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Poogie Bell

Pittsburgh Child Prodigy

Poogie was born in Pittsburgh 1961 spending his early years in the steel city. His father Charles Bell was a jazz pianist who graduated from the Carnegie Institute before leading his own band called the Charles Bell Contemporary Jazz Quartet. Charles Sr was commission by the Pittsburgh Symphony to write a three-movement jazz symphony called “Concerto in Miniature of Jazz Quartet and Orchestra” that was conducted by William Steinberg at the in 1963. The Charles Bell quartet released recordings on the Columbia and Atlantic labels and toured the world during the 1960s.

Poogie’s mother Alice noticed his early music interest. He rocked back and forth to music when he was 5 months old and could play the C-Scale on the piano at 9 months. When Poogie was around 10 months old he sat for hours in a highchair watching his father s band rehearse. Around 5 A.M. the next morning his mother was awakened by the sound of drums thinking the band’s drummer had arrived early. She found Poogie in the living room sitting atop the drum stool tinging away on the cymbals.

Bill Harris, the drummer for the Charle Bell Quarter, gave Poogie his first set of drum sticks when he was just 10 months old. After he smashed his toy drum set to pieces his father bought him a drum set from a pawn shop. As child he rolled out of bed and went straight to the drums to practice for an hour before breakfast.

At the age of two and half he made his concert debut playing with his father at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Lecture Hall. He made his television debut at age three on April 23, 1964, on WQED’s “Performance” show playing with the Charles Bell Quartet. Appearing with Pearl Bailey he made his first national television appearance on the Mike Douglas Show in 1966 at age five.

Poogie’s family moved to New York City in 1968 where his father became a music professor and continued to perform with his quartet. In New York Poogie got to know Max Roach, Mary Lou Williams, Ron Carter, and Ornette Coleman who jammed with his father in the Bell’s living room on 93rd street in Manhattan. Bassist Paul Chambers was a neighbor.

The New York Times wrote about Poogie when he was eight years old calling him “a remarkably gifted drummer”. He performed in concert with his father and the Harlem Youth Symphony Orchestra. Performing a composition written by Charles Sr. he an extended drum solo. The reviewer wrote of Poogie’s solo: “Poogie went at his with an energy and skill that seemed born into every vibrating muscle of his small body.”

Early Career

Poogie began his professional career playing with Tom Brown, Weldon Irvine and then Hugh Masekela. He then toured with one of the creators of hip-hop, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul sonic Force. Working in traditional R&B Poogie toured with Freddie Jackson, Phyllis Hyman and Chaka Khan. In 1987 he worked with Force MD, a Temptations-style vocal group who were the first to incorporate R&B and hip-hop. Poogie co-wrote the title track of their hit CD “Touch and Go”. He spent the next 15 years collaborating with some of hip-hop and R&B’s heaviest hitters including Keith Sweat, SWV, New Edition and Erykah Badu.

Poogie Bell Band

In 2003 the funk jazz jamming Poogie Bell Band was formed with Poogie, Kevin Barefoot, guitarist Juan Vasquez and keyboardist Howie Alexander, and bassist Victor Baily (who played Weather Report and Madonna) and Vincent Henry (Leona Lewis, Tom Waits) on horns and guitars. The Poogie Bell Band has released five albums: Thinking Outside the Box (2004), Get on the Kit (2007), Poogie on Shuffle (2009), My America (2010), Suga Top (2013). The band tours Europe frequently, has toured in Asia and performs at clubs and music festival across the U.S.

Poogie now makes his home in Pittsburgh’s Highland Park neighborhood.

Poogie Bell is an outstanding and gifted drummer, composer, arranger, and record producer. He has performed and recorded with Chaka Khan, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Erykah Badu, David Bowie, John Scofield, David Sanborn, Angelique Kidjo, Joe Sample, Al Jarreau, Vanessa Williams, Stanley Turrentine, Victor Wooten, Randy Crawford, and many more. Poogie co-wrote with Victor Bailey “Touch and Go” the title track of Force MD’s debut album that won the ASCAP Urban Music Writers award for Top 10 Singles in 1998. He now leads the Poogie Bell Band.

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