The Jazz Museum in Harlem
104 East 126th Street
New York, NY 10035
Buster Williams Featured at Harlem Speaks
Buster Williams, Bassist: October 12, 2006
Arlene Talley, Vocalist: October 26, 2006
On October 12th, one of the best bassists in jazz, Buster Williams, will discuss his life and career for the Jazz Museum in Harlem's bi- weekly series Harlem Speaks.
He was born in Camden, NJ in 1942, and learned to play bass from his father, Charles Anthony Cholly" Williams. He would prepare my lessons for me ... It was an unwritten law that I had to play it right. I was going to be the best. I had no choice."
Williams has played, recorded and collaborated with jazz giants such as Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, Chet Baker, Chick Corea, Lee Konitz, Nancy Wilson, Elvin Jones, Miles Davis, the Jazz Crusaders, Sarah Vaughan, Mary Lou Williams, Hank Jones, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Rowles, Cedar Walton, Billy Taylor, Sonny Rollins, Count Basie, Errol Garner, Kenny Barron, Charlie Rouse, Dakota Staton, and Freddie Hubbard.
In the 1980s, he performed with the renowned groups Sphere and The Timeless Allstars, and formed his own group, Something More, in 1990. After working almost continuously for 30 years as a sideman," says Williams, I decided it was time to take the plunge, step up to the front, play my music, and express my concept of a cohesive musical unit. I've served my apprenticeship under many great masters and feel that it's my honor and privilege to carry on the lineage that makes this music such an artistically rich art form."
Vocalist Arlene Talley, a regular performer at Harlem's St. Nick's Pub on Saturdays, is the guest of Harlem Speaks on October 26th. She's been singing since the age of 2, and has performed with Illinois Jacquet, Art Blakey, Max Roach, among many others, including the Isley Brothers at the RKO Palace. She has taken her Harlem style to California, Atlantic City, Virginia, and all over the country.
Tenor saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, known by many music lovers as The Prince of Harlem," was guest at Harlem Speaks on September 28, 2006.
He began by talking about his upbringing in Augusta, GA, where he was born on August 3, 1941, and his mother Mildred's love of Louis Jordan. This was his inspiration for learning the saxophone. He asked his father to buy a horn for him many times, and finally he consented after his mother convinced her husband. He took lessons, played in his high school band, and began backing singer Pearl Reeves in 1959 for his first professional gig. Youngblood soon became hungry to lead on own band.
His very first solo recording, Heartbreak," became a regional hit, and he got a taste of success. He served in the Army for a short time, and returned to Harlem in 1963, where he took over leadership of Curtis Knight's R&B band. The outfit included a talented young guitarist named Jimi Hendrix, one of the most dynamic players I've ever performed with." he said. Early on, I even bought him an amp."
In the late '60s he challenged his idol King Curtis to a sax battle at Small's Paradise.
So, you're the great King Curtis, huh??
Who are you, sucker?"
I'm your replacement," Youngblood declared.
Curtis bested him, and Youngblood returned often for more. They developed a strong friendship, with Curtis even calling him his son," and taking him on gigs.
He also discussed his personal battle with narcotics, and the unending support of his wife Debra-May. I'm a living testimony," he proclaimed. I grew up in the Baptist Church; my mother believed in the power of prayer, and I grew up believing that too. When I hit rock bottom in 1989, I got on my knees, and wouldn't get up until I felt ready to deal with my problem." When he rose up, he said, I told my wife, 'I'm ready'."
With tears streaming down her face, his wife said, I knew in the midst of all that, you'd come out of it."
He came out clean, with a new drive for success and sobriety. Al Howard, the owner of Showman's, hired him, and he began performing annually in Japan, both of which he considers a blessing. He ended the evening with a recitation from his gospel recording, In the Garden, with thanks to God and his mother. He also thanked his Harlem audience: They have shown me so much love over the years."
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 Executive Director, Loren Schoenberg, Co- Director Christian McBride, and Greg Thomas Associates. The series occurs at the offices of the Jazz Museum in Harlem, located at 104 East 126th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues, from 6:30pm- 8:00pm.