Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr.
The display of love for bassist/producer Maurice Houston recently at the
Checkerboard Lounge was phenomenal and heartfelt. Maurice, longtime sideman and musical producer has recently experienced a multitude of tragedies within his personal life and fellow musicians came out in mass to show their support and gratitude for one not known by everyone present, but respected by all who know him.
The Musicians Network MECCA (MNM) sponsored this benefit, and the Checkerboard Lounge was packed with musicians and fans alike. MMN member and vocalist Joan Collaso coordinated this event and served as a gracious
hostess for the evening.
During the four-plus hours of music, artists lined up to express their love for Maurice. Vocalist Maggie Brown aptly expressed the theme of the night with her rendition of "Earth Wind and Fire's "It's All About Love." She was backed by Collaso, Yvonne Gage and Shawn Christopher with the initial band of keyboardist Larry Hanks, drummer Vern Allison, bassist Michael Sterling, guitarists Keith Henderson and Curtis Robinson and percussionist Tony "Toca" Carpenter. Saxophonist James Perkins made a cameo appearance on this number.
Hostess Collaso kept the proceedings moving all night long, as musicians
patiently awaited their opportunity to pay tribute to Maurice. Bassist Chuck
Webb and his wife, vocalist Margaret Murphy, gave a sterling version of "All
Blues." This was followed by keyboardist/vocalist Carmen Stokes and drummer
Ernie Adams on "Heard It Through The Grapevine." They then wowed the audience
with "A Day In The Life Of A Fool."
Blues vocalist JT sang "Baby Can I Change My Mind," followed by selections from Shawn Christopher, and Parris Robinson before Chicago's premier jazz vocalist Dee Alexander "brought the house down" with "I Put A Spell On You." Pianist Miguel de la Cerna and drummer Ernie Adams accompanied Dee, as James Perkins made another cameo sax appearance.
A couple of Maurice's Waukegan/North Chicago colleagues performed next. Blues
man Lonnie Givins sang "Turn Back The Hands Of Time," and vocalist Mauree did
honors on "Loving You." Mauree has been one of Maurice's most faithful
supporters and recently spearheaded a similar benefit in North Chicago.
Others performing included vocalist Sammotta Acklin, keyboardist Bethany Pickens, vocalists Yohan Sebastian and Ed Collins. Another Waukegan native, Reggie Hughes rendered an exceptional version of Luther Vandross's "Bad Boy" as this listener was preparing to exit close to 12:30am.
Although Maurice has been physically limited in recent months to perform, on
this occasion, the spirit led him to sit in on a few numbers playing lead
guitar and drums in addition to his customary bass.
What an evening!!!! Again, kudos to MNM in general and Joan Collaso in
particular for their gallant endeavor of coordinating this worthy benefit. Let's hope and pray that Maurice will regain his health to allow him the opportunity to do what he loves most............... playing his funky bass and producing music for others.... Hang in there Maurice. May God bless you!!!!!