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Queens Chronicle

Queens drummer releases ode to boro

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:30 am

A Queens girl through and through is marking a new milestone.

On July 12 Cambria Heights native Camille Gainer will be releasing her first album with her as the lead musician, titled “A Girl from Queens.”

The album is mostly instrumental with some vocals and a guest rap solo to accompany the upbeat, jazzy beats that come from her wide variety of influences.

She received a full-ride scholarship to study jazz at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, but after graduation she didn’t stick just with jazz. She toured with hip-hop and reggae musicians from Tom Brown to Jamaica Funk, Juice Crew, Dr. Dre and Born Jamericans.

“You can’t be afraid to go forward and get the scrapes, because it pays off in the end,” Gainer said. “Music is always changing and you can’t stop learning.”

Being a woman in a sometimes male-dominated drumming world hasn’t stood in her way either.

“It’s one of those ‘isms.’ You always have to prove yourself,” she said, “but I’m cool with it. You just do what you do and move forward. That’s someone else’s issue, and either they catch on or they don’t.”

On her album she collaborates with many musicians such as Lakecia Benjamin on the saxophone, Patriq Moody on the trumpet, Raymond Angry on the keys, her husband, David Jones, a bass player who toured with New York City-based band Lisa Lisa for years, and many others.

Many of her songs make social commentary about racism and spirituality. “Are You on Frequency” addresses speaking to a higher being.

Whereas songs such as “My Name is Not N****r,” a speech by Orrin Evans, addresses just that.

“Slave masters called their slaves that, but it had nothing to do with black people,” Evans says on the sixth track.

“If everyone called me snake wouldn’t I start to think my name is snake, or start to rattle?

“Call people by their right name, especially your own people.

“So what is my name?” he asks.

“We are African Americans.”

“Street Metaphysics” is about growing up on Jamaica Avenue and the guys who used to post up on the street corners.

Each piece Gainer picked, and in the majority she plays drums, keys or programs for.

She said all her experience touring with greats from JT Taylor to Alicia Keys has helped her know how a band should be treated.

“I’m looking forward to doing my own music,” Gainer said.

She began drumming at 6 a.m. on her 12th birthday on 219th Street in Cambria Heights.

For years Gainer, who follows the wise advice from Roberta Flack to never reveal her age, would leave drum pamphlets with circles around her ideal set on her parents’ nightstand. On that birthday her father returned from his night shift as a police officer at 3 a.m. He had her come downstairs and in the corner sat a drum set.

“That set me on my journey,” Gainer said, adding that she woke up at 6 a.m. and started practicing.

“My parents were very instrumental and always keeping us abreast of culture,” she said. “We played violin and piano. Everyone in my family had a piano, my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and now I have a piano in my house.”

She would spend her days practicing in basements — “Queens was the home of the basement band. There was a band on every block, especially in Jamaica.”

“I prefer to live in Queens,” Gainer said. “There were so many great musicians to learn from and that I knew.”

She later met professional jazz musician Michael Carvin, who mentored her and continues to give her tips.

Gainer now lives in Far Rockaway with her husband, where they are slowly digging out from Hurricane Sandy.

“It was like being in a sci-fi flick,” she said of the 6 feet of water in her ground floor. She lost about 3,000 records, but was able to move the speakers and drums upstairs.

“You never expect it — not in New York City,” she said. ”We lived for two months without electricity. It was like being on the frontier.”

The release party will be at BB Kings in Manhattan and the record is available on iTunes, CD Baby and ReverbNation.

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