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The 35th Clifford Brown Jazz Festival Wilmington, Delaware (STANLEY CLARKE, MAYSA, STOKLEY, REGINA CARTER, & more)

Clifford Brown Jazzfest Review (Stanley Clarke, Stokley, Maysa, etc)


by Bob Davis

Having just relocated from New Jersey to the Wilmington DE area, When I heard about this festival, it was a “no brainer” that Soul-Patrol would cover it. I have been hearing about this festival for many years. And I wasn’t excited, just because of the music but the whole background & context, especially given the convergence in Mid June of Black Music Month and Juneteenth, in a majority African American city.

I also decided that the festival would be too large for me to cover by myself, so I arranged for 2 additional experienced Soul-Patrol reporters Bro B & Bro Selah to be available in Wilmington, DE for the festival. The two of them are also committed to presenting the full context of events we cover. Our objective, as always is to help you in our audience to become smarter. We do that by telling a story. A story that weaves together many threads into a tapestry. We have learned over the years is that by telling the story, in addition to writing reviews of music, telling the whole story in context, puts you right on the scene. The folks in our audience will feel like they attended. Stories penetrate much better than disjointed facts and events. This approach has garnered Soul-Patrol much recognition and many awards over the years. This is what we have been doing since 1996. In addition to this written review, we are planning an internet broadcast which will feature a roundtable discussion, featuring our reporters and some of the artists who performed

It’s a free jazz music festival held annually in June at Rodney Square in Wilmington, Delaware, USA. The first festival was held in 1989 on the open lawn in the center of the city, and has grown into the largest free jazz festival on the East Coast. The event is held to keep alive the memory of Clifford Brown who died in a traffic accident in 1956 along with pianist Richie Powell.



NOTE 1 – JAZZ AFRICAN AMERICAN STANDARD CLASSICAL MUSIC. (Perhaps the most noteworthy contribution of formerly enslaved African Americans to the American Culture.)

NOTE 2 – ARTISTS – A fair number of Soul-Patrol members who are artists have performed here in the past. Some examples….

  • Maysa
  • Cintron
  • Jeff Bradshaw Band
  • Marcus Miller
  • Miles Jaye
  • Marcus Johnson
  • Andra Day
  • Kim Waters
  • Denise Montana
  • Leela James
  • Norman Conners
  • Rick Braun
  • Kirk Whalum
  • Lalah Hathaway
  • Fostina Dixon

I sense a large opportunity to bring together multiple generations of African Americans, under an umbrella of pride & accomplishment to admire the past, present and future of the culture. An added plus will be the opportunity to expose the other ethnicities in the city to this culture, under the umbrella of Juneteenth and Black Music Month. All for Free!

Wilmington Facts (from Wikipedia)


DEMOGRAPHICS– 54% African American, 20% Hispanic, 20% White

EDUCATION – Wilmington doesn’t have a single public High School within its borders. All of it’s High Scholl students are bussed to suburban schools.

CRIME – Wilmington frequently appears on NeighborhoodScout’s “Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States” list. In 2017, Wilmington was ranked as the 5th most dangerous city in the US.

HEALTH – The city has one of the highest per capita rates of HIV infection in the United States, with disproportionate rates of infection among African-American males

NOTE 1: Wilmington certainly appears to have many issues to confront. Part of what makes this event so interesting to me, is the fact that Wilmington is a majority African American city, home of the President of the United States and along with the calendar convergence of Black Music Month and Juneteenth.

NOTE 2: From a distance (I-95) Wilmington looks something like an “Emerald city.” with a downtown area filled with glistening skyscrapers, recreational facilities and more. However close up (often on the same street as the skyscrapers) Wilmington has much in common with places I grew up in like Brownsvile (NYC), South Bronx (NYC), Homewood (Pittsburgh), 5th Ward (Houston), etc. Places that most people would avoid unless they lived there. In fact, some of it is downright hostile, if you aren’t a resident. I have no doubt that this seeming contradiction is most troubling to those who are working to improve life there. In fact oddly enough we found a similar set of circumstances in Reading, PA (Home of the Berks Jazzfest.) My point is that these contradictions can be overcome with great communication between business, residents and government, and a strong desire to see things improve. I’ve seen it happen in Reading PA and the Berks JazzFest plays a major role in the overall improvement in Reading, PA. My observation is that it’s not happening in Wilmington. However, it can happen in Wilmington as well, but I saw no evidence of it. For example, I saw zero synergy with Juneteenth or with Black Music Month. I saw zero outreach to younger music fans. I saw very little ethnic diversity in the crowd (the crowd was well over 90% African American in a city that is 54% African American.) For a city that has an economic base of financial services giants, those corporations had little or no presence at the festival. As a media person, it felt “disorganized,” compared to other government sponsored music festivals I have covered in the past. Most troubling of all as a fan was that it felt more like a “concert,” than a “festival.” I can only speculate as to the reasons why (which I am not going to do right now.) However, you can bet that now that I am a resident of the area, I am going to find out and when I do I will report on my findings here on Soul-Patrol.

Note 3 – THE GOVERNMENT ENTITIES, SPONSORS, ETC – Are ready, willing and able to take advantage of all of the positive energy that should revolve around the festival. Ever hear the expression; “the road to hell is paved with good intentions?”

CITIFEST (THE MAIN SPONSOR) – The mission of the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is to expose, inspire, and entertain a diverse audience of Jazz aficionados, young Jazz enthusiasts and aspiring musicians to the rich heritage and variety of Jazz as an authentic form of American music. The CBJF provides access to arts and culture to over 20,000 residents and visitors every year as we honor the memory and legacy of Clifford Brown. Wilmington’s hotels, restaurants and other businesses are beneficiaries of thousands of out-if-town visitors.

BTW Despite some of what I observed (ex the disorganization, shaky sound quality in places, etc) the music was off the hook)

Note1: There are multiple sections of music reviews (basically one for each day)

Note 2: We will have some further follow up as an edition of the Soul-Patrol Spotlight featuring a panel discussion about the event (Bob Davis, C. Be’erlahai-roi Myers, Selah Eric Spruiell & A.E. O’Neill) and an artist interview segment (Maysa & Stokley)

Read on for the details on the music….

Joe Chambers, Rayford Griffin, Stanley Clarke

by C. Be’erlahai-roi Myers

Opening night set it off with a blast!
The musicians made it a very magical, musical night.
The groups came with a barrage of artillery, and we haven’t been the same ever since.
My colleagues and I, rapped about the genius and splendor of the fore-mentioned young lion (age 25), who once blazed the sky, filling us with joy from his peppery trumpeting and (like Lee Morgan); through a tragic accident or incident, his roar left us with only his wonderful talent to remember him by: Wilmington’s native son—Clifford Brown.
This night was a celebration dedicated to him: Delaware’s thirty-fifth City-fest’s opening night celebration to Jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown on June 15, 2022; held in Rodney Square, Downtown Wilmington, Delaware.
These stars and heavy hitters came to honor Clifford—and honor him they did.
The fireworks started off early; at almost dusk, and continued to light up the sky; like a beautiful cluster of stars along our fabulous milky way. . .

Joe Chambers led the charge—with a lot of staggering clefts and percussive displays on vibraphone, with his group leaving us very little room to breathe.

We tried to maintain our balance and composure, but that cut, “Sabah El Nur” with its ringing isolated strokes on vibes, proved ultimately too much for us.
It was a stunning little gem. One of great beauty.

The deliciously haunting melody lingered in the air, romancing; finessing us with enchanted scents and incense; upright bass plucks and strokes; snares and solidus brushes sending us into a post-hypnotic slow drag; filling up our senses with a wondrous night we could not forget.

Then Joe mercurially switches the momentum into a full-fledged Afro-Cuban/Salsa–like “Havana” mix; with almost “marimba-like tones” on vibraphone—spell-bounding the audience.
Just pure genius! So tightly interwoven. . .

Joe work was followed up by another percussionist as well as composer—Rayford Griffin, who worked us up into a frenzy, with a contemporary big band-like swing “feel” composed from a regular group package: Horns blaring with quick solos and superb keyboard work (electric piano), dazzling the audience with has band’s originality.

Rayford has played for the likes of George Duke, Jéan-Luc Ponty, Stanley Clarke, Anita Baker, as well as the incomparable Michael Jackson…so I’d say he knows how to move a crowd.

He did some things last night, indicative of a true eclectic mindset concerning Black music. His Jazz showed diversity and then some.

What he did on drums during the show (his drum solo) was impressive; reminiscent of Max Roach, Billy Cobham, Lenny White and Tony Williams—yet rhythmic like the Rhythm & Blues of today.
I’ve heard Silk-Sonic with Anderson.Paak, and there’s notable similarities in inner-working, so I wondered…with a sound like I’m hearing and it’s a free concert; Why isn’t there more 40 years and under here. . .
I guess it might be because of the way the show was advertised. . .

And oh, wouldn’t you know…. Rayford Griffin’s related to the late-great Clifford Brown. Huh!
Rayford brought it home, by sliding into some contemporary sophisticated Jazz-Funk in one tune; then transitioning into Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud,” bringing in some BeBop with a sophisticated taste of Funk you could feel. . .
And then Stanley Clarke came in… with both guns blazing, delivering, “Wild Dog,” with all his might!
Wild Dog is a funk tune he originally did in a project with that precious “Mother of Invention” George Duke showcasing a plethora of bass skills in the process. Showing why he’s considered “Virtuoso” in the first place—driving the crowd into delirium.

Following that up in true fusion fashion with, “Brazilian Love Affair,” a mental journey introducing some up and coming; very talented musicians—Cameron Graves on keyboards, Emilio Modeste on saxophone, the Tabla master, Sa’lar Madur and the very talented young percussionist, Jeremiah Collier.

Stanley graced us with his mastery in pizzicato (plucking) and fingering techniques on double bass, as well as his prowess on electric bass, leaving us thunderstruck!

With his talented drummer and master tabla player in his arsenal, he transposed the piano into a percussive instrument, leaving Stanley with license to move the crowd by means of fingering and thrumming techniques; transmitting like morse code into the eager audience.

Before long, the crowd was moving rhythmically to the songs, like some ancient form of communication, clapping melodically to the exchanges between the excellent drum solos, tabla, tabla “scats” (or tabla language) and the virtuoso tapping and pizzicato of Stanley Clarke: Each representing styles, tones, and means of social interaction: In effect, he had us all mesmerized!

Right then, I realized Stanley Clarke—like Chick, Herbie, Wayne Shorter and the master Miles Davis before him—was ushering in new Jazz styles for many future generations to come, and our crowd participation this night made us all a part of it!
Now that’s real love!
Excellent show…. Magnifico!
What a celebration!!!

And while I enjoyed the show immensely, there were a few things on the technical end that I found not so pleasing. Having your top biller, Stanley Clarke, go through two of his compositions before you get the “sound window” right; shows either a lack of skill or procedural direction (like an adequate sound check); but either way it doesn’t demonstrate a high level of professionalism.

We enjoyed Stanley Clarke markedly and gave him a roaring round of applause—he and the band seemed poised for an encore; but it didn’t happen. Why not? Whatever caused it, the move seemed almost criminal. . .
To use portable projection screens or outdoor led screen panels for clearly larger crowds, but to not have pivoting or roaming lighting fixtures to follow the performing act as they move across the stage is a serious oversight that I hope will be corrected for future representations.

by Selah Eric Spruiell

Since Bob Davis gave an excellent overview, and Brother C. Be’erlahai-roi Myers (known affectionately to us as “Brother B”), gave an equally excellent accounting of Opening Night, I will dispense with additional accounting of that night.

Unfortunately, The 2nd night, Thursday June 16, had thunderstorms during the day and none of us wanted to get caught out there in the rain at an outdoor venue, so none of us attended what appeared to be “Latin Jazz Night”, which featured: Cintron, David Sanchez, and a set featuring Cuban Pianist Chucho Valdes and Cuban Saxophonist Paquito D’ Rivera.
I had never heard of Cintron (a Soul-Patrol member), but Bob Davis had, and recommended him highly. I had never seen Chucho Valdes, but had also heard great things about him. David Sanchez, I have seen a few times and he is one of a group of young Jazz Lions that came of age in the 90’s. I have found him to be an exciting Sax player. Chucho and Paquito were part of the groundbreaking Cuban Latin group Irakere. This pairing had the potential to be a grand reunion. I hope that I get to see all of these artists at some time in the future.

What both Bob and “Brother B” failed to mention is that the opening set of each night consisted of members of The Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency. Robert “Boysie” Lowery was a beloved Jazz educator from the Wilmington area. His past students include Trumpters Ernie Watts, Marcus Belgrave and Clifford Brown himself. Joe Chambers, from the stand, also counted himself as among Mr. Lowery’s students.
The Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency is a tuition free, two-week performance and composition program for young musicians, aged 17 – 25 from around the world. Under the direction of Jonathan Whitney, it is led by music professionals who reside, teach and/or work in the mid-Atlantic Region. The immersive environment of the two-week residency gives young musicians the opportunity to develop personal strategies for pursuing career opportunities while being surrounded by a stylistically and culturally diverse community of mentors and peers. The program includes daily workshops and rehearsals that culminate in performances at the Clifford Brown Festival and a final performance at the Queen Theatre, a world class performance venue, located in downtown Wilmington, not far from Rodney Square.
I must say that although I cannot cite who the participants were by name, I must say that the groups presented gave compelling performances. None of the “Professional” acts presented during the festival had anything on this group of talented students. I expect to hear great things from these participants in the coming years.

After the Boysie Lowery student performance, the first “professional” group up was Ernest Stuart & Thr3zus. This three-man group consists of Ernest Stuart on Trombone, Jason Fraticelli on Upright Bass (or “Bass Violin” as I was taught), and Lionel Foster Jr on “Trap” Drums (as a Percussionist who plays Conga and Djembe, among other hand instruments, I differentiate between those who play Drum Sets “Traps” and those who play other drums.) Having said that, this unusual configuration, even though they played “Jazz” they reminded me more of “Rock” Power Trios than your standard Jazz trio. I was reminded of Rock groups like “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”, “Cream”, Mountain and “Emerson, Lake and Palmer.” The closest Jazz Trios, I could compare them to was Sonny Rollins “Way Out West” group (with Ray Brown on Bass and Shelly Mann on Traps), and Ornette Coleman’s “Stockholm Trio” (with David Iverson on Bass and Charles Moffett on Traps.)

Ernest Stuart encompasses the Jazz Trombone lexicon consisting of JJ Johnson, Slide Hampton, Julian Priester, Curtis Fuller, Roswell Rudd and a whole lot of Funk Trombonist Fred Wesley. This man has done his homework on the instrument and comes up with his own unique style.
Jason Fraticelli is a “Funked Up” Charlie Haden on steroids. His Playing is “Ballsy”. I was “Shocked” when I observed and heard Fraticelli playing his Upright Bass through a Foot Pedal Board that included “Wah Wah”!!! What Upright Bass player does this? It’s absolutely unheard of!!! Btw, Ernest plays through pedals also. WTH!!!

This may sound like a sort of copout, but Lionel Foster Jr was one of an army of “Trap” players that showed up that week. It was literally “Gunfight At The OK Corral”!!! Every single drummer that showed up at this festival brought their “A” Game, and Mr. Foster was no exception!!! He was “Smokin” and “In The Pocket.” They were all Superlative. I literally cannot differentiate one from another. It was a cornucopia of riches. The closest I can compare Foster to, if I had to choose anyone, is Lenny White…a little Steve Gadd.

Stand out tunes? “Raucho” a sort of Afrikan Highlife. Kind of like “Mountain” meets “Osibisa.” A Ridiculous and Raucous version of Stevie Wonder’s “Jesus Children of America”!!!
These guys are something different. Look out for these guys!!!

In the 90’s, Funk was in retreat. Most of your American Funk groups were around in the 70’s and 80’s. By the 90’s they had been eclipsed by Rap Groups who mostly lifted their backgrounds off records “their parents listened to.” If a Funk group complained they would say, “Hey…We single handedly revived your career”!!!

Inexplicably, the Funk scene shifted to England, where Funk bands abounded. Some of these groups included: Jameroquai, Brand New Heavies, Soul II Soul, and Incognito. These bands, if you were paying attention, filled the void that had been vacated by American Funk.
Incognito was fronted by American singer Maysa Leek. Born in the Baltimore area, Maysa achieved a bachelor’s degree in Music from Morgan State University. After graduation, Maysa became a member of Stevie Wonder’s backup group “Wonderlove”. Maysa joined Incognito in London in 1992. She recorded 7 albums with them. In 1995, Maysa embarked on her solo career. She recently started her own label – Blue Velvet Soul.
For this set, Maysa was fronted by Piano, Bass, Guitar, Traps, Trumpet, Sax and Backup singers consisting of one Male and one Female. She started out with a song called “You Got Me Going Around and Around.” Next, she went into “Family Affair” by Sly and The Family Stone, followed by a “House” version of Gil Scott Heron’s “The Bottle.”
She had rev’ed the crowd up slowly, but by the time “The Bottle” came up she had mowed into pure “Disco Diva “mode”. She sang one of her own songs “Be Sure” and got the crowd going on Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield.” The Bass player – Charles Crosby was in his element.
Now she had the crowd in her hands and got the crowd on their feet with a medley of Classic Disco Songs.
We were sure that the next act, Stokely could not follow that.
We were wrong!!!

As I said before, Funk was in demise in America in the Mid-Nineties. Rap was King, and they were sampling Funk as background, not even using live music. The only 90’s “Bands” in existence were “Toni! Tony! Tone!, and Mint Condition. Mint condition was fronted by Lead Singer Stokely Williams. They made seven albums together.
In 2017, after a hiatus from the band, Stokely Williams, now known as simply “Stokely” released his first solo album,” Introducing Stokely.” In 2019, he released his 2nd solo album, Sankofa.”
It was immediately evident why he was the Headliner. His band consists of Keys, Bass, Guitar, Traps and 2 Female Backup Singers. He has a strong voice; he moves well, and his moves are original. He’s not copying anybody else. Stokely has CHARISMA!!! He is what Mick Jagger wishes he was!!!
I saw a YOUNG ARTIST AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME. He performs in the tradition of Jackie Wilson, Prince, Al Jarreau, Billy Stewart, Steve Arrington, of course Michael Jackson. He was yodeling like Leon Thomas. He wasn’t exactly Locking but he moves like he was. His background Singers were all over the stage, locked into tight choreography. I have now seen 2 front men for the 21st Century. BRUNO MARS and STOKELY!!!

Regina Carter….

by A.E. O’Neill

The last day of the 35th Clifford Brown Festival saw ominous clouds hanging over Rodney Square. It was the fourth day and scheduled for an early start at 1:00 p.m. As Selah Eric Spruiell and I arrived a bit early to stake out a patch of grass with a great vantage point, the soundcheck was proceeding with great gusto. By the time we had made ourselves as comfortable as possible, it was getting close to the opening notes of an enchanting hour of Regina Carter.

Regina was a child prodigy out of Detroit who started on the piano at the age of two and by the time she was four, she was enrolled in the Detroit Community Music School studying violin, as well as piano, tap and ballet. In high school she was introduced to Ella Fitzgerald by her friend and jazz singer Carla Cook. Her start at the New England Conservatory of Music was in classical music but her focus switched to jazz. She was awarded the MacArthur Fellows Program grant in 2006 (also known as the genius grant) with the following commentary:

“Regina Carter is a master of improvisational jazz violin. Though her work draws upon a wide range of musical influences – including Motown, Afro-Cuban, Swing, Bebop, Folk, and World – she has crafted a signature voice and style. … Carter’s performances highlight the often overlooked potential of the jazz violin for its lyric, melodic, and percussive potential. Her early training as a classical musician is reflected in the fluidity, grace, and balance of her performance. Carter’s repertoire retains a firm connection with the familiar while venturing in new, unexpected directions. … Through artistry with an instrument that has been defined predominantly by the classical tradition, Carter is pioneering new possibilities for the violin and for jazz.”

The group which consists of Regina Carter, Violin; Brandon McCue – Piano; Ed Howard – Bass and Alvester Garnett – Drums (who Carter married in 2004) plays seamlessly as a musical entity.

Listening to Regina Carter play makes you feel as if her instrument is human and she is having a conversation with it. You also feel as if she is allowing you to see her soul through her music. I played violin when I was young, as part of my school orchestra. I could only dream of bringing the sounds out of an instrument that Regina is able to draw out as if it were an extension of herself.

The program included “I’ll Never Be Free”, “Favorite Things”, “Come Sunday” – from the famous sacred music of Duke Ellington, “Mandingo Street” – an original Regina Carter from her album “Rhythms of the Heart” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” .

The four-day festival, out of which we attended three, is of course billed as the largest free Jazz Festival on the east coast and honors horn player Clifford Brown. We also had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with Clifford Brown Jr. who never knew his father. Clifford Brown Sr. was killed in a car accident along with his Pianist Richie Powell, when the child was only six months old.

Clifford Brown Jr. works at KCFM out of the Frisco Bay area. During the festivities, a clip was shown of his father playing on “Soupy’s On” a show hosted by Soupy Sales in the mid 1950’s. Clifford Brown Jr said he was particularly touched by this footage when it was discovered because it allowed him to see his father and hear his father’s voice. He also said that Clifford Brown Sr.’s band members comprised of Max Roach on Drums, Harold Land, Tenor Sax, Bassist George Morrow were like a family as he was growing up because they treated his mother and the family as their own.

Event Notes

by Bob Davis

CategoryRank (H, M, L)Notes
Musical DiversityHighShould be thought of as a “Straight No Chaser, Smooth Jazz, Funk, Jazz Fusion, Classic R& B, Today’s R&B event”
Crowd Diversity (race)LowWas 95% African American (missed opportunity, given the location)
Crowd Diversity (age)LowVast majority appeared to be over 45 (missed opportunity, given the location)
Crowd Diversity (geo)LowLocal Wilmington Crowd (missed opportunity, given the location)
Music QualityHighAll of the musical performances were excellent. Some were flat out “off the chain.”
SafetyHighZero criminal activity observed.
Sound QualityLowDuring many of the sets, it felt like the first few songs were being used to do a soundcheck.
Festival atmosphereLowPoorly organized? Little media, little music industry participation, little community feel. little educational activity (missed opportunity, given the history, quality of the music, location midway between Philly & Baltimore, this “festival” should be a major event on the musical calendar, instead it felt more like a quickly thrown together, mostly disorganized, neighborhood show put together by “Thelma & JJ.”)
Concert AtmosphereMediumSound quality issues, Artists were not permitted to do encores.
Room for improvementHighThere is a huge upside here for the city/community, the artists, and the culture if the organizers are interested in taking advantage of it.

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