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Reid, Vernon

Vernon Reid

Guitarist

Guitarist Vernon Reid is best known as the founder of the groundbreaking African-American rock group Living Colour. But to recognize Reid solely for his Grammy Award-winning work as a rock musician would be to miss a rich and varied body of work that has extended into virtually every musical genre. Reid has played with artists ranging in style from Mariah Carey to Public Enemy, and from Mick Jagger to jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. He has undertaken a wide range of musical journeys, including the production of James Blood Ulmer's blues album at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, reuniting with Living Colour for a series of shows, and touring with former Cream front man Jack Bruce.

Reid's eclectic musical vision was fostered at a young age. Born in 1958 in London, England, Reid's family moved to Brooklyn, New York, when he was two. He grew up listening to rock and roll, soul, and even calypso music, an influence from his West Indian parents. As a young man, Reid's tastes gravitated toward the guitar heroes of the day—Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and especially Carlos Santana, who incorporated his own Latin heritage into conventional rock music. At the age of 15, Reid took up the guitar and soon gravitated toward jazz music under the tutelage of free form guitarists Ten Dunbar and Rodney Jones.

Reid's first band of note was drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's experimental jazz-rock group Decoding Society. Throughout the 1980s Reid recorded four albums with Decoding Society and built a reputation for himself as a lightning-fast yet versatile guitarist. This notoriety in the New York music world led to his appearances on the albums of Defunkt, Bill Frisell, Jim Zorn, Mick Jagger, and Public Enemy, during the period from 1985 to 1987. But it was one of Reid's side projects that would make him a real star in the music world.

In 1983 Reid formed his own band, called Living Colour. The group started out as a hard rock power trio but changed and evolved through the years. By the time of Reid's collaboration with The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger three years later, Living Colour had become a four-man unit and was regularly gigging at the New York rock club CBGBs. Though the group enjoyed some success in New York City, Living Colour had yet to record any original material. Jagger heard the group at the club and agreed to produce a demo for the band to send out to the big record companies. Jagger produced "Glamour Boys" and "Which Way to America," and sent the songs, along with the rest of what would become the group's first album, Vivid, to Epic Records.

Reid and his bandmates went on tour for 18 months to publicize and support the unreleased material. The all-African-American lineup of hard rockers created a buzz wherever they played. As a result of the tour and the accompanying publicity surrounding the group, Epic Records signed the band, and Living Colour burst onto the scene of mainstream rock radio, an arena traditionally dominated by white artists. Suddenly there was a black heavy metal band whose music included elements of jazz, rap, funk, and calypso stylings. The public's receptivity to these new musical blends was evidenced by the popularity of the record. One year after its release, Vivid went platinum, and the single "Cult of Personality" broke into the top ten. But a hit record was not enough for Reid. He and Village Voice writer Greg Tate formed the Black Rock Coalition (BRC) in the mid-1980s to help other African-American rock musicians. Reid wanted to use his stardom to help others. He told Rolling Stone in 1989: "It's not about 'Now we got through the door, close the door behind us.' What I hope our success is doing is encouraging other black rock bands to stick with it, because this is the result of six years of hard work. Other bands have told me our success is giving them the feeling that it's possible."

After the success of Vivid, Living Colour produced three more albums: Time's Up in 1990, Biscuits in 1991, and Stain in 1993. After the last album was finished, Reid found his professional and personal life changing. His first marriage fell apart, and he decided to break up Living Colour. The group's five-year stint as a band had yielded two Grammy Awards, two MTV Music Video Awards, and two International Rock Awards, along with over four million records sold. As a result of Reid's success with Living Colour he could live comfortably, but his band had dissolved, and that, along with his divorce, had taken away many of the trappings of his success.

Reid's next project was a 1996 album called Mistaken Identity, which Reid produced with a group of musicians who called themselves Masque. Reid told Guitar Player about the fresh start: "Near the end of Living Colour there just wasn't any joy—there was a lack of humility on all our parts. On this project everybody was a close friend that I had a lot of respect for, and most importantly had a sense of humor. I just let myself have fun." Reid's new project left his rock background behind and combined elements of hip-hop and jazz while leaning heavily on cutting-edge technology. Soon after the release of Mistaken Identity Reid was nominated for another Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental, for a song he wrote called "Every Now and Then," which appeared on a Carlos Santana box-set. Reid then toured with one of his bands called My Science Project, and produced an album in Bamako, Mali, for African singer Salif Keita.

As Reid matured, he branched out even more, forming a band called Guitar Oblique with guitarists Elliot Sharp and David Torn. A series of his photographs became the subject of an exhibition in New York City titled Fetishes, Moments, Mementos, and the eclectic artist also wrote a play.

But perhaps none of Reid's projects has been as dear to him as the Healing Hands Percussion Circle, which he formed in 2000. Reid saw a photograph of two victims of the civil war in Sierra Leone, whose hands had been amputated by rebel forces as a form of intimidation. Reid told the New York Times about his motivation in forming the Healing Hands relief organization: "As a guitarist, the idea of the forcible taking of the hands is mind-numbingly horrific. The image was so striking, and what was happening was so beyond the pale, that I began to look into it." Reid brought together drummers for performances to raise money for the victims, and to bring to public consciousness the horrible conditions under which some civil war victims were living.

In addition to charity work, the development of his own projects, touring with rock legend Jack Bruce, and producing other artists' music—including a Sun Studios recording of James Blood Ulmer—Reid found time to reunite with his old bandmates. Living Colour got together again for a series of concerts in the spring of 2001. He also worked as producer on a record by blues singer James Blood Ulmer.

For the Record . . .

Born Vernon Reid on August 22, 1958, in London, England; divorced.

Joined experimental rock group Decoding Society, 1982; formed band Living Colour, 1983; formed Black Rock Coalition with music critic Greg Tate, 1985; Living Colour signed with Epic Records, 1987; group recorded for Epic Records, 1988-93; Living Colour dissolved by 1995; released Mistaken Identity with Masque, 1996; toured with My Science Project; formed band Guitar Oblique; reunited with Living Color to tour, 2003; released Known Unknown with Masque, 2004.

Addresses: Office—The Black Rock Coalition, Box 1054 Cooper St., New York, NY 10276.

In 2003 Reid and Living Colour released another album, Collideoscope. Rolling Stone reviewer David Fricke wrote of the album, "Black-funk-metal pioneers return in righteous form." In 2004 Reid produced his second album with Masque, Known Unknown. According to Eric R. Danton in the Hartford Courant, the album "embraces Reid's downtown avant-garde beginnings, with a mix of funk, jazz and experimental sounds on a dozen instrumentals." Reid told Danton, "Roots is roots. I think the Masque project, the Masque band, allows me to really utilize my guitar in a more upfront way and look at a lot of the same questions from a different angle from, say, Living Colour." In the Buffalo News, Jeff Miers wrote that Known Unknown "offers a dizzying instrumental tour through Reid's fertile imagination and the collective intensity of his cohorts."

While many observers view his musical journey with awe, Reid takes it all in stride. He told the New York Times, "I was just a kid in Brooklyn, sitting on his bed with a guitar in my lap, and listening to Santana records or James Brown records or Mahavishnu records or Led Zeppelin records, and thinking, 'Wow!' And then, you know, I'm meeting Jimmy Page. It is not lost on me, the fantastic irony of it. Now, I basically want to just keep on going."

Selected discography

With Living Colour

Vivid, Epic, 1988.

Time's Up, Epic, 1990.

Biscuits, Epic, 1991.

Stain, Epic, 1993.

Collideoscope, Sanctuary, 2003.

With others

(With Bill Frisell) Smash and Scatterbrain, Minor Music, 1985.

(With Mick Jagger) Primitive Cool, Colombia, 1987.

(With Public Enemy) Yo! Bum Rush the Show, Def Jam Columbia, 1987.

(With Masque) Mistaken Identity, 5050, 1996.

(With Masque) Known Unknown, Favored Nations, 2004.

Sources

Periodicals

Buffalo News, May 28, 2004, p. G16.

Grand Rapids Press, November 17, 2000, p. 8.

Guitar Player, August, 1996; November, 2001, p. 48; June, 2002, p. 29.

Hartford Courant, May 19, 2004, p. NA.

Independent (London, England), July 19, 1996, p. 8.

New York Times, September 23, 1998; December 20, 2000.

Rocky Mountain News, October 11, 2002, p. 9D.

Rolling Stone, March 23, 1989; November 13, 2003.

Online

Black Rock Coalition, http://www.blackrockcoalition.org (May 9, 2005).

—Michael J. Watkins andKelly Winters

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Reid, Vernon 1958–

Vernon Reid 1958

Musician

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Guitarist Vernon Reid is best known as the founder of the groundbreaking African-American rock group Living Colour. But to recognize Reid solely for his Grammy Award-winning work as a rock musician would be to miss a rich and varied body of work which has extended into virtually every musical genre. Reid has played with artists ranging in style from Mariah Carey to Public Enemy, and from Mick Jagger to jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. He has undertaken a wide range of musical journeys, including the production of James Blood Ulmers blues album at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, reuniting with Living Colour for a series of shows, and touring with former Cream front man Jack Bruce.

Reids eclectic musical vision was fostered at a young age. Born in London, England, in 1958, Reids family moved to Brooklyn, New York, when he was two. He grew up listening to rock and roll, soul, and even calypso music, an influence from his West Indian parents. As a young man Reids tastes gravitated toward the guitar heroes of the dayJimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and especially Carlos Santana, who incorporated his own Latin heritage into conventional rock music. At the age of 15, Reid took up the guitar and soon gravitated toward jazz music under the tutelage of free form guitarists Ten Dunbar and Rodney Jones.

Reids first band of note was drummer Ronald Shannon Jacksons experimental jazz-rock group Decoding Society. Throughout the 1980s Reid recorded four albums with Decoding Society and built a reputation for himself as a lightning-fast yet versatile guitarist. This notoriety in the New York music world led to his appearances on the albums of Defunkt, Bill Frisell, Jim Zorn, Mick Jagger, and Public Enemy, during the period from 1985 to 1987. But it was one of Reids side projects that would make him a real star in the music world.

In 1983 Reid formed his own band called Living Colour. The group started out as a hard rock power trio but changed and evolved through the years. By the time of Reids collaboration with The Rolling Stones Mick Jagger three years later, Living Colour had become a four-man unit and was regularly gigging at the New York rock club CBGBs. Though the group enjoyed some success in New York City, Living Colour had yet to record any original material. Jagger heard the group at the club and agreed to produce a demo for the band to send out to the big record companies. Jagger produced Glamour Boys and Which Way to

At a Glance

Born Vernon Reid on August 22, 1958, in London, England; moved to Brooklyn, NY, at age two; divorced.

Career: Joined experimental rock group Decoding Society, 1982; formed band Living Colour, 1983; formed Black Rock Coalition with music critic Greg Tate, 1985. Living Colour signed with Epic Records, 1987; group recorded for Epic Records, 1988-93; Living Colour dissolved by 1995; solo album, Mistaken Identity, 1996; toured with My Science Project; formed band Guitar Oblique.

Memberships: Formed Healing Hands Percussion Circle to aid Victims of the civil war in Sierra Leone, 2000.

Awards: With Living Colour: two Grammy Awards, two MTV Music Awards, and two International Rock Awards, 1988-93; Grammy Nomination for Best Rock Instrumental, 1996.

Addresses: Office The Black Rock Coalition, Box 1054 Cooper Street, New York, NY, 10276.

America and sent the songs, along with the rest of what would become the groups first album, Vivid, to Epic Records.

Reid and his band-mates went on tour for 18 months to publicize and support the unreleased material. The all-African-American lineup of hard rockers created a buzz wherever they played. As a result of the tour and the accompanying publicity surrounding the group, Epic Records signed the band, and Living Colour burst onto the scene of mainstream rock radio, an arena totally dominated by white artists. Suddenly there was a black heavy metal band whose music included elements of jazz, rap, funk, and calypso stylings. The publics receptivity to these new musical blends was evidenced by the popularity of the record. One year after its release, Vivid went platinum and the single Cult of Personality broke into the Top Ten. But a hit record was not enough for Reid. He and Village Voice writer Greg Tate formed the Black Rock Coalition (BRC) in the mid-1980s to help other African-American rock musicians. Reid wanted to use his stardom to help others. He told Rolling Stone in 1989: Its not about Now we got through the door, close the door behind us. What I hope our success is doing is encouraging other black rock bands to stick with it, because this is the result of six years of hard work. Other bands have told me our success is giving them the feeling that its possible.

After the success of Vivid, Living Colour produced three more albums: Times Up in 1990, Biscuits in 1991, and Stain in 1993. After the last album was finished, Reid found his professional and personal life changing. His first marriage fell apart and he decided to break up Living Colour. The groups five-year stint as a band had yielded two Grammy Awards, two MTV Music Video Awards, and two International Rock Awards, along with over four million records sold. As a result of Reids success with Living Colour he could live comfortably, but his band had dissolved, and that, along with his divorce, had taken away many of the trappings of his success.

Reids next project was a 1996 solo album called Mistaken Identity. Reid told Guitar Player about the fresh start: Near the end of Living Colour there just wasnt any joythere was a lack of humility on all our parts. On this project everybody was a close friend that I had a lot of respect for, and most importantly had a sense of humor. I just let myself have fun. Reids new project left his rock background behind and combined elements of hip hop and jazz while leaning heavily on cutting-edge technology. Soon after the release of Mistaken Identity Reid was nominated for another Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental, for a song he wrote called Every Now and Then, which appeared on a Carlos Santana box-set. Reid spread his musical wings even farther, touring with one of his bands called My Science Project and producing an album in Bamako, Mali, for African singer Salif Keita.

As Reid matured he branched out even more, forming a band called Guitar Oblique with guitarists Elliot Sharp and David Torn. A series of his photographs became the subject of an exhibition in New York City titled Fetishes, Moments, Mementos, and the eclectic artist also wrote a play.

But perhaps none of Reids projects has been as dear to him as the Healing Hands Percussion Circle, which he formed in 2000. Reid saw a photograph of two victims of the civil war in Sierra Leone whose hands had been amputated by rebel forces as a form of intimidation. Reid told the New York Times about his motivation in forming the Healing Hands relief organization: As a guitarist, the idea of the forcible taking of the hands is mind-numbingly horrific. The image was so striking, and what was happening was so beyond the pale, that I began to look into it. Reid brought together drummers for performances to raise money for the victims, and to bring to public consciousness the horrible conditions under which some civil war victims were living.

In addition to charity work, the development of his own projects, touring with rock legend Jack Bruce, and producing other artists musicincluding a Sun Studios recording of James Blood UlmerReid found time to reunite with his old band-mates. Living Colour got together again for a series of concerts in the spring of 2001. While many observers view his musical journey with awe, Reid takes it all in stride. He told the New York Times, I was just a kid in Brooklyn, sitting on his bed with a guitar in my lap, and listening to Santana records or James Brown records or Mahavishnu records or Led Zeppelin records, and thinking, Wow! And then, you know, Im meeting Jimmy Page. It is not lost on me, the fantastic irony of it. Now, I basically want to just keep on going.

Selected discography

With Living Colour

Vivid, Epic, 1988.

Times Up, Epic, 1990.

Biscuits, Epic, 1991.

Stain, Epic, 1993.

Other Recordings

(With Bill Frisell) Smash and Scatterbrain, Minor Music, 1985.

(With Mick Jagger) Primitive Cool, Colombia, 1987.

(With Public Enemy) Yo! Bum Rush the Show, Def Jam Columbia, 1987.

Mistaken Identity, 5050, 1996.

Sources

Periodicals

Guitar Player, August, 1996.

New York Times, September 23, 1998; December 20, 2000.

Rolling Stone, March 23, 1989.

On-line

Black Rock Coalition, www.blackrockcoalition.org

Michael J. Watkins

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Reid, Vernon

Vernon Reid

Guitarist, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

The art world has always been populated by two factions: those who create art for arts sake and those who fashion their creations into some kind of political or social statement. Among the latter group is guitarist/composer Vernon Reid. Through his band Living Colour, an all-black rock quartet that blasted into stardom between 1988 and 89, he is seeking to improve opportunities for black musicians. Ive been trying to raise peoples consciousness, the England-born New Yorker told the Los Angeles Times. I want them to find a new way to think about rock musicians. It doesnt have to be some blue-eyed guy with long, blond hair playing it. It can be somebody who looks like me.

Reids crusade is directed against the paradox that under lies rock history: Even though rock and roll evolved from the Afro-American tradition of the blues, it has always been the territory of white musicians. Blacks, meanwhile, have been cast by the music industry into their own urban contemporary genre. The career prospects are grim for a black musician who falls outside the rigid stylistic confines of the urban contemporary sound, Joe Gore observed in a Guitar Player cover story on Reid. Black musicians who dont rap, croon romantic ballads, or make good-timey party records usually find themselves locked out of both black and white markets.

In September, 1985, Reid responded to this predicament. Along with Village Voice writer Greg Tate, he formed the Black Rock Coalition, an organization that provides networks of support and education for black musicians. Basically what we try to do is demystify the business, Reid explained to the Chicago Tribune. If youre trying to break in [to the business], its like walking up to a building thats completely smooth glass and theres no doorway. Yet getting more blacks into the industry is only part of the BRCs agenda. At the same time, it is trying to chip away at the barriers that make it difficult for blacks to enter in the first place. In a founding manifesto, Reid and Tate spelled out the BRCs intentions: The Black Rock Coalition opposes the racist and reactionary forces in the American music industry which deny black artists the expressive freedom and economic rewards that our Caucasian counterparts enjoy as a matter of course. We too claim the right of creative freedom and total access to American and international airwaves, audiences, and markets. As Reid explained more succinctly to the New York Times, The Black Rock Coalition says rock-and-roll is the music of our forefathers, and we are the heirs to that music.

The embodiment of that philosophy is Living Colour. By demonstrating that they can rock in any color they choose, the New York-based groupcomposed of Reid, lead singer Corey Glover, bass player Muzz Skillings, and drummer/percussionist William Calhounhave begun an erosion of the stylisticand thus racialdivisions erected by the music industry. [T]he basic underpinning of our music is freedom of choice, Reid told the New York Times, freedom from peoples expectations about what you should and shouldnt do. Accordingly, their 1988 debut album Vivid displayed a multiple musical personality, encompassing heavy metal, avant-garde jazz, soul, punk, calypso, funk, and rap. At the same time, the lyrics broke with the entertainment-oriented subjects that have come to be expected from black songwriters, dealing instead with issues confronting the black urban communityfrom prejudice (Funny Vibe) to urban renewal (Open Letter [to a Landlord]) to the failure of the media to depict the realities of lower-class life (Which Way to America?). That the public was ready for such boldness was proved by Vivids remarkable success. Early in 1989, less than a year after its release, the record cracked the Top Ten for both albums and singles (Cult of Personality); soon afterward, with sales topping one million, it passed the platinum mark.

For the Record

Born c. 1959 in England to West Indian parents; during childhood, moved with family to Brooklyn, New York. Education: Brooklyn Technical High School, art studies major.

During teens, studied with jazz guitarists Ted Dunbar and Rodney Jones; in the early 1980s, after a brief stint with rhythm and blues singer Kashif, joined the Decoding Society, a jazz ensemble led by drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson; c. 1983, formed precursor to Living Colour; during early and mid-80s, collaborated with a variety of New York artists, including the art/dance band Defunkt, the avant-funk groups M-Base and the Contortions, progressive percussionist Daniel Ponce, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, rappers Public Enemy, avant-garde composer John Zorn, experimental guitarist Arto Lindsay; in 1985, with music critic Greg Tate, formed the Black Rock Coalition; in 1986, formed current lineup of Living Colour; played on Mick Jaggers Primitive Cool LP, 1987.

Addresses: Home Brooklyn, NY. Band Living Colour, Box 407, Bushwick Finance Station, Brooklyn, NY 11221. Record company (press/public information) Epic Records, 1801 Century Park West, Los Angeles, CA 90067; (213) 556-4870. Black Rock CoalitionBox 1054 Cooper St., New York, NY 10276.

On Vivid, Reid is showcased not only as a composer and lyricisthe wrote or co-wrote ten out of the LPs eleven cutsbut also as one of rocks brilliant new guitarists, inspiring several critics to rhapsodize about his solo style. Reid generates all the heat and light you could ask for with nothing but flying fingers and synaptic lightning-flashes, wrote Robert Palmer in Spin. [He] textures his playing, giving every chord precise and proper weight, imparting a distinctive timbre, a certain eccentric spin to every note, at the most furious tempos. His riffing sizzles like oxidizing metal; his solos are brilliant databursts. Even the likes of Eddie Van Halen might lose some sleep over this stuff. But as Reid revealed to Guitar Player, he is not content to roam solely within the boundaries of rock. Ive always been fascinated by ragtime guitar playing. I really want to do thatits killing me. I want to have a richer chord vocabulary. I want to go back into jazz and really learn standards.

Reids stylistic versatility is not surprising, considering the tastes he has cultivated as a listener. Born around 1959, he was weaned on diverse samplings from his parents record collectionthe calypso of Lord Kitchener and the Mighty Sparrow, the pop-rhythm and blues blend of Dionne Warwick and the Temptations, the British rock of the Dave Clark 5, and the funk of James Brown. As a teenager he tuned in to the guitar styles of jazz-rock pioneer, John McLaughlin and rockers Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and especially Carlos Santana, whose Latin-flavored style inspired him to bring his own ethnic roots to rock. At the same time he explored other genres, from the ground-breaking jazz of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy to the modern classical music of Bela Bartok and Edgar Varese.

Reid took up guitar at the age of 15 and began studying with top jazz guitarists Ted Dunbar and Rodney Jones. Within a few years he was playing professionally. I had this vision of playing the powerful, rock-oriented music, he told the Los Angeles Times, of being this strong, solid musician who could play whatever he wantedeven this kind of music that black musicians hardly ever played. I knew what I wanted and I went after it. Appropriately, his career began with a baptism of fire: He joined the highly acclaimed Decoding Society, a hard-edged jazz-rock experimental group led by drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. After touring extensively and recording six albums with Jackson, he collaborated witha variety of artists, all of whom, like Jackson, represented the cutting edge of New Yorks multi-faceted music scenethe art/dance band Defunkt, the avant-funk Contortions and M-Base, progressive percussionist Daniel Ponce, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, avant-garde composer John Zorn, experimental guitarist Arto Lindsay, militant rappers Public Enemy, and others.

Meanwhile, about 1983 Reid formed his own band, a prototype of Living Colour. The band underwent several personnel changes until 1986, when they settled into their current lineup and began attracting attention at the New York clubs. Around that time, Mick Jagger was preparing to record Primitive Cool, his second solo LP, and had been advised by colleagues to enlist Reid as a guest guitarist. After seeing Living Colour perform, the legendary Rolling Stone not only gave Reid the job but also offered to help produce the demonstration tape for Vivid. We were a band like any other band playing at CBGBs, Reid told Rolling Stone, referring to a hard-rock club in Manhattan. One night Mick Jagger comes in, checks us out, and the ball starts to roll from there. Jagger produced two tracksthe Carribean-flavored Glamour Boys and the rap-tinged hard-rocker Which Way to America? through which the band caught the attention of Epic Records. But getting a deal wasnt an automatic thing, even with Mick Jaggers name as producer on those tracks, Reid explained to the Los Angeles Times. It helped that were a good band. But we had to be real goodbetter than a white rock band has to beto convince them to gamble on us. After cutting the demo, Living Colour hit the road for 18 months, promoting the record along the Northeast club and college circuit. The tour generated a lot of positive pressand Epic, convinced, signed them.

Though he is obviously pleased by the success of Living Colour, Reid has been quick to point out that they are the exception to the rule; in several interviews he has stressed the many talented black rock acts compared to the few who have record contracts. Its not about Now we got through the door, close the door behind us, Reid told Rolling Stone early in 1989. What I hope our success is doing is encouraging other black rock bands to stick with it, because this is the result of six years of hard work. Other bands have told me our success is giving them the feeling that its possible. Remaining optimistic, however, is often a challenge for him. If youre black you have some rage in you, he told the Los Angeles Times. It may be buried deep in some people but its there. Playing music has helped me deal with my anger at the position of blacks in this country and the position of black rock musicians in the music business.

As a composer, Reid draws from not only the black American experience but also his African roots. Among his works-in-progress is a multi-media theater piece called Afrerica, which he is creating in collaboration with a writer named Sekow Sundiata. Its based on the idea of the Africa that black Americans have in their heads, he explained to Guitar Player. Theres the physical Africa, and then theres the African construct that weve put together to help us survive. Black nationalists have seized on Africa as this golden Valhalla or Asgard, this incredibly magical and good place. Its like an amalgam of what they would like to see happen here and the bit of African history that they know. There are so many Africas, and so many societies in Africa, each with its own morals. Weve taken what we like about all these things. Afrerica is about this fantastical concept. Its one of my life projects; it will change as my compositional abilities improve.

Selected discography

With Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society

Eye On You, About Time.

Mandance, Antilles.

Barbeque Dog, Antilles.

Decode Yourself, Island.

With others

Defunkt, Thermonuclear Sweat, Hannibal.

Bill Frisell & Vernon Reid, Smash and Scatteration, Minor Music, 1985.

John Zorn, The Big Gundown, Nonesuch, 1986.

Mick Jagger, Primitive Cool, Columbia, 1987.

Public Enemy, Yol Bum Rush the Show, Def Jam Columbia, 1987.

Ambitious Lovers (Arto Lindsay, Peter Scherer), Greed, Virgin, 1988.

With Living Colour

Vivid, Epic, 1988.

Sources

Guitar Player, October, 1988.

Los Angeles Times, January 22, 1989; February 25, 1989.

New York Times, April 24, 1989; May 21, 1989.

Rolling Stone, March 23, 1989.

Spin, May, 1988.

Kyle Kevorkian

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