Akbar DePriest

Akbar DePriest and the DePriest Project Family Jazz Concerts – 1999


When drummer Akbar DePriest was growing up, bebop was presented alongside the blues and R&B in neighborhood theaters on fabled Central Avenue in Los Angeles.

We never divided the music, explains DePriest, who passed away in 2007 at age 76. I could see Duke Ellington and there would be T-Bone Walker on the same bill.

DePriest, based in Portland since 1987, got his start with Big Maybelle and worked the chitlin’ circuit with R&B bands before his career blossomed in Chicago with the likes of Eddie Harris and Rashan Roland Kirk. Today, he wants to pass those cultural riches on to a younger audience, and that’s the reason he has created the DePriest Project Family Jazz Concerts, now in their eighth year.

Saturday’s concert will feature saxophonist Javon Jackson with DePriest, pianist Janice Scroggins, bassist Phil Baker, and DePriest’s son and vocalist, Mario DePriest. All ages are welcome.

We’ve got to let them know what jazz is, and they’ve got to be taught that this jazz belongs to them. Especially African-American kids, he points out, are not aware that this is theirs and they should be proud of it.

To that end, DePriest plans a concert Saturday built on the blues.

We want people to understand the inter-relationship between jazz and the blues, he says, including such lessons as Cold Duck Time, Sonny Rollins’ 11-bar blues Decision, Ellington’s Caravan and Monk’s I Mean You.

Jackson, a former DePriest student in Denver, is an internationally touring younger star who played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and records for Blue Note. He favors a dry, somewhat restrained sound in the Sonny Rollins style, but with less force. He and DePriest will be featured in drum/sax duets, and Scroggins, who recently won a Muddy Award for Best Blues Pianist, will have a solo spot.

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