The Home Of Jazz Funk & Soul

Artist Of The Week

HERBIE HANCOCK

  • b 12th April 1940

Hancock was born in Chicago, the son of Winnie Belle. His parents named him after the singer and actor Herb Jeffries. He studied classic piano from age seven, considered a child prodigy, he played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the age of 11.

Hancock graduated in 1960 and moved to Chicago. There he began working with Donald Byrd and Coleman Hawkins.

He recorded his first solo album Takin’ Off for Blue Note Records in 1962. Which had his seminal track “Watermelon Man” on, this caught the attention of Miles Davis, who was at that time assembling a new band.

Hancock left Blue Note in 1969, signing with Warner Bros.

Hancock became fascinated with electronic musical instruments. Together with the profound influence of Davis’s Bitches Brew (1970), this fascination culminated in a series of albums in which electronic instruments were coupled with acoustic instruments.

Hancock’s first ventures into electronic music started with a sextet comprising Hancock, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart, and a trio of horn players: Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), and multireedist Bennie Maupin. Patrick Gleeson was eventually added to the mix to play and program the synthesizers.

Hancock formed The Headhunters in 1973 an released an album of the same name which crossed over to pop audiences. His next brush with the pop charts came 5 and 10 years later when I Thought it Was you and You Bet Your Love (Sunrise album) and Rockit (Future Shock) hit the mainstream.

Today he remains a legend and one of the most influential jazz artist alive today.

RICK JAMES

  • b 1st February 1948
  • d 6th August 2004

James Ambrose Johnson Jr was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. One of eight children he often went out to work with his mother, who was a numbers runner. This meant that in his pre teen years he was visiting bars, where he saw the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davies and Etta James.

He lied about his age and went into the US Navy at 14 at the same time he started drumming for local jazz groups in New York.  This was the reason he was drafted to Vietnam.

Seeing the devastation of the war effort, James fled the US and made his way north of the border. Arriving in Toronto, the singer was viciously beaten during his first moments in Canada. Luckily, his life was saved by a trio of men, one of them being Levon Helm who intervened in the beating. They invited him to watch them perform as part of Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, and a young James caught the bug for performing.

In Toronto, he made friends with Neil Young and Joni Mitchell andfounded the Mynah Birds, a group which fused together soul, funk and rock ‘n’ roll.

In 1973, James finally broke out as a solo star. He signed with A&M where he released his debut single under the name Rick James, ‘My Mama’. After forming the Stone City Band, James released his debut album Come Get It! in 1978 and continued to release music at an alarming rate and in 1981 Street Songs, James’ most commercially driven record hit the shelves. It was on this album that James enacted his own musical ethos “punk funk” and produced his biggest song ever ‘Super Freak’. The single sold over one million copies and it saw James release two more gold albums.

James maintained a troublesome image and, the singer’s overtly sexualised songs and his insatiable thirst for sex made him a difficult entity for the mainstream to ever fully embrace, but he found countless fans on the wrong side of the railway tracks.

Despite his troubles and tainted legacy, he remains one of the legends of Funk and Soul.

MAURICE WHITE

  • b:19th December 1941
  • d: 4th February 2016

Maurice White was more than the front man for legendary band Earth Wind and Fire. He was a singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer.
Yes he was the founder, leader, main songwriter and producer of Earth, Wind & Fire but his contribution to Soul music is much more than that.

White was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and was a childhood friend of Booker T Jones (Booker T and MGs). It was with Jones that he formed his first band in high school.

His mother and stepfather moved to Chicago and as a teenager he followed them where he studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and played drums in local nightclubs.

In 1962 he joined The Jazzmen, who later the Pharaohs and some members , includgin White, became studio musicians at Chess Records in Chicago. He played on the records of artists such as Etta James, Chuck Berry, Rotary Connection, Junior Wells, Sonny Stitt, Muddy Waters, the Impressions, the Dells, Betty Everett, Willie Dixon, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Buddy Guy.

White was the drummer on Fontella Bass’s “Rescue Me” and Jackie Wilson’s (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher and later he joined The Ramsey Lewis Trio as their main drummer.

In 1969, White left the Trio and joined his two friends, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, to form a songwriting team who wrote songs for commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol Records and called themselves the Salty Peppers.

White then moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, and altered the name of the band to Earth, Wind & Fire, the band’s new name reflecting the elements in his astrological chart.

The rest as they say is history.

Maurice White