Kashif and friends sam ash eblast

Sam Ash Music is celebrating its 90th anniversary and author/artist/producer Kashif wanted a place to both celebrate Black Music Month and the launch of an IndieGoGo campaign to complete his in-the-works documentary “The History of R&B Music.” So Kashif  held a concert right inside the Sam Ash Music Store on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, California last Wednesday, June 18 and invited a stellar group of friends plus a backup band to Crowd Fund, Educate and Groove!

Here are the lessons learned as I perceived them.

KashifKashif, a dominating force in the `80s, kicked things off himself with two songs. He was among the early R&B songwriter/producers to have a distinct “sound” all his own. He performed his singles “Help Yourself to My Love” and one he calls his all-time favorite to perform live, “Stone Love” – both from his self-titled 1983 debut Lp. Lesson: Only in rare cases can the producer also be the star as well.

Howard Hewett live

Howard Hewett

The first guest up to bat was Howard Hewett who taught us the dual virtues of “Audience Participation.” Cool as a cucumber, he opted not to do a song from his solo catalog but instead the very first hit he sang as a member of Shalamar: 1980’s “The Second Time Around,” a gold-seller that went to #1 on Billboard’s “Top R&B Singles” chart. The dual virtues are that the crowd has a really good time singing along while the artist gets to stay “cool” and not work as hard! Hewett instead teased the ladies with his never-fail falsetto runs and never broke a sweat.

 

Leon Ware live

Leon Ware

Cool could never be better personified than as conveyed by “Sensual Minister” Mr. Leon Ware. Dressed all in black, the slim and trim 74 year-old master sang and played electric piano on a rendition of one of the greatest love songs of all-time from his pen: 1976’s “I Want You,” immortalized by Marvin Gaye. Though a straight 4/4 beat undercut the sensuality of Marvin’s more slippery, sensuous bedroom groove on the original recording, Ware saw fit to prominently feature second keyboardist Fred Smith who gave up The Love.

 

Myracle Holloway1

Myracle Holloway

Kashif next introduced a promising new protégé named Myracle Holloway to sing “You Give Good Love” which, of course, holds the distinction of being Whitney Houston’s very first #1 solo single. Kashif was the producer of that gold-seller (penned by a young woman named La La) that remains among Whitney’s most tastefully soulful songs. Plus it sent Kashif skipping quite happily to the bank. Myracle also sang backup all night which puts her in that timeless up-through- the-ranks trajectory as the great ladies of “20 Feet From Stardom.”

 

 

Though she can also sing backgrounds with the best, Evelyn “Champagne” King ONCE AGAIN proved why she will never EVER have to. This lady is a stoned to the bone PERFORMER who rocked the crowd with one of the most thrilling jams of the evening via her Billboard #1 single “Love Come Down,” droppin’ it like it’s hot and never missing a note! Champagne comes to cork-poppin’ LIFE on a stage! She also proved a humble and generous guest, praising Kashif and reminding all that it was after a cooling off period following her first 1978 hit “Shame” that Kashif helped bring her back – first with “I’m In Love” in `81 then “Love Come Down” in `82. Lesson: never count out REAL TALENT.

Kashif and others

Melba Moore, Kashif, Evelyn King and Howard Hewett

The band had to take a break after all that FI-YA but the show did go on. Reggie & Vincent Calloway took the stage on flute and vocoder, respectively, to share a uniquely rendered duo medley of the hits they wrote and produced for others as well as when they were members of Midnight Star. Those songs were “Cassanova” (Levert – #1 – 1987), “Joy” (Teddy Pendergrass – #1 – 1988), “Love Overboard” (Gladys Knight & The Pips – #1 – 1988) followed by Midnight Star’s “No Parking On the Dance Floor”, “Electricity” and “Freak-a-Zoid” (all from 1983).

Once the band returned we learned the real reason they left which was likely to quickly talk over the next two completely unrehearsed numbers they were going to play behind two true blue Sweethearts of Soul. First up was Deniece Williams who paced herself beautifully through her two-weeks-at-#1 Thom Bell-produced 1982 cover of “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” originally a Top 30 hit by female vocal quartet The Royalettes in the Summer of“65. Lesson: a Real Song can always get a second chance in the hands and vocal cords of a Real Singer. Sweet “Niecy” is turning her attention to a fan-funded, long overdue Christmas album this year whose songs will surely receive the same golden treatment.

Following “Niecy” to the stage was Kathy Sledge, the youngest member of family singing group Sister Sledge who also sang lead on the majority of the group’s hits. As sunnily effervescent and irresistibly adorable as ever, Kathy sang the Summer of `79 anthem “We Are Family” which went to #1 R&B and sat at #2 for two weeks Pop. More importantly, this Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards “CHIC Organization” production has been adopted as a theme for countless gatherings of people in the name of love. Lesson: Great music makes the people come together.

Kashif Kathy Sledge Deniece Williams

Kathy, Kashif and Niecy

Howard Johnson

Howard Johnson

Howard Johnson’s might have been the least recognized name of the evening (unless you had some very special memories in a motor inn), but he THREW DOWN on the other of the night’s most slammin’ highlights with his first and only Top 10 hit, “So Fine,” from 1982. It debuted on Billboard’s “Top R&B Singles” chart exactly 32 years ago to that Wednesday and Johnson with the band tore the roof off the sucka with its melodious and memorable hook. Lesson: Never count out a so-called “one hit wonder”…because the smartest of those artists have spent DECADES perfecting its delivery and will SLAY you with an extended no holds barred rendering with a quickness!

Brenda Lee Eager

Brenda Lee Eager

Ol’ Howard deserved an encore and got it as the duet partner with awe-inspiring survivor Ms. Brenda Lee Eager. Together they sang the duet Brenda made a stirring gold-selling soul classic in 1971 with the great Jerry Butler, “Ain’t Understanding Mellow.” This pair of pros showed the room how a duet is done, singing to and “with” each other, picking up cues, never overshadowing one another, and making each one in the audience feel as though it could be them up there singing “with” someone they love. A+

 

Stage, club and radio star Melba Moore reached all the way back to America’s Bicentennial year of `76 to wail her second Top 20 single, “Lean On Me” – NOT a cover of the Bill Withers classic but a Van McCoy composition that the lady found on the b-side of the Aretha Franklin 45 “Spanish Harlem” from five years before. Pouring her heart and theatrical leanings into the piece, Melba was caught up in the spirit. Lesson: Finders Keepers…

Dawnn Lewis, most recognized as an actress and remembered from TV’s “Cosby Show” spinoff “A Different World,” shocked anyone who wasn’t already knowing that she can REALLY sing with a reverent rendition of “Afro Blue”: originally an instrumental from the mind of the great Cuban conguero Mongo Santamaria with lyrics added later by the one and only Oscar Brown Jr. Dipping deep into her bass register, Ms. Lewis sang and scatted, eliciting an encore that brought Kashif back to the stage in Al Jarreau mode. Lesson: Never judge a book by the cover of the First Edition you happened to read.

Tommy Davidson

Tommy Davidson

In similar fashion, comedian Tommy Davidson showed he has some serious singing chops, too. Tommy flexed his wild senses of humor and mimicry singing and human beat-boxing his way through The Isley Brothers’ 1973 funk-rock smash “That Lady” in the role of Ronald “Mr. Big” Isley – after a pimp glass of yak! His boy Jay Lamont brilliantly joined him in the role of Ernie Isley’s screaming guitar. For good measure, Tommy also did a taste of New Birth’s “It’s Been a Long Time” from the same year, `73.

 

 

Kashif live

Kashif

Host Kashif closed out the show by bringing back “the future” – Ms. Myracle Holloway – to sing his hit re-arrangement of “Love Changes,” a song composed by the late, great Clarence “Skip” Scarborough and made famous in 1978 by the band Mother’s Finest (f/ lead singer Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy) then rerecorded in 1987 by Kashif as a duet with Meli’sa Morgan that peaked at #2 R&B. Sounding even stronger in this performance, Holloway’s is a face and name to remember.

A grand time was had by all. Much respect to Kashif for cultivating warm vibrations of unity and camaraderie among the stars and their ardent followers – and for such the enduring and worthy cause of Black Music History.

“For the record,” Kashif’s crack octet consisted of Musical Director Sandy Stein on keyboards, Chris Cleremont on lead and rhythm guitars, the legendary Reggie McBride (Google him) on bass, L.J. Hollifield on drums, Tre Balfour on percussion, Fred Smith on second keys, and background vocalists Robert Gee and Myracle Holloway.

The event was the kick-off for Kashif’s IndieGoGo campaign to raise additional funds for his production of a 10-part documentary called “The History Of R&B Music and Its Influence On World Cultures”.  He’ll be filming in 18 cities on 4 continents so this is a major undertaking.  The footage so far is amazing and the information first hand, from the people who lived it, is priceless.  

We need to tell our story and Kashif is presenting the opportunity for us to do so in this important film.  Please visit the site and donate whatever you can.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-history-of-r-b-music/x/5169837

– A. Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway3

A. Scott Galloway

A. Scott Galloway is a prolific Los Angeles-based Music Journalist who has been writing about music since 1988 for magazines that include Urban Network, Wax Poetics and the U.K.’s Blues & Soul – interviewing artists from Max Roach to Maxwell. His specialty niche is composing liner note essays for reissues and compilations of classic recordings for which he has written over 300. Those credits include the 25th anniversary Deluxe 2-CD reissue of Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” “The Reel Quincy Jones” compilation of the composer/conductor’s film music, a Deluxe 24-Karat Gold edition of Sly & The Family Stone’s “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” “Stellar Fungk: The Best of Slave and Steve Arrington,” Yvonne Fair’s “The Bitch is Black,” Donny Hathaway’s “Extension of a Man,” and the Average White Band’s entire Atlantic Records catalog on CD. He also produced the anthologies “Petals: The Minnie Riperton Collection,” “Pillow Talk: The Sensuous Sounds of Sylvia” and “The Jesse Johnson Ultimate Collection,” among others. Mr. Galloway is also the Editor of the 2013 Hal Leonard deluxe coffee table book “Down The Rhodes: The Fender Rhodes Story.”

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