Revive Music is invading Berklee College of Music starting today through December 4th. We’ve got a special concert everyday starting tonight with Berklee alumnus Igmar Thomas‘ performance at Wally’s Jazz Café, the Revive Big Band’s concert at Café 939 tomorrow, and Thursday’s very special Vulnerable: A Marvin Gaye Tribute. The tribute to Marvin Gaye highlights a presentation of his Vulnerable project, an album released posthumously featuring the late singer performing selections from The Great American Songbook. We spoke with with multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Miguel Atwood-Ferguson who will be performing on Thursday alongside BilalAloe Blacc, Chris Turner as well as the Berklee Neo Soul Ensemble and the Berklee Symphony Orchestra to get his thoughts on the concert as well as Vulnerable.

Interview: Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Opens Up About 'Vulnerable'


Revive: What can fans who are familiar with your work expect this Thursday?

Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: I’m not being as ferociously creative on this record because I don’t know any of the musicians that I’m working with besides the three special guests. Most of what I’ve done has been based on a Duke Ellington approach where I write for specific musicians and I haven’t met any of the musicians from the Berklee Symphony Orchestra. I know that the music’s going to sound amazing because I wrote the charts so clearly. The freshness is going to come from the music being so good and the intentions being so good. So there’s going to be that magic there but I’m not actually flipping the music as much I normally would because I don’t know the people who I’m working with.

R: What was it about Vulnerable that stood out to you versus Marvin’s other albums?

MAF: Meghan Stabile hipped me to Vulnerable two and a half years ago and we started talking about doing this concert. I was aware that Marvin was interested in being a balladeer. But this Vulnerable album is whole other level. Before Marvin really broke out and had a stream of hits, he had a few albums where a great deal of the repertoire was ballads as well as songs from the Great American Songbook. But they weren’t nearly as sophisticated, advanced and intimate as the Vulnerable album.

The arrangements that Bobby Scott did are highly personable. The arrangements are key to what make Vulnerable so special. They’re not just these wallpaper-esque, bland, vanilla sounding arrangements in the background. They’re really personable and there’s a sense of urgency and poignancy in the arrangements. Marvin said himself that this was his best work. This is different from anything that Marvin did and I say that it’s the pinnacle of Marvin’s artistry.

R: Did you manage to get charts in preparation for this concert or did you transcribe everything?

MAF: We hired a Berklee alumnus named Alvin Foster and he deserves a lot of credit. I’m going to be shouting him out at the concert and as many interviews as I can. He was hired to transcribe the bulk of the seven songs in Vulnerable.

R: Wow. That’s not an easy task.

MAF: It’s not an easy task. I’m really good at that kind of stuff but I’m not interested in doing it. I’m so overbooked that when I was asked to do this concert I requested that someone do all the transcribing. I knew that it was such a difficult task that I knew nobody was going to be able to do it perfectly. So I knew that I needed a couple of weeks to go through everything and fix it, which I had to do. I got the scores three weeks late and the last weeks I’ve been spending 20-hour days going through all the scores and fixing all the mistakes. There are just so many little things here and there that go into it.

They’re pretty close to perfect now and I’m pretty happy with the quality of where the scores are now. It was definitely a team effort but Alvin deserves a lot of credit. I’m augmenting the concert by adding three of my original arrangements, which I’m still finishing now. I probably won’t finish my third one until tomorrow. The Neo-Soul ensemble is going to open up the concert to do half an hour worth of music then I’m going to come on stage and the orchestra’s going to join me to do the Vulnerable album. Then we’re going to finish the concert for three other songs.

For more info about Vulnerable: A Marvin Gaye Tribute, click here. Purchase your copy of ‘Vulnerable’ via iTunes


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