A multi-media, unique concert called Standing in the Shadows of Motown Live will take place at the Keswick Theater on Saturday, March 9 that will tell the story of Motown bassist James Jamerson through the eyes of his son, James Jamerson, Junior.
Jamerson was part of an elite group of session musicians known as the Funk Brothers that played the instruments on the majority of the Motown hits; songs like “My Girl,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” and “What’s Goin’ On” just to mention a few.
Cherry Hill resident and native of Philadelphia, Allan Slutsky has put together this live show after successfully producing the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown, based on a book he wrote about the bass player for the Funk Brothers, James Jamerson.
Allan, a session guitarist himself who will be on stage Saturday night, was a huge Motown fan, and became obsessed with the bass player, and spent three years writing his biography that became the basis for the film.
About his subject, Allan says: “Jamerson is probably one of the two or three most influential bass players in the history of popular music. He was the first virtuoso of the electric bass. And although his achievements went unheralded for 4 decades until the biography, his bass lines and techniques over time became the backbone of popular music.”
Jamerson’s son, James Jr will be on stage at the Keswick to continue the legacy of his father. “James Jr. is one of the few bassists alive who plays just like his Dad,” Allan stated. “He was a very accomplished West Coast studio bassist in his own right with sessions and tours with artists as varied as the Crusaders, B.B. King, Dylan, Janet Jackson, Chaka Kahn, Laura Branigan and numerous others.”
Allan elaborated about the upcoming concert: “This is a show that tells the story of Motown bassist James Jamerson through the eyes of his son. The band that we’ve put together for the show is a bunch of killer, gunslinger session players, and jazz and R&B musicians. The legitimacy of the show is Jamerson Jr., the story of his father and the historic, archival photos and footage projected—plus we have two monster lead singers—Peabo Bryson and Leela James.” A wide array of Motown songs will be performed.
“The whole reason of the show at the Keswick is it’s the tenth anniversary of the movie, and James Jamerson’s son is a friend of mine,” Allan said.
He recalled, “There was a bass guitar convention last year. They gave a lifetime achievement to James Jamerson posthumously and wanted James Jr to accept it.” He then set out to put together a show with other musicians to play with James Jr and out of that, he decided to put together a tour.
“What makes this show special is we tell the story of James Jamerson using a huge projection system,” Allan explained. “While we tell stories on stage, there are videos showing and then we go into a song. We tell the Motown story from a different angle.”
Philadelphia composer and musician for film and TV, Rodney Whittenberg, put together all the videos that will be shown. Here is the line-up of musicians you’ll see in addition to vocalists Peabo Bryson and Leela James:
Guitar 1: Allan Slutsky—Author of Standing In The Shadows Of Motown the book, and Grammy-Award winning producer of the movie and soundtrack of the same title. Allan managed, music directed and toured with the Funk Bros from 2003 to 2004. He’s also played dozens of Broadway shows like Mama, Mia, Dreamgirls, the Color Purple, and Chicago, has performed in concert with acts as diverse as Luciano Pavoratti, Steve Winwood, Joan Osborne, the Detroit Symphony, Petula Clark, Rick James, Little Anthony & The Imperials, and Don Rickles. As an arranger, his charts have been played on American Idol, The Tonight Show, President Obama’s Inauguration and numerous other TV shows.
Guitar 2: Felton Offard—A well-traveled Chicago funk, R&B and jazz guitarist who’s played and well traveled pit orchestra player with "The Color Purple" and numerous other musicals.
Drums: Anwar Marshall—One of the “young lions” of Philadelphia’s always bustling jazz scene, Anwar is predominantly a jazz drummer (as were most of the Funk Brothers’ drummers), but he also plays like an old-school R&B groovemaster. For the last five years, he’s been playing up and down the East Coast with bassist Gerald Veasley, jazz pianist Orin Evans and jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.
Bassist and Narrator: James Jamerson Jr.—son of the legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson (and plays just like him). Junior’s extensive recording and touring credits with acts like Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Chaka Kahn, the Crusaders, the Temptations, Laura Branigan and others would lead you to believe he was following a path similar to his father’s, but he wound up doing something his old man never did: He had a top-forty hit with his own band Chanson. Reaching #21 on the Billboard charts, his disco hit “Don’t Hold Back” landed Junior on the stage of Don Cornelius’ Soul Train TV show in 1979.
Keyboard 1: Darryl Ivey—Ex-keyboardist for years with R&B star Regina Belle, Darryl was mentored by jazz piano legend Tommy Flanagan. He’s also lent his keyboardist and music direction skills to Broadway musicals like Five Guys Named Moe, Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk, Ain't Misbehavin', and The Color Purple. He has also worked with such artists as Melba Moore, Cab Calloway, Phylicia Rashad, Charles McPherson, Peabo Bryson, Maurice Hines, Jennifer Holliday, The Boys Choir of Harlem, and talk show host Rosie O'Donnell.
Keyboard 2: Dave Hartl—A dedicated faculty member of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts for years where he taught electronic music applications and music theory, Dave is also a veteran of over 60 Broadway musicals including Wicked, Evita, Chorus Line and Mama Mia. On the road and in the casino showrooms of Atlantic City, Dave spent several decades lending his keyboard expertise to artists like Aretha Franklin, Anthony Newley, Joni Mitchell, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, the Three Degrees, Ben Vereen, and Bo Diddley. A virtuoso accordion player, Dave was the Pennsylvania state champion at the young age of fifteen.
Percussion & Background Vocals: Guy Russell—Possessing a deep, throaty baritone voice while also singing a high falsetto at the opposite end of the his vocal range, Guy has lent his singing and percussion skills to Michael Sembello (who wrote the 1983 hit “Maniac), Philadelphia’s own Boyz II Men and the soundtrack for the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus. He was also the lead vocalist in the worldbeat and latin American band Sabroso.
Saxophones: Jay Davidson—A road warrior and multi-instrumentalist, arranger and composer who’s toured, performed and recorded with acts as diverse as heavy metal group Cinderella, Whitney Houston, the Funk Brothers, Taj Mahal, Steve Winwood, Amos Lee, Amy Grant, Levon Helm, Aretha Franklin, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Stephanie Mills, the Four Tops, the Stylistics, Dionne Warwick, Jerry Butler, Joan Osborne, Melba Moore,the O’Jays and Rickey Martin.
Trumpet and Flute: Stan Slotter—A longtime fixture in Philadelphia’s jazz scene, Stan has played and recorded with every type of musical act imaginable, but his favorite gigs were with saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., pianist Cecil Taylor, and the legendary Philly Jo Jones. Stan unusual virtuosity on the trumpet and flute—two instruments with completely different embouchures—makes him doubly valuable to every band in which he’s ever played.
Background Vocals: Johnny Ingram—You may recognize his face from the movie Standing In The Shadows Of Motown or from the Funk Brothers’ tours. But long before the movie’s debut in 2002, Johnny had already secured his musical legacy as a background singer and songwriter at Philly International Records. He toured with the Funk Brothers and was Patti LaBelle's drummer and background singer for over a decade.
Background Vocals: Dr. Trineice Robinson—After earning masters and doctoral degrees from Indiana and Columbia Universities in vocal pedagogy (specializing in Gospel singing), Trineice became a full-time author and educator, holding down teaching positions at Rider University, the University of the Arts, Mercer County Community College and Teachers College of Columbia University. Her pre-teaching years were spent lending her vocal skills to numerous jazz, gospel and R&B artists including Eddie Gale, David Sanchez Luther Vandross and Chubby Checker.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown Live
Starring Peabo Bryson & Leela James and Featuring James Jamerson, Jr. on Fender Bass
291 North Keswick Aveue, Glenside, Pa 19038
Saturday March 9
Tickets: $29.50, 39.50, 49.50 available at ticketmaster or at the theater