Black Business

Lil John Roberts and Atlanta Jazz Festival Pay Tribute to WCLK

Internationally acclaimed drummer John “Lil’ John” Roberts is on board to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of famed radio station WCLK with the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 24 at Atlanta Symphony Hall. Roberts, a highly sought-after drummer, has been intimately involved with the jazz station throughout its history which coincidentally coincides with the 50th anniversary celebration of hip-hop across the nation and around the world.

Jazz 91.9 WCLK is Clark Atlanta University’s public radio station. The popular broadcast platform is widely known for its dedication to increasing the awareness of the significance of jazz music as an American art form, and guiding and training students in all aspects of broadcast and public media services.

Roberts who early in his career began performing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra has played with such jazz greats as George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Rachelle Ferrell, George Benson, Patti Austin, Boney James, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Lorber and Herbie Hancock, credits the radio station with expanding cultural awareness and uniting communities through sharing music.

“WCLK has kept us together. You know, it’s kept the community together. It’s been the voice of the city. It’s given us hope. It’s given us inspiration every day,” he explained in a recent interview.

The renowned musician assures fans of the station that the 50th-year tribute will be more than just a show it will be an unforgettable experience. “[We’re] telling the story from day one that WCLK was birthed, up until now. So the song selections that we came up with are basically like a timeline of the eras of music that they played over the span of those 50 years.”

The award-winning drummer explained that the relationship between jazz and hip-hop is storied and that the two musical genres share similar notes. “In most of the hip-hop stuff, they sampled a lot of the originals you know. Of course, James Brown was sampled a lot but so were Donald Byrd, Miles Davis, Ron Carter, A Tribe Called Quest and others. … those two [music forms] were intertwined early,” Roberts explained.

The 52-year-old drummer, whose career spans more than three decades is remarkably versatile and his ability to adapt allowed him to tour with many of the biggest names on the contemporary music scene including Janet Jackson, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Dionne Farris, Xscape, Monica, The Goodie MOB, and Joi, expressed his excitement for the upcoming WCLK festivities  with the support of the Atlanta Jazz Festival in a recent interview.

Having worked with so many great artists Roberts is exuberant about his involvement with WCLK’s tribute and working with the Atlanta Jazz Festival to assure attendees that the show will exceed their expectations. “Well, for one thing, most people are used to just going to see a show with just a band or singers, you know, performing in front of them, just playing instruments or singing their vocals, but we’re incorporating more of like a theatre production,” he explained. “Jon Goode who is our host and an amazing poet is going to be doing his thing in between songs and setting up the songs to paint a picture for people. … There’ll be some visuals on the screen and we have some actors that are going to perform in between some of the songs so it brings a different element to the show,” the accomplished musician explained, careful not to reveal too much of what’s in store for WCLK fans.

Roberts who has been teaching at the prestigious Berklee College of Music for the past three years is helping to shape the careers of up-and-coming youth musicians through teaching private lessons, workshops, camps, master classes, live
performances, and mentorship.

In 2014 he joined Stevie Wonder’s unforgettable “Songs in the Key of Life” tour and his remarkably extensive list of credits includes work with: Michael Jackson, Al Green, Anita Baker, Anthony Hamilton, B.B. King, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Bilal, Bruce Parham, Common, Dave Chappelle, Dionne Farris, Earth, Wind & Fire, Elton John, Erykah Badu, Frank McComb, India.Arie, Joss Stone, Jamie Foxx, Jill Scott, Juanita Bynum, Kindred, Lucy Pearl, Mary J. Blige, Mos Def, Musiq Soulchild, Ne-Yo, Patti Labelle, Prince, Queen Latifah, Quincy Jones, Raphael Saadiq, Sheila E., Snoop Dogg, The Time, TLC, Yolanda Adams, Capital Jazz Festival George Duke Tribute featuring Stanley Clarke, NDugu Chancellor, Jose Davis, Al Jarreau, Marcus Miller, Byron Miller, Jeffrey Osborne, Dianne Reeves, Fred Yonnet, Dave Chappelle, Seal, Keyon Harrold, and more who continue to seek out Lil John for a variety of performances.

Roberts recently released the single “Your Renaissance” with Phil Davis and featuring Keran Vega from his new album ELEVATION.

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