MUSIC - Cedric C. Givens - composer and multi-instrumentalist

Parliament Funkadelic and the Ohio Players. “Those teen years were a mystical, magical and musically fun time; I also picked up guitar around that time.”  This is when he learned how to groove and play as a unit he recalls. "Playing well was not a big deal; all the guys in the circle were great players". All the guys I jammed with loved music and strived to get better. During these jam sessions people in the neighborhood brought their chairs to the house to sit and "dig the music". In hindsight the guys never really understood what musical prodigies they were. “We all pretty much stayed in this mode throughout high school playing with each other and other bands around town.”

After graduating from high school, Cedric attended college at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL where he obtained a degree in Business. His college years were markedly different musically because he was not immersed in the music culture. While not actively playing in a band, he honed guitar skills and began and to write songs. Periodically he would play guitar with his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers for campus events. In fact, no one even knew that he played drums although that was his primary instrument of choice.  Cedric said he wrote a number of the songs that would end up on future recordings with the bands Nemesis Bleu & N-Groove while in college.

Out of college, Cedric returned to St. Petersburg. As chance or fate would have it, Cedric crossed paths with guitarist Roberto Tyson. They had not seen each other since they played together on weekends during their "garage band" days. The two talked and connected again musically. They agreed to write songs together and embarked on putting their first recording project together. During this period Cedric taught himself piano out of necessity. The piano became the foundation for much of his songwriting and he performs much of the background keyboard work on his recordings to this day.

Nemesis Bleu was the band that Cedric & Roberto formed. The other musical collaborators in the band were Vernon and Derrick Burrell (the Burrell Brothers) and vocalist Marcy Hamilton. Through this association, the musical vibe was heightened as band began to work together on what would become the Imagination CD. This project was Cedric’s introduction to music production. Cedric said that this phase became a time of "mutual mentoring" on the part of he and Vernon as they worked through the processes needed to see their joint venture come to life.  Cedric said the band creatively worked like two different groups because each faction brought their own songs to the project. It was great from a learning standpoint but it would eventually lead to the bands demise.

Imagination was released and received critical acclaim but the group soon disbanded due to creative differences. The silver lining in the saga was that several key relationships were born from the imagination project that further advanced Cedric’s development as an artist and producer. One was Cedric’s relationship with Gumbi Ortiz who is guitar legend Al DiMeola’s long time percussionist and the other was George Davis who is best known as a songwriter for the song “Tell it like it is.” Gumbi played percussion on the Imagination CD, “He really liked my stuff and always encouraged me to produce and release my own music independently”. It was a huge confidence builder coming from someone of his stature. George Davis mentored Cedric on the business side of the industry. The two met while doing some work on independent film project. “George really taught me the value of building a catalog and maintaining the rights to your works” he recalls. In both cases the gentlemen fostered a number of industry relationships that expanded Cedric’s network of contacts significantly.

After the Nemesis Bleu Imagination project had run its course Cedric went on hiatus for a few years. “I wore too many hats and burned out on the business altogether”. He relocated to the Washington, D.C. area and really didn’t do anything musically for a while.

Cedric got the spark again after having an opportunity to sit in on stage with musical giant George Duke. “That experience was catalyst for me to get back in the game because of the admiration I had for him as an artist. That experience was a blast. I felt I needed to go create my own legacy with my music.”  He reached out again to his old friend Roberto Tyson to collaborate with him on the new project. Roberto relocated to D.C. and they began developing new material for what would become the “It’s who we are” CD.

A new element was introduced into the writing with Senegalese bassist Cheikh Ndoye whom Roberto had met at a jazz band competition. “Cheikh and I became great friends as well as collaborators, we really respected each other’s musical ideas”, Cedric recalls. Cedric rebranded this next musical incarnation as the group N-Groove. This time all of the writing stayed within the nucleus of the trio. A cast of outstanding sidemen such as Al Williams III and Benito Gonzales were brought in to bring the musical concepts to life. Cedric produced, performed on and engineered the project. The project was released to rave reviews, radio airplay and garnered Grammy consideration. A couple of the songs from the It’s Who We Are CD went on to be featured in the independent films Painted Smiles and Clean Mic: Laughing until it hurts.

Cedric is currently working on the next N-Groove CD where he revisits his R&B and Funk roots. “I’m really excited about the writing this go around. I want the messages on this release to be timely and relevant. I want the music to be organic. I want the grooves to be heartfelt”.