Apr 1, 2015
Today marks the 66th anniversary of the birth of Gil Scott-Heron, one of the most influential recording artists of the late 20th century. Between 1970 and 1976, often collaborating with keyboardist/flautist Brian Jackson, Scott-Heron merged R&B, jazz and the spoken word in a manner that predated hip-hop and laid the foundations upon which later performers, most notably Kanye West, would build. Scott-Heron’s lyrics could be painfully insightful, as in his masterpiece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” His delivery could rouse and sooth, be a call to action and a sigh of resignation, sometimes all in the same track. Musically, his records were musically intricate, and were studded with jazz heavyweights like Ron Carter, Bernard Purdie and Hubert Laws.
Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot, writing about Scott-Heron's collaborative work with Jackson, said it best:
Together they crafted jazz-influenced soul and funk that brought new depth and political consciousness to ‘70s music alongside Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. In classic albums such as Winter in America and From South Africa to South Carolina, Scott-Heron took the news of the day and transformed it into social commentary, wicked satire, and proto-rap anthems. He updated his dispatches from the front lines of the inner city on tour, improvising lyrics with an improvisational daring that matched the jazz-soul swirl of the music".
Jazz tributes to Scott-Herron are just beginning to flow. Giacomo Gates scored a big hit with The Revolution Will Be Jazz: The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron in 2011, and on June 7, Charenee Wade will release her take on his body of work, entitled Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson on Motema Records.
A relative newcomer to the national scene, Ms. Wade recently earned a Master’s Degree from Manhattan School of Music, and her quartet has previously recorded a successful album of standards. At Manhattan School of Music, Charenee has been featured with the conservatory’s 100 piece orchestra Jazz Philharmonic and other large ensembles. She appears regularly at New York’s Zinc Bar and other venues across the tri-state area.
Podcast 475 features my conversation with Ms. Wade, as we discuss how she came to record the CD, how she arranged and her group – with a number of top guest stars like Stefon Harris- adapted the work, and why the music of Gil Scott-Heron is so important today. Musical selections from Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson include “A Toast to the People”, “Home is Where the Hatred Is”, and “Essex-Martin, Grant, Byrd & Till” featuring the guest voice of Christian McBride.