Dr. Alfred Brown’s club called The Plexx in an old decrepit shopping center on E. H. Crump Boulevard in Memphis is one of the few places in the city where authentic old-school live blues and soul can be heard, but on the Friday night before Halloween, things took a slightly different turn, as veteran blues singer Jewel Jones was backed by the 4 Soul Band, consisting of some of Memphis’ best young musicians, including Lloyd Anderson on bass and drummer Otis Logan. While it’s common to think of there being something of a musical divide between young and old, the consummate talents of these young musicians enabled them to fit in perfectly with the older blues and soul offerings of Ms. Jones. Veteran Memphis drummer Willie Hall was in the crowd as well, and it was a great night of Memphis music off the beaten path and away from the tourist crowd
While the annual Memphis Music and Heritage Festival was going on downtown, the On Location: Memphis Film and Music Festival was also taking place in Overton Square and in the Cooper-Young neighborhood. The music showcases were held in the basement of Cooper-Walker Place, and featured great Memphis musicians from all genres. Memphis hip-hop star Jason da Hater was on stage when I arrived, followed by a new local rock band called One Word. Then Tori WhoDat performed, along with Preauxx and other members of the TRDON camp. Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon showcase was 4 Soul’s performance, with Otis Logan on drums, and extraordinary Memphis vocalist Tonya Dyson fronting Memphis’ premiere neo-soul band. Over at Studio on the Square, a large crowd was watching a preview screening of an upcoming movie called The Man in 3B, with the filmmaker present. Altogether it was a great year for On Location: Memphis on its first Labor Day weekend.
The old brick building at 1911 Poplar Avenue plays a large role in Memphis music history. It was the home of Kang Rhee martial arts, where Elvis Presley once took lessons. Then it became the Hi-Tone, one of Memphis’ most beloved music venues in the modern era. Finally, after a few years of vacancy, it has reopened as Sports Junction, ostensibly a sports bar, but with a music stage and hookahs. The live music policy is relatively hip, featuring the latest incarnation of Otis Logan’s 4 Soul Band, as the original line-up had lost members to the cruise ship business. This version featured a saxophone and a trombonist, the latter of which was also one of the evening’s two vocalists. The new 4 Soul line-up sounds as good as the old, and the new venue is pleasant, even if the old, divey feel it had in its days as the Hi-Tone has been replaced by a brighter feel. There is also a food menu, although I didn’t try any of the food options, and at least on this past Saturday, there was no cover charge for the live music. However, the venue is 21 and up only, and I did see two younger women turned away at the door.
1911 Poplar Av
Memphis, TN 38104
The 4 Soul Band featuring Otis Logan on drums has been one of Memphis’ premiere neb-soul and funk bands for the last several years, but now has a new look since the departure of bassist Lloyd Anderson to the cruise ship circuit. On Monday, May 4, they were the headlining act for the biweekly Memphis Music Monday sponsored by the Memphis Music Commission. They performed several instrumentals, and backed up guest vocalist Randy D on a Usher cover as well. Horn work was provided by ubiquitous Memphis musician Suavo J. It was also my first time checking out the new Hard Rock Cafe, located in the former Elvis Presley’s building just outside the Beale Street district. While the stage is somewhat smaller, the upstairs is bigger, and the outdoor second story deck is a very pleasant oasis in downtown Memphis.
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Memphis soul singer Devin Crutcher comes from a legendary musical family in Memphis, the family of Stax songwriter Bettye Crutcher, and is probably the most in-demand male singer in the city today. He can be heard at different venues most nights of any week in Memphis, but it is not so common for him to appear with the excellent 4 Soul Band, which my friend Otis Logan is the drummer for. So when I heard that Devin Crutcher would be performing with 4 Soul and some sort of fashion and hair extravaganza at the Ice Bar on a Sunday night, I made plans to be there. 4 Soul is one of the city’s best soul and funk bands, and Devin is one of the best singers, so his brief two sets of music were a treat indeed, separated by a brief fashion show.
My homeboy Otis Logan had told me about an event that Devin Steel of K-97 was sponsoring at the Hi-Tone called the Kickback. The party was to feature several DJ’s, back by Otis on drums, and Otis’ band 4 Soul was supposed to play as well, so I decided to go. The new Hi-Tone on Cleveland seems somewhat smaller than the old Hi-Tone, but it filled up quickly. For most of the evening, Otis was on drums behind several different DJ’s, soloing, adding fills and breakdowns and amplifying the grooves. Briefly, the whole 4 Soul Band played behind the DJ’s as well. The drum and DJ format is new to Memphis, but the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves.
My homeboy Otis Logan invited me to a 4 Soul Band rehearsal that was being held on a Tuesday night in downtown Memphis in the upstairs of an old warehouse. As it turned out, the 4 Soul Band was backing up an up-and-coming R & B group called Offici8l, which had been featured on the TV show the X-Factor. They were getting ready for an out-of-town show on the weekend, and I was able to get some good video footage of Otis Logan on drums, the 4 Soul band, and Offici8l as well.
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Tyke T was already an up-and-coming Memphis rapper when the local radio station K-97 proclaimed him the “Next Big Thing” after he won a contest they sponsored. Since then, he has been to New York and several other places for concerts, and although he might not be nationally known yet, he is part of a growing movement of Memphis rappers who seem to be more positive, more upbeat and more lyrical. He is also part of a growing local trend to rap with live musicians instead of just recorded tracks or a DJ, and for his performance at the River Arts Festival, he chose one of Memphis’ best up-and-coming bands, 4 Soul to back him, along with live singers, and guest appearances from other Memphis rappers such as Li’l Cam and S.O.U.L. Altogether it was a rap performance that could appeal even to people who don’t usually like rap, and that was probably precisely the point. Tyke’s lyrics avoid the negative tendency of the local artists that lean more to the gangsta style, and the live band gives him an appeal to those whose musical preferences lean toward other genres.
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On the first Sunday of each month, Brinson’s in downtown Memphis sponsors a free event called First Sunday, which seems to be something of a music showcase and a trade show all at once, with live performances and exhibits of locally-sourced products. This month, my homeboys in the 4 Soul Band were scheduled to perform, so I went to support them. 4 Soul is one of our city’s best neo-soul/funk/jazz bands, performing in a number of local venues, and behind several local rap artists.
4 Soul Band is Memphis’ premiere soul and contemporary jazz group, and on Monday night, July 28th, they held an open rehearsal at Aji’s Sports Bar and Grill on Lamar Avenue in Southeast Memphis so that they could shoot photographs and video footage for publicity purposes. The band played about an hour of tunes, featuring their vocalist Shenea, trombonist Suavo J and drummer Otis Logan. They will be playing at Aji’s again on Friday night, August 1.