Siedah Garrett

Siedah Garrett is letting the world know what industry insiders have known for too long. She’s the best known unknown! Just ask Michael Jackson. When he was looking for songs for his smash LP, Bad, his producer, Quincy Jones, played him a song that Garrett had co-written with songwriter/producer, Glen Ballard. That song was “Man In The Mirror”. Jackson loved the song, and was also so impressed with the voice of the girl singing the demo, he decided that he had to meet her. When Jackson and Garrett met, they quickly hit it off. “Man In The Mirror” went on to become the third 1 single from the multi-platinum BAD album, and one of Jackson’s all-time favorite songs. But aside from singing background vocals on “Man In The Mirror,” Jackson decided Garrett was the natural choice for the duet, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” which was to be the album’s first single. Not surprisingly, the result was a 1 smash, which sold over a million copies worldwide. Garrett toured with Jackson for almost two years, singing their duet as well as background vocals for his Dangerous World Tour. Garrett has also had the privilege co-written a song with Michael, entitled “Keep The Faith”, which is featured on the Dangerous CD.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, in the 70’s, it was apparent early on that Garrett was blessed with many talents. Her early influences were Chaka Kahn, Stevie Wonder and of course, The Jackson Five. Since Garrett blew on to the scene via an open audition for Quincy Jones, she has done a multitude of background vocal session work with everyone from Johnny Mathis to Donna Summer, Wayne Newton to Quincy Jones, The Pointer Sisters to The Starship, Kenny Loggins to RuPaul, Al Jarreau to Al B. Sure!. Garrett was responsible for contracting background vocal sessions for such prestigious pop, dance and urban contemporary artists such as Madonna, on the multi-platinum True Blue album, The Commodores, on the smash LP, Nightshift, and many others. Songs co-penned by Garrett have turned up on such hit album projects such as Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl, and Quincy Jones’ Back On The Block.

Garrett has enjoyed tremendous success as a songwriter, co-penning songs for everyone from the King of Pop, to the Queen of Soul, and many, many artists in between, but she’s also had some amazing successes as a recording artist in her own right. Garrett first 1 solo single, “Do You Want It Right Now”, a 1 dance hit and club anthem exploded onto the national scene. Garrett also sang the demo for a song that was meant to be a duet featuring Chaka Kahn and Dennis Edwards, but producer, Dennis Lambert thought that the vocal blend between Garrett and Edwards was magical. The result was the 1 smash R&B classic, “Don’t Look Any Further.”

Garrett was commissioned to write songs with and for, “The Brand New Heavies”, a popular British neo-soul band. After having co-written more than half of their latest CD, entitled Shelter, Garrett was invited to become a full member of the band, living and working in London, replacing departed lead singer, N’Dea Davenport. The Shelter album went gold in the United Kingdom, and has sold over half a million CDs worldwide.

Garrett was featured on Quincy Jones’ latest release entitled “From Q, With Love. The first single from this CD, is a duet featuring Garrett and El Debarge, entitled “I’m Yours”. Garrett is also the featured vocalist on the newest release from saxophonist, Richard Elliott, entitled “This Could Be Real”, also co-penned by Garrett. Garrett has also co-written and co-produced songs for Vanessa L. Williams and Tatianna Ali on the Grammy Award Winning soundtrack from the full feature film, “The Adventures of Elmo In Grouchland”.

And how many people do you know that have sung for The Pope? Well Garrett, along with a small group of American singers, combined with singers from Florence and Rome, calling themselves “The Millennium Choir”, converged on the ancient city to perform for Pope John Paul in Vatican City on Christmas Day 1999. It was a performance of a lifetime.

On July 4th, 2000, Garrett was in Paris to participate in a history making performance with mentor, Quincy Jones along with the entire French National Orchestra. The performance was in honor of would have been Duke Ellington’s 100th birthday. The entire event was filmed by “Bravo”, as part of a biography piece on Jones. Performing along with Garrett was singer/songwriter Phil Collins, Duke Ellington’s blues crooner Milt Grayson, harmonica aficionado Toots Tillman, songwriter Michele LeGrand, and French national treasure, Henry Salvadore.

In the fall of 2007, Garrett, along with Quincy Jones, was invited by the Chinese government to co-write the theme song for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics, held in Shanghai, China.

Most recently, Garrett was nominated for an Oscar, as well as a Grammy for having co-penned, “Love You, I Do,” sung by Oscar winning actress, Jennifer Hudson, in the hit film, “Dreamgirls”.

The stage is set and, after her groundbreaking collaborations and contributions on history making albums, Garrett has proven herself a force to be reckoned with. The most rare of all offerings, she’s an enormous talent that encompasses her gift as an incredible vocalist and her true craft as a successful songwriter. Siedah Garrett, the quintessential recording artist/singer/songwriter, is a true Renaissance woman.

Festival snares compelling drummers

Terri Lyne Carrington, Cindy Blackman
Terri Lyne Carrington (left) and Cindy Blackman.
By Siddhartha Mitter
 Globe Correspondent  2008

Cindy Blackman & Adriana Sassoon

In many cultures, the drum is the preferred means of making an announcement. So it’s appropriate that the opening salvo of this year’s BeanTown Jazz Festival – the fall event that, in eight years of existence, has grown into an important gathering of local and national acts – will take the form of a drum summit.


Featuring two of today’s most compelling jazz drummers, Terri Lyne Carrington and Cindy Blackman, the Sept. 26 showcase at the Berklee Performance Center will offer a rare opportunity to hear, in one evening, two contrasting drum styles as well as two bands in which the player behind the skins is also the leader.Carrington and Blackman are both former Berklee students who went on to respected careers, albeit on somewhat different tracks. A local product (she grew up in Medford), Carrington was a child prodigy who attended the school in her early teens and went on to play with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter before moving to Los Angeles where, for a time, she was the drummer in the Arsenio Hall Show band. She’s now based back in Boston, teaching at her alma mater.

Blackman didn’t finish school, bolting instead for New York, where she started as a street musician in the ’80s. She’s now best known for her many years playing with rocker Lenny Kravitz. But both she and Carrington have maintained jazz identities and careers – mainly as first-call sidewomen, with sporadic outings as leaders. (“Music for the New Millennium,” Blackman’s new double album with a groovy electro-acoustic group, just came out but was recorded in 2005; Carrington has a record due out next year.)Programming the two on the same bill highlights, of course, how rare it is to hear a woman behind the drum kit. And Carrington in particular is underscoring the gender theme through the special lineup she’s assembled for this show. It includes the singer Patrice Rushen and the pianist Geri Allen, along with a rising young saxophonist from the Netherlands, Tineke Postma.

“You reach out to like-minded people,” Carrington says on the phone from her home. She volunteers that it was her intention to gather top women players, while in the same breath starting to change the subject. “It’s a celebration of women in jazz,” she says, “but I don’t want to dwell on that.”Blackman is more adamant on the topic. “The gender question is not even worth bringing up because the drums have got nothing to do with gender,” she says on the phone from a gig in France. “I’m there because I love to play music. And I’m in support of anyone who wants to play the instrument.

“I wouldn’t care if Art Blakey was pink with polka dots and wearing a tutu,” she adds, citing the great drummer-bandleader. “I wouldn’t care if Tony Williams was green.” Williams, who played with Miles Davis, is the drummer she cites as her greatest influence among a pantheon of others, including Papa Jo Jones and Max Roach.And it’s true: Even if women are a minority in jazz, and perhaps especially on drums, there’s nothing inherent in Carrington’s or Blackman’s style that one can attribute to gender. Rather, there is the influence of these great elders; and there is each woman’s personal aesthetic and approach to an instrument that – made up as it is of a large and malleable assortment of drums and cymbals – offers almost endless possibilities.

It will be a special treat if, following each group’s set, Carrington and Blackman take the stage together to make this summit truly one to remember. At the time of these conversations the two hadn’t yet planned it out, but Carrington says there’s a good chance it will happen.”It’s a difficult instrument to do that with,” she says. “People like to see the competitive aspect of it. But if we do play together it definitely won’t be in any kind of drum battle. I do mine and she does hers, and both should be celebrated.”

Drum Summit is at Berklee Performance Center Sept. 26.                     617-747-2261