For the last two years I have had the wonderful experience of collaborating on music posts with my friend jazz singer, musician and composer, William Price King.
We met through Twitter when I was researching guests in the music industry for the first of my Sunday morning shows. I sent William an email and was delighted when he immediately agreed to do the interview.. You can read that original post here. William Price King
I love music and I wanted the blog to reflect this with posts on artists and their work. I needed someone with expertise in the subject to do justice to the subject and approached William in the hopes that he might have the time to write an occasional post. I certainly got more than I bargained for.
Since November 2014 William has been providing us with fascinating insights into the lives and work of some of the greats of the music industry including his two mentors, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme…followed by Ella Fitzgerald, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Sir George Shearing, Quincy Jones, Diana Krall and Tony Bennett.. Currently we have a series on the late Natalie Cole which began this week. If you would like a trip down memory lane then you will find the previous series here. Jazz Royalty
Before we head into William’s interview I thought I would give you an brief overview of his life and work to this point and share some of his performances that show the breadth and talent that he brings to the stage.
William was born into a family that loved music and both his parents sang in Church. He studied piano from an early age, sang in the Youth Choir and then studied the clarinet at High School. This led to William joining the marching and concert bands and performing in parades at half time at football games. As a family, there were also visits to concerts by the Atlanta Symphony and the opera.
Growing up William was not your typical teenager despite the then rock ‘n’ roll scene and he instead preferred ballads and beautiful singing voices. His first exposure to Nat King Cole was on television and he identified with the emotional expression and phrasing.
William went to the prestigious Morehouse college to major in music and rather than studying the clarinet he took up voice training. This included the classics which suited his voice perfectly and he travelled across the US with his College Glee Club and Quartet. The Glee Club also did many concerts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and William was one of their soloists.
His first Nat King Cole number that he performed in public was The Christmas Song written ironically by Mel Torme, at a gala in honor of Martin Luther King’s parents. William also felt privileged to have heard Martin Luther King speak at one of his rallies and also the great Sidney Poitier at a graduation ceremony. Here is William with The Christmas Song written by Mel Torme.
William auditioned for the School of Music at Yale University and was given a full scholarship as a classical singer. This opened up wonderful opportunities to travel with the Yale Symphony as a soloist and this included a tour of Europe. Following his graduation, William moved to New York with the attention of following a career in opera but found that he was too young and that it was a challenge to find gigs in the classical field.
This resulted in a change in direction and performance style over the next two years and it was listening to a recording of Mel Torme’s that proved to be a turning point. William immediately felt an affinity with both Mel’s style and delivery and with this revelation came new opportunities including the formation of Au Naturel with two other singers in Manhattan. With a repertoire of jazz and pop the trio auditioned for record companies and agents which led to bookings all over New York including at the famous Rainbow Room.
Here is another performance from William. This time a Mel Torme classic – Love Me Or Leave Me.
William spent his spare time going to performances of the top artists such as Lena Horne, Josephine Baker and Sarah Vaughn and having absorbed elements of their individual talents, he and the trio embarked on a tour of Canada and Europe. This was to be a fateful tour as William met and fell in love with his wife Jeanne when in France and has lived and performed there successfully since then.
I will now hand over to William to share the questions he has chosen about his place of birth, favourite leisure pastime, the most important event to affect our lives in the last 100 years and a delicious recipe for Chicken Crumble.
Welcome William and perhaps you can tell us more about where you born and can you tell us something about the history of your place of birth or any interesting historical fact.
I was born in Atlanta, Ga., the home of the late Dr. Martin Luther King (Nobel Peace Prize, 1964); the Atlanta Braves (baseball, three world series championships); the Atlanta Falcons (football, NFC champions); CNN (founded in 1980); Coca-Cola (since 1944); the Centennial Olympic Park (1996 Summer Olympics); and the world’s busiest airport, “Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.” Atlanta is called the “gateway” to the South, a “world city” ranking 36th among world cities and 8th in the USA. Atlanta played an important role in both the Civil War and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The Atlanta History Center chronicles the city’s past, and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is dedicated to King’s life and times.
From an historical point of view, the “Battle of Atlanta” was fought on July 22, 1864. Union forces, commanded by General William T. Sherman, defeated the Confederate forces who were defending the city. This was a major turning point in the Civil War. Atlanta was totally destroyed, which destroyed the southern morale and sent them the last big blow. Sherman’s victory is credited for aiding the re-election of Abraham Lincoln, preserving the Union, and the abolishment of slavery. The battle was later dramatized and brought to popular attention through “Gone with the Wind.”
Atlanta is cosmopolitan in every sense of the word, from world-class restaurants and a myriad of cultural attractions to a hip night life and sporting events galore.
Which is your favourite leisure pastime?
Without a doubt my favorite pastime is hiking in the mountains. This is an exhilarating and rewarding experience which allows me to commune with nature as well as testing my limits. There is nothing more gratifying than winding my way up the side of a mountain enjoying the beauty along the way, not to mention the satisfaction when I reach the summit. I get goose bumps when contemplating its majesty.
The changing colors from the clouds and snowy peaks are mesmerizing, as are the flora and fauna. Mountain climbing gives me inspiration and joy because it is more than a pastime or a sport, it’s a passion. It’s stress-free, and I always take the time to stop and contemplate the beauty around me. It is good for my heart, lungs, legs, ankles, feet, blood pressure, and peace of mind. Moreover, it helps me to connect with myself and with nature in a way that brings serenity and a sense of well-being.
What do you believe is the most important event to have affected our lives in the last 100 years?
That’s a pretty tough one because there are so many events that have happened on the world stage over the last 100 years which have had direct or indirect consequences on our lives. To name a few, we have survived major wars; stock markets have crashed and the economy has fallen flat on its face; we saw the fall of the Berlin wall; apartheid came to an end; and the Twin Towers came tumbling down. Now we’re engulfed in a war on terrorism which will, undoubtedly, have ramifications for years to come. There is an on-going refugee crisis, a crisis that is putting the European Union in grave danger of collapse.
For me, living in Europe, this crisis, caused by armed conflict and global warming, is probably the most important event of the last 100 years because it affects us now and there seems to be no end to it. The influx of refugees and the recent terror attacks in Paris have placed the E.U. system of passport-free travel under tremendous strain and if it were to collapse then this could be the beginning of the end of the European Union, which could have dire consequences. Of course, the rights of these voiceless people who have experienced hunger and indignity, and who have seen death with their own eyes, must be defended, too. We are all humans.
Perhaps the answer, if there is one, can be found in the Middle East because it will be impossible for Europe to provide sanctuary to everyone in need. In the meantime, our leaders must come up with long term solutions on how to bring about genuine peace through education and development and take serious action on climate change. Time is running out!
If you cook do you have a signature dish that everyone loves to eat? Can we have the recipe?
I learned how to cook when I was a student living in the dormitory on campus in New Haven, CT. I was lucky in that there were a lot of good cooks among students my age (I was 21 then). I watched how they prepared their meals, took notes, and tried to do the same thing more or less. Sometimes it worked, most times it didn’t, but It helped me to be patient in the kitchen and to learn the hard way.
When I finished school and went to New York I had a few culinary skills under my belt to keep me alive so I didn’t have to be a regular at McDonald’s. When I was dating my future wife in France, I was amazed at her cooking skills. Being “French,” believe me, she knew how to cook! Once married and with a family to raise, my wife did all of the cooking as she wanted to make sure our kids ate the right things, had enough vegetables, proteins, etc. I would do desserts, mostly American brownies, carrot cakes, pumpkin pies, and the like.
The kids finally grew up and left home, by then my wife had had more than enough of being in the kitchen cooking. So, I took over the reins of preparing meals and got promoted from desserts to full menus. I must say that I do enjoy cooking on a daily basis. Cooking a meal is one of the most personal and intimate things you can do for someone. You’re literally providing plated nourishment made with your own hands and creativity. I have found that cooking can be really relaxing, fun, and I love the challenge of preparing good food. Since I consider cooking to be an art, I always try to create something new – another way to express myself. I also love to explore new tastes and get a tremendous sense of satisfaction when I make a dish that rivals one in a good restaurant.
In our family and among our friends, my Chicken Crumble is well received and it’s one of my favorite dishes. It’s simple and filling. (Also it looks like it would be very welcome after a day in the mountains. SC).
I must admit that I rarely stick to a recipe 100%, I always improvise. That probably comes from my being a jazz singer. Why not?
Chicken Crumble Recipe
6 chicken breasts
2 medium size onions (you can always substitute with shallots)
2 garlic cloves
2 tea spoons of curry (or more depending upon how much you like curry, I always put more)
½ cup of raisins
3 table spoons of fresh cream
2 table spoons of olive oil
150 grams of oatmeal
120 grams of soft butter
90 grams of parmesan cheese
Peel and mince the onions. Cut the chicken breasts and pealed apples into cubes. Preheat the oven at 180°C.
Heat the olive oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, stirring occasionally until they soften or are translucent. Add the cubes of chicken breasts and apples. Salt and pepper and let cook for about 10 minutes. Add the curry, cream, and raisins and stir gently. Rectify the seasoning, you can always add more curry, salt, and pepper if you like. Pour into an oven dish. Prepare the “crumble” by mixing the soft butter with the oatmeal flakes and the parmesan. Spread the mixture evenly over the meat and place it into the oven and let it cook for 20 minutes. Bon appétit!
That sounds delcious and a recipe I shall definitely be trying out. My thanks to William for joining us today in a different capacity and I will leave you with another performance from one of his live gigs.. Lullaby of Birdland
Thanks for dropping by and please leave a note and feel free to share William’s Interview. We hope you will join us next Wednesday for the second part of the Natalie Cole Story.