By Jackie Taylor
Co-Directed by Jackie Taylor & Daryl D. Brooks
At Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago
Tribute to Chicago creative artist, singer/composer Curtis Mayfield is a musical treat
In their latest bio-musical, Jackie Taylor and the creatives at the Black Ensemble Theater have paid tribute to a Chicago grown major singer/composer/producer -Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999) by telling his ‘basic’ story mostly through his music. We meet a Cabrina-Green project raised man who started singing and composing music at age 14. Mayfield was a self-taught guitar player and composer who wrote. sung and produced dozens of songs including scores for films that included the Super Fly films.
Mayfield’s music was a silky-smooth R & B style that became know as “Chicago Soul.” His lyrics introducing social consciousness into African American music as well as R&B and he wrote songs protesting social and political inequality. He was a most tolerant and forgiving man who was an astute producer with a keen eye for surrounding himself with business types who could help market his works. We get a glimpse of a man whose determination led him to continue to compose even after becoming paralyzed from the neck down.
But the best way to pay tribute to this genius composer is to hear his music. That is what Taylor’s tribute is check full of: from his early tunes – “Gypsy Woman” to “It’s All-Right” to “Mama Didn’t Lie,” the smoothly warm Soul style of Mayfield emerges. Cecil Jones was terrific as the ‘Young Curtis.’ As Mayfield’s works progressed his social and political consciousness, with a distinct peaceful message, gave hope to the struggles of African-Americans during their Civil Rights struggles. Reginald E. Torian, Sr. plays the Older Curtis from his catalyzed wheelchair.
Mayfield’s film scores, especially the Super Fly scores, didn’t condone violence or drug use. In this toe-tapping well-sung tribute, a positive soulful and warm tone reflects the genius and craft of one of the most important musical talents ever – Curtis Mayfield. His story and his music is still relevant today. His message is hopeful and inspirational.
Get to the Black Ensemble Theater to meet Curtis Mayfield and the young talents who reverently evoke his music, his tone and his determination to make the world a better place through music. You’ll learn, as I did, about this giant of a man who left us with a treasure chest of wonderful music. This is one of the finest shows that I’ve seen at Black Ensemble Theater. Remember, Mayfield’s story is about his music – and – the talents at Black Ensemble Theater are respectful to that end. As always, the positively energetic tone is flowing at a Jackie Taylor show. Who can ask for anything more?
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: September 22, 2013
For more info checkout The Story of Curtis Mayfield page at theatreinchicago.com
At Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark, Chicago, IL, call 773-769-4451, www.blackensembletheater.com, tickets $55 – $65, students, seniors and groups 10% discount, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through TBA