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 Street Corner Renaissance

 Street Corner Renaissance

 Street Corner Renaissance

What elements do you look for in a song that makes it especially satisfying for you to perform?

We look for songs that lend themselves to good harmonic arrangements and visual presentation. The song must be lyrically sound, tell a good story and able to evoke feeling.

Of your touring and gigs so far in your career, do any stand out as being particularly memorable or defining moments?

When we first saw our names on the marquee with Chuck Berry at a venue in Park city Utah and listed as “Special Guest;” that did it for us. Berry is a creative musical icon who is emblematic of the music of the 50’s and 60’s. We saw that as a resounding endorsement that someone got what we were trying to do and paired us with a meaningful match to compliment our performance and welcome us to the club. (The 7,500 fans standing and cheering for encores helped too) Also holding our own; opening for Kool & the Gang was another moment. Again we were asked to do more than our prepared 50 minute set. (Who were we to argue with 65,000 people?)

Who would you say has been the single biggest influence in your life in getting you to where you are now in your career?

As the person responsible for the creative vision & direction for SCR, I would have to say that there were two people who had equal contribution in my personal creative development which consequently impacts the development of the group.

The first was James (Peter) Long, who was responsible for bringing Billie Holiday to Carnegie Hall and instrumental in the careers of countless entertainment giants such as Dizzy, Miles, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, the Jackson 5, Luther Vandross and others. As a mentor, Long was committed to seeing that I got a solid education in the art of entertainment production and presentation from the ground up.

With that in mind, besides involving me in his work from the creative inception through execution and post production, he introduced me to veteran showman and producer, Leonard Reed, Who produced the last show at the world famous Cotton Club in 1939. That show featured Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters (aka- Sweet Mama String bean) Duke Ellington, Bill Bo jangles Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers. Any Black artist of note from 1929 to 1965 either worked with or for the legendary Leonard Reed. I had the good fortune to learn from him for 27 years before I started the group. He was a friend and mentor.

Who are some of your current favorite artists, Smooth Jazz or otherwise?

The individual members of the group have varied musical taste, preferences and influences. A short list includes the Temptations, The Whisper, Mills Brothers, John Legend, Sam Cook, Orioles, Soul Stirrers, The Persuasions and Frank Sinatra.

At what point in your life did you make the decision to become a professional musician and actually record your own albums?

I don’t know that, as a group, we “decided” to become professional. We were sort of drafted. Never having sung together before; we got together “for the fun of it” in support of the Los Angeles African Market Place and Cultural faire, a popular local festival produced by a friend of ours, James Burkes. It was to be a one time event but after that performance, the phone started ringing and never stopped. I was working as claims adjuster at that time and was determined that being an adjuster could not be the last thing on my resume. So I got serious about singing and the arts in general. We all agreed that we all had unfulfilled dreams and aspirations and saw no compelling reasons to not go for it; even at our age. The recording evolved from people constantly asking for CDs to purchase. We realized that we were leaving a lot of money on the table.

What would be the most important piece of advice you’d impart to a young musician just starting out in the jazz/smooth jazz arena?

If you love it, do it- for no other reason. If it’s in you; let it out at all cost. Doing what you love has its own rewards. Birds fly, Fish swim and Singers sing. (Actors act – Musicians do Music) That’s the way nature planned it; go with it. Find a way to meet your financial obligations but in doing so, if you make money from enterprises other than your art and passion, don’t mistake what you do for money as the same as what you do for a living. It’s ok to do what you have to, as long as you find time to do what you love. If you deny your dreams in pursuit of money and end up living in a big house with a closet full of regrets, ask yourself, “is that really living?”

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