Whenever I do a cover of a song, or in this case an original piece that serves as dedication track paying homage a favorite group (The Blackbyrds) and favorite production team (The Mizell Brothers), the way that I judge the finished product is by asking myself, “Do you think that this piece can be presented to the original artist… WITH confidence?” If the answer to that question is a “yes”… I keep it. If I feel otherwise, I will not hesitate to start over or completely scrap something I don’t deem high-quality enough to keep around. With that being said, let’s discuss a phone call I received the afternoon of January 18th while I was in the classroom teaching… I couldn’t get to my phone obviously, so I let it go to voicemail. When I finally had a free minute to check it, I looked and saw that it was saxophonist and original Blackbyrds band member, Allan Barnes who called. Oh damn, word?! Now, I had not talked to him since the summer of 2007 when I went back home to play keys in Detroit’s CityFest with my former band, The Gorilla Funk Mob (ironically, I actually JUST found footage of this performance on YouTube last month). From checking the voice mail, he was giving me a shout letting me know that he was in D.C. for a day or two… Alright, sounds good to me. So, I called him back and we chopped it up about that for a few minutes. Suddenly, it hit me… I need to ask him about hearing “Flight Of the Blackbyrd” from SunStorm!! A friend of mine and GFM drummer, Tate McBroom told me that he played the record for him a few months prior… Being an original Blackbyrd, I was anxious to hear his opinion first-hand…
Me: I’ve been meaning to ask you about this for a minute…. Have you heard the “Flight Of the Blackbyrd” joint?
Allan Barnes: What? Your joint?
Me: Yeah… The one that just came out last year.
AB: Oh yeeeeeeeah!! That’s the SHIT man!!
Me: *Trying my best not to attempt a back flip that I know I can’t execute*
It was probably the shortest and most direct approval I had ever received, but it didn’t lessen how humbled I was, especially being as though the only other song I have ever received praise for from the original artist was my cover of “Star Of the Story” by Heatwave… Of course as soon as I got off the phone with AB… I passed the positive news along to Phonte.
Allan’s words came in addition to what happened soon after SunStorm was released in July of 2010. Larry Mizell Jr. tweeted Phonte and I regarding “Flight Of the Blackbyrd” giving the Mizell Family’s approval… (I wish I would have favorited that tweet). Talk about HONORED. You never know who is listening and possibly enjoying your music – particularly when your music is “to” them…