Susanne Alt
Susanne Alt

Presenting: Saxify musicians - Fred Wesley

Fred Wesley plays on all "Saxify" tracks except "Susie Saxophone" and "Open Up".  

Since I am mentioning Fred Wesley almost every week, finally here's the essay I try to write about all the musicians on "Saxify".

I know Fred Wesley from the times when he was touring with Maceo Parker together with Pee Wee Ellis and their infectious band in the middle of the 90's. I got to meet him in 2007, he is featured soloist on "On Track" (2009) and "Saxify"(2016). He's a very friendly, openminded and down to earth person, fantastic horn arranger and the funkiest trombone player on this planet.
I discover more and more music every week where Fred has been involved and still is. He has written/arranged/recorded/performed so much; there is endless material everywhere. He's a big influence for me, his oevre keeps impressing and surprising me.

(I think this text below has been published on his website. I copied and saved it a while ago because I think it's accurate. I forgot to save the source. Please fill me in when you know the source of it.)

Who’s Fred?
Legendary bandleader, trombonist and author Fred Wesley is one of the forefathers of funk who still is setting the standard with his jazz-funk band The New JBs. As music director for James Brown and the JBs, arranger for P-Funk and one third of the amazing JB Horns, he secured his place in funk history forever.

Wesley was born the son of a high school teacher and big band leader in Columbus, Georgia, and raised in Mobile, Alabama. As a child he took piano and later trumpet lessons. He played baritone horn and trombone in school, and at around age 12 his father brought a trombone home, whereupon he switched (eventually permanently) to trombone.

During the 1960s and 1970s he was a pivotal member of James Brown's bands, playing on many hit recordings including "Say it Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud," "Mother Popcorn" and co-writing tunes such as "Hot Pants." His slippery riffs and pungent, precise solos, complementing those of saxophonist Maceo Parker, gave Brown's R&B, soul, and funk tunes their instrumental punch. In the 1970s he also served as band leader and musical director of Brown's band the J.B.'s and did much of the composing and arranging for the group. His name was credited on 'Fred Wesley & the J.B.'s' recording of "Doing It to Death," which sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in July 1973. He left Brown's band in 1975 and spent several years playing with George Clinton's various Parliament-Funkadelic projects, even recording a couple of albums as the leader of a spin-off group, The Horny Horns.

Wesley became a force in jazz in 1978 when he joined the Count Basie Orchestra. He released his first jazz album as a leader, "To Someone" in 1988. It was followed by "New Friends" in 1990, "Comme Ci Comme Ca" in 1991, the live album "Swing and Be Funky", and "Amalgamation" in 1994.

In the early 1990s Wesley toured with his colleagues from the James Brown band, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker, as the JB Horns. With the departure of Ellis the band became The Maceo Parker Band. Wesley was featured trombonist with Parker until 1996 when he formed his own band, The Fred Wesley Group, now known as Fred Wesley and the New JBs.

Wesley's 35-year career includes playing with and arranging for a wide variety of other artists including Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Randy Crawford, Vanessa Williams, The SOS Band, Cameo, Van Morrison, Socalled and rappers De La Soul, to name a few. Many other artists have sampled his work.

In 2002 Wesley wrote “Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman”, an autobiography about his life as a sideman. Also in 2002 he recorded an album entitled “Wuda Cuda Shuda”.

Wesley served as an adjunct professor in the Jazz Studies department of the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 2004 to 2006, and now works with students as a visiting artist at numerous other schools including Berklee College of Music and Columbia College of Chicago. In addition to performing with his own band, he is currently touring as part of a collaboration called “Abraham Inc.” along with Klezmer artist David Krakauer and Klezmer/hip-hop artist Socalled.

In 2007, Wesley accepted an invitation to contribute to “Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard)”. He participated with Lenny Kravitz, the Rebirth Brass Band, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker to contribute their version of Domino's "Whole Lotta Lovin'."

In Europe he's nowadays often touring with Generations, a organ trio with Tony Match on drums and Leonardo Corradi (organ), or with The New J.B.'s, always accompanied by his daughter and manager Joya Wesley.

Recording the horns for "Saxify" with trumpet player Gary Winters and Fred Wesley.

Fred's autobiography: Hit me, Fred: Recollections Of A Sideman (Amazon)

One of the best live moments I know of, performing his signature song, captured on video:

on 24/02/2017


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