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The sax man: Charlotte jam sessions with Harvey Cummings
From teaching to playing gigs, musician is busy
Published Thursday, September 13, 2018 2:12 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Harvey Cummings II’s love story with music began at age 3 when Charlotte’s jazz juggernaut found his passion at home.

“My once upon a time starts at home with my mother [Joan],” Cummings said. “She was actually a music minor in college. She played piano. She played for the church, and there was a piano in our house. I was about 3 years old when I was starting to grasp it really, really well.”

Cummings began taking lessons shortly after, receiving his first keyboard at age 7.

“I was programing and making stuff,” he said.

Shortly after, Cummings began playing the saxo

phone at Chantilly Performing Arts School.

“I started playing saxophone, because I thought it would get me girls—like real talk,” he said, laughing. “I was in fourth grade.”

Decades later, Cummings considers it an extension of himself.

“I trust it,” Cummings said. “I love it. It’s a powerful instrument. You can articulate differently. You can take it different places. It’s just an extension of my voice.”

Since his days at Northwest School of the Arts, North Carolina Central University, East Carolina University and UNC Charlotte, Cummings was a music teacher at Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools like Kennedy Middle, becoming a cornerstone of Charlotte’s music scene.

“Harvey is everywhere in the city,” said OnQ Productions founder Quentin Talley. “He is one of the busiest people I know in the city doing music. His style is mostly jazz—a nice mix between jazz and hip hop. His EP ‘Chicken Day’ came out in 2017, and has done really well.”

Chicken Day stems from his days at NCCU.

“’Chicken Day’ was an actual day at Central,” Cummings said. “It was a Wednesday, and they would serve fried chicken, but it wasn’t your typical day. The DJ was out there. The Greeks were stepping. The band would play. It was a line to get in. It was a cultural event. I would miss class for chicken day, and then I learned that other HBCUs had chicken day as well. That’s when I decided to name the project after that.”

The Harvey Cummings Project—his band—has a full fall schedule from North End to South End. Camp North End’s fall jazz series, THRIVE, launches on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. It is schedule to continue every third Thursday through November, and admission is $3.

“It’s going to be good vibes, good people, good music,” Cummings said. “THRIVE is all about continuing the legacy of what Charlotte is—a great music city.”

South End’s jazz series takes place at Not Just Coffee in Atherton Mill. It arose in response to a need for jam sessions throughout the city—not just in Uptown.

“You can check us out in different places, and at the Imperial on Fridays and Saturdays in Uptown,” Cummings said. “The South End jazz series is something that Tim Scott Jr. [Center City Partners artist-in-residence] put together. It happens every last Thursday of the month.”

Said Scott: “There was a need for a place for young musicians to kind of flex and grow and build off each other and learn from each other. The jam session tradition is something that goes all the way back to the early 1950s. There used to be designated places here in Charlotte.”


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