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Click below for a Mtume sample: 

Love Lock


A former jazz percussionist who ended up gaining recognition as a producer for Stephanie Mills, Phyllis Hyman, and his self-titled r&b band, James Mtume was representative of the career trajectory many jazzers took in the 70s as they responded to the reduced opportunities for sustained success by turning to r&b.


The son of the saxophone player Jimmy Heath, in the early 70s Mtume was a featured performer with the likes of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Sonny Rollins, in addition to having led a session for the seminal spiritual soul jazz label Strata East.

At some point during the mid 70s, he decided to turn his focus to soul music, and he formed a band with Reggie Lucas (guitar), Howard King (drums), Tawatha Agee (vocals), Basil Fearington (bass), and Hubert Eaves III (keys).  They began recording for Epic in 1978, and these early albums were highlighted by jazzy dancers like “Love Lock” and “Give It On Up.”  Mtume and Lucas also established themselves as dependable producers with their hits for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (“The Closer I Get To You”),  Phyllis Hyman (“You Know How To Love Me”), Sadane (“One Way Love Affair”), and Stephanie Mills (“Sweet Sensation,” “Never Knew Love Like This Before”). Lucas would go on to produce Madonna’s first album, and Eaves also worked with D-Train.

Mtume revamped the band’s lineup in 1983 to keyboardist Philip Field, guitarist Ed Moore, drummer Leslie Ming and bassist Raymond Jackson, retaining Tawatha as the singer. This lineup scored one of the most memorable jams of the decade with the sumptuous “Juicy Fruit” in 1983. Its slinky beat, icy keyboard riff and the memorable line “You can lick me everywhere” ensured the song would reach classic status, having been sampled and appropriated many times by rappers and modern r&b acts.


“Juicy Fruit” was the zenith of Mtume’s popularity, although they had other hits in “You, Me, and He” and “Breathless.”  After the group broke up, Mtume continued producing and scoring for television shows such as New York Undercover.

Mtume's Deepest Grooves

Alkebu-Lan : Land Of The Blacks (Strata East, 1972)

Kiss This World Goodbye (Epic, 1978)

In Search of the Rainbow Seekers (Epic, 1980)

Juicy Fruit (Epic, 1983)

You, Me and He (Epic, 1984)

Theater of the Mind (Epic, 1986)

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