Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1095

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Chris Jasper: The Isley Effect

Chris Jasper
Chris Jasper Chris Jasper The Isley Brothers (Chris top 2nd right) Isley Brothers (Chris Jasper left)

Best known worldwide for his prominent keyboard, songwriting and producing work as an integral member of The Isley Brothers during their 1973-to-1983 âGold-and-Platinum yearsâ (in addition to his later role as one-third of spin-off trio Isley-Jasper-Isley), multi-award-winning singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Jasper this month delivers his eleventh new solo album âThe Oneâ, pioneered by the sensually-swaying groove of its hypnotically-undulating title-track single.

Indeed, with its self-written-and-produced musical moods ranging from the down-to-midtempo nostalgia of the shuffling âBring It On Backâ and romantic slow-jam vibe of âStill In Loveâ to the haunting sensuality of âKiss Meâ and irrepressibly-driving motivational funk of âMan Upâ, âThe Oneâ impressively also marks Chrisâ eleventh solo album to be released through his own Gold City Records.

Born Christopher H. Jasper on December 30, 1951 in Cincinnati, Ohio as the youngest of seven siblings, Chris would begin studying classical music at the tender age of seven before eventually, in his late teens, moving to New York to study music composition at the cityâs esteemed Juilliard School of Music. Following which he would go on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in music composition from Long Island Universityâs C.W. Post College where he studied alongside the two younger Isley brothers Marvin and Ernie.

Meanwhile, with Jasperâs older sister Elaine having already married Rudolph Isley, it was during their days as students that Chris, Marvin and Ernie would end up playing on what would become the older Isley Brothersâ (Ronald, Rudolph and OâKelly) first US Number One single, the 1969 million-selling Grammy-winning funk anthem âItâs Your Thingâ. A musical collaboration which - with the older three brothers having been recording to varying degrees of success since the late-Fifties - would eventually lead to Chris, Marvin and Ernie in 1973 joining them to become permanent members of The Isley Brothers, in turn changing the group from a traditional soul vocal trio to a six-member self-contained-and-self-produced R&B/funk/rock outfit. A line-up change that would instantly lead to immediate chart success via the now-sextetâs two-million-selling first album together, 1973âs appropriately-titled â3+3â and its enduring offshoot international hit singles âThat Ladyâ and âSummer Breezeâ.

All of which would begin a decade of Gold-and-Platinum-selling LPs released through the groupâs CBS/Epic-affiliated T-Neck label, with ensuing US R&B Number One albums as a sextet including 1974âs âLive It Upâ; 1975âs Double-Platinum âThe Heat Is Onâ (which also topped the US Pop chart and spawned the now-classic soul ballad âFor The Love Of Youâ); 1976âs âHarvest For The Worldâ; 1977âs âGo For Your Gunsâ; 1978âs âShowdownâ; 1980âs âGo All The Wayâ; and 1983âs âBetween The Sheetsâ. Following which the three younger members would (due to internal problems) unexpectedly leave and go on to form the splinter group Isley-Jasper-Isley.

As whom they would release three albums - 1984âs âBroadwayâs Closer To Sunset Boulevardâ; 1985âs âCaravan Of Loveâ (whose US-chart-topping title-track would become an international Pop Number One for Britainâs The Housemartins); and 1987âs âDifferent Drummerâ - before eventually disbanding in 1987.

Which ultimately would lead to Chris in turn opting for a solo career with the release of the 1988 US R&B Number One single âSuperBadâ and its accompanying same-titled album. Since which time he has gone on to release 10 further solo albums through his own label Gold City Music while prestigiously, along with the other members of The Isley Brothers, becoming inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 as well as earlier this year being honoured with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

⦠All of which brings us back to today. As a warm-mannered, New York-based Mr. Jasper hooks up for the first time with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis to discuss his aforementioned new LP âThe One as well as recalling his trailblazing career as a member of both The Isley Brothers and Isley-Jasper-Isley.

His new album âThe Oneâ

âMusically I wanted to record this album in the type of style that Iâve gone with for so many years in terms of chord structures and harmonies, while also bringing on back the things Iâve done in the past as far as FUNK was concerned... Then lyrically, in addition to talking about love situations, because Iâve been getting a lot of comments from people about bringing back some of that soul music that seems to be kind of missing from todayâs playlist, I wanted to address that TOO. Which is why I came up with the song âBring It On BACKâ. Plus as with all my albums, I also wanted to address current EVENTS - which is why you have a song like âRight NOWâ⦠So yeah, overall I guess I wanted to do the kind of music Iâm best known for while at the same time stretching out by exploring some new things vocally AND instrumentally.â

How he now looks back on his time as a member of The Isley Brothers during the groupâs âGold and Platinum yearsâ from 1973 to 1983

âWell, I just look back on it as a great period of time for us as a group and also for music in GENERAL. Like back in 1973 I was a Junior in college, I was learning so much, and there was just so much great music out there to DRAW from. And then in terms of my time with the group itself, we did of course have a lot of SUCCESS. We had an album out each year, they were all either Gold or Platinum... Like â3+3â which, in addition to being our FIRST album together, was also I guess you could say the most UNCERTAIN one. In that with us changing studios from New York to LA it was just a whole new experience ALTOGETHER for us. So for us to then get a Gold single with âThat Ladyâ was like the icing on the CAKE⦠And then another special one I guess was (the 1975-released) âThe Heat Is Onâ, which for me really stood out because it became Number One on both the R&B AND Pop charts.â

The story behind Chris leaving The Isley Brothers and in 1984 (again along with Ernie and Marvin Isley) forming the spin-off trio Isley-Jasper-Isley

âBasically what it came down to was FINANCIAL differences. In that the older Isley Brothers had tax obligations that we younger members didnât HAVE, and one way of them trying to REMEDY that was to file bankruptcy, sign with another record-company and break the CBS CONTRACT. But with the three of US not having the same obligations, we didnât feel we NEEDED to file bankruptcy. And so we disagreed with what they were DOING, which is what basically caused the SPLIT. And then from that, performing as Isley-Jasper-Isley just seemed the natural thing to DO. Because we could record in the same way weâd been doing when we were with The Isley Brothers with the only difference being that, while Ronald had sung the vocal parts before, now WE were doing all the singing.â

The reasons behind Isley-Jasper-Isley disbanding in 1987 and Chris then going on to pursue a solo career

âWell, what happened was I was getting ready to do a fourth Isley-Jasper-Isley album when I received notice that Ernie Isley had resigned from the GROUP. Which obviously meant we could no longer go on as Isley-Jasper-ISLEY! So then when CBS asked me would I be interested in doing a solo album I was like âWell yeah, I guess the only thing left FOR me is to do that!â! So thatâs when I did the (1988-released) âSuperBadâ album, which of course in turn started my solo CAREER.â

The album and single both called âThe Oneâ are out now through Gold City Music.

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To read more from our fascinating interview with former Isley Brother, now turned solo artist, Chris Jasper, by picking up a copy of the latest Blues & Soul magazine from your local magazine retailer, inc; WH Smith, Menzies + selected Euro Foods, Cost Cutters and a plethora of independents everywhere⦠if they don't stock it, ask for a "B&S shop save" and they will get it for you.

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