The sound of Poogie Bell's drums is what you hear on many of the world's finest jazz, neo-soul, R&B, POP and hip-hop records. Performer, record producer, composer, and arranger, you've heard his work with artists including Chaka Kahn, Marcus Miller, Roberta Flack, Erykah Badu, David Bowie, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Stanley Turrentine, John Scofield,Eve, Al Jarreau, Vanessa Williams, Randy Crawford, Victor Bailey, AND many more!
Native of New York and a second generation musician he has been immersed in music since he was born. Taking cues from his father, a jazz musician and professor of music, Poogie has always had an inherent connection to music. As hard as it may be to believe, he started playing at the age of ten months old and made his debut when he was two and half on Pittsburgh's public T.V QED13 with his father. By the ripe old age of five he'd already appeared on The Mike Douglas Show with Pearl Bailey.
As a kid it wasn't unusual for Poogie to see the likes of drummer Max Roach, saxophonist Ornett Coleman, pianist Marylou Williams, bassists, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter and Richard Davis in his living room jammin' with his father. Growing up he hung out with fellow musicians Omar Hakim, Marcus Miller, Lenny White , Bernard Wright, Bobby Broom, Weldon Irvine, Victor Bailey all of whom supported and influenced each other musically.
Poogie's first "real" gig were with Weldon Irvine, Tom Brown,Chaka Khan and Hugh Masakela. Then came a tour with one of the creators of what we know as hip-hop, Afrika Bambaata and the Soulsonic Force and then with the Force MD's, a Temptations-style vocal group who were the first to incorporate R&B and hip-hop. "Touch and Go", a song written by Poogie&Victor Bailey for the Force MD's, won them the ASCAP Urban Music Writer's Award for Top 10 Singles in 1987.
From his hard work, Poogie was able to break into the traditional R&B world touring and recording with artists Freddie Jackson, Phyllis Hyman and Chaka Kahn. He came into the New Jack Swing era working with Keith Sweat, Teddy Riley, SWV and New Edition. He continues to tour and record with Marcus Miller, Victor Bailey and Erykah Badu, among others. Now Poogie is doing his own thing with The Poogie Bell Band. The Poogie Bell Band consists of 5 members. They are, Juan Vasquez (guitar, vocals), Kevin Barefoot (bass), Howie Alexander (keyboards), and Ian Gordon (trumpet).
Jazz Heart, Funk Mind
Poogie Bell has been playing the drums before he could walk or talk. Now he's fronting his own band.
by Dave Richards
The Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com
Friday, January 07, 2005
When Poogie Bell says he was born to play the drums, you better believe him. You know anyone else who could keep time before he could walk or talk?
Bell - the son of Charlie Bell, a jazz keyboard player and music professor - was still in diapers when he watched his dad's band practice one day. For hours, he stared at drummer Allen Blairman, totally mesmerized.
"Two, three weeks later, my mother is awakened at 5 a.m. by the sound of someone playing drums," Bell said. "She goes, 'Damn! What the hell is Allen doing in the house at 5 a.m.? Has he lost his mind?'
"She comes downstairs and sees me up on the drum stool - tat, tat, tat - keeping time. I've been playing drums as long as I can remember."
He still is except now, for the first time, Poogie Bell leads his own group. After building a strong reputation as a session player and touring musician with mainstream jazz and R&B performers, he fronts the Poogie Bell Band. The Pittsburgh-based funk/jazz groove outfit makes its Forward Hall debut on Saturday with special guests Amanda Barton and Charity Nuse from Big Leg Emma.
Performing with Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Roberta Flack, and David Sanborn among others, Bell became accustomed to playing in concert halls and at big outdoor festivals. But now he's back at clubs while the Poogie Bell Band builds a name. He's fine with that.
"It makes me proud to be able to go out and play music that I helped write, and have good cats who want to play with me," Bell said. "It makes you feel good to go out and play your music, regardless of where the gig is.
"We've played clubs so far that are really good and clubs that, when you get there, you go, 'Damn!' But the people show up, and you try to bring a vibe. Then it doesn't matter where you are, if the music feels good."
It sure sounds good on "Thinking Outside the Box," the band's debut. The quartet takes a phat, aggressive, groove-heavy approach on the stomping "MPD," while turntable scratching and Bell's slinky drum work infuses "Boogie Hustlers" with an infectious, exciting contemporary energy.
"I think the current stuff we're doing reflects the better parts of '70s fusion - at least the parts that had a groove," Bell said.
UNDERNEATH IT ALL LIES Bell's ongoing love of jazz.
"I consider myself to be a musician who has a jazz heart and a funk mind, so there's always going to be jazz overtones in the music, drenches of it everywhere," he said.
"But I aim to have a whole bunch of different flavors, all making sense. It's a matter of figuring how to make the spices right, so the sauce is going to come out good. As much as I love jazz, I also love country and western and hip-hop, and we blend all of that together."
Bell, 43, still frequently tours with jazz bassist Marcus Miller; they completed a European tour during the summer. In fact, the beginnings of Poogie Bell Band date back to a Miller show at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild a few years ago. That's where Bell met young bassist Kevin Barefoot, who plays in Mr. Nimbus.
Bell had long been curious about the jam-band scene, but was too embedded in jazz and R&B over the years to experience much of it. So he quizzed Barefoot, who's just 25.
"He starts breaking it down to me," Bell said. "I got a crash course on Phish and Moe and String Cheese and Soulive and Martin, Medeski and Wood. Of course, I'd heard of MMW and Soulive. But I was like a lot of jazz musicians who are in the mainstream. They either don't know what the scene is, or they hear the music and they think, 'They don't play very well.'
"Now that I'm doing this and understand what it is, I understand why Soulive and String Cheese are popular and what they have to offer and bring to their audience. With my band, I'm trying to do that - just do it in our own way, with our own style and our own sound."
Keyboard player Howie Alexander and guitarist Juan Vazquez, who's also in the Latin-jazz band Sauce,Ian Gordan(trumpet) complete the Poogie Bell Band lineup. For the group's second CD, Bell plans to rely on star power to help the band get noticed.
He says such friends as Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Kenny Garrett, Soulive's Eric Krasnow, and the Allman's Oteil Burbridge may all appear, if scheduling can be worked out.
In the meantime, Poogie Bell Band builds word-of-mouth the old-fashioned way - one hot live show at a time.
"I don't mind starting this from the ground up," Bell said. "I've been doing the mainstream thing for the majority of my career. So this underground stuff is very cool."
ON THE TOWN
by billy cobham
On November 8, I went to hear Victor Bailey's band at MOOD"S, a local club here. Now this is something that I rarely do, more due to time constraints than anything else so it was great to have the opportunity to hear some music by people who always make me smile when I hear them play on record.
What I want to point out, since this I a drummers web site is that Poogie Bell played drums in place of Omar Hakim...............I still don't know what happened as to why Omar didn't come out on tour..........someone mentioned the WTC disaster and, if that's the case, I am sorry about that. Back to the music: I did not miss Omar as Poogie more than made up for Omar's loss with a very solid performance all around. He can be a bit animated on stage but in a very good way as the music always reflects the personality of the musician. He played sensibly and effectively throughout. I remember hanging out the professional percussion center back in the late 60's and listening to a discussion between Papa Joe Jones, Al Duffy and Frank Ippolito about players who play more than they need to for their own personal agenda and drummers who know what to play to be effective. The question was which would you rather be? Poogie played what was required and the band rocked. I am often asked whom I like from the generation after me and I don't focus that much on who's out there past the people that one hears about like Dennis Chambers, etc. Poogie Bell is one of those needles in the haystack. You will hear him a lot with Marcus Miller's bands and there, he is really at home.
Artists that Poogie Bell has performed and recorded with:
Kindred and The Family Soul
.....and many more