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.
Musicians' Corner breaks down what a likeable personality can mean to a career
Here at Musicians’ Corner there are several decades' worth of music business insight and journalistic experience of music articles present, behind the scenes. And one thing is clear as day after meeting performers, at every possible juncture in their careers, for that long: It is hazardous for the development of an artist’s career if it is a challenge to check the box for ‘He is a likeable person” (expressed in the British English that we speak here).
The truth is that so many put in the hours. So many have the talent. So many are just the right artist for the spot.
And so many people that a performer comes across in his career, and is dependent upon for his progress, also put in the hours. The question of who reaches his full potential career-wise may be more of a question of who is able to inspire people to put in the extra time. Who among the talented performers can make a multitude of people go the extra mile? That extra time, that extra mile, put in by many, is so often the difference. The artist who inspires this in people is an artist ahead of the game. The artist who doesn’t may one day see that nobody’s around in all of the town when someone’s down… Right here let’s give a mention to all the family members of artists, who do put in the time and the extra hours too, so much of the time, and keep such a lot of music up and running through their tireless efforts for their artist family member. This is a large and largely unsung group of people who deserve accolade. These days the art of inspiring folks also is very much a question of who can make enough many people out there reach past the music available for free online, usually with horrible sound quality, for their credit card and the full listening experience.
We are not talking about a ‘social media kind of nice’. The truth is that we all see through it…
We are talking about a deep-going likeable disposition being present one way or the other.
On a psychological level people tend to like individuals who seem to be like themselves, and characters they would like to be. The image machine was always well aware of both of course. This is why we have seen the multi-gazillionaire artist, who rents a squadron of luxury villas everywhere he goes on tour to put up all his staff and private chefs, still sport a pair of ill-fitting jeans too, when he has been off to meet his audience. It has been looking like he is basically only on tour when he is off the shift at the factory, still. He is just like them! The goodness knows that the ‘wanna be like a rockstar” thematics choked on their own repetitiousness long ago. Divas may need to have the dirty little secret that they are really easy-going to work with, or the funding and knowthyself to hire people who can make things run smoothly, for them.
The people who meet the artist in a work context are a very large group over time in a career, and they are important all the way. Getting through the door in music can be hard, and being chucked out from this game is something that can happen easily, if noted or not by the artist, or denied for years and years. And then it is the reaching of the full potential that doesn’t scrape by where success was possible, and the working smart instead of too hard all the time running the risk of burn-out. Of course many of the people who the artist meets will evaluate the artist strictly from a business point of view. Business has few feelings and doesn’t run on emotion. But there too a likeable personality is in the material, in the known and subconscious. It may be part of the picture evaluating you from a work- and business perspective. Will people like you? – May be the question, there as it is here. And it doesn’t really matter who and where anybody is – they would rather be working with someone they enjoy meeting than with someone they would rather avoid! And – burning the midnight oil at work is going to seem so different while done for one than for the other. After some time it will start to show. After a few thousand people that the artist ran into on a professional basis the result is going to be in. There for example will be another newspaper article or there won’t be. And music fans might ask questions like “Why is so and so not more of a household name? He is one of the best!” and “Where did so and so go?” in many, many – many cases.
If you don’t happen to have chosen a line of work where your personality matters you can behave more however you like, be much more of a ‘rockstar’ in that cliché sense, than someone whose entire success or failure depends on what people think of him. What people actually think of him, beyond some pleasantries spoken and outside of checking a clip on YouTube for a few seconds.
It is said that what we say verbally makes up about ten percent of people’s impression of us. How much singing grabs our attention, in regards to the rest that we pick up of a person, is more unclear, but the truth is that music also is part of a multitude of things that we pick up.
Working on the personality seems important for an artist. Certainly not as important as working on the music or practicing. Music shouldn’t be a congeniality contest, but about the music. Let us in the wings here at Musicians’ Corner clearly state that we wouldn’t want to be without the music of some of the ‘less merry’ artists that we have come across – way back in time – of course – before this platform was even started! But you need/ed to bring something truly special musically to be in that category, or have the ability to really sell, for people to put up with you looking for their paycheck. And in today’s climate it’s just not so much of a viable concept for accomplishment as the market has gotten so much smaller, and it’s just not possible to sell as many products as it used to be. Working on personal growth deserves a spot on the list of priorities for the performers who want to have a smooth work-life on that market.
Few internal arguments benefitted music acts, and especially not when brought to the general public’s attention. People immediately associate anything negative, uttered by an individual, with the individual who mentions it. He can actually be talking about something that doesn’t even have anything to do with him, simply reference something going on with other people perhaps, and a tad of this will rub off on him in the minds of the people who catch it. It is how the human mind works. We can say ‘Don’t shoot the messenger” however much we like. If the message is somehow bad it reflects on the current situation. Consequently talking bad about people is a bad idea.
If someone doesn’t have much of a pleasant disposition, being part of an act where someone else does may be the difference between a career succeeding and a career tanking. They can tag along with this other person’s likeability. And people who come across them after twenty years in the business may be utterly surprised at how stuck up they may still be, as if their success was not only entirely their achievement, but even something to for some reason be rude to people because of…which may be their take on their success, missing that personality that they don’t have… when in fact it has come together for them because of someone else’s abilities in this department. These may really be humans who never grew or learnt. Many others learn – something – the hard way, possibly not able to see what it was that caused their careers to not get to where they was supposed to go, or tank altogether. They did have the music. They did have the voice. They brought the show. They came prepared. They were on time. They met their obligations. They cut the deals. They made the effort. But somehow, somehow things just didn’t quite happen the way they were supposed to.
When you did music interviews for decades a lot is explained and has been clarified over the years, and who made it through and who did not isn’t so much of a mystery at times. You met a lot of artists, and who was who and who made it where is pretty self-evident some of the time.
We might like to think it’s LUCK. That is so easy to blame. If we can blame luck or the lack thereof there is nothing further we could DO. There was nothing more we could have done. Speaking of luck is related to the mentioning of the people referred to as ‘they’. That is often an unspecified group of persons who reportedly prevented something or other from happening. ‘They’ wouldn’t let me! ‘They’ did this and that, and luck didn’t come my way! But success is so frequently preparedness meeting opportunity. The ones who keep working on both are those most likely to have longstanding careers flowing where they should.
So – the best advice that we can give budding artists here is: Work on the personal growth TOO. Do what it takes. Learn how to show people who do things for you appreciation. Respect people's time. Understand that everybody has their story and stuff to deal with. On a larger scale pick a lane to go, and just be hella nice if you can muster that. If you feel that you can’t right now be savvy enough to work on that and iron out those things within that makes that difficult. It’s straight-up professionalism if you do it for no other reason, and it is particularly relevant for how it is all going to pan out for you. This may be exceptionally difficult at times, because people may not be nice to you always exactly. This is a rough business and there are for certain some very bad eggs about. We also live in times when music fans have extreme expectations on artists, and put it to social media anytime they for example didn’t get to take a photo of an artist they ran into. Being a likeable person never equated being a doormat, but it often signifies an individual who doesn’t allow for the influence of others to lower their own behavioral standards. Being tough but stylish and fair is one thing, being in a foul mood because you allowed for mean, dishonest or demanding people to push you there is another. You keep your wits about you, ink what needs to be put down on paper well, and kill as many as you can with kindness, however they behave at that, because that is in your best interests, and on a deeper level it will incidentally make you feel better too, and what goes around – within you – will come around – within – to genuinely benefit you.
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 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.
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.