Best known for his work with James Brown and the JBs, Fred Wesley has built his career in funk and jazz. From 1968 through 1975, Wesley was music director, arranger, trombonist and a primary composer for Brown's band, helping to create a funky sound that's heard in much of today's popular music. Wesley helped take the funk to a new level upon joining forces with George Clinton and Bootsy Collins in 1975.
In 1978 he joined the Count Basie Orchestra and realized his jazz aspirations for which he had studied as he grew up in Mobile Alabama. He released his first jazz CD as a leader, To Someone, in 1988. It was followed by New Friends in 1990, Comme Ci Comme Ca in 1991, the live CD Swing and Be Funky and Amalgamation in 1994. The latest CD, Full Circle (Be Bop to Hip Hop), was released in 1997 in Europe and in 1998 in the United States.
Wesley's 40-year career includes playing with, producing and arranging for a wide variety of other artists such as Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Randy Crawford, Vanessa Williams, The SOS Band, Cameo and rappers De La Soul, to name a few. Scores of other artists have sampled his work, including Janet Jackson for her early '90s smash, “That's The Way Love Goes”, and rapper Nas for his recent hit, “Nastradamus.”
During the early 1990s, Wesley toured with his colleagues from the James Brown Band, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker, as the JB Horns. With the departure of Ellis, the band became the Maceo Parker Band with Wesley as featured trombonist until 1996 when he formed is own band.
The Fred Wesley Group still tours, especially during the European festival season. Wesley now spends much of his time writing. He recently completed his autobiography, “HIT ME FRED: (Recollections of a Sideman)”. The book is being published by DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS and is available in bookstores and all online book sites.
The reinvented Fred Wesley is called upon frequently as a performer, arranger, producer, musicologist and consultant. He also gives workshops, clinics and lectures on jazz and funk, and writes liner notes, essays and other articles.