George Benson and Earl Klugh records were constantly piped through my modest home in Inglewood, California (1986). I was born Dec, 7 into a musical family originally from Memphis, Tennessee; a large majority of the family possessed a natural gift for music, singing, public speaking and preaching. The family saw my interest in music at the age of 2, while I sat figuring out nursery rhymes on a toy piano I had gotten for my birthday. My father Charles later purchased a small scale nylon guitar when I was 5. He hid it in the kitchen before I came home from school so I would casually notice it, then be in shock. Imprint memory.
Wes Montgomery and Jonathan Butler...Dad got new records, and even a cassette tape of a Joe Pass instructional. Dad also got "Bad Benson"--I was utterly shocked, amazed, in disbelief, flustered and frustrated anyone would ever be able to play this way. Me and Dad always looked up to George, drooled over his custom Ibanez GB series guitars until Dad was able to buy if for me later in life. Jazz guitar music became a constant in my household, and I was determined to learn how to play just as well as those guys. Those guys made me and Dad so happy, just by an extreme command of their instrument. I wished for that.
School was another place I loved to be, until 3:00pm when it was out--I didn't want to stick around like the other kids so I pleaded my parents to pick me up at 3:00pm sharp. Other kids hated jazz music...thought it was for old people. I didn't understand pop music...thought it was for cool people. I was far from feeling cool. Something about jazz made me feel warm. Tagging along with my father to business meetings in big commercial buildings in Century City or Downtown...the soundtrack in the car was 88.1 or 94.7, depending on the DJs, and we knew all of them and their respective tastes.
I loved holding on to stuff I had heard on the radio and keeping it on repeat in my brain. I kept songs in my head while waiting in the lobby of those buildings--they smelled like progress and money, ink, paper and grownups. A golden brown smell? I always thought. Jazz fit perfectly here for me, and anywhere else Dad and I went...briefcases, manilla folders, golf courses, the smell of ink, air conditioned banks, hard sole dress shoes on marble lobbies, libraries, cigars, and the mildewed archives at the county clerk's office. This was jazz to me...the pleasures of convenience, the smell of money, work, wealth and relaxation.
Later I realized how much my idea of jazz was embedded into my nature...how I spoke and interacted with other kids in highschool at Pacific Hills School in West Hollywood. Now I had friends who's parents were Daymon Wayans, Stacy Dash, Rod Stewart, John Witherspoon and other big time people you might see in a magazine at the kiosk we would visit for off campus lunch--Sport Compact Car magazines and french fries. In middle school I hated staying after school, in highschool I stayed as long as I could--working on Paganini Caprices in the music classroom.
I got signed to Abstrakt Reality Records for a compilation album and was the featured artist "Green Glaze" (2003-2004). I was in 11th grade, and electronic music soon became an extension of me..my self, and embodied all of the unorthodox, abstract ideas that couldn't be implemented safely into the genre of jazz music. Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Venetian Snares and Wagon Christ / Luke Vibert were my favorite electronic music producers, and still are.
I finally came back to smooth jazz. This is the time where I wanted to go hard. I bought a violin, a soprano and alto sax and new acoustic guitars to prepare for my first album. I learned the basics of these instruments until I was comfortable enough to record with them. I released my first album, self titled (2005-2006). A DIY radio campaign landed it on WUMR 91.7 where it stayed on the top 10 countdown for 5 consecutive months. How fitting that the station that showed me the most support was located in my family's hometown? A brief stay at Morehouse college in Atlanta, GA prompted me to come back to California and dedicate all efforts to my music endeavors. Pftt..
The music industry is strange...like a drug business. I trudged around in the depths of this industry--continually scammed, music stolen, rights stripped, my career and purpose in life halted under a fat man's greed. I went to audio engineering school (RIT - Musicians' Institute) to allow myself to mix and master my own records to a professional standard (cutting away some middlemen). Working for Motown writer Mickey Stevenson during this time was a nice street light midway through this nasty tunnel. He said he told Smokey Robinson about my music. I soon met Stephen Metz and turned out he was affiliated with the great Robert Biles, my favorite recording engineer. We studied Robert's mixes at RIT and after graduating I re-met my etiquette teacher Jerry Christie, who happened to be Robert's assistant. Robert and I mixed one special song together, which I will release in time. Reedie Williams is a great jazz singer.
2010, Latin Soul! Cliff and Jason Gorov were so nice to take a chance with their prestigious name on a guy like me. Hey, they work with George and Kenny G. I promised that the record would be well received and they believed me and gave me a radio promotion deal. The lead out track "My Pleasure" was the #1 song added to internet and satellite radio for November 18. I even managed to reach 15th most added on Billboard. I was proud, because I was a new guy with my own label doing everything myself. My promotion time quickly ran out, and I ran out of money to continue it...soon in debt. Labels won't listen, and they don't even know how hungry the man is...the man knocking desperately at their door. I wish they knew.
Frustration led me to writing, and now I quietly blog about societal and cultural myths--keeping the music around for the purer hearts that understand it. My goal of commercializing my product must rest, and sit on the backburner until someone is smart enough to sign me (lol). Hip hop has become another passion of mine. It parallels the motif of minimalism I now experience...basic, blunt reactions to life, and the artistic gems unearthed from the most unassuming, stereotypically ignorant products of the inner city and ganglife. Hip hop is high art, despite its negatives--no matter how ignorant or shallow lyrics are, there is still depth present in the effect it can produce from its listeners.
I will continue to release great music and great writing until the world notices who I am.