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Vinson Powell - Buckner Funken Jazz

Vinson Powell has been influenced by music throughout his life by his father, Max Powell, the renown drummer and arranger. Little Vinson moved with his family to the Denver area in the late fifties. At age 8, he was introduced to the flute by "Akba," a musician that worked with his father at the time.

"I was a quick learner," Powell said.

He excelled in lessons and became the first chair flute player in all his scholastic concert bands.

With the help of his father, Powell had the opportunity at a very young age to play with many of the finer musicians in Denver. At 14, Powell worked with pianist Bob Palmer, bassists Dave Summers Sr., D-Minor, Buddy Smith, Sam Gill, guitarist Bob Gray, saxophone players Johnny Hartsfield, Rexell Hart, Billy Tolles, Homer Brown, trumpeter Julius Ellabie, drummer Gene Bass, and Allan Barnes of the BlackByrds. Flutist Marvin Hollenshed, another associate of Max Powell, mentored Vinson in his studies of improvisation and imparted the influence of Hubert Laws.

Powell began playing in bands in the mid-1970's. In 1974 he spent several months in Oakland, California, playing with a Denver band called Power Unlimited. Upon his return to Denver, he began working with Pepper Gomez, a radio DJ at KDKO 1510 AM, on several recording projects. At age 19, Powell's flute work was already being featured on commercial radio spots and jingles.

Vinson Powell - Buckner Funken Jazz

Around this time, Powell met up with Rose Mosley, the manager of a youth band with talented players from age 11 to 14. Powell joined the band as they headed to a local recording studio to produce a demo audition tape. At the studio, the owner of the studio and Infal Records, Victor Hernandez, noticed Powell's avid curiosity about the technical aspects of recording.

"It was about this time that I really took a serious interest in the production aspect of music, not just the performing," Powell said.

In exchange for his help in moving the recording studio, Hernandez granted Powell and the young band free time in the new recording studio.

Meanwhile, Vinson was continuing to sit-in and perform with bands all over the Denver area. The Dirty Dozen, SaSaDee, and Friends of Distinction all invited Powell to play. The 1980s were a busy time for Powell, as he played for and produced many of the more successful acts of the period. Seduction, a long running night club act, performed at the People's Choice Lounge for more than a year with Powell building and operating the lighting and special effects.

"It was at the People's Choice Lounge that I got the nickname 'Wizz,'" Powell said.

During this time Powell also played flute on two albums with an old musician friend, Steve Elliot, who had become a DJ on KDKO. Powell joined Elliot as an opening act for trumpeter Tom Brown at the old Rainbow Music Hall in Denver.

Vinson Powell

While working with Seduction at the People's Choice Lounge, Powell was invited to sit-in with pianistand vocalist Michael Whncoft. Natalie Cole was in the audience that evening. Powell toured with Whncoft, and experienced the success that Whncoft's album and tour enjoyed. A short time later Powell moved to Los Angeles, and found himself engineering for former members of Seduction and Legend. In LA, Powell ran into more old musican friends, Johnny 'Chris' Wright and Darryl Woolfolk, who helped Powell learn the LA scene. Powell began performing at The Five Torches, Freddie Jetts Pied Piper, Marla's Memory Lane, and Nucleus Nuance.

Through Darryl Woolfolk, Powell came to know Andrew Woolfolk, saxophonist for Rock n'Roll Hall of Fame inductee Earth Wind and Fire. Powell still appreciates the strong spiritual and musical friendships that developed.

"Playing with Chris, Darryl and Andrew in church, with the living spirit of God, was the best music and inspiration of a lifetime," Powell said.

Vinson Powell

In further travels through the 1980s and 90s, Powell has worked with Dick Griffey (Solar Records), writer and arranger Ben Weisman (Elvis Presley), producer Gene Rennfro, and producer William Bryant (Frankie Beverly, George Clinton, Norman Weinfield, George Duke). Through it all, Powell has gained a tremendous amount of insight into the world of professional recording and production.

"Laying tracks with any good engineer is not what I'm talking about," Powell said. "I have studied the production of the sound that the main stream industry demands. I've learned the diversity required to meet the musical satisfaction of audiences," he said.

Powell now spends his time sitting in with various bands and producing acts at venues around Denver. Buckner Funken Jazz, Jakarta, Steve Carson and the New G, Charisma, Joe Bonner, Joe Dilamo, Carl Jackson and Concepts, Ken Jenzens Trio, Sheldon Johnson and the Bunch, Network, Doctor Tone and the Notes, Funk Incorporate, Greg Goodloe, and The Notorious Funk Attack Band have all benefited from Powell's production and guidance.

"You know, I've been in many cities and towns that were flooded with great talent," Powell said. "I mean, there are so many musicians and singers out there that you can lose count real fast. I work to find the ones that have paid their dues, the ones that have polished their craft, and really know the music. There aren't many out there like that today. So with the cats I'm working with, I'm looking forward to making something out of it."

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