Considered by some Hip-Hoppers to be the great grandfather of Hip-Hop, because of the confrontational quality of his musical film work, Ed Bland has left his mark in several fields.
In concert music, Bland’s “Piece For Chamber Orchestra” (1979) was called, “An amazing tour de force in terms of relentless energy and build up of tension…a fascinating strong piece,” by Gunther Schuller, American composer/conductor/author; and “Original and Fresh,” by Bruce Creditor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Among the groups that have performed Bland’s works are the Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, and St Louis Symphonies, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
In the late 30s in Chicago, Bland began music as a jazz protégé eventually composing atonally, using Schoenberg’s 12-tone system.
In 1959, he produced the first Hip-Hop film, “The Cry of Jazz.” Willard Van Dyke pre-eminent American film documentarian (and head of the Film Division of the Museum of Modern Art NYC), said that the “Cry” predicted the riots in the American cities of the ’60s and ’70s. Bland used the early music of Sun Ra and his Arkestra in the soundtrack of the film.
Bland’s synthesis of three canons of music, Western, Jazz and West African Drumming, made it possible for him to work as composer, producer, arranger, orchestrator in the recording, and film industries. Among those sessions was o ne using Jimi Hendrix in his early days.
In the ’90s, after years composing, arranging and producing in the record industry, many of Bland’s efforts were sampled by Hip-Hop artists that led to sales in excess of 30 million CDs. Fat Boy Slim and Cypress Hill are artists that sampled his works.
After 20 years in Los Angeles composing and orchestrating for film and TV, Bland now lives in Smithfield, VA, where he is finishing a percussion Dance Suite entitled “Penderecki Funk.”