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Black Music Month Profile: The Commodore family; a musical legacy

Written by Harry Colbert, Jr.

Monday, 02 July 2012 15:12

The clichés are endless.

Like father like son (like mother like daughter), the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, etc. But

when it comes to the Commodore family –two generations of musical excellence, the question

begs itself, is it nature or nurture?

The patriarch of the family, Bobby Commodore is the talented drummer who from 1974 until 1986 was the

drummer of the legendary soul, jazz, gospel ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. His wife, Ginger

Commodore, was one of the soulful voices of Sounds. She started with the group in 1972,

departing shortly after her husband in the mid-1980s. Following her stint with Sounds, Ginger

Commodore, along with Yolande Bruce, Connie Evingson, Dennis Spears and music director

Sanford Moore formed the jazz/swing group Moore by Four. She is also the voice of the Ginger

Commodore Quartet, with her husband Bobby Commodore on drums. Bobby Commodore also

performs with Moore by Four.

Brandon Commodore followed in his father’s footsteps, drumming for Sounds. But Brandon is

probably better known as the tour drummer for wildly popular R&B band, Mint Condition. His

sister, Ashley Commodore –not one to be left behind –is a prominent member of the Sounds of

Blackness. Together, Brandon and Ashley Commodore have formed Boombox, a

genre-crossing band that has gained a large following in the Twin Cities.

So, when it comes to the younger Commodores following their parents’ musical footsteps, is it

nature or nurture?

“It was unavoidable,” said Brandon Commodore. “We were always around (our parents) with

them at rehearsals and shows. My father taught me so many things. I’m still picking up things

from him.”

Bobby Commodore said he and his wife toured often with Moore by Four and their children

usually were not far behind, even accompanying them on a European tour. But when it comes

to his son’s drumming, he humbly declined to take sole credit for his abilities.

“He says he learned from me, but he was able to work with Stokley (Williams, drummer and

lead singer for Mint Condition) and Michael Bland (Prince’s former drummer),” said the elder

drummer. “They both took him under their wings.”

Brandon Commodore also heavily credits Williams and Bland for his talents. And though

Williams was a long-time mentor, when the opening came for a tour drummer for Mint, Brandon

Commodore was not simply handed the job. “I had to audition like everyone else,” said Brandon

Commodore. “But I made it very known that I was willing to do whatever it took to be a part of

the shows.”

Like her brother, Ashley Commodore’s inclusion in the latest version of Sounds of Blackness

was not given.

“I wanted to be a part of Sounds of Blackness since I was little, so I followed my plan,” said

Ashley Commodore, who has been with the group for the past three years. “It was like it was

supposed to happen that way.”

And the same way mother and father perform together, sister and brother do the same.

“I love performing with my brother,” said Ashley Commodore. “We just kind of know how each

other works and we have good chemistry together.”

When it comes to Boombox, Brandon Commodore said, “It wouldn’t feel right without (Ashley)

sharing the stage with me. She’s been my best friend since she was born.” He then joked, “That

and she’d kill me if I didn’t include her in the group.”

Ginger Commodore, who also performed for a short time with the Chiffons, is more than

Brandon and Ashley Commodore’s mother, she’s a fan.

“The best part about (her children choosing careers in music) is they are talented and able to do

it all on their own,” said Ginger Commodore.

Bobby and Ginger Commodore recently celebrated 35 years in marriage. As a part of the

celebration the four Commodores took the stage (in varying forms) in a concert at the Dakota

Jazz Club.

StarTribune

High-spirited jazz singer Ginger Commodore hasn't had a bar gig in more than five months because she was busy playing Motormouth Maybelle in Chanhassen Dinner Theater's hit production of "Hairspray." Naturally, Commodore is excited to be singing and swinging out of character again, and she'll be in fine company with pianist Adi Yeshaya, saxophonist Kathy Jensen, Mark Weisberg on bass, Daryl Boudreaux on percussion and husband Bobby Commodore on drums.

Insight News

“Another veteran of Moore by Four, Ginger has a voice that is at once powerful and sultry; she can melt you with a ballad or shake you with the blues. One of the most enchanting voices in town. Get ready to be blown away by the sheer power and passion that (she) brings to the stage.”

Mpls Star Tribune

...Expect romantic music sung with great verve; ...Expect enough warmth to melt snow; Expect a crowd...

Jazz Police

Another veteran of Moore by Four, Ginger has a voice that is at once powerful and sultry; she can melt you with a ballad or shake you with the blues. One of the most enchanting voices in town. Get ready to be blown away by the sheer power and passion that (she) brings to the stage.

Insight News

...There are few such original joys as watching and listening to Ginger Commodore. All in all, she is like the properly self-possessed teacher who, lesson by lesson respectfully takes you to school and leaves you breathlessly dazed by the time class is out...

City Pages

All About Jazz

Hot Summer Music Various (Summit ) Buddy Johnson's "Since I Fell for You" gets as soulful a rendition as one will hear by vocalist Ginger Commodore.

Jazz Review

CD Title: Global Harmonica Summit/Hot Summer Jazz Sampler Year: 2001 Record Label: Precision Powerhouse Style: Traditional Jazz Review: They and the other artists appearing during the Hot Summer Jazz Festival have created something special. Even the vocals are mind-boggling! Listen for Ginger Commodore singing the classic hit "Since I Fell For You." Hearing her breeze ever so lightly through this subtle soul-stirring tune is awesome.

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