tribute to Roots manager/producer Richard Nichols - a concert for the ages
Just got back from Philly and a "concert for the ages" - a tribute to the late, brilliant Roots manager/producer Richard Nichols featuring Questlove, Black Thought, David Murray, Jeremy Ellis, Emily Wells, "Captain Kirk" Douglas, Rahzel, Bilal, Kenny Muhammad, Vernon Reid, Raymond Angry, Mark Kelley, Craig Harris, Reverence Vince, the Metropolis Ensemble directed by Andrew Cyr, plus myself on piano and as one of the arrangers (along with Anthony Tidd). Far from a traditional memorial service, it was a send-off in true Richard fashion, modeled after the several similarly-styled concerts we've put on at BAM, Philly's Kimmel Center, the Public Theater, and most recently at Radio City Music Hall, featuring often violently juxtaposing styles that reflected Richard's remarkably eclectic - yet somehow strangely logical and highly curated - tastes. Several people close to him - both family and friends - also spoke movingly about the Richard they new, giving me even more insight into this great man. The first half ended with my arrangement of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain", and after Kirk KILLED on guitar and Questlove took things to the stratosphere at the end, I already felt a sense of catharsis and could have gone home satisfied. But there was still a 2nd half to come, and Questlove's choice for us to play Tony Williams' "There Comes a Time" at the Memorial's end (to which I added a string arrangement), featuring solos by David Murray, Vernon Reid, and a cacaphonic collective solo involving myself as well as Ray Angry on keys, and ending with the words "I love you more when it's over" and with the music abruptly stopping - was the perfect evening closer. Afterwards, I truly didn't want to leave the stage - afraid that Richard's spirit would somehow be left behind with it. But I now realize that this is impossible - his ability to challenge, to push me into areas that he saw me capable of doing with such quiet, casual confidence that it literally re-programmed my brain into being able to just DO it - this will stay with me forever.