Have a good time the ‘Sounds of Oakland’ at Berkeley’s Black Rep theater4 min read

Paul Tillman Smith plays drums while wearing a wide-brimmed hat and looking at the camera
Oakland drummer, songwriter and producer Paul Tillman Smith. Courtesy: Paul Tillman Smith

With the California Resort’s neon-lit marquee illuminating a downtown nightscape, the quilt artwork for the brand new album “The Sounds of Oakland” may function a film poster for an early ‘70s city romance or neo-noir thriller. The giveaway, other than the tagline “music from the streets,” is an extended listing detailing the killer solid of R&B expertise — credit that promise a beneficiant serving to of East Bay grease delivered by most of the artists who formulated the world-renowned recipe. 

Introduced by Oakland drummer, songwriter and producer Paul Tillman Smith’s Chump Change Data, “The Sounds of Oakland” isn’t a soundtrack, but it surely was initially impressed by a movie. Smith got down to collect as many foundational East Bay R&B, soul and funk gamers as he may after seeing Cheryl Fabio’s 2017 documentary Evolutionary Blues: West Oakland’s Music Legacy

Tillman seems within the movie together with most of the “Sounds of Oakland” gamers, and just like the doc, his intention was to doc and showcase artists whose work modified the course of American (thus worldwide) music. Noting the close-knit nature of the Oakland music scene, Tillman Smith stated, “it’s like a household album. Really, I considered it as a documentary greater than an album.” Working carefully with arranger and bassist Nelson Braxton, Smith recruited a bevy of vocalists who render his authentic songs with soulful authority, capturing singers equivalent to Niecey Robinson, Lenny Williams, Freddie Hughes, Girl Bianca, Martin Luther, Fred Ross, and Derik Hughes.

A celebration of the challenge’s launch takes place Sunday Oct. 8, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the Black Repertory Group Theater, with KPFA’s Afrikahn Jamal Davis serving as emcee. Introduced by the Bay Space Jazz Society, the occasion is an element live performance, half listening celebration and half dangle and is meant to boost funds “to assist getting old artists who don’t have a pension and, in lots of circumstances, no social safety,” Tillman Smith stated. 

“We’re going to have a 40-minute efficiency within the theater with a five-piece band that includes among the finest musicians. We’ll break for meals and drinks, take heed to a number of tracks from the document, after which play one other set. The primary 20 individuals shopping for tickets for the Black Rep present obtain a free copy of the CD, and 30 p.c of the CD gross sales will go into the fund.”

Among the many artists featured on “Sounds of Oakland” who’re slated to carry out are Larriah Jackson, Niecy Robinson, Rhonda Benin and Derick Hughes, whose lengthy tenure touring with Roberta Flack concluded along with her retirement on account of ALS. Time has taken its toll on the album’s solid, with the passing of artists like Marvin Holmes and Freddie Hughes (the daddy of Derick Hughes). However most of the album’s gamers are shining brightly, like vocalist Lenny Williams, pianist/vocalist Girl Bianca, drummer Larry Vann and guitarist Johnny Talbot, whose seminal funk band De Thangs related West Oakland’s Seventh Road scene with Invoice Graham’s Fillmore empire. 

Smith obtained his begin on Seventh Road, and his contributions to the East Bay’s musical legacy lengthen far past the studio. He’s mentored among the most phenomenal younger artists to emerge from the area, like H.E.R. (aka Gabriella Wilson), and was the founding music director of the Berkeley Juneteenth celebration, a place he held greater than twenty years. 

He’s spent virtually his complete profession right here, apart from a short stint in New York Metropolis within the late Sixties when he was a part of the roiling avant-garde jazz scene (“and ravenous,” he stated). It wasn’t lengthy earlier than he was again in Oakland, although he’d made a lifelong pal of his roommate, the prolific drummer and composer Norman Connors. 

“Norman produced the Lenny Williams tune, ‘Invisible Man,’” Tillman Smith stated. “This challenge was all about making an attempt to do one thing particular for Oakland. We’ve by no means had the producers or labels right here to advertise these incredible artists, however I’m doing one of the best I can.” 

Sunday Oct. 8, 5-9 p.m. Black Repertory Group Theater. $25 (tickets solely bought on the door)

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