Lunchtime rhythm & blues series returns to Metrotech

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For those whose vision of rhythm and blues is limited to New Orleans funk or classic soul, this summer’s BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival at MetroTech will be a real eye-opener. The line-up includes Latin jazz, reggae, folk and fusion performed by up-and-coming stars and musical legends at lunchtime, on Thursdays from June 9-Aug. 11.

The series kicks off on June 9 with The Funky Meters, led by Art Neville. This preeminent funk band of the ’60s and ’70s has backed such artists as Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer, Dr. John, The Rolling Stones and Patti Labelle; and they have been sampled by artists such as Heavy D, LL Cool J and Queen Latifah. Their trademark gritty sound laid the groundwork for much of the hip-hop music of the ’80s and ’90s.

The Wailers, who initially earned international success backing reggae icon Bob Marley, will appear at MetroTech on July 14 headed by Aston "Familyman" Barrett, who told GO Brooklyn that the name "Wailers" comes from their music "crying out in the wilderness."

"The lyrics and the music go together," he said. "Reggae is the universal language that carries the message of roots, culture and reality. It’s for all ages - past, present and future. The music has soul. It has funk. It has R&B. It has salsa. It has samba and authentic sounds from Jamaica, where we listen to all types of music."

Barrett considers his group both the inspiration and the inheritors of reggae music.

"I am the one who let the world know about Bob Marley. We are the role models who inspired other talent to go forward. We are spreading the word globally. We were destined for this message," he said exuberantly, singing a few bars over the phone.

Ann Peebles, whose song "I Can’t Stand the Rain" was sampled by Missy Elliott in her ’97 hit "The Rain (Supa Dup Fly)," takes the mic on June 16. A pioneer of Memphis soul with songs like "(You Keep Me) Hangin’ On," Peebles returned to her musical roots in the ’90s after a 10-year hiatus, recording several albums featuring guest artists such as Mavis Staples and Shirley Brown.

Lalah Hathaway, daughter of Donny Hathaway, will deliver her sultry, smoky vocals on June 23. In addition to creating her own style fusing jazz and soul, Hathaway has collaborated with jazz artists Wayman Tisdale, Gerald Albright and the late Grover Washington, Jr., and recorded her father’s classic freedom anthem "Someday We’ll All Be Free" with Take 6.

The legendary Latin pianist Eddie Palmieri comes to MetroTech on June 30. Mixing salsa with R&B, pop, rock, Spanish vocals and jazz improvisation, the seven-time Grammy Award-winning Palmieri has been wowing audiences for 50 years.

Detroit native Amp Fiddler brings his distinctive voice to Downtown Brooklyn on July 7. A sideman who recorded with Prince, The Brand New Heavies, Seal and Maxwell, Fiddler released his debut CD "With Respect" in 1990 and went on to release the CD "Basemental­ity" and the single "The Love and War."

Last seen locally in BAM’s 2004 Winter Soul concert, Raul Midon, who has worked with everyone from Chaka Khan to Ricky Martin, will perform at MetroTech on July 21. Midon will sing his original songs from his debut album, "State of Mind," which mix R&B, pop, folk, jazz and Latin.

Heralded as "The Queen of Funk," Sharon Jones has collaborated with musical legends like the Four Tops, Peaches and Herb and The Drifters. On July 28 she fronts the funk band The Dap Kings for an afternoon of funk-soul.

Guitarist, vocalist and composer James Blood Ulmer’s career spans 40 years; he’s been playing the guitar since he was nine. He has collaborated with many groundbreaking musicians including Ornette Coleman and Larry Young. On Aug. 4 he will appear at Metrotech with the three-piece band "Men Versus Machine."

"I really like playing with a band," he told GO Brooklyn. "I’ve been playing with a band all my life. I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do."

He will no doubt be playing songs from his latest album - and first solo effort - "Birthright," but he says, "I have 40 CDs. I’m sure I’m going to be playing something from all of them."

Ulmer, who describes himself as "an old-school guy," devotes himself completely to his music.

The series winds up on Aug. 11 with a jazz double bill ­ pianist, composer and singer Eliane Elias and pianist/electric keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith.

This is BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival’s 11th year of presenting lunch-time concerts at Metrotech. According to event producer Danny Kapilian, by the end of this season, over 110 different artists will have been presented over those years. That’s a lot of talent to enjoy with your sandwich.

BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival hosts concerts every Thursday, from June 9-Aug. 11, at Metrotech Commons at Metrotech Center (at the corner of Flatbush and Myrtle avenues in Downtown Brooklyn). The concerts take place from noon to 2 pm and are free and open to the public. For more information, call the Brooklyn Academy of Music at (718) 636-4100 or visit

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