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Dazz Band

Idioma disponible: inglés
The Dazz Band are known most for the 1982 funk marvel "Let It Whip." In terms of crossover funk hits, the song is up there with "Fire" and "Fight the Power," other Top Ten pop singles minted respectively by fellow Buckeye State natives the Ohio Players and the Isley Brothers. Instantly an inspiration for multiple rap versions, "Let It Whip" earned the Clevelanders a Grammy and can lay rare claim to having been adapted for marching bands and a cappella groups alike while being sampled and covered through each subsequent decade. Without "Let It Whip," the Dazz Band's important role in the evolution of funk would still be incontestable. Uncommonly versatile, they have spotlighted with equal brightness their vocal, horn, and rhythm sections since their late-'70s start (when they were known as Kinsman Dazz). From 1980 through 1998, the group placed 19 additional singles on Billboard's R&B chart -- such as "On the One for Fun," "Joystick," and the Top 20 U.K. pop hit "Let It All Blow" -- during which they also put together four straight Top 20 R&B albums, most notably the gold-certified Keep It Live, the LP that spawned "Let It Whip." The group has continued to perform well into the 2020s with a lineup featuring several original and early members. The roots of the Dazz Band are in Mother Braintree and Bell Telephunk, related bands active during the early to mid-'70s. (Studio recordings by both acts didn't surface until 2017.) In 1976, the latter grew into Kinsman Dazz, named after the Kinsman Grill Lounge -- where they were the house band -- and an abbreviation of their "danceable jazz" concept. Signed to 20th Century Fox, they debuted in 1978 with Kinsman Dazz, produced by Earth, Wind & Fire's Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson, and Tommy Vicari. The band recorded the 1979 follow-up Dazz with the likes of Bailey, Vicari, and Pat Glasser. A ballad from each album -- "I Might as Well Forget About Loving You," and then "Catchin' Up on Love," written by founding member Bobby Harris -- entered Billboard's R&B chart and peaked within its upper half. After two albums as Kinsman Dazz, the group signed with Motown and became known as the Dazz Band. The lineup featured saxophonist Bobby Harris, lead vocalist and trumpeter Sennie "Skip" Martin, trumpeter Pierre DeMudd, trombonist Ed Myers, guitarists Michael Calhoun and Eric Fearman, keyboardist Kevin Kendrick, percussionist Kenny Pettus, and brothers Issac Wiley and Michael Wiley respectively on drums and bass. From the start, most of the members also sang background -- their group harmonies an essential component of their attack. The move to Motown brought about a long-term partnership with Reggie Andrews, an educator, producer, songwriter, and musician then known most for his extensive work with protégé Patrice Rushen (who coincidentally arranged the strings for Kinsman Dazz). The Dazz Band made their Motown debut in 1980 with Invitation to Love, through which Earth, Wind & Fire comparisons started to diminish with help from Harris and Calhoun's "Shake It Up" (number 65 R&B) and the Calhoun and DeMudd ballad "Invitation to Love" (number 51 R&B). Reggie Andrews and close associate Leon "Ndugu" Chancler then presented the group with a party anthem brought to life as the slick "Let It Whip" on the 1982 breakthrough second album, Keep It Live. A crossover smash, "Let It Whip" topped the R&B singles chart, almost crowned the dance chart, and reached number five on the Hot 100, driving the parent album to the top of the R&B albums chart, number 14 on the Billboard 200, and eventual gold status. Call-and-response follow-up single "Keep It Live (On the K.I.L)" became a number 20 R&B single, and "Let It Whip" subsequently won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 25th Annual Grammy Awards. By the end of 1982, the Dazz Band had also released their third Motown album, On the One. The set yielded three charting A-sides including the number nine R&B hit "On the One for Fun," another Andrews/Chancler composition. The rapid development during these years included some turnover in membership. Before the breakthrough, Ed Myers, Michael Calhoun, and Kevin Kendrick were out of the band, and synthesizer player Steve Cox joined up. Daytonian keyboardist Keith Harrison, formerly of Faze-O and Heatwave, was added to the lineup between the 1982 LPs. The Dazz Band cut three more Motown full-lengths. Reggie Andrews continued to produce the band with Bobby Harris for 1983's Joystick and 1984's Jukebox. Characteristically high-energy singles "Joystick," "Swoop (I'm Yours)," and "Let It All Blow," followed by Andrews and Harris' sparkling quiet storm change-up "Heartbeat," all placed either within or just outside the R&B Top Ten. The high-tech "Let It All Blow," written by Harris and Keith Harrison, followed "Let It Whip" and "Joystick" as the band's third Hot 100 single, and fared even better on the U.K. pop chart, landing there at number 12. Harris produced the Dazz Band's last Motown effort, Hot Spot. Released in 1985, Hot Spot added ex-Pleasure guitarist Marlon McClain to the mix (for the long term) in place of the departed Eric Fearman. It narrowly missed becoming the band's fifth straight Top 20 R&B album despite a strong showing from the title song, which peaked almost identically on the R&B singles chart. After they parted ways with Motown, the Dazz Band were briefly signed to Geffen. They released the Bobby Harris-produced Wild & Free in 1986 with former New Birth vocalist Jerry Bell replacing Skip Martin as frontman, and Kenny Pettus expanding his long-standing role as percussionist to replace Isaac Wiley at the drum kit. Reggie Andrews returned to arrange strings. The swinging "Love M.I.A." and rocking "Wild & Free" placed in the 40s of the R&B chart. Two years later, smack in the middle of the new jack swing era, Rock the Room arrived as the ninth Dazz Band LP. The band's lone RCA recording spawned a trio of charting singles with varied production. "Anticipation," a collaboration with Eumir Deodato, showcased new co-lead vocalist Juan Lively, previously one-half of Voyeur (beside Michael Calhoun). The Ish Ledesma-produced "Single Girls" was most successful, the band's last Top 20 R&B hit. Bobby Harris continued to lead the Dazz Band through myriad lineup changes and sporadic recording activity that contemporized their classic early-'80s funk sound. In the late '90s, the group returned to the studio and independently released Under the Streetlights, Double Exposure, and Here We Go Again in consecutive years. During this phase, the band was co-fronted by Terry Stanton, a new addition, and Skip Martin, who re-joined after a stint with Kool & the Gang. Original Pleasure bassist Nathaniel Phillips became Marlon McClain's bandmate again as a worthy replacement for Michael Wiley, who died in 1993. Around this time, Harris organized the UWF All-Stars ("United We Funk") with members of the Dazz Band and peers such as the S.O.S. Band, Con Funk Shun, the Bar-Kays, and the Gap Band's Charlie Wilson, along with help from Tom Joyner as presenter. The Dazz Band returned in 2001 with Time Traveler, a studio LP that led with a cover of Norman Connors' "You Are My Starship." Five years later, Stanton was murdered in Los Angeles. Pierre DeMudd died in 2017, followed by Isaac Wiley in 2023. The Dazz Band have built on their legacy with Harris, Skip Martin, Keith Harrison, and McClain forming the core of their continuing live lineup.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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