Heads Up Set Features Guests Brian Culbertson and Kirk Whalum On Single Cover Of Carole King’s Classic Hit, “It’s Too Late.”
It’s taken veteran guitarist Doc Powell two decades and the celebration of his tenth solo record to reveal that he’s been in the closet , hiding his passion for the acoustic and classical style of guitar. But core fans of his patented electric guitar licks won’t be disappointed, because Powell blends dueling guitar styles and yet another dimension to his arsenal of skills on his self-titled new set. The contrasting styles are brilliantly displayed on the records lead single, “It’s Too Late,” an inspired groove-laden arrangement of Carole King’s classic seventies hit which also features special guest appearances by Grammy award winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum and chart-topping keyboardist, Brian Culbertson.
Powell has built a legacy as a musical chameleon, traversing from one genre to another without losing a beat. He’s contributed to over 125 recordings of some of the premiere recording stars in R & B/Pop, like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Teddy Pendergrass, and enjoyed a 12-year stint recording and performing with the late Luther Vandross. He’s also played with jazz greats Lonnie Liston Smith, Bob James, the late Grover Washington Jr., and Stanley Clarke, and with gospel superstars, Shirley Caesar, The Might Clouds of Joy, Ce Ce Winans, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, and performed and recorded with gospel’s record-breaking superstar Kirk Franklin since 2002.
In fact, Powell, who has personally financed and run his own homespun record label, DPR Music Group, with his life partner and wife of 25 years, (and former manager of the late Phyllis Hyman) started recording his new set on buses, in hotel rooms, and backstage while touring with Franklin on his mega three-month national Hero, tour launched in November 2005. Doc Powell, is his third release with Heads Up.
His decision to integrate acoustic with electric guitar comes after picking up a Martin guitar that he started playing five years ago. “The Martin guitar has a voice and tone that is more true to a classical guitar sound,” says Powell, “and I wanted to integrate that with the electric style I’ve most known for playing. At one time, I even thought about naming the record, “Duets,” because I’m showing two sides of myself, and often on the same track.”
On, “It’s Too Late,” Powell even offers listener’s two versions - an electric version that features a sizzling duet between him and Kirk Whalum, with Brian Culbertson adding a touch of elegance on acoustic piano, and background singer Faith Anderson supplying sparse vocals – And an “Unplugged” version that is more organic – with an emotional arrangement and gentle percussion by Pablo Batista. “I wanted a song that was universal and that music fans from my generation could identify with,” says Powell, “and I feel each version is unique and special in its’ own way.”
Like his nine previous recordings, Powell mixes soulful straight-to-the-heart melodies, with infectious and cutting edge grooves, laced with some retro R & B and compelling rock and jazz tones. Since the bulk of the record was written while Powell was touring with Franklin, he used Franklin’s musicians to lay down most of the tracks, including Franklin’s co-producer and musical director, keyboardist Shaun Martin, along with keyboardist Jerome Harmon, Matt Cappy on trumpet, Pablo Batista on percussion, Derek Ray on bass guitar and DJ Ernie Green. He also enlisted the talents of fellow label mate Bobby Lyle on keyboards, who is featured on the CD’s explosive Latin-fueled gem, “Me, Myself and Rio.”
While the musicians show off their prowess on the sexy slo-jam, “Hip Pocket,” the acoustic funky, “Hey,” and the retro grooved, “Another Place And Time,” Powell also branched out to collaborate with Grammy Award winning producer Barry Eastmond (Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Jonathan Butler) who co-produced the seductive and romantic ballads, “Let Go,” and “Together We Can.” “On that track,” Powell attests, “I’m playing octaves on the electric guitar in a Wes Montgomery style, and the acoustic guitar is playing the same thing but in a different tone.”
Powell’s musical journey started in Spring Valley, NY. He began playing guitar at age six and later studied at the University of Charleston, West Virginia. After college he land session work in NY, honing his skills on live recording sessions, cutting commercials, and a few movie soundtracks. He also scored a gig as a solo artist at Mikell’s, one of Manhattan’s hot jazz clubs, where veterans like Art Blakely and The Jazz Messengers, McCoy Turner, George Benson and Miles Davis frequented.
In 1987, he released his first solo record, Love Is Where It’s At, and earned a Grammy nomination (Best R & B Instrumental) for his cover of Marvin Gaye’s signature hit, “What’s Going On.” A string of well-received releases followed, most notably Inner City Blues, which was funded and released on his own imprint, West Coast Records. Recalls Powell, “I took all the money I had earned touring with Luther and was ready to sell it door to door.” In fact, the keyboard Powell used to lay the tracks was a birthday present from Vandross.
Powell’s dozen years performing with Vandross, catapulted him to another level as a musician, and was highlighted by his legendary rock guitar solo on one of Vandross’s biggest hits, “Stop To Love,” which is still imitated by rockers today. He also performed on Vandross’s history-making 10 days at Wembley Stadium (1989) that broke the previous record held by Elton John. Powell was featured on five of the stars biggest CD’s, including, The Night I Fell In Love, and Give Me The Reason.
In 1996, Powell enjoyed his biggest solo commercial success with his Laid Back, CD. The record yielded two Top 10 hits, including “Sunday Morning,” which made history at smooth jazz radio by achieving the most spins (over 1000) in it’s first week of release. By year end’s Laid Back, was rated the #2 jazz record of the year.
A few years later, Powell surprised his jazz fans with his first entrée into contemporary gospel, I Claim Victory, which Powell created not only to fulfill his own passion for the music, but also a fund-raising tool for his church. Not surprisingly, Powell ended up serving as the band leader for gospel superstar Kirk Franklin on his mega “Hopeville Tour,” which also featured headliners Donnie McCurklin and Yolanda Adams. He later recorded and toured on Franklin’s current platinum-selling Hero CD.
Doc Powell fans will probably revel in discovering his “acoustic side,” and according to Powell, even after twenty years and ten solo records, the real joy in making records has always been the same, “The most exciting thing is the first time someone tells me that he or she connected somehow to what I was feeling at a specific moment,” he lauded, “That’s very satisfying and that’s when I know I’ve been successful.”
CD Release Date: August 22, 2006Posted by Peter Böhi at August 4, 2006 12:41 AM