Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bad Brains - from Jazz to Punk

One of the best jazz bands I've ever seen, went on to become one of the greatest punk bands in history, according to many fans of punk music — particularly fans of DC Hardcore.

Bad Brains were called Mind Power when they were a fusion band, and they played music similar to Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever. I hung out with them for a bit when Bad Brains were just starting out, and I visited their house and heard them play jazz — amazing jazz. And while part of the ethos of the punk movement said that anyone could start a band, even without musical skills, Bad Brains stood out among punk bands as guys who could really play their instruments.

Darryl Jennifer (bass), Earl Hudson (drums), and Dr. Know (guitar — he more recently worked with Mos Def), were phenomenal young musicians — some of the best in the DC area at the time. They grew up in the Landover area of PG County (Maryland), at that time a very white county. Among the black kids who lived there, there seemed to be a universal love for fusion — people like Tommy Bolin, Billy Cobham, and Lenny White. The DC area had been known for such beastly musicians as guitarist Wilbur Harris and drummer TC Tolliver, and kids knew that if they were going to pick up an instrument, they'd better practice and get good. This is the environment that Bad Brains grew up in, so it's not surprising that while they embraced the sounds of punk music, they rejected the idea that being a good musician didn't matter.

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