In the age of recording studio trickery, where the bulk of pop’s biggest hits are paint-by-number ruminations on heartbreak and a myriad of other topics, there is something refreshingly real about Naturally 7.
Using nothing but their voices, Naturally 7 replicates the sound of a full band on stage, including everything from drums to a horn section and guitars.
Comprised of Roger Thomas (musical director, arranger, 1st Baritone, Rap), Warren Thomas (percussion, guitar, clarinet, 3rd tenor), Rod Eldridge (1st tenor, scratching, trumpet), Ricky Cort (4th Tenor, guitar), Dwight Stewart (2nd baritone, vocals, trumpet), Garfield Buckley (2nd Tenor, Harmonica) and “Kelz” Mitchell (Bass), Naturally 7 bring their voices and world-class show to Casino New Brunswick on Saturday evening.
The roots of Naturally 7 date back to the early 90’s in New York City, headed by siblings Roger and Warren Thomas.
“Roger and myself, along with a bunch of friends from our old neighbourhood in New York, all sang in different ensembles as we were growing up,” Warren says. “There was a rich history of acapella music between us, which we knew would always play an important part in the group.”
Warren says the idea to have their voices be the instruments stemmed from his childhood. He initially pushed his parents to buy him a drum set, however, they were reluctant to indulge the budding musician, which ultimately forced him to improvise the sounds of the instrument instead.
To his surprise and delight, it became something that he grew to be rather good at doing.
“Coming up in New York City with beat boxers like Doug E. Fresh was extremely inspirational. In school or on the block, there was always someone rapping, and they needed a beat to go along with it, which I was happy to provide.”
Warren notes that while the music of the church played a key role in their collective upbringing, hip-hop and other genres of music began working their way into the music they were making as well.
“The music of the church was extremely important, however, the music we were making always had a bit of a hip-hop edge to it because that is what we were hearing in the streets. We began bringing these different genres of music together, and found we had tapped into something that appealed to each of us. We wanted to be something more than a doo wop kind of group.”
Before long, Naturally 7 began making a name for themselves. The septet was invited to perform at a major acapella competition in New York City, which they dominated, before moving onto the national stage where they brought home two more wins.
In the dizzying years that would follow, Naturally 7 would release more than a half dozen albums in addition to performing a staggering three world tours as the special guests of Michael Buble.
The group has collaborated with Brian Eno and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, while also earning the praise of legendary producer Quincy Jones.
Warren says the experience of meeting and receiving accolades from Jones, the man behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller and dozens of other records, was especially memorable for the band.
“We had been invited to perform at Quincy’s 76th birthday celebration with Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock. He heard us sing and just couldn’t contain himself. Quincy went so far to say we were the future of music, which, coming from him, is unbelievable.”
Also unbelievable, he adds, is the how far Naturally 7 have come in the last 24 years. Had you told Warren when the group formed in the early 90’s that over the course of the proceeding two decades that he would be given the opportunity to perform in virtually all corners of the world, earning respect from some of music’s biggest names, and rack up a couple of Billboard Top Ten Smooth Jazz hits, chances are very good he might not have believed you.
Asked why he feels Naturally 7 have connected with audiences in such a straightforward manner over the course of their career, Warren chalks it up to the public’s desire of enjoying music that is unencumbered by big production techniques.
“Hearing voices sing in unison is something that touches people deep down. It really instills a warm feeling in your heart. No matter what language you speak, music brings us all together.”
What: Naturally 7
When: Saturday May 14, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $19.99 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at www.casinonb.ca.