Issue 46

Jazz’s Mad Men


George Benson / George Duke / Billy Cobham / Norman Connors / Tom Browne / Bernard Wright / Don Blackman / Lenny White / Marcus Miller / Weldon Irvine / Phil Cohran


George Benson entered the music business as a child singer. Never considering himself just a guitar player, he nonetheless honed his jazz chops playing with organist Jack McDuff and Lonnie Smith in the 1960s. His solo and side work with Columbia, Verve, and CTI helped Benson develop the most distinguished guitar tone in the jazz world. But that was never enough. In 1975, Benson signed with Warner Brothers and became a bona fide singer and pop star—incidentally helping to father smooth jazz along the way.

The Royal Road

Keyboardist George Duke had his ecclectic beginnings playing with Frank Zappa’s band. Then he conquered the funky jazz scene on Germany’s MPS label. After a now-legendary short stint with drummer Billy Cobham, Duke forged a new path and ruled the R&B charts with eccentric funk.

Pick Up Sticks

Billy Cobham was the most technical and disciplined drummer to ever stay in the pocket. His precise rhythms would not only usher in the era of jazz fusion but would help the genre stay grounded and funky. Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, George Duke, and even Souls of Mischief all have Cobham and his masterful stickwork to thank.

Crossover Dreams

He was a young drumer trying to keep up in the serious world of spiritual jazz. Then Norman Connors traded the rigorous life for expensive cars, fashion models, and R&B hits.

Rising from the fertile musical soil of Queens, New York, a group of musicians formed a tight bond and called themselves the Jamaica Kats. Under the tutelage of elders Weldon Irvine and Lenny White, the Kats perfected a modern fusion of jazz and funk, culminating in trumpeter Tom Browne’s 1980 hit,

“Funkin’ for Jamaica”

Cosmic Rhythms

(Phil Cohran is the embodiment of spiritual jazz) A mainstay on the Chicago scene, he came up playing with Jay McShann and Sun Ra. And now he’s found a perfect harmony in the cosmos.

After making waves with a slew of psychedelic rock releases, Mainstream Records embraced a funky bunch of modern jazz players and soul singers. Stellar art direction and the vision of producer Bob Shad would navigate the label to a

High-Water Mark

Record Rundown

DJ Soulscape rediscovers South Korea’s musical history

Nostalgia 77

breaks it down to build it up

John Coltrane’s

three-song demo for Africa/Brass sees the light of day

In Memoriam

Bobby Robinson 1917–2011


Towson State University Jazz Ensemble, Randy Weston, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Los Exciters, Fred Tompkins

Analog Out

Can’t Stop the Prophet


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12 Responses

  1. I did not buy every issue of Waxpoetics but while I was in Barnes & Noble today, I saw your latest edition with George Benson on the cover and immediately bought it. I have not read the entire issue only the editor’s letter and I agree to an extent that traditional jazz can be dense. On the other hand, not enough people take enough time to listen to jazz in order to understand it, it’s not that difficult. However, I am writing because you talk about pioneers who put the funk and soul into jazz, how on earth could you omit Grover Washington, Jr. is beyond my imagination. Come on! Really! Inner city Blues, Knucklehead, Hydra (which has been sampled by several hip hop artists), Mister Magic, Bob James said it best – Grover Washington Jr. was the father of Soul or Smooth Jazz! Grover could play funk, smooth, R&B (cover of Peabo Bryson’s Can you stand the rain, colloborations with Patti La Belle, Phyllis Hyman, Bill Withers (Just the two of us), and Lala Hathaway). I don’t understand how you can have this one issue on jazz and omit Grover Washington. By the way, Miles Davis was responsible for the explosion in fusion jazz with Miles in the Sky, On the Corner and the seminal Bitches Brew, Miles Davis of all the Bebop jazz giants never stayed in one place long and was an innovator for the duration of his career. By the way ask George Duke, George Benson, Marcus Miller, Tom Browne and most of the others featured on your current cover who are still alive and ask them about Grover Washington, Jr. Come on fellas get your research game together, this is easy. I am not talking an obscure musician. He only won a Grammy and sold millions of records. I hope in one of your future issues you correct this glaring oversight. If you need any assistance with research, email.


    Glenn Isaac,
    Washington, DC

    – Glenn Isaac
  2. Glenn – I gather from your note that perhaps you’re new to Wax Poetics. I’ve been reading it since the very first issue, back in 2001. Grover Washington Jr has popped up MANY times over the course of the mag’s history. Whether it was talking about Bob James, or CTI, or with oldschool hiphop DJs, his name has featured regularly. I just had a quick flick thru that first issue and turned up two mentions of Grover Washington Jr. I would respectfully suggest you do some research before flinging rocks at these funky folk. Wax Poetics have been on point since day one. Respect.

    Peter McLennan
  3. Issue #46 has been a joy to read. I see the Cobham piece as a fine addition to the Mahavishnu piece a few issues back. The Connors piece is quite instructive in its own way. As for the Benson piece, my mom played his music constantly back in the 1970’s-1980’s, so I have a real love of his music. It was great to get his back story and current profile. Kudos on a great issue!

  4. BIG, BIG UPS Wax Poetics!!!

    I own every issue from #1 to the present and this new Jazz’s Mad Men issue may be one of my favorites yet (though it’s so hard to pick)! In having been an avid beat digger/record enthusiast/DJ for over 10 years, the thing that really made me fall in love with this issue is that it not only elaborated on all of the very first artists I ever really collected, but it also prompted me to pull out some records that have really been collecting dust on my shelves. I loved reading the George Duke, Billy Cobham, Norman Connors, and of course George Benson articles, and then giving a few of their records a much needed listen.
    It’s been so long since I’ve sat down and closely listened to Spectrum or Crosswinds or Beyond the Blue Horizon or Shape of Things to Come or You Are My Starship or The Aura Will Prevail, etc, etc. I had been neglecting these records for far too long, so thanks for rekindling the old flame!

    James RAmirez
  5. Thank you for another great issue! I’m looking forward to digging for some Bernard Wright.

    Glenn – I suggest you take Peter McLennan’s advice and get your facts right before you have a dig at Wax Poetics. I had another flick through the first issue and found 4 mentions of Grover Washington Jr. (p. 7, 32, 37 & 49). And that’s just the first issue! I haven’t even looked at the jazz issue yet (#34). Your suggestion that Wax Poetics needs your research assistance is laughable.

    – Peter
  6. I just bought the issue #35 with Roger Troutman on the front cover and I thought that it was great because the interview was very technical in terms of just how hard it is to play a talkbox and provided info on Lester & Roger forming the band in the early days. It was well worth the 10 dollars and 80 cents that I spent for it at moods music in Atlanta,GA.
    the vintage smell of this magazine that I bought from moods music is like the icing on the cake for me.

    – Kenneth Dewayne Person
  7. I thought the person who interviewed Norman Connors did an unfair portrayal of him being talentless and a sellout. Norman Connors was at one point the music director for Buddah Records, and has cut a lot of dope wax, and appeared as a sideman on some great lp’s. Slewfoot is an under the radar eclectic gem, and to simply call it schizophrenic dosen’t do justice. And so what if Connors switched to a more crossover feel, he wasn’t making money on those cobblestone afro centric jazz themed lp’s, and although they are incredible, and deserve a heck of a lot more recognition, You are my Starship is a very progressive crossover tune with lots of talent. That really is Norm’s greatest asset is the ability to recognize and gather talent, look at the line-ups of “sidemen” on his records, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Airto, Eddie Henderson, Carlos Garnett, Hubert Eaves, Onaje Allen Gumbs, Dee Dee Bridgewater, it goes on and on. Norman deserves praise and recognition not a subtle cut by a bit writer with a bent. That is all


    p.s. much respect to all at waxpoetics, one mediocre article dosen’t at all affect the sum.

    – Afan

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