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Music industry vet Redray Frazier plans Secret Society show


COURTESY: AARON HEWITT PHOTOGRAPHY - Singer-guitarist Redray Frazier poses for a photo in downtown Portland for his Blood In The Water album.Singer-guitarist Redray Frazier had just finished the 1998 H.O.R.D.E tour, headlined by jam band Blues Traveler, when his band Mosaic was invited to play a party in Portland, where the tour had ended.

Tired from the road, the band at first thought about turning down the gig, but the lure of some quick dough to help them get back to their New York City home was too much. So Mosaic played the party and a woman at the bash, Athena Smith, caught Frazier’s eye, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“She almost didn’t go, but at the last minute decided to,” Frazier adds with a chuckle.

The two eventually got married, and Frazier has called Portland home for most of the 21st century. For the past year, he’s been promoting his 2015 EP, “Blood in the Water,” and will share cuts off it as well as his previous acoustic record, “Follow Me,” at a 9 p.m. show Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Secret Society Ballroom, 116 N.E. Russell St. The Loved and The Frequence share the bill. Tickets are $8. You can learn more at www.secretsociety.net or www.redrayfrazier.com.

Backing up Frazier on stage will be guitarist Jason Henry, keyboardist Jeff Baxter, DJ Radical Klavical, bassist Tom Nunes and drummer Ezra Holbrook, a longtime friend of Frazier who produced “Blood.” A producer and songwriter who’s familiar to many on the Portland scene, Holbrook was instrumental in making “Blood” what it is.

“It was our friendship that really made this record happen,” Frazier says. “He’s always been real supportive of what I do.”

Sometimes compared to Lenny Kravitz or Maxwell, Frazier combines soul, gospel, blues, hip-hop, funk, rock and folk in his music. The preacher’s son from Queens via New Jersey, Frazier says he wasn’t always happy having to go to church as a kid, but credits singing in a gospel choir for shaping his sound.

“I think when I’m writing songs I probably use a lot of gospel changes and kind of search for that spirit within,” he says.

He adds that he went for a slower, midtempo sound on “Blood,” even though live he likes to rev it up.

“I do just like being able to nod your head to different grooves,” he says.

Standout cuts on the EP include the title track, with a pounding piano track and dubstep meets blues feel, over which Frazier sings “There’s blood in the water/And I know/I know/I know/that sharks are gonna swarm.” The song evokes classic tunes like “I Put a Spell on You,” and is Frazier’s answer to naysayers.

“It’s my way of continuing forward when times might not seem so easy, but you know you have to accomplish something, when you know you have to move forward,” Frazier says.

Stages of life

A music industry veteran, Frazier has sung for C + C Music Factory, Brat Pack, Funky Poets and David Byrne, and has shared the stage with Barenaked Ladies and the Fugees, as well as Kravitz, Ben Harper and a variety of other acts.

He spent two years with Byrne, from 2008-10, in his band, which also featured Redray’s brother, Paul Frazier, a noted bassist who’s played with such musicians as Nile Rodgers, Sarah McLachlan, Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Chaka Khan.

Byrne was an able and knowledgeable band leader, Redray says, adding he always enjoyed one particular moment on stage, when the band did the Talking Heads’ number “Once in a Lifetime.”

“That was always the song that let people know it was OK to get up and dance if they weren’t already dancing,” he says with a chuckle.

Meanwhile, John Popper of Blues Traveler has occasionally lended a hand to Frazier’s music. One time Redray was playing a gig in Colorado opening for Popper. When Popper took the stage, he invited Frazier to come up and jam on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” which featured a solo by the lightning fast harmonica-player.

“You know the air is thin up there in Colorado,” Frazier says. “I signaled him to do a solo, but instead of 16 bars, it was 32. At that high altitude he was sucking wind! He gave me a look like, ‘When are you coming back in?’”