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|Oral History, Chris Jasper remembers being introduced to his first synthesizer, while a student at Juilliard. Interview date June 14, 2013, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library|
|Birth name||Christopher H. Jasper|
December 30, 1951 |
Cincinnati, Ohio United States
|Genres||R&B, soul, jazz|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, Moog synthesizer, guitar, bass guitar, drums|
|Years active||1969–1988 (groups); 1988–present (solo)|
|Labels||Gold City Records|
|Associated acts||The Isley Brothers, Isley-Jasper-Isley|
|Keyboards/synthesizers, bass, guitar, drums|
Christopher H. "Chris" Jasper (born December 30, 1951, Cincinnati, Ohio) is an American singer, composer, and producer. Jasper is a former member of the Isley Brothers and Isley-Jasper-Isley and is responsible for writing and producing the majority of the Isley Brothers music (1973–83) and Isley-Jasper-Isley music (1984–87). He is also a successful solo musician and record producer, recording over 10 of his own solo albums, including 4 urban contemporary gospel albums, all written, produced and performed, both vocally and instrumentally, by Jasper. Jasper also produces artists for his New York City based record label, Gold City Records. Jasper's keyboard and Moog synthesizer work was a primary ingredient of the Isley Brothers sound of the 1970s and 1980s (the "gold and platinum" years) when the Isley Brothers were a self-contained band.
Chris Jasper is a classically trained musician and composer. The youngest of seven siblings, Jasper started studying classical music at the age of 7. After graduating from high school in Cincinnati, he moved to New York to study music composition at the esteemed Juilliard School of Music in New York City. He continued his studies at C.W. Post, Long Island University, New York, where he studied with noted jazz pianist and composer, Billy Taylor and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in music composition. He subsequently earned a Juris Doctorate degree from Concord University School of Law.
The Jasper and Isley families lived in the same apartment complex in Cincinnati. While still living in Cincinnati, Jasper's older sister, Elaine, married Rudolph Isley and the vocal trio formed by the three older brothers, Rudolph, Ronald and O'Kelly, subsequently relocated to Teaneck, New Jersey. While living temporarily in Teaneck with his sister as a young teenager and attending Teaneck High School, Jasper and the two younger Isleys, Marvin and Ernie, formed a band, "The Jazzman Trio" with Jasper on keyboards, Ernie on drums, and Marvin on bass. The band played local gigs in the New Jersey area. Along with Jasper, Marvin and Ernie also attended C.W. Post College in New York. While still in college, Jasper, Ernie and Marvin toured with the older Isley Brothers and played on the earlier recordings, including "It's Your Thing." Jasper's first of many songs written for the Isley Brothers was "Love Put Me on a Corner" released on the Isleys' "Brother, Brother, Brother" album in 1972.
In 1973, Jasper, Marvin and Ernie brought the songwriting and musical component to the older Isley Brothers' vocal trio, transitioning the Isley Brothers into a self-produced, self-contained six-member R&B/Funk band. Their debut release during this time was the "3+3" album. Although all 6 members of the Isley Brothers are credited as songwriters of the music from the 3+3 era, this was a business arrangement and does not reflect the creative reality. Jasper was the primary songwriter, producer and arranger of The Isley Brothers music from 1973 (“3+3”) through 1983 (“Between the Sheets”), with contributions by younger members Ernie and Marvin Isley. "Between The Sheets" was their final album as a six-member group. Jasper's arrangements, instrumentation and unique chord structures as a classically trained musician have been credited as the foundation of the legendary "Isley Brothers sound" which Jasper has continued in his own solo recordings.
In 1984, the six member group disbanded, primarily due to tax and other financial problems that did not involve the younger members of the group. Jasper, Marvin and Ernie decided to remain with CBS and record as "Isley-Jasper-Isley" while the older Brothers departed the label and unsuccessfully sued the younger brothers and CBS Records in an attempt to prevent the younger brothers from recording for CBS. Isley-Jasper-Isley was a self-contained, self-produced trio with Jasper as lead singer and continuing his role as the primary songwriter, producer and arranger. The trio released three albums on CBS Records. Jasper wrote and sang lead on the group's biggest hit, "Caravan of Love," which was covered by English recording artist the Housemartins, who made the song a #1 international hit.
In 1987, Isley-Jasper-Isley disbanded when Ernie Isley resigned from the group, left CBS, and released a solo album on another label. Marvin Isley rejoined The Isley Brothers and toured with the band. Ernie Isley later rejoined the older Brothers and currently tours with brother Ronald billing themselves as "The Isley Brothers." Jasper continued on as a solo artist and released two albums on his CBS-Associated label, Gold City Records, including the #1 R&B hit "Superbad" in 1988, a song which emphasized the importance of education, a theme Jasper continues to emphasize in many of the songs he has written on the 13 solo albums he has released since his days with the Isleys. Jasper's last release in January 2013 entitled "Inspired: By Love, By Life, By The Spirit" was a compilation of love songs as well as socially conscious and spiritual tracks. His recent release, "The One" is Jasper's 11th solo album and is reminiscent of the soulful R&B and funk music Chris wrote for the Isleys. In conjunction with Sony Music, the "Essential Chris Jasper" was released which encompasses all of the tracks that Jasper sang lead on during IJI and solo career at CBS/Sony Music. In 2016, Jasper released "Share With Me"...the first single from his 14th solo album due out Summer 2016. Also released was a special track called "America," a tribute to the nation and a call to come together, also a track from the upcoming "Share With Me" album.
Jasper has also produced, performed and written music for other artists, including label artists Liz Hogue, Brothaz By Choice, and Out Front. The most recent addition to the Gold City label is Jasper's son, Michael Jasper, an up-and-coming songwriter and recording artist. Jasper also co-produced and wrote "Make It Last" for Chaka Khan's CK album. The music Jasper wrote for the Isley Brothers has been covered and sampled by numerous new and established recording artists, including Whitney Houston, Alliyah, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Queen Latifah, Jay-Z, Snoop Dog, Gwen Stefania, Fantasia, Will Smith, Jaheim, and the list goes on and on.
Jasper has received numerous gold and platinum albums and music industry awards. In 1992, Jasper, along with the other members of the Isley Brothers, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In January 2014, Jasper and the Isley Brothers were honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015, Chris received the prestigious German Record Critics Lifetime Achievement Award ("Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik"). In 2016, Chris was awarded the National R&B Society Lifetime Achievement Award.
Chris Jasper lives in New York with his wife of 33 years, Margie, and his sons, Michael, Nicholas and Christopher.
Isley Brothers years
- 3+3 (CBS) 1973
- Live It Up (CBS) 1974
- The Heat Is On (CBS) 1975
- Harvest for the World (CBS) 1976
- Go For Your Guns (CBS) 1977
- Showdown (CBS) 1978
- Winner Takes All (CBS) 1979
- Go All The Way (CBS) 1980
- Grand Slam (CBS) 1981
- Inside You (CBS) 1981
- The Real Deal (CBS) 1982
- Between The Sheets (CBS) 1983
- Broadway's Closer to Sunset Boulevard (CBS) 1984
- Caravan of Love (CBS) 1985
- Different Drummer (CBS) 1986
- Superbad (Gold City/CBS Associated) 1988
- Time Bomb (Gold City/CBS Associated) 1989
- Praise the Eternal (Gold City) 1992
- Deep Inside (Gold City) 1994
- Faithful & True (Gold City) 2002
- Best of Chris Jasper...With Love (Gold City) 2003
- Amazing Love (Gold City) 2005
- Invincible (Gold City) 2007
- Everything I Do (Gold City) 2010
- Inspired...By Love, By Life, By The Spirit (Gold City) 2013
- The One (Gold City) (2014)
- Thank You Jesus (Gold City) (2015)
- The Essential Chris Jasper (Sony Legacy) (2015)
- Share With Me (Gold City) (Summer 2016)
- Vicious & Fresh (Liz Hogue) (Gold City/CBS) 1989
- Out Front (Out Front) (Gold City) 1995
- Brotha 2 Brotha (Brothaz By Choice) (Gold City) 1998
- Make It Last (Chaka Khan "CK" album) (WB) 1989
- Addictive (Michael Jasper) (Gold City) 2010
- Dreams (Michael Jasper) (Gold City) (Upcoming 2016)
- Allmusic biography
- Archived Interviews, ChrisJasper.com, May 1, 2013. Accessed June 15, 2015. "My sister, Elaine, married Rudolph Isley so we became linked by marriage too. Elaine and Rudolph lived in Teaneck, New Jersey and I'd visit in the summers and I even spent my junior year at Teaneck High School."
- Billboard.com biography