Category: Entertainment Written by Genea Webb
BONEY JAMES ON TENOR
According to musician Boney James, music is something you hear and feel in your heart. And the award-winning saxophonist, producer and songwriter has made it his life’s work to make songs that touch the hearts of his fans.
“Music was something I really loved and cared about, and I wanted to make it my career,” said James who was born James Oppenheim in Lowell, Mass. “I get up thinking about music. I spent my whole life making records.”
His latest effort is “The Beat,” which he released on Concord Records on April 9. The album features Raheem DeVaughn, who sings on “Maker of Love,” and the Floacist from Floetry who is featured on The Midas This is Why.”
“I’ve always been a fan of Raheem DeVaughn. I saw him at the Hampton Jazz Festival. I wrote the music for the track and I got an email from Twitter saying that Raheem was following me and we collaborated,” he said. “‘The Midas This is Why’ is my favorite song on the album because it has a European feel to it. She recorded it in London. She did great work on it. I still have never met her.”
Pittsburgh audiences got the chance to hear James perform selections from “The Beat” when he took the Byham stage on April 26.
“I was in Pittsburgh about five years ago playing in Greensburg and people said ‘why are you playing here you should be playing Downtown.’ Now I’ll be doing that, I’m excited to be performing there. The audience can expect to have a great time. There’s a great band of guys that played on the new record. We get people in the audience involved in the show. When I’m on stage I’m someone else. I’m this character Boney James the entertainer,” he said.
After 21 years in the music business, James has become the consummate performer. He has won three Grammy Awards, a Soul Train Award and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. He has released 14 albums in a little more than two decades. Nine of those albums have reached the top spot on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart and two have made it to the top 10 on the R& B Album Chart, which is a rarity for an instrumentalist.
His interest in music was piqued when he took up the clarinet at age eight and quickly switched to the saxophone at age ten. He spent his early teenage years in New Rochelle, NY and was swept away by the Motown Sound and the music of Grover Washington, Jr.
After earning a degree in history from UCLA he learned to play keyboards and joined Morris Day’s band in 1985. He remained in the band for four years before touring as a sideman for numerous R& B acts including The Isley Brothers and Teena Marie.
“I grew up where it was color blind and that’s how I live my life. That’s how life is supposed to be. When people heard my music they said ‘man I thought you were a brother.’ I was grateful that I was accepted and I was glad people were saying I was doing it right,” he said.
While on the road, he earned this stage moniker Boney from current “Tonight Show” musician Wayne Lindsey because James’ pay as a touring musician barely kept him fed and he was losing weight.
“He said ‘you keep that up and we’ll have to start calling you Boney James’ and the name stuck,” he said.
James released his debut album, “Trust,” in 1992. He was signed to Warner Brothers Records two years later and released the certified Gold albums “Seduction,” “Sweet Thing,” and “Body Language.”
In 2000, James and trumpeter Rick Braun collaborated on the “Shake it Up” album, which included the updated version of Hugh Masakela’s “Grazin’ in the Grass.” Three years later James put on his producer hat on his “Pure” CD. In 2006, “Shine” was released. The record reached number 44 on the top 200 list. In 2009 “Send One Your Love,” a collection of love songs, earned James a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R & B Performance. Billboard also named James the No. 3 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Artist of the Decade.
James’ ninth CD, “Contact” was released in 2011 following a car accident that left him sidelined for two months with shattered teeth and facial cuts.
Guest vocalists on the record included Heather Headley, Mario and Donnell Jones. It was nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Album at the Soul Train Awards.
This year’s “The Beat” is getting rotating radio play thanks to satellite radio and the Internet.
“There’s been a shift in the music business. Radio requires advertising. Luckily I’ve been getting play on the watercolor station and the urban station on XM radio. I’m doing OK,” said James who resides in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Lily Mariye. “I don’t consider my music smooth Jazz. I never thought Smooth Jazz was real. It’s just a format you get caught up in.”
For the time being, James will be working hard to promote “The Beat.”
“When I make a record, I spend 18 months promoting it. Spreading the word by doing interviews and shows. That’s my mission. After that, I will sit down and start creating more music. I’ll be doing it everyday coming to the studio daily to do music,” James said.
For more information on James or his latest project “The Beat,” visit www.boneyjames.com.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 May 2013 18:21
Category: Entertainment Written by Genea Webb
NEW GROUP SAME SOUND—Even though two of the three original members of Ray, Goodman & Brown have passed, Billy Brown has kept their sound alive with the two new members, Kevin Owens, 25 years and Larry Winfree, 27 years. They are not in order, Brown is first from left.
Audience members are invited to party with Ray, Goodman & Brown when the group graces the Kelly Strayhorn stage for New Horizon Theater’s annual black tie event this Saturday, May 4.
“We try to have the audience leave the theater saying that they didn’t see Ray, Goodman & Brown, they partied with Ray, Goodman & Brown,” said Billy Brown, the last living original member of the group. “We put on a good, quality show and we do old songs that people are familiar with.”
The group will be making a return to Pittsburgh after a seven-year absence as the headliners for New Horizon’s event.
“New Horizon Theater is a community theater and Joyce tries to raise money for the theater and to bring art into the community. She’s a sincere woman and she loves her people that’s rare and that’s something to be proud of. I’m glad to be a part of it,” Brown said.
New Horizon Chairperson Joyce Meggerson-Moore is happy to be bringing the group back to the ‘Burgh.
“We looked at our budget and the groups that do good performances and don’t overcharge us because we’re trying to raise money to have our plays,” said Meggerson-Moore. “It was a good time for rotation in our lineup and they understand our mission. They have brought in new members and many of the members have been a part of the group for 20 years or more but people are going to hear the sound they recognize.”
Ray, Goodman & Brown got its genesis in Hackensack in the 1960’s with Brown and deceased members Al Goodman and Harry Ray. The group’s greatest successes came in the 1970’s with “Inside of You,”“Love On a Two Way Street,” “Look at Me (I’m In Love)” and “Special Lady.”
The song “Not on the Outside” was written specifically for Brown who worked at Ford Motor Company at the time. Brown said he was unable to get to the recording session and a group from Washington, D.C. recorded the song, to Brown’s dismay.
“I was in the bathtub and I heard the song, which was no. 25 in the country by the Moments,” Brown recalled. “I was angry.”
One night after work, Brown was at a bar that he frequented and the bartender told him that Larry Roberts was looking for him. He left the bar and once he returned Roberts asked Brown if he wanted to be the lead singer of the Moments.
“I said ‘yeah, right.’ Larry told me he’d pick me up the next morning and I still didn’t believe him. When he showed up, that’s when it hit me.”
Brown had his first show as lead singer of the Moments at the end of that whirlwind week. “I got $2,500 for that performance and I said “Oh, I like this.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The group changed its name to Ray, Goodman & Brown because of contract problem with their record company and had a string of hits throughout the 70’s like “Special Lady.”
“Special Lady was the last song we recorded for the album. We needed a filer and we said we have this song called Special Lady. We didn’t know that it’d be one of the biggest hits we ever recorded,” Brown said. “Most of our songs were written by the late Sylvia Robinson, Bert Keys or George Kerr. The lyrics of the songs are positive about what a woman would want her man to say to her. This is Black music. Our music. With White music, they don’t let their music die. But we Black artists, we are only as good as our last record.”
Ray, Goodman& Brown has been blessed to continue to draw crowds to their concerts despite shifts in the music business.
“This is a dog eat dog business but Ray, Goodman & Brown never thought they were above anyone,” said Brown who resides in New Jersey. “We’ve always taken time with people and tried to treat people the way we wanted to be treated because your fans are the people who make you. It is only by the grace of the fans that you are where you are.
“This business has changed. There are about three major labels left and it gets harder and harder but also easier and easier with the Internet,” Brown said. “If artists put their music out and people like them, they can get signed by a major record label.”
The group has been able to change with the times but still remain true to their sound as balladeers.
The up tempo “ I Just Wanna Dance” will be released in June or July with a complete CD to be released afterwards.
Brown will be releasing two inspirational CD’s soon. He can currently be seen performing some of the songs on Trinity Broadcasting Network.
“That’s what I’ve been wanting to do. I’ll be going back in the studio after we leave Pittsburgh,” Brown said. “It’s been great doing these songs for God. If you put God first in your life, you’ll find out that when things seem impossible, God makes them possible. I put God first in everything. If you do that, he’ll guide you if you are sincere in your heart.”
He will rejoin his Ray, Goodman & Brown bandmates to rerecord some of the group’s greatest hits for an infomercial possibly for Time Warner.
When he isn’t performing, Brown enjoys spending time with his grandchildren attending church and cooking.
Tickets for Ray, Goodman & Brown begin at $40. The $100 ticket includes: performance, orchestra seating, brochure listing, and black-tie reception with Ray, Goodman& Brown.
Last Updated on Friday, 03 May 2013 21:19
Category: Entertainment Written by Genea Webb
by Genea L. Webb
For New Pittsburgh Courier
The last time Charlie Wilson performed in Pittsburgh, he was doing it for the ladies. This time around he’s focused on mothers.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 10:24
Category: Entertainment Written by CNN
by Breeanna Hare
(CNN) -- "Downton Abbey's" bringing on a roster of new cast members for its fourth season.
The addictive British series has tapped Gary Carr (TV's "Death in Paradise" and "Bluestone 42") to portray a "charming and charismatic" jazz singer named Jack Ross - "Downton's" first recurring Black character.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 17:21
Category: Entertainment Written by Ashley N. Johnson
WORKING TOGETHER—Orlana Darkins-Drewery and Gary Gunter vow a continued commitment from WAMO to the community.
Giving the listeners of Pittsburgh’s only urban station what they want and a commitment to the African-American community are just a few of the things new WAMO100 General Manager Gary Gunter discussed at an editorial meeting with the New Pittsburgh Courier on April 26.
“This is an opportunity to lead a great station and be a part of a great heritage property like WAMO…I’m a radio man. I bleed radio, wake up radio, radio 24/7. It’s in my blood and it’s what I do,” said Gunter. “The old WAMO was great and did great things,” said Gunter. “But at the same time I want to make sure the format, and the music, and the program is true to urban.”
Gunter became the new general manager of WAMO in April after former General Manager Laura Varner Norman was relieved of her duties in March, after being with the station since its return to the airwaves in 2011. It is unknown why Norman was let go. Tim Martz, of Martz Communications Group, WAMO’s owner, was contacted numerous times for comment, but failed to respond.
Gunter said as general manager he plans to make sure that the station is laser focused on their target, which is African-Americans ages 18 to 34, and that they are satisfying their listeners. While he knows the station “will not be all things to everyone,” he is committed to making sure that the older demographics’ needs are met as well.
“The trick is to find a way to mesh the two without stepping on your main focus and being able to offer the older end of the demographic what they want and need. We’re looking at different things within the programming and content to be able to include them as well,” he said.
While he is currently in the assessing and evaluating phase and has no plans for any changes to programming as of yet, Gunter said he does, however, plan to tweak some of the station’s music. “We are trying to make sure some songs don’t fall in that don’t sound like a fit.”
WAMO, which can be found at 100.1 FM and 660 AM, currently includes programming such as the syndicated “Rickey Smiley Morning Show,” followed by weekday on-air personalities DJ Boogie, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; The Mayor Mike Jax from 3-7 p.m.; Tito XL from 7 p.m.-12 a.m.; and weekend personalities Miguel Lopez, Sharmyn and inspiration with Brother Marlon.
Recently, WAMO added a program called “Future Flavaz,” which plays music from local artists every Monday during the Tito XL segment. “We want to show our support of local artists,” said Orlana Darkins-Drewery, director of marketing and special events for WAMO.
Although Gunter is excited about where he can take the station, he does realize there are some challenges to face along the way. “It’s just rising above that and bringing value to what we bring to the table,” he said. One of those challenges is the weak signal, which can often be unclear in certain areas of Pittsburgh. Gunter said that is something they’ll have to deal with for now, until another plan is comprised.
As dedicated to its listeners as WAMO is, Gunter said WAMO is still and will be just as committed to the community.
“Every urban related show has come through WAMO, whether through advertising and/or both advertising and promotion, so that has not changed, including our commitment to the community,” said Darkins-Drewery. “That part of it will not slow down and has no plans of doing so.”
Along with its continued support of community events and organizations, WAMO is open to new ventures. During the meeting a new partnership was established between WAMO and the Courier. “Together we can accomplish more things. We are all focused on the African-American community,” said Gunter.
Gunter was also asked how the increase in demand for Internet radio, such as satellite radio, Pandora and iHeart radio, effects radio. He said, “There’s so many choices, that’s why we have to be so laser focused to the lifestyle, the need of the listeners. There are a lot of different choices, but when it all boils down you always need a local feedback from radio. The power of radio, just having that local immediacy and relevancy is what is going to be there at the end of the day.”
Prior to joining WAMO, Gunter served as the general sales manager of Radio One Baltimore stations WWIN-AM/FM, WERQ-FM and WOLB-AM, and director of integrated marketing for Clear Channel Radio in Chicago, where he created and developed integrated marketing programs for their six top radio channels.
He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, and a graduate of the National Association of Broadcasters Executive Development Program for Radio Broadcasters from Georgetown University and was awarded the NAB Executive Radio Mentor Fellowship.
(For more information on WAMO visit www.WAMO100.com.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 09:22
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