Pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs left us on April 7. We’re remembering him with an archival episode of The Checkout.
In our obituary for Gumbs, WBGO’s Nate Chinen describes him as “a pianist-composer whose firm foundation in hard bop supported an expansive career in pop-R&B and smooth jazz.”
Chinen adds: “It hardly seems a coincidence that his chosen moniker — Onaje, which he found in a book of African names compiled by Amiri Baraka — means ‘the sensitive one, owner of the feeling.’”
In this conversation — conducted by Josh Jackson, the original host of The Checkout — Gumbs’ soft tone is on display. At the time, he was celebrating the release of Bloodlife: Solo Improvisations Based on the Melodies of Ronald Shannon Jackson. That fascinating project, which he had originally recorded in 1985, features Gumbs at the peak of his sensitive piano powers.