Bernard Wright was a true legend through the ups and downs
At just 12 years old, Bernard Wright impressed jazz fusion drummer Lenny White with his musical prowess. Even then, Wright had an unrivaled ear for funk and jazz, which led him to join White’s band to tour across the country as keyboardist and vocalist.
Musical prodigy was one of the common traits between the two players. Appearing in the 1960s in the Jamaican borough of Queens, New York, Wright and White emerged just as Bobby and John Kennedy and Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were assassinated. Music, as White said The last kilometerschanged and shaped politics, while politics also shaped music.
In the late 70s and early 80s, Wright settled into the Queens scene. Several famous musicians lived there, including James Brown, drummer Roy Haynes and saxophonist Lester Young. As unrest gripped the nation, young musicians like White and Wright were influenced by music, which was influenced by the economic, social, and political issues of the time. They practiced in basements and jammed in places where artists gathered to create.
At the time, young musicians began to join composer and poet Weldon Irvine’s band. Irvine, also known as “Master Wel”, was a mentor to many young talents from Queens who wanted to play jazz and progressive music. Wright had been in Irvine’s band, alongside jazz luminaries Billy Cobham, Marcus Miller and Donald Blackman. When White met Wright, he knew he needed the youngster in the band he was creating with Miller.
“He was a genius,” White said of Wright in his The last kilometers interview. “I had to go talk to his grandmother so he could go on the road! She trusted me enough to do that.
Nearly 50 years later, Wright had carved out a legendary career. He broke the jazz charts with his debut album ‘Nard in 1981 and gained national recognition a few years later with the 1985 single “Who Do You Love” from her third album, Mr. Whitewho climbed the Billboard R&B graphics. Ten years later, popular artists such as Dr. Dre, LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg were sampling his music for their own hits.
Godson of R&B singer Roberta Flack, Wright later moved to Dallas and became a mentor, as Irvine had been to him, to local jazz, funk, and R&B musicians. He passed away Thursday, May 19, leaving behind a wife and two children, Zoe and Tallulah Wright. He was 58 years old.
New York Undercover bandleader and guitarist Billy “Spaceman” Patterson, a friend of the family, shared the news on Facebook: “On behalf of the family of Bernard Wright (Nard), we are saddened to announce that ‘yesterday Bernard was called home to The Highest. Many thanks for everyone’s support, encouragement and prayers for Nard over the years.”
Grammy Award winner Flack shared on Twitter, “Last night my godson and former music manager, Bernard Wright, passed away suddenly. I loved Bernard very much and believed deeply in his talent. His loss is heartbreaking.
Fans started sharing tributes on social media.
“So sad. Condolences to his family and friends,” one wrote on Facebook in a post flanked by heart emojis. “His masterpiece, and one of my favorite songs , will forever be etched in my heart: “Who Do You Love”.
“No! Oh my. Her single has been one of my favorite songs for over 30 years,” posted another on Twitter. “Loud and repeated whenever I needed a boost. A great loss. Travel on the wings of the love you created in the world.
Back in his Jamaica neighborhood, he ignites the keyboard and the microphone first with White, when Wright was 12, then with Tom Browne, American jazz trumpeter and author of multi-gold albums, a few years later. .
At 17, Wright leaves ‘Nard with jazz label GRP Records, which later became part of MCA Records. He flirted with instrumental jazz on the album but mostly focused on vocal-oriented soul and funk, as Allmusic.com wrote in its album review. He channeled jazz legend Miles Davis on piano for the track “Solar” and tapped into awesome fun on “Haboglabotribin,” which Snoop Dogg sampled on “Gz & Hustlas” from 1993. Doggy style. 2Pac sampled it for “Lie to Kick It”.
The album was a hit, “A jazz chart hit and an introduction of Wright’s funky jazz sounds to the world of R&B”, Soultracks.com reported on May 20. He released several other albums, some R&B and some gospel for Frontline Records. He dropped Fresh hymns and Fresh Hymns II in 90 and 92, respectively, and his last solo album, All new gospel formatin 93.
Then he moved to Texas, where he became a session musician. Wright began creating music with friends such as Marcus Miller from Jamaica’s Old Quarter, singer-songwriter Bobby Brown, and Wright’s musical hero Miles Davis.
“I loved Bernard very much and believed deeply in his talent. His loss is heartbreaking.” –Roberta Flack
In an interview with KNON, posted on YouTube, Wright said he married a Texan.
“We lived in New York, some lived here,” he said. At the time of the mid-2000s interview, he had been living in Dallas for 16 years.
“There’s a very serious community of musicians here in town,” he said. “They respect me as a teacher and I respect them as a student, so they learn from me and I learn from them. You know, there’s a point when the student becomes a teacher. … The next generation understands me, and I’m really happy about that, man. Because I feel them too, you know?
Soultracks reported that a car accident in Dallas resulted in his death.
Dallas musician Wade Campbell says he saw Wright about 48 hours before he died. They had known each other since the early 2000s when Wright took Campbell’s bass and started playing on it. He was playing it at full volume and Campbell was afraid to blow the speaker. He turned it off. Wright turned it back on and continued to jam. Campbell turned it off again. Bernard turned it back on. Whenever Wright showed up to jam, he always took Campbell’s bass — a Marcus Miller signature bass — and Campbell couldn’t understand why until he saw a video of Wright and Miller, one of the heroes. of Campbell’s bass, jamming together. .
They eventually became friends, and Campbell and Wright jammed with him several times over the years, even spending a few months on the road. Campbell says he learned more from those few months than he studied music in college.
The last time they spoke, Wright came walking down the street and started talking about death, heaven, and God. He told Campbell he looked forward to the streets of gold because they were pure since they had been purged by fire. He asked Campbell for a cigarette, but he had none, so Wright left in the night.
Campbell pointed out that Wright was a big part of the local R&B and jazz scene and mentored many musicians in bands such as The Funky Knuckles and Snarky Puppy.
“He’s the common denominator,” says Campbell. “Everyone took something from him. …He was the Zen master, always pushing you.
Wright also helped shape the overall musicality of Dallas pianist and vocalist Caleb Sean McCampbell. When news of Wright’s death spread on social media, McCampbell was one of many musicians who shared a tribute to Wright on social media:
“I spent countless hours on synthesizers specifically imitating his every move in hopes that one day I could make a keyboard sing and bring heaven to the room like he always seemed able to do when he played” , McCampbell wrote. . “He was a legend, a master of music, a genius in every measure of the word, and a musical mentor to many. He literally had a direct hand in changing an entire musical culture in so many ways. His sound has transcended generations, genres, styles and culture. He shared his wealth of knowledge freely and selflessly with anyone interested in learning. He literally changed the world with his music.
“No matter what difficulties he faced, you could always hear the God in him through his playing. I literally wouldn’t play music the way I do today without connecting to his musical DNA and I’m extremely grateful to him. for investing his gift, his time and his heart in me. The last time I spoke to him, about a year and a half ago, he said to me, ‘Nephew, I am extremely proud of you. Your game is beautiful and you are the most like me out of all my students. You really keep my legacy alive. I love you man.'”
White posted a photo of him and Wright on his Facebook page. In the May 20 post, he wrote, “We all have genius within us…There are very few who actually meet the criteria…My son…if there are any who never knew who you were… Let me…I WILL LET THEM ALL KNOW WHO YOU ARE…. I love you BERNARD.”
On the same day, Questlove shared a video of a train of souls Wright’s performance with the caption: “The Great Bernard Wright. Rest In Melody Brother.”