When Gil Scott-Heron passed away last May, musicians and fans alike paid tribute
by raving about his live performances and classic albums. For the man who helped paved the way for hip-hop and rap, a number of musicians have looked to his work for inspiration. Rappers such as Tupac, Kanye West, Common, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) have not only sampled him, but continue to show respect for his musical intelligence. At the Highline Ballroom last Friday night, it was a special occasion for the loyal followers of Scott-Heron--he was honored by musical peers, who put on a captivating show in his name.
The first annual INDELIBLE FESTIVAL, created and produced by Jill Newman Productions, was an all-star tribute to Scott-Heron’s impact on the world of music. It was also dedicated to groundbreaking photographer Gordon Parks, as well as the living jazz vocalist legend Jimmy Scott. Every artist who graced the stage played music so powerful that it espressed their gratitude for everyone in attendance. From Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew instructing us to “tell somebody that you love somebody,” to bassist Derrick Hodge’s moving performance of modern jazz, the atmosphere was lively all night long.
Midway through the show, Jimmy Scott emerged from backstage and positioned himself in the center of the crowd. Even at his age, it was a beautiful set of earthy soul songs delivered with the same passionate delivery as his younger days. Later, he was joined by special guest Gary Bartz, who took the stage earlier with a joyous saxophone routine. This was their first time performing as a duo, and together they were riveting.
Before Yasiin Bey’s long-awaited tribute to Scott-Heron, Bilal performed with a band comprised of Robert Glasper, Eric McPherson and more. His performanace of“Body and Soul” was a standout, as well as the flavorful “Sweet Sour You.” “All For Love” was his concluding track, a heartwarming record that ended things off with a bang.
Yasiin Bey's tribute to Scott-Heron comes as no surprise. He has been a longtime fan, looking to him as a source of power and raw emotion. In 2008, Yasiin Bey and his band had the pleasure of performing with Scott-Heron at Carnegie Hall. During that time, Scott-Heron was on the verge of making a comeback. He was out on parole and tried to stay clean while continuing to perform all around the world. So to hear Yasiin Bey go into a lengthy dialogue about him, expressing his admiration for his hero was touching."Gil is the reason I do it, the way I do it," said Yasiin.
He channeled Scott-Heron’s musical spirit, while adding his Brooklyn energy on a remix that featured a verse from "Grown Man Business" off The New Danger. On more personal selections, like Scott-Heron's "Home Is Where The Hatred Is," Yasiin Bey spoke about the legendary soul singer's problem with drug addiction, believing those troubled days were a small part of his inherent truth found in his music. Before going into one of Scott-Heron's newer songs, "Push Comes To Shove," he had a few last honorable words about hip-hop's eminence. "I couldn't say Gil was my personal friend, but he showed me a great deal of love and respect.” Simply returning the favor, it was a tribute well worth the wait. --Eric Diep