Sounds Visual Radio
Sounds Visual Radio
Episode 74: Caesar Frazier

Caesar Frazier is a funky soul-jazz organist who recorded several albums for the Eastbound/Westbound label family during the ’70s. First making his mark in 1972 with one of saxman Lou Donaldson’s funkier bands, Frazier cut his first album “Hail Ceasar!” later that year, which featured musicians commonly associated with the Prestige label’s jazz-funk outings — Melvin Sparks (guitar), Houston Person (tenor), and Idris Muhammad (drums). The follow-up, “’75,” featured the likes of guitarist Cornell Dupree and drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie; the album’s key track, “Funk It Down,” was later sampled by jazz-obsessed hip-hoppers Gang Starr for their “Ex-Girl to the Next Girl.” In 1978, Frazier resurfaced as a smooth soul/disco vocalist with the LP “Another Life.”

In addition to recording on his own, Frazier also played keyboards in Marvin Gaye’s backing band. Thanks to the rare-groove revival, his rare original LPs now fetch generous sums on the collectors’ market.

A child prodigy, Caesar aturally gravitated to music when his young peers preferred being outside playing games. During his early years, he was constantly exposed to a kaleidoscope of music; old school country, Sinatra, King Cole, all of the great real blues, and the pioneering rock and rollers. By age fifteen, Caesar began playing with a variety of R&B, Blues and Jazz bands. However, as he progressed musically, he became attracted to the more complex and sophisticated stylings of jazz, though never abandoning the diverse genres that shaped his musical influences as a child.

Though most of his early years were spent playing keyboards in bands, and accompanying vocalists of mixed variety, there was something always calling for his attention. After hearing the stylings of the historic organists of that time, he was forever attracted to the enormous sounds of the Hammond Organ. After graduating from high school, Caesar attended Florida A&M University, earning a degree in music education. Throughout his tenure at Florida A&M, he formed and played in numerous bands, earning money to cover college cost. While in college, along with his organ trio, he made appearances on the nationally televised Ted Mack television show.

After graduating from Florida A&M University, he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana on the advice of a college musician friend, where he would start an organ quartet performing on the very active local music scene and touring the mid-west club circuit. As a traveling musician based out of Indianapolis, Caesar was writing songs and leading bands, trying desperately to get to the his childhood dream of recording albums and performing in some of the world’s larger forums. As fate would have it, Caesar started a relationship with jazz saxophone legend, Lou Donaldson. A former member of Lou’s band heard Caesar at a Jazz club in Indianapolis, immediately called Lou, and reported he had heard a young organist whom Lou be interested in bringing into his band. From that introduction began a relationship and bond that would be everlasting.

After leaving Lou’s band, Caesar joined the Marvin Gaye orchestra as keyboardist, touring the mega concert venues. Being influenced by the grandeur of that experience, Caesar headed to Detroit to record the album that he would call “Another Life” utilizing the arranging skills of David Van Depitte, the arranger that Marvin used to orchestrate his legendary album, “What’s Going On”.

As the great jazz organ era began to wind down, Caesar veered back to his original instrument, the piano, and became a featured vocalist / song stylist. Over the years of performing he has often been spoken of as an entertainer beyond categorizing. Labeling him as falling into any single musical genre does not adequately describe this unique performer. Having been influenced by so many of the popular idioms over his lifetime, he developed the skills of finely weaving numerous styles into one pleasing presentation. He is just as comfortable doing pop, r&b, country or jazz modes with conviction.

Turning full circle, Caesar returned to the ranks of being one of the Top Jazz Organists in the world, after producing and recording the acclaimed CD entitled “Instinct” in 2017.

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