Posted in Charity, funk, insideplaya, Jazz, Music, New York, Soul, Soul City, Uncategorized | Tagged A&M Records, Boo Frazier, Dizzy Gillespie, Herb Alpert, insideplaya, Jazz, Jerry Moss, Soul, Soul City | Leave a Comment »
Marion “Boo” Frazier was a giant in this thing of ours. He was my mentor and he died last weekend. The buzz amongst vets on the Interwebs was that he was sick and in need of prayer. I passed on the prayers, and instead chose to call him. Always the optimist, who was heard from time to time to say, “Everybody got to have a man, and you mine,” he assured me he was fine, and told me not to worry. Like a promotion man who was working a record with little opportunity to become a hit, he made me feel good about his chances, but less than a week later he died anyway.
I met him when I was still a green kid, and a part time disc jockey at the dual AM/FM property, WEAL/WQMG, Greensboro, NC in early 1982. He was passing through doing what he did… getting records played. Later that same year, I would return to Soul City and begin a career in records myself by joining the promotion staff of Sugar Hill Records. The label’s studio and offices were located on what was then West Street, and has since been renamed after Sugar Hill founder and Black Music legend, Sylvia Robinson. This was one block west of Dizzy Gillespie Place, a street named after the great John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, the Bebop architect, trumpeter, resident of Soul City and older cousin to Boo Frazier.
Two blocks east of Dizzy’s street, A&M Records kept a low key, two room office from where Boo was a key Black Music operative for the label for a decade and a half. On the wall of his private domain were pictures of Boo and Dizzy, Boo and Johnny Carson, Boo and Quincy Jones, Boo and Nancy Regan, Boo and The Police, Boo and… His life was a living example of the places Black Music could take you, and he was a living link from the independent mom and pop days, AM radio and the chitlin circuit to the corporate backed Black Pop that was heard on stereo FM. Over the thirty plus years that I knew Boo, I found myself in that office, as often as my time would allow, soaking up the knowledge of the promotion man’s craft that would eventually lead to a shot and success as an A&R man.
Boo’s story began when he was a teenager. During the Eisenhower administration, there’d been some political unrest and unease in Turkey, and the great Harlem political don, and US Congressman, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., arranged through the US State Department to have Dizzy play the region as a goodwill ambassador. Dizzy agreed to go, and brought Quincy Jones as the band’s musical director and Boo as a personal valet.
Thus began the career of one of the most storied behind the scenes string pullers in the history of Black Music. In different stops along the way, Frazier eventually worked as an independent operative, owned his own label and worked for A&M, the legendary diskery founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. Frazier was involved in the careers of The Beatles, Black Ivory, The Brothers Johnson, Jeffrey Osborne, Atlantic Starr, L.T.D., Janet Jackson, The Police and yours truly. I was just one of the many executives groomed and guided by Boo. My old friend Ed Eckstine, the first Black president of one of the US major labels was another. Please find below Ed’s tribute to our mutual friend and mentor. For now, I’ll just leave it to one of the pros.
In the summer of 1974, Quincy Jones hired me to work for his budding production company in an untitled capacity, “just find shit that needs to be done, if you do it wrong, remember what you did wrong and don’t do it again,” he said. Those were my initial marching orders and I carried them out well (at least I thought so for the better portion of 10 years.) He had just released his album “Body Heat” and it became quickly apparent that he needed me to interface with the various departments of his distributor, A&M Records, carry the word of his new musical and entrepreneurial direction to the media, (black press in particular) and interface with Black Radio, trumpeting the laurels of “Body Heat” and all things “Q”.
I was working for him less than a week when he handed me a phone number and said, “Call this man, he will teach you every thing you need to know.” A truly Herculean task considering my inexperience and shortcomings. That man was Marion “Boo” Frazier, cousin to Dizzy Gillespie, ace partner to Quincy, Griot and Yoda like figure when it came to matters relative to the record (particularly Black) business, and my personal Mr. Miyagi if there ever was one. 4 days ago the great Harry Coombs, the legendary promotion man who broke The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, and The Intruders for Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records, posted on Facebook that he had heard that Boo wasn’t well and he needed a number to contact him. I called the insideplaya who also holds Boo close to his heart and he hit me with the number. The playa told me to call him as word was that Boo wasn’t well, but that when he reached out to him, his wife Brenda put him on the phone and Boo told him”I’m fine MF’er, what’s wrong with y’all ?!@!” Nevertheless, the playa said call him, he had asked about me, and he felt he was masking his infirmities. I said I would, but as someone who battles the demon of procrastination I told myself I would reach out to him tomorrow morning while ensconsed on the couch watching football.
A couple of hours ago I read the “the news today, oh boy” in the fond remembrances of fellow record warrior Al Marks (former sales exec for A&M Records) here on FB about the passing of “The Boo-man”. I learned so much from him, about radio, retail. the juke box business, the importance of impacting a market when pushing a particular project whether I was in a town 30 minutes or 30 days. Wise, caring, insightful, funny, guiding, sweet & kind are words that only begin to describe him, with some of the most amazing stories of triumphs and defeats with a galvanizing lesson in them all.
At Quincy’s behest he was the first person that Herb Alpert, Jerry Moss and Harold Childs hired when they decided (or were pushed) to assemble a Black Music promotion staff in 1975 and he immediately became a guru to all who were in his midst. When I first became President of Mercury Records, David Weyner, then head of the Classics and Jazz division, shared with me that he was having problems with getting exposure at Jazz and Adult Black Radio and did I have any thoughts. Just one; Boo Frazier, and he proceeded to put points on the board Jordan style much to David’s satisfaction. A saline stream of love flows from my eyes as I think of him and hope his transition was peaceful. He always signed off when we spoke with his favorite catchphrase / ‘Boo-ism': “Back to the pro’s baby, back to the pro’s”..Sleep peacefully with those angels, I was blessed to have known you and receive your wisdom Boo. R.I.P.
On better bookshelves today, photographer Glen E. Friedman’s coffee table book My Rules. Classic photos of Run DMC, Tony Alva, Jay Adams, LlL Cool J, Rick Rubin, Pussy Riot, Noam Chomsky and others. Also included are 21 essays by subjects in the book and an afterward from the playa. For those of you who are less inclined to read there are some really nice pictures.
Doug Herzog grew up 20 minutes west of Soul City, and is a Soul and Funk enthusiast. We have been friends for nearly a quarter of a century. He is also a bonafide media don, and a pivotal figure in the introduction of Hip Hop to a larger audience. It was during his time as the key programming figure and head of MTV that he approved, nurtured and developed the seminal Yo MTV Raps. And along with our friends Ted Demme (R.I.P.) Fab 5 Freddy and Ed Lover and Dre, he changed the course of history and culturally, set the stage for the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency. In what has been a career of note, he has been the President of Fox TV, USA Television, and is now the head of both Comedy Central and Spike TV. Twenty-two years ago, while hosting Doug for lunch at New York power spot, 21, he revealed an interest and understanding to me, of my beloved jazz/funk/fusion area and spoke authoritatively and lovingly of The Crusaders. I never forgot it. Here is Doug’s tribute to the great Joe Sample, a founding member of The Crusaders who passed away this past weekend at the age of 75.
In the days before shock jocks and Howard Stern, Don Imus dominated New York morning radio. “Imus In The Morning” was heard on WNBC in the New York Metropolitan area. His mix of talk, humor and characters resonated heavily in the post-Watergate era radio landscape. It would be years before he was marginalized by the success of Howard Stern, and ultimately rendered obsolete by his own doing.
But in 1974, he was the coolest thing on AM radio. The clock radio next to my bed was set to 66 “WNnnnnnnBC” in order to wake up to his show every school day. It was “water cooler” radio in those days. Even the bus driver listened.
During that period he used a theme song coming in and out of commercials. It was a funky, slinky instrumental that immediately stuck in my head called “Put It Where You Want It”. http://open.spotify.com/track/2RVzOkiDRBDpweaTZsor41
I remember thinking it might be The Average White Band, who’s own instrumental, “Pick Up The Pieces”, was making its way to the top of the charts. (Ironically, AWB had actually recorded the song on a album never released in the US).
It took me awhile to figure out who the band playing the song was – I couldn’t exactly Shazam it back then. But it sounded like something I needed to hear more of. At the time, my interest in RnB and funk had me drifting into the realm of jazz funk and fusion.
Once I figured out it was The Crusaders I was led to a series of their mid 70’s albums that were arguably the best of the then emerging genre.
The band originated out of Houston, Texas as The Jazz Crusaders, and ultimately migrated to LA with a shortened name and a new approach that incorporated blues, jazz and funk. Built around the estimable talents of Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Stix Hooper, Wayne Henderson, and a rotating cast of sideman, (notably the great Larry Carlton), they built a catalogue of funky, yet sophisticated jams. You could dance to some, groove to others, or sit back and just enjoy the world class playing.
At the heart of it all was the work of keyboardist Joe Sample. His warm, soulful sound could lead the melody, fill in the spaces, or soar out front on a solo. The Crusaders epitomized the concept of the ensemble in every sense. A tight unit devoted to the groove, with room for everyone to step out, but never too far. They were melodic funky and smooth, but never with the strings that often cluttered the more esoteric CTI recordings. They played deep in the pocket but never let the funk get redundant. And with Larry Carlton on guitar, they were able to broaden their audience without resorting to the worst aspects of fusion. It was a slick LA sound, combined with Texas Roadhouse RnB that had more in common with Steely Dan than their counterparts Stuff in NY.
I had the chance to see them on a great bill at The Palladium in NYC in May 1977 supported by Les McCann, and The Brecker Brothers. It was a hot sweaty night that may have been a peak period for pure jazz funk. Carlton had recently left the band, and Sample seemed to be the clear leader. They sold lots of records, concert tickets, and had the kind of crossover success other bands could only dream of. They all became demand session guys. Most notably, Joe who sat in on sessions with everyone from; BB King to Marvin Gaye to Eric Clapton. He played a bit on the classic rock/jazz funk Steely Dan masterpiece “Aja” as well. He also played on one of my favorite records, the under appreciated “Art of Tea”, the debut album by Michael Franks. Most of the Crusaders joined him on this disc where jazz funk met soft rock (then called “Mellow music”). I promise you it sounds better than I described it.
It all culminated in 1979 with the band’s huge crossover smash “Street Life”. That success led to Joe’s “Carmel” solo disc. This may have been the first true shot fired out of the “smooth jazz” cannon. My dad who was 40 something at the time, was courting the woman who would be his future wife, listened to it while they sipped Chardonnay together in Newport Beach. This may have been the first indication it wasn’t for me.
Over time many artists gravitated toward the radio friendly smooth jazz while others tried the disco route, and fusion just collapsed under its own ponderous weight. Joe, and The Crusaders rode the wave of “Street Life” until the whole thing ran out of steam. But they remain staples of smooth jazz radio to this day, and have been oft sampled by various Hip Hop artists. But for me, the legacy of Joe Sample lies mostly in those mid/late 70’s recording where he and the band’s signature style became one the enduring sounds of the era.
JANAY RICE & RAY RICE
Karen Kaufman is an independent film producer and executive in Hollywood. I’ve know her for twenty-five years. I met her when she was an account exec in DC radio, and I was putting records on the radio that made a difference. She’s come up in several media businesses, but she’s football people. Her daddy coached several top tier high school, college and NFL running backs – John Riggins and Barry Sanders are two of his former players who are enshrined in Canton – and he caught a couple of rings with the San Francisco 49ers when they were the class of the sporting world. Her first husband was a starting linebacker for Joe Gibbs when he was the head coach of the Washington Redskins, and they went to a few Super Bowls when they were together. The world of professional football formed her.
Like anyone who else has seen it, the videotape of Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice hitting his wife with a short, hard jab, knocking her out, and then nudging her with his foot, shocked Karen. She thought about it, discussed it with me, and consented to share her understanding of what it was like to be a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of an NFL warrior who she was married to. She also wondered what Janay Rice has been thinking. In the form of an open letter, here are her thoughts and questions.
We’ve never met, and I don’t think we have any friends in common. Before this year, I’d never heard of you, and until recently, hadn’t seen a picture of you either. Because of these facts, I have struggled with my decision to write you, as I can only imagine the barrage of emails, phone calls and texts you are receiving during this time. But our stories are so entwined I felt I had to reach out to you.
Based on the little that I have seen, I have to let you know that I am disappointed in you.
I’m not supposed to feel this way. As an educated Black woman who was once married to a Washington Redskin during one of their glory periods and a daughter of an NFL running back coach, whose running backs are Hall of Famers, I’m supposed to be compassionate and supportive of your situation. I’m trying hard to get there but I have to get past my disappointment first.
Please know that I write this letter to you from a place of understanding. The situation you are, in as an NFL wife, is a special fishbowl. Growing up, I spent an inordinate amount of discussing and watching football as well as attending games. For my family, sports was not recreational, it was the business that allowed my parents to feed, clothe, educate and care for me. Winning or losing resulted in harsh public scrutiny, and then a fast round of packing and a move to another city; but it didn’t seem odd to me as it was the only normal I ever knew. This gave me a false sense that I was prepared to be married to a professional football player but I was very wrong. I found being a wife of a player is significantly different from being the daughter of a coach. As a coach’s daughter, there is a veil of protection that doesn’t exist with a player’s wife. As a player’s wife, nothing stands between you and the front office, coaches, agents, lawyers, financial advisers, media, other players’ wives and the never ending parade of groupies. I think one of the hardest lessons I had to learn during my time as a NFL wife was this: People are gunning for you. And I what I truly didn’t comphrend is that your own husband can gun for you also.
You know what I mean don’t you? Cuz you know Ray was gunning for you even if he had done something that made you push and spit at him. My guess is that it was another woman because I have acted close to the same way when I learned of yet another woman. My guess is Ray has been wanting to vent for a long time so I don’t think that punch was all for you; it may have been because he was racially profiled when he was pulled over for driving a $150,000 Benz, while listening to his agent explain why the Ravens wouldn’t give him $100 million dollar contract like J.J. Watt, or the nagging shoulder injury that he is trying to mask during practice, or the 100th request for money from another distant “cousin”. He wasn’t just pissed at you; life as a professional athlete is stressful and you became an easy target for him to take it out on.
Yet, you chose to stay with him, and in fact, chose to marry him after he cold clocked you. You see why I might be a little disappointed? I wanted you to leave right then because like Rihanna going back to Chris Brown; you sent a dangerous message to young women. Though you may not want to see yourself as a role model, the moment you choose to be with a high profile athlete you became a celebrity and your actions were open to public opinion. Because too whom much is given, much is required. As the ink dried on Ray’s contract, we had 22 million reasons to care about your life.
But I understand that leaving a man you love is hard, particularly when there are children involved. Though I didn’t have children with my ex husband, I agonized for years before I left and it took his becoming physical for me to end it. My ex and I were college sweethearts and since my father had been coaching in the NFL for several years, I was pretty damn good at spotting talent. And there was nothing about him that looked liked pro material as he was too small, had an exciting but not spectacular college career at a small California state school (whose games were rarely aired on TV) and he was a walk on.
Honestly, because he was an undrafted free agent, I didn’t think he would make the team and we already had planned that he would become a social worker after graduation. I naïvely assured him, “Don’t worry because I’m going to make a lot of money.” Boy did things take a turn in training camp after the starting linebacker was hurt and my ex replaced him. The whirlwind became a personal hurricane as he went on to start in three Super Bowls in five years. With this success came the usual perks of a beautiful home, cars, jewelry, furs, travel and aaah the women. The women were bountiful especially in a city like Washington DC with a ratio of 8 women to one man.
Some described me as a mature 24 year old but I felt like a cat on a hot tin roof…if I jump here will he smile? If I jump here will he not fuck some chick when I’m in the next room? If I jump will he talk to me? As time went on I got tired of jumping. But we know in the NFL code that infidelity is not a reason to end a marriage; it’s more of an occupational hazard. Even though I did my best to ignore his antics, he didn’t bother to be discreet. Why should he? The cat keeps jumping.
One night after finding condoms in his wallet (not meant for me), I told him I was relieved he was using protection. He snapped, grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me against the wall of our three story suburban home. As my back slammed against the wall, I knew I was in deep trouble because I was no match for a guy who was 6ft 3in, 225lbs with 5% body fat, and had grown up in the ‘hood’ in Los Angeles. I was 5ft 6in, 125lbs, and had lived a very sheltered upper middle class life in the San Fernando Valley, and never had a physical exchange with anyone. I thought to myself was, “This doesn’t happen to people like me”
When my ex threw me against the second wall, I realized, that when the police arrived they would never believe me, and that we would be on the cover of the sports section of the Washington Post. I tried to fight back but my weak efforts only resulted in small cut on his cheek. Afterwards, he apologized because he never meant to hurt me.
But I didn’t believe him. No different than Ray…I wasn’t the only person he was mad at. He was mad that his career was ending, never making All Pro and he had suitcases full of childhood pain. But that night, at that moment, like you, I was his target.
Did that come to your mind when he hit you? Or have you been watching this all of your life so you thought this is what love looks like? These are the questions that make me soften my view of your decisions, because I don’t know how you got here. Some experts say we have to stop asking why women stay in abusive relationships and replace it with why do men hit women? My thoughts about that will come later in this letter but for now let’s just say, I’m still disappointed with your decision.
Just a year before my incident, I had consoled another player’s wife whose husband had beaten her at her children’s school. She’d smarted off to him and then tried to run. Bless her heart, did she think he became a great defensive end without speed? Anyway he beat her in front of her children but she didn’t want to leave because she loved the money and didn’t want to work. I didn’t feel that way; I wanted a career so losing the money didn’t factor into my decision to pack my things. But if I was really honest, I left because I found that my behavior was mimicking the actions of my mother who is an undiagnosed manic depressant with a little personality disorder to boot. Basically I was raised by a crazy woman and being married to a celebrity triggered my inner crazy (and all this time I thought I was just creative). I had to leave to save my soul.
Don’t you want your soul back? Don’t you want to stop excusing his behavior? Have you planned the speech you will give your daughter when she sees the video? Back in my sports days, there was no internet, no cell phones, no Instagram, no Facebook or TMZ. Yet, reputable outlets like the Washington Post or Sports Illustrated longed for a juicy story but being in a three ring circus didn’t interest me.
I know leaving a man you love isn’t easy and my situation was less complicated than yours because we had no children. With access to a fat checking account and great credit, the physical move to my high rise upper Northwest apartment only required a phone call to the movers. For the sake of keeping appearances, our separation was kept a secret. I am grateful I wasn’t like many women who don’t have the resources to leave their Hell.
Now let’s get to the part that I’m really mad about.
Why are you fussing at us and the media for your downfall? What made you think we wouldn’t find out the whole story? Yes, I wish you hadn’t married that jerk but if you chose to go forth in this charade of sorts dammit …you should have spun it better! Why didn’t you fly to LA, and pay Howard Bragman $25,000 to fool us? Howard Bragman would have made your first press conference look like an episode of Oprah with Ray crying huge crocodile tears while he apologized for his insane, and inhumane behavior. Then you could have announced that you were committed to raising awareness of the fact that domestic violence effects all economic classes. A few months later, you would have been pictured donating a home to help women who don’t have the financial means of getting out. Yet, you and the NFL somehow thought you were immune to this tape getting released. Now Ray is out of work indefinitely, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell might be joining him. This blatant short sideness feels arrogant and assumes that your fans and public will believe anything. Between Jay Z, Solange, and Queen B coupled with Donald Sterling, and the death of Michael Brown, don’t you see social media is exposing the good, the bad and the ugly?
I’m feeling less angry now. Thank you for letting me vent.
Your public incident has raised a lot of opinions about domestic abuse and some say that the question has to change from “Why did she stay?” to “Why did he hit her?” I’m not sure that this is true because the older I get the more I realize how I feel about myself affects everything that happens to me. One of the many important influences which introduced me to the idea of self importance was Pearl Cleage’s Mad at Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth. I read the book long after my divorce when I was working on the film, Sugar Hill in New York. My dear friend, the insideplaya arranged for me to stay with a generous female friend of his, in Harlem while I worked on the film. At a Black book store where the shop owner was surprised by how many books I hadn’t read, she introduced me to Cleage and it changed my life. Cleage talks about how Miles Davis’ openly admits he beat Cicely Tyson and she suggests to women that we stop financially supporting artists who harm women. If we closed our pocketbooks to their albums, movies, paintings…then we could put them out of business. I felt like someone dunked my head in cold water as I had never even conceived of the idea that I had power. I’m not sure if it’s important why a man hits a woman but, I’m sure that it’s important to ask, what will we do about it? Will we stand up and say “Help me please get out of this because I deserve to be treated better!” or will we shrink into silent denial believing that we are unworthy. As mothers, you and I owe it to our children to teach them that they have value.
My son is 9 years-old and he is an athletic stand out in our predominately White area. He often dominates in strength, size and has the uncanny knack to anticipate an opponent’s move. It is both disturbing and rewarding to see the amount of attention showered on him, so my husband and I have made it clear that we expect him to act like a man of honor. Because to whom much is given, much is required. After much contemplation, I showed him the footage that captured when you were hit, and his first question was, “Why did she marry him after he hit her?” Then as his anger grew he insisted, “This is no way for a Black man to act.” I held back tears. He’s right; it was no way for a Black man to act.
So now what will you do? How will you live with your angry frustrated ex player of a husband. Not playing for the rest of the season and possibly never playing again will only elevate his anger and let’s pray you won’t be his target. Until then, I hope you will be safe but as you struggle with this whirlwind of drama, please check out Pearl Cleage as she may help you tap into your courage. Because no woman deserves to be beaten and until we understand that if we don’t close our pocketbooks (and legs) to those who harm us, this cycle will continue.
“Even when I get the fried-chicken special of the day, I have to dig into it like it’s filet mignon,” Viola Davis said. She was speaking not of meals, but of roles. During her 30-year career as an actress, Davis has played a crack-addicted mother (“Antwone Fisher”), the mother of an abducted child (“Prisoners”) and the mother of James Brown (“Get On Up”). Her characters often serve to “hold up the wall” of the narrative, she said, like the empathetic best friend in “Eat, Pray, Love” or the kindly stranger in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Or the kindly mental-institution psychiatrist in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” the kindly rape-treatment counselor in “Trust” or the kindly medium in “Beautiful Creatures.”
“I always got the phone call that said: ‘I have a great project for you. You’re going to be with, hypothetically, Vanessa Redgrave, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening,’ ” she said, sitting in the living room of her San Fernando Valley home, barefoot on the couch in a gray T-shirt and leggings, her hair wrapped under a black turban. “Then I get the script, and I have a role that lasts for a page or two.” – New York Times Magazine correspondent, Amy Wallace hits one out of the park for this Sunday’s edition.