- ...Never formally trained, Jubu and Eric learned to play in their father's gospel group. Jubu first began noodling on the guitar at age four while sitting in his father's living room, and learned to play through changes by joining the band at Free Gift Missionary Baptist Church in East Oakland. Eric started on drums at age five and played his dad's bass on the side. After their parents separated, Eric and Jubu shuttled between their mother's house on Seminary Avenue in East Oakland, and their father's pad on 8th and Union streets in West Oakland. They attended Lowell Junior High School, which, Jubu says, comprised a 400-student, 90 percent black demographic. They jammed out with current members (or affiliates) of Legally Blynd. They performed on a kids' TV show called Just Kidding. To a great extent, their social lives revolved around music.
Then, in 1984, Jubu matriculated in big, multi-culti, metropolitan Berkeley High School — where you had to make an impression quickly, or risk being a nobody. At that time Joshua Redman and Dave Ellis held court in the jazz band, the courtyards reeked of marijuana, and black students were in the minority. On the first day of ninth grade Jubu went out into the courtyard, found a white guy playing guitar, and asked if he could try a song or two. "He was like, 'Can you play it?' He handed me the guitar, right? So I started playing, and he was like, 'Duuuuude! Dude, that's fuckin jammin!'" From then on he went to the courtyard every day, and would always hear people whispering when he passed: "Dude, that's that black guy who plays the hell out of the guitar.
Jubu started cutting classes regularly, preferring to hang out in the band room and practice. He graduated by the skin of his teeth and managed to snag a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music, but passed it up because he'd already been recruited to tour with Oakland soul group Toni Tony Toné. By then Eric had already hooked up with Sheila E. It was a wrap.
From there, Jubu began to really consolidate his career. In 1998 he got a call to audition for Whitney Houston's band. That year he was also enlisted to perform with Frankie Beverly. The guitarist would eventually write songs for Luther Vandross, Kenny Lattimore, Alicia Keys, Boyz II Men, Mary J. Blige, Mary Mary, Toni Braxton, and Tweet. He wrote Mario's "Just a Friend," the peppy 2002 hit based on a sample from Freddie Scott's 1968 song "You Got What I Need" (later reinterpreted by Biz Markie in the 1987 rap single "Just a Friend"). For that song, Jubu took a melodic, major-key R&B hook and gave it a really elegant guitar part, and with it, helped turn then-teenage Mario into a major star. By then both Jubu and Eric — who spent the '90s touring with Faith Evans, Destiny's Child, 112, Tevin Campbell, and TLC — had become the ultimate men behind the scenes.
At this point, Jubu composes and arranges all the songs in Legally Blynd's repertoire. As a rock balladeer, he's prodigiously talented. Jubu has a natural sense of how to shore up the drama in lyrics about falling in love, being jilted, and running back anyway. His tunes often start with an interesting melodic idea that he'll advance throughout the song, usually opening with a guitar head, then adding horn and keyboard parts to create a natural rise. Audience favorites like "Why Break Mine" — which features a bridge by R&B singer Ledisi — and "My Sunshine" — in which he has the bluesy cadence of Sam Cooke — use classic soul forms that hark back to the '60s and '70s, along with vocal harmonies that betray Jubu's gospel roots. He often composes on the fly, and says his best material usually comes in a quick burst of inspiration. His folksy tune "Call It a Life" took about fifteen minutes.
Pop singers still clamor to buy Jubu's Legally Blynd material, but the singer always demurs. To him, the band is a labor of love. Offstage, Jubu keeps a low profile. He likes bowling and Play Station 3, and has Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter II bumping in his CD player. The band rehearses in an East Oakland warehouse studio with paint peeling off the walls and $1 cans of Budweiser in the soda machine. Among fans, he's considered to be the baddest R&B guitarist in the world — people even wave "I Love Jubu" signs at Frankie Beverly shows these days. But the cult of adoration hasn't gone to Jubu's head, yet, and if you ask for the guitarist's CV, he'll refer you to Google.
written by Rachel Swan for www.eastbayexpress.com
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