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Fred Wisdom

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Biography of Fred Wisdom

Fred Wisdom is restless. He spends every second of every day figuring out harmonies whirling around in his head, all wanting to make themselves heard, sometimes without waiting their turn.

Fred began playing the guitar at an early age under the guidance of his father who played guitar for the local church of God of Prophecy in Wolverhampton (UK). His fathers musical taste never deviated too far away from Gospel Negro Spiritual Standards but if he could find a record by an outsider that had Gospel on it, it might make its way into the record collection, I remember there being some Johnny Cash and Charley Pride in the record collection, recalls Fred. He lived off that style until he was 10 years old when he was given his first pocket radio; thats when he fell in love with the music of the world.

Early 1991 Fred fronted a university band called 'Fred Wisdom's Flying Mail Box' as a singer and lead guitarist. He played folk rock with elements of jazz, blues and touches of reggae.
In April 1992, Fred made a trip to Spain where he studied classical guitar with guitar virtuoso Manuel Barruecos at the Music Conservatory in Segovia. He was also commissioned to play at the Womad festival in Cceres - whilst performing he was spotted by a flamenco guitarist who became his friend and teacher. Back in England he continued his study of flamenco guitar for several years. He set up 'La Juerga' Flamenco guitar Society, played at various 'peas' (flamenco gatherings) and studied advanced flamenco guitar techniques with master flamenco guitarist Juan Martn.


In 1994 Fred and fellow composer, Surinder Sandhu, formed a two-year project called Full Circle which fused flamenco, jazz and Northern Indian classical music. They carried out residential workshops in local schools, collaborated and performed with 'Caliche', Birmingham based South American band, attended interviews on radio and TV and were commissioned by BBC West Midlands to perform their own composition on Children in Need.

That same year Fred met sitar guru, Ravi Shankar. He recalls, 'he was being adored and worshipped by fans in a way I've never seen before - the women were brushing his feet with their saris and sprinkling them with rose petals. I was watching all this in amazement when suddenly I sensed him coming towards me, pushing the crowds away and before I knew it he was standing right in front of me talking to me! I didn't hear the first few words at all because I was in awe and had actually expected him to walk straight past me. He asked what I do and when I answered, "I'm just a musician" he said, "never say just", he then gave me his blessing and went on.'

Although Fred was enjoying experimenting with diverse styles he could not help but feel a strong pull towards his roots - gospel and jazz and so in 1997 embarked on a period of study of jazz composition at Birmingham University and combined this with jazz guitar master classes at the North Wales International jazz guitar school with Jimmy Bruno, Randy Johnston, Trefor Owen, Martin Taylor, John Etheridge, Jack Wilkins and Adrian Ingram.

Fred's voice and guitar style drew the attention of Dave Rogers, a founder member of Banner Theatre, a small-scale, multi-media cabaret theatre company which Fred then joined in 1999 as singer, co-songwriter, composer, guitarist and actor. They have travelled all over the UK and in Canada, performing mainly issue-based subjects. Fred is one of the new generation who has helped change the face of Banner by introducing many different musical styles which is evident on the latest Banner Theatre album, 'Black and White in the Red' which features Andy Hamilton & The Blue Notes and Basil Gabbidon of 'Steel Pulse' fame.

In between touring and recording with Banner Theatre, Fred has recorded on Surinder Sandhu's album The Saurang Orchestra and Sharam Gill's Panjaea album 'Stay Awhile' on Red Kite Records.

In 2003 Fred was a finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest with his track 'Black Guy' which can be found on his most recent recording, 'Words of wisdom' released on his own label, 'Black Guy Music' in June 2004. This album is best described as contemporary jazz - it showcases his compositional, song writing and vocal skills and draws on the tremendous jazz talents of his new acoustic outfit. (Please see 'The band' page)


In a world where Katie Melua is somehow considered a jazz singer and Jamie Cullum is touted as the saviour of British jazz, then the arrival of a homegrown vocal talent like Fred Wisdom is a bit of a breath of fresh air.

REVIEW OF WORDS OF WISDOM

Wisdom calls himself a jazz singer, but he's not a purveyor of MOR schmaltz or a pale photocopy of Sinatra (or even Harry Connick Jr). And you won't find him tackling the usual standards or banging out swingin' versions of Jimi Hendrix or Radiohead songs either, which can't be a bad thing.

All the material on this debut is self penned, and while it may not win any awards for originality, it's delivered with verve, honesty and a lack of pretension that makes it hard to dislike. Wisdom's mix of blues, airy modal jazz and soul is dispatched admirably by a band of Midlands based jazzers. including the wonderful Chris Bowden on alto.

There's a looseness and immediacy to the recording (which was made live) and plenty of solos from all concerned, which (particularly in Bowden's case) is no bad thing. Wisdom's deep, honeyed voice has a distinct Caribbean lilt to it (ironically it reminded me of Sting on occasion), and there's a warmth and honesty in his delivery that's totally unforced. Even when the lyrical content veers close to clich (as happens on occasion) you're inclined to forgive him as he does actually sounds like he means it.

As the sleevenotes suggest, this is probably a band best heard live, and I can imagine that some of the songs would work much better in that setting. I could do with hearing some more of Fred's guitar talents as well; his one solo on the record ("Copyright on Pain") is very sweet indeed. Why there's no more is a bit of a mystery. But if you're looking for something other than fake cool or string drenched ballads from the current crop of major label jazz singer product, then you should check this one out, but catch them live too...

Reviewer: Peter Marsh BBC
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