Caesar Frazier was never formally taught how to play piano. As a young child of about four living with his grandparents, Frazier remembers how his grandmother’s old, upright piano just seemed to pull him in.
“I just gravitated towards it,” explained Frazier. “It was my calling from my creator.”
While many would refer to his technique as playing by ear, Frazier calls it playing by heart. In regards to the Hammond B-3 for which he became famous for playing, the pull was much more auditory. He recalls living a block away from the juke joint, a staple in the lives of working class African-Americans who wanted to listen to music, dance, have a drink, or even just by a Snickers and a soda pop.
“Going through the juke joint as a child was really where I learned what kind of music I wanted to play,” recalls Frazier. “I just knew that I had to play that music on that particular instrument.”
At the age of 14, Frazier was gifted a Silvertone electric organ (the B-3 Hammond wouldn’t come until Frazier was in college) and after just three weeks, he was already playing with bands of grown men.
“At the time, I was a rarity,” said Frazier. “There wasn’t a lot of people playing the organ in that way.”
By the mid-70’s, Frazier had recorded several soul-jazz albums and his virtuosic playing ability even earned him a spot in the late Marvin Gaye’s band. Today, his music if often sampled by hip-hop artists and his records have become prized possessions for collectors of vinyl. However, Frazier isn’t just riding the tails of his past success. In 2017, he released his album Instict, on which he exclusively plays the Hammond B-3, with accompaniment on tenor sax, guitar, bass and drums. It includes 11 performances of American classics and pop songs, as well as one original song. More recently in 2022, he put out Tenacity/As We Speak, which some hail as one of his heaviest records in recent time, and this year released “Live At Jazzcup,” which, as implied, was recorded live in Copenhagen, Denmark.
In his return to Savannah, of which he hasn’t played since 1974 when he was touring with Gaye as an accompanying keyboardist, Frazier will be playing with his own jazz quartet for a special live performance at District Live at Plant Riverside on Sept. 20 from 7:30-9:30 p.m.
“The show is going to be a mixture of a few things that I have written and recorded over the years, as well as popular material from the Great American Library,” said Frazier.
Attendees can expect Frazier to go back to his roots of the Hammond B-3 and approaching the instrument in the same way that he did in the early days. After several decades in the music industry, this show is truly once in a lifetime for jazz lovers looking to catch this legend live, along with jazz guitarist Jacques Lesure, saxophonist James Mahone and drummer Vince Ector.
For more information on the show, visit plantriverside.com