|Photo courtesy of the artist|
Prince's 2004 "Musicology" video works on multiple emotional levels. When you see the young boy purchase a 45 record and play along with the song in his bedroom, you imagine a young Prince doing the same thing in his Minneapolis home. You also think of future generations completing the same ritual with Prince's music (though they might be watching YouTube videos).
Saxophone player Adrian Crutchfield followed the pattern, though he was a teenager when the Musicology album was released.
"[He made me] see it as cool to wear a suit and tie," Crutchfield said. "The whole swagger of that record was on another level to me than everything else I'd heard at the time."
Less than a decade later in 2012, Crutchfield began working with Prince, eventually playing onstage, sweating out suits and wearing out the soles of his dress shoes.
"[We were] going to rehearsals for eight or more hours a day, and doing this in our full dress clothes," Crutchfield said. "Every night we'd leave rehearsal, and then the next day, before we went into rehearsal, we'd drop our stuff off at the cleaners. And by the time that stuff was clean, the rest of the stuff was worn out."
Though he was a demanding bandleader, Prince held himself to the same standards. "You've got to imagine all of the wear and tear he's done on his body over the years," Crutchfield said. "He would come in and do the stuff with us and have it down."
Crutchfield also recalled a time in rehearsal when Prince noticed Crutchfield was playing a B flat instead of a B.
"Now there are 11 horns on stage," Crutchfield said. "How did he know that one note was off? And how did he know it was me? He was in tune and he knew his stuff."
In Crutchfield's eyes, Prince was not only a musical mentor, but a spiritual role model. "He led by example, and he made you admire him so that you'd want to follow in his footsteps," he said.
Crutchfield gave his opinion on the different spiritual phases Prince passed through, the songs that seemed to have a spiritual vibe (Crutchfield played on Art Official Age and Hitnrun Phase Two) and the spiritual moments live onstage. (More on that in the book, of course.)
We spent a lot of time talking about Black is the New Black, the last studio album Prince recorded before the 2016 Piano & A Microphone Tour. Bassist MonoNeon and drummer Kirk Johnson were also part of the sessions.
"[Prince] was very excited and very motivated," Crutchfield said of the unreleased project, which he labeled jazz fusion. "I don't know what lit the fire, but he was on a path to be basically an activist."
Before Prince died, he supported myriad social causes, raising money for Black Lives Matter and collaborating with news commentator Van Jones on #YesWeCode to educate urban youth. And, according to Donatella Versace, Prince said he wanted to be "the face of Black Lives Matter."
Crutchfield said Black is the New Black is also a commentary on other communities adopting black American culture after viewing it as undesirable for so long.
"When we were listening back to the record, it was undeniable that this was going to be a very conscious thing, but also a very big shake to the industry because it wasn't pop," he said. "The first [person] that I thought would have eventually jumped on it was Kendrick [Lamar]. ... And I'm sure Kendrick probably heard some of it."
Now that the Prince Estate has rolled out a stream of reissues (A three-disc bundle, Ultimate Rave, is due out April 26), I do hope they'll get around to new material soon. Tidal is also set to put out a new and unreleased Prince album this year. Could it be Black is the New Black?
If and when the album is released, I think it would definitely excite consumers.
"I just really want people to hear it," Crutchfield said.
But we can take solace in all of the released content people have yet to discover.
"There's gonna be some kid that's 6 or 7 years old ... and that person is going to carry on the spirit of Prince," Crutchfield said. "That's what makes Prince immortal, which is dope to me."
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