James Brown Sideman Performs with Students

By 
Margot Edwards
January 31, 2008
Fred Wesley
Photo provided by the artist

Acclaimed jazz and funk trombonist Fred Wesley, former musical director and band leader for James Brown's band the J.B.'s, performs in concert with the Berklee Music of James Brown Ensemble on Thursday, February 28.

Wesley and the 10-piece student group promise to funk it up and bring the house down with high-energy renditions of many classic James Brown tunes, including "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "I Got You (I Feel Good)," "Cold Sweat," "Please, Please, Please," and "Super Bad." Wesley will rehearse with the students (led by Kenwood Dennard) and conduct clinics and master classes during a residency sponsored by Berklee's Brass Department.

The concert is $10, all ages, and begins at 8:15 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center located at 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Please call 617 747-2261 or visit the Berklee Performance Center website for more information.

Fred Wesley, a native of Mobile, Alabama, was a pivotal member of James Brown's band in the 1960s and 1970s. He played on many of Brown's hit records, including "Say It Loud-I'm Black and I'm Proud," "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," and "Mother Popcorn," and co-wrote 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, including Cameo, Ray Charles, De La Soul, Earth Wind and Fire, the Gap Band, Lionel Hampton, Curtis Mayfield, and Barry White. 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 co-sponsored by Berklee's Africana Studies/Black Music Programming performance and lecture series.

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