Exclusive Interview

by Matt Bauer

The Incomparable Jody Watley

Jody Watley 2017 2.5.jpg

Icon can be an overused word. Yet in the case of the one and only Jody Watley a true visionary and trendsetter whose now40 year career has proved a fierce, trendsetting influence not only on generations of subsequent female artists but in haute couture and choreography as well-it's entirely deserved. The incomparable Watley will be in full effect when she hit the stage at the Bear's Den Showroom at the Seneca Niagara Casino on Friday, May 26 with Shalamar Reloaded bringing a lifetime of legendary hits and uncompromising style to the stage.  

“Shalamar Reloaded (SRL for short) is a brand new experience” explains Watley over the phone from Los Angeles when asked about the group she created in 2015. Featuring male lead vocalist Nate Allen Smith and distinguished choreographer Rosero McCoy,  they have toured to international acclaim while readying an album for the end of this year. “We're not resting on our laurels, so to speak. We're putting a fresh spin on classic material with a full band and fresh choreography and visuals, celebrating what I've done while mapping out the future.”

Innovation has been a key fixture of the Chicago born Watley's career since she first caught the public eye as a 14 year old dancer on the legendary “Soul Train” television show, becoming an audience favorite for her dance moves and fashion sense which led her to being picked by Don Cornelius for the group Shalamar in 1977. As the original female voice on classics like “Take That To The Bank,” “Right In The Socket” and “A Night To Remember,” Watley would help propel Shalamar to platinum status, making the trio one of the most beloved R&B acts of the early 1980s, before leaving for a solo career in 1983 and working in England before releasing her watershed, eponymous solo debut in 1987.

With smashes and MTV favorites like “Looking For A New Love,” “Still A Thrill,” “Don't You Want Me” and “Some Kind of Lover” the album was a confident and fully realized artistic statement by a one of a kind talent that went double platinum and earned a Grammy award for best new artist. “A good portion of my show is dedicated to that album,” says Watley. “Whether it's 30 years old or 3 years old I've always strived to make music that's timeless."

“The music industry is very hard whether you're a male or female,” she adds.  “And one thing that I always advise young artists is to be careful about is the quality of songs that you choose because you may be singing them thirty years later.” She continued to fine-tune her sound and image on 1989's Larger Than Life which spawned the top 10 ballad “Everything,” “Real Love” (one of the most nominated videos in MTV's history) and the groundbreaking duet with Eric B & Rakim, “Friends” which set the blueprint for future hip-hop and R&B fusions and is reflective of the eclecticism that has helped define Watley's art.

She's subsequently collaborated with cutting edge artists likeKing Britt,  Dam-Funk, French Horn Rebellion, Roy Ayers and Mark-de-Clive-Low. Spanning decades and mixing genres like Funk, Disco, R&B, Pop, Hip-Hop, Electronica, Boogie and Jazz, Jody Watley's discography is easily one the most diverse in modern music. “I grew up listening to James Brown, Karen Carpenter and Nat “King” Cole” she says of her influences . “I've always been able to embrace different styles and I think it's important to keep evolving.”

As her music has evolved, so has Watley's fashion forward sense of style.  Named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People by People magazine, featured in the first celebrity modeling campaign for The Gap, and in the pages of Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Essence and the historic 2008 Black Issue of Vogue Italia as well as running her own boutique, Watley continues to be a revolutionary fashion figure.

After selling millions of albums and being honored by BMI with a songwriter's award and included in Billboard's Greatest Dance Club Artists of all time, Jody Watley remains a vital artist having just released her latest single and EP “Sanctuary,” a balmy, soulful celebration of domesticity on her own Avitone recordings label. “We live in very troubled times and home is a refuge and I thought it was very important to celebrate home life and family and love, wherever home may be,” she said.

The audience make up on her current tour reflects her inclusive and diverse vision. “We have people of all ages, genders and ethnicities. Everyone can expect to have a great time. People put their phones away for a couple of hours and one thing that I always see is people interacting and making friends.” Learn About More Shows and Events At SenecaNiagraCasino

The Bobby Watson Quartet

Will Bring the New York City Jazz Scene to Buffalo

              Bobby Watson

              Bobby Watson

The New York City jazz scene will pay a visit to Downtown Buffalo with a special performance by The Bobby Watson Quartet, featuring world-renowned jazz musicians:

Bobby Watson - Saxophone Curtis Lundy - Bass; Winard Harper - Drums and Ben Rosenblum - Piano. 

A CD release and debut music from highly acclaimed Made In America collection will take place on Saturday, May 20 with Conversationat 7:15 p.m. and a Concert at 8 p.m. atThe Sanctuary, SENSES Wellness Center, 360 Genesee Street - 

Tickets are$40. Seating is limited.  Advance tickets are available at:

Ananse Ntontan - 394 Genesee Street

Hours: 1 PM - 5:30 PM, Monday - Saturday

Or call (716) 491-0994

The Bobby Watson Quartet captivates audiences worldwide with their extensive experience, enthusiasm and exquisite style.

Saxophonist, composer, arranger and educator, Bobby Watson grew up in Kansas City, KS. He trained formally at the University of Miami, a school with a distinguished and well-respected jazz program. After graduating, he proceeded to earn his "doctorate" – on the bandstand – as musical director of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. The group, created in 1955 by late legendary drummer who died in 1990, showcased a rotating cast of players, many who, like Watson, would go on to have substantial careers as bandleaders in their own right. The Jazz Messengers – frequently referred to as the "University of Blakey" – served as the ultimate "postgraduate school" for ambitious young players.

Along the way he has been a vital artistic voice working with Max Roach, Louis Hayes, George Coleman, Sam Rivers, Branford and Wynton Marsalis as well as vocalists like Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, Lou Rawls, Better Carter, and Carmen Lundy. He also formed his own influential band, Horizon, considered one of the essential small groups of the past 30 years. Bassist Curtis Lundy was also member of that ensemble.  

 

Ballerina Amirah Muhammad is…The Black Swan

Featuring New Musical Composition by Maestro Henri Star

Pre-Professional Ballerina and National Ambassador for Brown Girls Do Ballet, Inc. Amirah Muhammad will present an exclusive ballet concert experience titled The Black Swan on Sunday, May 7 at 3 pm in the Market Arcade Atrium, 617 Main Street in Downtown Buffalo.  The concert will be a fundraiser for Amirah’s upcoming 2017 ballet summer intensive at American Ballet Theatre in New York City. 

The Black Swan will feature Ballerina Amirah performing several movements from Tchaikovsky’s ballet masterpiece “Swan Lake,” which is regarded as one of the most technically difficult roles in ballet repertoire.  In addition to dancing, Amirah, who is also a virtuoso classical violinist, will perform on violin, host a meet and greet reception, and more.  

Amirah will be accompanied by the Muhammad School of Music (MSOM) Chamber Orchestra led by her father, Concert Violinist, Composer, and Maestro Henri Star Muhammad.  The concert finale will be Ballerina Amirah dancing to the world premiere of a newly composed ballet piano composition written and performed by Maestro Henri Star.  To highlight an afternoon of live ballet and classical music will be a VIP “Sweet Ballerina 16” birthday party celebration for Amirah.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door, with VIP $55; and can be purchased in person, online, or by phone at Muhammad School of Music, 617 Main Street in Buffalo, (716)570-5064 email: Muhammadmusic@aol.com.  Additionally, sponsorships and donations can be made online at www.gofundme.com/amirahballerinaNYC2017All proceeds from the concert will go to support Amirah’s 2017 ballet summer intensive at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City.  For guests traveling in from out of town please ask about our special hotel accommodations.

Join us Sunday, May 7 at 3 pm in the Market Arcade Building Atrium, and experience Ballerina Amirah Muhammad as…The Black Swan.  

Amirah (Ami) Muhammad is a National Ambassador for Brown Girls Do Ballet, Inc., and is both a Pre-Professional Ballerina and an accomplished Concert Violinist.  Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, she is of El Salvadorian and Black American parentage.  Amirah began her ballet and violin studies at the age of 3 years old.  Since that time she has honed her ballet skills not only studying in Buffalo at the Neglia Conservatory of Ballet, but nationally and internationally at the Victoria International Ballet Academy in Toronto, Canada, and in New York City at the American Ballet Theatre, Steps on Broadway, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Manhattan Youth Ballet.

 

Interview by Matt Bauer

The Amazing Robert Glasper Experiment:

"Expect to Hear Something You’ve Never Heard Before"

     l/r    Derrick Hodge , Robert Glasper, Casey Benjamin, Mark Colenburg

     l/r    Derrick Hodge , Robert Glasper, Casey Benjamin, Mark Colenburg

For over a decade that includes four albums and two Grammy awards (a Best R&B album win with 2013's landmark “Black Radio”), The Robert Glasper Experiment-comprised of Glasper (Fender Rhodes, piano), Casey Benjamin (saxophone/vocoder), DerrickHodge (bass) and Mark Colenburg (drums)- has helped launch an artistic and commercial revitalization of that most fertile and diverse of American musical traditions: jazz. Opening the door for the likes of Esperanza Spalding, Gregory Porter and Kamasi Washington, the quartet brought their genre-blending and innovative grooves to Buffalo State's Performing Arts Center, back on Thursday April 20.

Born in Houston, the 39 year old Glasper, a prolific musician known as a jazz and R&B renaissance man, credits his mother ( a church and club singer) as his earliest musical influence. Glasper's genre-melding tendencies first blossomed in the church. 

“I was playing in church when I was12 years old and then around that same time I was trying to play R&B songs, “ he explains over the phone. Trumpeter Roy Hargrove's (whom Glasper would later tour with) appearance at Houston's High School For The Performing and Visual Arts was especially pivotal in his musical development.

 “I saw him and was like: 'wow, a young African-American cat playing jazz wearing Timberlands and overalls. That was my first time knowing that I could do that. It opened up my eyes and I think I've just come into my own thing through the years being influenced by some of these people: Herbie Hancock and Roy Hargove- people who were not scared of genre-hopping and adding new things to the music.”

Glasper would begin performing with Bilal after meeting the neo-soul singer at New York's New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and concurrent with Glasper's rise in the jazz scene he's worked with the likes of Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Common, Jay-Z and Meshell Ndegeocello among others.

Glasper released his debut “Mood” in 2004 which was followed by 2005's “Canvas,” 2006's “In My Element” and 2009's “Double Booked,” respectively. Yet it was the acclaimed2012's “Black Radio” and its sequel “Black Radio 2” that proved to be watersheds fusing hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul and rock, into an organic musical aesthetic devoid of boundaries in the finest of the African American (read jazz) tradition.

“We learn from the streets and also in the schools,” says Glasper of the Experiment's creative dynamic.  “Everyone has common musical homes. We all love R&B, hip-hop and jazz and some of us have more classical influences as well and some of us have more rock influences. It really is a nice colorful balance. “

“The experiment is really unique in how it started,” explains Casey Benjamin. “We're all trained jazz musicians and we've always had the ability to play any other type of music. There's a lot of musicians that say 'I play everything' but really authentically playing every popular style of music, and that's what made this band unique. It was unpretentious and all organic. I always say that skilled jazz musicians make the best musicians (maybe I'm biased). If you look at a lot of your favorite artists: Motown records have all jazz musicians; Michael Jackson records have jazz musicians: even the Rolling Stones have jazz musicians in their band, so it's always an extension. So that's what I believe makes the experiment so unique, it's because we're all able to tap into all different styles of music and we're all great writers and producers and all of that happens onstage.”

Besides releasing the critically acclaimed “ArtScience” with the Experiment, 2016 also saw Glasper score Don Cheadle's Miles Davis bio-pic “Miles Ahead” as well as the unique project “Everything Is Beautiful” which took the Prince Of Darkness into the 21st century by blending master takes and out-takes with a host of guest artists.

“I learned that I was influenced by Miles more than I knew,” Glalsper says. “When I started doing the ‘Everything Is Beautiful’ project that really opened up my eyes since I had access to the whole recording sessions from the vaults, and I heard him talking about and explaining things to the other musicians. Stuff that other people don't get to hear and I realized that we're kind of similar in that he never told other cats in the band what to do. He always had the right cats that already had the right voice... and when he did want something he'd hint around and have them come to it themselves.”

Prompted on the makeup of the audiences on this current tour and what fans can expect this Thursday Benjamin says, “They can expect to hear something that they've never heard before” adding, “it's not unusual to come to our shows and see a 19 year old kid sitting next to a 75 year old and they're bopping their heads the same way.”

“Every show is a different show,” says Glasper. “We always base the show off the audience and tailor it to what they need.”

*this post was edited from the printed version as it ran pre-show for more info about the Robert Glasper Experiment Tour go to http://www.songkick.com/artists/6393334-robert-glasper-experiment  and for more upcoming shows info at Buffalo State Performing Arts Center go to https://buffalostatepac.org/