PURPLE GUMS is a brass ensemble (tenor sax, cornet and tuba) whose role is to carry on the tradition of making music in the moment. Charts don't exist. Rehearsals have never occurred. Ideas are generated and developed on the bandstand. Music making for this group is a high risk venture. The music created from the pooled experience of the band's members is a tasty gumbo of jazz, free improv, ragtime and classical. This leads to flights of whimsy and excursions into the unexpected. What you see is not always what you get. While you may think for a moment that you are listening to a traditional New Orleans brass band, what you are caressed with may be something all together different - as in the band's name and the title of their first CD, PURPLE GUMS.
To practically everyone, purple gums are a sure sign of gingivitis - gum disease. As the improvised words to the same titled tune implies, you might want to reconsider striking up a romantic conversation with someone so afflicted - stay away from mad dogs and women with purple gums. But in the parlance of the African American community, to say someone has purple gums is to identify them as being extremely dark skinned. So the tune changes, from a humorous meditation of how a woman's poor dental hygiene habits are going to slow our protagonist's romantic advances, to an examination of the degree to which he is ruled by color politics within his own community.
PURPLE GUMS views music as narrative. A tune starts, by the time it ends, territory has been crossed, a story has been told. Most of the time the band lays down a backdrop for the audience to spin out their own creations within their heads. But on occasion, any one of the band's members will step to the mike and spin a yarn for you. Like the music, these stories are created extemporaneously - knowing the carnival ride you've stepped onto doesn't guarantee that you'll recognize the ride you step off of.
William Roper has side-lined with the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, American Jazz Institute ensembles, The Luckman Jazz Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Yusef Lateef, Jimmy Cleveland, Wadada Leo Smith, Horace Tapscott, Vinny Golia, Glenn Horiuchi, Clay Jenkins, John Rapson, Kim Richmond, Adam Rudolph, Michael Vlatkovich and Francis Wong. He co-leads the duo Judicanti Responsura, the Flatterzunge Trio and the quartet Double Yellow. He has received awards from the NEA, CAC, L.A. Cultural Affairs Dept., Brody Arts Fund, ArtMatters Inc., Meet the Composer, Djerassi Resident Artist Program, American Composers Forum and the Durfee Foundation. He has released two albums as a co-leader: The Lament of Absalom and Double Yellow and as a leader: Juneteenth, Roper's Darn! Yarns and If I Ran The Circus.
Bradford, Bobby (Lee) (b Cleveland, MS, 19 July 1937). Cornetist, trumpeter, and composer. He took up cornet in 1949 and played with Leo Wright, Buster Smith, and John Hardee (1952), with Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy in Los Angeles (1953), and in air force bands. After belonging to the Ornette Coleman Quartet in New York (1961) he attended Huston-Tillotson College (BM 1963) and moved to Los Angeles (1964), where he formed the New Art Jazz Ensemble with John Carter. He taught elementary school (1966-71), lived and worked in England (1971), then rejoined Coleman's group for a brief period in New York. From 1974 he taught at Pasadena City College and Pomona College, and from 1976 to 1978 belonged to the Little Big Horn workshop with Carter, Arthur Blythe, James Newton, and other free-jazz musicians. Bradford has performed most often with Carter; he has also appeared with David Murray Octet (1982-4), Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra (from 1982), John Steven's Freebob (1986), and his own group Mo'tet. As a composer he has been influenced by the blues and the music of Coleman. - Scott Yanow
Francis Wong has been a performer on the saxophone and the flute for the past 20 years and a composer for the past 16 years. He is a recording artist for Asian Improv Records. He leads the ensemble Gathering of Ancestors in addition to directing many special projects. He is a frequent collaborator with musicians Tatsu Aoki, Elliot Humberto Kavee, William Roper and with poet/performer Genny Lim. He has also worked with the late Glenn Horiuchi, with Jon Jang, John Tchicai, James Newton, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Brown and Liu Qi-Chao. He has composed scores for choreographers Sachiko Nakamura and Pearl Ubungen and for theater companies San Francisco Mime Troupe, Thick Description and A World of Tales. Wong is also active as a community leader and teacher. He was a California Arts Council Artist in Residence 1992-1998 and has been a lecturer in the San Francisco State University Music Department and the American Studies Department at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In 2000-2001 he was a Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership Fellow. He also serves as President of Justice Matters Institute, a SF-based social justice organization. San Francisco Examiner critic Philip Elwood has named Wong "...among the great saxophonists of his generation."
Some media to entertain you.
- We are joined by Lenora Lee and Genny Lim in Tateuchi Auditorium, on the San Francisco Asian American Jazz Festival in 2016.
- Check out an excerpt of the band's performance at Cal Arts from 2017, with guest artist Lenora Lee.
- Purple Gums does a recording session with the truly unique Brad Dutz.
- Needless to say, we name the tunes after they happen. Here's Jordon's Rollin' at Just Jazz series in July 2019.
- LeRoy Downs interviews members of the band.
- Someone in the audience at the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival took some footage and posted it.
Purchase PURPLE GUMS from Asian Improv
Reviews of PURPLE GUMS
There is a new Purple Gums CD! - Mo' Betta Butta
William Roper is a Miraphone artist and plays Warburton mouthpieces.
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PURPLE GUMS, asks the question:
Who needs drums?