Onaje Allan Gumbs

Onaje Allan Gumbs drew his early inspiration from Henry Mancini, honed his skill in multiple genres from jazz and pop to R&B and soul, and has played with greats such as Woody Shaw, Nat Adderley and Cassandra Wilson.

Onaje (which means the ‘Sensitive One’) was born in Harlem, grew up in St. Albans, Queens, and started playing piano at age 7. Henry Mancini was one of his earliest influences from watching the TV shows Peter Gunn and Mr Lucky. Later, he studied at the Music and Art High School in Manhattan and was introduced by classmate Carl ‘Skip’ Kirkland to his father, Leroy Kirkland, who had played with the Erskine Hawkins band and who would come to mentor Onaje. He went on to study classical piano, composition, arranging and graduated with a degree in Education at SUNY Fredonia.

In 1971, Onaje got his first big break, playing with guitarist Kenny Burrell in Detroit. This led to performances with major jazz musicians such as bassist Larry Ridley and The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. During those early 1970s, Onaje replaced Nat Adderley, Jr. in a contemporary jazz ensemble called Natural Essence that included drummer Buddy Williams, bassist Alex Blake, trombonist Earl McIntyre and on percussion, T. S. Monk.

In 1974, Gumbs enjoyed one of the highlights of his arranging career when he created a special arrangement of Stella By Starlight for the New York Jazz Repertory Company as a part of a concert honoring Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall. That same year, Gumbs performed on Woody Shaw’s Moontrane album. Later, he joined forces with trumpeter Nat Adderley and his quintet, contributing to the group’s recordings on Atlantic and Steeplechase. Nils Winter of the latter label was impressed by Gumbs’ improvisations and approached the young pianist that same year to record a solo piano album, Onaje.

Onaje contributed to several albums of Norman Connors, and continued sideman work with Buster Williams, Cecil McBee, and Betty Carter. Toward the late 1970s, Onaje spent two years working in Woody Shaw’s band as pianist, arranger, and occasional composer, during which time the group won the DownBeat Reader’s Poll for Best Jazz Group and for Best Jazz Album of 1978.

In 1985, Gumbs further heightened his visibility by contributing his arrangement of Lady in My Life to guitarist Stanley Jordan’s enormously successful album Magic Touch, which held the number one spot on Billboard’s jazz charts for 37 weeks. Onaje also recorded two albums for MCA: That Special Part of Me and Dare to Dream.

In 1994 Gumbs composed, arranged and performed the original score for the Showtime film, Override, directed by actor and producer Danny Glover. In 2006, Onaje was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Jazz Artist category for his independent project, Remember Their Innocence. In 2012 he was featured on Avery Sharpe’s album Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman.

Event Location and Ticket Information

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PJS Jazz Society (at First Presbyterian Church)
199 North Columbus Ave
Mount Vernon, NY
Handicap Accessible? Yes

Date: Sunday, November 12, 2017
Times: 5:15 pm - 9:00 pm

Ticket pricing:

$25.00 - Regular Admission
$10.00 - Student Admissoin

Presenter: PJS Jazz Society, Inc.
Presenter Phone: 914-667-0823
Presenter Website: www.pjsjazz.org

Sponsor Message

PJS Jazz Society presents the best in jazz every Second Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, September through April. Most concerts start with a Young Musicians opening set from 5:15-6:00 pm, followed by two Headliner sets from 6:30-9:00 pm. Concerts are held in a cabaret setting. Additional parking available at the Holmes School (next to the First Presbyterian Church on Columbus Avenue). This performance made possible, in part, by ArtsWestchester with funds from Westchester County Government and its Board of Legislators.