Maestro Curtis in San Francisco, CA
|Birth name||Maestro Brian Kendall Curtis|
|Also known as||Stro, Stro-Ra, J.S. Free, Free|
|Born||December 9, 1956|
|Genres||blues, "jazz", swing, bop, hard bop, Afro-Cuban, contemporary jazz, progressive, avante garde, gospel, funk, soul, R&B, blues, classical, reggae, country, eastern, world|
|Occupations||musician, record producer, educator, arranger, composer, singer, pianist, author|
|Instruments||piano, guitar, bass, voice, woodwinds, violas, harmonica|
|Years active||1965 - present|
|Labels||Kalimba, JazzyBoo Records, MCA, Sony, Silhouette, Castle Rock|
|Associated acts||Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire) Hubert Eaves III (D Train) Lenny Williams, Frank Foster, Larry Gales, Count Basie, Dorothy Morrison, The E Family, Thelma Houston, James Cleveland|
Maestro Curtis a.k.a. Maestro Brian a.k.a. Stro-Ra, is known for his musical versatility and voracity, with the ability to play any instrument, but most notably his piano and guitar playing, singing, composition and arrangement skills are second to none. He was born into a family of musicians his mother Lucille Wong Curtis Robinson was a jazz, and gospel singer who performed across the Louisiana bayou and later around the San Francisco Bay Area. Her twin brother Emile Cy Wong was a singer/songwriter on Nat King Cole's record label(KC records). Maestro earned a scholarship to Grambling State University where he attained bachelor's degrees in music (piano and voice), speech and theatre, and radio and television production with a minor in English and foreign languages. Grambling State University is home of the Grambling tiger marching band under the direction of Conrad Hutchinson Jr. While matriculating at Grambling's music department, Maestro was a student of world-renowned classical organist and pianist Curtis Mayo and pianist Delmar Wykoff, whose students were such notables as Joe Sample and Ronnie Laws just to name a few. During his undergraduate studies, Maestro was a member of a gospel group, "The Father's Children", who traveled with the president of Grambling, Joseph B. Johnson, as ambassadors for the university. It was during this two-year period that he sang and performed with Reverend James Cleveland, Bobby Jones (singer), Edwin Hawkins, Walter Hawkins, Reverend Daryl Coley, Carlton Pearson, Andre Crouch, and the Staple Singers.
Shortly after leaving, "The Father's Children", he scored the music for two off-Broadway plays, Laid to Rest I and II a dramatic musical comedy collaboration with writer Gary Flannigan that utilized all of his original Dixie and big-band compositions, which earned him the Louisiana Governor's Award. During this time at Grambling State University he was appointed the vocalist, pianist, and band leader for the University's jazz band (and a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia), affording him the opportunities to play with such jazz masters as Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McRae, Dizzy Gillespie, (all of whom appeared at black institutions such as Grambling State University, to teach, perform, and share their knowledge with young up and coming musicians carrying on the jazz legacy and tradition) and was one of the youngest pianists ever to play with the Count Basie Orchestra under Dr. Frank Foster (musician). After completing his bachelor's degrees, Maestro earned his Master's degrees in Orchestration & Arrangement, and Philosophy, and remained at the university 5 years after as a part of the teaching staff.
Curtis went on to play with musicians such as Phyllis Hyman, Will Downing, Lenny Williams, George Benson and the O'Jays and has produced with music producers such as Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire founder) and Hubert Eaves III (the other half of the hit-making duo D-Train).
Maestro Curtis and his group, Xpression, was signed to Maurice White's (founder and lead vocalist of Earth, Wind & Fire) record label, Kalimba Records, as a producer, vocalist, pianist, and guitarist. The group's debut album, Power, was released in the early part of 2000. Maestro wrote, produced, and arranged all of the songs on the album, except for the three songs that were either written or co-written with Paul Laurence, whose had worked with Grammy winning R&B vocalist Freddie Jackson. Members of Xpression are: bandleader, songwriter/producer, vocalist and pianist, Maestro Curtis, saxophonist Regi Oliver, drummer Eric D. Brown, bassist Kirk Crumpler, and guitarist Anthony Michael Peterson.
In the liner notes of Xpression's album, Power, Maurice White has this to say,
|"The band is named Xpression because when all five members of the band come together to play it is a true expression of their musical cohesion. The music on this record is the result of the collaboration between very accomplished msuicians, it is rooted in classic R&B with jazz undercurrents tailored for commercial appeal. It covers all the bases, it's energetic, sincere and sensitive. I hope you like it as much as I have enjoyed helping with its creation." Maurice White|
Maestro sits on the board of directors and is the vice president of artist development for Hitman Records, an independent record label whose roster of artists span nationwide. The CEO of Hitman Records and Maestro were in an article "Topping The Charts" in the nationally circulated magazine, Black Enterprise, where he is pictured alongside C. Michael Brae, CEO of Hitman Records, working in the recording studio. The article describes how to navigate the music industry, utilizing techniques that successful independent record labels use to develop and establish new talent.
Maestro shares his knowledge of the music business in and out of his own private teaching sessions, via workshops, and music business classes. Maestro serves as a panelist at several conferences such as, Success in the Bay "What You Better Know About the Music Business" Seminar, California Lawyers for the Arts, 2008 Music Business Seminar, and in June 2010 he appeared at the Soul Music By the Bay Music Conference, where he spoke of the importance of studying music, empowering yourself, as an artist, with knowledge of the music industry, as well as sharing his own personal experiences as an entertainer, musician, and producer, signed to major record labels, independent labels, and owning his own record company.
Maestro Curtis and David Gibson are coauthors of the best selling book, The Art of Producing, published by Hal Leonard and Artist Pro. The book guides the reader through step-by-step processes on producing a record, utilizing various techniques, and most importantly, remaining technologically relevant. The Editorial review on Amazon.com describes the book as:
|""The Art of Producing" lays out a specific process for producing a music project from start to finish. Throughout the book, you will acquire specific skills and techniques for producing a high-quality production, and you will explore the many values that must come together along the way. From working with virtual recording, virtual instruments, vocal techniques, and MIDI tracking to picking a recording studio, and everything in between, "The Art of Producing" offers well-grounded concepts that have been tested and proven through years of success. Take these concepts, adapt them to your own personal style, and you will end up with a successful process that works for everyone involved."
Hubert Eaves III, who is the songwriter and producer of the hit-making duo D-Train, and who has produced with artists such as Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, and Mtume, had this to say about the book (see back cover of the Art of Producing) had this to say about the book:
|"The book covers past, present, and future music production techniques for any aspiring as well as veteran producer. I've seen techniques in the book that I took for granted from years of experience, (good & bad). The book pin points what every producer/songwriter/arranger/ engineer and of course DJ/producer must deal with in a simplistic and systematic approach on the road to being successful. The book includes proven secrets & tips from a wealth of successful producers.
I believe "The Art Of Producing" very rapidly, will become the aspiring Producers reference Bible. It is the most thorough book I've seen that goes in depth to the whole producers process of production techniques from start to finish. (I wish It had been available to me when I was searching to find out exactly what a producer does). No one book can guarantee "Hit record" success, but I would venture to say that with the wealth of information contained inside, "The Art Of Producing can save you from endlessly scratching your head and second guessing yourself, and everyone else involved trying to achieve it".-Hubert Eaves III
Recently, Maestro and the choir of San Francisco's historical Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, starred in Ron Howard's, Parenthood (2010 TV Series), on the Pilot Episode, where Maestro's voice is featured ushering in the comical "Frozen Sperm" discussion between the series characters, Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Katie (Marguerite Moreau). Maestro also starred in an independent Science Fiction/Action Film, "Origin", where he plays dual roles, which is being released in episodes on YouTube.
Maestro Curtis is an integral figure of the Sound Healing Community in North America. In addition to his private sound healing practice, he also teaches at one of the foremost sound healing institutes in the world, The Sound and Consciousness Institute, located in San Francisco. In 2007, the World Sound Healing Conference held in San Francisco, CA, he was one of the keynote speakers and musicians, amongst the leaders and pioneers in Sound Healing. During the final concert of the conference Maestro performed with legendary guitarist Stanley Jordan.
Maestro infuses his music with sound healing techniques, in fact, the Nutri Energetics System (NES), uses the music that he created alongside David Gibson in a project called, "Body Field Sound Healing", which is referred to as "Imprinted Music", that is "encoded with information to enhance your well-being." The music that Maestro contributed is used in conjunction with the homeopathic, natural and non-invasive healing techniques that NES specializes in.
Maurice White (Earth, Wind, & Fire), Frank Foster (Count Basie Orchestra), Larry Gales (bassist of the Thelonious Monk Trio), Lenny Williams (Tower of Power), Hubert Eaves III (D-Train), Dorothy Combs Morrison (original singer of "Oh Happy Day"), Thelma Houston, Xpression, The Jazz Hieroglyphics, J.S. Free
Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Joe Sample, Bud Powell, Duke Ellington, James Brown, Sly Stone, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Charlie Parker, Sam Cooke, Nat Cole, Cannonball Adderley, & the diaspora of universal sound and music.
- SoulWalking.co.uk  Earth, Wind & Fire page. Retrieved 05/28/2010
- Xpression album credits, "Power" liner notes. Kalimba Records, 2000.
- ARTISTdirect Paul Laurence Biography  Retrieved 11/20/12
- White, M. "Power", album notes, page 7.  Kalimba Records, 2000.
- Harris, W. "Topping the Charts" page 106. Black Enterprise, November, 2005.
- Globe Institute Music Business Courses  page 6. Retrieved: 07/10/2010.
- Soul Music By the Bay Conference  Retrieved: 07/01/2010.
- The Art of Producing  Retrieved: 07/01/2010.
- Art of Producing, Amazon.com  product description. Retrieved: 05/28/2010
- Yahoo TV  Parenthood, Pilot Episode Recap. Retrieved: 05/28/2010.
- "Origin The Movie"  Episode 1. Retrieved: 05/28/2010
- Sound Healing Classes, Instructors.  Retrieved: 07/01/2010.
- Sounds for Healing  MTS Medizintechnik. Retrieved: 05/28/2010.
- Imprinted Music  The Living Matrix, Nutri Energetics System. Retrieved: 05/28/2010]
- White, M. "Power", album notes, page 7.  Kalimba Records, 2000.