Keefe Marzell and Vintage insist that
the music they create have two crucial elements -- a spiritual
connection and a high emotional content.
On their debut album, DRAWN WINDOWS, they play smooth jazz like
it is seldom heard by fusing it with an eclectic mix of various styles
including funk, R&B, hip-hop, fusion and gospel.
“The group is called Vintage,”
explains Marzell, “because underneath the smooth jazz melodies, all of
our music has an old-school funk feel.
Everything we do is groove-based – not just rhythmic, but
groovin’. In addition to that, most of the musicians on the album have
played with contemporary Christian acts and gospel artists as well as in
church, so there is a lot of spirituality in this music.
But no matter what our backgrounds are, we all know that to
really connect with listeners we have to play with emotion.
That’s what makes all the difference.”
For more information on Keefe Marzell
and Vintage, go to www.keefemarzell.com.
Their CD, DRAWN WINDOWS, is distributed by RED/SONY and can be
purchased at record stores nationwide or online at various sales sites
such as amazon.com and cdbaby.com.
DRAWN WINDOWS is Marzell’s vision.
He played drums and keyboards, produced, arranged and engineered
the album along with co-writing most of the material.
Marzell’s background includes playing drums on tours with such
top smooth jazz artists as Bob James, Kirk Whalum and Marion Meadows;
R&B act New Birth; and Christian groups such as Edwin Hawkins,
Commissioned, Donald Vale, and The Clark Sisters.
On DRAWN WINDOWS, Marzell surrounded
himself with top musicians. The
other half of the Vintage rhythm section is bassist Terome “T-Bone”
Hannon (Jewel, The Judds, Amy Grant, The Boys Choir of Harlem), who
played with Marzell regularly for the past two decades (including their
own wild’n’funky R&B group, Raw), but who died of a brain
aneurysm the day after they finished recording DRAWN WINDOWS.
The album ends with a tribute to him, “Goodbye Terome,” a
studio jam featuring his bass playing.
The other core member of Vintage is keyboardist Marcus Abernathy
(The Winans, Tim Bowman, Virtue). In
1996, when Marzell was hired as the musical director to put together a
touring band for the group Commissioned, he brought in Hannon and
Abernathy. During that
two-year tour, the three musicians began writing their own music and
developing the sound that became Vintage.
Also on DRAWN WINDOWS are some of
Detroit’s finest smooth jazz musicians.
Guitarist Tim Bowman (The Winans, Ben Tankard) also played with
Commissioned and is a successful recording artist in his own right, as
are saxophonists Randy Scott (Grover Washington Jr., Ronnie Laws,
Hiroshima) and Norma Jean Bell (Parliament, Narada Michael Walden, Frank
Zappa). Also making
appearances on the recording are keyboardist Kevin Crosby (New Birth,
Alicia Myers, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Dramatics), bassist Jimmy
Ali (George Clinton, Parliament, Funkadelic, Earl Klugh) and bassist
Prince Edward Tate (he and Marzell grew up together and have performed
in their church for many years).
Perhaps the best example of the band’s
sound is the tune appropriately titled “Vintage.” “We were definitely going with an old-school rhythm feel
that mixes P-Funk with a little reggae and then in the middle lays some
Chick Corea-type soloing over the top,” explains Marzell. The CD also contains an extended second version of the tune
subtitled “My Prospective” that features a bass solo. “This tune was inspired by a friend of mine, Wayman Tisdale,
the former NBA star and now a major jazz artist, who often critiqued my
music and encouraged me.”
DRAWN WINDOWS begins with “More Is
Pleasure,” a take-off on co-writer Morris Pleasure’s name.
Pleasure (Janet Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire, Boney James,
Michael McDonald) handed Marzell the basic structure of the tune which
Keefe crafted into a solid smooth jazz production.
Randy Scott penned “Now & Forever” and Keefe brought in
his cousin, Tim Slaughter, to sing on it.
Marzell first learned the old Christian song “Love Thinking of
U” when he was with Commissioned, but here he arranges it as a jazz
instrumental. The title
tune, according to Marzell, “was meant to be an eclectic but melodic
grooving tune with a John Scofield-type of crazy harmony at the ending.”
On “New Jack Swing,” Marzell laid down a melodic drum solo
and then brought in two rappers to match his cross-rhythms with funny
lyrics for “a new take on jazz.” With “Through The Night,” Keefe took an R&B vocal tune
by Norma Jean Bell, who is queen of the house sound in Europe, and
rearranged it into smooth jazz. The
strongly melodic “Enter Slowly” is an attempt to create smooth jazz
with an inherent erotic feeling.
Marzell, who also owns and runs Ultra
Sounds Studio in Detroit, has written and recorded music for numerous
national radio and television advertising campaigns including companies
such as Jeep Cherokee, Dominos Pizza, Plymouth Neon Voyager and Red
Lobster restaurants. He
also engineered recordings for 112, Virtue, Commissioned, Rance Allen
Group, Shelby Brown, Marooned and Dennis Coffey (Jackson Five, The
Temptations, Rare Earth). Working
with Coffey completed a circle for Marzell begun when Keefe started
playing drums at age ten and his father insisted he memorize the entire
rhythm performance of Rare Earth’s epic 20-plus-minutes-hit “Get
Ready.” The next year
Keefe made his first public appearance (at a school talent show) and
performed Coffey’s “Enter The Dragon” along with Kool and the
Gang’s “Jungle Boogie.”
Marzell was born in Chicago and lived
there until he was seven-years-old when his family moved to Detroit.
His father also was a drummer.
Keefe grew up listening to church music first, jazz second (The
Jazz Crusaders, Jimmy Smith) and then R&B/rock (Stevie Wonder, Isaac
Hayes, Santana, Buddy Miles). As Marzell got a little older, he was influenced by George
Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic, Jean-Luc Ponty (“his drummer
Rayford Griffin was one of my early idols”), John McLaughlin and the
Mahavishnu Orchestra with Narada Michael Walden, and Mint Condition.
Several noteworthy occurrences left
their mark on the teenaged Marzell.
When he was 16, he joined a group of older musicians playing all
summer in clubs. “They
taught me to be sensitive to the music and to play dynamically with the
music and not just mindlessly keep the beat.”
But Keefe broke his neck in gymnastics class, had to learn to
walk again and was unable to play music for a year while he recovered.
Eventually he studied piano at the local college before getting
back into drumming. He
became a fulltime professional musician when he toured the United States
for two years with Christian act Donald Vale which led to other touring
After his group Raw was unable to secure
a record deal (“they said we were too wild, too undisciplined, too
funky”), Marzell felt he hit bottom when he was driving a cab for
12-hour shifts. But he
returned to the church, developed his faith and spirituality, “and my
life turned around in dramatic fashion.”
He was hired by jazz act Marion Meadows (Joe Henderson, Eddie
Daniels, Norman Connors) and toured with him for three years (“a very
enjoyable and inspirational time”).
This led to tours with Bob James, Kirk Whalum (Whitney Houston,
Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones), New Birth (who had a big hit in the
Seventies with “Wildflower”) and Commissioned (whose album was
produced by Boys 2 Men). Marzell
regularly plays in front of 4,000 worshipers at the Greater Grace Temple
pentecostal church in Detroit (founded by his late uncle and now headed
by his cousin), and performed (with Marcus Abernathy) on the Greater
Grace Temple Choir’s GRACE-N-PRAISE album.
“Vintage is a loose grouping of great
musicians that came together for this recording and can perform live too,”
Marzell says. “Despite
the fact that we all have played many types of music during our careers,
none of us are specifically singers, so we picked the smooth jazz genre
because it is primarily instrumental music and there is a history of
R&B and funk incorporated into it.
We believe we bring our own particular twist to the whole thing.
We start with a deep groove, and then the songs develop through
spirituality and emotion.”
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