bringing Sun Ra fresh musicians to assage his departure as a steady member of the Arkestra.........an audition was arranged for myself, Tenor/Baritone saxist Kenny Williams and trombonist Henry Mitchell...all proteges of Makanda Ken McIntyre and recent graduates of the African American Music program at State University at Old Westbury.
The auditon took place at Studio WIS....151 West 21st Street in Manhattan ....the Jazz Loft of Prof Warren I Smith (founder of M'Boom.... the percussion ensemble headed by Max Roach). who mentored promising Old Westbury graduates.... incorporating them into his Composers Workshop Ensemble. Rehearsing and performing in what along with Sam Rivers Studio Rivbea was the first and the last of the 'Jazz Loft scene in NY from the 60s to the 90s.
Knoel Scott Quartet live
Sun Ra arrived and sat at the keyboard...launching into Cherokee...the litmus test for Jazz musicians.
Admittedly both Henry and Kenny were un-intimidated musically and sailed through Sunny's progressions....
As for.myself ..then and to this day a Charlie Parker sycophant....I found myself totally daunted as Sunny would change the chords each time around...playing alterations and harmonic substitutions that left me totally amazed and frustrated as I feebly attempted to negotiate my way through his chord alterations...........this was jazz at a level far beyond my bebop licks.... though i thought i knew Cherokee quite well.
Sun Ra then began to speak of what it meant to be a member of the Arkestra.
'This is the Creator's Band.......and I work for the Creator.
So if you want money, fame or fortune you dont want to work with me.
If you want Money, Fame or Fortune this is not the band for you.....
As I recognized Sun Ra as the return of Pharoah, the personification of the Black Gods of Ancient Egypt.....this proclamaition was a call.................
Kenny, a Grover Washinton disciple asequaly undaunted and was eager to join............Henry was working at the Apollo Theatre with Ray Chews Band and was not interested in such noble pursuits
For myself, I had already made membership in the Arkestra my life's dream from the moment I heard JAZZ IN SILHOEUTTE in Makandas office during my studies at Old Westbury.
Sun Ra told me to be at Variety Arts Recording Studio on 42nd Street at 6 ave the next day. That morning me and Kenny joined Sun Ra's marathon occupation of Variety Arts Studio.....from 10 am to 4 am five days a week..............an ongoing session which spawned the Albums.....Sleeping Beauty, Omniverse, Strange Celestial Road, UFO, Nuclear War and a number of others.
That first morning Sun Ra sat at the piano and began playing over some previously recorded tracks as myself, Michael Ray, June Tyson, Danny Thompson, Jacj Jacjson, Thomas Hunter, maybe Elo Omo, Kenny, John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, were gathered around the piano with our instruments. Sunny began playing something outer-worldly and nodded to me.
I was on Baritone Sax and looked at Michael in stupor.............what key? Mike mouthed the word PLAY!!!!! And I played my first solo with Sun Ra on our second meeting......recorded as part of an extended intro to what was titled Seductive Fantasy on the UFO album.
No, I had no idea at all of what was going on.....Sun Ra would tell me later: I don't want your musical knowledge, your bebop vocabulary or your musical training.................I WANT YOUR SPIRIT.......spirit sound.
During subsequent days and nights at Variety Arts Sun Ra would let Mike Ray coach us through the recording of the vocal tracks o UFO, and On Jupiter.
Sun Ra believed that the way to get to the public was with vocals and would sight the popularity of Louis Armstrong as an example.
You've got to reach people...singers always reach people..............I remember him saying.
Singing has added a more intimate aspect to my presentation and expression.
The inclusion of vocalese and spoken word in my performances has enabled me to continue Sun Ra's clarion call for the continuance of Jazz Tradition...........
They tried to fool you....I'm here to school you..... about Jazz...........It don't mean a thing...if it aint got that swing..
A beautiful capture of the Sun Ra Arkestra in Rome 1980
My plans for 2018 include the completion of KSQ's debut Album.............'Stardust' and signing on with a company to release it as well as launch KSQ on a promotional tour.
Music to me is the embodiment of Gods Love..............as Art Blakey said ...to wash off the dust ..of everyday life.
Music is my offering to the Creator and to the people of this planet.
Music is my testament to the beings of other worlds that there is more to this planet than death and destruction
Music is life. People don’t realize that music is the only universal language that we have. Music helps people feel better, and music can heal people.
From Day 1 my life was all music. It was the whole thing, and there was never any doubt about what I would do in life. My father was a famous gospel performer and there were always famous musicians coming to our house. For me that was natural, something I took for granted.
Lonnie Liston Smith "Summer Nights"
Working with the greats taught me that they were serious about what they did. I grew up listening to Art Blakey, Max Roach, Miles Davis. I then moved to New York hoping to work with as many of the greats as possible. Art would never show up for the rehearsals. When we were done he would just sit down and play. Playing with Roach was often about dealing with different times, like 5/4. Miles was the icing on the cake. He was a genius on and off stage. If you played with Miles Davis you went to the Miles Davis University, and you were ready to form your own band after that.
These artists made me stronger, more secure in my own self. Especially Art did. And Miles was about something that is hard to find today: You had to create something new every time you played with him.
My first album with The Cosmic Echoes’ happened because Bob Thiele wanted to produce it and because I had a lot of great musicians around me. By the time of our second album, Expansions, I was writing lyrics. I had done a lot of studies and expanded my mind. We played a jazz/funk that a lot of people had never played or heard. We all came from a jazz background. But when people heard the music they thought “That’s it!”.
People should listen to a song I did called “Astral Traveling” (from the album with the same title). I’m really proud of that recording. I had never played a Fender Rhodes piano before, but there was one in the room. I sat down and played and this cut just came from the Gods. I call it the 21st century blues.
We discovered new talent along the way. I first heard Marcus Miller play when he was 15-16 years old for example. Talent – it’s a thing. You listen for their inner being, their soul. You’re not listening for their technical skill. That’s not music – people don’t realize that. If you think of singers their song in many cases really come from inside. It should be the same with an instrumentalist. Sometimes just a lot of craziness comes out of course.
"A Garden Of Peace"
People sampling my music is actually great. When I came up we used to go to each other’s houses and discover music we hadn’t heard. Now kids discover music through samples, and go back and find out about the artists. That they sampled “A Garden of Peace” surprised me. At the time I just wanted to create something beautiful with that song, with all the chaos that was going on in the world. Years later Jay-Z wanted to sample it, and it’s on his “Dead Presidents II”, and on Mary J. Blige’s “Take Me As I Am”.
Young artists of course need to learn their craft – they need to learn their instruments. And they need to listen to a lot of music, and to go back and listen. I think that the young artists now are more on the business side than we were. We got to the business side of music the hard way. The business of music drives me crazy ever since I realized that someone else owns the masters, and perhaps it’s someone who’s not even in music.
My plans for the year include playing with The Superstars Of Jazz Fusion, featuring Roy Ayers, Ronnie Laws and myself.
Lonnie Liston Smith live a New Morning
LONNIE LISTON SMITH is a musician and composer from Richmond, Virginia. After working with a number of luminaries in music he formed his band The Cosmic Echoes in 1973. They released many successful records on several labels. Lonnie Liston Smith also appears on many albums with Roland Kirk, Pharoah Sanders, Gato Barbieri and Miles Davis, among others.
I got my first guitar for Christmas 1987, started in my first band 8 months later, and was in 15 working bands over the next 28 years.
I never held a 'real' job for long.
My biggest gig was opening for Blackfoot at a bar in West Virginia in mid 90's. Got very close to recognition in 2008 Nashville with 2.2 (Double Doose).
I was heard and invited to jams with Jerry Foster and Waylon Payne. Played in a band up until a month before the accident
On new years eve 2016/17 I offered to put off a 2 inch mortar firework that detonated in my left hand, instantly blowing off the ring finger, and mangling the top 2/3rds of the middle finger. My thumb was nearly blown off my hand, and about every bone in my palm was either broken, had moved, or was just gone. I was hospitalized for 6 days.
I was home about 2 hours before I put a slide on my pinky and very gently hit a few blues licks.
I knew right away though that my shredding days of learning Dimebag, Hammet, and Wylde were gone. Depressed for about the next 11 months, I played piano and surprised myself with being able to sound decent in a quick amount of time. I kept writing songs. Today it has been 14 months and I'm starting to get comfortable with my limitations.
I have no strength in my squeeze so my thumb rarely touches the neck, my fingers "float". The hardest part has been training my finger sockets not to move like I spent so many years training them to do. I hate buttons, zippers, and shoe strings the most. I've about adapted to everything else - like not holding things in my left hand. I can't judge my grip so I end up dropping things all the time.
I sold my acoustic, the only guitar I owned at the time, because I was sick of seeing it in the corner being neglected. But honestly, I never stopped.
After about 8 months, I got a 3/4 scale Yamaha that I have sinced named "Me'a".
For everything I lost, I did find one thing I never had before. I want to say a voice to sing my originals, but that's not quite right because I can't stand my voice, and still can't quite convey what I hear in my head for vocals, but I did find the "comfort zone" enough that I will actually sing my own songs in front of people now.
I've played a few shows in New Mexico with a very good response. I even played for about 45 minutes one time before I asked a couple if they thought my mangled hand was a sore sight. I got the greatest compliment I have ever been given "- OH MY GOD! I didn't even notice they were gone!". I never thought I would hear someone say that, and it's only been 14 months since the accident.
This annual award, which was presented for the first time in 2015 for work done in 2014, is now open for nominations!
We flip things around a bit at Musicians’ Corner. Usually when you read about music in the media what you read was written by a journalist. On this site artists write and speak about music with minimal journalistic involvement. Usually it is journalists who express opinions about music and musicians in the media. On this site musicians are about to express an opinion about music journalists – in the form of giving an award out! Yes, usually when awards are given out they are given by journalists to artists…
With this award we want to encourage accomplished journalistic work about music. It is of great significance to us all, to artists as well as to music fans.
Who among music journalists dug deeper, was in the right place, expanded your horizon, did the best interviews, took you back, described this art form and the world through it, in 2017? Who among music journalists deserves an award for outstanding work last year? In your opinion? Let’s have it!
We are open to nominations for the award until 4/1/2018. You are welcome to nominate a music journalist you read, listen to or view, a music journalist you work with, and if you are a music journalist you can nominate yourself too.
Please nominate using the form below. Include the name of the journalist/s you nominate and links to journalistic work by the nominee/s. The recipient will be selected by an artist jury based on the shortlist of journalists that YOU provide through nominating. This Award is given for work done in the previous year.
To read about the Award, and the previous recipients and juries, please visit the Award section on this platform.
Musicians' Corner's interview with Dr. Randy Weston
An article with jazz master Randy Weston.
Music is life itself. Without music our planet would be dead. Music is our 1st language.
I travel all over the world but I speak Music to people, not Japaneese, not Chinese, German, etc.... MUSIC!
Randy Weston "African Cookbook" (1972)
The original Music comes from the Universe. Mother Nature is the original orchestra: sounds of the birds, the thunder, babies being born : their 1st cry is music. Mother Nature is always improvising .
I do not know about computer music. I listen to the ancestors – they left us great music – a legacy: Duke, Armstrong, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Thelonious Monk etc..
The whole concept of Music began in Africa thousand years ago in the Nubians Civilizations. Everyone should read these books: “Egyptian Rhythm” by Moustapha Gadalla, “Golden age of the Moor” by Ivan Van Sertima and “100 Years of Negro in show Business: The Tom Fletcher Story” by Tom Fletcher.
My History about James Reese Europe in the late 1940 is that I went to a night club in Harlem named Lucky's, and I met the owner there: the great pianist and composer Luckey Roberts, I was young amateur pianist. He told me how James Reese Europe Championed black Music by organizing African American Artist on every level. He formed the Clef Club – the first Union of African American Musicians. His was the first black orchestra to play Carnegie hall with his 1912 Symphony of Negro Music with 10 pianists. The great Eubie Blake told me that James Reese Europe gave us a statute of professional Musicians, and he inspired me to organize the African American Musicians Society with Melba Liston, Ray Bryant, Sadik Hakim Nadi Qamar, and John Handy While living in France I went to some cities where James Reese Europe played for the French and American Soldiersduring the first world war, Paris, Aix les Bains, Grenoble, Chamberry, Lyon – bringing Music they never heard before, that lifted the Spirits of the soldiers and the French people.
Randy Weston at Jazz à Vienne
My New double solo Piano CD called SOUND was recorded on Nagra DII digital at Hotel Montreux Palace during the Montreal Jazz Festival 2002 and have decided to put it out by my Label "African Rhythms " and take me back to my solo career in Europe .
Randy Weston's new release Sounds
Randy Weston is an eminently legendary pianist and composer, born in 1926. After serving in WWII Weston began his career in music and was voted New Star Pianist in Down Beat Magazine in 1955. Highly decorated and honored since, Weston was based in Morocco for years, where he also ran his own club. He has been releasing records since 1954, and in 2010 his autobiography "African Rythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston" was published and celebrated as a highly important piece of work to the story of jazz.
February 10th, 2018 Randy Weston celebrates the legacy of James Reese Europe at The Kennedy Center. Find out more about that HERE.
And find out more about Randy Weston and his new release HERE.
Music is therapy. Music is meditation. Music is an exercise in discipline.
But most of all music is freedom.
Music has the same color as the air. You can close your eyes but you can’t close your ears.
If you play it well,that’s the only thing that matters.
Kat Dyson performing at the She Rocks Awards in 2017
Being a young Southern girl I of course had to learn to play the piano. The boys got guitars and drums and it seemed much more fun. They were out on the porch playing,having a ball. I wanted one! My mother got me a guitar, and not long after she passed away from an aneurism...And I will play guitar until I leave this world.
We didn’t have a piano in our home. I grew up in a small rural neighborhood with a great piano teacher, and I had to go to practice at the teacher’s house. The boys were learning and listening to records and radio.The guitar just seemed far more accessible.
The first time I played a gig and made money in a club is where I realized that I could have fun AND get paid. “I can do this and make money?” I got much more than my weekly allowance. I’m the oldest of seven siblings so I fell in love with the group dynamics of a band.After high school,I went to university and formally studied classical voice and guitar and music education.
The professional female musicians I've worked with share a similar feeling as I did growing up playing music-that they had to be twice as prepared,driven and focused to be taken serious in the music industry.I think we,as women, bring heart and soul and patience, and there isn't a big of competition between us. We are focused yet enjoy playing. Our hearts and ears are open and open for suggestions as well.
A lot of organizations will hire a woman for the optics. If she looks good the- wow-wow!! You have to look good in the industry, but you need to know how to play too, although some organizations may not care about their skill set.
Sharing an anecdote or two I was working with Colin James, who was a protege of Stevie Ray Vaughan He traveled to work for SRV saying “I’ll be your tech for free,just teach me...At one point. I was backstage with Colin and an incredible group of artists at the end of a festival, and among them was B.B. King. He shook my hand and my hand disappeared in his gigantic hand. He let my touch Lucille. He seemed to have telephone wires on that guitar. You had to manhandle that thing. He was about make a speech at a college where he was to be honored, and he asked me 'What am I going to tell them'? perplexed by the invitation.He was so down to earth and so gentlemanly . I asked him “Don't you know who you are to us? He was talking to me like a daughter...supercool!
I was introduced to Bernie Worrell by Felicia Collins. The recording session with him was like a big party, but he was cool and serious ..and so focused, with a spirit so free. He said “Do what you feel – just make it funky!
I am selective about answering Prince questions.Usually I can sense if they come from a good place or not.
When I first met him,he asked me who I listen to. I told him that I listened to Jeff Lee Johnson and John Scofield ,for example at the time, and to Wes Montgomery as a constant go-to,melodically.
The Emancipation album was finished by then, but after we had worked together for a while he let me record a guitar part on The Love We Make, and he didn’t change a thing about it. He trusted my voice ...
What he did on stage depended on his musical vision for each tour and changed constantly. He rotated instruments,as he mastered many. Every band had a different make up and purpose.
At one point he asked me what I thought he should add to the set we were working on.i suggested adding an unplugged section;just sit with a guitar and do a few songs...He laughed and responded that that would be so boring, but a while later..he finally did it, and people loved it, and he wound up doing a lot of it.
He was influenced as an artist at a time when iconic artists entertained and big productions dominated live concerts. Over the years I think he started to get the message that people simply wanted to hear his music,any way he wanted to present it...in a grand way or in an intimate setting...
Rocksugah performing at the She Rocks Awards
Right now my band ROCKSUGAH will be the house band at the She Rocks Awards 2018 at the NAMM Show with Divinity Roxx among others, which we do every year. After that I will do a special Valentine’s show with Gary Taylor and Najee before I go on tour with my Italian boss Zucchero. In March I’m doing the Black Women Rock event (BWR)in Detroit,which is run by Jessica Care Moore.It honors women of color in rock and alternative music. This year we will honor the great Nona Hendryx, whom I can't wait to work with again.We will also bring BWR to the West Coast in May. In April,I take part in the Prince celebrations in Minneapolis .
Kat Dyson is a a guitarist and singer, who has worked with a long list of fellow artists, a list that includes Cyndi Lauper, Natalie Cole, Ivan Neville, Keb Mo, Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Jeff Healey, Bernie Worrell, Prince, Donny Osmond, T.I., Seal, Sheila E, Joi, George Clinton and the P-Funk AllStars, MusiqueSoulchild, Phoebe Snow, Res, The Winans, Mary Mary, Yolanda Adams, Big Mamma Thornton, Ben E. King, Bo Diddley, and Odetta.
An article with Alvin Queen. Photo Hans Speekinbrink
Music to me is life. Music is spirituality. Music is me telling a story. I believe in a creator and in carrying a message. I believe in reaching out to people with an open heart and mind. Not everybody has that.
We all learn by going back. We don’t listen to our parents until we see what they talk about. If you get lost you go back to the basics and realize that it doesn’t matter how modern a building is, it still needs a foundation or it will fall down.
Alvin Queen drum solo
I had a brother who was five years older than me, and I wanted to be like him. I came up in the church, where what the week had been like was unloaded by the church-goers on Sundays. My brother joined the school band, which was a marching band, and it was all about marching parades. I joined when I was old enough. When I was walking with my mother I once saw a kid who was playing the drum set in a store window. I asked if I could go up there and play the drums, and I went for three or four lessons for the store owner, Andy Lalino, before my mother said that we couldn’t afford more lessons, at which the Mr. Lalino said that I could stay around and help him out with chores – and that he would teach me to play the drums for free.
I got schooled in church and schooled on the bandstand. You don’t tell an older person what to do – they guide you. Then you turn into the mentor as the years go by. School teachers never had the bandstand experience. I have so much to share because everybody I met in my career left me something. I am getting ready to do more work in Europe and Japan, and I’m taking a bandstand workshop to schools.
It’s hard to be in the mentor generation. It is hard to look at old videos on YouTube where I’m the only one who is alive now. Not long ago they were all alive and my phone used to ring a hundred times a day.
You can’t read your way through jazz. The only place where that works is in a big band-setting. Jazz used to be music that people danced to. Then John Coltrane opened the door. It was a door that came from an era of freedom of speech, and freedom of speech is also where music comes from, and I was there when the door opened.
Alvin Queen and Ruth Brown
I came up in New York. I have worked with so very many over the years. Among the many, just to mention a few, Ruth Brown used to call me “Queeny”, among the numerous who used to call me. Randy and Michael Brecker were very close, very, like family – among the very many who were like family. I go all the way back to Harlem with George Coleman, among all the people I go back with. I still speak to him now and then, and we still have a record in the can that we haven’t released. Initially I was a kid playing with many greats not knowing who they were really. To me they were ‘just musicians’, except Ruth Brown because my mother was a fan of her’s. And some of the people I played with in my younger years hadn’t had their break yet, so no one knew who they were at the time. I got an early job with the Horace Silver Band, where Billy Cobham was the drummer before me, among the early jobs I got. I auditioned among ten drummers and got the job, which I had for four or five years. We did well and toured California. I have of course also kept working with many great artists since I moved to Europe.
After my years working in New York and touring, I was living in Boston for about a year when I got a call to come to Montreal, where I was the house drummer at Rockhead’s Paradise, and anytime that artists came to play there I played with them. I left Canada a couple of months before my visa expired and moved to Europe after that.
Alvin Queen "Mighty Long Way" off the album with the same title (2008)
I am based in Switzerland, and I see it as the center of Europe. It’s easy to get around from here, and I was always international and not local.
Once there was something called the American Dream. That all changed. They go for young people in the USA. They don’t sponsor mentors. I made the move to Europe in the 70s, when many artists came to Europe, because Europeans were more open and accepting, and music got more exposure here. I took a lot with me from my life back in the USA. I got the calls I used to get coming over here. And I made so much money here that I started a record company, and started recording artists that the US had stopped recording. I had nineteen productions on the books when I couldn’t make the switch to making CD’s because of the costs. The download market is difficult and rough as people steal. It’s rough and the same for good musicians and bad musicians.
I have had a Swiss passport for fifteen years. I used to have to do double tax returns as a foreigner, and spent $ 1600 a year for sixteen years on that. I did give up my US citizenship after 66 years. As you may have seen I was denied entry into the US when I last flew over there. Right now the process is on hold but many had a reaction right away, and I feel good about it now, waiting to see what will happen. I don’t want to fly 8000 miles just to turn back. But I’m not looking to work in the US and my family there is dead.
My plan for 2018 is to keep moving forward.
Alvin Queen is a legendary drummer from New York, who is based in Switzerland. Introduced to jazz at an early age by his father, and to the drums by his brother, Alvin Queen started his professional career before he had reached his teens, when seeing John Coltrane and Elvin Jones live meant a great deal to the young musician. Being part of the Horace Silver Quintet, the George Benson Quartet, touring Europe with Charles Tolliver, and working with an array of artists before he relocated to Canada, and later more permanently to Europe, Alvin Queen has continued a successful career as recording band-leader and collaborator, and run his own record company.
An article with Stevie Salas. Photo: Marc Mennigmann
This year has been a crazy year for me, with my film RUMBLE: The Indians who rocked the world opening, winning at the Sundance Festival and being showed at film festivals all over the world – and with the release of my first Gold record in a long time, Chubby Groove, which I made with Koshi Inaba.
Inaba/Salas with "Overdrive" off their hit album Chubby Groove (2017)
RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World - official trailer (2017). Stevie Salas was an executive producer for the film, which was directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana.
It began with me producing tv in Canada in 2006, and a few years ago I started working on my film. 2017 has been a year of touring with the film since it opened, of speaking at my film, and of getting standing ovations and awards for it. HBO have bought it, and it’s on PBS and Amazon Prime. Simultaneously I have been working and touring with Koshi Inaba, who is the biggest ever selling artist in Japan, with over a hundred million records sold. He called me saying that he was uninspired and burnt out, and he asked me if I would come over and write some songs with him. So I flew over to Japan, and I started putting 80s styled funk-tracks together like I did when I lived in London as a kid. We recorded all over the world, and the album features Bernard Fowler and Taylor Hawkins. It was released in January and had sold Gold by March. We also played sold out-shows after that, and stadiums in the summer.
Classic Stevie Salas: "Start Again"
In 2018 I plan on writing for a new Stevie Salas album. I got a phone call from Warner Bros Europe. I might perhaps release something in a limited edition for cool radio stations etc. I am also working on a crime drama for television with Kevin Munroe.
In ways the entire situation with record companies in general, and with social media as something that needs to be figured out for promotional reasons, has me feeling uncreative. Mostly I feel really bad for young people. There is no artist development anymore. When I started out you could be creative and it was encouraged. Record companies developed artists. They would say ‘Take this money and go work with Thomas Dolby, and see what you come up with’. What kids put out now is what would have been demos back then. There is so much crap out there and you can’t wade through it all to get to the good stuff.
A classic combo of great musical chemistry: Stevie Salas and TM Stevens, kicking up a jam together
TM Stevens, whom I worked with a lot (and one of the artists who truly kicked off this platform, Musicians’ Corner) was a force of nature and an elite musician. He had the kind of career where you had to be a musician first to even walk in the room. When I made my first album Joey Ramone walked in the studio, Miles Davis walked in the studio, Bernie Worrell walked in the studio and played on the album. You had to be able to handle being in the same room with anyone and working with anyone, without any preparation. TM could play anything, and make it sound just right, and still make it sound like TM Stevens. That is true mastery. He played on my songs, such as "Tell Your Story Walking" , where TM’s bassline is huge
STEVIE SALAS, guitarist, tv- and film-producer, singer, song-writer, record producer, etc... and a world citizen, was once sleeping on the couch at the studio where he had gotten a job, when he suddenly was woken and found himself jamming with George Clinton, who was there to record, in the small hours of the morning. The rest, as they say, is history. Combining a successful solo-career with being a kickass guitarist to Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, etc, Stevie Salas has a very long bio indeed. A few years ago he shared some of the memories in his book "When We Were the Boys: Coming of Age on Rod Stewart's Out of Order Tour", and since he has gone on to producing the most acclaimed music documentary to hit the screens in a long time.
"When We Were the Boys: Coming of Age on Rod Stewart's Out of Order Tour"by Stevie Salas with Robert Yehling is available HERE
TM Stevenshas contributed two articles to this platform, one of which is his information-packed filmed article "Straight Music Talk". Musicians' Corner and all of our friends are eternal fans of this amazing artist, and will always be humbly grateful for his insightful and generous contributions to this site.
Mostly to me, it would be it's ability to communicate to everyone around the world. A global language that speaks to every human.
What it can do to you and how it effects someone in the most individual way is amazing.
Patron Saint O'Thieves off The Rumjacks' 2016 album release"Sleepin' Rough"
What I love about touring is being able to travel to places around the world and meet people in cities and countries I never thought I would ever get to see. Experiencing different cultures every day and play music everyday...love it!
Bassist Johnny McKevley from The Rumjacks
There's not much about touring that I would say I hate. You miss your family and loved ones a lot and that can be hard. It's REALLY tiring.
Touring is a lot of fun, but it's extremely exhausting at the same time, and it's not from too much partying, I promise...
The Rumjacks live in 2016
2018 going to be a very busy year! We have a U.K. tour planned at the start of February, a few summer festivals around Europe, then we are knuckling down and working on our fourth LP, to be released later in the year.
2018 will also be our 10 year anniversary...so lots of touring after it's release as well.
The Rumjacks' smash hit An Irish Pub Song with 36 million plus views on YouTube
THE RUMJACKS are bringing their celtic punk to the world from their home base in Sydney, since the band was formed in 2008. Two EP's, three albums and many, many gigs around the globe later they show no signs of slowing down. The band are: Johnny McKelvey, Frank McLaughlin, Gabriel Whitbourne and Adam Kenny.
Music to me is a wonderful catalyst, and a lift of surprise that makes you react with emotion.
If it doesn’t move you it’s not for you – or it’s bad music.
There is a reason why there are different flavors of ice-cream.
Dave Kelly performing the utter Robert Johnson blues classic Crossroads
We are currently touring with The Blues Band, and we have a new studio album, which we recorded in July. We are just now talking about the sleeve with the record company.
We were hoping that it could be released this year, but it looks like the release is going to be at the beginning of next year.
Dave Kelly's Going Home, off The Blues Band's first album "The Official Bluesband Bootleg Album" (1980)
I sing on four songs on the new album, Paul sings on four, and Tom and Gary sing on two each. One of my songs is Skin Game Blues, which was originally recorded in the 60s. We do a rocky version of it on this album, and we are playing it live at the moment. I also do a song that I wrote with Lou Stonebridge, called Hot Dog (Looking for a real cool cat), Muddy Waters’ Still A Fool, and a song called Get Right Church, which has some nice harmonies. So – those are my four.
The Blues Band live with Get Right Church in 2017.
As a kid my parents had a radiogram with a record player on top. I used to stand on a chair for hours listening to music. My sisters bought rock n roll albums, and I was into skiffle with Lonnie Donegan. I traded my electric train set for a four string guitar. It was of course a tenor, which I didn’t realize then. I didn’t know that guitars had six strings, but the four-string suited my hands better at the time.
I got a tutor from the jazz scene, but he didn’t teach me any chords. I wanted to sound like Chuck Berry. I met someone through my sister who helped me with the skiffle basics. My sister Jo Anne and I played and sung together, and we usually won the talent contests we were in. Bob Dylan came on the scene and I had already heard Woodie Guthrie.
I took the journeys of the discs, to a record shop in central London, which for example sold transcription discs. That shop was a honey pot for local musicians, and everybody used to come there to congregate. I heard Robert Johnson’s music. I went to see The Stones. I learnt to tune guitars through chords, and picked that up in a day.. It is a classic era for me.
I don’t really have much to do with the British music industry. There are small labels of course. We are with a German company. Germany is a good market for us and for me solo. Last year we found some tapes from a show we played in 1991, with a fifteen piece band, and we released it as a double CD this year (“The Blues Band – The Big Blues Band Live Album”), on our label. I think that it was originally recorded for radio.
I also worked solo in Germany. My sound engineer revealed to me that he had recorded all my gigs in the 80s there, so I released some of these recordings as an album (“Dave Kelly Solo Performances Live in Germany 1986 to 1989”) last year. I do quite a few solo shows, and I am working with Maggie Bell in April and October next year - and with Christine Collister over the summer. I am slowly recording my new solo album, which will have a lot of instrumental music, and it won’t all be blues.
The Blues Band live in 2015
Dave Kelly is a blues singer, guitarist and composer, with a large back catalogue of solo albums to his name, and one of the members of The Blues Band, which was formed in 1979 and have been going since.
The Blues Band's most recent release is available HERE
'Dave Kelly Solo Performances Live in Germany 1986 to 1989' is available HERE
Note: We never heard from Dave Kelly on an okaying of this text. It is what was taken down during our talk with Dave Kelly. This is unlike ALL the other texts on this site, which were either written by the artists in the articles and/or edited/okayed by the artists in the articles. We did hear from Dave Kelly upon sending him the article stats though, so he didn't seem to have any reservations to the text. It is just different to all the other material here, which is why we make this note.
Music is the sound of my mother's love, the wind, the sunshine, the rain, children's laughter, joy, heartache, and pain.
It is a friend, comforter, motivator – and it is an instrument for love, and compassion.
Vasti Jackson performing his Hurricane Season, which can be found on the 2007 release "Bourbon Street Blues: Live In Nashville"
Being nominated for a Grammy for my CD "The Soul Of Jimmie Rodgers" - and having two CDs nominated for the Grammy in the same category (Traditional Blues) in 2017 - was a wonderful and very exciting surprise. Bobby Rush's "Porcupine Meat" CD won. Of which I am the Musical director, and featured guitarist.
A fragment from Standing On The Corner from Vasti Jackson's Grammy-nominated "The Soul Of Jimmie Rodgers" CD (2016)
People are surprised that I made an album in homage to the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers. But the main thing to know is that Jimmie Rodgers was influenced by the African Americans that he spent time with in Mississippi. Before he became famous he performed in black face, and sang blues songs in tent- and vaudeville-shows. He has the word “blues” in more that twenty titles of his songs, and said that he yodeled the blues. After listening and studying I realized that the soul of Jimmie Rodgers is the blues.
My new album is “The Blues Made Me (Roots and Fruits)”. It was released in August of this year - and it is a microcosm of my life through music.
Accolades are nice, but they aren’t the reason I am a musician. I come from a musical family, and we did it for love. Jobs you do for money. I became a professional musician at thirteen years of age, although I didn’t make a conscious choice to be a musician. It was what we did.
Contrary to popular belief blues musicians aren’t always touring. I don’t observe that people in the genre are working all the time. That is a choice, if so. Many tour from April to November, and take time off during December and January. The tours are well organized, and I go to Europe two or three times a year.
Vasti Jackson live with Robert Johnson's classic Terraplane Blues
Blues is a popular subject among film-makers for documentaries, as blues is about the subjects of life, and survival. Africans in America went through slavery, and still contributed so much to America's greatness. There is also the spiritual aspect that fascinates people - that of good and evil - of Robert Johnson and the crossroads. For a long time it was illegal for African Americans to play a drum in America, because of their ability to send messages to other slaves, as the European Americans did not know what the Africans where communicating.
People feel the bass drum pattern of the shuffle being close to the heartbeat, and this is the rhythmic foundation of the blues.
I have been part of film productions about the blues, and they are opportunities for dialogue, for informing people of where this music comes from. The blues is the classical music of America. And there is such a thing as the art of the blues. The cultures of Africa and Europe collided, and Mississippi is the "Garden of Eden" of the blues. The blues is the foundation for all popular music. All countries no doubt have their songs of woe, but the African Americans expression (The Blues) has been - and is - embraced throughout the world.
Helping others through my music is important to me. The Playing For Change Foundation has given me a greater reach to connect with children through music education. We have started fifteen schools in twelve countries in ten years, and we are expanding annually.
Momma, a touching ode from Vasti Jackson's 2017 album-release "The Blues Made Me (Roots and Fruits)"
Vasti Jackson is a guitarist, singer, song-writer, producer and musical director+. He is a Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame inductee with seven solo albums behind him to date, who in 2017 was up against himself at the American Grammy Awards, with both his own album "The Soul of Jimmie Rodgers" and Bobby Rush's album "Porcupine Meat", to which Jackson contributed, nominated for the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. Vasti Jackson is a highly saught-after instrumentalist in the blues idiom of course, but also for example in gospel music. Among the records he appears on you hear him on B.B. King's 1994 release "Blues Summit". Vasti Jackson also finds the time to devote himself to Playing For Change, and was featured in the Scorsese documentary series "The Blues".
Music is feeling. It is another realm of life on this earth. Music is faith and the healing of generations.
And – music is power!
I was running tracks through my adolescence and was going to be in the Olympics. I took part in the trials, and was very promising. What I brought from the athletics, to my journey in music, is stamina and the energy to move around. And I learnt to not give up from sports. I always listened to music while training – all kinds of music was playing. I knew that I wanted to be a singer.
I moved to Portland all by myself, unafraid to be vulnerable by the time of my first album release, Embrace Me (2006). The record was about life lessons and my first experience at releasing my own music.
By the time of the release of my album The Unexpected (2014) Prince had taught me so much about myself. He instilled confidence in me. He was my supernova, and he pushed me beyond my limits. From the very first rehearsal I had with him, when he told me that he could easily replace me, to push me, to all the talks we had on the phone, he expanded my mind.
Our new album, First Things First (2017), is a fresh awakening. We (Roadcase Royale) wrote the album in such a short space of time, and it was such a great collaboration between amazing writers. I want to be in the studio all the time now! Nancy Wilson is a true earth angel, open to all sounds, and she is pushing me as a writer.
Liv Warfield is a successful singer and songwriter, and a Peoria native. She is based in Chicago and Portland. After moving to Portland as a teenager, to pursue her ambitions in sports, Warfield among other things honed her amazing singing skills, singing in karaoke bars through the nights, before she conquered her shyness and released her debut album. It caught Prince’ attention, and the music legend made Liv Warfield a member of The New Power Generation. In 2017 Liv Warfield has released First Things First, the debut album from the new supergroup Roadcase Royale, which she fronts with Nancy Wilson.
Musicians' Corner makes a new article with Jean-Paul Bourelly
An article with Jean-Paul Bourelly
Right now I’m based between America and Europe. I don’t want to spend any more winters in Berlin – I have promised myself that.
In Europe things have changed a lot. I’m not an employee. I have to be responsible and decide where I am going to be. I have given Berlin twenty-three years now, and Berlin has transformed a great deal too. One has to follow where the music might be needed and sometimes one must follow where one needs to be. There are different political ideals that people concern themselves with but its great city and still my second home .
It is time for me to go discover. I have been in the US frequently lately, mostly on the East Coast, although I have now relocated to the West Coast two weeks ago. I also went on a road trip through the states that separate the coasts and got a sense of how different the rest of the country is in between.
Basically there could be more spreading of diverse ideas into the inside of the country and more exchange to allow people on the coasts to know how the inside is feeling and what they are going through. With some effort, you could understand difference as a good thing, a vital thing. With a little more effort you could make people understand their situation and where their frustration and anger is really coming from, how it could be directed constructively. Music and art could play a huge part in working that out.
Before this I just got back from Nigeria, where I have been vibe-ing with the folks there. I also got a chance to interact with musicians in Lagos. Adé Bantu who is a producer and performer has been building a nice music scene there and we jammed, it was really exciting. I hope to do more because there is an incredible energy there.
I’m trying to continue to learn and feel people and places and allow that to influence me. I always fed off that interaction with the wider world. It ignites. Over the last years I have worked in North, East and West Africa, and in Lebanon. What you learn from being around the world is that culture is the different ways that people express their lives and solve their problems but the people, the human beings themselves are really more alike than different.
We need to be driven by a lust for music, meaning that music is a carrier of much more information than just being music. I have carried on my improvisational styles and that has allowed my expression to evolve. I do feel that there is a massive change happening. We are in a transitional phase. The established system has not yet faded and next phase is not yet completely here. I hope things will continue to become more open.
"New Orleans Bitter Suite: Only Elephants Crossing". Kiss The Sky 2017. Jean-Paul Bourelly, Daryl Taylor, Kenny Martin.
Music in general has lived with nostalgia for many, many years now, and it’s hard to connect with audiences through progressive ideas, unless it’s electronic, because they are not used to it. The masses are full in tuned with machine driven, linear music. What has that done to us? Made us more like machines maybe? It is also creating a lust for human and nonlinear sound.
Artists need to open the world up in our own small way. In these times - when roadblocks are being put everywhere - it is sometimes hard to understand what a person should do. How do creative musicians keep moving when everything is changing so fast?
My project Kiss The Sky’s debut record is available at gigs and on CD Baby. We have a second version of the album that will come out soon, and we have been touring on the basis of it.
It’s hard to get musicians who work in many groups all the time to try something new and to absorb it, because they have to learn so much music. It was difficult to get the three of us in the band on the same page because I do more conceptual music Daryl and Kenny do a lot of music thats happening on the night club scene. We had been playing Hendrix styled Band of Gypsys’ grooves for years. We all loved that style. It was probably the reason we came together. Reverence is fine, but I wanted to get the group out of that comfort zone, that funk rock-thing and ignite some new vigor, because too much reverence destroys your own purpose as an artist. We needed to figure out how to get out of a framework that wasn’t going to change, that comfort loop. I had been doing conduction ** in my youth workshops. I learned it from working with the great Butch Morris over the years. I started to introduce some conduction in rehearsals and in concert and immediately the music started to move into a different place. It took a few year but now we are fully out of that old language now.
The Kiss the Sky debut album is the culmination of that evolutionary process.
One morning someone knocked on my door and it was one of the guys from the Spätkauf*. They all know I am a musician. They said they were making a film about the Spätkauf and would I come over and play some background music. So, I said yes, and I did.
I had no idea what the film was about, what kind of theme it was. They just said don´t play a recognizable tune because they couldn´t afford to pay rights. So, I simply improvised lines when they told me to play. The film played in several theatres.
Miriam Kaul plays sax. From the teaser for "Tom Atkins Blues"
So, I am playing improvised background music behind a film of which I have no idea what it is about.
They won some kind of prize. I don´t think they put my name on it.
The first time that I heard trombone was on tv. I was a kid who was probably still learning speech, and I was watching the slides with fascination. About five years later in 6th grade we were introduced to band instruments. Everybody wanted to play the trumpet, and so did I, but as they were handed out, guess what, they ran out of trumpets just as they got to me. As I was tall and lanky, AL McClain told me that I was a trombone player. AL McClain, knew that I was Joe Westray’s grandson. He grew up with my granddad and knew that I had jazz genes.
My dad, Ronald Westray, was a funkster and my mother, Ginger, is a widow and a retired school teacher. Mom never remarried. (She has a documentary out called Art House on You Tube) I grew up listening to George Clinton and Ohio Players. I was probably introduced to jazz in 6th grade. My teacher was a jazz musician and he had us play standards like “Ain’t Misbehavin”. I grew up in a middle class black neighborhood and I excelled in music, being the section leader in my school band by high school. I had my eureka moment when I first heard Duke Ellington’s “East Saint Louis Toodle-Loo”. I knew that was what I wanted to do. By that time I thought that I was going to be a rapper. I was dressed as a rapper, and I was a rapper with a trombone case. But hearing Coleman Hawkins…and his solo on “Body and Soul” from 1939… I ran to the library wanting to read about jazz history. I got the biggest book about jazz that I could find at the library, and the first page that even opened was the transcription of Coleman Hawkins’ 1939 solo. And when you try to play it at 15 years old you know what you have got to do. I was the hot shot in the school band, but I knew then that I had so much to learn. You may be born with jazz genes. You still have to learn how to play
I have been able to play a lot of genres and styles because of my listening habits. With anything that I have been part of I have been living that music. Music is a mathematical absolute and I have been exposing my ears to it. In a certain setting my reflexes just settle back into it.
Of course some jazz that is played today is like a museum and it’s not possible for it not to become like a museum. But it’s important with informational concerts, and you see people floating out of them happy. However it may be healthier for a kid to just run around and play at a jazz club, if that were possible. Theory is important though, and if I have a message that I want to get out there more than anything, it is that in improvisational music we’re not making something up – we are playing what is there. Improvisational music is about keeping your ear on the chord in real time – and that is difficult.
I made my latest recording in 2015, and I’m currently not focused on recording apart for the rap recordings that I do under the name Tray Deuce, under which I for example did an album titled “Out The Box” and two singles titled “Reality Check” and “Handcuffed”. That’s electronic music. I am also putting a 3000 page anthology together with all things Ron Westray – compositions and arrangements. I am composing music for an independent film, and further we are preparing for a modern classical concert with my university orchestra, which is about giving them the experience of playing a concert like that. I am a professor, and the Oscar Peterson Chair in Jazz Performance at York University in Toronto. Education has become a refuge for jazz artists, and it’s a highly important one (as there is no symbiosis with society and real-jazz-culture). I am also a stability kind of guy. I want to have a job. I don’t want to chase around after gigs for $ 50 to pay the rent. I want stability so that I can focus on my creativity.
When someone picks out a trombone they need to go by the weight of the instrument. It has to have some gauge to it. Certain manufacturers have the integrity to get it right. Yamaha student trombones are okay. Bach and King trombones are good. In off brand names the metal isn’t up to par. Then you have to consider the mouthpiece. And that’s really it. It’s a simple instrument. It’s a tube that you fill with air.
In 2005, the 400th anniversary of the publication of Part I of Don Quixote, American trombonist and composer Ron Westray performed his jazz suite Chivalrous Misdemeanors: Select Tales from Miguel de Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote’, accompanied by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet and as artistic director, Patrick Tull as narrator, as well as Sachal Vasandani and Jennifer Sanon as vocalists.
Chivalrous Misdemeanors is a twenty-three-part big band jazz suite, the longest and most ambitious of all the jazz suites inspired by Don Quixote.
The concert recording of May 7, 2005 (on the double CD copy held by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound) has a total duration of almost two hours (without presentation, audience, applause, fragments of repeated or other parts); the Postlude was not performed on this occasion. Monumental and powerful, complex and sublime, Chivalrous Misdemeanors is in many ways an overwhelmingly impressive work, not only for its sheer length and dimension, but mainly for its superb structure and technique, for the enormous abundance, variety and profoundness of ideas—musical, literary and philosophical— it integrates and develops, and especially for its exquisite beauty and the manifold reflections and feelings it generates in the listeners’ hearts and minds. This brilliant blend of humorous, ironic or satirical parts, of melancholy, wistful themes, and of several very reflective or perturbingly dissonant fragments, at times might be quite challenging, confusing or even dazzling, but on the whole it is unquestionably a deeply moving work of music.
From a compositional point of view, it should be emphasized that Chivalrous Misdemeanors is a notably heterogeneous work that combines and blends fragments, parts and sections inspired by different genres, forms, styles and traditions of the history of jazz.
(Excerpt from Universidad de Castilla-La ManchaDepartamento de Filología Moderna, Facultad de Letras, ESPAÑA. Hans Christian Hagedorn (2016), “Dulcinea Jazz: Don Quixote’s Queen and Lady in some Jazz Compositions of the past fifty Years”, Literary History, XLVIII, 159, p. 155-184)