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Artist Profile

Boyd Lee Dunlop

Boyd Lee Dunlop

BOYD LEE DUNLOP, BROTHER OF FAMED JAZZ DRUMMER, FRANKIE DUNLOP, RELEASES DEBUT CD "BOYD’S BLUES,” AFTER A MUSICAL CAREER SPANNING 80 YEARS.

After nearly 80 years as a live musician and mainstay at the storied Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo, NY, Boyd Lee Dunlop will release his debut recording, Boyd’s Blues, on December 10, 2011. Boyd’s Blues swings with a divine cadence, the sound of the long-marinated dreams of a self-taught musician who learned to play upon discovering a discarded and broken piano on the streets of Buffalo, NY in the early 1930’s. Hailing from a musical family, Dunlop’s younger brother, famed jazz drummer Frankie Dunlop, recorded over 100 albums with jazz luminaries such as Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and Charles Mingus. Boyd’s Blues features Boyd Lee Dunlop on piano, accompanied by Sabu Adeyola on bass and Virgil Day on drums.

Boyd Lee Dunlop was born in 1926 in Winston Salem, NC. Music brought him to Buffalo, NY as a child. His family followed his aunt who had taken a job as a violinist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Dunlop’s first piano was found outside his house on the corner, discarded with only half the keys working. As Dunlop remembers, “I asked my mother if I could bring it into the house. I thought it would be easy for me to play. If I could see the notes, I could play. What can I say, a year later we bought a piano, and here I am.”

Dunlop gave his younger brother, Frankie Dunlop, his first drum lesson. Dunlop recalls, “We used the thin wood from the back of a chair as our sticks.” Younger brother Frankie went on to find fame as a drummer, playing with Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Big Jay McNeely, Lionel Hampton, and many other jazz greats, and recording nearly one hundred sides during his career.

Boyd Lee Dunlop’s trajectory followed a different course. Until now he could be found only on one record, a blowsy rhythm and blues session from the late 50’s by Big Jay McNeely. For years Dunlop worked in Buffalo’s steel mills and rail yards, yet his calling was the piano and he played in the clubs around Buffalo, including the storied Colored Musicians Club.

Boyd’s Blues was born of a chance encounter between Dunlop and internationally-regarded photographer, Brendan Bannon. After becoming acquainted during Bannon’s visits to Dunlop’s nursing home about an unrelated photography project, Bannon started recording Dunlop on the broken-down, out-of-tune piano in the lobby. Hearing himself play, Dunlop told Bannon that he’d like to make a record. After hearing some of these first recordings, New York City producer Allen Farmelo flew into Buffalo and the record was made in one day-long session on a snowy winter day.

After the session Dunlop said, “I waited my whole life for this day and I was gonna do it if it killed me.” At the age of 85, Dunlop’s passion and inventiveness are finally captured on Boyd’s Blues, and these notes will continue to ring out, over and over.

Boyd is backed by bass player Sabu Adeyola and Virgil Day on drums. Adeloya, a musician, community activist, and educator, has played with Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Randy Weston and Abbey Lincoln in his 35-year international career. Adeyola is working on a memoir of his life in the music. Drummer Virgil Day left Buffalo in the late 60s to tour with Charles Mingus and over the years played with Chu Nero and Freddie Hubbard among others. He also teaches percussion.

A smidgen of Art Tatum here, and a dash of Bud Powell there, hints of Jaki Byard sprinkled on top, sometimes in the space of one song. But where Tatum and Powell often spearheaded their songs with lightning fills and the elaborate technical prowess youth will cling to, Dunlop lays back in a pocket of blues, deftly knowing when to slow the pace, shifting from standards, to improvised embellishment, to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and into his own distinctive phrases.

Artist's Media Player

Tour Dates

Artist Country State City Venue Date
Boyd Lee Dunlop United States New York Buffalo Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center Dec 10, 2011
Boyd's Blues Cover
  • Boyd's Blues
  • Jazz, Blues
  • Boyd Lee Dunlop
  • 12/02/2011
  • Boyd's Blues
Liner Notes: Boyd Lee Dunlop was born in 1926 in Winston Salem, NC. Music brought him to Buffalo, NY as a child. His family followed his aunt who had taken a job as a violinist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Dunlop’s first piano was found outside his house on the corner, discarded with only half the keys working. As Dunlop remembers, “I asked my mother if I could bring it into the house. She refused but arranged for a friend to build a shed for it outside. I thought it would be easy for me to play. If I could see the notes, I could play. What can I say, a year later we bought a piano, and here I am.” Dunlop gave his younger brother, Frankie, his first drum lesson. “We used the thin wood from the back of a chair as our sticks.” Younger brother Frankie went on to find fame as a drummer, playing with Thelonious Monk and recording nearly one hundred sides during his career. Boyd Lee Dunlop’s trajectory followed a different course. Until now he could be found only on one record, a blowsy rhythm and blues session from the late 50’s by Big Jay McNeely. For years Dunlop worked in Buffalo’s steel mills and rail yards, yet his calling was the piano and he played in the clubs around Buffalo, including the storied Colored Musicians Club. And so, for nearly eighty years, Dunlop has been a live musician. Then, at age eight-five, He stepped into a recording studio in Buffalo, NY, with Sabu Adeyola on bass and Virgil Day on drums and, finally, recorded an album of his own. Boyd’s Blues was born of a chance encounter between Dunlop and photographer Brendan Bannon. As Bannon explains it: “I went to Delaware Nursing Home to speak to a doctor about a photography project. In the chair next to me, just back from a walk, sat Boyd Lee. ‘You here to see someone?’ he asked. ‘I think I’m here to see everyone.’ ‘You a doctor?’ ‘Photographer.’ ‘Yeah? I'm a musician.’” Bannon started recording Dunlop on the broken-down, out-of-tune piano in the nursing home. Hearing himself play, Dunlop told Bannon that he’d like to make a record. After hearing some of these first recordings, producer Allen Farmelo flew into town and the record was made in one day-long session on a snowy winter day. After the session Dunlop said “I waited my whole life for this day and I was gonna do it if it killed me,” Now it’s Dunlop’s turn to be heard. When you hear Dunlop play, you know there’s a lot to his story, and a lot of it is missing. And that great mystery comes out in the music presented here, and forces us to wonder about all those notes that Dunlop played, live, unrecorded, over eighty years. But, to everyone’s good fortune, his passion and inventiveness are finally captured on Boyd’s Blues, and these notes will continue to ring out, over and over, as many times as we play this record. A smidgen of Art Tatum here, and a dash of Bud Powell there, hints of Jaki Byard sprinkled on top, sometimes in the space of one song. But where Tatum and Powell often spearheaded their songs with lightning fills and the elaborate technical prowess youth will cling to, Dunlop lays back in a pocket of blues, deftly knowing when to slow the pace, shifting from standards, to improvised embellishment, to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and into his own distinctive phrases, without waking the stream. This is Dunlop’s hand tuned to the bible of sound. It swings with a divine cadence. These songs are part of Boyd Lee Dunlop like they were always there with him. Like they will always be with him. This is the sound of long marinated dreams, and the noise that follows is a beautiful noise. Let it wash over you. - Hank Cherry This record is dedicated to my daughter Corliss Dunlop and my brother Frankie Dunlop. PIANO – BOYD LEE DUNLOP BASS – SABU ADEYOLA DRUMS – VIRGIL DAY CREDITS Executive Producer and Photographer, Brendan Bannon Produced by Allen Farmelo Engineered by Jim Calabrese at Sound Scape, Buffalo, NY Mixed by Allen Farmelo at The Farm, NYC Mastered By Jessica Thompson at The Magic Shop, NYC Design by Betsy Frazer of FRAZER/MONTAGUE DESIGN
  1. Boyd's Mellow Blues
  2. Boyd's Bowed Blues
  3. Boyd's Swinging Blues
  4. Boyd's Solo Flight
  5. Boyd's Place
  6. St. James Infirmary Blues
  7. Boyd's "Funky " Blues
  8. Boyd's Epic Journey
  9. Boyd's End of the Day Blues...