Bass And Saxophone Musician Wilton Felder Dies

Sources: LA Times | All Things Michael

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Bass and saxophone player Wilton Felder, who was an original member of the Crusaders and performed on hundreds of recordings with artists such as Joni Mitchell and Michael Jackson, has died at his home in Whittier. He was 75.

The cause of his death Sunday was complications from cancer, said his son, Wilton Felder Jr.

Felder was in high demand for recording sessions; it’s him on bass for the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” album and numerous tracks by Mitchell.

“She’s a phenomenal composer and person,” Felder said of Mitchell in a 2006 interview with the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. “Her music is just fun to play.”

Felder also recorded with B.B. King, Randy Newman, Nancy Wilson, Steely Dan, Barry White, Cat Stevens and many others, on saxophone as well as electric bass.

Mike’s Daily Jukebox called Felder:

“One of the greatest saxophone players and bassists of the 70’s and 80’s. He left his mark on music history with some of the biggest hits of the decade. Remember that incredible bass line in “I Want You Back”? It looked like Jermaine Jackson was playing, but it was studio musician, Wilton Felder. How about that nasty funk on Marvin’s “Let’s Get It On” and “I Want You”? All done by Wilton Felder.”

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Sources: LA Times | Mike’s Daily Jukebox| All Things Michael


Sources: Broward New Times – By Lee Zimmerman | All Things Michael


If the old saying is true, that you’re known by the company you keep, then Wesley Phillips ought to be one of the most famous musicians in the world. After all, this Broward-based singer and trumpet player has performed with some of the biggest legends in the biz — Michael Jackson, James Brown, and disco sensations Cameo chief among them. What’s even more remarkable is that his association with these stars began at an incredibly young age. By luck or simply by happenstance, Phillips has a career most musicians can only dream about.

His stint with Brown led him to Michael Jackson’s backing band in the late ’70s, including a credit on the Jacksons’ live album recorded during the group’s Triumph tour in 1981. “Michael would always talk in this really high voice,” he remembers. “But when he talked business, his voice would go down several octaves. He was a business genius, so much so that the business people were intimidated by him.”

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In Phillips’ opinion, many of Michael’s problems could be attributed to those outside forces that tried to put themselves between him and his family. “He was a real Peter Pan,” Phillips maintains. “He never had a childhood. The people around him weren’t trustworthy, and in the end they sold him out.”

Contrary to the aloof image that Michael conveyed to the public, Phillips says that in person he was not only friendly and easy to talk to but a generous employer as well. He did seven tours with Jackson and says the singer was a really good guy and paid his musicians some of the highest salaries in the business. He describes the time Jackson took his band to Hawaii for what was supposed to be a three-week tour. After the first night, the singer treated them to a lavish dinner and then entertained them with a private show. “Suddenly the stage lights came on and there was Michael, singing and dancing just for us. Then he announced that the three-week tour of Hawaii was really a special gift for us, a three-week vacation at his expense.”

So did that make Jackson a tough taskmaster? Not necessarily Phillips says. “Michael would say, ‘If I need to tell you how to play something, I wouldn’t have hired you.’”

Phillips did seven tours with Jackson and was slated to do his European comeback tour, expressly titled This Is It, when he and the other musicians received word of the singer’s death. “It would have been a good payday,” he laments, adding that he remains suspicious of the circumstances surrounding Jackson’s death.


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Nisha Kataria – The Voice That Michael Jackson Adored

Sources: The Times of India | All Things Michael


PHOENIX: On a bright and sunny day in the fall of 2002, an Indian family living there was walking back to the car after attending a fair. The father asked his daughter to sing. Nisha Kataria, the daughter, started to sing. Within a minute or so, a stranger, who later introduced himself as an agent from Hollywood, approached the family and complimented Nisha on her singing and asked for her contact information.

Time went by and Nisha and her parents took that chance meeting as one of the many when people from the music Industry appreciated her singing but none thought of taking her under their wings. But almost a year since that fateful meeting at the county fair parking lot, Nisha’s dad received a call from Dieter Weisner, Michael Jackson’s manager, telling him that Michael had heard good things about Nisha’s singing and that he wanted to meet her.

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Nisha’s family dropped all engagements and drove down to Neverland. Upon their arrival, Nisha was led into his private home. Nisha and Michael casually talked for a bit before he asked her to sing for him. He requested that she sing “I will always love you” and once she completed the first verse and first hook, Jackson applauded and said, “You have the voice of an angel and not a lot of people can do what you just did.” Ever since, it became Jackson’s goal to make Nisha a star.

Nisha and her mother were invited to move into Neverland, where they stayed for three months. During that time, Nisha trained with Jackson and recorded a duet, which is yet to be released. They were set to go on and on together, but destiny had a different plan. With Michael Jackson having his own problems with court cases and his deteriorating health and his eventual death, his dream of having Nisha debut alongside himself remained unfulfilled.

Till date, Nisha has had a single released in Germany and has toured with boyband Westlife in the UK. After a hiatus, Nisha returns to the music scene with an EP dedicated to the man who believed in her first: Michael Jackson.

Nisha is also working in collaboration with Bappi Lahiri and his “Slum Stars” project. Like Michael, Bappi too has taken a strong liking to Nisha’s voice and wants her to share her music with the world.

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MJ Guitarist Jennifer Batten To Perform This Friday

Sources: South  Florida | All Things Michael


Guitarist Jennifer Batten no longer tours with a road crew, dancers or pop stars. These days, she performs solo and hauls her own stuff across the country in an RV.

Batten, who played with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck, will deliver a multimedia performance — with video, photos, music and storytelling — Friday, Aug. 14, in Davie.

Batten has been doing the show for about 10 years. She plays guitar in sync with images that change on the beat.

“It’s kind of a 3-D experience,” she says.

Onstage, her song “Cat Fight” is supported by cartoons of Felix the Cat as her guitar whines like an irritated feline. “I’m having a blast,” she says.

Batten, 57, travels to shows in an RV in order to haul all her multimedia material.

“I really love the lifestyle, waking up in campgrounds with old retired people and birds and bees,” she says. “It’s just fun to sit out there and see parts of America.”

It’s opposite her earlier career. She auditioned from a field of about 100 musicians and was selected to play lead guitar on three Jackson tours: Bad (1987-89), Dangerous (1992) and HIStory (1996-97). A striking presence with an enormous mane of white hair, Batten also was onstage with Jackson in 1993 during his Super Bowl performance.

“It was like paid vacation, a way to see the world and have fun,” recalls Batten, who acknowledges bittersweet feelings when speaking of Jackson, who died in 2009. ” It was 100 percent fun. I was with them for 10 years, and it was a hell of a blessing.”

She followed that by playing for three years with Beck, ranked the No. 5 guitarist of all time by “Rolling Stone” magazine.

“He’s been my guitar hero since I was teenager,” says Batten, who began playing at age 8. “It was just fun to hang out with him and to hear his story.”

Batten herself has released three albums: “Above Below and Beyond” (1992), “Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage: Momentum” (1997) and “Whatever” (2007). She has also written two instructional music books: “Two Hand Rock” and “The Transcribed Guitar Solos of Peter Sprague.”

Jennifer Batten will perform 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14, at Your Big Picture Cafe, 5935 S. University Drive, in Davie. Tickets cost $10, $25 or $50. Call 954-252-5644 or go to Batten also will give a free guitar clinic 2 p.m. Saturday at Sam Ash Music Store, 5360 NW 167th St., in Miami Lakes and a three-hour “self-empowerment for the modern musician” seminar noon Sunday at Sam Ash Music Store, 5460 W. Sample Road, in Margate. The seminar costs $49 in advance, $55 at the door via Jennifer



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Listen to Siedah Garrett’s Reach Up LA – 2015 Special Olympics Theme Song

Sources: Billboard -By Gary Graff | All Things Michael


Siedah Garrett didn’t have to be asked twice to write another them for Special Olympics. But she’s happy she was.

“Reach Up L.A.,” the 2015 Special Olympics theme, is Garrett’s second composition for the organization. She collaborated with Quincy Jones on “I Know I Can” for the 2007 games. She’ll perform “Reach Up” during this year’s Special Olympics opening ceremony on Saturday, July 25 before first lady Michelle Obama and an estimated crowd of 96,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (it will also be aired on ESPN).

“I feel like lightning has struck twice in my life with regards to the Special Olympics,” Garrett tells Billboard. “I feel really blessed to be part of something so massive and so important and so encouraging. It makes me feel light and happy inside. When you see these athletes doing what even they never thought they could, you can’t not smile and often cry tears of joy for them. It’s a really awesome experience.”

Watch the video for “Reach Up L.A.,” which Billboard is premiering exclusively below.

In writing this year’s theme, Garrett — who’s best-known for co-writing Michael Jackson‘s 1987 hit “Man in the Mirror” and dueting with him on “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” both from his Bad album — says she tried to incorporate the athletes’ point of view. “You’ve got to think of what it means to the people who are performing their tasks, of being challenged and challenging each other and challenging themselves. It’s about uplifting and supporting these athletes who have not been dealt a full deck of cards with regards to their health and physical and mental and emotional state. The fact that they’re even goal-oriented and intent on not only surviving but thriving is so amazing.”

Garrett adds a “Reach Up” video wasn’t necessarily on the docket, but the project “just evolved and morphed into this huge thing that keeps getting bigger and more awesome.”

The singer-songwriter remains busy composing as well as writing and performing ad jingles. Her other major project now, however, is a memoir titled Look Inside that she hopes to have out during the spring of 2016 and tells her story from growing up in Los Angeles to signing on with Jones as a writer and background singer, eventually going on to her own recording career. There will be plenty about Jackson, but she plans to keep that on the positive side.

“It’s not exactly a rags to riches story; more like the hood to the west side,” Garrett says. “No one in my family expected me to be or do anything. It’s about the fact that I kind of ignored their expectations for me and set my own goals and not only met them but kind of surpassed them. I never dreamed I’d be meeting let alone writing for and touring with (Jackson); that’s just not something you kind of wish for, y’know? The fact that it happened to me is just…It’s all a blessing, what can I say? I feel blessed in every way.”


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Sources: Bravewords | All Things Michael

In episode 68 of The Double Stop, host Brian Sword is joined by guitarist Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck); a few excerpts from their chat have been transcribed:

On working with Michael Jackson: “Jumping into that world, of touring on that level – I mean going from crappy Hollywood clubs to the biggest thing in the world – I just spent a lot of time being stunned. I think it was years later when I moved back that I thought wow, that was pretty amazing.”

On the size of the show: “I remember I was in Japan and Dokken was playing at the time. George Lynch came to one of the shows and he was saying afterwards, ‘It must be really amazing to be part of a show like this!”. And I thought, you’re in a big rock band. But really it doesn’t compare. At all. For instance, Michael was at a point then that he didn’t have to play every day. He only played two or three days a week, they spent a million dollars just on costumes. There was a hundred people in the entourage that would travel from city to city.”

On Michael Jackson vs Jeff Beck “For (Michael) Jackson it’s the awareness of entertaining the audience. Far beyond the music. Which is why I think I ended up doing a solo multimedia tour, and learning how to edit films. And with Jeff (Beck) it’s creativity, and always searching for new things. With Beck, he’s always expanding, and you wouldn’t believe the stuff he listens to. And he just absorbs it all.”

Listen to the entire interview via the audio player below.

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Thriller Live’s Samantha Johnson Competes On America’s Got Talent

Sources: Boston Globe – By Lauren Daley | All Things Michael


Age: 26

Hometown: Grew up in Dennis, moved to New Bedford during middle school, 2007 New Bedford High School graduate.

Think of: “I’d hope people think I have a unique voice, but I take influence from Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion — I love divas. And I love Michael Jackson,” said Johnson, who performed in some 500 shows around the globe in the London-based Michael Jackson tribute show, “Thriller Live” from 2011 to this past April.

What caught our eye: A current contestant on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” Johnson offered a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” that wowed celebrity judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Mel B.

Light bulb moment: “Music is a part of who I am. I’ve known forever, since I could start talking and making noise, that there’s nothing else I’d want to do. My mom is a flute player — she studied at Boston Conservatory — and I started playing her flute when I was 4,” said Johnson, who played flute competitively in high school (go to YouTube to see her playing “Flight of the Bumblebee”) and whistles like a bird. “My dad is a great whistler; his whistles are so precise to the song. I picked it up from him.” (Again, hit YouTube to hear her whistling Billy Joel’s “The Stranger.”)

Biggest thrill: “I’m really lucky; I get lots of big thrills,” said Johnson. “I was doing ‘Thriller Live’ in Japan, and their reception was overwhelming,” she said. “But this experience on ‘America’s Got Talent’ takes the cake. To have [the judges] tell me I belong onstage, and knowing that 10 million people were watching at home . . . that was the biggest moment of my career.”

Biggest surprise: “I didn’t think so many people would respond the way they have” since the June 30 performance, said Johnson, who tweets at @SamanthaTheBomb. “The response on social media was amazing.”

Inspired by: “I love show-women and divas — Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg, Christina Aguilera. I love Diana Ross because she was able to have it all — she was a mother and a Motown legend. . . . I would love to get to that point in my career.”


Aspires to: “I’d love to be on Broadway; I’d love to be a show-woman,” said Johnson, who loves improv comedy and impersonates Rick James, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, and Shakira, among others. “I’d love to be like Bette Midler — when you see Bette Midler, you know you’re going to get dancing, songs, monologue, comedy. I want to be like that.”

For good luck: “I truly have nothing that I do for good luck. The stage is so comfortable for me,” said Johnson. “I walk on stage and I’m ready to go.”

What people should know: Active in theater in high school, Johnson tried out for Fox’s “American Idol” at age 16 and 18, and for “America’s Got Talent” the first time at age 20 before making it on AGT this season. “It’s a good thing I didn’t make it earlier, because I’ve got so much stage experience from ‘Thriller.’ There’s so much more to [performing] than being able to sing — you don’t want to hear that when you’re 16, though,” she said with a laugh.

Coming soon: Johnson will compete on an upcoming episode of “America’s Got Talent,” which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.


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Michael Jackson’s Guitarist Jennifer Batten Does House Show In Seaside

Sources: Monterey County Now – By Adam Joseph | All Things Michael


Jennifer Batten oozes genius, eccentricity and punk mystique. Sporting an oversized puff of bleached hair, Batten does things on her custom Ibanez Roadstar electric guitar that make Steve Vai and Joe Satriani look stuck in slow motion.

Her command of the fretboard, as she bends, swells, taps and employs 100 mph riffs, ultimately earned her a spot as the lead guitarist on Michael Jackson’s Bad tour. Batten, 29 at the time, had been teaching and gigging around Los Angeles daily, barely making a living wage, when she won the life-changing opportunity. The New York City native beat out more than a hundred guitar talents hand-picked to audition.

“It was like a paid vacation,” Batten told music writer Charles Thomson. “I was working seven nights a week and all of a sudden I’m on the biggest tour in the world, making 10 times the money and only working two or three days a week.”

After two years on the road in front of more than 5 million people, Batten stowed away “Beat It” and “Billie Jean,” and got to work on her solo debut Above Below and Beyond. Produced by Stevie Wonder guitarist Michael Sembello, the instrumental rock album features innovative originals along with unique takes on everything from John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” to Otis Redding’s “Respect.”

Batten joined the King of Pop again for his Dangerous world tour; she and Jackson also performed the halftime show at Superbowl XXVII. The broadcast aired in 80 countries to an estimated 1.5 billion, which was the largest audience in television history.

Before Batten set out on her third and final tour with MJ – in support of his double album HIStory – she released Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage~Momentum, a mash-up of didgeridoo, steel drums, bagpipes and African percussion that differs dramatically from her debut. Batten’s one-woman show is similarly multifaceted, weaving together guitar, electronica, vocal samples and film. Limited seats are available for her Seaside performance, which takes place at the Seaside home of Joe and Auburn Velasquez, a hidden-in-plain-sight indoor/outdoor house concert venue that’s hosted everyone from reggae jam band Dyemusica to Nashville singer-songwriters the Waymores.

Joe explains: “The Venue is an intimate experience where people can listen to great live music, make new friends, eat potluck dinners and meet artists.”

JENNIFER BATTEN (and Asian potluck). 8pm (7pm doors) Saturday, July 18. The Venue, Seaside. $20 (limited seating). 236-0220


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