Music On My Mind: Thanks Dad for the Intro!
By Nathan Wicks
As long as I can remember, black music has always been part of my life. Whether I was casually listening to my favorite bands or singers for entertainment, or just vibing to certain pieces in the company of family and friends, this cultural production has been a mainstay of my life experience. As a youth, I recall my Dad listening to music every evening after a hard day’s work. Soulful tunes could be heard on the radio or played on our record player. James Brown, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Tyrone Davis, Phyllis Hyman, and Aretha Franklin were just a few of my Dad’s favorites whose songs were in constant rotation in our home. As I matured in age and musical tastes, I became more observant and appreciative of the varied rhythms, melodies, arrangements, and other aspects of musicianship employed by bands and singers. It was in my teens that I began to listen to music through a cerebral prism.
At fifteen, my Dad introduced a musical genre that was totally unfamiliar to me, jazz fusion or simply fusion. Fusion is a genre developed in the late 1960s that features jazz harmony, improvisation, rock, soul, and elements of rhythm and blues. I was provided this moment of musical enlightenment via Idris Muhummad’s first solo project “Power of Soul”. Released in 1974, but my first time listening to the album was in 1979. This soulful, serene, and powerful masterpiece still sounds as bold and beautiful as ever and it is still one of my favorite fusion albums released in the 1970s. This LP featured the following legends: Idris Muhummad-drums, Grover Washington-tenor/soprano sax, Bob James-keyboards, Ralph MacDonald-percussion, Randy Brecker-trumpet/flugelhorn, Gary King-bass and Joe Beck rounding it out on the guitar.
My two favorite pieces from the album were “Piece of Mind” written by Bob James and “Loran’s Dance” written by Grover Washington, Jr. Both productions are beautifully performed and they are heavily influenced by their respective writers. “Loran’s Dance” engages the listener with a harmonic exchange between Grover Washington’s masterful tenor work and Bob James’s unmatched keyboard skills. Ralph MacDonald’s contribution on the percussion and Randy Brecker’s performance on the trumpet is something special. And what’s not like about Idris Muhummad’s passionate drumming on this single. After listening to “Power of Soul” in its entirety, I discovered a genre of music that I would enjoy from an aesthetic and a cerebral prism. It was music for reflection and serenity, but it was also cool. I knew that jazz fusion and little later jazz would be two musical styles that I could no longer ignore.
It has been forty-four years since the release of “Power of Soul” and anytime I listen to the album, I still get goosebumps whenever I hear “Loran’s Dance”, or “Piece of Mind”. It’s not difficult to be moved by those masterpieces. Currently, I listen to lots of fusion as well as pure jazz. Fusion artists from the late 1960s through the mid 1970s have always been my favorites. Bobbi Humphrey, Grover Washington,Jr., Roy Ayers, Ralph MacDonald and the Blackbyrds are just a few of the individuals that I treasure. In fact, I listen to much of their music during my morning prep before I see my middle school students. In the world of pure jazz world, the works of Miles Davis, JohnColtrane, Grant Green, and Wes Montgomery, Hank Mobely, and Freddy Hubbard continue to provide instant solace after a rigorous day of teaching my middle schoolers!
I know my Dad does not have the slightest idea about how he influenced my musical tastes, specifically regarding jazz and fusion. Sometimes fathers have no idea about the aesthetic influences they pass on to their children. Sadly enough, their children at times do not acknowledge or show their appreciation for such interests that were largely cultivated by their parents. Though we talk and discuss a myriad of topics, my Dad and I don’t talk about music much, and I don’t know why. This is why I must end this small token of appreciation in this manner:
“Dad, thanks for passing down an ever expanding musical palette and also a big thanks for introducing me to the world of fusion. For this, I am totally in your debt.”. Love You Pop.