When more than 175 local musicians joined together for a Sly and the Family Stone tribute on Saturday, Jan. 24, at Oakland’s Fox Theater, a celebration of the legendary Bay Area funk band became a stage for homegrown talent and musicianship.
Nine bands performed one song each from the Family Stone’s groundbreaking 1969 album Stand!, including the hit “I Want to Take You Higher,” performed by Zakiya Harris & Elephantine, and “You Can Make It If You Try,” played by Jazz Mafia and Crossroads Collective.
“There’s something about Sly and the Family Stone’s music that shows us how far we’ve come and how far we have to go,” says David Möschler, musical director for the event and founder of Awesöme Orchestra, which performed at the concert. “We need it more than ever today.”
The tribute concert, presented by UnderCover and Faultline Studios, featured Bay Area hip-hop, soul, jazz, salsa, rock and orchestral bands. “Every group brought their own special sauce,” says Oakland native Zakiya Harris.
When Sly and the Family Stone burst onto the music scene in the late 1960s, they were one of the first racially-integrated American pop bands that also included women as core members.
“What’s so special about the Sly view is they were practicing what they preached,” says Adam Theis, founder of the Jazz Mafia and Crossroads Collective.
The evening was an encore of a sold-out 2014 show, also celebrating Stand!, at the Independent in San Francisco. “It was an almost spiritual experience and we were all craving that sense of connection again,” says Lyz Luke, founder and co-producer of UnderCover. “Before the show was even over, we all knew we wanted to do it again, bigger and better.”
On Jan. 24, with five original members of Sly and the Family Stone in the house, concert organizers wanted to show the band some extra love. Working with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office, they presented band members Freddie Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Gregg Errico, Jerry Martini, and Rustee Allen with an official City of Oakland proclamation, declaring Jan. 24, 2015 to be Sly and the Family Stone Day and congratulating the local band for “embracing the ideals of a generation.”
The man of the hour, Sly Stone, did not attend the show. But in addition to the proclamation, the bandleader last week enjoyed some good news when a judge awarded Stone $5 million in a ruling against his ex-business partners.
Below, listen to Awesöme Orchestra conductor David Möschler and UnderCover founder Lyz Luke discuss the event with KQED’s Cy Musiker on Morning Edition: