Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Tafataona, Olujimi Andalwyse (Gordon Christopher James)

Tafataona, Olujimi Andalwyse [Gordon Christopher James], saxophonist, flautist, clarinetist, composer, arranger; b. Stuttgart, AR, 26 September 1958. He was born to Artus L. James Senior and Margarette James. His family moved to Phoenix, Arizona when he was young. At the age of six he went back to Arkansas to live with his maternal grandmother. He experienced the culture of the black church from birth. Both of his paternal grandparents were preachers in the sanctified church. His maternal grandmother was a Baptist, and his mother was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as was his maternal great-grandmother. This cross section of Black religious culture as well as his experience of the Black culture of the American south would have a profound effect and influence on his life.

At the age of 10 his family moved north to Detroit, Michigan. Olujimi was profoundly affected by the music of his youth. The music of the Stax record label and the blues were early influences, as well as the Latino music heard in the Arizona region. His mother was for a short time a professional pianist and organist primarily in the gospel field. She played for churches, weddings, and was well versed in the classics having studied formally for many years as a young girl. Both of his parents were avid followers of the big bands. The music played in the family house hold ran the gamut from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Jordan (incidentally, Mr. Jordans' Father was Olujimi's father's scoutmaster; both were from Brinkley, Arkansas.), Ella Fitzgerald, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Little Milton, Booker T. and the M.G.'s, to the Temptations, The Supremes, Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and the Philadelphia Philharmonic. His Dad was a huge fan of Johnny Hodges and Yusef Lateef. These would prove to be huge influences on young Olujimi. It was however another saxophonist and family favorite that would spark the drive in Olujimi to play the saxophone. The man was Jr. Walker and his all-stars.

At the age of 12 Olujimi received his first saxophone, a Martin tenor. His parents couldn't afford music lessons for him, so Olujimi taught himself to play by reading books. He went to Grinnell's music store in downtown Detroit and his father purchased him a saxophone note speller with the fingering chart for the instrument in the book. He then went to the public library where he studied the A.B.C.'s of music and learned his clefs and note values. He entered the 9th grade in the fall of 1972 at Condon Jr. High in Detroit. He studied band under the tutelage of Michael Caine. After the 9th grade he transferred to Northwestern high school where he studied for one more year and graduated in 1976. He attended Henry Ford Community College for 2 years studying music theory, piano, improvisation and instrumental techniques. Olujimi turned professional at the age of 12 and has been a professional musician ever since.

His most notable affiliations have been with the late bassist Ali Muhummad (Alto sax, 1982-1987), The Marcus Belgrave Big Band (Alto sax, 1983) , and Dr. Teddy Harris Jr.'s New Breed Bebop Society Orchestra (Tenor Sax, 1987-1990) (Appeared in 3 Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festivals, 1987, 88, 89).

Since 1993, he has been a member of the co-op band " In The Tradition " along with Robert Allen, Charles Hopkins, Brandon Parker, and Wayne Wardlow.

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