DOING THE MOST: Jazz Saxaphonist Chazzy Green
Lately it seems that I have been graced with interviewing some phenomenal musicians. True players, for real. Another musical great to add to this growing list is Charles “Chazzy” Green, saxophone ninja. Chazzy is a Detroit native that has been on the music scene for decades. He has rubbed shoulders with a veritable who’s who of legendary artists including Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Macy Grey, Ray Parker Junior, Johnny Guitar Watson, Bobby Womack, Cameo, WAR and many others in live performances, recording and touring. He is infamous for his infectious sax line on Ray Parker Jr.’s megahit “Ghostbusters” (yep, that’s him). He is renowned sax player globally, hosting saxophone workshops around the world. So to term Chazzy an international musician is wholly appropriate. I caught up with Chazzy when he was taking a breather from putting the finishing touches on his new project, Soul Expression, due out this fall.
POSITIVEBLACK: Man! The record is coming along real nice bro.
CHAZZY: Thank you so much V. I’m really happy with the way things are shaping up.
POSITIVEBLACK: So how did you come up with the album name, Soul Expression?
CHAZZY: Actually Soul Expression was the name of a club back in the 70s in Detroit, where I’m from. It was one of the popular spots for live music and a LOT of the heavy hitters played there back in the day. Me and a lot of my friends and fellow musicians played there as we evolved and started our own musical journeys. We cut our music teeth in that spot. So it’s a bit of nostalgia to title the new record Soul Expression because a few of the guys I came up with are performing on the new record. Especially and specifically the title track “Soul Expression”.
POSITIVEBLACK: In those days Detroit was a major hot bed for talented musicians. A place where everybody that was touring wanted to come through. To be on that scene, ya know?
CHAZZY: Yeah Detroit was the place to be. The legacy of Motown and those major players carried a lot of weight. When we were kids taking music lessons at the YMCA major stars would come through like Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye.. The Spinners. The Y was the center of other community stuff as well but the music side of it held a major impact for me.
In addition to that, there was just a lot of Black pride in that era. I remember James Brown’s “Say It Loud” blasting out of speakers in my neighborhood. Detroit just felt like a great place to be from. Even my own neighborhood. Hell, Nate Watts (session\tour bass player for Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and others) was from the neighborhood. Ray Parker, Jr. (Ghostbusters Soundtrack, Raydio and writer and record producer) lived down the street. We all went to Northwestern High School together. Ray was the drum major.. (laughs). Later, Ray started to play with Stevie Wonder and got Nate hired on. He went on to play with Marvin Gaye and to find his own music success in Hollywood.
WITH RAY PARKER JR. and RAYDIO circa 2001
POSITIVEBLACK: Ray also extended a pretty nice opportunity to you as well, right?
CHAZZY: Yeah, Ray sent a taxi to pick me up at my LAX hotel to bring me to North Hollywood for session work. I played on the “The Other Woman” album. I eventually played the sax line on the now historic Ghostbusters theme song Ray was working on. Who knew at that time that it would become this timeless song it came to be.
POSITIVEBLACK: Very cool. And you’ve evolved into a force to be reckoned with in your own right? Globally recognized, 4th album about to be released…
CHAZZY: Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to amass a big and loyal following. At first through touring with major acts but doing so allowed me to build a reputation on my own as a viable solo artist. I would take nice solos to give the headliners the breaks they needed during long shows and the buzz grew and grew. It’s cemented now. I perform all over the world and host music seminars and do shows in Germany, Japan, Holland, France, Leiben, Africa... all over.
POSITIVEBLACK: Fans everywhere, huh?
CHAZZY: Yeah man, it’s nice to be appreciated. In japan I met a fan that followed my career and knew music I played on waaaaay back in the early Detroit days. I mean some real OBSCURE music he pulled out. I don’t even know how he would have known about, let alone FOUND this stuff. I was blown away.
POSITIVEBLACK: It’s pretty much guaranteed that he’ll cop the new one, I’m sure.
CHAZZY: Yes sir!! And I’m going for a Grammy this time. Not a nomination, but a win. Without a big budget too because I’m releasing the Soul Expression independently. I need to prove that it can and will be done without a major label.
POSITIVEBLACK: Who played on the new record with you?
CHAZZY: I had some of the best, top live musicians work with me on the CD. A lot of my alumni from Detroit were involved and may actually work with me on tour dates also. I love ‘em all but one great musician of note is my late friend from Detroit, drummer Ricky Lawson. He played with the Yellowjackets, Whitney Houston and a number of major artists. We actually recorded some music a couple of years ago and unfortunately he has since passed on. I think ours were the last recordings of his music career. I was honored to work with him and I’m including our work on Soul Expression. Ray Parker, Jr. played guitar on the record and killed it. I also recorded with some an amazing collective of musicians while on tour. There were features from artists in Holland and Japan. It’s definitely an international CD.
The recording session for Soul Expression at Henson Studios [if !supportLineBreakNewLine] [endif]
POSITIVEBLACK: How would you say the new LP differs from your previous records?
CHAZZY: You can actually hear the maturity in my playing; more polished and concise musicianship. I’ve taken a fresh approach to composition and chord structures and the solo performances have notably evolved. People that have heard the record so far comment on that.
POSITIVEBLACK: Any tour plans on the horizon?
CHAZZY: MAN!!! I’ve got a lot happening right now. I just got a call from George Johnson of The Brothers Johnson and I’ll be touring with them for a bit. That includes some dates in Detroit and Los Angeles as well. After that I’ll jump onto tour with Ray Parker in Japan in September. Lastly, I’ll kick off my own tour in Japan in October. And that’s only the stuff I know about as of today.
POSITIVEBLACK: So what’s the release date for the album?
CHAZZY: November 2016. Some Japanese labels are interested in the new project so we are angling toward a release date after I can pursue this in Japan. I’d like to have a company behind me to push it this time around vs. releasing them independently. From my experience in doing indie releases we need to create a bigger picture if we want to be on the Grammy radar.
POSITIVEBLACK: Any opinion on today's music?
CHAZZY: The current content is not what I like to have in my ears right now. When I listen to the radio now it’s kinda disgusting. Talent is going down the drain. Computers are fixing up singer’s voices, auto-tune’s got people sounding strange, etc. It’s a mess. Internationally, other countries really look down on this. They are more purists who really WANT the organic singing ability and musicianship.
Personally, I try to keep my head into what I’m doing and try to study more music. I always want to contemplate how to approach the same 12 notes of the scale in different ways. America was more respected globally as a music source back in the day. Now, you don’t even hear singing groups as much from Black artists. I call today’s music genres the “microwave generation”. Songs that are thrown together in 30 minutes usually sound like they took 30 minutes. Not producers, but reducers. I say keep live music live and musical.