Corrections or additions?

This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the August 22,

2001 edition of U.S.

1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Trenton’s `Urban’ Jazz Fest

The lineup for the annual Trenton Jazz Festival offers

a lot for those who love contemporary jazz and contemporary R&B, now

called "urban contemporary" music among radio types. Vocalist

Lalah Hathaway, tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and former NBA

basketball

player Wayman Tisdale are among the featured acts who will perform

at the festival this Saturday, August 25, at Mercer County Waterfront

Park, from 5 to 11 p.m.

Whatever the festival lacks in tradition-based soul jazz, it more

than makes up for with fans of contemporary jazz. While in past years

the festival has presented more tradition-based acts such as

keyboardist

Joe Sample, vocalist Al Jarreau, and longtime Garden State Hammond

B-3 organist Jimmy McGriff, this year’s festival is focused squarely

on contemporary jazz.

Bassist Wayman Tisdale, at six-foot-nine, began his performing career

on the basketball court, in 1986, with the Indiana Pacers. Within

a few years he was out west playing with the Sacramento Kings; he

averaged a career-high 22 points per game in the 1989-’90 season.

Tisdale ended his basketball career by playing for another three years

with the Phoenix Suns.

Tisdale, an Oklahoma University All-American, has had an interest

in and talent for music going back to his youth, he explains in the

notes that accompany "Face To Face," his most recent album

and his second release for Atlantic Records. "My roots are in

gospel," he says, "and my whole sense of being is from that.

I feel this record is displaying a lot of those positive sides of

me."

"Face To Face" is an artfully blended mix of fusion, urban

contemporary, and contemporary jazz stylings. "I wanted to get

back to my roots," says Tisdale. "I’ve always been heavily

influenced by R&B, and my roots as a bass player go back the heavy

funk of the 1970s. I wouldn’t say I’ve gone funky this time, but I

definitely went towards a more R&B approach with this record."

The R&B Tisdale is referring to is contemporary R&B or "urban

contemporary," not the classic R&B of such artists as Ruth Brown,

Wilson Pickett, or the late Otis Redding.

"Face To Face" includes three of Tisdale’s own compositions,

including the title track, "Say I Do" and "Stay."

Tisdale says he wrote these tunes the old-fashioned way, strumming

a guitar and putting pen to paper.

"I never thought I could write lyrics until I wrote these

songs,"

he says. "I was nervous, saying to people, `I wrote this song

last night.’ And when they heard it, they’d go crazy. I’ve gotten

really into it now, like a kid with a new toy."

Tisdale’s musical background includes singing backing

vocals on albums by saxophonist David Sanborn. Now Tisdale’s daughter,

Danielle, sings background on "Face To Face." Tisdale will

perform at the Trenton Jazz Festival with his group, Kombo.

Tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who will perform with vocalist Lalah

Hathaway, is touring in support of his fall 2000 album for Warner,

"Unconditional." Whalum wrote or co-wrote seven of the tunes

on "Unconditional." The album includes "Grover Worked

and Underpaid," his own composition that is a tribute to the

saxophonist,

Grover Washington, Jr., who died suddenly of a heart attack in

December,

1999.

"My last album of covers was sort of a `thank-you’ note to this

audience that has been so faithful to me over the years," Whalum

explains in the biography accompanying his recent recording. "This

time I was determined to have Kirk Whalum compositions, for the

obvious

reason that it’s part of who I am. I love to write, arrange and

produce.

This is a record where from the top it was primarily about my songs,

about me collaborating with other people, with Paul Brown as a write

and producer. It was great to put that hat back on and back into the

fray," he explains.

On "Unconditional" Whalum also performs a tribute to his

living

friend, saxophonist David Sanborn, whom he credits as a major

inspiration

to him through the years. "David has been a very big factor of

encouragement to me over the years. He’s one of those guys who, when

people interview him and ask,`Who do you like in terms of younger

guys?’ — and you know there are a million saxophone players —

he says, `Kirk Whalum.’"

"So I sat down to write a melody for him and it wrote itself,"

says Whalum. "That happened a few times on this record and it’s

definitely something I dare not skip over. I wrote all the songs

expressly

for `Unconditional.’ If there’s a theme, it was simply that I prayed

and asked God to give me songs that would really touch people in a

new way. The fact that this record has more grit to it, I think maybe

that was a theme that revealed itself. It’s like when an artist sits

down with a canvas. He doesn’t always have a theme, but it begins

to make itself evident. It emerges as he goes along."

Whalum offers "Grover Worked and Underpaid" as an example,

and says, "that song came out of a real sincere desire on my part

to pay homage to Grover Washington, Jr., an incredible man and a big

influence on me. I knew it couldn’t be all wimpy. It had to have some

grit in it. I was trying to make sure that I included some elements

of `Mr. Magic,’ not the notes, but the funky groove. You know, if

just rewards were given, then Grover would’ve been a millionaire."

Both Whalum and Tisdale’s albums have spent time at the top of

Billboard

Magazine’s contemporary jazz charts, as have the recordings of the

Trenton Jazz Festival’s other headliners Maze, featuring Frankie

Beverly.

Beverly’s Maze is the San Francisco-based group responsible for

jump-starting

the careers of Natalie Cole and Anita Baker in the 1980s.

"We took Anita Baker out as our opening act on her first national

tour and did the same thing with Regina Belle and Toni Braxton. It

makes me feel great to see how each of these artists has gone on to

have great success," Beverly says.

While Beverly’s first love is classic R&B and early rock ‘n’ roll

from musicians like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and from New

Orleans pianist Lloyd Price’s "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," his group

Maze has built on his classic rhythm and blues orientation to create

music that is an amalgamation of jazz-rock fusion, jazz and urban

contemporary music.

— Richard J. Skelly

Trenton Jazz Festival, Waterfront Park, Route 29 and Cass

Street, Trenton, 800-955-5566. The festival features Maze, with

Frankie

Beverly, vocalist Laleh Hathaway, Kirk Whalum, tenor sax, Wayman

Tisdale

and his band Kombo. Tickets at www.tickets.com or by phone.

$20, $30, $35. Saturday, August 25, 5 to 11 p.m.

For the complete calendar of events in central New Jersey, go

to www.princetoninfo.com/us1evts.html


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