Kool & the Gang

Kool & the Gang is a highly successful American jazz/R&B/soul/funk/disco group. They originally formed in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1964. They went through several musical phases in their career. They started out with a purist jazz sound, then became practitioners of R&B and funk, eventually went through a phase where they were a smooth disco ensemble, and wound up the successful period of their career recording tunes that were a mixture of pop and R&B.

Kool & the Gang is one of the most sampled artists of all time.

The group's main members over the years included brothers Robert Bell (known as "Kool") on bass (b. October 8, 1950, Youngstown, Ohio) and Ronald Bell on tenor saxophone (b. November 1, 1951, Youngstown, Ohio); George Brown on drums (b. January 5, 1949); Robert Mickens on trumpet; Dennis Thomas on alto saxophone; Claydes Charles Smith on guitar (b. September 6, 1948, d. June 20, 2006), trombonist Clifford Adams, and Rick Westfield on keyboards. The Bell brothers' father was an acquaintance of Thelonious Monk and the brothers were friends with Leon Thomas. It should be pointed out that the late guitarist Claydes Charles Smith wrote many of Kool & The Gang's biggest hits, including "Joanna", "Hollywood Swinging", and "Celebration".

In 1964 Robert formed an instrumental band called the Jazziacs with five high school friends. They changed their name to Kool & the Gang and first hit the pop charts with the release of their debut, eponymous album.

Though none of the three singles from the album went far on the pop charts, their R&B success was swift and massive. Several live and studio albums followed, but 1973's Wild and Peaceful broke into the mainstream with "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging". Many reviews see 1975 album The Spirit of the Boogie as the greatest achievement of the band. However, after that album the band abandoned deep funk-music and switched to disco. Generally, the albums released after 1975 have not received the same critical recognition as their early work.

The late 1970s saw a lull in Kool & the Gang's career that ended — after new lead singer James "J.T." Taylor joined the group — with 1979's Ladies' Night, the title track from which spawned a 25-year-long tradition of ladies' nights in New Jersey dance clubs and bars. Their only #1 hit was 1980s "Celebration", off Celebrate!, produced by Eumir Deodato. More international hits followed in the early 1980s, including "Big Fun", "Get Down on It" and "Joanna". Their 1984 album Emergency yielded four top 20 hits, including "Fresh" and "Cherish." Their chart presence stopped abruptly after the Forever album, when both Taylor and Ronald Bell (who started using the name Khalis Bayyan) left the group; both would eventually return, but the hits would not.

Kool and the Gang rose to some popularity again in 1994 after "Jungle Boogie" was featured on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's hit cult classic Pulp Fiction. "Hollywood Swinging" appeared on the soundtrack of the 2004 videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on the funk radio station Bounce FM. Currently the band is in the studio recording a new album, for release in 2007. They are rumored to be working with famed producers Eddie Galan and Drew Lane.

"Hollywood Swinging" was also used by Jon Arons in his dance/trombone number on "Steve Harvey Show" thus earning him the title, "The Trombone Guy."

"Hollywood Swinging" was also sampled by DJ Kool in his song "Let Me Clear My Throat".

Kool and the Gang's "Summer Madness" off their 1974 album "Light of Worlds" has been sampled numerous times. Most notably, it was used by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince for their version of "Summertime" as well as being featured in the 1976 smashhit Rocky. More recently, "Summer Madness" served as the background music to The Lebrons 'Swimming Pool' Nike shoe commercial and also appeared in Tony Hawk's Project 8.

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Kool & the Gang

Friday, November 29 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Talking Stick Resort Ballroom