Event Alert: Thursday, August 11, MANDRILL at B.B.KINGS: THE BEST JAM YOU EVER SPREAD YOUR BREAD ON
Well it's kind of like the feeling of the Prodigal Sons returning home! Mandrill, in New York, at BB Kings, after such a long time of being away! You almost want to go get the royal ring to welcome them back to the fold. For if any place is home for this elite (yes, I said elite) group of musicians, vocalists, performers, philosophers, brothers, it's New York City!!
Sure they were born the Wilson's on the Panama Canal, where they (four of them - all boys, mind you: Luis, Ricardo, Carlos and Wilfredo) were raised by their parents, Doris and Wilfred Wilson, who instilled in them a lifetime love and reverence for music. Indeed, their Jamaican born father had each one of them playing some kind of instrument by the tender ages of four and five, and made it a responsibility, right up there with the other chores they had to do. In fact, if they didn't practice, they couldn't go out and play.
And now, music is in their blood - it's their air, they literally breathe the stuff - they write their own original music, lyrics, concepts, drawing heavily on all they heard, saw and learned in their formative years, from a multi-cultural community, where people from all over the world came to live and work - the Panama Canal. People from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, St. Croix, St. Lucia - you name it, there in their little enclaves, speaking in different dialects, with different cultural flavors - the Wilson Brothers soaked it up (though they didn't know they were doing so at the time).
But the world probably would never have heard of these talented brothers had their parents not decided to emigrate to America to give them better lives. So in the early fifties they sailed with the two eldest sons, Lou and Ric, for New York, and landed in the wonderful land of BROOKLYN. Talk about an adjustment. Their accents against that of Brooklynese - by the time they had graduated from the famed Boys High School (yes they are part of the Legends of the High!), they had mastered that and so much more.
As their parents progressed, they soon sent for the other two sons (Carlos and Wilfredo), and established a household near the Marcy Projects on Hart Street, where the accents there, just as in Panama, were from all over the world - because Brooklyn, indeed was and is the mecca for Caribbean and Central Americans who likewise came to give their families better lives.
Their mother, who originated from Barbados, and was the entrepreneurial spirit of the family, had her own beauty parlor, and provided services (as well as any and all community news) to the ladies of the neighborhood. The boys, now teens, rehearsed in their mother's shop, and, combining the flavor of Panama, Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Africa, with the flavor in the streets of Brooklyn, their unique musical style was forged.
Young men now, they morphed into Lou, Ric, Carl, and Wolf Wilson - each an incarnation of all that their parents instilled, coupled with an overarching love for their unique blend of cultural influences. While they initially pursued other careers, Ric, a Doctor; Carl served a stint in VietNam; Lou followed the trail of psychology; Wolf attended college - they decided that the only thing they really loved was their music - and the rest, as we say, is history.
There are many former neighbors and friends who remember those early days, when it looked as if Mandrill would just be a good local band - playing in such local clubs as the Blue Coronet, among other places. But they were destined for greater things - and soon garnered national attention, leading them to major contracts with Polydor Records, Arista Records, several gold records, and world wide tours.
Many of their fans are still shaking their heads in wonder at how so much sound could come out of four men - who collectively play among them 45 instrument, as well as doing their own vocals, from four part harmony to a`capella.
So it's only natural that their arrival is creating a bit of a buzz - to put it mildly (and you know, I never do anything mildly; more like wildly) that they are beginning their East Coast Tour at BB Kings, in New York, during Harlem Week - WOW!! Talk about making an entrance!!
Mandrill, the group has grown exponentially since the early days, and are a veritable explosion of music on the stage. I mean real music - because these are each consummate musicians in their own right. You might say they are musicologist because they have it down to a science. If you sit in a rehearsal with them, you might hear such comments as "That's an E to the flatted fifth...." While to you and I whatever they play sounds wonderful, they are listening with the ears of trained musicians that would put most symphony orchestras to shame - these men can play!! (In fact, Mandrill was the first rock group to play Carnegie Hall in the early 70's - packed the house and turned it out!!)
This equally talented entourage that has joined the group is part of what could be called Mandrill's musical dream team - taking what is already great to extraordinary.
For the nostalgic, of course the music that made Mandrill famous "Fence Walk," "Mango Meat," "Hang Loose," "Land of the Golden Baboon," "House of Wood," "Git It All (Shake Some Boody)," "Polk Street Carnival," will be part of the repertoire, but something new has been added in the form of Spoken Word artist, the One Sun Lion Ra (Rais Wilson, son of Lou, whose been making a name in his own right), who frequently joins the group on tour.
It's this mix of the old (old?) with the new that keeps Mandrill a favorite for those of us in the 70's who knew them when, right through to today's new followers. From snippets of their music heard on countless albums from those who have bitten off their unique sound to augment their own, this group is alive with their flavor of Afro/Latin/Caribbean/Soul/R&B/Classic beats.
As they did in Morocco, Venezuela, Europe, and the rest of the world, the music of Mandrill will blow your mind. I defy anyone to remain in their seats during the last 40 minutes of the concert - unless of course you are made of wood, and I've even seen wood vibrate in resonance to the syncopation of their unrelenting, unmitigated musical onslaught.
Mandrill is awesome and the world knows it. That's why they've remained the standard bearers of true unvarnished musical pleasure over the years. Fans from Philly, DC, Atlanta, California, Detroit, Texas, among others come to concerts with their original Mandrill Albums, holding them lovingly in their hands, treasures from the 70's and 80's.
Fans in the Caribbean, Africa, Europe know every lyric of every song they ever sang and sing along with them in the audience. They turned them out in Montreaux, and are still talking about it. Others bring their tambourines, cow bells and other instruments, or just drum on the table while the group is on stage jamming. They can't help it!
You can check it out for yourself by logging on to www.mandrill.com or you can make it your business to be among the crowd at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill 237 West 42 St.; (212) 997-4144 - on Thursday, August 11, when Mandrill takes New York by storm.
Mandrill is dripping with soul out of every pore, and remain to this day the Best Jam you ever spread your bread on!!!
See you at BB Kings - I'll be the one dancing down front!
Stay Blessed &