Afro-Latin beat to flavor Peter Frampton concert

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Frampton and his band will perform March 24 at Cordiner Hall on the Whitman College campus in Walla Walla.

WALLA WALLA - Rock 'n' roll may owe its life to the blues, but the blues owes its life to the Afro-Latin beats that grew out of the slave sugar industry.

So when Peter Frampton performs at Cordiner Hall on March 24, don't be surprised if you get the urge to move to a funky Latin beat played by bassist Stanley Sheldon.

"I think I do have what we call a device of anticipation," Sheldon said, using terminology that would make sense to a student of Latin rhythms.

"I do it at a subconscious level. It is not that I am trying to play Latin. It is just who I am," he added.

A renowned bass player who is best known for his work with Frampton, including contributing to Frampton's 2007 Grammy winning instrumental album "Fingerprints," Sheldon is also a well-studied musician who dedicated most of the 1990s to Latin American studies at the University of Kansas, and that included studying Afro-Cuban music in Caribbean.

But it was a generation earlier that he got hooked to that "device of anticipation," when Motown was sweeping the nation with its fresh new sounds.

The bass player who was on the cutting edge of dozens of Motown's No. 1 hits was an African-American known as James Jamerson.

"He had this Afro-Cuban sound and I didn't know what it was. All I know is I just loved it," Sheldon said.

Fast forward about a dozen years, and Sheldon would find himself playing with greats such as his close friend Tommy Bolin in the early 1970s, and finishing the latter half of the decade with Frampton, but usually trying to play beats like Jamerson or other rock icons such as Bo Diddley.

"That is a great example, Bo Diddley. That ba-bop bop bop bop. One-two-three-one-two. That clave rhythm," Sheldon half-said and half-sang during a phone interview from Philadelphia, where he, Frampton and the rest of the band had just finished a concert in Upper Darby, Pa.

The well-versed musician began a conversation on the funky rock sounds that were popularized in the 1970s, and he elaborated on how they originated from the African slaves who worked on the sugar plantation.

"What we called ‘funk' was really based in that Afro beat," Sheldon said.

An easy song for listeners to key in on that connection comes from "Frampton Comes Alive" - "Doobie Wah."

If you don't have the album anymore, don't worry.

When the Walla Walla Frampton Comes Alive! 35th Anniversary Tour takes place next month, the audience will get to hear every song that was on the original double album that set the bar for live rock recordings in the 1970s.

Released in January 1976, the album would hold the top spot for 10 weeks and was the best-selling album of that year, selling more than six million copies in the United States.

"We keep it pretty close to the (original) arrangements. There are subtle differences since we have grown older," Sheldon said.

The entire show is about three hours and includes large backdrop screens that display historical images from Frampton's youth, perhaps even a few from where "Frampton Comes Alive" started, at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco in 1975.

Sheldon, who had joined the band a couple of months earlier, said Frampton had been touring as an opening act for about two years.

The Winterland was top billing for Frampton, which only added to the band's energy for the night.

"You got all those things going. And for me, I didn't know we were recording. So I was really relaxed. It was one of those nights where bands say, ‘Man I wish we would have a recording of that night,'" Sheldon said.

Today, ironically, every concert on the anniversary tour is being recorded.

In an age when music is easily uploaded and shared online without royalties to the performer, recording artists have had to rely on performances to earn a living.

Many performers, including Frampton, are now offering fans the chance to purchase a professional recording of each and every concert, as long as there are no snafus to the recording.

With so many live recordings already under his belt for the current tour, Sheldon said he and the other band members hardly even remember that it's all being recorded.

"We don't really think about it too much. We have done 100-plus shows for ‘Frampton Comes Alive' night after night, and we really aren't thinking about it ... it is just second nature for them (band members) to forget it," Sheldon said.

So far, the tour concerts have all sold out, Sheldon said, with venues ranging around 2,000 to 4,000.

Promoters for the Walla Walla concert said they expect to sell out as well.

But don't worry, if you don't get a ticket, you can always buy a recording.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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