This summer has been good to the local r&b/funk music scene. We have seen several acts prominently featured at many local events. We have also seen one of our own get picked up by a major national tour. They give a sense of validation to a scene which for many years, struggled to gain mainstream acceptance locally. Now that the veil has been lifted, so to speak, we find that it is a scene with a rich history of producing great professional musicians. Just look up people like Grover Washington, Jr., or Rick James, you’ll find a bunch of Buffalo kids who have gone on to do some great work nationally or even internationally.
A new generation of local r&b players have been blossoming for a few years now, and among them is drummer Daniel Powell. I first met Daniel when he was a young man of about 21 or 22 years of age. He was very raw back then, and kind of goofy, more like a teenager, than a 20 something. That sounds right on schedule. But when he played those drums, and was allowed to let loose, he sounded like a professional, and looked like a true showman.
Daniel started playing drums at Soul Saving Revival Center in Buffalo at the age of 2. He played primarily in the church for most of his young life. His mom, Olivia Brown is a vocalist, and nurtured the love of performance in him. “We used to play in different churches. My mom would sing, and I would play the drums.” He says. Both parents were influential. His dad, Ambrose Powell is also a drummer and continues to play today.
At 14, Daniel participated in the Guitar Center Drum Off, and is a 3 time winner. The subsequent years had Daniel on the drums with premier local acts, with groups like The Unity Band, and filling in with notables such as After 7. He hooked up with Will Holton, and was a part of his group, which allowed him to open for Keyshia Cole, Reuben Studdard, Stanley Jordan and others.
His relationship with Holton led him to acclaimed saxophonist Najee. In 2011, Najee took Daniel and a couple of other local guys on the road where they blossomed as ‘real’ touring professionals. Daniel continues to travel with Najee, and is now the musical director for the group.
He has grown into the role of a professional touring musician, who understands the business, and the ingredients needed to put on a great show. Through Najee, Daniel has been able to build other relationships with the likes of James Lloyd from Pieces of a dream, Alex Bugnon, Gary Taylor, Melissa Morgan, and Tamia.
Daniel also stays close to his roots, having performed with Gospel acts Kim Burrell, Aexis Spight, and D Mott.
He also has credits on Najee’s release, “You, Me, and Forever”, notably the track “Air”, which he has co writing and co producing credits.
Daniel has become the elder statesman of sorts for his generation. A polished professional, and incredibly talented drummer who turns 30 this weekend, and wants to help the next generation succeed. When he’s not on the road, he performs locally, and most recently, started playing with young guitar prodigy Hayden Fogle. “I want to do something special with him.” He says about Hayden. “I love his mom and dad. He’s hungry, and I want to share my experiences with him.”
Daniel is having his birthday party this Saturday at Oakk Room (formerly Birchfields). There will be 7 groups performing, a who’s who of the local scene, including The Unity Band, JFT, Vinnie DeRosa and Vitamin D, Kyle McKenzie, his own group The Triiinity, Will Holton, Hayden Fogle, and The All Star band. $10 at the door.
He lives by his motto, “Always striving for the best, never settling for less.”
He has endorsements with TRX Cymbals, Regal Tip drum sticks, and clothing line called Self Employed.