Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Grubbs, Carl (Gordon)

Grubbs, Carl (Gordon), saxophonist (alto and soprano), educator, arranger and composer; b. Philadelphia, PA, 27 July 1944. His family consisted of father, Earl Grubbs (b. 7/2/19, in Augusta, GA to James and Elizabeth Grubbs, d.1-29-88 in Philadelphia, PA.); and mother, Lucy Grubbs (b.Nov. 11, 1922 in Charlottesville, VA to Iverson and Margaret Tabb, d. Nov. 5, 1984 in Philadelphia, PA). Both parents played the piano as a hobby. Earl played blues on the piano and Lucy played piano at her church. Carl's brother, Earl Grubbs, saxophonist (tenor and soprano) was born in Philadelphia, July 13, 1942, d. October 6, 1989. Carl's children with his first wife Maxine (McNeill) are Gordon (b. 1962) Carl Desmond (b. 1964) Naima (b. 1967) and Camille (b. 1969). Carl's grandchildren live in Philadelphia, PA with their parents. Gordon, his oldest son has a daughter, Sabrina, who is now 10 years of age; Naima, Carl's oldest daughter, is now married to William Dade. Naima and William have two sons, Nasir and William.

Carl's parents, encouraged at the sight of seeing other young musical performers, provided music lessons to both Carl and Earl at an early age. Carl received lessons on the piano at age 11 from a private tutor who came to their home for lessons. At age 13, Carl's parents purchased instruments for both sons; Earl, an alto sax and Carl, a clarinet. Earl received saxophone lessons from Bill Barron, brother of Kenny Barron. Earl was the oldest son and therefore would share his new knowledge and skills on the instruments with Carl, his younger brother.

Early in his career, he received extensive training from one of the music world's greatest legends in Jazz, John Coltrane, who was married to his cousin Naima (Juanita Austin, 1926-1998). From this relationship, Carl was introduced to, learned from, played with, and developed close relationships with many of the history-making jazz musicians of the 1950's and 1960's. Carl also received saxophone lessons while enrolled in a Model Cities program. Carl participated in bands at Vaux Junior High School, West Philadelphia High School and Benjamin Franklin High School. He continued his musical training at the Community College of Philadelphia for one year and a half. When Carl was about 15 years old, he began to perform in clubs in the Philadelphia area. He performed with The Guild of Contemporary Culture, led by trumpet player and composer Owen Marshall for two years (9th grade - 11th grade). After graduating from high school he worked around Philadelphia and traveled with some commercial bands. He traveled and recorded with Jerry Butler at Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland. Periodically, he had the opportunity to work at the Uptown Theater, working with commercial groups. In 1969, Carl and his brother Earl Grubbs formed the Jazz Performing group, The Visitors. The group performed standards and original tunes. They recorded four albums on Muse Record Label

Carl lived in Philadelphia from 1944 -1980.  In the 1970's Earl lived in NYC for awhile. Carl would often travel to NYC to visit him, going to clubs and checking out the jazz scene. In 1980 Carl moved to Baltimore, Maryland after marrying for the second time to Barbara Harrell (now Grubbs).  Barbara Grubbs worked in the Baltimore City Public School System for 29 1/2 years. She taught Social Studies in Junior High Schools, High Schools and often taught GED classes.  Before retiring in 1989, she served as Assistant Principal at Southern H.S. in Baltimore City and Principal of the Evening School at Southern H.S. Barbara Grubbs is the Project Coordinator of Summer Activity Extraordiaire: Summer Music and Dance Camp; Carl Grubbs is the Artistic Director (1997-2002). After moving to Baltimore, Carl worked at nightclubs in the Baltimore-Washington area. In Washington, he was introduced to pianist John Kordalewski; he and John worked on my projects sponsored by District Curators, Inc. (a nonprofit arts presenting organization based in D.C.) Carl worked mostly in the Washington Area performing at clubs, festivals and community events. Carl with John Kordalewski developed a program that enabled them to present workshops with Young Audiences of Washington, D.C.; they presented jazz workshops and concerts at middle and high schools in Washington, D.C.

In 1983, Carl received a NEA grant for concerts and workshops at the new Inner Harbor Pavilion in Baltimore, Maryland. The events were also sponsored by The HarborPlace Merchants Association. Carl put on eight concerts featuring artists such as Monty Waters, Ken McIntyre and Pharoah Sanders; each artist led a workshop for local musicians and aspiring musicians. The concerts were held at the Inner Harbor Pratt Street Pavilion and the workshops were held at Southern High School; Barbara Grubbs was the Assistant Principal at Southern High School and secured the site for the workshops.

In 1985, Carl was a participant in The New Music Festival in Washington, D.C. Under the sponsorship of District Curators. He later that year became Director of the D.C. Jazz Workshop Orchestra a community band sponsored by District Curators, Inc. During his tenure with the Workshop Orchestra, he had the opportunity to met and interact with musicians such as Muhal Abrams, Julius Hemphill and Don Cherry; these musicians were invited by District Curators to have a residency where they would perform their original music with the Workshop Orchestra. During his tenure with the Workshop Orchestra, Carl met Julius Hemphill and formed a lasting friendship with him.

In 1986, Carl and Bob Gray formed a nonprofit, Maryland Center for Creative Music in Baltimore, Maryland. Through this organization, they presented artists such as Julius Hemphill and Marcus Belgrave in workshop and concert. They also presented concerts where local musicians could perform at the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Walters Art Gallery.

Carl's first performed in Julius Hemphill's Long Tongue: A Saxophone Opera presented at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in 1987; Carl and Andrew White performed the music with the World Saxophone Quartet. Later in the year, the group performed Julius's Opera at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. In 1989, District Curators, Inc. Presented the Opera at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. In 1990, Julius invited Carl to come to New York and become a member of his group, The Julius Hemphill Sextet and they began rehearsal for a new production, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane's Uncle Tom's Cabin: The Promised Land. Carl traveled with the Julius Hemphill Sextet and the production Uncle Tom's Cabin: The Promised Land from 1991 - 1993. They performed at major universities in the U.S. And in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

In 1993, Carl formed his own Company, B&C Productions with his wife Barbara Grubbs. Together, they have produced three independent CD's: Live at The New Haven Lounge (1993), Live at the Baltimore Museum of Art: Inner Harbor Suite (1994) and Reflections (2002). In 1995, Carl was invited to perform at the Bogota, Colombia Jazz Festival; he and his group, Carl Grubbs and Friends returned in 1996, performing in Medellin (two concerts) and Bogota. In 1998, he was invited to Brazil; he toured eight Brazilian cities with his trio (Mark Johnson, bass and Billy Johnson, drums) Carl also presented jazz improvisation workshops in Colombia and Brazil. Barbara accompanied the group to Colombia and Brazil. She was instrumental in the video taping of all concerts. Since that time B&C has acquire numerous hours of video tape of performances of Carl Grubbs and his performing groups.

In 1997, Barbara and Carl founded Summer Activity Extraordinaire: Music Camp, a two-week camp for at-risk youth ages 8 - 17 in the Govans Community of Baltimore. The Camp is sponsored by Govans Economic Management Senate, Inc., a nonprofit Community Development Organization in Baltimore City. Although the camp is located in the Govans Community, the camp accepts any young person residing in the Baltimore area. The Camp is funded by grants and donations. From 1997 - 1999, SAX camp was held at the Saint Mary's of the Assumption School. In 2001, Loyola College in Maryland, located in Baltimore City, invited the camp to utilize its facilities. The camp continues to operate on the campus of Loyola College in Maryland. The Camp provides an educational and participation in music and dance for youth ages 8 - 17. Since its beginnings the camp has provided training to over 250 students; two thirds of the participants return each year. The staff is made up of professional musicians with experience in teaching young people. The Camp provides master workshops where professional artists are brought in to serve as mentors to the students. Professional artists such as Odean Pope (Saxophonist), Elmer Gibson (Pianist) and Rene McLean (Saxophonist) have been invited at Guest Artists.

In 1994, Carl became a private lesson instructor of saxophone and clarinet at St. Paul School in Brooklandville, Maryland. In 1996, he was invited to become the Jazz Band Director. From 1999 - 2001, he served as Artist in Residence at St. Paul School. During his tenure at St. Paul School, he has developed an exciting program for the students.

The Visitors: Nepture, Motherland, In My Youth, Rebirth (1972-1974); Live at The New Haven Lounge (1993); Inner Harbor Suite (1994); Reflections (2002)
As sideperson:
Julius Hemphill Sextet: Fat Man and The Hard Blues (1992); Broto Roy Live: Total Immersion (2001)

Radio interviews:
WRTI (Philadelphia); WEAA (Baltimore) WPFW (Washington, D.C.)

1989, Julius Hemphill Sextet, BET
Maury Povich Show, Channel 5, Washington, D.C. In the 1980's
BBC Documentary: Bill T. Jones: Uncle Tom's Cabin: The Promised Land, 1992
JAZZ ARTS, INC. (formerly known as District Curators, Inc.) Is working on a documentary focusing on Long Tongues: A Saxophone Opera by Julius Hemphill. A video of the Opera was completed in 1991 when it was performed at the Apollo Theater, Harlem, NYC.

 Bob Rusch: The Grubbs Bros. An Interview, in: Cadence (Jul.1978)
Newspaper Articles:
Baltimore Sun - Jazz at the Inner Harbor, Feb. 1983
JAZZ SESSIONS "Carl Grubbs' Song of the Here and Now", by Ray Bolger, Maryland Musician Magazine, March, 1989
Philadelphia Tribune, "A Phila. Jazzman belts it out in Baltimore", by Francis Davis, Friday, Nov. 22, 1991
Baltimore Sun - "Sweet harbor JAZZ- Grubbs' sax-savvy suite swings to a Baltimore Beat; JAZZ: 'Inner Harbor Suite' celebrates Baltimore" by Steve McKerrow, Wednesday, March 23, 1994
"Artscape puts best sax forward", by Geoffrey Himes, Baltimore Messenger, July 19, 1995
EL COLOMBIANO, "JAZZ con Grubss y Uman- Jazz con Grubbs", by Gustavo Adolfo Ospina Zapata, Medellin, jueves 13 de junio de 1996
Brasilia, GAZETA MERCANTIL, "New Orleans, hoje, e'aqui, by Fabio Lucas de Brasila, April 27, 1998
High Point - October, 2000 by Steve Huffman "Musician Learned to steam from 'Trane"
Washington Post - Prince Georges County Edition , Thursday, Oct. 18, 2001, "Disciple of Cool Still Has The Jazz-Brush With Coltrane Inspired Jazz Career", by Natalie Hopkinson
St. Paul's The Page, Monday, Feb. 4, 2002 People & Entertainment, "Artist in Residence
Carl Grubbs brings jazz expertise to SP, by J.B. Wogan
Www.jazzhouse.org/files/monroe1.php3, "Carl Grubbs' Group Reigns at the Castle", by Steve Monroe, May, 2002
Baltimore Magazine, March 2002, Monthly Mix, by Donna M. Owens

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