10 essential Kashif productions… The establishment of an identity happened to be the ultimate key word by the end of the 70’s. Be it visually with trends applying to social if not political categories, such as brilliantly illustrated on ‘Car Wash’. As musically with the arrival of producers settin’ up a distinctive sound. Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards (Chic, Sister Sledge, Norma Jean…). Jacques Fred Petrus & Mauro Malavasi (Change, BB&Q Band, High Fashion…). Willie Lester & Rodney Brown (Sharon Redd, Bobby Thurston, Gayle Adams). But also Quincy Jones (Brothers Johnson, Michael Jackson, Patti Austin). Tommy LiPuma (George Benson, Eumir Deodato). Or Arif Mardin (Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Mann, Chaka Khan)… As many names who stand as the pioneers of the modern sound. Just as Kashif does too…
Born Michael Jones on Dec. 26, 1959 in Harlem, NY, Kashif (Saleem) taught himself to play a $3 song flute at the early age 7, then later the piano in the basement of his church. He would soon after do the same with trumpet, saxophone, and tuba with the encouragements of his school teacher. By age 12, he had mastered several musical instruments and began performing in some of New York’s finest night clubs.
He joined B.T. Express 3 years later as a vocalist and keyboardist. He left the band in 1978 to work as a keyboardist for Stephanie Mills.
Kashif‘s career took a new dimension when he started getting himself into songwriting and production. He literally made the sensation back in 1981 with ‘I’m In Love’ which he wrote and co-produced for Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King. The first in a series of classics which helped the singer getting back to the forefront, on the heels of her memorable ‘Shame’. With ‘Love Come Down’ soon after not only confirming their obvious connection. But also standing as a signature track for her producer. A jam which perfectly embodies what Kashif‘s sound was about.
With thanks to his vocal arrangement skills added with his specific synthesizer approach, Kashif definitely set the mood for modern love songs in the 80’s. Hard to not mention the connection with Morrie Brown, Paul Lawrence Jones III or Lillo Thomas with whom he regularly collaborated.
Evelyn King, but also Melba Moore, Howard Johson. Not to mention George Benson, Whitney Houston at her debut or Kenny G are just a few of those he brought his unique approach to, such as you’ll see thereafter. Meanwhile, he has released 7 studio albums under his own banner from 1983 to 2004, enjoying his peaktime during his period with Arista until the end of the 80’s.
On the footsteps of ‘I’m In Love’ which he also happened to write the year before, Kashif strenghtened his collaboration with Evelyn King. Although it’s more acurate (or honest) to say he didn’t occupy the centerstage productionwise. But acted as an assistant producer along with Paul Lawrence Jones III under the direction of Morrie Brown. This oustanding jam, taken from King‘s 1982 released ‘Get Loose’ album got her to #1 on the R&B and Dance charts Stateside. It perfectly illustrates the integration of the synthesized sounds on the production at the time. Sampled on countless occasions, it has been covered the year after by Barry Biggs who gave it a Reggae version. Then back in 2013 by British singer Alison Limerick, among others.
Remembered as the co-founder of Niteflyte along with Sandy Torrano in the second half of the 70’s, Miami-born Howard Johnson went solo in 1982, signing with A&M Records. He would reach his peak on the first of his 3 albums for the label (‘Keepin’ Love New’) and more precisely on its opening track (‘So Fine’). A song, here as well produced by the likes of Kashif along with Paul Lawrence III and Morrie Brown, it remains his biggest success ever, featuring Fonzi Thornton and Freddie Jackson on backing vocals.
French act Motorbass sampled it back in 1996 on ‘1980’, followed by DJ Quik in 1998 (Down, Down, Down’) and M.E.D. (‘MEDical Card’) in 2010 among others…
Kashif as a session musician. Kashif as a writter / arranger, Kashif as a producer… But also Kashif as an artist on his own. ‘I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On)’ stands as one of the highlights of his 1983 released eponymous album. An album pretty much illustrative of the team work which he embraced featuring regular collaborators such as Morrie Brown and Paul Lawrence Jones III. But also Bashiri Johnson on percussion, Ira Siegel on guitar, Leslie Ming on drums or Wayne Brathwaite on bass. Not to mention Fonzi Thornton on backing vocals. With a feature by a then relatively unknown Kenny G. on saxophone.
Seattle, WA-born saxophonist Kenneth Bruce Gorelick, better known as Kenny G. is much of a phenomenon. The ambassador of Smooth Jazz, he’s the biggest selling instrumental artist of the current times, totalizing more than 75 million album sales. He started in 1973 as as sideman of Barry White‘s Love Unlimited Orchestra, aged 17. He then joined the Jeff Lorber Fusion band prior launching his solo career with the Lorber himself as a producer. We catch him back in 1983 on the opening cut to his third album (‘Gravity’), along with Kashif on vocals. This would be one of their numerous collaborations at the time.