jeudi 28 avril 2011
mercredi 27 avril 2011
Jacques Fred Petrus (February 22th 1948 - June 8th 1987) was of French origin though he lived the greater part of his life in Italy where he established an international career in the music industry. Fred Petrus was a native of Guadeloupe (French West Indies), an archipelago located in the eastern Carribbean Sea. In Sainte-Anne on Grande-Terre Island he spent a happy youth. During his teens he was a fanatical collector of R&B and soul records, a musical passion that would determine the course of his life and professional path. After he finished technical school, Petrus worked as a diesel-engine mechanic on a cargo ship for a few years until he decided to exploit his musical baggage. He moved to Paris in the late sixties where he became a deejay. One of his first significant gigs was at the legendary Club Saint-Hilaire ran by François-Patrice, a chic venue situated in Rue de Rennes. The club was frequented by the rich and famous of that time like Aristoteles Onassis, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner and many French stars. His next stop in the Paris nightlife was the White Chapel club at Place Mabillon. During summertime he performed as a deejay in Sicily (Italy) or in Spain, at discotheques like Club Pilote or Tiffany’s in Marbella. In the early seventies he put down roots in Italy joined by a cousin and three brothers. But only with his brother Alex he shared the same music feeling and business instinct. Alex Petrus would remain one of the few confidants in Fred’s life until his death. In Italy Fred Petrus handled the turntables at the Staco Matto club in Rome and later played music at the Good Mood in Milan. The prosperous city of Milan with its sophisticated fashion appeal and exuberant nightlife was the ideal place for Petrus to settle down and spread his wings. To earn extra money he worked as a shop assistant in a Fiorucci fashion store in Milan. Petrus achieved an established reputation as a DJ and eventually began to import music from the U.S. as he quickly understood how to respond to the needs of his Milanese fellow DJ’s. He also realised he couldn’t keep on doing the job of a DJ for the rest of his life. In the early days Petrus used to order a couple of boxes of vinyl every week because the demand as well as his funds were limited. He mainly sold records to his deejay friends and to a few discotheques like the Nepentha and the Charly Max in Milan and Rome's Bella Blu, Jackie O and Number One. His “commerce” gradually increased as also the club-goers got interested in buying exclusive dance records. Subsequently Petrus found a maecenas in Milan who helped him start up his first record shop Goody Music in 1973.
The import store in Milan was an Italian division of the American music retailer Sam Goody. Besides Carù in Milan and Ronchini in Parma, Goody Music was the only U.S. importer in Italy. His business thrived because just Petrus specialised in soul and disco import. The disco market was a very specific and dynamic branch that required a constant awareness of the trends and the demands. In a short time he owned the monopoly and supplied records to radio stations and discotheques all over Italy. When private radio stations were legalized in 1975, Goody Music sponsored a radio program on the first private station: Radio Milano International, which is called 101 Network today. Soon every private station was hosting a disco show and disco music became really huge by 1976. It appears that Petrus was even one of the first radio DJ's of Radio Milano International but he was fired after a dispute with the head of the radio station. It seems that Petrus also created the record label Master Music around that time. The success of Goody Music allowed him to set up a chain of import music stores in Italy. Former Little Macho Music staff member Steve Bogen recalls: "I met Freddie in the '70s when he had the Goody Music record store in Italy. I was the buyer for a major one stop in N.Y.C. and he would regularly fly to the US and come in to see me at Record Haven. I would sit with him, play him the newest hottest disco songs, he would buy them and I would then ship the LP's to him in Italy. I started working directly with Fred Petrus in like 1981, sometime before I was running the record label RPM Assoc., an indie promotion company specializing in American rock ‘n’ roll bands that was pretty well known."
Fred Petrus deejaying in Spain at Club Pilote in 1969
GOODY MUSIC PRODUCTION & LITTLE MACHO MUSIC
About 1978 the shrewd entrepreneur lifted his company to a higher level. Petrus attracted talented musicians from the region of Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Ferrara, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Rimini, Ravenna,…) and began producing music himself with partner Mauro Malavasi. They already met a few years earlier. The story goes that Petrus had a crucial meeting with Mauro Malavasi at the Music Conservatory of Bologna (Conservatorio di Musica Giovan Battista Martini di Bologna) (see photo) in 1975 when Mauro was still studying music. Thereafter he decided to help his young friend graduate through some financial backing. The two associates extended Goody Music into a production company and record label with the aim of becoming the Italian Gamble and Huff. They saw in each other the opportunity to realise their ambitions to become major players in the dance and disco scenes of Europe and America. Their vision was to create a sound that was melodic and decidedly smooth in delivery that would appeal to both markets.
Following in the footsteps of the legendary French disco producers Henri Belolo & Jacques Morali and music impresario Christian Carbaza, Petrus went to New York in the late seventies to start making studio musician connections and getting deals with US labels.
The very first artist that Petrus published on his Goody Music label was the French Elvin Shaad. His mini album Live For Love was released in 1978. Petrus and Shaad were the executive producers of the project. The LP was produced by Elvin Shaad and Florida and recorded at the Florida Studio in Paris. The mixing and remixing was carried out in London and New York. Hot NYC deejay Tom Savarese mixed the record at Sigma Sound. The next production on Goody Music Records was the crucial Macho project, recorded in Italy with his in-house musician staff and remixed by Tom Savarese in New York.
The Goody Music Production firm was based in Milan, Via Friuli 51 and later moved to Via Pietro Mascagni 15. Little Macho Music was the name of his international publishing company from 1979 onwards. Soon the activities of Little Macho Music outclassed the domestic Goody Music Production enterprise as Jacques Fred Petrus relocated his main business activities to the headquarters in New York City. The small office of Little Macho Music was situated on 1775 Broadway, NYC. Former staff member Steve Bogen recalls: "Yes, that was the building (see photo), 1775 Broadway. We had office space there on the 7th Floor, we rented the space from Bert Padell. Bert was our accounting firm, Padell, Nadell, Fine & Wineburg. Padell moved out of that building a number of years ago. There were lots of music biz types that rented space. For example Michael Lang, one of the guys that did Woodstock had an office on the floor. We had two offices, a small one I used, and Freddie had a large corner office. We also had a desk I sometimes used just outside the door to Fred's office, nice Italian office furniture, but then again that was Freddie. There were three of us in the office, Fred's friend Claude Ismael, Mic Murphy and me. However, Claude and Freddy had a falling out...but then he did that with most of us who worked for him!" Since Petrus managed to fix very profitable deals with major American record companies (Atlantic, Capitol-EMI, Warner Bros.), that guaranteed worldwide distribution of his music, he felt no longer the need to maintain his own Italian record label. Accordingly all activities of Goody Music Records ceased in 1981 and the name of Goody Music Production was dropped as well. In 1982 Petrus briefly introduced Memory Records that published some of his artists in Italy like Zinc, Change and Silence but the small imprint disappeared a year later.
During six years executive producer Petrus and fellow producer Malavasi would represent the perfect symbiosis between project manager and sound architect until the power duo split up in 1983 due to severe economical troubles and an unbearable professional relationship between the two partners.
Jacques Fred Petrus, the bright Guadeloupean entrepreneur, was the archetype of the successful executive producer.
He mainly concentrated on the business aspects of the company such as masterminding and financing the numerous discoprojects and shopping around for gainful record deals. Petrus who was usually called Fred Petrus or just Freddie by his friends was a reserved but driven character whose passionate, ambitious nature was sometimes in conflict with associates. He has been described as a generous individual with a propensity to be ruthless to those who crossed him. Jacques Fred Petrus was not a musician but he had an excellent musical taste. He definitely had an input into the musical direction and the overall vibe. His deejay experience connected him with the pulse of the disco scene. He had a sixth sense for recruiting promising American vocalists, first-rate Italian musicians and top notch American and British songwriters/lyricists. He relied heavily on hired studio help to create his music. In Italy Petrus and Malavasi enlisted the musicians George Aghedo (see photo right below), Gabriele Melotti (see photo drummer), Celso Valli, Marco Tansini (see B/W photo guitarist below), Paolo Gianolio (see photo guitarist below), Rudy Trevisi (see photo saxophonist), Luca Orioli and foremostly Davide Romani (see photo above) for their composing and arranging skills. Petrus understood the importance and the talent of those young eclectic musicians. Therefore he decided to engage them exclusively, paying them a monthly salary. Together they formed the Goody Music Orchestra and became key contributors to the sound of Goody Music Production. Many of the early Goody Music productions were accompanied by The Goody Music String Ensemble led by William Righi (first string). Petrus would record all the tracks at first in Italian studios in Bologna, Modena and Milan and then bring the completed tapes to the U.S. along with Mauro Malavasi and later also Davide Romani who would live around the corner from the Little Macho Music office in a rented flat. In New York they looked for the right singers. Petrus and Malavasi frequented the hot clubs in New York City like Brody, The Cellar, Leviticus and Sweetwater where showbands performed, in search of local singing talent. Next they booked a recording studio and added the vocal parts to the music. The mixing, post production and mastering took place at the best possible NYC facilities.
The Goody Music label also released music from groups and singers that were not produced by the Goody Music Production staff. Such acts were: Theo Vaness, Caprice, NH3 Band, Geraldine Hunt, Pacific Blue, Akka B, The Royal Rasses, Sheila Hylton, Blood Sisters, Ras Midas, Elvin Shaad, Jo Lemaire & Flouze, Carlo Lena and Random. Most of this output was exclusively licensed from other labels for distribution on the Italian market. But of these releases only the projects of Elvin Shaad and Caprice were actually financed by executive producer Petrus. Note that Jacques Fred Petrus in most cases wasn’t the factual producer of the music, even though he credited himself in that way on just about every record that was published by Little Macho Music. Petrus primarily took control of the business end of the music. He wasn’t the artistic leader or creative catalyst in the studio. Nor was he a competent arranger and composer like Malavasi and Romani were. Even though he did interfere with the creative process in a directing and supervising way. He would often be present in the studio during recording sessions and provided artistic input such as picking the right artists, songs and deciding about the final cut of each album project. Petrus was blessed with a great vision for disco music and he wanted things to be carried out according to his ideas. On the other hand the role of the very talented bassist Davide Romani was much more instrumental than assumed. But Romani not quite received the recognition for his undeniable production capacities. Also musician Rudy Trevisi played a bigger part than generally known.
By 1982 Petrus' realm started crumbling off due to an economical malaise within his company and shifting trends in the music industry. He had become quite a controversial if not corrupt business figure. It is known that in this period Jacques Fred Petrus didn’t treat his contracted personnel very fairly. Many artists, songwriters, lyricists or engineers who worked for him didn't get paid on time or received no payment at all. People began showing up at the Little Macho Music office demanding money and threatening. Or as recording engineer Michael H. Brauer stated: "I was a fan of Fred for many years. It was only when he screwed over my friends and then myself that I felt he was an abuser and a bad person. My career got off the ground because of my work with Change so I'm certainly grateful to him for that break." Petrus had signed very lucrative contracts with many major record labels and this had made him a very rich man. He was a typical record executive from the Disco period. A tough guy who was quick with his fists at any time! People respected him, but many actually feared him. He owned many things that the opulent love, including a few night clubs. But all this wealth made him lose the contact with reality, and in a short time his manias of greatness brought him to sink slowly and always deeper in economic problems. Petrus was only thinking about accumulating money for himself without recognizing the merit of his musicians. This situation resulted in an enivitable creative crisis of his production team that consequently began to dissolve.
In 1984 Petrus' association with his Italian partners was over. A frustrated Paolo Gianolio already left the Little Macho Music production team in 1982. The other Italian co-workers Malavasi, Romani and Trevisi who also got tired of their relationship with Petrus and the economic turmoil, left Little Macho Music as soon as the running projects were rounded off in early 1983. Jacques Fred Petrus carried on alone with variable success until 1985. But for his ex-companion Malavasi this was just the end of the first chapter of an impressive musical career.
Mauro Malavasi (photo) was born in Mirandola (Modena) in 1958. At the age of 6 he joined the local drum band where he first played the tambourine and later the trumpet. Malavasi graduated from the Conservatory of Bologna in orchestra/choir direction and composition. He also mastered several instruments like the trumpet and the piano. With a bunch of friends Malavasi used to play in a jazz band. Bologna has always been very active in the field of jazz music and annually welcomes the important Bologna Jazz Festival since 1938. In 1982 he married Elisabetta Paselli, a piano teacher whom he met at the music conservatory when she was 24. Malavasi was the musical genius who created the sensational disco sound together with the staff musicians at Goody Music Production/Little Macho Music. He was the actual producer and musical director. The credits on the albumsleeves of Macho, Peter Jacques Band, Change and the many other creations, reveal that Mauro Malavasi was the ubiquitous musical force within Little Macho Music. He was omnipresent as an allround keyboardist and synthesizer wizard during recording sessions. Not to mention the musician’s essential role as a composer, arranger and conductor. Mauro's classical background seemed no obstacle for a career as a disco producer. His incredible gift for classical orchestration brought about a brilliant concept for dance music. From a production standpoint, he was very attuned to the dance music sounds coming out of the U.S., particularly impressed with the Chic sound, the Salsoul sound and the Philly Sound, which were sophisticated, richly orchestrated, greatly structured and funky as hell.
Mauro Malavasi’s career as a disco composer took off right after graduating, when he teamed up with Marzio Vincenzi (a.k.a. Marzio Vincenti) to form the group Marsius. Their first disco album Save The Tiger was recorded in Italy and mixed in Munich (Germany) which was the center of Eurodisco music in those days. Save The Tiger was released in Italy on Harmony Records in 1977 and had Mauro Malavasi on songwriting and arrangements. Several tracks were co-written by Deborah Kooperman. During that same year he also realized the single “You Keep Me Hanging On” for another Marsius project called Marsius & The Fantastic Soul Invention. These first
trials were anything but commercial successes. It all changed after Malavasi and “mentor” Petrus joined forces and started up the Goody Music Production company which led to the release of the Macho record in 1978 featuring Malavasi’s friend Marzio Vincenzi on lead vocals. Mauro Malavasi was only 20 years old then. The legendary U.S. disco label Prelude obtained the rights of Macho's I'm A Man LP and immediately it hit the American disco charts. This first victory became the starting shot of a tremendous musical adventure that would bring wealth, glory and successes…
THE BIRTH OF ITALIAN R&B-DISCO
During the late seventies Petrus & Malavasi instigated a string of electrifying disco acts like Macho, Peter Jacques Band, Revanche, Midnight Gang and Rudy. The music Petrus and Malavasi initially fabricated was based on the kind of disco that was in vogue at that time: energetic Eurodisco typified by an explicit synthsound, pulsating rhythms, funky elements and catchy melodies.
Petrus & Malavasi were the primary proponents of the 'Italian Sound' within the Eurodisco movement. Eurodisco's inventors were the Munich-based duo Giorgio Moroder (see photo) and Pete Bellotte whose groundbreaking electrobeat-driven disco textures, high-energy impact and cold, synthetic arrangements revolutionized dance music in the second half of the seventies (Donna Summer, Munich Machine, Giorgio Moroder, Roberta Kelly, Sparks, Trax). Representatives of the French Eurodisco sound were producers Jacques Morali & Henri Belolo (The Village People, The Ritchie Family, Patrick Juvet) and Jean-Marc Cerrone (Don Ray, Kongas, Cerrone). Eurodisco had established itself as a force to be reckoned with. Built around a thudding four-four beat, futuristic synthesizers, and a penchant for grandiose conceptual themes, the genre had its own aesthetic, and it also looked like it sold more records than any other strand of disco.
MACHOPetrus' and Malavasi's first collective project was the Macho mini album I'm A Man (#6 Billboard’s Disco/Dance Chart), released in 1978 on Prelude records and several European labels including Ariola, Flarenash and Goody Music records. Petrus decided to make a dynamic disco remake of the Steve Winwood song "I'm A Man", originally released in 1967 by Winwood’s band The Spencer Davis Group. He instructed Mauro Malavasi to recreate an atmosphere which had to be similar to that of Kongas' Africanism album produced by Cerrone in 1977. The mood of the song was definitely reminiscent of Konga's song "Gimme Some Lovin'" which also happened to be a song of the Spencer Davis Group! Malavasi wrote all the arrangements and searched for every single sound that gave it a truly international appeal. The use of powerful guitar and synthesizer added to the strenghth of the cut's driving Cerrone-like percussion break. "I'm A Man" was an epic disco performance, definitely club oriented and it had a great groove to it. Really the most impressive aspect was the music itself. It went through many changes and interludes much like Giorgio Moroder's epic disco numbers for Donna Summer, it always ended up winding back to something familiar making it seem really well assembled. It was based in the electronic disco with a minor in funk style. This iconic disco song perfectly captured the exuberance of the late seventies. Malavasi was lucky because he could cooperate with very young and skilled musicians living in Emilia-Romagna such as bass player Davide Romani, guitarist Paolo Gianolio, keyboardist Luca Orioli, drummer Gabriele 'Lele' Melotti, saxophonist Rudy Trevisi, percussionist George Aghedo and trombonists Sandro Comini and Marco Pellacani. Romani's aggressive bass playing was an essential contribution, creating one of the characteristics of the powerful title track that rocketed the LP to the top of the disco charts. The featured lead vocalist was Marzio Vincenzi (see photo), a friend of Malavasi who used to be a ballroom singer on the Italian Riviera (Rimini) where lots of discotheques were located. Together they had formed the band Marsius, named after Marzio, and released their one and only disco influenced album Save The Tiger in 1977, without any notable success. Marzio only sang on the first Macho album, and went on to record the disco-rock album Smoke On The Volcano as Marzio in 1980, and furthermore the Italo-disco single “Living” in 1982. According to sources, Marzio Vincenzi died in 1998. The Macho LP was recorded at the Fonoprint Studios in Bologna and at the Florida Studio in Paris. Once the job was finished in Italy, Petrus flew to the U.S. to record the choirs. Arthur Simms was a credited background singer. At the Sigma Sound Studios in New York the record was mixed by the famous deejay and remix expert Tom Savarese (see photo) who carried out an endless mix of the single "I'm A Man" lasting 17 minutes and 45 seconds! The mini album I'm A Man included two more tracks: "Hear Me Calling" and "Because There's Music In The Air", both composed by Mauro Malavasi. These songs were perhaps a little less good than the title track, but still had a cool breakdown and they absolutely fit in the album. The songwriter Alan Taylor, who would collaborate on most early Petrus projects, provided the lyrics. The rights of the Macho record were bought by the disco label Prelude and instantly the record entered the American disco charts. Just three weeks after its release Macho had reached the sixth position on the U.S. disco charts!
In an unprecedented action at the time, deejay Tom Savarese filed a $1 million damage suit against Prelude Records and its president Marvin Schlachter for failing to list his name among the credits for the Macho album. Savarese allegedly mixed the three tunes on the album under an agreement with producer Jacques Fred Petrus. Prelude subsequently picked up U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to the record. In seeking to enjoin Prelude and Schlachter from selling, distributing "or otherwise exploiting" the record, Savarese and his manager, Marilyn Green-Fisher, argued that defendants failed to live up to an agreement to credit Savarese with the words "Mix by Savarese" on the album cover and the disk label of the product in contention. Tom Savarese claimed that the omission of his credits was willful and deliberate and had caused him "irreparable harm". In addition to $ 500.000 in actual damages, and another $ 500.000 in punitive damages, he also asked the court to enjoin the label from further selling, distributing or advertising for sale any copies of I'm A Man by Macho until reparation had been made.
Zinc was yet another fine studio creation presented by Guadeloupean Jacques Fred Petrus and Italian Mauro Malavasi during their New York stay. This project fronted by singer Gordon Grody was Little Macho Music's last production in 1982. The rare Street Level album was published by Jive Records, a label known for its alternative releases and particular products. Jive is a division of Zomba, the highest-ranked independent record company in the world. Zinc was urban soul funk, kept fairly basic, without too many frills. The emphasis here was on the vocals and perculating beat that made you want to bounce to the dancefloor. Though there were over 20 musicians and vocalists listed on the credits, the spare arrangements gave everybody space. With the Zinc concept, Petrus attempted to infiltrate the white pop market with a sound sometimes abandoning warm melodic soul and flirting colder rock music. The musical climate at that time was radically changing. Pop music took the gravity center of radio programming and DJ culture, at the expense of black dance music. Several tracks on the Zinc record demonstrated the impact of new wave music in those days. The studio group was composed of American and Italian session musicians led by the inevitable Mauro Malavasi. The production abilities of Malavasi and the great musicianship of Davide Romani and Rudy Trevisi once again shone through on this record.
Street Level featured the lead vocals of the white session singer Gordon Grody and Steve Daniels. Gordon Grody is a renown backing vocalist who has recorded with many soul and pop artists (Jeff Tyzik, Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Steely Dan, Patti Austin, Peabo Bryson, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Talking Heads, Phyllis Hyman, Yoko Ono, Change, High Fashion, The B.B.&Q. Band, etc.). He also provided the lead vocals for several other Petrus projects: Macho’s second Roll album and the two Silence albums. Steve Daniels formerly appeared as a vocalist on the Revanche and Rudy records and also did backgrounds for Change. He was a member of the band Platinum Hook.
Despite the suitable Jive label and a very well realized product, the Zinc undertaking was not a commercial peak and showed that the pop market didn't belong to Petrus and his musicians. Highlights on Zinc’s Street Level were the inspired Kashif song “Street Level”, the chilly “Punkulation” written by Romani and the Chic-influenced "This Is Where The Love Is". Other tasteful selections included the naughty uptempo "I'll Never Stop", the energetic “I’ll Take My Chances” flavoured with licks of rock guitar and polyrhythmic percussion, and “Amazon” with its intriguing instrumental airs and chants.
In 1983 a final Zinc track, “I’m Livin' A Life Of Love”, was released on Jive Records but no album followed. Contractual stipulations forced Little Macho Music to publish this last Zinc cut, which was a leftover from previous B.B.&Q. Band recordings, composed by Mauro Malavasi. The song borrowed the arrangement of "Searching" by group Change.
PETER JACQUES BAND
Jacques Fred Petrus was aware that the collaboration with Mauro Malavasi was turning out to be winning and he immediately decided to undertake a second studio project: the Peter Jacques Band. The name was a clear "play" on Jacques Fred Petrus' name. Peter Jacques Band's 4 track-album Fire Night Dance (#6 Billboard’s Disco/Dance Chart) was published in 1979 hot on the heels of Macho. Leroy Burgess, a member of the Black Ivory group, was engaged as a studio lead vocalist. Other credited session singers were Arthur Simms, Joe Scott, Sammy Gaha, Ann Calvert, Gloria Turner, Claudia Polley, Hilda Harris, Lavelle Duggan and Maerethia Stewart. It was typically of the disco era that the “live act” was just a variable lip-sync group of nameless American, Italian and Guadeloupean models and dancers who performed on TV shows and in video clips. The act was a "band" in name only as all the music was handled by studio musicians with several different line-ups contracted for touring. Petrus found most of these artists in the entertainment and fashion world of Rome and Paris. They were often Americans living in Europe. One of the girls that Petrus hired was the beautiful Joëlle Ursull. She was elected Miss Guadeloupe in 1979 and worked as a model and television actress in Paris. Later she became one of the three founding members of the successful group Zouk Machine. Other unknown performers with the Peter Jacques Band were Sergio, Jon, David, Haron, Katherine, Michelle, Marcelaine, Francesca and Giuliana. Fire Night Dance included the smash hit "Walking On Music", "Devil's Run" and "Fire Night Dance". Also memorable was Mauro Malavasi’s spacy disco journey on the fantastic track "Fly With The Wind" that melted a cool electronic base and warm choirs with classical airs. Again the Prelude label obtained the publishing rights for the U.S.. In Europe the record was released on the Ariola and the Goody Music labels. The original album artwork of Fire Night Dance showed a fluttering naked “butterfly woman” with silver boots on, portraying the ultimate disco angel fantasy. This kinky but artistic cover was banned in the U.S. and got replaced by a cheesy discoclub photo.
Besides Change other studio concepts emerged from the Little Macho Music factory such as The B.B.&Q. Band. Their debut album The Brooklyn, Bronx & Queens Band continued in the tradition of Change, and not surprisingly, often sounded like a Change album. Most of the songs were composed, arranged and conducted by Change co-producer Mauro Malavasi and many of the players and background singers also appeared on Change albums. And like Change, the B.B.& Q. Band made dance music that captivated in a forcible, unaffected manner.
The band was a standard faceless aggregation of Little Macho Music staff musicians and American sessioneers. The informal groupmembers depicted on the first album were the American studio musicians Kevin Nance (keyboards), (drums), Dwayne PerdueParis 'PeeWee' Ford (bass), Abdul Wali Mohammed (guitar) and lead singer Ike Floyd. Guitarist William ‘Doc’ Powell turned bassist Paris Ford (see photo) on to producer Petrus who was looking for musicians for a new project. In November 1980 the B.B.& Q. Band were put together by Paris Ford on Petrus’ request and got signed to Capitol records a little later. The acronym B.B.&Q. stands for the New York suburbs Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens, which were the areas where the original members of the group came from. The B.B.&Q. Band later “stabilized” into a self-contained group for two subsequent albums. Only Kevin Nance of the original line-up remained. The other musicians gave preference to session work and lucrative touring engagements with well-known artists. After all there wasn’t much happening with the B.B.&Q. Band once they had left the recording studio. Paris Ford for instance has taken his place as one of the most enduring and groundbreaking session-bassists in the last two decades, playing for lots of R&B stars as Rick James, Glenn Jones, Johnny Gill, Stacy Lattisaw, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, Marcus Miller, Norman Connors and Lenny White. In 1982 the B.B.& Q. Band studio entity comprised Kevin Nance (keyboards), Kevin Robinson (guitarist), Bernard Davis (drums), (bass) and Tony BridgesChieli Minucci (guitarist). The album sleeves don't show all of the five members, which indicates that the band was a rather loose formation of switchable sessioneers, typical for most of the projects of Little Macho Music. Actually the B.B.& Q. Band never got to the stage of a real band. They never did any live gigs or promotional tours to support their albums because it seems the group was stopped dead by a glitch in the touring budget.
In the early to mid eighties frontman Kevin Robinson (see photo) also worked as a session musician and singer with Change, The Spinners, Stephanie Mills, The Strangers, High Fashion, Lillo Thomas and Mtume. Besides he was a musician with funkgroup Network and co-produced their rare I Need You album in 1984. He was likewise producer for Freddie Jackson, B.T. Express, Melba Moore, Patti LaBelle, Sarah Dash, Sweet Obession and the Bar-Kays. In 1984, together with Howard King, he produced the Macho III single “Kalimba De Luna” for Jacques Fred Petrus. Robinson is also known as recording artist Chad on the RCA label (album Fast Music, Love & Promises, 1987).
Chieli Minucci formed the well-known fusion group Special EFX in 1982 and has since been a major force in the world of smooth jazz. Besides Special EFX, he has four solo albums to his credit and has played, recorded with, or produced a number of artists including Dave Grusin, Lionel Richie, Anastacia, Mark Anthony, Jewel, Roberta Flack, Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, Noel Pointer, Angela Bofill and Chuck Loeb. He also writes for TV and hopes to get into scoring films.
The B.B.& Q. Band are best remembered for Malavasi’s hypnotic floorfiller “On The Beat” (#3 Billboard’s Disco/Dance Chart; #8 Billboard’s R&B Singles Chart), a joyous dance groove driven by funky rhythm guitars. It was the opening track on the spectacularly good debut release The Brooklyn, Bronx & Queens Band in 1981. Though critically acclaimed by disco freaks, their first album never exploded in the US. The unpretentious excitement of “On The Beat” made the song the best dance anthem of 1981 and a Top Ten R&B hit. The magic of this song is that the beat is never heard - it is felt - so that listeners’ feet are kept moving while their ears are free to concentrate on other parts of the song. A punctuated, Chicesque melody leads into a call-and-response pattern in which the lead singer answers the background vocalists, much like the bridge on Temperton’s “Boogie Nights”. And the lyric, like Temperton’s “Give Me The Night”, celebrates the virtues of music and dancing: “Nobody has a care/’Cause there’s music in the air/It’s nothing like you’ve ever seen before”. There is no yearning for strobe lights or gold chains here. Instead, when the vocalists sing “Are you ready or not/It’s only up the street/Everybody’s dancing/And everybody’s on the beat”, they seem to be talking about an all-night party going on under the nearest lamppost. This album also included “Starlette” which carries the common “treasure the ordinary things in life” theme too, but sounds fresh thanks to some dazzling vocal interplay. The song has two choruses with the vocals perky on one and aggressive on the other - and they converge at the end of the song to create overwhelming exhilaration. Engaging vocals also makes the swift and elegant “Mistakes” hard to resist. The chorus carries an ABA rhyme scheme, but it is so catchy and the singers so inseparable from each note that the second line sounds like it rhymes with the first and third anyway. The melody changes at the end of the song and the chorus turns into a rap, but the song is so cohesively crafted that when the original chorus returns, it never seems to have left. In contrast to the immediate appeal of the former three songs, the subtleness of the classy mid-tempo “Time For Love” (#72 Billboard’s R&B Singles Chart) takes several listens to become accustomed to. The title is sung and followed by another spare guitar riff, and then not much seems to happen. But like Change’s “Hold Tight”, “Time For Love” weaves its way in listeners’ minds so that by the fifth or sixth listen, the song becomes permanently embedded. The whole set of The Brooklyn, Bronx & Queens Band is filled with lots of hard-stepping guitar, bass, and keyboard bits that propel the tunes with snappingly catchy rhythms throughout. The tempo slows on the graceful ballads “Don’t Say Goodbye” and “Lovin’s What We Should Do”, all composed by Petrus' Italian musicians Malavasi, Romani, Tansini and Trevisi. Especially “Don’t Say Goodbye” is not a token ballad thrown in just to give dancers a chance to catch their breath. A foreboding piano permeates the song, and when lead singer Ike Floyd sings “And I don’t know what I’m gonna do/Next time I see you”, the listener can feel the fear and confusion. A synthesizer break melts into a pleading saxophone solo, which further succeeds in the almost impossible task of bringing the listener down from the incredible high of “On The Beat”. There’s even a reggae tune, “I’ll Cut You Loose”, which is a change of pace
and pleasant surprise. The compelling and clever lyrics written by Tanyayette Willoughby and Paul Slade raised the music to the highest level of disco songcraft. A host of American top session singers handled backup, among them: Luther Vandross, Gordon Grody, Fonzi Thornton, Bobby Douglas, Diva Gray and Robin Clark. Petrus, Malavasi and company came up with another wonderful album, targeted both for the dancefloor and pop and R&B radio, devoid of mechanized garishness and bursting with vigor, proving once again that music for the feet and music for the mind do not have to be separate entities. B.B.& Q. Band's immortal dance anthem "On The Beat" generated a second moment of radio and club interest in 1987 when the subtle remix "On The Beat - 87 Bronx Mix" was released on the Streetheat label. An updated version that stayed very close to the original.
B.B.&Q. Band 1981
The group's sophomore set All Night Long in 1982 was a good follow-up with some good joints but had less hit potential than the first album. All Night Long featured guitar-player Kevin Robinson on lead vocals. The record mixed up some nice keyboards with a spacey early breakdance sound, and they sounded great over the group's tight rhythm, and surprisingly soulful vocals. All Night Long (# 32 Billboard's Black Albums Chart) included the elektrofunkish hit “Imagination” (#21 Billboard’s R&B Singles Chart), composed by keyboardist Kae Williams. Session artist Rick Brennan (who would join Change in 1983) served as guest vocalist on "Imagination". Brennan is still confused about this today and has no explanation why the lead singer Kevin Robinson didn't sing that track. Yet they were still far from a runaway hit, their following was strictly club, and their sound wasn’t spreading west, but primarily east, to the European dance floors. Other very enjoyable tunes were “Hanging Out”, "Hard To Get Around", Malavasi's edgy “Children Of The Night”, the gentle “(I Could Never Say) It’s Over” and the punchy, Kevin Robinson-written single “All Night Long (She’s Got The Moves I Like)”. Malavasi composed half of the album's songs together with Johnny Kemp Jr.. The other half was written by the American musicians Kae Williams, Kevin Robinson and Timmy Allen (bass player with Change). Johnny Kemp, Chieli Minucci (see photo) and Timmy Allen all played with the New York funk outfit Der Kinky Fox. Davide Romani only contributed as a bass player and this could be the reason why the record somewhat lacked the 'Italian chemistry' of the first album which holded songs of a stronger impact. Again Petrus spoilt his production with the rich tones of New York's most prestigious background singers. Credited session vocalists were Leroy Burgess, Tawatha Agee, Fonzi Thornton, Gordon Grody, Bobby Douglas, Eric McClinton, Johnny Kemp and Alyson Williams.
After two good albums, they coughed up a third in 1983. To Petrus & Malavasi standards Six Million Times was a disappointing shot. This project, co-produced by groupmember Kevin Robinson, obviously lacked decent songmaterial and creative direction. It seemed as if mentor Petrus held back the quality songs for his other projects. But the reality was that Petrus' Italian musicians stopped supplying successfull compositions as the good understanding with their boss was missing. Petrus faced serious economical problems in 1983 and Six Million Times was produced with a tiny budget during five weeks in Modena. Most of the album's songs came from the American groupmember Kevin Robinson, who co-wrote several tracks with top musician Howard King (Mtume, D-Train, Stephanie Mills, The Strangers, Candy Bowman, Karin Jones, Network). The long-player didn't yield any real highlights. "Keep It Hot" and the totally redundant Beatles tune “She’s A Woman” were the only singles off the album. “Keep It Hot” was composed by Malavasi and reminiscent of the funky floorfiller "Let It Whip" by the Dazz Band. “Stay” represented yet another enjoyable moment on the weak album. Other cuts like "We've Got To Do It", “Downtowne”, "Six Million Times" or "She's A Passionate Lover" also offered an upbeat sound with lots of bass and synths in the instrumentation, even Prince-touches but they couldn’t excite. Whereas the initial B.B.& Q. productions benefited of strong disco compositions and irresistible melodies, Six Million Times suffered of average songs vainly dipped in the heavier kind of electro-funk arrangements that marked many of the dancefloor productions of 1983 and after. But unlike their contemporaries Midnight Star, D-Train, S.O.S. Band, The System or Kashif, the B.B.& Q. Band scored no hits in 1983 and the group was subsequently dropped from the Capitol roster.
B.B.&Q. Band 1982In 1985 Jacques Fred Petrus formed a new B.B.& Q. Band and released the album Genie which sold well in Europe but couldn’t fulfill the expected success in the U.S.. The album was released first in Europe on different labels in different countries (Denmark, Italy, UK, Netherlands and Germany) and appeared on the U.S. market a year later on the Elektra imprint.
The cover artwork of the European pressing and the American pressing differed completely. The name of executive producer Jacques Fred Petrus wasn’t even printed on the US album. It’s very unlikely that he was murdered already when Genie got published in America. There was probably some unusual US release agreement for Genie. The name of the executive producer printed on the American sleeve was Earl Monroe who happened to be the executive producer of Curtis Hairston, lead singer on Genie. Hairston had already released a bunch of fairly successful R&B singles on Monroe’s Pretty Pearl record label (“I Want You (All Tonight)” 1983, “Summertime” 1983, “We All Are One” 1984 and “I Want Your Lovin’ (Just A Little Bit)” 1985). Monroe probably fixed a record deal via his label -which he initially started up as a vehicle for Curtis Hairston- to get Genie released on a major U.S. label.
The album was recorded at the MorningStar Studios in Philadelphia (US) where producer Kae Williams Jr's home was, and at the Morning Studios in Milan (Italy). However, the two releases showed different Italian recording studios on the covers. The US version of Genie was apparently recorded at the Castle Studios in Milan and the original European issue at the Morning Studios in Milan. But there's an explanation! The Castle Studios (a.k.a. The Stone Castle Studios) and the Morning Studios were actually one and the same recording facility, situated in Carimate near Milan. This studio was located inside a beautiful castle built in the 12th Century.
Featured tracks were the sweet “Minutes Away”, the upbeat “Riccochet”, the vibrant dancer “On The Shelf” (#72 Billboard’s R&B Singles Chart), “Dreamer” (#35 Billboard TOP 40), “Won’t You Be With Me Tonight”, the Prince/Minneapolis sound-inspired “Don’t Force It” and the impressive “Genie” (#40 Billboard TOP 40). The mellow title track that bubbled and percolated nicely with a seductively soulful feel, especially on the vocals, became their biggest hit since "On The Beat". Genie was a surprisingly consistent album awash in great keyboards (DX7 Rhodes) and snapping electro beats that were nicely placed between the street and the dancefloor. The hi-tech vibe was ostensibly influenced by the Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis productions.
The album was composed, written and co-produced by Kae Williams Jr. (see photo). The musician crew involved were Timmy Allen (bass), Michael Campbell (guitar) and Kae Williams Jr. (keyboards, piano). Kae Williams was formerly keyboardist with the group Breakwater. In 1981 he joined Timmy Allen and other top NY session players to record an album as Hi-Gloss for the Prelude label. A year later Fred Petrus offered Kae Williams session work with Change and B.B.& Q. Band. Williams also composed several songs for these groups. He later moved back to Philadelphia where he worked with artists including Mason, Ian Foster, Phyllis Hyman, George Howard, Miki Howard, Shirley Lites, Peggi Blu, Curiosity, G-Five, Loose Ends, Five Star, Robert Hazard, Pretty Poison, Cashmere, Terri Wells, Joanna Gardner, Bootsy Collins, Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Sybil Thomas. Producer Kae Williams Jr. deceased on July 11, 2008 due to heart failure at the age of 52.
Genie featured Curtis Hairston (see photo) on lead vocals and Ullanda McCullough on background vocals, although there were no vocal credits on the sleeves. Kae Williams worked with Curtis Hairston again in 1986 on his one and only solo album Curtis Hairston which included the popular soul track “The Morning After”, reminiscent of “Genie”. Unfortunately lead singer Curtis Hairston, who severely suffered from diabetes, passed away in January 1996. He was just 34 years old. Based in New York, Ullanda McCullough worked consistently through the ‘70s and early ‘80s as a backing singer, particularly with Ashford & Simpson who produced her second solo album Ullanda McCullough for Atlantic in 1981. As Ullanda she already released her first solo album Love Zone in 1979. In 1982 she recorded Watching You Watching Me on the Atlantic label, her last record to date. Elsewhere she recorded backing vocals with Roberta Flack, Teddy Pendergrass, Melba Moore, Lonnie Liston Smith, Cliff Dawson, Charles Earland, Cerrone, Hi-Gloss, Michael Zager Band, Stephanie Mills, Thelma Jones, Chic, Diana Ross, T-Connection, Manu Dibango, The Spinners, Chaka Khan, Grover Washington Jr. and Rainbow Brown among many more.
Occasionally acts have been touring as the B.B.& Q. Band. Rick Brennan, formerly with Change, performed during a 'Tribute To The Funk' concert in Bercy (Paris) in 2003 pretending to be the frontman of the B.B.& Q. Band. The massive audience went wild but unfortunately the whole show was fake! At the NYC B.B. King Club in August 2008, artists promoted the B.B.& Q. Band along with G.Q. and Change as a genuine 'reunion' tour. Curiously enough the singer had never been involved with the B.B.& Q. Band. And the irony doesn’t stop here, because the only original player from the B.B.& Q. Band onstage was Chieli Minucci who actually never performed live with the B.B.& Q. Band. He was a studio cat who just wrote and recorded for Petrus! Kevin Robinson, the original vocalist for B.B.& Q. Band had a falling out with the show organizers 2 days before, so a new “singer” came in and learned everything at the last minute but he couldn’t sing a lick. There was no comparison what so ever with the original lead vocalist Robinson who simultaneously performed B.B.& Q. Band songs at the Sugar Bar in NYC that evening in August 2008. Surprisingly, in 2009 the original line-up of the B.B.& Q. Band (photos above) consisting of Kevin Nance, Paris Ford, Dwayne Perdue and Ike Floyd reunited for a live gig on the Ron Alexander Show at the Kraine Theater and on the Soul Legends TV Show in NYC. In 2010 they will be touring as a part of the "Ol' Skool Throw Down" Tour featuring Evelyn "Champagne" King, B.T. Express, Brass Construction, Machine, B.B.&Q. Band, Johnny Kemp and T-Ski Valley.