You talkin' about devastated...that's how I felt upon hearing of this talent's demise. A horrible, horrible thing. I had just discovered Mr. Porter and ran out to buy everything I could find by him. I went nuts in the beauty behind his sound. I still can't bring myself to approach the pain I felt when he became the victim of drowning. Here is his story.

Art Porter, a native of Little Rock, AR, began his musical education at home, learning and practicing jazz standards under the instruction of his father Art Porter, Sr., a renowned pianist and former accompanist for Carmen McCrae and John Stubblefield. Starting off on drums and becoming part of his father's band, Porter was drawn to the sax after noticing the melodic proficiency of his father and another band member, Leonard Johnson, who was his high school band director. He decided to drop the drums and get into the harmonics of music.

The saxophone intrigued him with it being so close to the human voice. Porter picked up the sax and found that he had a natural affinity with the instrument. When he was 16 and worked with his father's trio, he was barred from playing in clubs because he was under 21. The ensuing case led to Arkansas State's Attorney General Bill Clinton pushing through a law allowing underage performers to work if a parent or guardian supervises.

At 18, Porter learned his most valuable musical lessons when he began touring with such jazz masters as organist Jack McDuff and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. He matured as a player and learned how to interact with an audience. In between concerts, Porter continued his studies at the Berklee Conservatory of Music and at Virginia Commonwealth University where he became a student of pianist/educator Ellis Marsalis.

In 1992, Porter came to Chicago on a scholarship to Northeastern Illinois University, finishing with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He went to study at Roosevelt University where he earned his master's degree. In the Windy City, Porter was mentored by legendary tenor saxophonist Von Freeman and bassist James Leary. When Porter was signed to Verve Forecast, he decided that instead of jumping on the then-current neo-classical jazz bandwagon, Porter decided to make his largely self-composed debut contemporary rather than bop-revisited in style. Produced and engineered by keyboardist Jeff Lorber, Pocket City was immediately embraced by those who didn't want their smooth jazz "too smooth" in the summer of 1992.

The key tracks, the heart-melting ballad "Inside Myself," a cover of Maxi Priest's "Close to You," and funky hoppin' "Pocket City" (whose video was played on VH1 and BET) were played on both smooth jazz and a few urban stations. Porter was sent on a promotional and concert tours where he built up a reputation for being very amiable and giving a high-octane performance. Porter was a whirling wonder on stage, smiling like a Chesire cat, blowing his heart out, running around the venue honking it up. On November 23, 1996, while journeying to a remote part of Thailand to perform in a jazz festival, Porter was killed when the boat he was riding in capsized.

Beside his four Verve sets, Pocket City, Straight to the Point, Undercover, Lay Your Hands on Me, and the posthumously released For Art's Sake, Art Porter appeared as a sideman on recordings by Jeff Lorber, Tom Grant, and Ramsey Lewis and was infusing a hard bop sound sensibility to smooth jazz when he was killed.
~ Ed Hogan, All Music Guide

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Comment by Edie Antoinette on May 22, 2008 at 8:12am
Tara..I usually lose my mind in ecstasy when I happen upon beauty like Art's--I was so enthralled *still am* with his talent and skill. I'm overjoyed that he left us such a legacy though his life was cut short by tragedy.

Your dad sounds like my kind of gentleman...and thanks for the support here.
Comment by Tara on May 22, 2008 at 8:02am
Art WAS jazz for me. My dad used to come home from work and unwind to Art. I could see it happen with the music . . . the deeper Art became, the more my dad relaxed.
Comment by Edie Antoinette on May 21, 2008 at 4:39pm
Z..I was immediately attached to him upon hearing that horn. It was a complete tragedy to lose him, especially since I had just discovered him..*sigh*

I have compilations that I've done with 3 quarters...him! LOL Lay Your Hands On Me is a jam from start to finish. Poor baby..I just hate that he's gone--as well as George Howard. Sad.

Sole, yes baby--you do need to plunge into the lake of smooth, ie., Jazz--you have a natural knack. I love that Chuck Mangione you posted.

Klu--you and me both. got that right. Thanks All for your participation here. Love from me to you.
Comment by ZeroGravity on May 21, 2008 at 3:39pm
Exceptional artist. A great loss. I spent many days and night wrapped in splendid solitude with Art in the background enhancing those moments to the max. To me he was one of the best.
Comment by Shelley "SoleMann" King on May 19, 2008 at 4:33pm
I really need to get into Jazz, this song is smoooooth...He died a horrible death

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Spotlight | Maze

  1. play Maze — 03 Feel That You're Feelin'
  2. play Maze — 04 Somebody Else's Arms
  3. play Maze — 04 Southern Girl
  4. play Maze — Can't Get Over You
  5. play Maze — Golden Time Of Day
  6. play Norman Brown — Night Drive
  7. play Norman Brown — Feeling
  8. play Norman Brown — Still
  9. play Miles Davis — miles 1
  10. play miles 2
  11. play miles 3
  12. play miles 4
  13. play miles 5
  14. play Marvin Gaye — I Met A Little Girl
  15. play Santana — 01 Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
  16. play Santana — 02 Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen
  17. play Mongo — 02. Afro Blue

The history of the Butlers/Raw Soul is dense, but for all of us music nerds, that's normal. It is not totally clear what year the Butlers actually formed but they released their first single in 1963 on Liberty Records. That single was "She Tried To Kiss Me" and another single followed on Guyden entitled "Lovable Girl." After the Guyden single the Butlers took a break not recording another record until the single "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" was released on the Phila label in 1966. The group also backed Charles Earland and Jean Wells on one Phila single ("I Know She Loves Me"). 

As you might be noticing, the Butlers were doing a fair amount of recording but not achieving much success. The group's recordings sold regionally but never had the promotion to make an impact on the national scene. After the single with Phila, the Butlers moved to the Fairmount label (part of the Cameo-Parkway family) and released a handful of singles, some being reissued singles of the past. The Butlers were with Fairmount for 1966-67 and then moved to Sassy Records. Sassy released the group's greatest single (in my opinion) "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted." A copy of that 45 sold for just under $500 last summer on eBay. Even though that isn't that much in the world of record collecting--it's still a hefty sum. The Butlers released another single on Sassy ("She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good") that appears to be even 
harder to come by then the "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" single.


The true history become a bit blurred here as the AMG biography states that the Butlers last record was released on C.R.S. in 1974 (". However, between 1971 and that single, Frankie Beverly formed a group called Raw Soul and released a number of singles. Some of the songs recorded by Beverly during this period are "While I'm Alone," "Open Up Your Heart," (both on the Gregor label) and "Color Blind." "Color Blind" was released by the Eldorado label and rerecorded by Maze. Beverly's big break came when Marvin Gaye asked Raw Soul to back him on a tour. Gaye helped Beverly/Raw Soul get a contract at Capitol. Beverly decided to take the group in a different direction, a name change occurred, and Maze was created. 

The above isn't the most complete history of Beverly but hopefully someone will know a way to get in touch with the man or his management because a comprehensive pre-Maze history needs to be done on Frankie Beverly (his real name is Howard, by the way). Below you'll find every Frankie Beverly (pre-Maze) song available to me right now ("Color Blind" will be up soon). 

If you have a song that is not included below, shoot it over to funkinsoulman (at) and it will go up in the next Frankie Beverly post (later this week--highlighting Maze). Also, if you have any more information please share your knowledge. The Butlers material has been comp-ed sporadically (usually imports) but the entire Maze catalog has been reissued and is available. 

Enjoy.  "She Kissed Me" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967) 
 "I Want To Feel I'm Wanted" (not sure which label or year) "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" (Phila, 1966) "Because Of My Heart" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
 "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" (Sassy, 1967)
 "If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy, 1967)

Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power. He started in the music business doing a tour with doo wop group the Silhouettes and then formed his own group called the Blenders. The Blenders never recorded a single, Beverly wouldn't appear on wax until forming the Butlers a few years later. Along with Beverly, the Butlers included Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Joe Collins, John Fitch, and Talmadge Conway.

Beverly would later enjoy great success fronting Maze and Conway would become a
well-known penning Double Exposure's
"Ten Percent" and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here To Stay." 
 While Maze is a phenomenal group, Beverly's work before that group will always stand out as his best (imo).

The Butlers produced tunes that most Northern Soul fans would kill for and Raw Soul gave the funksters something to pursue. If, by chance, you know of a way to get in touch with Frankie Beverly or his management, please drop me an e-mail. It would be absolutely great to do an interview with him about his pre-Maze work. He's still playing out, most recently doing a New Year's Eve show in Atlanta.
:: Funkinsoulman ::

Power...Through Simplicity ♪♫♪



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