Former Weather Report drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt was already a legend in the 70s, and has enjoyed a resurgence of his career over the past 15 years, particularly as leader of Source Code. Performing on the Masters Series at Jazz Central on Friday, August 5 at 8 pm, Gravatt’s ensemble includes veterans Dean Magraw on guitar and Ron Evaniuk on bass, along with rising star Solomon Parham on trumpet and young whiz Lucia Sarmiento on saxophone.
An alum of the bands of McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Blue Mitchell as well as Weather Report, Eric Kamau Gravatt essentially has had two careers in jazz with a couple decades of separation. Like John Coltrane and long-time associate McCoy Tyner, he is a native of Philadelphia. Originally a conga player, Gravatt taught percussion and music in Philadelphia and Washington, DC in the 1960s. Miles Davis invited him to join his band, but Gravatt turned down the Prince of Darkness to follow Wayne Shorter into Weather Report, with whom he toured and recorded. But Gravatt’s sound was not exactly what WR founder Joe Zawinul had in mind, and after a while Gravatt was replaced in favor of a more “bottom heavy” drummer. He moved on to the fusion band Natural Life (with Bobby Peterson and Bob Rockwell), a move that brought him to the Twin Cities some 30 years ago. Demands of family and a desire for financial stability took Gravatt out of fulltime music and into fulltime work as a guard at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Lino Lakes. “I had kids, and Corrections were the only thing being offered that paid that good, and they had (benefits) you couldn’t get in jazz,” Gravatt told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Only after retiring from Lino Lakes did Gravatt return to his calling, touring again with McCoy Tyner, performing with his band, Source Code, and engaging in some more experimental improvisations with metro area musicians including Adam Linz, Brandon Wozniak, and, recently, Dean Magraw, with whom he released Fire on the Nile.
Source Code (from software lingo for a collection of instructions to generate the programs that run on our computers, PDAs, cell-phones and toasters) tackles the works of such titans as Coltrane and Jackie McLean—and Gravatt’s band has the power to handle the repertoire.
Trumpeter and educator Solomon Parham came to the Twin Cities from Detroit where he taught in public school and performed at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. He’s also performed with Delfeayo Marsalis’ Jazz for Kids, ” Jazz and Jasmine Meets the Jazz Band,” Wess Anderson, and at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Artists Quarter, Dakota, Bedlam and Jazz Central. Currently, Solomon teaches in the St. Paul Schools and directs jazz ensembles at Walker West Music Academy. He also leads Solomon’s Sessions–performance and open jam– weekly at The Bedlam.
Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Lucia Sarmiento grew up surrounded by Latin music as well as listening to recordings from the likes of Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. She studied jazz harmony and improvisation in Peru with one-time Twin Cities resident Andres Prado before relocating to Buenos Aires, where she studied at jazz at the Conservatorio de Musica Manuel de Falla. She then won the Woman in Music Scholarship to McNally Smith College of Music in St, Paul, prompting her move to Minnesota where she currently studies Saxophone Performance under the mentorship of saxophonist Pete Whitman and trumpeter Adam Meckler. Beyond her studies, Lucia has become an active performer on the Twin Cities jazz scene, leading bands at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, leading her Quintet of young talents at venues around the metro (e.g., Black Dog, Nicollet, Jazz Central, Vieux Carré), and playing with Source Code. She also keeps busy with studio work in jazz, funk, r&b, soul, hip-hop and Latin music.
Dean Magraw is one of the Twin Cities’ most eclectic musicians, with a thirty-year career spanning genres and cultures, from blues to classical to folk and jazz, from Japanese and Indian to Celtic and middle American. Dean has collaborated with many local artists at the Artists Quarter, Black Dog, Studio Z, Vieux Carré, Jazz Central and more, including Brandon Wozniak, Bryan Nichols, Billy Peterson, Peter Schimke, Kenny Horst, Butch Thompson, Steven Hobert and Eric Gravatt. He’s released a series of recordings spanning his musical universe, including a duo with tabla master Marcus Wise, How the Light Gets In. After first playing with Eric Gravatt as a sub in Source Code, Dean has become a regular member of the band, and also plays in a duo with Gravatt, which led to the release of their Fire on the Nile in 2014. He’s recently performed in duos with pianists Steven Hobert and Butch Thompson.
Bassist with the Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra (devoted to the big band music of the 20s and 30s), JazzMN Orchestra, and leader of his own quartet, Ron Evaniuk recorded with Twin Cities trumpet legend Gene Adams and has played with George Avaloz, in addition to his long-standing work with Source Code. He recently performed with the young lions of Rodney Ruckus’s ensemble, The Ruckus.
Jazz Central Studios is located at 407 Central Ave SE in Minneapolis, just north of downtown. The nonprofit venue requests donations ($10, $5 students) to help support the musicians and pay the rent. Jazz at least five nights per week, see full schedule at http://jazzcentralstudios.org