Onaje Allan Gumbs, one of the music industry's most respected and talented musical collaborators, will be honored by The National Jazz Museum in Harlem's Harlem Speaks series on July 26th at 104 East 126th Street at 6:30 p.m. The Harlem-raised artist has worked for more than 30 years with an illustrious list of jazz, R&B and pop artists. In 1974, he created a special arrangement of Stella By Starlight" for the New York Jazz Repertory Company as part of a concert honoring Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall. He followed that with performances on albums by such artists as Woody Shaw (Moontrane), Buster Williams (Pinnacle), Cecil McBee (Mutima) and Betty Carter's eponymously titled recording. In 1975, Gumbs joined forces with trumpeter Nat Adderley and his quintet, contributing to the group's releases on Atlantic and Steeplechase Records.
Nils Winter of Steeplechase, upon hearing Onaje's solo improvisations, invited the young pianist to record a solo piano album entitled Onaje (1976). In 1978, the Woody Shaw Group, which Onaje contributed as pianist and a composer, won the Down Beat Reader's Poll for Jazz Group and for best jazz album, Rosewood. This album was later nominated for a Grammy. In 1985, Onaje lent his keyboard work and arrangement to Lady in My Life" on guitarist Stanley Jordan's enormously successful debut album, Magic Touch on Blue Note Records. This was the 1st jazz album in history to maintain the #1 spot atop Billboard Magazine's jazz charts for more than 47 weeks.
In 1986 Gumbs received the Min-on Art Award" from the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) in recognition of his great contribution to the promotion and development of a new musical movement for people with the aim of the creation of peace..." Previous recipients of this prestigious honor include Tina Turner, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Buster Williams. He received yet another award from the SGI while in Tokyo in 2005 along with Wayne Shorter, Buster Williams, Nestor Torres, Larry Coryell, Shunzo Ono and other professional members of the Arts Division of SGI.
Motivated by his goal for World Peace, Gumbs uses the practice of Nicherin Daishonin's Buddhism as a philosophical, spiritual and technical approach to all of his projects. In addition to the release of That Special Part of Me (1988), Dare to Dream (1991) and Return To Form (2003), he has an independently financed a solo project for the 21st century, Remember Their Innocence (2005), for which he was nominated for a NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Jazz category in 2006. He has been featured twice on NPR's Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland. He composed, arranged and performed the original score for a Showtime film directed by actor/producer Danny Glover entitled Override (1994) and in 1997, he was conductor and arranger for vocalist Cassandra Wilson's concert Travelin' Miles", a tribute to Miles Davis.
His current project, Sack Full of Dreams (2007) features singer, actor, producer, director Obba Babatunde singing the title track. All ten tracks from this critically acclaimed project have been featured on jazz radio stations around the country. Onaje states, Music has a healing force that is immeasurable and I am committed to being a part of that healing process."
The Harlem Speaks series, supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, is produced by the Jazz Museum in Harlem's Directors Loren Schoenberg and Christian McBride, in addition to Greg Thomas, host and co-producer of the web's only jazz news and entertainment television series, Jazz it Up!
This series is free and open to the public.
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem
104 East 126th Street
New York, NY 10035