The Sounds of Oakland

The highly reputable and influential jazz drummer and record producer Paul Tillman Smith noted that the ‘Sounds of Oakland’ CD was inspired by a comment made by a former President of the United States, who called Oakland the worst city in America. “He said it twice on national TV,” said Smith. “Hearing those words from a sitting President was unbelievable to me.” The comment prompted Smith to share the truth as he knows it: “Oakland has been a creative hotbed for beautiful, original music for decades.” 

To produce the CD, Smith immediately reached out to his friend and former New York City-roommate, the internationally renowned drummer and record producer Norman Connors, for musical guidance and technical support.

Other co-producers included longtime Prince sideman Levi Seacer Jr., and Michael Bolton and Braxton Brothers bassist Nelson Braxton. Seacer and Braxton played a tremendous role in completing what Smith describes as a musical documentary of the style of R&B music that Oakland musicians played in the city’s clubs from the sixties to present day. starting with the late songwriter & Cal Tjader pianist / R&B record producer

Lonnie Hewitt, to composer/guitarist and still-thriving Bay Area legend Johnny Talbot.

This CD features a who’s who of the local R&B scene.

Notably, it includes local legends such as Jesse James (“I Can Do Bad By Myself”), Freddie Hughes (“Send My Baby Back”), Lenny Williams, (“So Very Hard To Go”), along with vocalist Lady Bianca, who toured and recorded with Sly Stone, Van Morrison, and Frank Zappa, and Derick Hughes, who has recorded with Prince and Motown and recently toured extensively with Roberta Flack, taking the place of the late great Donny

Hathaway Also performing is Martin Luther, former lead vocalist of The Roots band, Fred Ross, who replaced Sly Stone in the Family Stone. TMarvin Williams, lead and

background vocalist with the Persuader’s, known for the smash hit (“Thin Line Between Love & Hate”) and former ABC recording artist bassist/vocalist Bobby Reed is also up in the house. They’re joined by former Buddha Records recording artist David Gardener, Donnie Williams from the 4 th season of American Idol, and popular Bay Area vocalist Niecey Robinson (“whose song ‘Before You Know’ is one

of my favorites,” Smith said).

Then we have our younger performers Larriah Jackson, a top 2020 finalist from “The Voice” who should have won and whose song features background vocals by top American idol finalist Latoya London with a special guest performance by Rapper Mistah Fab. Also included are strong vocal performances by American Idol finalist Donnie Williams and his sister Terrill Williams Carter whose professional name is “Terrill”. Terrill has her own record coming out in 2023 produced by Preston Glass. Her brother Donnie’s song “Magazine Girl” is considered a classic by those professionals who have heard it. Finally, we have one of the Bay Area’s wonderfully musically gifted female singers and piano player’s who passed away ten years back. Her name is Bonnie Boyer. Bonnie was a member along with

Sheila E and Levi Seacer Jr of Prince’s “Power Generation Band”. Her vocal performance on the song “Just Like Magic” was found accidently by Paul while looking through his musical archives. Paul says it’s an honor to have Bonnie on

this record. Lastly, I would be remiss not to mention the exquisite horn playing of

Vincent Lars, who was the saxophonist for the group Tony Toni Tone. The young man can blow that Sax as demonstrated on his performance on the beautiful domestic violence song called “Please Don’t Run Over Me” sung by Ms. “Terrill”. Mr. Levi Seacer Jr will be heading up the “Sounds of Oakland”and.

Other performers include Minor Williams, Lenny Williams’ drummer and cousin

and a great vocalist in his own right, former Qwest recording artist & Wynton Marsalis sideman saxophonist Robert Stewart, Percussionist Bill Summers, who performed on Herbie Hancock’s platinum “Head Hunters” album also contributes. Lastly, we have Grammy Award-winning vocalist Jeanie Tracy singing beautiful backgrounds.

“Sounds of Oakland” was conceived by the Bay Area Jazz Society, an organization

that has supported Oakland Schools by purchasing instruments for music students, while also sponsoring jam sessions at various venues throughout the

region. This CD is designed to be a collector’s item for all of those who have grown up in the Bay Area and spent countless nights enjoying the vibrant club scene. It brings together the sounds heard at venues like the Showcase, the

Sportsman Lounge, Esther’s Orbit Room, the California Hotel, New Royce Club, Slim Jenkins, Mr. Majors, Ivey’s, the Continental Club, Al’s House of Smiles, Ruthies, the Campus Club, and the Oakland Auditorium. And let’s not leave out the Lucky 13 Club in neighboring Berkeley or the McKesmo Club in Richmond. This is in addition to many more clubs and concert venues in the Bay Area where everyone used to party ‘til 1:00 a.m. listening to some of the baddest bands in

the land, based out of Oakland.

Clifford L. Williams, Journalist: Post News Group

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