Onaje Allan Gumbs

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Onaje Allan Gumbs
Birth name Allan Bentley Gumbs
Born (1949-09-03) September 3, 1949 (age 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Bop, Hard bop, Soul jazz, Smooth jazz, Fusion
Occupations Pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader, lyricist
Instruments Piano
Years active 1970's–present
Labels 18th and Vine, Ejano
Associated acts Obba Babatundé, Woody Shaw, Nat Adderley, Kenny Burrell, Buster Williams, Stanley Jordan, Angela Bofill, Betty Carter, Grady Tate, Jeffrey Osborne, Deneice Williams, Norman Connors, Sathima Bea Benjamin
Website www.onajeallangumbs.com

Onaje Allan Gumbs (born September 3, 1949, New York City) is a New York-based pianist, composer, and bandleader.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Born Allan Bentley Gumbs in Harlem, Onaje grew up in St. Albans, Queens, and started playing piano at age 7. Henry Mancini was one of his earliest and greatest influences from watching the TV shows "Peter Gunn" and "Mr Lucky" at age 8. Later, he studied at the Music and Art High School in Manhattan and was introduced by a classmate, Carl "Skip" Kirkland, to his father Leroy Kirkland, who had played with the Erskine Hawkins band, and who would come to mentor Onaje. He went on to study classical piano, composition, arranging and graduated with a degree in Education at the State University of New York at Fredonia.[citation needed]

Professional career[edit]

In 1971, Leroy Kirkland introduced Onaje to the renowned Detroit guitarist Kenny Burrell, to whom Onaje gave a demo tape. The following day, Onaje received a call to play with Kenny Burrell at Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. This work led to further performances with major jazz musicians such as bassist Larry Ridley as well as The Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra. During those early 70's, Onaje replaced Nat Adderley, Jr. in a great contemporary jazz ensemble called Natural Essence. At that time in the course of two years, some the personnel of this group included drummer Buddy Williams, bassist Alex Blake, trombonist Earl McIntyre and on percussion, Thelonious Monk Jr.

In 1972, in Buffalo, New York, Onaje met Norman Connors, who hired him to act as arranger for the album Dark of Light. Onaje went on to contribute keyboard work for subsequent albums by Norman including the albums Love From the Sun, Saturday Night Special, You Are My Starsip, Invitation and Mr C. Onaje's sideman work soon included stints with Buster Williams, Cecil McBee, and Betty Carter. Toward the late 1970s, Onaje spent two years working in Woody Shaw's band as pianist, arranger, and occasional composer, including the albums Rosewood, Steppin Stones and Woody III. During this time, the group won the Down Beat Reader’s Poll for Best Jazz Group and for Best Jazz Album in 1978 for Rosewood. His most recent sideman role was Avery Sharpe's 2012 album Sojourner Truth: Ain't I A Woman.[citation needed]

Solo Works[edit]

During Onaje's time with Nat Adderley (1976), the producer Nils Winter of SteepleChase records, heard Onaje’s improvisations, and invited the pianist to record a solo piano project. Entitled Onaje, the album features standards such as "Giant Steps," as well as some of Onaje's original compositions. His interest in R&B is especially prominent in two of his solo recordings, That Special Part of Me (1988), and Dare to Dream (1991). In 2003, Onaje released a live album through Half Note records entitled Return to Form, recorded at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Manhattan. He then released in 2004 a critically acclaimed project through his own label, Ejano, entitled Remember Their Innocence. In 2006, Onaje recorded an album for 18th and Vine records, Sack Full of Dreams. Film and stage actor Obba Babatundé appeared as guest vocalist on the title track.[citation needed]

On January 24, 2010, Onaje suffered a stroke. Miraculously, he stayed in the hospital for only 2 days. By December of that same year, an album was released in Japan entitled Just Like Yesterday. On this CD Onaje was accompanied by Omar Hakim, Victor Bailey, Marcus McLaurine, William S. Patterson and Chuggy Carter. Any visible signs of the stroke have since vanished.

Awards and Special Works[edit]

In 1986 Onaje received the Min-on Art Award from the Buddhist organization, Soka Gakkai International "in recognition of his great contribution to the promotion and development of a new musical movement for people with the aim of the creation of Peace". Panasonic chose his song, "Dare To Dream", with lyrics by Charles Allen, as the theme for their tenth anniversary celebration of Kid Witness News. Gumbs composed, arranged and performed the original score for the Showtime film, Override, directed by actor and producer Danny Glover. In 2006, Onaje was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Jazz Artist category for his independent project, Remember Their Innocence.[citation needed]

Discography[edit]

As leader[edit]

  • 1988: That Special Part Of Me
  • 1991: Dare to Dream
  • 1995: Onaje
  • 2003: Return To Form
  • 2005: Remember Their Innocence
  • 2006: Sack Full Of Dreams
  • 2010: Just Like Yesterday

As sideman[edit]

With Norman Connors

With Woody Shaw

References[edit]