MANDRILL came “outta da bush” five decades ago, pushing the musical envelope with a hard-driving combination of heavy horns and percussion deftly layered in a complex mix of Funk, Jazz, Latin, R&B, Rock and Afro-Caribbean sounds, pioneering the genre known as “World Music.” This cultural “mash-up” is a staple of the industry today but, because of their innovative work, MANDRILL commands enthusiastic adoration from supporters around the world who the “Mandrill Experience touched.”
Mandrill was formed in Brooklyn, New York City, in 1968. The original band included three brothers: Carlos Wilson (trombone, percussion, vocals), Lou Wilson (1941-2013) (trumpet, percussion, vocals), and Ric Wilson (sax, percussion, vocals). The Wilson brothers were born in Panama and grew up in the Bedford–Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. The brothers played music together from childhood but also led diverse lives. Mandrill’s long-standing founder, member, and Harvard College grad, Doctor Ricardo Wilson (known as “Doc Ric”), coupled his musical career with Cardiology and Internal Medicine Specialist. Following his service as a Vietnam vet, Carlos Wilson was also one of the co-founders of Mandrill, bringing his Mannes School of Music writing and arranging skills to the group.
Other original band members included Claude “Coffee” Cave II (keyboards, percussion, vocals); Bundy Cenac (bass guitar) on the band’s eponymous first album, replaced by Fudgie Kae Solomon (bass, vocals) in 1972; Charles Padro (drums, percussion, vocals) for two albums, replaced by Neftali Santiago (drums, percussion, vocals) in 1973; and Omar Mesa (guitar, vocals), replaced by Doug Rodriguez (lead guitar, vocals) in 1974. This completed the Mandrill lineup for the Polydor years 1970–1975. A fourth brother, Wilfredo “Wolf” Wilson (bass guitar, percussion, vocals), joined the group in 1975. Other members of the band in later years included Juaquin Jessup (lead guitar), Tommy Trujillo (lead guitar), Andre “Mouth Man” Locke (drums), Brian Allsop (bass), and Eddie Summers (drums, vocals).
The current Mandrill lineup includes the brothers Carlos Wilson, Ric Wilson, and Wilfredo Wilson, along with Mark Rey (lead guitar), Stacy Lamont Sydnor (drums), Derrick “Dock” Murdock (bass guitar), Eli Brueggemann (keyboards, synthesizer), and Keith Barry (viola, saxophone, flute). The current members all participated in the recording of Mandrill’s new studio album, Back In Town. This album is dedicated to Lou Wilson, who contributed to every song, including “Black Wings,” which he solely performed.
The latest album features unique collaborations and contributions from Roy Ayers, Ron Carter, Kamasi Washington, Dwight Trible, Jesse Flores, Gerald Albright, Lisa Haley, The Curtis Brothers (Luques and Zaccai), The Wright Family (Chad Wright, Chae Wright, and Noriko Olling Wright), Joaquin Jessup, Einstein Brown, Cal Bennet, Dr. Emmanuel Officer, and Claude “Coffee” Cave.
Over the years, Mandrill was fortunate to share the stage with Deep Purple, Leon Russell, Ike & Tina Turner, and The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, playing to sold-out arenas across the United States. Mandrill was a special guest to the great Duke Ellington at New York City’s Philharmonic Hall two years before his death. The band was also a special guest to Miles Davis at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West in San Francisco. Subsequently, Mandrill went on to headline shows featuring the likes of The Commodores, Earth Wind and Fire, WAR, George Clinton and the Funkadelics, Patti LaBelle, The Fania All-Stars, and many others. They headlined Bill Washington’s historic Dimension Unlimited Freedom Festival (DUFF) at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C., which eclipsed the attendance record previously set by The Rolling Stones.
Mandrill is one of the most sampled groups today; a new generation of younger fans appreciate the power and artistry of this band. Their distinctive sound is found in Eminem‘s “On Fire” (from his Grammy Award-winning album Recovery), Kanye West‘s “Two Words” (from his Grammy Award-winning album College Dropout), Snoop Dog‘s “Cold Game,” Brandy‘s “Talk About Our Love,” Black-Eyed Peas’ “Weekend,” Wyclef Jean‘s “You Say Keep It, Gangsta,” Tweet and Missy Elliott‘s “We Don’t Need No Water,” Floetry‘s “Have Faith,” Nas’ “U Gotta Love It,” Shawty Lo‘s “Dey Know,” KRS One‘s “For Example,” Kindred‘s “If I,” Public Enemy‘s “By the Time I Get To Arizona” (dubbed ‘Hip Hop’s Anthem’), and many more.
Mandrill’s musical and lyrical message is positive, uplifting, and purposely brings people of all races, genders, and ages together. “Peace, Love, and Justice is our mantra,” said the founding Wilson Brothers. “It’s always an agenda for healing.” To that end, they have performed extensively throughout the world.
Back In Town represents Mandrill’s twentieth album release, in a career that spans over 50 years of music.
LIMITED EDITION INCLUDES: Back in Town double vinyl LP: Hardcover Coffee Table Book featuring photographic memorabilia spanning 50 years; Special Edition Back in Town CD: Back in Town Full Digital Download Card. SHIPS DECEMBER, 2021
Bands come and go. This band, Mandrill, with 50 years under their belt has never lost its cutting edge Funkiness, R&B, Rock, Latin, & Jazz vibes.