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MY FAMILY'S MUSICAL LEGACY

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT I'M A PROUD MEMBER OF THE LEGENDARY 
HUMPHREY JAZZ FAMILY?

 

I’ve always considered jazz the birth of all music genres.  Jazz collaborates the souls of many. I personally discovered jazz at birth as it’s been in my family as early as 1859 when my great-grandfather Professor James Brown “J. B.” Humphrey was born.  My family has maintained an unbroken tradition of musicianship with over six generations and growing. 

Our musical heritage began in 1859 (New Orleans) when my great-grandfather Professor James Brown (J.B.) Humphrey was born. He was a self-taught musician who had an ear and talent for music – a true child prodigy. He played trumpet and became one of the greatest of the  music teachers. He taught the Eclipse Brass Band of the Magnolia Plantation. Among his protégés are his own sons, daughter and grandchildren, one of the most celebrated families in jazz.

 

My great grandfather, Prof. Humphrey was hired by Governor Henry Clay Warmoth of Louisiana to teach music to folks on the plantation. He played a variety of instruments and was a catalyst for jazz. In 1887 he began regular trips to teach poor blacks, a number of who moved to town to join brass bands. He taught "syncopation" to the Magnolia Plantation Band in 1910 as well as to other musicians during that era.


In music, syncopation includes a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected in that they deviate from the strict succession of regularly spaced strong and weak beats in a meter pulse. It’s used in many musical styles, if not all, and is fundamental in such styles as funk, reggae, ragtime, rap, jump blue, progressive rock, jazz, backbeat and often in dubstep, heavy metal and classical music. All dance music makes use of syncopation and it’s often a vital element that helps tie the whole track together.


Many called him the “Grandfather of Jazz” because of his influence on jazz during the  late 1800s as he used his musical talents to travel the banks of Louisiana and the Mississippi River teaching music.

 

I’ve always found it intriguing how the Birth of Jazz appeared during the Reconstruction period, including those individuals, such as my great grandfather, who are considered one of the early pioneers of jazz, which I like to call the birth of instrumental expressions which is articulated as Jazz. My great grandfather’s contribution to the jazz era was clearly instrumental. His role as the “Grandfather of Jazz” influenced so many of our jazz greats which I feel lead to when jazz was introduced on the scene.


Prof. Humphrey taught his grandchildren Emery Humphrey Thompson (my father) as well as Earl, Willie, Jr. and Percy Humphrey music. All four continued the family’s musical legacy for many years and were internationally known in the Jazz world. Percy was a jazz trumpet player and bandleader in New Orleans. In addition to his own jazz band. For more than thirty years he was leader of the Eureka Brass Band. From its opening in the early 1960s, until shortly before his death he played regularly at Preservation Hall, traveling internationally for performances with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and his own bands.


Willie, Jr. played the clarinet. After establishing himself with such New Orleans bands as the Excelsior and George McCullum's band, he traveled up north, playing with such other New Orleans musicians as Lawrence Duhé, and King Oliver in Chicago. He too joined his brother Percy at Preservation Hall.


My Father, Emery Humphrey Thompson was a well-known and highly respected world jazz trumpeter out of New Orleans. He was known for being one of the best trumpet players since Louis Armstrong. He continued to pattern the style of his grandfather as a leader in the Big Band world, Traditional, Brass and later being known for bringing Bebop to New Orleans.


At the age of 3, he acquired a taste for music, playing his very first note on his trumpet. However, he began playing at the age of 5. His early childhood training in music came from his grandfather, the late Professor J.B. Humphrey and his cousin, the late Willie Humphrey. His first gig was at the age of seven, having the opportunity to play with his Uncle Bill's Brass Band during the 1930's.  My Dad attended Gilbert Academy (currently known as De La Salle High School) and later graduated from Booker T. Washington High in 1943, in New Orleans. At the age of 14, he played with one of the world's greatest band leaders, Jimmy Lunsford Band in 1941. From 1942-1943, he played with New Orleans' own Dookey Chase Band, traveling throughout Louisiana and Mississippi. He later attended Southern University of Baton Rouge, where he received a music scholarship and later joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. In addition to studying music at Southern, he became the leader of the swing band and wrote for the marching band. In 1944, he left New Orleans to join the Snookum Russel's Band in Oklahoma City. From 1943-1949, he traveled for a road show known as the Bronze Manikins to playing with such musicians as Luis Russell, Fletcher Henderson,  and Louis Jordan.  Between 1948 and 1949, he continued on the road with Lionel Hampton. He later played with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, Clifford Brown, Art Farmer, Joe Turner, Sammy Green’s Hot Harlem Review, Roy Haynes and many others. Throughout his extensive traveling and performing with such an array of talented musicians, he became very impressed by the Islamic faith between 1952 and 1954.

 

In 1954, at the prime of his career, he stopped playing music for about twenty years in order to further his connection with his spirituality and the Creator. From 1955 to 1975, he stopped playing music professionally so he could study and minister the importance of recognizing that we all adhere to a Higher Power and our gifts and talents are blessings that are to be used for the betterment of humanity. And, we should welcome with humbleness, because these gifts can be easily taken away. Within that 20-year time frame , my father shared his belief system with numerous family members, musicians and friends throughout many facets of his journey.

 

In additional to acknowledging the honor and beauty of a Higher Power, he also taught others  the basic principles of doing for self --- creating opportunities, starting businesses, being a part of the bigger picture of life and enduring all challenges.  He like his grandfather traveled throughout Louisiana, but this time his goal was to remind us that we are beings of a mass creation, anointed with talents that are to be used to impact humanity, and we must never forget the source of those gifts as it’s our duty to Pay it Forward.       Yes, he played music, but just not for pay or professionally.  At that time, many who met him knew he was a well-known trumpet player --- the best since Louis Armstrong, but they also knew his heart was pure and in sync with the human spirit. My father felt the need to connect spiritually to the spirit within which made him who he became – a Great man, musician and mentor. 


My father was a very interesting man who wasn’t afraid to take a chance or hustle honestly to make a dollar; he sold newspapers, drove a cab, opened a cleaners, drove a school bus, sold bean pies and peanuts – you name it, he did it --- and didn’t care about people knowing he was a well-known trumpet player – the best there was out there. He helped so many individuals in several capacities.


He married my beautiful and loving mother, the late Aidah Sharif in 1959. To this union were born 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls.  In 1974 my family moved to Chicago. During this time he managed a restaurant. From 1976 to 1979 he played with the band at the Blackstone Hotel as well as headed the band at the Palmer House Hotel. In 1975, 20 years later, my father changed his name legally to Umar Uthman Sharif as he decided that the impact he would have on his family, friends and the world must be one that personifies the total character of his being. Umar means Warrior, Uthman means logical thinker, and Sharif means Nobel.  And yes, he was still professionally known as Emery Humphrey Thompson.  After his 20 year sabbatical, my father returned to the music industry, this time, bigger, better and in tune with his spirituality. There’s so much more to his journey which will be shared ---Stay Tune!


My families influence in Jazz has affected many of the Humphrey offspring’s – two being my brother Jamil Sharif and my son Jelani-Akil Bauman.


Jamil Sharif began playing music at the age of 14. Much of his influence came from our Father, the late world renowned trumpeter Umar Sharif (Emery Humphrey Thompson).

His musical training began in New Orleans under the instruction of George Jansen, one of New Orleans finest music educators who was a former trumpeter with the New Orleans Symphony.


Jansen is known for coaching such musical giants as Wynton Marsalis and Terence Blanchard.

Jamil’s enriched training and passion led him to being accepted into one of the South’s top facilities for in-depth learning of Music theory, history and technique, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), which is known for creating some of the world’s top musicians, such as Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Terence Blanchard, and actor Wendell Pierce. At NOCCA, Jamil studied with such notables as Ellis Marsalis. After completing NOCCA, he attended Southern University of New Orleans where he continued to study with Alvin Batiste, Roger Dickerson and Edward "Kidd" Jordan.

His extensive training afforded him to be a featured soloist with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, appeared on Aaron Neville's Christmas Special, "Reading Rainbow" with LeVar Burton. He served as the musical director for the play "Salty Dog" which premiered in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Queens Hall. He was also the musical director for the musical review, Bourbon Street Revue, which debuted in Laughlin Nevada, at the Colorado Belle Hotel and Casino.

Jamil’s musical accomplishments have afforded him the opportunity to embark upon several movie breaks where he and his music played a significant role: he appeared in the 1993 Action Adventure, "Hard Target", starring Jean-Claude Van Damme; the 1993 Comedy, "Undercover Blues", starring Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid. During the early 90s his composition of Crescent City Strut from his 1993 Album "Portraits of New Orleans," was used for the USA Series, "The Big Easy;" He appeared in the 2002 Romance "The Home Front," featuring Tatum O’Neal; the 2002 Drama, "Sonny," directed by Nicholas Cage, where his original composition of Vee Vee from his 2000 Release Album “Jamillenium” was employed in the film. Throughout the Millennium, Jamil continued to tread the music/film wave  as he served as the musical coordinator and was characterized several times in the 2004 release of "Ray", a movie depicting the life of Twelve-time Grammy winner, Ray Charles – Directed by Taylor Hackford, featuring Jamie Foxx. He later served as the Music Coordinator and had an acting spot for “Chess” (Who Do You Love) in 2008. In 2009 he was the Music Coordinator for “Prodigy”, directed by Brandon Camp, and most recent, The Lifetime TV 2009 Nora Roberts Series of “Midnight Bayou,” where he served as the Executive Music Consultant with several segmented solo featured roles performing two hits from his Jamillennium album, Vee Vee and Peep Diggidy.


For more information on my brother Jamil please visit his website at www.jamilsharif.com


As previously mentioned, our legacy continues to flow from generation to generation. My son Jelani-Akil Bauman has also been influenced by my father. My Father gave Jelani a trumpet when he was 5 years old. However he wasn’t interested in playing at that time.

 

Jelani began playing the trumpet at the age of 13. His musical training began in New Orleans under the instruction of Ronald Benko, trumpeter with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Benko is known for coaching such musical giants as Wynton Marsalis and Nicholas Payton. His enriched training and passion led him to being accepted into the one of the country’s top performing arts high schools, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), which is known for developing some of the world’s top musicians, such as Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., and Terence Blanchard. At NOCCA, Jelani studied with legendary jazz educator Alvin Batiste. During his training outside of NOCCA, he has also been taught or appeared with: Nicholas Payton, Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Belgrave, Charles Lewis, Tiger Okoshi, Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Ralph Peterson, Donald Harrison, Delfeayo Marsalis, Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano, John Pattitucci, Sean Jones, Mark Whitfield, Jeremy Pelt, Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, David Murray, Pat Bianchi, and Christian Scott. After attending NOCCA, Jelani attended Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in New York and later received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated with a B.S. in Professional Music in May 2011. In January of 2011, Jelani performed for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with his Quartet in a musical performance that presents traditional jazz works and featured an original jazz composition inspired by "Fresh Ink: Ten Takes on Chinese Tradition."


Jelani has also performed with his Uncle Jamil Sharif at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as well as performed at various venues in New York City such as the Jazz Standard and BlueSmoke Jazz Club, and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. In 2009, Jelani was a NFAA Regional Award Winner for Jazz Trumpet in the State of New York.  Jelani has also performed at the Domaine Forget Jazz Festival in St. Irene, Quebec, Canada.  He's traveled to Italy in spring 2011 and made quite an impression. Jelani  is now a Grad Student at Michigan State.





 
Portraits of a Musical Legacy
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