Archive for the LEROY BURGESS Category

LEROY BURGESS ( redbull academy interview pt. 3 )

Posted in Boogie, Interviews, LEROY BURGESS on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

RBMA: »Now, you were talking about that song yesterday and you were actually talking about Sonny, who composed the lyrics to the song. I would like to talk to you a little bit about the lyrics and what was unique about that record and what he pulled out of that?«

Leroy Burgess: »I lost my cousin, unfortunately, in 2001 he passed away. But when Sonny was with me, he was just this huge creative mind. He could do stuff with lyrics that I just come with: ‘Ok?!’ When he created the hook to ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’, ‘Get over like a fat rat, piece in a pie, bugs in a row, we never stop, we get over like a fat rat, snugged as hug in your arms.’ Who would think of that? But it works so well. It’s amazing. The lord has presented me with an amazing gift in my cousin Sonny that we would share music together. He was just able to come up with amazing stuff. Like ‘Get Loose’, the first tune that I played. He just came up with those lyrics out of the top. And I’m like: ‘Wow, some kind of voodoo genius.’ It was very cool and he ended up writing a lot of stuff with me. And that’s him playing drums. James Calloway on bass and me on keyboards. And as you could hear as I was describing that particular type of rhythm section in “Let’s Do It’, you can hear the style of the musicians on it. So, we were starting to develop an identity for the group.«

RBMA: »Now, writing songs. So many of these songs are romance based, basically, right?«

Leroy Burgess: »Is this my water?«

RBMA: »Yes, it is.«

Leroy Burgess: »Oh, cool. (takes the cup and sits down on the couch)«

RBMA: »…romantic songs in a way. Was your background like in the sweet soul thing, were all of the songs… had it anything to do with it?«

Leroy Burgess: »Oh, now. (snide movement of the hand) In the case of ‘Fat Rat’, he was writing that for his sisters and my sisters and stuff like that.«

RBMA: »Explain, what that song means for some of the people who aren’t English sufficient.«
Leroy Burgess: »’Over Like A Fat Rat’ was a song we wrote because a couple of our sisters were coming up about how the guys were pressing up on them. By that I mean, they were a little too: ‘ Wanna meet you, baby…’ and so forth and so on. And even guys that they liked, they were: ‘Damn, could they get off of me for a minute?’ You know? Back up!

And you know, if you back up a little, there is the chance that it works out anyway. When they explained that dynamic to Sonny and I, I was like: ‘Yeah.’ I mean, as a man, I like pressing up, but we had to see it from their viewpoint. And so we wrote a song about it. The lyrics were: ‘I see you trying to take advantage of a sweet girl like me. I know that if you had the chance to, I’d never be free. But while I am waiting and have reservations and they constantly talk to my mind, inside a voice says this relationship could be heavier for me.’ So, it’s a deep thing. Something the ladies really can honestly feel. «

RBMA: »Conflict.«

Leroy Burgess: »Yeah, exactly. And the thing is, it’s written by three guys. We had to kind of really get into your head, in order to make that work. ‘Weekend’ on the other hand, is all about: ‘I’m tired of this. You know, he is really doing me no justice here. And now so as you go out with your friends every week or whatever, I’m gonna go out and have a night of my own! Me and the girls. And you better hope, it’s just me and the girls because it might be a dude or two in there!’«
(audience laughing)

This is how my sisters and them felt. And I love them. It touched me, even as a man, it touched me. And I was like, ok, I had to write something about that, you know? ‘Tonight’s the night, the time is right, I’m gonna find a friend…’ You know, what I’m sayin’? If nothing else, it shakes up the relationship. It makes the relationship become a lie! ‘Cause a guy’s like: ‘Did she cheat on me?’ and she’s like: ‘Yes, I did! Goodbye.’ Slam (imitates slamming a door).«
(audience laughing)

»So, we try to keep the lyrics real. So the people who hear it and their story is somewhere in there. Their story, your story, her story, your story is in the lyrics somewhere. And you’re like: ‘Damn!’ Do you all know what I mean by ‘barely breaking even’? Ok. We decided to write a song about it, right? And I wanted the lyrics…I did a lot of these lyrics myself because I thought of that concept, but Sonny helped me a great deal.

I wanted the song to be about…(stands up and walks around) I was like: ‘Ok, I’m a successful musician! I mean reasonably successful. I’ve got gigs coming along, I’m working, you all know what I mean. I’m working and everything is pretty cool. But with the working and the limited success that I have, I’m still having trouble making an end to meet. So, I decided to write a song about it. And it’s basically about the struggle of surviving everyday. Know what I mean? It goes like this.«
(music Universal Robot Band ‘Barely Breaking Even’)

»It’s got a bit of an intro on it. (sits down to the keyboard) Turn it up. That’s James Calloway and Sonny. James on bass and Sonny on drums. You gonna move a little forward into the lyric part. So, you see I settled the groove, alright? We gonna go just a little bit forward. A couple of minutes, half a…I don’t know. Forward! (lyrics already in full bloom) Put it back.

Right there! (sings the lyrics and stands up) ’Just got my paycheck, I’m on my way home, the […] on it, is nearly gone, but I try to make every catch, just don’t wanna meet, I can’t complain, but somewhere I’m getting’ beat, now maybe it’s the system, maybe it’s the cost of livin’, but every single weekend, I never know where the money goes, still I’m always givin’, just barely breakin’ even, I got to get some for myself, just breakin’ even schemin’, I got to get some for myself. I’m not a poor boy and I work everyday, somehow my cash flow slipped all away, but I just try to make it into another day and as long as the lord is with me, I find a way, maybe it’s recession or the stocks that rise and tumble, still there is the question of the bills I pay, that are always stay…..till I’m down and under and I’m just barely breaking even.’ See what I mean? Anybody relate to this lyrically? Anybody? Put your hands up! Anybody know what I’m talking about? That money is hard to get! «
(applause)

»Thank you! (Leroy sits down)«

RBMA: »You said, you described yourself at that time as reasonably successful. So, was it frustrating then to have these different groups, phantom groups, studio groups, but being not the most prominent name out there? Lacking, as they say, the synergy of all the different elements to forward your career?«

Leroy Burgess: »I don’t know. It didn’t really hit me then. Again, the important thing to me was that the music was gettin’ out there. People were hearing it and people were relating to it. Much as you guys are relating to it now. Like I said, I mean there was a time in my life, honestly, that I paid attention to the persona person. The Leroy Burgess quote unquote. And when I did that, I found that the music, the importance of the music would slip. Because I’m thinking: ‘Oh, I’m fabulous. Yes, everyone, I’m Mister…’ You know? And I find that when I’m so concentrated on myself, the music is suffering.

‘Everything that I write is going to be fabulous, you know? I can do no wrong.’ But you write your best music, when you’re not thinking about yourself. When you’re hungry and when you just let the music flow into you. So, for that reason, I mean in hindsight in my current age, had I had better publicity, better lawyers, better so forth and so on, I’d be in a very different place perhaps. But the place that I’m in, is very cool. I’ve got a world of people who are listening. I got all you guys, who are here today, just listening to what I have to say.

That didn’t have to happen! So again, you guys are here, maybe a little bit of me, but because of the music. What I have done, what I have managed to present to you guys and what you guys are inspired by. So, that’s what’s important to me. I mean, yeah, barely breaking even. Money is great. Money is this and that. But money is not everything. Money is like…sometimes money can be a complete diversion of the way you really feel. It can make you…it can alienate you to how you feel because you only care about that. Alright?

These days I say, you know, as long as the lord takes care of me, I need very simple things. Just take care of me and let me continue to do my music and I’ll be alright. As long as I’m eating, I’m okay. That’s the best answer I have for that question. Yeah, I could have been the fantastic Leroy Burgess, but I’m just Leroy.«

RBMA: »How did you feel, you know, when the 80’s get on…we heard that ‘Get Loose’ had more of an Electro-type of production style to it because of the technology and changes. How did you feel about the era later in the eighties, when Hip Hop became much more of a force? People might recognize that ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’s bassline is in ‘Eric B Is President’, which was a huge record in 1986. If you look at your anthologies, there are fewer records from that time into the 90’s. What was going on in your life at that time?«

Leroy Burgess: »I had stepped away from music for a second because Hip Hop was such a phenomenon and I didn’t understand it. I honestly did not get Hip Hop! I was smart enough to say to myself: ‘Let me step back for a second and watch this evolution happen and study it as it goes along to see if I can incorporate it at some point later on.’ That was most of the 90’s, actually. Do you understand? During the late eighties and early 90’s, my last couple of things came out from that era of the late 80’s and then I sat back for five and six years and watched Hip Hop evolve. And Hip Hop is a very cool thing. It’s another form of expression. It’s a form of expression that people can…just average anybodies can put together and make a record good and can make a record work. And make a statement. That’s important, man. Make a statement with it.«

RBMA: »So to say a music of the people in a way.«

Leroy Burgess: »It’s the music of the people and it’s music that people can relate to that’s not karaoke! Ok? And it gives them a voice. I mean, not everybody can sing. Right? Not everybody can sing, not everybody can play, but you want to be able to express yourself in a musical form somehow. And that is part of where Hip Hop lives.«

RBMA: »How did you feel, when you heard ‘Eric B Is President’ using the bassline from one of your records?«

Leroy Burgess: »It was an honor ‘cause he picked my bassline out of the millions that exist that could be picked. He could’ve picked ‘Good Times’ or he could’ve picked something by Sylvester or anything else. And he picked mine. So I’m honored by that. I think it’s a compliment. I think, it’s a great thing that someone is influenced by you. I allow myself to be influenced by the music that I hear, the music that I listen to. When someone is influenced by the music that you create, [it] makes you feel good. So, it’s cool! You know, I would like more people to do it. The last one who did it was Nas. On Nas new album ‘God’s Son’ he did a track called ‘Revolutionary Warfare’ that uses an old Black Ivory track from way back in the 70’s.«

Leroy Burgess: »They sampled ‘I Keep Asking You Questions’. That was the flip side of ‘Don’t Turn Around’. And they put it on his ‘Criminology’ record. So, I’m honored that people would choose my music for later records. You make money off the initial release and that is the end of it. But then, young people like yourselves might be inspired by it, use it and sample it and then, boom, you’re touching a whole other audience. You understand? And you’re allowing somebody to express themselves with something that you did. So, that’s always a prideful thing and something that feels good and a huge blessing.«

RBMA: »I want you to talk a little bit about the more recent collaborations or things that you have done that you want to talk about.«

Leroy Burgess: »Sitting in the corner is one of your lecturers. (stands up and goes to the piano) That’s him right there.«
(applause)

»He is one of the people, I have been really, really fortunate to work with. His name is Phillipe Zdar. If you would stand and say hello to everybody? Most of the guys have seen the schedules and you know that Phillipe Zdar is one of the members of Cassius. And back in 2000, Philippe came to my house, my house in Harlem. Him and Hubert Blanc? Is it Blank?«
(Philippe tells the right pronunciation)

»I guessed so. Him and Hubert came to my house and we sat down and started banging out these songs that are on their current release, their new album called ’Au Reve’, right? And so I had the real pleasure of working with him. That just came out a couple of years ago. So, it’s one of the newest things. There is a new record out with myself and Belita Woods. Have you all heard of the group Brainstorm? Yeah? Belita Woods was the lead vocalist of Brainstorm and I had the extreme pleasure of collaborating with her on a song called ’Best Of Me’ that came out in 2003. And (laughs) there is a new record out, I worked on with a gentleman named Chez Damier. He is a big DJ from the Detroit/Chicago area. That’s just been released. What is it called? ‘You Been Lifting Me ?

RBMA: » ‘Your Love’.«

Leroy Burgess: »It’s another ‘Your Love’. My second ‘Your Love’. Those are the most recent releases. In addition to that, I am currently working on the first new album by my original group Black Ivory

RBMA: »That’s with the original members you worked with?«

Leroy Burgess: »Right, it’s with Stewart and Russell and myself. So, it’s the original group and we will be releasing that hopefully in the forth-coming year 2005. I’m very pleased about that and very happy. Working with them again is kind of cool.«

RBMA: »I would like to open it up. If anybody has any questions?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yeah, have you guys got any questions at all?«

Participant: »You said something to the effect earlier that you’re humble and happy as an artist. But I just have to tell you, man, and I’m sure that I’m speaking for a lot of people here, I grew up listening to your music. I grew up watching my uncles play your music. And it’s one of the few things, that type of music, your words helped me, inspired me to become a DJ. And sitting here is an honor man. So thank you very much!«

Leroy Burgess: »Thank you very much. It’s very much a mutual honor for me. Who would’ve thought that I would be sitting here, helping the next generation out so well appreciated? I’m so thankful that I have you guys. So why don’t you guys give yourself a round of applause ‘cause that’s real!«

(applause)

»I mean honestly, I’m going to listen to your guys’ music over the next coming years or something. You guys are the guys who will be making the statements. That’s cool! Does anybody else have a question? Oh, hi!.«

Participant: »In the heyday of things like Pro Tools and sequencers and things, it’s pretty easy to do a vocal take and then just keep doing it and doing it and then kind of run down what you need. When you were with a band like Black Ivory, you said you’d been doing vocals and trying to find the right ones. When you are recording a melody do you do it the traditional way or do you also bring in the technology element into it?«

Leroy Burgess: »Well, I incorporate the technology a little. I mean, it’s there and I don’t work with Pro Tools, I work with Digital Performer. But it’s the same thing, you know? So, you have the capability to do five takes of one lead vocal and then pick the best one. And that’s a good thing. But usually, what ends up happening is, you got it on the first or the second take that you did. Just like back in the days, when you went into the studio and had five different tracks you could do. (stands up) You could only sing it once or twice and the engineer is like: ‘Oh man, when does this guy get out of here?’

So, you had to try to get it right on the first takes. I still live in that dynamic. That’s kind of why I get it quickly ‘cause I’ve been thinking about it long before I sing it. I am working on it up here (points to his head) and it just comes of that dynamic. The other side of that dynamic is, you are aware of that technology, so you know, you can do a thousand takes until you get it and you can just keep on tweaking it and keep playing with it and so forth until you get it. That’s like…to me that’s not real music. To me it’s like, get in there, get your hands dirty. For rea!! Don’t rely on the technology.

Technology is cool, but what you are creating here is art! That’s what music really is. It’s not technology, it’s art! I mean, if it’s just moving this little and that and deleting this and stretching that and pitch shifting this and that, who is really doing the art? Ok? So, you have to keep a perspective on that and balance it, alright? As I said earlier, I suggest to any of you who are in this seriously and I think all of you are, right? Learn an instrument! Learn how to play that little keyboard for real. Learn how to do a skeleton. It can’t hurt! And it can give you a little bit more insight into the real art that you’re creating.

Nothing makes me feel so good as to get behind an instrument. (sits down on the keyboard) My instrument is keyboard, right? Just get behind it and just…(starts playing) That just came out of my head. And my hands are on the board and I realize it. If this was a normal acoustic piano, you would hear the same thing. You understand? And it’s not lying. I haven’t turned on a computer yet. I haven’t sequenced a thing. But my vision, my idea of how I feel at that moment is now right here.

There’s nothing like that. There’s nothing like realizing your idea from your own hands, alright? And technology is good and it’s cool, use it as much as you need to, but add you to it! Put you in it! Don’t be afraid to do that, alright? Because if you don’t, it’s just technology. It’s not art at all! That’s what everybody, everywhere can do. Put you in it! Put your hands on something and put your voice to something. It’s important, I think.«

RBMA: »Any more questions?«

Leroy Burgess: »I knew, you had one!«

Participant: »I just like to discuss your composition and you talked about tension. I liked that theory. With not getting too technical with the terms, but how do you relate to what you consider a bridge? Can you just talk a little about your concept, how you like to place your parts and how you like to build the tension? Maybe you just let it burst break out open into a break and how that relates for you?«

Leroy Burgess: »Sure, I’d be happy to talk about that. The word that you used ‘bridge’, you guys are familiar with that use in song composition? Verse, chorus? Most songs have verses and choruses, right? Just as a standing form. And then, what’s been disappearing from music, is the ‘bridge’ or the ‘turn-around’, you understand? And bridges, creating bridges is a tension-builder. It creates tension. So that you know, when you release that tension, the audience goes (raises his hands in the air and starts to cheer), you know what I’m saying?

I wrote a song called ‘I Know You Will’. (plays the melody) Now that’s a groove that we stayed on for a long time, alright? This was the main groove of the record, but both the verse and the chorus was in this groove. So, without a tension-builder or a bridge inside of it, that’s all you got! The song is going to go like that on and on and on and on, alright? That doesn’t make sense to me! So, you have to build in a tension. You have to build a section that increases and builds tension up, so that the audience anticipates and let it go. So, what I did was, (repeats the melody), did you all feel how that section made you listen and wait for the tension break? Play ‘I Know You Will’ for them.«
(music Logg ‘I Know You Will’)

Leroy Burgess: »This was mixed by the great DJ Larry Levan.«
(Leroy sings along and points out bridge and tension)

Leroy Burgess: »That’s what I’m talkin’ about, tension!«
(audience cheers and applauds)

Leroy Burgess: »Next question! Oh, this is another one I knew who would have a question.«

Participant: »I think most of us have a sense of how shady the record business is.«

Leroy Burgess: »Aha. Shacky?«

Participant: »Shady.«

Leroy Burgess: »Shady? Aha!«

Participant: »Now, just artists getting’ jerked, people never getting paid for, publishing without getting’ royalties…«

Leroy Burgess: »Ah!«

Participant: »Now, you’ve been in the game for a minute. You have seen the small New York indie labels that were putting your stuff out, and sort of how the entire music industry has been condensed down to five major labels who control everything.«

Leroy Burgess: »Riiight!«

Participant: »Control the music production, control the means of distribution and control the means of promotion and marketing. What’s your take on it? What do you think about it, as someone who has made a career as a songwriter? What’s your take on sort of the status of the industry? Besides all of that, the fact that most American artists, Pop artists, R&B and Hip Hop are just a façade for the sort of writing machine that goes on in the background. From the producers to the singers. I mean, what do we do in the face of that lie? How do we sort of keep movin’ forward or just deal with that?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yeah, I understand. I understand, where you are coming from. The machine, as I called it. You remember? Philippe, you remember when we had a conversation about this in Paris? The machine versus the actual creative person, you know? You against the corporate market. You understand? It’s a tough place, man, it really is. (stands up and walks around) It’s hard to write music and to be forced into writing it. ‘I need just to sound more like Puffy…’ or ‘ I need just to start to sound more like this’.

And you can’t be you, you got to be what the market tells you to be. And then, and then (laughs) once you do that, they still rip you off. They still beat you. They make you chase them, they make you search it all over. Try to get your money, the money that you’ve earned. My thing is: Do you. Be you first. Take it there and don’t let them change you. Rightfully? Take YOU there and tell them: This is you. This is, what it’s going to be. And if they say no, keep taking it. And if everybody says no, start your own damn company!«
(applause)

»Because that’s how Puffy, that’s how… you know, when I couldn’t rely on the majors, I went to the minors. Because they would look out for you. And you’re right about to have to chase them, too. Because after a minute, even the minor record company starts to get a little major when it comes to that bank account and that dough. You understand? And nobody wants to give you the dough, no matter what you say. (laughs) Nothing, no matter what. But the truth of the matter is, depending on the place you were in while in the creative process, you deserve it. You earned it. You all know that today you’re earning the royalties for the future. You understand? That’s what y’all are doing here.

Talking, learning. You understand? When that translates into the work, the records, the work that you’re going to do to make those records, alright? You are supposed to get yours. Right? And if you have to collaborate with any company, large, small, indifferent, right? What you do upfront is, get your lawyers, get your people, talk to your friends. Get yourself represented by people you can afford, but represent yourself. You know what I’m sayin’? Make sure that when somebody says (stands up): ‘Here is the contract, sweetie. Here is the contract, take this, read it. I love your stuff. Please sign it’ and so forth. Don’t sign your life away! Know what you’re reading!

And if you’re not happy with it, don’t sign it. Tell them: ‘this got to change.’ Or: ‘That has to change.’ Don’t be afraid of that. Because, trust me, you’ve said it (points to RBMA interviewer), you’ve said it (points to participant). I have been in this long enough to have been ripped off a lot. Ok? To have been ripped off a lot! Ok? And all of these records that come out, right? You don’t automatically know about them, alright? I mean, there is a record coming out right now that’s been using my beat that they not want to tell me about, unless I find them. Do you all understand, what I mean by that? Do you all know what I am talking about? Unless you find that little company on the side, they ain’t going to pay you. (laughs) Now that’s ironic a little bit, but if your stuff is out there, at first get that happening.

If and when you find these companies, make them pay you. Say: ‘That’s mine.’ Get yours the way you’re supposed to do it. But you are dealing with a market play that has been existing for years and years. And their thing is to rip you. I mean, if you don’t ask them about it, they ain’t going to tell you, alright? They ain’t going to say: ‘We got to pay you this and we will be completely honest with you and get you everything.’ They’re not going to say that. They got to let you tell what do you want, what do you need? And when you undersell yourself, they’ll pay then. Because that means, they’re keeping the rest of the money. You understand what I mean? So, it’s all about you.

The more you know, alright? So, my recommendation is this: When you are fortunate enough to be up against a contract or see a contract – get a lawyer. And talk to your lawyer and make sure, your lawyer is not talking over your head. Say: ‘I don’t understand this and I need for you to tell me what it means, so I do understand. That’s what I’m paying you for. That’s why you get 10-15% percent of whatever this money going to be. I’m paying you, so that I understand, So that I’m signing the right thing.’

Don’t be afraid to ask anybody anything. Go straight up to the company and the president of the company or whomever you are talking’ to and say: ‘ No, this is not happening for me. We need to reshape, rework, negotiate this, so that I’m happy. And when I am, we got a record. We can put it out.’ Don’t be compelled to just drop everything because that’s how they get you. That’s how they get you. ‘These little hungry artist want to come out with everything and if we throw any money at them, they going to jump at the chance.’ It’s money, we are all hungry, right? ‘So, here’s 10.000 dollars. Do me five records.’

What’s wrong with that? Five records? 10.000 dollars is not enough, ok? You understand? You’re being ripped off. It’s happening too fast. Slow it down. Let me say this about that. It’s all about what you guys say. All about what you guys do. Each one of you got a mind. And there are some pretty boggling minds I am looking at, right here. For real, alright? Hold up you’re end. You’ve done the music. Make the background work. Get everything happening. Make sure you get your money. Don’t be afraid to ask for it because they start out, they come out ripping you off. You understand? Ok? Hope that was helpful.«

Leroy Burgess: »Anybody else?«

RBMA: »Anybody else with a question for Leroy?«

Leroy Burgess: »Anybody else? We cool?«

RBMA: »Torsten, you got a question?«

Leroy Burgess: »Let’s get him the mic.«

RBMA: »You are talking a lot about collaboration and you mention a lot of great names there. Like vocalists like Fonda Rae or producers like Patrick Adams. Now, just because someone’s got a good name, doesn’t necessarily mean that you get along well. But for whatever reason you want to make that thing happen and there is something in that person, you know, you want this thing get going, make this music. How did you learn to cope with some personal differences or whatever in such a creative, professional situation?«

Leroy Burgess: »The old ego thing. The old ego question. That’s what it boils to. Everybody’s got a ego. We all carry it with us, you know? Patrick had an ego, Fonda had an ego, I’ve got an ego, you know what I’m sayin’? You have to leave some of that at the door, if you want to succeed creatively. Do you all remember when Quincy Jones did ’We Are the World’? ‘USA for Africa’ and all the different artists that came in? There you’ve got Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

They’re all walking through the door. They’re all fabulous. ‘I’m fabulous. Oh, here I am. La, la, la. Oh no, this is not right, it has to be, I need this and I need that…’ You’ve got fifty artists in this room all going: ‘Ah, I’m fabulous, do me. ’ No work will ever get done. Quincy puts up a sign. Big as hell: ‘Leave your egos at the door.’ Ok? When you drop that, than it’s like: We just people and we can kick it together. And we can work together and we can do a track together or we can sing together or do whatever together.

Because it’s not like I’m thinking: ‘I’m Mr. Fabulous, mind my way. Thank you everyone.’ I’m just thinking: ‘I’m Michael Jackson and I’m working with Lionel, I’m working with Dionne. Everyone is just straight up. There are not ‘Dionne Waaaarwick’, they’re just Dionne Warwick, you know? When it comes down to it and you drop that ego and you drop that façade that’s when working and collaborating becomes easy. When we all drop our façades. You understand? Hope that was helpful. What else you got for me?«

RBMA: »Anybody else?«

Leroy Burgess: »You always got…give him the mic, give him the mic.«

RBMA: »I can see it in your eyes, when you talk about your family and people that may not be in direct relation to you as family. And I think it’s important like even right now we’re developing a new family. Maybe you could just elaborate on how important it is to you to kind of create, whether it’s Paris or New York or Germany or whatnot, but how important it is to really create those connections with artists, you want to work with and open new doors with?«

Leroy Burgess: »That’s very, very eloquent, very, very well put. You know what you’re real family is outside of what we consider our immediate family? The family of man. The family of mankind. I’m as much your brother and your brother and your brother as you all are my brothers and sisters. Realizing that gets me over a lot of humps. Alright? It makes it easy for me to talk to you guys.

No matter, where you come from. No matter, what language you speak. No matter, what color or whatever. You know, if I start looking at it like these are my brothers and sisters right here, and my aunts and uncles and whatever, you know what I’m sayin’? That makes it easy for me. And I want it easy ‘cause I want to talk to you. You understand? I need to talk to y’all. I need to feel y’all and what y’all sayin’. You understand? It needs to be a part of me and the only way for me to open up.

Leave that ego and, slash, prejudices at the door. You understand? Because, in order for anything to move, communication’ got to be there. We got to be able to talk to each other. We got to be able to sit in the same room and have a drink and have some food and smoke a joint.«
(laughter)

»You know, we got to be able to do that without takin’ each others heads off all the fuckin’ time. You know? Without harboring: ‘Oh, this motherfucker…’ That back in the mind animosity. When we throw all of that away, get let go of all of that, we become a family of man, you understand? And when you’re in a family, you want to be able to talk to your brother and your sister and you want them to talk back to you and feel you. You understand? So, yeah, that’s how we go about that. Just drop all the façade and say: ‘You know what? Just being here is cool. Just being here is everything.’

You know? Just feelin’ you like you feelin’ me. You know what I’m sayin’? That’s what makes it real. I mean, just look around. Everybody look around in the room for a second. Look at the different faces. No, there, take a look. Take a look! A lot of people, y’all don’t know, right? Y’all don’t know each other, right? What makes this cool? Because we’re all human.

We’re all human, we’re all musicians and we have found a thing that brings us all together as opposed to the things that tear us apart and keep us apart from each other. And that’s why we’re here. When we keep that dynamic in our lives that’s when the most movement happens. That’s when we do the most – we are the most. Feel me? Ok now, are you done?«

RBMA: »I’m done. I think that’s the last word unless someone else has got a question?«

Leroy Burgess: »Enough talkin’ for now and stuff like that.. I think, it would be kind of cool, if we all kind of crowded into that studio and see what kind of music we could come up with. Just real quick. What do you all think?«
(applause)

»Before we do that, I just want to say to each and every one of you, to the people that brought me out here. The red Bull Music Academy, all you guys. This is one of the moments in my life that I will with me forever, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m going to remember this and I want to remember this and how you guys are just cool and we had this moment together. I want to…I want…this is one of the bright moments. And I don’t ever want to forget and I want to thank you guys. One for having me here and two for sharing everything. That’s real. For sharing because that’s where (stands up)…my music comes from anywhere and from touching the world and from touching you guys. So, I want to thank you all. (applauds) «

click below to listen

LOGG – I Know You Will

LEROY BURGESS ( redbull academy interview pt. 2)

Posted in Boogie, Interviews, LEROY BURGESS on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

RBMA: »What year was that around?.«

Leroy Burgess: »I left the group in 1977. My contract with Buddah Records was up and we had been together for seven years. I said, ok, time for me to move on. Like I said, I wanted to bop the music a little bit – pick it up. At the time, the bass player of Black Ivory was a very close friend. I called him like my brother. His name is James Calloway. He is a real good bass player. He was playing bass with the group for years. We left together. I left and he left the group as their bass player. We started writing songs, alright? A year and a half went by. We starved. We were like: ‘Oh my god, what’s gonna happen? This is so not happenin’. But we were still writing. We were still trying to come up with stuff and then one moment I got up and did this…«
(plays the chords to “Weekend” on his keyboard)
»James heard me playing it and said: ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop.’ It was like five in the morning, ok? He gets up, he gets his bass and he starts putting a bass line to it. Basically, this became the song ‘Weekend’. Play a little piece of that.«

(music Phreek ‘Weekend’)

»And I show you how the structure is. Come on, crank it up a little bit. Come on, come on.
(plays on the keyboard again.)

»It’s real simple, you know?.«
(imitates the bass line)

»So now, you are setting up that groove again, you go…«

(starts playing the keyboard again)

»It’s easier than you think. The groove is in you, that’s why everybody’s here. Everybody here, every single one of y’all is here because the groove has touched y’all in some way. Music has hit y’all. Probably knocked on your ass, like it did me. You are here to find out more about it, learn more about it. So in your creative period, in your creative structure, you can start to do it. A groove like this is…it sounds nice and it is cool, it really is. But it’s just how we were feeling that day. What was up in that day? We were sick of it, we’d be like: ‘This is the last song I’m ever gonna write.’ And then it becomes this song and ‘boom’, there goes your whole career. It comes from the heart, how you feel.«

RBMA: »What was the artist of that song?.«

Leroy Burgess: »Initially, the group was a studio group called Phreek. Studio groups are pretty much non-existant groups. They are just singers, artists, musicians that a certain producer calls together and makes an album with them. At that time, it was the same producer I had worked with Black Ivory with, Patrick Adams. He had these three girls: Christine Wiltshire, Gena Hatt and Crystal Davis. At least, I think that’s the three of them. They worked on a lot of stuff. Anyway, he had these three girls and said: ‘Put ‘em together, put the song together.’ He had already done most of the album when he heard ‘Weekend’. He loved that song and that’s how it happened. Again, I am going back to Patrick Adams

RBMA: »That track was actually remade again.«

Leroy Burgess: »See now, this is funny. Sometimes, you’re working with an engineer and the engineer on the session, this guy named Bob Blank who had a studio called Blank Tapes, right? When we did the Phreek session, he was the engineer. Years later, after Phreek came out and it was a big hit and all that, he said: ‘If I put this out and produce it, I maybe can get some more money out of this record.’

What he did was, he called Christine, Gena and [Crystal]. Called the same three people who sang it back then, called in some new musicians and did a version which is known as the Class Action version. That’s the name of the group. Non-existing group! There is no group called Class Action! There is no group called Phreek! No actual group. This is just a producer’s concept. Got a piece of Class Action? And it changed up a little bit. He set the groove a little different.«
(music Class Action ‘Weekend’)

RBMA: »And is this actually the Larry Levan mix of the song?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yes, this is the Levan mix.«

RBMA: »Larry Levan from the Paradise Garage.«

Leroy Burgess: »It takes a minute to recognize it as the same song. You get the same guitar line, but now a synthesizer is playing it. Now you have a generation that seven or ten years were moved from the previous generation that heard the original. These guys never heard ‘Weekend’, so this is the first time they hear it and they are boppin’ their heads the same way. And this is, where Disco is becoming more expansive and you are stretching the record.«
(dances in his chair and plays keyboard along to the music.)

»And instead of using it in eleven, he uses the minor chords. But it’s the same thing. «
(music ends/applause)

»A second version of the same song. And I had nothing to do…except for writing the original song, I really had nothing to do with it. Another producer just took this idea, came in with some other musicians and…«

RBMA: »Same singer though.«

Leroy Burgess: »Same singer though…hm, hm!«

RBMA: »How do you feel…«

Leroy Burgess: »I apologize! When I say ‘hm, hm’, the singer Christine Wiltshire, the wonderful person that she is, had a lot of trouble singing that song. Especially initially it took her like, oh Lord, five studios and we had like nine tracks of her to make this one lead vocal. Some of the takes were just absolutely horrific. She was just like: ‘Oh my god, would you please get somebody else’ and so forth and so on.

But you know, I was persisting, Patrick was persisting and Bob was persisting in getting that final vocal. We just had to use this line from one track and the other line from track two. That’s production. Fortunately, we had enough tracks to do that. That was just why I was so …as I heard the name Christine, but don’t worry about that.«
(laughter)

RBMA: »I guess, just one of the things you mentioned the other day, when you were sitting here with some of the participants informally, listening to one of your songs, was the sort of tension you can build musically with changes and using the Jazz chords. You sort of talked about it a little bit previously.«

Leroy Burgess: »Right, right….«

RBMA: »What emotions are linked to certain…«

Leroy Burgess: »Now, that’s too broad of a question. Big question!«

RBMA: »Use some sort of example or something of how you would….«

Leroy Burgess: »Tension, huh?!«

RBMA: »Tension.«

Leroy Burgess: »Like I said, you set the groove and the groove is, where all the tension is let out. It’s like groove, ok? I don’t want to say groove too many times…«
(laughter)

»What I would try to do is to infuse tension into the song. So that it goes somewhere. It doesn’t just stay on a groove. You notice how a lot of Hip Hop records or some of the dance records now, stay on this one groove for like eight minutes or something like that That never really changes, never really goes anywhere and I’m like: ‘Ok, I’m really getting tired of listening to this.’ You know, it sounded nice for the first four minutes and then you are into minute nine and it still sounds the same. So, that’s why you add tension. Let’s see. I’m thinking of a great song for tension. This song is great for tension…«
(plays keyboard)

»That’s great. That’s a great little part. But how do you take it somewhere else?«
(plays the theme to Black Ivory ‘Mainline’ on the keyboard)

»So you build tension and let it go, you build tension and let it go. The song is called ‘Mainline’. Play a little bit of it.«

RBMA: »These songs, these tracks with a full orchestra…you actually have people in your family who are very accomplished as far as arranging and producing [is concerned]. I wonder, if you could mention your uncle and his influence on you at this point in your career?«

Leroy Burgess: »Ok. My uncle’s name is Thom Bell. And he is a very, very famous producer and arranger. He is my mother’s first cousin. But because he is in my mother’s age range, I called him my uncle. I don’t call him my cousin, I call him my uncle. He was a big influence on me during the times I could catch him at the family picnic.«

RBMA: »He was doing such records as in Philadelphia with Gamble and Huff.«

Leroy Burgess: »And everything for the Spinners, everything for the Delfonics, everything for The Stylistics. Did quite a few records with Deniece Williams, couple of records on Johnny Mathis. He was big time, you know what I’m sayin’? I always liked his style of music. Because again, he would do something unusual to make you listen to it. So, I always appreciated his style. And then second early, in addition to Thom Bell being part of my family, we found out later on… we just found this out in ’96 that the Bell brothers, Robert, Kevin and Ronald, the Bell brothers, are my first cousins from the Bell side of the family.

And these are the guys you might know as Kool & The Gang. Kool is the bass player as Robert Bell, Ronnie is the sax player and Kevin is the keyboard player. So, we found out later on that they are actually family. But check this out. Before I came out with Black Ivory, when I was fifteen or something like that, my manager decided to, you know, expose the group. Now, he was friends with a guy named Gene Redd who was the manager of Kool & The Gang. And at the time, Kool & The Gang didn’t have their own band, I mean, they didn’t have any singers.

So, they let Black Ivory come on stage with two songs, you know, just let us sing ‘Love On A Two Way Street’ and Sly Stone’s ‘Everybody Is A Star’ and kind of premiered the group. But during this time, I had no idea that these guys were actually my cousins! I found out much, much later. I knew their name was Bell, but I was like: ‘There are Bells all over the world.’ It’s only later on that my mum went to a Bell family picnic in North Jersey and they were there! She was like: “Do you know that Kool & The Gang are your cousins?” And I was: “They are?” But those are those kind of connections and those are family connections.«

RBMA: »I mean, you always had people in your family that you were collaborating with, right? You always had a team of people around you.«

Leroy Burgess: »Not always.«

RBMA: »There is a couple of important people…«

Leroy Burgess: »Like I said, I called James Calloway my brother because he’s been the musician I’ve been with most of the time. I mean he came on in Black Ivory after the second year. And I always liked his style. We got tight right away. So, that is my brother. Years later, after Black Ivory, I have met up with my cousin, another cousin, Sonny Davenport. If you own any of my records, you might have seen the names Leroy Burgess, James Calloway and Sonny Davenport. S

onny was just starting. He had been playing Gospel and stuff like that, but he wasn’t really doing commercial music. He wanted to try it and by this time I needed his help. So, Sonny came into the group. And he is the family member. The first of my main cousins and stuff like that. Ultimately later on, it became my sister joining the group for a minute and more of my family members came in.«

RBMA: »These are some of your groups under your synonyms we were talking about.«

Leroy Burgess: »Right. The non-Leroy Burgess groups. Just to give you an example, one of the groups was a group, a studio group. Everybody got that? Studio groups, not real groups! Ok? This was a studio group called Convertion. It consisted of myself, Sonny, James, my sister Renée, a young lady named Dorothy Terrell, my cousin Leo on percussion. We began to develop a sound as a rhythm band. One of the first tracks was a tune called ‘Let’s Do It’.«

(music Convertion ‘Let’s Do It‘)

(Leroy stands up, plays along the tune on the keyboard and starts singing)
(applause)

Cool record, right? .«
(audience cheers)

RBMA: »That is one of the ultimate roller-skate type of jams back in the day.«

Leroy Burgess: »Rollerskate! I used to fall a lot.«
(laughing)

RBMA: »It would be interesting to know, when you were creating these songs, what was the process like? Who was in charge?«

Leroy Burgess: »This is funny. This is a cool story. When we did ‘Let’s Do It’, like I said, we had gone to the studio. Everybody was just hanging out and we had begun to do another song. Greg Carmichael was the producer and he called us in to play music for actually another song. We did it so fast that we ended up with all that studio time left.

And he was like ‘Do whatever y’all want with it.’ By this time we were all smoked up and hungry, right? So we send out for some cheeseburgers, bacon cheeseburgers, fries and sodas. Now, while we’re waiting for the food to come, we go to the studio and start something up. Again I came up with (plays the theme of ‘Let’s Do It’). Now, immediately, James come in and starts playing with me…playing the bass with me!«
(laughter)

»And before we know, Sonny comes in and he is playing along, too. The group started being hit so hard that we forgot about the food, the bacon cheeseburgers and all of that came and got freezin’ cold because we got to this groove and couldn’t stop. We ended up doing the whole thing in…like an evening.«

RBMA: »Is that how all this records became, just with a riff from a piano? Or did you also start with other elements first?.«

Leroy Burgess: »They started different ways. You know, sometimes Sonny would come with an idea or drum pattern. And you know that I might start singing on top of that and then an idea would come out of that. Or James would start coming with a bass line and Sonny would play on it or I would play on it.

Songs come from all different places. The energies that bring good music and good creative songs in, they are all over the place (waves his hands) and in the air. You are thinking of something and your mind is clear and all of a sudden something hits you and it is a melody or something. You know, it just stays in your mind and you hum along with yourself. So it comes from everywhere. But the process with that was just…something hit us.«

RBMA: »What is with these records having those interesting changes, turnarounds and chords? You can only really do these things, if you have some training, basically?«

Leroy Burgess: »That is very true.«

RBMA: »If someone is inspired to add all those different elements in their music, what do you think is the best thing for them to get started in the right direction?«

Leroy Burgess: »I’ve looked at the schools in the last few days and it was really cool hanging with you guys, watching what you guys are doing and the stuff that you’re doing. I would recommend to each and every one of you to learn an instrument. Those of you who are creative and want to expand your songs and expand your musicality, it’s a good idea to know one of them! So that some of your songwriting can actually be instrument-based, ok?

These days everything is what? Computers, right? Computers, sequencing, sampling, stuff like that, right? And a lot of that is actually not going to the source of how you feel for music. The source of how you feel for music is when you get up (stands up) and take a shower and you’re singing. That’s how you feel, alright? That’s because your voice is an instrument, alright? And if you’re inspired to write songs or to produce records, it’s a good idea to learn how to play something! Because my history is prior to these technology existing…it were instruments. Acoustic piano and acoustic bass.

Stuff like that. If you want to make a song, you had to get on it (plays on the piano) and play. For me, it made me feel good that I could play. It takes a while. It takes a while! You have to stick with this. You got to learn scales and you got to learn chords and you got to learn different chords. But after you learned it all or you learned as much as you can, you will be surprised, what it will do for you. I will give you an example. This is a complex Jazz change, right here. (plays on the piano). Those are complex chords, you know what I’m sayin’? I’ll do that one more time (plays on the piano). Now, you wouldn’t think that this would go into a dance record.«

RBMA: »Sounds like some old Jazz trio, right?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yes, it sounds like some old jazzy ‘shoobeedoobee, shoobeedoobee’, it sounds like somebody is going ready to go and do that. Me, being a rebel and being wild and being crazy, I’m like: ‘Okay, let’s take that change and throw a beat behind it, right? And throw a groove into it, in the middle of it, and see what we’ve got! And they were like: ‘Oh no, that is much too jazzy!’ (plays on the piano) ‘Where is Solomon? Where is Ella? Where are they? Where is Anita Baker?’«
(audience laughing)

»We found a young lady named Fonda Rae. And after we did this stuff with a beat, it ended up like this.«
(music Fonda Rae ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’)

»We’re gonna go a little through this tune.«
(Leroy plays keyboard on top )

»Just a little simple. You know, here is this guy don’t playing guitar, he is just playing blue notes.«
(Leroy mimics the bass player )

»And it works!«
(music Fonda Rae ‘Over Like A Fat Rat’)

»You remember what I said about the tension? So, you get the tension. Take that down«
(applause)

click below to listen

LOGG – You’ve Got That Something

LEROY BURGESS ( redbull academy interview Pt. 1)

Posted in Boogie, Interviews, LEROY BURGESS on May 28, 2008 by bangtheparty

Leroy Burgess’ stellar career began on the court – when he started playing musical basketball with his buddies, shootin’ hoops and singing. Luckily, they decided to form a group and in ’68 Soul vocal trio The Mellow Souls was born – a short time later getting discovered over the phone by producer Patrick Adams. Black Ivory was only the beginning. With his signature warm baritone voice and tension-building keyboard riffs, Leroy Burgess contributed to the success of many different projects over the next three decades – with Aleem, Fonda Rae, Intrigue and Inner Life, and as Conversion and Logg amongst other pseudonyms. Whether Disco-Boogie or Salsoul, the underlying ingredient was always pure soul – and the minute it touches your ears, you’re transported to another place. Though Leroy is characteristically humble.

»We figured out the formula of ‘feel good’ and put it in a record? No, to get less cosmic than that, I have always been a spiritual person. I love life, I love the world, I love being here on this planet. I have always been like that. I love people, you know? That is a huge vibration. That is a huge thing to feel. And I tried to capture that in my music.” And, says Leroy, all of you out there reading this can capture it, too. “It’s easier than you think. The groove is in you.«

RBMA: »Welcome all the way from Harlem, USA, Mr. Leroy Burgess.«

Leroy Burgess: »Hi everybody. How y’all? You’re havin’ a good time so far? Good? Okay, good. You gonna have more.«

RBMA: »You’ve worked in pretty much a number of different genres in music. (…) People who may not recognize your name, may also not realize that they heard a lot of your music.«

RBMA: »You’ve worked in pretty much a number of different genres in music. (…) People who may not recognize your name, may also not realize that they heard a lot of your music.«

Leroy Burgess: »Right. Because I kept changing the name.«

RBMA: »Break that down for us a little bit. Why all the anonymity?.«

Leroy Burgess: »(laughing) Why all the different names? Two reasons mainly: When you come out as an artist or whatever, you want to try to get the best deal you can get. At this particular time, the record companies were a little dubious, you know. There were the stars here (raises his hands to his right) and the regular guys here(raises his hands to his left). So, what I did, I took a second and said: ‘Before I actually get my name to a project, Leroy Burgess, I want to see, if the company is really into it’, you know what I’m sayin’?

I was making up names like Convertion or Logg. Stuff like that. And as a result, more people know those non-existing groups than know me. But people know the music, so that’s cool. Also, the second reason is, it’s really not so much about me and I said this in my Anthology liner notes, I always wanted it to be about the music. The music to be the main thing, you know? And the less it focused on me as an individual and the more it focused on the music, was always kind of important to me. So, that is kind of why.«

RBMA: »As far as music goes, let’s talk about the music. You have been heralded by journalists and fans and other producers, modern producers, as the pioneer of a sub-genre of Disco known as Boogie. Did you know that was you were doing was different from what was going on in the Disco scene at that time?«

Leroy Burgess: »In all my compositions I try to use influences outside of the influence. In other words, if it was Dance or Disco music, I was trying to infuse either Blues or Jazz. Something, you wouldn’t expect. And that ended up becoming a style for me. Boogie…«

RBMA: »How would you define Boogie? The spirit of Boogie, as they say.«

Leroy Burgess: »(laughs) I have no idea. It’s just something that makes you dance. You feel it. And it’s more a feeling than anything else. That is why they called it Boogie. I mean, how would you define Boogie? When you do it? «

RBMA: »I mean, it is more of a vibe thing, bit if you want to get technical, Disco has more of a rigid type of beat to it and it’s faster than Boogie.«

Leroy Burgess: »It’s four on the floor. The bass drum just goes like that ( shakes hands up and down) and then you get a body rock that moves along with it. Before you know, other instruments come in and help you feel like groovin’, next thing you know, you boogie…( Leroy does exactly that)«
you boogie…( Leroy does exactly that)«

RBMA: »I feel with your work and your compositions there is a much earthier and harder-hitting groove to them. But in addition, I feel that a lot of your music is really uplifting. Is that your imagination, when people hear your records? What have you done musically to make that happen?«

Leroy Burgess: »We figured out the formula of ‘feel good’ and put it in a record. No, to get less cosmic than that, I have always been a spiritual person. I love life, I love the world, I love being here on this planet. I have always been like that. I love people, you know? That is a huge vibration. That is a huge thing to feel. And I tried to capture that in my music. I like to feel good, when I’m listening to stuff. I mean, you could listen to the stuff that is a little laid-back and thoughtful, so forth and so on.

That’s good. Believe me, there are times, when we have to do that. But the other times, I just like to feel good about myself, about life, about what’s going on and so we tried to put positive messages and positive lyricism in the lyrics. Because the listener might be a person that needs to feel good that day. You know, he goes through the whole day and then he needs to hear a record that lifts him up just for that moment. That’s what I try to infuse in my stuff.«

RBMA: »Your stuff at the time, was it aimed for the club, was it aimed for radio? Did you even have that expectation of where it would be played?«

Leroy Burgess: »I would hope my stuff would hit the radio. I didn’t know at first that it would. But I always hoped it would. I wanted people to listen to my stuff. I have always considered myself lucky in that respect. You have doubts about anything you create sometimes. Would this work? Would everybody feel this? This little doubt. And I am fortunate that a lot of my music has been accepted.«

RBMA: »Do you want to play something?«

Leroy Burgess: »Let me see your list.«

RBMA: »This is your list actually(chuckles).«

Leroy Burgess: »I think that we could start with a song I did with a group called The Aleems. It was the fourth record that we did together. But it gives you an idea of…the vibe. The name of the record is ’Get Loose’and it goes like this.«

(music: The Aleems ‘Get Loose’)

»Right here is where the energy comes in. You get the idea?«
(applause)

RBMA: »Now, this is where the Fantastic Aleems…?«

Leroy Burgess: »Yes, the Faaaaantastic Aleems. Some good friends of mine.«

RBMA: »Who were they?«

Leroy Burgess: »Two brothers from the building I lived in. I lived in the center of Harlem. So there was a lot of talent in the seventies and early eighties just coming out of this one area in Harlem. Say, from 145th Street to 125th Street. And the Aleems happened to live in the same building that I lived in. Now prior to us working together, they did background vocals for Jimi Hendrix during his “Rainbow Bridges” heyday until 1969. So, they gave me a call and asked me, initially, to arrange for them. You know, to do a musical arrangement and I went in and did it. Then they did the lead vocals and didn’t like how they sounded and asked me to do it. And that’s how I became part of that.«

RBMA: »That’s how that project came together.«

Leroy Burgess: »Yeah, and that song was called ‘Hooked On Your Love’.«

RBMA: »So, let’s go back then. Let’s go back to how you got into the music. Because I don’t want to stray too much back and forth. What was your first interest in music? You started quite young.«

Leroy Burgess: »My mom says I started singing when I was three years old. And that’s only because she was playing Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, The Modern Jazz Quartet and things like that in the house. My mother was a singer. So, she loved to sing and she basically sang classical, operatic music, but also Jazz and cooled out stuff. She sang along with Jackie Wilson and stuff like that. I started singing around at the age of three or four. Started banging on the piano, as I call it, at the age of five or so.

My parents didn’t think that it was serious and said: ‘You’re gonna be an engineer…’ But I always kind of felt it in me. Not only did the songs and the music sound good, but I thought I want to be a part of that. So I started singing, started playing the piano, started sneaking around. You have to sneak around your parents a lot. But ultimately at the age of eleven, I got serious and my first teachers came around. And they were Jazz teachers. People who taught me to do Jazz.

My first teacher was a gentleman by the name of Herbie Jones. And he was the chief arranger for Duke Ellington’s Orchestra at the time Duke was alive. He taught me for free. I was just this kid singing and watching people play the piano thinking that I want to get that good one day. And he said: ‘Watch me.’ And asked me questions and before I knew it, there was an actual student/teacher relationship going. Just real informal, you know? That was my first formal training and then I continued. By the time I was sixteen, I was very serious and my parents were very unhappy. I started playing with little groups around town and I was introduced to…«

RBMA: »Playing Jazz or playing Soul?«

Leroy Burgess: »By then you’re doing Motown and you’re doing the Delfonics and you’re doing The Moments and stuff by The Beatles, you just doing everything. I was called into a group by a friend of mine called Larry Newkirk and he asked me, if I want to join this group. We were playing basketball and just shootin’ hoops and singing. And he was like: ‘You sounded good!’ And I was like: ‘You sounded good!’ So, I went to his house and he brought me into a group called The Mellow Souls. This group evolved into my first real group called Black Ivory. This is interesting! If I may…?«
(walks over to the keyboard)

»Larry had a friend who had a sister whose friend was a producer. Patrick Adams. Patrick listened to us over the phone and liked us. That was my first opportunity to work on something serious. And this was my first record.«
(music/plays along on the keyboard)

»The amazing thing is that’s actually me singing the lead vocals there. That’s actually me singing the lead vocals, when I was seventeen at the time.«
(laughter)

»You can actually sing that high when you’re seventeen. I started with them and we had a good career, a good run. It was a beautiful song. Some really nice chords, some really nice things to keep me interested musically. When it goes ‘Don’t Walk Away’, right, this chord here you do not expect (plays keyboard). It’s like what’s that chord doing there? And that’s what makes it interesting.

What’s that chord doing there? Why is it there? How does it relate to the rest of the music? You understand? That’s one of the things that made me interested, kept me interested in stuff like that. So I had a nice little run with Black Ivory so forth and so on. Then basically, I left the group for a couple of reasons.«

RBMA: »That was after a couple of albums?.«

Leroy Burgess: »We made two, three four…four albums together as a group. But what was happening was, the music was changing. It was changing from the slow, smooth thing of this period. It was changing into some more uptempo, boppy stuff. Now, what happened was the public…the public was…sometimes when you see a group with a certain style, you lock yourself in. You get stereotyped into that style. Anything you try to do outside of that style, they’re like: ‘Oh, that don’t sound like them.’ You know, what I’m sayin’? Anybody relating to what I’m sayin’? For that reason, Black Ivory was forced into that slow group, slow jam thing. I was like ‘Let’s Go!’. The music is starting to go uptempo, so let’s go with it! And it wasn’t accepted. So that was one of the main reasons I had to leave Black Ivory.«

click below to listen

LEROY BURGESS – Heartbreaker