The Hollywood Bowl will host a huge James Brown tribute concert on Aug. 16, featuring alumni from the singer’s bands fronted by vocalists D’Angelo, Aloe Blacc, Angelique Kidjo and Bettye LaVette.
The event was spearheaded by “Get on Up” executive producer Peter Afterman and jazz bassist Christian McBride, according to Billboard.com.
McBride, who worked with Brown in 2006 on a big band concert at the Bowl, assembled the dozen-strong alumni band that includes Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley, Danny Ray, Clyde Stubblefield, Jab’o Starks and Mousey Thompson.
“James Brown was such a singular performer and had a sound that was so his own,” says McBride, 42, who was too busy to consult on the film, which grossed an estimated $14 million in its opening weekend, according to Universal Pictures. “If you get a singer to do a James Brown tribute it can come off dangerously close to Karaoke. I don’t want it to be that.
“As long as we get some good singers who understand the spirit we don’t have to worry about it — the goal is not to sound like James Brown.”
McBride, a bandleader whose early sideman days were spent with Freddie Hubbard, Joshua Redman and Bennie Green, has assembled a band of Brown alumni who, coincidentally, are former jazz and blues players. Ellis worked in jazz before and after his four-plus years with Brown; trombonist Wesley worked with Count Basie in addition to Brown and George Clinton; Clyde Stubblefield has had an active career in jazz since 1970; and drummer Starks was in Bobby “Blue” Bland’s band prior to joining the JBs in 1965 and with B.B. King after leaving in 1975.
Once hooked on funk, though, it’s not always easy to go back to jazz. “No matter how good I play jazz,” says Wesley, 71, “people say let’s hear some of that funk. So I just resign myself to being the greatest funk trombonist out there.”
McBride’s goal with the Hollywood Bowl concert is simple: “I hope people can understand what a singular music vision he had. So completely different from what Ray Charles had, what Sam Cooke had, what different jazz musicians had. His whole concept and outlook was so dramatically different from all of them, but he was a very avid listener. He knew what everybody was doing.”
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