The Night James Brown Saved Boston Q&A

On April 5th 1968, the morning after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Boston was on the brink of a city-wide riot. To avoid confrontation, Boston’s mayor was considering cancelling a James Brown concert scheduled for that day but instead asked the “Godfather of Soul” for help. The gig was televised across Boston, keeping people inside who might otherwise have been out on the volatile and incendiary streets of Boston.

David Leaf’s 2008 documentary, The Night James Brown Saved Boston, features collaborators and commentators on a defining moment in America's social, cultural and political history and tells the compelling story of an artist at the absolute peak of his powers using his artistry for the greater good.

Following the screening, two of the musicians who formed the backdrop to James’ high energy stage performances talk to Bristol music journalist Tony Benjamin about how they reluctantly joined “screaming howling little cissy” James Brown’s band, “Mr Brown’s” legendary strictness, their musical influences and what it was like to be part of the musical and political revolution in 1960s and 70s America.

As well as performing in and leading James Brown’s band after Pee Wee's departure, trombonist Fred Wesley has worked with Parliament-Funkadelic, Tina Turner and Ray Charles. Composer, arranger and saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis led James Brown in the late sixties, and then worked with the likes of Van Morrison and Ginger Baker. Neither of them show any sign of retiring, and both played as part of the Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival 2014 at which this event was presented.

Posted on Fri 7 March 2014.