Rickey Vincent
. . .
Well, here it is, the definitive take on the life of a jazz musician who
can play The Funk. But not just any jazz musician. Fred Wesley is easily
the greatest trombonist alive today. If you judge him by his definitive
swanging jazz-funk soloing style; his chart-topping recording accom-
plishments; the body of legendary music he has arranged, produced, and
recorded; the depth, breadth, and range of his touring and performing
background; or his pure longevity, Fred Wesley is one of the world’s Mas-
ter Musicians.
While Fred Wesley is a unique and uniquely enduring character in
black music, his life encompasses the struggles and aspirations of gen-
erations of black musicians. What you hold in your hand is the arche-
typal story of every black musician of the past forty years. Yet these forty
years have undergone wave after wave of revolutionary change, from the
rhythmic foundations of funk to the changing racial composition of soul
and jazz to the technological innovations of synthesizers and samplers,
all of which make up the music we live with today—and Fred Wesley was
there in the engine room making that revolution happen.
So much of black music has taken from the Fred Wesley sound. As
bandleader for James Brown for most of 1970–75, Fred was responsible
for some of the greatest funk tracks ever recorded: ‘‘The Payback,’’ ‘‘Papa
Don’t Take No Mess,’’ ‘‘Get on the Good Foot,’’ ‘‘Pass the Peas,’’ and ‘‘Doin’
it to Death,’’ among so many others.
In response to the brilliance of the JBs, in the early 1970s many other
acts—such as Kool & the Gang, Tower of Power, the Average White Band,
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