R.I.P. Gil Scott Heron
4/1/49 - 5/27/11
Gil Scott Heron
11/05/10 - Yoshi's Jazz Club (Oakland, CA)
Wow! Where to start?
I'm still coming off of my high from seeing Gil Scott Heron perform last night at the Yoshi's jazz club in Oakland.
The show was fantastic! Mind blowing! There's not enough words to explain the magnitude of greatness this show possessed--but here it goes...
First, let me tell you how I got to know of Gil. Yeah, I'll get to the "does he still have it?" inquiry quickly--but this wee prelude has a wee bit of relevance (not much...but a wee).
I wasn't one of those "forever fans" of this legend. I found out about Gil around 10 years ago while in San Francisco listening to a funky-house music mix spun by DJ Patrick. This popular veteran S.F. DJ was on one of his funk influenced, "gospel groove" dance music vibes and all of a sudden he intertwined Gil's "The Bottle" in the mix and I was blown away.
I had never heard the song and had no idea who was singing it. I just remember taking note of the groove, the words, the voice and the passion in this track; the rhythm, the bass lines, the lyrics concerning the whys and what fors of specific inner city street dwellers who were addicted to cheap alcohol and the funky flute layered over that soulful-latin influenced groove, all persuaded me to find out who did this track.
The next day I did all the online searching I could to find out about this song and to see if there was any other songs by the cat who sung it. I came to find out that not only did this "cat" have a huge catalog of groove orientated jams, but that every one of them contained words of political, social and cultural relevance, eloquently put forth in a poetic style boasting themes that were prevalent not only in the 1970's when they were originally penned, but also in the present day.
I quickly found out that Gil Scott Heron was/is a revolutionary, that he is the Godfather of rap, that he was imprisoned for several years due to cocaine possession keeping him from recording or performing live for almost a decade and that he is sampled by many, but praised by few.
With all of the changes that Gil has gone through, his passion, hope for upliftment in the urban communities and his wanting to let the people know of political and social wrong doings haven't changed a bit.
Last night, Gil was at the top of his game on that stage in terms of his voice (still deep and strong), his exuberant personality, his humor...to put it plain and simple, the man shined bright last night. He recited The Bottle, Pieces Of A Man, Winter In America and other favorites effortlessly and with confidence as though he hadn't spent 20+ years away from performing live.
Not only did Gil have his game locked tight last night, but his band (which was considerably scaled down from the full band he usually strolled with back in the 70s and early-80s), was as usual, top notch.
It was a great concert in an intimate setting. Even more intimate for me because I was pretty much at Gil's feet, close enough to hear every vocal and musical nuance. Not that it was planned that way, but some "reserved" seats weren't filled--so we were able to snag two of the VIP seats in the spot--no complaints! :)
I was vibin' so hard I couldn't even complain about the warm/flat draft Kirin beer, or the Gil Scott fan sitting to the right of James who kept staring at his hands at the end of each song to make sure he applauded (???, didn't know what that was about...lol) or the fact that they didn't allow any cameras in.
Nothing could spoil this night.
I left the venue wanting to write more, wanting to pick up my bass and play more music with my singer and finally get our band going and wanting to continue to pursue playing percussion instruments (Gil's percussionist KILLED it!).
You know a show was good when you leave it influenced to get crackin' on something you've been procrastinating on.
I consider myself blessed to have been able to see this living legend perform. If you get a chance to catch Gil Scott Heron live, please do so. You will not regret it. He is the definite truth.
Check out Gil Scott Heron's latest release, I'm New Here. One of the best new albums out this year. http://gilscottheron.net/