Howard Wiley brings soulful sax sound to Malcolm X fest in Oakland

When it’s time to get a party started, Howard Wiley gets the call.

The Oakland saxophonist has been a mainstay on the Bay Area music scene since he was a teenager, and at 39 he’s taken up the mantle of his mentors, playing soul-steeped jazz palpably connected to its roots as social music.

Impossible to pigeonhole, Wiley can generate blowtorch heat in just about any context, whether he’s interpreting Ethiojazz saxophone with Bay Area vocalist Meklit or laying down shuffle beats on drums as one of Lavay Smith’s Red Hot Skillet Lickers. As a bandleader, his primary vehicle is Extra Nappy, an all-star quartet featuring Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen, bassist Michael “Tiny” Lindsey, and veteran organist L.J. Holoman.

With its repertoire of R&B covers and hard bop originals the group lives deep in the pocket, delivering an insistently celebratory sound built on an intoxicating array of carnal rhythms. Bars, block parties, night clubs, juke joints, art galleries and jazz festivals all provide fertile soil for the Extra Nappy treatment.

The band plays Saturday afternoon at Oakland’s San Antonio Park as part of the EastSide Arts Alliance and Cultural Center’s 18th Annual Malcolm X JazzArts Festival, a free event that Wiley has been involved in since the start. It was through the center that he played an essential role in reed master David Murray’s 2008 bop opera “The Sisyphus Syndrome” with poet and activist Amiri Baraka.

“I have almost a mentorship relationship with Elena Serrano and Greg Morozumi at EastSide Arts Alliance,” Wiley says, name-checking two of the center’s longtime programmers. “I met then when I was just starting out. You see somebody interested in the same things, being culturally aware and maintaining a high level of musicality, and it’s natural to collaborate.”

Wiley also kicks off the 36th Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival on June 6 when Extra Nappy plays SFJazz’s free block party at Proxy, the outdoor space at Octavia and Hayes Streets. The next night Wiley joins Hammond B-3 organ great Chester Thompson for two shows in the SFJazz Joe Henderson Lab.

Extra Nappy also plays San Francisco’s Madrone Art Bar every Wednesday and continues its monthly residency at San Jose’s Café Stritch on June 1-2 as part of the SubZERO Festival. On June 23, the band delivers a concert focusing on original compositions at Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory.

Wiley hasn’t released an album under his own name since 2010’s acclaimed “12 Gates to the City,” a project that delved deeply into spirituals gleaned from Angola, the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary. But he’s well-documented on a series of stellar projects.

Wiley holds down the saxophone chair on tenor and baritone on Oakland singer/songwriter Meklit’s “When the People Move the Music Moves Too” (Six Degrees Records). He wields soprano, alto, and tenor on San Jose drummer Jemal Ramirez’s “African Skies” (Joyful Beat Records), a consistently captivating sextet session featuring SFJazz Collective vibraphonist Warren Wolf.

He’s sought after outside the Bay Area too. When it came time to record his 2016 debut album “The Beast,” drummer Jerome Jennings brought …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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