Stephen James is the Founder and partner in the Law Firm of Stephen G. James & Associates PLLC. New York office. His private practice focuses on criminal law defense. Mr. James has represented many Celebrities as an Entertainment Lawyer. He has also successfully defended clients in murder cases, felony and drug charges. His practice has proudly served many legal needs throughout New York State and the United States since 1988. Mr. James has argued habeas corpus briefs and motions and appeared before New York State Supreme Court. He has counseled numerous local and international political figures on important events of the day.
An Interview with the Industrious Freddy Dugard at the Air Train Jazz Festival
On Thursday, Freddy Dugard & the Hit Squad performed at the LIRR Air Train Jazz festival for their fourth year. Freddy Dugard plays drums with different cats in the neighborhood, but this group specifically is his hit squad, made up of Norman Por on keys; Rondew Monroe on bass; V. Jeffrey Smith, who has a long list of credits which include the likes of Paula Abdul and Freddie Jackson, on saxophone and guitar; along with featured singer and Grammy-nominated songwriter “LaLa” LaForrest Cope. She worked closely with many celebrity artists like Whitney Houston, for whom she penned the big hit “You Give Good Love.” The group certainly lives up to their name when you hear them play. Our World was able to sit down with the band leader for an interview.
Freddy Dugard, like many great musicians, started playing music at a young age and he never let anything stop him. The first instrument he picked up was the trumpet, or rather its sister instrument the bugle horn at his Catholic School; “There was a drum and bugle core, so everyone was picking up bugle. I picked it up, realized I couldn’t play it, and came back to the next thing. I saw drummers banging on tables and I said noise will make me work.” However, his mother wasn’t willing to put up all the money when her twelve-year-old son asked for a drum set. Having an entrepreneurial streak from the beginning, Dugard already had a paper route he was working which allowed him to save up the 80 dollars to put towards the drums. His mother gave him the last 20 dollars he needed and he bought his first mother of pearl Gretsch brand drum set. Growing up in Queens, he would hang out at Carmichael’s diner which used to host jazz bands in the basement. World renowned musicians would come through to sit in and play. Walter Perkins was one of them, who got Freddy Dugard interested in jazz and became one of his many teachers. Walter walked him through the rudiments of his instrument and the basics of listening and playing jazz music. He was able to get some training by going to the jazz mobile in Harlem, where all the kids were going to study with skilled musicians. Then he enrolled in formal lessons at the Long Island Drum Center; his teachers are world renowned—Frank Bellucci, Don Famularo, Frank Marino, and Horace Arnold were some of the big names. Freddy Dugard has been a hard worker all his life, but always found time for his passion. He was an athlete in high-school, setting the record for fastest sophomore sprinter in the nation after beating the Olympic gold-medalist, Willie Smith, in a 300 yard dash. His training paid off when he got a full athletic scholarship to Tennessee Tech University where he studied music. Later in life, he became an officer at Riker’s Island and he kept on banging the drums. He even formed bands made up of his colleagues to do small tours within the facility, mostly as a morale booster for the other officers, but he noticed it also lifted the spirits of some inmates who listened in.
His list of musical inspirations could fill a book, but a few of the names are contemporaries like Omar Hakeem and Lenny White, both natives to Queens; and Billy Cobham—who played so well he almost made Dugard want to quit. Some classic inspirations are Baby Dodds, one of the most important drummers in early jazz; Max Roach; Art Blakey; Elvin Jones; Tony Williams, and more names for days. Despite being as well-versed in jazz as he currently is, Dugard feels it’s important to always keep learning. Dave Garibaldi from Tower of Power came into town offered drum lessons. The lessons weren’t cheap, but the knowledge gained from such an investment is priceless. In Dugard’s opinion, anything you feel passionate about is going to fuel an automatic drive within you to learn more. When you’re so intrigued by your passion you long to know everything from the history to the small details. “That’s how you know you really love something, you know a lot about it—not everything—but a lot.”
Freddy Dugard is also interested in philosophical thought, and feels that all styles of music can teach you something depending on how you approach it. He explains that Jazz, for example, has many different moods and attitudes. An artist can play something with an aggressive sound, and what may sound like banging noise gains a quality of beauty when put into meter and context. “Jazz alone has put me into sensitivity,” he claims. As opposed to a genre like rock, where the music comes on strong and keeps its strength steady through the piece, jazz is fluid; it can change from loud to sensitive just within the course of one song. With his experience as a certified Remo Trained Health Facilitator, he uses the power of the beautified noise we call music to change lives through music therapy. He likes to play a variety of styles like rock, funk, and R&B. The style in Jamaica Queens has it’s own title called the “Jamaica funk,” based on learning and combining jazz, funk and R&B. When playing jazz, an artist will pop out a funk beat while maintaining the same vibe and emotions that were already at play. Freddy Dugard and his Hit Squad can be seen playing at the Smoke BBQ Pit Restaurant every Thursday from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. If you can’t make it on Thursdays, you can always catch them every Wednesday evening, same time, at the Sangria Tapas Bar & Restaurant on our very own Sutphin Boulevard. More information can be found on Freddy Dugard’s website, including links to their music on YoutTube. Should you desire to hear more music played by local talent every Thursday, stop by the LIRR Air Train Terminal from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM, so long as you’re not at Smoke BBQ Pit jamming to Freddy Dugard’s Hit Squad.
Sutphin Blvd Small Business Saturday
An Evening with Paula Atherton- A Powerful Female Figure in the Jazz Genre
Travelers making their way from Jamaica to JFK airport were mesmerized by the talent of Paula Atherton and her band, comprised of Ron Monroe on bass, Bill Heller on keyboard, Lou Gimenez on guitar, and Tony Lewis on Drums. Paula Atherton has been busy touring the country, stopping everywhere from the West coast in California to the East in South Carolina and many more destinations. Nothing could exhaust her so much that she’d miss playing the Air Train Jazz Festival for her third year. Her strength translates through her performance, leading the group with powerful vocals, saxophone and flute. She is a versatile, self-made artist—boasting four albums with a fifth on the way—and is an example for women especially, and men alike. Our World on Sutphin was lucky to get an interview with this inspiring musician.
At the very beginning, in grade school, Paula Atherton aspired to play drums, however her superiors warned that “little girls don’t play drums, they like to play flute.” So she went with the flow, learning to play flute and working on her vocals. As a teenager she found her niche in jazz. Growing up, her peers were mostly interested in playing rock music. Though she liked rock, she couldn’t find a place in that genre for her voice and talent for wind instruments. When she started studying jazz, she realized that it was a genre her talents could fit into. However, she felt the need for an instrument that had more colors than the flute if she wanted to play jazz. That’s when she picked up the saxophone. It was an obvious choice, as the saxophone and flute are in the same family and have similar fingerings. In jazz music, improvisation is a huge factor. Since Paula took interest in singing early on, she studied with a proper vocal teacher for a long time and learned the art of improvisation. She would sing along with Billy Holiday and study the solos performed by Johnny Parker, Lester Young, and Roy Eldridge. Practicing the styles of these artists really helped get the art of improvisation ingrained into her brain. Listening to these sounds showed her the pattern of where a solo can go. She also sees an importance in learning the technical side of music—knowing the notes in a chord, and comparing what one note might sound like against another chord. When watching a professional musician improvise it may seem like an act of pure passion, but it’s easy to forget that there is theory behind that impromptu creation. Paula puts it best when she describes improvisation as “the marriage of the creative and the technical.” Though many talented artists have learned to play by ear, Paula’s understanding of music is that it can be better to know exactly what it is that you’re doing. It’s especially important to have that knowledge when you’re a woman. Too often, she’s noticed how people will pre-judge female musicians, assuming they won’t perform as well. “That [knowledge] is your confidence,” Paula explains, “Knowledge is power.” An artist can have a lot more sway in their profession when they have the technical theory to back up their creative expression.
Paula has faced her fair share of hardships in life, like having to leave home and start working for herself at the age of 17 and dealing with her mother’s passing due to breast cancer. She has risen above it all and now has her music playing on the radio across the nation, and is even featured on the album “Girl Talk” by Holly Cole which climbed to the number two spot on Billboard. She has a degree in music therapy because she truly believes that music can heal. “Music is the key to world peace,” Paula declares, “people don’t have anything to live for, and if there was greater access to the arts and music, they might not be so focused on blowing people up.” It provides the outlet that people need to help distance themselves from their negative energies. Paula uses her music for therapy with Alzheimer’s patients and plays charities to raise money for good causes like cancer fundraising. She finds it very rewarding to see the impact her music can make, hearing fans express the way they can relate to her lyrics. It’s very important to Paula that she gives back to society, and she does so through her music.
If anyone is looking for advice on self-starting as a music artist, she is the perfect person to turn to. Her first two albums were self-made with a good distribution deal that got her music onto the shelves of popular retailers at the time like Tower and Best Buy. Finally she was getting noticed, and had her following albums signed on record labels with the assistance of her producer, guitar player, and husband Lou Gimenez, whom she met during one of her many gigs. Paula notes that sometimes it feels like you’re working so hard to put your music out there and nobody hears it or cares, but it’s important to have patience. When looking to sign her fourth album Ear Candy, an album drawing inspiration from Philly soul tunes from the 70’s, Lou reached out to Kalimba records. The next morning Lou received a call from the label asking him to send the album over right away; it turns out they had heard Paula’s preceding albums and were absolutely in love with her sound. It goes to show that sometimes the fourth, fifth, or even tenth time may be the charm. What’s important is to keep producing your best work. In order to do that, it’s crucial to find your own voice as an artist. Paula Atherton wrote her album Enjoy the Ride after going through a period that taught her to live in the moment and not be so focused on what tomorrow will bring. “All you got is right now,” she says, “Enjoy the process. The process is the whole thing.” Finding your voice as a musician isn’t done overnight; it can be a long process that takes years. In the end, the sound that an artist develops is as individual as the human fingerprint. Many musicians make their money by forming tribute bands. It’s certainly a craft to perfect another musician’s style, but Paula stresses the importance of establishing your fingerprint as an artist—especially if you want to make money producing original music.
Keep watch next January for Paula Atherton’s fifth album, Shake It, if you’re looking for some up-tempo, funky dance tunes. All of her music can be found on amazon, I-tunes, and Spotify. Also, check out her website http://paulaatherton.com to see her upcoming shows. Be sure you don’t miss the Air Train Jazz festival next Thursday from 5-7 to hear more jazz music from talented artists like Paula Atherton.