Fred Wesley, a native of Mobile, Alabama, was a pivotal member of James Brown’s band in the 1960s and 1970s, playing on many of Brown’s hit records, including Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud, Sex Machine, and Mother Popcorn and cowriting such tunes as “Hot Pants.” As bandleader and musical director, Wesley did much of the composing and arranging for the J.B.’s. After leaving Brown’s band in 1975, Wesley spent several years playing with Parliament, Bootsy Collins, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and George Clinton.
A versatile artist, Wesley later joined the Count Basie Orchestra and released several jazz albums as a leader. In the 1990s, he toured with former J.B.’s band mates Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker as the JB Horns, and was featured trombonist with the Maceo Parker Band before forming the Fred Wesley Group. Wesley has played with, and arranged for, a variety of artists during his career, including Ray Charles; Lionel Hampton; Earth, Wind & Fire; Curtis Mayfield; Barry White; the Gap Band; Cameo; and De La Soul. In 2002, he published his autobiography Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman. Wesley also recently served as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Music.
The concert is cosponsored by Berklee’s Africana Studies/Black Music Programming performance and lecture series.