published August 30, 2017 | posted by detroit
Drummer Gayelynn McKinney — who you may know from her all-women jazz group Straight Ahead, or her recent work with Aretha Franklin — grew up in a magical place for musical development to be nurtured: the home of beloved Detroit pianist, composer, educator, and Tribe member Harold McKinney.
McKinney's mother, the late Gwendolyn Shepherd McKinney, was an accomplished musician herself — an opera singer before "Dad sucked her into jazz," Gayelynn recalls mischievously. It was Gwendolyn that bought McKinney her first drumset at age 2.
McKinFolk is a project that was begun by Harold, but Gayelynn is preserving the name and keeping the concept alive by leading her version of the group now, with a new record coming out soon on Detroit Music Factory called McKinFolk: The New Beginning. The tracks on the album are a rich mix of her father's compositions throughout the years, with the sole exception being "Freedom Jazz Dance," the original itself a cover of the Eddie Harris composition made famous by Miles Davis.
Gayelynn says when she was 1 or 2, she was looking up at him and babbling something, and it really looked like she was trying to communicate. After that, a song started flowing into his head. That song became "Heavenease." Gayelynn's version features her aunt on flute and her young niece speaking in "baby talk" at the beginning. Her father and mother both sang on the original, making this one an especially McKinney-heavy piece.
Metro Times: Who is in your version of McKinFolk?
Gayelynn McKinney: The thing about McKinFolk is that it's made up of movable parts. Next time you see the group it may be a different set of people. But on this run, at the festival, I'm delighted to have Dwight Adams, Marcus Elliot, Vincent Chandler, Marion Hayden, Glenn Tucker, Michelle McKinney, my second mama, on vocals, and special guest Regina Carter.
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