Lincoln Ross began in the music business at age
15, shortly before he got his first driver's license. Since then he has
been blessed with some really great experiences along the way, like
playing trombone with the Count Basie Orchestra as a young man age 24.
He also had the opportunity to record an album on a major label in 1975
("Vibes of Truth"-The Three Pieces / Fantasy 9476).
This came about through his association with jazz legend Donald Byrd, as did the Blackbyrd's recording of his original instrumental "Gut Level" (which actually charted in the top 40 in 1974). He met Dr.Byrd as a student at Howard University from which he earned a bachelor's degree in music (Class of '73).
Currently, Bill Pinkney and the Original Drifters has recorded his song "The Same Candlelight", which has been released on the Repete and World Wide Gospel labels. As a keyboardist he did some road work with Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in the 70's and Wilson Pickett in the mid-80's.
Others he has played his horn behind include Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis Jr., Nancy Wilson, Gladys Knight, Joe Williams, the O'Jays, Johnny Taylor, Millie Jackson, and many others. A few years back he even recorded a track with another hometown hero, DJ Kool.
Presently he continues to do gigs with the O'Jays when they are in the Baltimore-Washington area. This is always exciting because they are often on shows with such other R&B legends as EW&F, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, the Isley Brothers, the Whispers and many others.
L.R.: Glad you got the
CDR OK. This album was recorded in 1975. I had a group at the time and we
called ourselves THE THREE PIECES. Jerry Wilder - Lead vocals and bass,
Andre Richardson - Percussion /bkg.vc., me - keys /trombone /bkg.vc.
We toured briefly with the Blackbyrds at the time but the deal subsequently fell through so unfortunately we didn't go on to make another album.
I was 25 years old at the time same age my son
is now. I also have a daughter who is 31 years old.
We don't have the rights back nor do we recieve
any artist's or writer's royalties. This would be a good 'blurb' feature.
I sucessfully sued Donald Bryd's 'Blackbyrd Publishing' a few years back
small portion of the back royalties from "Gut Level" the tune I wrote for the Blackbyrds album.
Vibes of Truth is still being sold on the net. I did a google search (vibes of truth lp) and came up with a few sources especially in Europe. One was
I'll send you a complete list of credits for that record. Ray Parker Jr. (of Ghost Buster's fame) played guitar on one of the tracks.
I was unaware until the advent of the internet or
better still when I first had access to the internet (within the past 3 1/2 years) that the album was still being
marketed. I used to get Fantasy's catalogue and it was not listed although the tune ("Gut Level") that I did for the Blackbyrd's was. Also I used to see "Gut Level" in the stores regularly on Blackbyrd compilations. I never saw "Vibes of Truth".
When I called Fantasy about "Gut Level" royalties they said that they were paying Blackbyrd Publishing via his attorney (Steven Kopictko ?sp.) and that the publisher not the record company paid the writers. Kopitcko gave me the run around for a year at least. It wasn't until I
ran across an outfit in NYC called Royalty Net that any legal action was taken. Their deal involved making the legal moves for a 20% commission without any front money.
Prior to signing up with Royalty Net or even before I called Kopitcko I had written Byrd several letters and even caught up with him in person a couple times. It was
kind of funny because one time he was at the Kennedy Center here in DC doing the a Billy Taylor Jazz Series Concert.
During the performance there was a section where they took questions from the audiance. Thanks to my buddy Andrew White (world reknown Coltrane transcriber), I had the nerve to ask Byrd about our royalties in front of the sold out audiance! On top of that, the whole thing was being recorded for NPR (Nation Public Radio). Even though I was polite and respectful, the crowd did gasp slightly and Byrd gave me a short lame answer about the 'matter was being looked into'. It was funny because before I asked my question he saw who I was and gave me this nice intro about being one of his best former students and good trombone player.
Before that, he had never answered my letters, and on another
occasion back stage he ignored the whole thing.
L.R.: Unfortunately, even with proper copyright papers,
signed contracts, ect. one cannot guarantee that the people you are
dealing with will always do the right thing. Also if a project is not extremely successful and a whole lot of money is not
involved it often is not even worth trying to pursue it legally. As usual
the little man who could
really use the few measly dollars gets screwd simply because he can't afford to defend himself. They (crooked industry types) know this from the outset.
So to answer your question I guess I'd have to say that even though you can't completely eliminate the risks involved you should at least;
(1)make sure all your paperwork is in order and
Remember the bottom line is that you really
can't force them to pay you so if your
During the 80's I unsuccessfully sought another
deal but as time slipped by and this became less and less
likely I gradually shifted my approach to that of writer/producer. At my
current age (52) I know that the odds of me getting signed are probably
higher than hitting the lottery. :0)
Nevertheless I will always write and record so it's just a matter of me saving enough bread to put something out on my own. With all the technical advances in home
recording these days this goal is not nearly so far fetched as it was a few years ago and I look forward to reaching it. Still it will be expensive and involve considerable sacrifice especially since I love working
with real instruments like horns and strings for sure.
L.R.: No I don't have a day job however my main source
of income hardly comes from producing and recording. I WISH! For the most
part I provide music for private affairs like weddings, retirememts,
graduations and things of that nature.
Occassionally I do shows and some road work but not much these days. I'm basically a freelance
musician working locally in the Washington DC area. Not exactly the
starving artist but close to it. :0)
Let's just say that at times a sense of humor can
get you through a situation where nothing else will so 'be happy and don't
Yes, although there were always those days when
I'd wonder, 'so you want to be a musician do you'? I've concluded that
there are no easy paths in life so you might as well choose something you
have a passion for.
Hopefully the idealism of youth propels one far enough so that the pragmatism of later years does not diminish this passion too severly. I still have a healthy passion for what I'm doing.
Currently "Only Human" is still on the
front burner. This is the recently completed CD by Changamire, my fiance.
We are busy promoting the album as well as preparing for a live concert we
hope to stage in a few
months. I am very proud of the product and of Changamire who masterminded and financed the whole project. It took a little over two and a half years to complete including live strings on a few tracks and final mixes at the world reknown Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. Thanks to the internet we have sold CD's in London, Hong Kong, Paris and all over through sites like Amazon.com, CD Baby.com, Jazzvalley.com and others. The internet
explosion really gives the self-produced artist a big boost. It's the light in an otherwise very dark tunnel.
I love it.
L.R.: The "Only Human" CD
is an eclectic mix of jazz, R&B, pop, soft rock, semi-blues, and one
track that even features the talented rapper 'Mr. 40'. It's an interesting musical journey lasting a little over 46
minutes. The bluesy track "Together" also spotlights my son
(Lincoln Ross IV) playing the guitar solo. His son, Alyosha,(my
grandson)attended one of the sessions but at 4 years old is not quite
ready to join the act just yet. :o)
L.R.: Yes we had a lot of fun but also it was a
lot of work. We went to Philadelphia to record the string sessions and of
course this involved a lot of preparation. There were 14 string players,
flute, guitar and a rhythm section. The music had to be all written out.
We were blessed with some very fine musicians who came in the
studio and just played everything beautifully the first time down. The engineers took a few minutes to set levels and bingo the tracks were laid. On some of the other dates we used the electronic sequencers and sound modules.
This process also involves a lot of homework where,
in my case, most of the playing is done outside of the studio. You already
know what it's going to sound like before you go in yet the magic of the
studio greatly embellishes the overall quality and fidelity. At any rate I
love the recording process and learn something new everytime. Always when
the time has expired I wish we could stay longer.
Sigma Sound Studios in Philly is a legendary
facility where many, many hit records were recorded over the years. In
particular, this is where Gamble and Huff of
the famed label Philadelphia International recorded many of their artists and where we knew we could get a great string sound. We were not disappointed. Also I
personally had recorded "Bustin Loose" with Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers here as well as a few other projects and fell in love with their sound.
As far as my favorites, this is the most difficult question you have
asked so far. My musical palate is large. I enjoy all kinds of music from
James Brown to Beethoven. Just the other night I went to see Curtis
Fuller, one of my all time favorite trombonists, and at 68 he his still fantastic. But to name just a FEW other
I would have to include; Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, John Coltrane, Art Tatum, Bud
Powell, Oscar Peterson, Mozart, Brahms, Oliver Nelson, Duke Ellington, Billy Stayhorn, Slide Hampton, Urbie Green, Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke, Matt Monroe, Sly Stone, Luther Vandross, Mahalia Jackson, Patti Labelle, Nancy Wilson, Quincy Jones, Babyface, Prince, Smokey Robinson, Dru Hill, Mary J. Bligue, Denice Graves, Kenny Rodgers, Garth Brooks, Biggie Smalls, Mystikal, Yo-Yo
Ma, Take 6, India Arie, Alicia Keys, Joe, U2, Boney James and many many others. You see what I mean, I've got it real bad. :o)
|L.R.: Since I like
every artist for different reasons it's hard to say which is the top
favorite. But if I had to pick just one it might be John Coltrane.
I find myself listening to Coltrane
often as well as practicing and performing some of his music. As with
certain foods I like, I don't know know exactly why I like them other
that to say they taste good to me.
Coltrane sounds good to me as does Stevie, Bach, etc. I could say that one artist or food was my favorite but it would be just a theoretical answer to an impossible question.
Actually I recently became aware of a
release by Universal Records of a Marvin Gaye CD called "What's Going
On?" Deluxe Edition. Included on the two disc set
is a live concert he did at the Kennedy Center here in Washington in 1972. I was in the band with about twenty other local Washington DC musicians. Unfortunately we are only credited as 'unknown local musiscian' but with the help of the union I'm trying to rectify that. Anyway here's a good true story written before the current release:
Since Marvin was from DC, when he did a gig here during the height of the "What's Going On" album, the city rolled out the red carpet. Not only did he receive the
key to the city but the gig was staged at the then new Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This must have been around 1970 and as fate would have it, I got the gig on trombone. Not that I was such a good player but just in the right place at the right time. Anway at around 20 years old this was quite an experience as you can imagine.
We reheased a couple of times at Howard University with band leader Maurice King. Because of some copying errors the rehearsals didn't go as smooth as they could have but interestingly enough this worked out to our advantage since we were being paid by the hour. Also Marvin was there some of the time even playing a little piano on a few of the charts.
Now for the really good part.
We were just about to go on stage the night of the show when we were informed of a slight delay. Seems as though the union people had discovered some heavy duty cables leading to a 16 track recorder (or however many tracks they had at that time) and some other professional gear.
To make a long story short we all received a second paycheck. This one may have totaled more than the first which itself wasn't bad considering the paid reheasals.
Of course the second check was for the live recording.
L.R.: Like I said ...'the HOLY SPIRIT must have
passed through the room a couple of times at least during the making of
"What's Going On" '. It is a masterpiece.
Occassionly. Since Washington DC is
not really a big music production center like New York or Los Angeles
there was never a whole lot of work here in the studios, but I do some
from time to time.
L.R.: Wilson Pickett was another big
disappointment for me. During the mid 80ís I did some road work with his
band as a keyboardist. On one of the trips to Canada and New England, I
drove my van and transported the luggage and instruments for the group. Of
course I was to receive
extra money for this, which was agreed upon at the outset.
On the last day we were in Boston. That night after the gig I was waiting to get paid so I could head back to Washington right away for a gig there the next day. Itís
about a 9 hour ride from Boston to Washington so I was trying to get on the road as soon as possible. First the band manager told me that Pickett didnít give him all the money so my pay would be short. So I went to Pickett, who was occupied in his dressing room with all
the after-show guests. After a long wait to get to talk with him, I told Pickett what the manager had said about not being able to get all the money from him. Pickett
said that this was not true and that he had paid all the money. By this time Iím pissed for sure and ready to leave.
I went outside to my van and took out all their instruments and luggage, leaving everything on the sidewalk in front of the club. I then pulled of and drove to my next gig. Needless to say I didnít do anymore gigs with those folks, although I believe they called me about a tour of Spain some time later. Nor did I ever receive the money owed to me.
I didnít see Wilson Pickett for another 10 years. They were rehearsing here in Washington so I stopped by, since the rehearsal hall owner was a friend of mine.
Pickett acted as if he didnít remember me until I brought up the Boston incident. Then the band manager asked me to leave, saying it was a ďclosed rehearsalĒ. I
did leave peacefully and even though I still didnít get paid, I somehow felt better.
What I had hoped to have been an exciting and memorable experience working with a genuine R&B legend turned into yet another disappointment. But, as the song goes ď thatís life ď .
Life is an unending lesson especially
when you attempt to understand people's behavior. 'Fickle' is the word.
You never know when someone is going to switch up on you. I've had
business relationships that went along just fine for several gigs, then
right out of the blue here comes a curve ball. Totally unpredictable. Over
time you end up a bit cynical to say the least.
Sure!!! Riding a train through the
Swiss countryside chatting with Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, and Norman
Granz in the same boxcar would be one. Going to Detroit and doing a
recording session in the famed "Hitsville Studio's" of Motown
for David Ruffin and producer Hank Crosby was another.
Another great memory was playing the San Remo
Blues Festival in 1987. We spent 10 days in Italy where they really rolled
out the red carpet for us. This was the closest thing to a luxury vacation
Iíve ever experienced. They treated us to one restaurant that had a fish
pond out back where they would scoop out the fish of your choice and cook
it to your liking. Howís that for fresh seafood?
L.R.: I recently received a call from an old friend who
is putting together a play and needs horn and string arrangments for 12
tunes. However he hasn't got all the funding in place as yet so we'll see.
I've got my fingers crossed but I've definately learned not to count my
chickens before they hatch. :0)
Another buddy of mine told me a few weeks back that he'd be in touch shortly about producing a few tracks for his
wife's next cd. Still no word, so ditto the above.
Other than that nothing too much going on right now other than the usual practice and writing routine. The trombone kicks my butt on a daily basis. Oh, I forgot to mention that a promotional cd compilation will be out next month with a remix of the "Macarena" I did a few years back. A group a musicians from the Keyboard Magazine Forum put this project together and we all
submitted a cover track of a popular hit. I'll send you a copy.
No, but I have some modest equipment
for making demos.
However owning my own studio is one of my favoite dreams/goals.
You are right. The goal part will be
met because I will always upgrade. The dream part is how far UP I'll be
financially capable of going.
Ideally I would love to have a professional, state of the art facility with say a Neve board, both digital and 2' analog multitracks machines, Neuman microphones, Lexicon reverbs, Steinway grand piano, and all the extra computer advantages available today. Now that's the
dream. Realistically I like a lot of the digital audio workstations (DAW's) on the market presently, like the Yamaha 4416. These are all in one recording studio's
that are about the size of a small table top.
L.R.: Actually for about $5,000 to $10,000 you
could do very well these days. The table top DAW's are only about $4,000
and that gives you 24 tracks with a cd burner all
in one. Add to that a few good mikes, pre-amps, a sampler, and various other accessories and you would be 'good to go'. It is really quite remarkable how close
you can come with this type setup to the quality sound of a professional room with $1,000,000 worth of gear.
On the other hand, of course, the room itself is the pro advantage. The sound of one's bedroom or basement can
never match the acoustics of a professional room not to mention the space required to accommodate a string or horn section. Many of the pro rooms like Sigma are
constructed of expensive woods including the floors that optimize the natural sound of real instruments as well as the human voice. Acoustic engineers also design these
rooms in such a way that the sounds reflect off the surfaces in the best way to be captured on a recording. In other words equipment alone is not the only factor in
making a quality recording.
Nevertheless the technological advances of recent years have certainly made it possible for ordinary artists to record on a level that was simply out of reach a short
L.R.: Social environment? Do you mean the mood of
the players nor studio staff? If so I don't think I've ever had any
problems in this regard. I would suppose that if there
were any personality conflicts or nasty attitudes it wouldn't contribute to a relaxed successful session.
It's interesting. Big names like Madonna
(Maverick), Puff Daddy (Bad Boy), Babyface (LaFace), run their own labels
with the backing of a major. On the other hand,
Prince (NPG) severed his ties with Warner Brothers and runs his label himself. Although he probably works out deals with major distributors the financial foundation
is his own personal fortune. .
However for most artists, unable to get signed,
the only alternative seems to be