ndugu chancler

Ndugu Chancler

*As recently reported on EURweb, this Sunday brings some major swag—for free—to L.A.’s Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

In concert with the upcoming 35th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival, Grammy-nominated artists Patrice Rushen, Ndugu Chancler and special guest, Paul Jackson Jr., will entertain audiences with their eclectic blend of Jazz and R&B.

Since 1989, Chancler and Rushen have performed together as 1+One, and this performance will allow them the flexibility to showcase their individual and collective talents, as well as support their special guest.

EURweb publisher Lee Bailey spoke with Ndugu Chancler recently, and boy did he get an earful! Just two months shy of his 61st birthday, Chancler, who was working out in the gym at the time of this interview, says he is in the best shape of his life.

“Things are just sorted out in my life. I got positive things around me; positive people around me; everything is just kind of aligned in a place where I can be me, finally…I am a prostate cancer survivor and I haven’t been in this good of a shape in 30 years.”

That’s got to have true value and deep appreciation to fans of this music giant who has spent the better part of his life behind some of the most iconic names on the planet. Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, ah hell, my head hurts just thinking about it. The list goes on…and on.

Somebody please call the producers of Unsung NOW!

But Chancler has nothing but fond memories of the time he joined session musicians in a room to just make good music and support great artists.

“No, it ran its course,” he tells Lee Bailey, who asks if he is dealing with a mental catharsis—having sacrificed ‘up front stardom’ to be a supporting talent. Ndugu continues, “I mean, that was a great time in L.A….in New York, when musicians all got in a room together, played, and made hit records for everyone. That was a great time man. A historical time. A magical time never to be captured again.”

But he doesn’t bite his tongue in explaining how great it feels today, to know who he is, as an individual and as an artist.

“When I was a sessions guy I was everybody’s chameleon…during the process you get kind of hung up…you kind of lose sight of who you are…and over the years of parenting…and soul searching…I found out who I am.”

Ndugu says this revelation is starting to be recognized by others…and revealed in his music.

“I always wrote music, but most people didn’t really embrace it because they always locked in to the things I wrote for other people.”

Well yeah, we can only imagine how hard it was to get attention while Mike was performing ‘Thriller’ and Tina (Turner) was doing ‘Private Dancer’ and man, when Minnie Ripperton opened her mouth to reveal her five-and-a-half-octave range, naw, Mr. Chancler, we wasn’t checkin’ for the drummer. Sorry.

Chancler, who has been an adjunct professor at USC for the past 19 years, says that his participation in the upcoming event with Patrice Rushen and Paul Jackson, Jr. will allow audiences to see a bit of everything. That is how flexible their contributions will be.

patrice rushen

Patrice Rushen & Paul Jackson Jr.

ndugu chancler - bill cosby - patrice rushen

Ndugu Chancler – Bill Cosby – Patrice Rushen

“We will play straight ahead jazz…some of the hits…[and]…original songs written for this group, he tells EURweb. “We will accompany another stellar musician. We will do all the things that built our whole reputation.” The group he refers to is 1+One. As mentioned earlier, the two musicians formed the group in 1989. But it seems “Billing” has remained a problem, as described, albeit humorously, below.

Lee Bailey laughs slyly (and even apologizes) when Chancler says,

“Of course when we are dealing in ‘urban situations’ [read: Black folk] they lock into the name ‘Patrice Rushen,’ blow it up big, and add, ‘and Ndugu Chancler.’…

Now, to ensure EUR readers really GET the full effect here, this is how the actual interview went down. I will intentionally repeat his quote.

 

Lee Bailey: Every time I see you guys billed its ‘Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler.’ I just never paid attention to the 1+One.

Ndugu Chancler: It’s supposed to be ‘1+One featuring Ndugu Chancler and Patrice Rushen.’ That’s the proper billing. ‘Course [sic], you know when we deal in (emphasis here) URBAN SITUATIONS those things never go up. They lock in to Patrice Rushen and they just blow that name up and then they say, ‘and Ndugu Chancler…It’s politics.’”

Bailey laughs and again apologizes.

Ndugu Chancler: And then for this one [the Sunday event] it’s supposed to be listed as Paul ‘Jackson, Jr.’ and [instead] its Paul Johnson, Jr. It’s an urban issue.”

 

Even I, the writer, am falling out at this point!

OK, back to the story.

An all-around musician, Ndugu Chancler plays vibes, timbales, drums, and even does a little rappin’.

When Bailey asks him about his views on music today, Jazz and beyond, he says,

“Everything has changed and I look now towards the whole global aspect of it. The whole essence of music now has been connected globally. It started in the 70’s but now, with the world being at your back door…and in your living room, the music has taken a turn…and that has made it so [that] if you want to call it Jazz, you have to call it Jazz with a spice of everything else. They’re touching on everything now and just because things are being improvised or created we’re calling ‘em Jazz.”

Chancler says he thinks music is in a period of transition; where we are finding “the next phase” in music. When Bailey asks if he is optimistic, Chancler replies emphatically,

“Oh definitely! Music never dies. It finds its level and then the audience finds a level that the music has found.”

And what does he think about “rap” today?

“Black music, especially R&B and Hip hop, has dummied itself down to be accommodating to the masses. Harmonically, rhythmically, and lyrically we’ve dummied ourselves down.”

With this, Bailey repeats his “Optimistic” question; to which Chancler responds,

“Yeah, I am optimistic because you almost have to hit rock bottom before the next great thing comes and takes over.”

Let it be noted here that it is the Hip hop industry that Chancler credits as the inventors of selling music underground.

In response to a question on getting older and staying relevant, Chancler, who just published his Drum Method eBook, “Pocket Change,” says he is not concerned about getting old in an industry that no longer appears to appreciate the pioneers in the game. Not to worry is this giant’s philosophy. “I was influenced by the best: Quincy Jones and Miles Davis. They were always ahead of the pack. They knew what everyone else was doing and was able to embrace it.”

1+One with special guest Paul Jackson, Jr. will do a 90-minute set on Sunday, June 2. The Harmony Project,  an award-winning, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the healthy growth and development of at-risk children through the study, practice and performance of music, will also perform under the direction of Amos Delone. The free and open-to-the-public event will take place on the outdoor Promenade level of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, located at 3650 West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Doors open at 4:00p.m. with the event starting at 5p.m.

Music not even in stores yet will be available for purchase at the event, and Mr. Chancler’s book, “Pocket Change,” is available wherever eBooks and iBooks are sold.