Detroit News Freelance Writer Andrea Daniels Chats with Songwriter/Producer Duane Parham
Detroit saxophonist Duane Parham was 15 years old when he did his first professional performance at an east side club. He played a saxophone that cost his grandmother $100, and he’s been playing ever since. “I always wanted to sing,” says Parham from his Detroit home, “but since I can’t sing, God blessed me to sing through my saxophone.”
Parham performs tomorrow and Saturday at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. Known for his smooth jazz, R&B and gospel music, he is proud to be a local performer and often pays tribute to fellow local artists. “I’m honored to be a part of the Detroit scene. Detroit musicians are just a group of anointed musicians,” he says.
The saxophonist calls himself a salad of all his great mentors, including Charlie Gabriel, Teddy Harris Jr.
Lamont Hamilton and Ernie Rogers. He says he received something significant from each of them. “Charlie Gabriel played jazz, but he really liked playing Dixieland music. I mentioned to him that I liked playing gospel, and he told me to go for it. ‘If that’s what you like, you play it. And don’t let nobody stop you.’ “And Lamont Hamilton just saw something in me, and he told me, ‘One day what you do and how you gonna do it is gonna bring fear in other musicians.’ What he was actually talking about, I don’t know, but I’m having fun doing what I do,” Parham laughs.
Parham, who plays alto, tenor and soprano sax, says two of his latest projects shine the light on Detroit music. “The Unsung Musicians of the Motown Empire” is a documentary in progress that highlights Motown’s unnamed great horn players.
“Teddy Harris says in my documentary that Detroit was the mecca. When artists had to show what they could do, they’d come to Detroit. I rep Detroit wherever I go out.”
For Parham’s soon-to-be-released third CD, Motor City Sax Appeal: A Tribute to the Motown Legends, Parham remakes Standing in the Shadows of Love by the Four Tops and features the legendary
Motown group on background vocals. He does the same with Come and Get These Memories, with background vocals by the original Vandellas.Over the years, the saxophonist has opened for R&B and soul singers Anita Baker, Martha Reeves, Freda Payne and Spyder Turner, and jazz greats George Duke and Spyro Gyra. He’s also performed with fellow saxophonists Nelson Rangell and Mindi Nelson, and he has opened for noted motivational speakers Les Brown and Iyanla Vanzant. Giving equal attention to his love of gospel music, Parham has also shared the stage with such noted gospel singers as the Clark Sisters, the legendary Shirley Caesar, Michael Matthews and Rance Allen.
Parham has a flare for making original music and has several other recordings under his belt. He likes to stretch his creative wings. Sunday evenings, 6-7 p.m., he produces and hosts two Internet radio shows on katsentertainment.com. “I’m playing gospel and jazz. The music I love,” he says.
Backing Parham on stage at Baker’s is his band Duane Parham’s Sax Appeal, with Jeff Stanton on keyboard, Brent Stanley on guitar, Rick Hicks on bass and Andre Bell on drums. Detroit singing group Rare Quality will accompany him on background vocals. He says: “I’ll play songs from my latest CD, ‘Sax Appeal,’ and take the audience on a musical experience.”
Andrea Daniel is a freelance writer.
Duane Parham is a Jazz saxophonist.
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