The Bosman Twins, jazz duo: Something Else! Interview

Share this:

The Bosman Twins, Dwayne and Dwight, play a wonderful program of jazz, R&B, funk and gospel — with a strong emphasis on the jazz. Identical but not the same, the twins are both composers, jazz artists and musical educators. They have played a range of venues, from the Oktoberfest and St. Louis Blues Week to the Steps of the Kiel Opera House (aka the Peabody) to the St. Louis History Museum. What is striking about the Bosman Twins’ performances is the energy, the dynamic conversation between the players, and watching them is uplifting, whether they play as a duo, with their quintet or soloes.

They have received numerous awards including best jazz artist in St. Louis (Riverfront Times, 2013), the Legend Award (St. Louis Argus foundation, 2009), Young Black Achievers Award from Iota Lambda Sorority, Alpha Zeta Chapter (1999), best jazz band in the People’s Poll (Riverfront Times, 1996 and 1997), and the Celebrity Star Walk (Sir Winston Churchill Pub, 1990, in Freeport, Grand Bahamas), among others. The Bosman Twins have been featured artists in Ebony (1998) and National Geographic (1996), as well. Along the way, they have played at the Vienna Jazz Festival, Lavallette Jazz Festival in Paris, the Soho Jazz Festival in London, the St. Louis Blues Festival, the Juneteenth Heritage and Jazz Festival in Tulsa, the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Conference in Washington, D.C, the 18th and Vine Heritage Jazz Festival in Kansas City, and American Days Festival Twin Cities Festival in Stuggart, Germany to name just a few.

So how did it start and where are these intriguing twins going? I decided to find out.

The Bosman Twins were born in St Louis, Missouri and grew up steeped in music. Their father was the illustrious Lloyd A Smith — a figure worthy of considerable note himself. He performed with Fate Marable, Charles Creath, Eddie Randle, the Eddie Johnson Band, with Dewey Jackson on the riverboats and Eddie Johnson’s Crackerjacks. He distinguished himself as lead alto saxophonist and flautist with Earl “Fatha” Hines’ Orchestra and substituted for Johnny Hodges in Duke Ellington’s Orchestra in 1947. He knew Louis Armstrong and worked behind Frank Sinatra and many others. He also operated his own music studio and notable students included John Coltrane, Chad Evans and baritone sax man Hammiet Blewet.

Also among his students were sons Dwayne and Dwight Bosman. So, they grew up listening to the sounds of great jazz artists such as Earl Hines, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and had musicians like Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker as family friends. Of their father, Dwayne says: “We were fascinated when he played around the house. His tone was big, beautiful and ultra smooth. He played clarinet, alto and tenor sax and flute. We wanted to play just like him … smooth.”

When they were 10 years old or so, each twin took up their first instrument. For Dwayne, it was a flute and for Dwight a clarinet. Soon, they were both multi-instrumentalists and began playing publicly in churches with African arts ensembles. Their first performance was at their grandmother’s church, the Maple Temple Church of God in Christ. Dwayne remembers, “Dwight played ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ and I played ‘Nearer My God to Thee.'” We also played at the Lively Stone Church of God in Christ in the very early years when we were 10 and 11 years old.”

By the time they were 14, the two were professional players and became known as the Bosman Twins. They also regularly sat in at the blues and jazz clubs with which St Louis was blessed. Since then, they have shared the stage with entertainment legends including Freddie Cole, Branford Marsalis, Fontella Bass, Roy Ayers, David Peaston and the late trumpeter, Lester Bowie.

I asked them what emotions they felt when they performed, and both had something to say. Dwight said, “The emotions that I experience while performing are spiritual and exemplifies an inner body experience. Once I am able to do that, then I can get the audience to groove with me and then it becomes spiritual.” Dwayne added, “I feel a deep sense of joy and in that, I am thankful at a spiritual level. Audiences seem to relate to the message in our music. I notice that they seem energized and engaged. Our audiences love to participate in our performances; they dance or listen accordingly. For example, when the band plays straight-ahead, pop jazz or blues, then the audience grooves with us. When we are playing ballads, they listen. It just depends …”

So what music, I wondered, do they listen to? Dwight said, “I listen to a variety of the various genres of music. I listen to a lot of jazz of course, mostly sax players. I’m interested in the various forms and I listen to them to keep my mind open to the possibilities.” Dwayne said, “I listen to learn; I want to know what’s happening now, musically. I want to know what other artists are doing, and what direction their music is going. Recently, my sister Cheryl turned me on to hip hop artist, J. Cole; who reminds me of Gil Scott Herron (the American soul and jazz poet) because he is a modern-day messenger. Mostly, I spend most of my listen time on jazz, blues and classical.” And do they have a philosophy on life and music? Dwight said, “I live to love the music and I love to live the music” while Dwayne said his “philosophy on life is pretty simple. God is first, family, community and then excellence in the music.”

They have played all over the world but where, I asked, do you find the most appreciative audiences?
Dwight said “European audiences seem to appreciate us more. Of course, we enjoy a very appreciate home town audience here in St. Louis.” Dwayne agreed. I then asked the Bosman Twins if, when they played, they were aware of musicians — those onstage with them — how would the twins describe the connections the music makes between band members and audiences? Dwayne said, “We work with some of the finest musicians; some have toured and recorded with other national and internationally renowned jazz artists. Our band is tight; the vibe is good! To quote a line from the movie ‘Drum Line,’ “One band, One Sound.” Once we lay the groove down and lock it in the pocket, it’s on!”

And what of the future? Dwayne replied, “This past April, we released an album of mostly original music, When Lions Roar, along with a cinematic jazz music video from the track ‘Many Moons.’ This video tells our story. Currently in production is a second video that features us in a live performance at the Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz, inside the Ferring Jazz Bistro in St. Louis, Missouri. The Ferring Jazz Bistro is one of the Top 5 jazz venues in the U.S. This video features the title track from the recording project and will be released this fall. We would like to write a music score for a movie or television show. Collaboration and more collaboration is what we want to do. It’s what’s happening now on music scene. Certainly we would love to do something with up and coming artists, jazz and other genres.”

What about other hobbies or interests away from music? Dwight said, “I am a sports fanatic! I love almost all sports.” And Dwayne said, “I write poetry and I have a passion for performing behind poets and spoken word artists. Additionally, when time permits, Dwight and I are involved with giving back to our community.”

Given their long history and success, I asked them how they felt about young people and their connection to the music. Dwight said “young people are connected to music in general and some are interested in jazz. The key to connecting with young people is to get them involved at the primary and elementary school levels and keeping them interested through high school to ultimately become lifelong lovers and supporters of music.” Dwayne said, “I think most young people are tuned into one genre of music or another. Technology is a big thing right now and, while I appreciate the advancements, I am concerned that many of the young artists may not be aware of the genesis of the art form — and are therefore missing out on the richness of the music. Additionally, many public school systems have eliminated arts programming due to budget cuts. As a result, young people may miss out on opportunities to discover who they are creatively or even to develop an appreciation for the arts.”

Whether performing with their own band or accompanying other notable jazz professionals, the Bosman Twins’ unique style and renditions of jazz, rhythm and blues, funk and gospel have earned them national and international acclaim. Both say they will endeavor to continue to spread the music and love across the world, especially to younger people. Recipients of the “Harmon How to Listen” and the Missouri Folk Art grants, the twins have traveled across the country in their roles as music directors and champions of youth music education. Dwayne is former Music Director at Crossroads College Preparatory School in St. Louis and Dwight provided music instruction to students of the St. Louis Public School District for more than 30 years. Through the development and implementation of jazz workshops, seminars and classical music programs, the Bosman Twins demonstrate a commitment and dedication to urban youth through community service, striving to foster an environment where students discover their personal potential and talent and learn to appreciate and respect the talents and abilities of others. They are encouraged to develop high self-esteem and to maintain excellence in their musical endeavors.

However, it is not all glamour and fast cabs, educating or performing in venues with other greats. Sometimes, you have to be quick on your feet when you are on the road. Dwayne finishes the interview with one such tale. “I was on the road with Fontella Bass in Italy. I can’t recall the city right now. However, I left the hotel to make a phone call at a public phone. It was about 4 a.m. and while talking, I happened to notice a pack of dogs conjugating across the street. It seem to me that I was about to be under attack by a gang of wild dogs! The biggest dog was leading the pack; he had the plan and my butt was going to be the prime target. Three blocks away from my hotel, I knew that I needed a plan of my own. I studied the leader in an effort to determine his next move. Absent of any real plan, in the face of fear, I did what any man would do — I ran! The dogs were on my heels, but I made it to the hotel just before they locked the doors! Whew! I wasn’t so funny at the time, but when I think back over it, it was hilarious.”

So, Dwayne reached the hotel intact — and his sibling, and many others, are glad he did.

Share this: