Not much is said about Motown subsidiary label, MoJazz.
J. Spencer, Wayman Tisdale and Norman Brown back in the 90's
through this company are impeccable! Impromp2
, for instance--JAMS!
Unique, distinctive, singular, peerless. Four words that come close to describing the art of Impromp2, the brainchild of the multi-talented, multi-faceted musical partners, Johnny ("Johnny B") Britt and Sean ("Sean E. Mac") Thomas whose combination of jazz, soul and rap have set them apart from virtually any other contemporary duos, or groups. Since the release of their acclaimed 1995 MoJazz debut ("You’re Gonna Love It"), Impromp2 has been building a global following of music lovers who appreciate the smooth and memorable grooves along with the sensual slow jams that are at the core of the team’s artistry.
Three albums after that initial outing, Impromp2 is back with a new collection of music that will satisfy listeners worldwide who have long appreciated the duo’s musicality while winning over new converts to this one-of-a-kind team’s soulful sound. Released on its own JCS Records, IT IS WHAT IT IS offers eleven new Impromp2 compositions, a brilliant rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “You Sure Love To Ball” and a distinguished all-star cast of special guests including Take 6, Boney James, Marcus Miller, George Duke, Norman Brown, Harvey Mason, Paul Jackson Jr. and Wayman Tisdale.
Explains Sean, “This album represents our evolution as recording artists. We were getting to know each other when we were making the first record, creating the Impromp2 sound. Our second MoJazz album (1997’s "Can’t Get Enough") was influenced by Motown who wanted us to do a more 'commercial' kind of record. "Definition Of Love"(released in 2003 on the independent Big 3 label) took us back to what we did with the first one and while we were very happy with the direction of it, it didn’t get the exposure we’d hoped for. We took a break to spend time with our families, to work on other musical projects. We got back together in late 2006 to begin writing songs and recording this new album."
Adds Johnny, "For this record, we’re absolutely on the same page, spiritually, mentally, musically. What I mean is that when we first met in 1993, we thought it would be really special to do something together, to create something unique that would be a combination of the spoken word, R&B and jazz. The raw and natural chemistry we started with has been developing, being refined and now we instinctively know each other musically. I’d say we’ve both matured in many ways – as men, as people. Making IT IS WHAT IT IS has been really beautiful: the ideas have been flowing, we put our blood, sweat and tears into it and now it’s extremely exciting to be doing this on our own label, without any pressure, taking our time to let it happen…"
The mesmerizing "I Wanna Know" (featuring renowned guitarist Norman Brown and Herman Jackson on fender rhodes) reflects, Impromp2’s commitment to musical excellence. Explains Sean, "We wanted to revisit the 'feel good' sound of "Summer Nights" which was one of the most popular tracks on our first album. Steve ('The Scotsman') Harvey who produced that first CD is on it along with musicians like Ndugu Chancler and Sekou Bunche"
The title track (with special guest Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar) is another prime example. Says Johnny, “This is one of the first songs I played for Sean as we were preparing the album. It’s got that ‘night time’ flavor and it’s got a kind of timeless quality to it.
That same smooth’n’easy quality is evident on other cuts like “Good Thang” which Sean says “is reminiscent of “Enjoy Yourself” from the “You’re Gonna Love It” album,” while “Keep Doin” (which features special guest George Duke) evokes nights of sensuality, romance and passion.
Impromp2’s choice to revisit Marvin Gaye’s classic “You Sure Love To Ball” is a natural, given Johnny’s own vocal style and sound: “Actually, Sean was the one who came up with the idea and we think it works.” Special guests on the track include super bassist Marcus Miller and sax man Boney James, who has recorded some notable Britt compositions including #1 “R&R” hit singles " The Total Experience (featuring George Duke) and "Grand Central" as well as "I'll Always Love You" (featuring Shai) penned by Johnny & Sean.
One of the standouts on IT IS WHAT IT IS is the star-studded cut “Mojazz,” a tribute to one of the original Motown label’s artists, the late J. Spencer. “We said, ‘let’s write a song that could be like a reunion for those of us who were on the MoJazz label. We got Norman Brown and Wayman Tisdale and then we brought in Boney, George (Duke) and Harvey Mason among others,” says Sean.
With its great synthesis of jazz, funk and rap, “Mojazz” in many exemplifies the Impromp2 ‘sound,’ evident throughout IT IS WHAT IT IS and in particular on cuts like “Dance With You” and the mellow “I Wanna Marry You” (the inspiration for which came from Johnny’s wife coming back from church one Sunday), a cut that features Marcus Miller.
Moving into another musical genre, the beautifully orchestrated “It Was Love” (written by Johnny’s wife, a Christian music songwriter) is an inspirational gospel song. “We want to include at least one song like this on all of our albums going forward. Our faith is part of who we are and it’s important for us to share that through our music,” says Johnny.
Rounding out the new CD, “It Is What It Is!” is the duo’s way of clarifying what Impromp2 is all about: “There’s a misconception that we’re a jazz group and people sometimes have a hard time describing what we do. Is it jazz? Is it hip-hop? For us, it’s just good music. Why put a label on it? The bottom line is, ‘do you like it?’ We know we have a unique sound,” says Sean. “Whatever you want to call it, so be it!
The unique sound to which Sean refers had its genesis back in 1993 when Cleveland native Johnny Britt (who started his musical journey singing in the church choir and playing trumpet in high school bands before attending the prestigious Conservatory of Music in Versailles, France where he studied trumpet and composition for three years) decided he wanted to create a new sound, fusing his smoky jazz trumpet and romantic soul singing with a like minded rapper. The inspiration for this new musical direction came from hearing Miles Davis’ final/posthumous 1992 studio project, “Doo-Bop,” a collaboration with producer Easy Mo Bee that provided a looking glass into the possibilities of marrying jazz, soul and hip hop in funky fresh ways that could appeal to mature audiences.
After auditioning nearly fifty people, Johnny – who spent three years as musical director for the legendary Temptations – found the perfect musical partner in Sean Thomas, an L.A. native whose early musical influences ranged from The Treacherous Three and Rakim to Stevie Wonder, Prince and Michael Jackson and also included the lyrical poetry of smooth jazz artist Michael Franks. With his brother, Sean formed the group Rappinstine (signed to Ruthless Records) before meeting Johnny (whose credits also included background vocals on Luther Vandross’ “Songs” album and an appearance in David Bowie’s “Black Tie White Noise” video, syncing parts originally played by the late, great Lester Bowie—a friend).
As Impromp2, Johnny and Sean were among the first artists signed to the then-fledgling MoJazz label and with the release of 1995’s “You’re Gonna Love It,” the duo established their distinctive sound, thanks to positive response to cuts like “Enjoy Yourself,” “Get Me Off” and “Summer Nights.” An instrumental version of the latter was embraced at NAC, Quiet Storm and smooth jazz radio formats, significantly broadening their audience.
Following the 1997 release of Impromp2’s sophomore album, “Can’t Get Enough” (which included production by Eddie F, Big Bub, and Harvey Mason Jr.), MoJazz folded while Impromp2 contnued on performing before former President Bill Clinton at the White House and participating in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In between visits to the U.K., the Netherlands, The Bahamas and St. Lucia, the duo performed at various venues in the U.S. including The Essence Music Festival and Magic Johnson’s Mardi Gras.
The release of the group’s third album, “Definition Of Love” represented a welcome return to the marketplace and now, the 2007 release of IT IS WHAT IT IS is sure to please longtime supporters of this pioneering musical group. In the drivers’ seat with the creation of their own JCS label, Johnny and Sean see unlimited possibilities with the planned release of a jazz version of the new album in the 2nd quarter of 2008. “We want to show that we can do it all,” both multi-talented men agree. Indeed with its trademark smooth grooves, Impromp2’s latest work continues the tradition the duo established back in ’95, providing tasteful music that brings together the very best in jazz, rap and R&B, presented track by track, with soulful excellence.
Then there's Wayman Tisdale
Sometimes a word can mean one thing your entire life, and then circumstances alter to provide a totally different interpretation.
For NBA-icon-turned-musical-star Wayman Tisdale, rebound meant to grab possession of a basketball during a game.
But in 2007, that all changed. Tisdale was diagnosed with bone cancer after he fell down a flight of steps and broke his leg. Knee replacement surgery and months of chemotherapy followed. And rebound took on a new significance once his right leg was amputated right above the knee in 2008.
As many before him, he came through the disease with a renewed perspective: “It really showed me what’s important in life, man. It’s not getting as many houses as I can, not driving the biggest cars,” he says. “What’s important is family and being healthy.”
That reinvigorated joy and sense of purpose pervades Rebound, the bass guitarist’s eighth album and his third on Rendezvous Entertainment. “People are going to feel different after listening to this record. They’re going to be happy. There’s going to be a good feeling,” Tisdale says. “Rebound definitely has a beginning, a body and an ending and that’s what I wanted to do. That’s why the record starts with the song ‘Rebound,’ to capture people and bring them in. A Japanese voice before the second verse of ‘Rebound’ says ‘I’ve rebounded and you can rebound also.’ That’s what the message is. If I can do it, you can do it.”
Rebound takes the listener on a journey with gratitude as the ultimate destination. Others might, understandably, be angry at God for the illness, but Tisdale feels nothing but thanks and praise. “He didn’t have to allow the bone to break, a lot of people find out too late,” Tisdale says. “I look at everything from a spiritual standpoint, my father being a Baptist minister before he passed. Through your toughest times, you’re going to find out who you are as a person and I got to really see what type of person I am.”
That spirit is expressed on CD closer “Grateful,” stirringly delivered by gospel great Marvin Sapp. “When he was a newcomer in gospel group Commission, he used to stay at my house and sleep in the Lazy Boy,” Tisdale recalls with a robust laugh. “I needed somebody to complete this record and I couldn’t think of a better person than Marvin. I knew he would give it the emotion and really bring it home the way it needed to be brought home and he did a beautiful job.”
Another old friend—and fellow Oklahoman-- Toby Keith also makes an appearance. In his self-appointed role of “Ambassador of Old School," Tisdale covers an R&B classic on each album. Here, he and Keith team up for the Barry White classic “Never Gonna Give You Up.” “I was literally on the internet looking at a lot of old school songs, listening to Earth, Wind & Fire and some old school Isley Bros., when I got a call and Toby says, I got the song we need to redo: ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ It still didn’t register until the studio and I mean, my mouth was wide open. I could not believe what I was hearing! Toby nails it!”
Another highlight is first single, “Throwin’ It Down,” which announces that Tisdale is back in the game. He co-wrote the upbeat, jaunty tune with Darren Rahn, who produced Wayman’s #1 single “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.” “It’s a good feeling; it’s saying ‘I’m coming out. I’m back.’”
Wayman Tisdale, a three-time All-American at Oklahoma who played 12 seasons in the NBA, died after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 44.
Tisdale died Friday morning at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, hospital spokeswoman Joy McGill said.
He learned of a cancerous cyst below his right knee after breaking his leg in a fall at his home in Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2007. His leg was amputated last August. He made several public appearances since, including April 7 at an Oklahoma City Thunder game.
Tisdale, a 6-foot-9 forward from Tulsa with a soft left-handed touch, played in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. He averaged 15.3 points for his career. He was on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.
After his basketball career, he became an award-winning jazz musician, with several albums making the top 10 on the Billboard charts. Last month, he was chosen for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Tisdale's death was announced on the Oklahoma Senate floor Friday by Senate Majority Leader Todd Lamb, who led the chamber in prayer.
"Whether you're a Cowboy or a Sooner, Oklahoma has lost a great ambassador," Lamb said. "He was a gifted musician, a gifted athlete and he just wore that well wherever he went."
Tisdale was the first freshman to be a first-team All-American since freshmen were allowed to play again in 1971-72.
He was also one of 10 three-time All-Americans: The others were Oscar Robertson, Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor, Pete Maravich, Patrick Ewing, Tom Gola, Jerry Lucas, David Thompson and Ralph Sampson. Ewing and Tisdale were the last to accomplish the feat, from 1983-85.
Tisdale played on an Olympic team that sailed to the gold medal in Los Angeles, winning its game by 32 points. The squad was coached by Bob Knight and featured the likes of Ewing, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and Chris Mullin.
Tisdale averaged 25.6 points and 10.1 rebounds during his three seasons with the Sooners, earning Big Eight Conference player of the year each season.
He still holds Oklahoma's career scoring record with 2,661 points and career rebounding record with 1,048. Tisdale also owns the school's single-game scoring mark, a 61-point outing against Texas-San Antonio as a sophomore, along with career records in points per game, field goals and free throws made and attempts.. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/ns/wayman-tisdale-obituary/127328757#sthash.4...
J. Spencer is amazing....
really had a hard time finding bio info on 'this' talent, but I'll persevere until I do.
You can count on THAT! So stay tuned.
I know I found him in the record shop in the 90's and played him alot on my web pages.
It's a shame he's not more visible. Oh well.
Just listen to his music that I've compiled and you'll readily agree.
All in all
was an excellent vehicle for the drive in these gems!