On a calm and chilly Thursday night late last January, a booming voice could be heard outside reverberating from the walls of a place formerly known as Jezebel's Bayou (after a change of ownership, it now operates as Valo). That voice belongs to Alvin Frazier. With only an acoustic guitar and amplifier, he plays a rendition of his song, "Better," which is currently making waves on several radio stations in the area and beyond. The atmosphere is dimly lit as couples and small groups dine, chat and enjoy the ambiance as Frazier croons original material and also covers versions of songs like the Isley Brothers' "Footsteps In The Dark," Outkast's "Prototype," Michael Jackson's "Lady In My Life" and Jermaine Jackson's "Do What You Do."
"I gotta hit you with a curveball," he says when speaking on the decision to include the elder Jackson's 1984 tune. "That was the jam though."
Cleveland-born and bred, Frazier takes pride in being able to reach the level of success he's had in his career thus far without having to take his talents to a larger market.
"Back when my first album [Love & Faith: Volume 1
] came out in 2007, I was thinking that Cleveland was too much work, and I was looking into relocating back then," he says. "But then I thought to myself, ‘You were born and raised here. How would it look if someone called back to get a reference for you and no one knows who you are?’ That really struck a chord with me, so then I thought to just build at home. Just work your hand here first. Thankfully, I was able to show that you can establish yourself as an international artist living here in Cleveland."
However, with two albums released and several years of experience under his belt, the multi-faceted actor and musician is beginning to think that the time to make a move to a larger market may be nearing soon.
"I'm kind of at a glass ceiling right now," he says while discussing his plan to relocate to New York soon. "You can get real complacent and be cool with being the big man on campus here, but the vision I have for myself was always bigger than that. The clothes are starting to get snug and you're still trying to do the same things and you can't because the seams are starting to bust out. That lets you know it's time to do something different."
In the meanwhile, Frazier plans to continue to promote his latest album, A Wonderful Love: Love & Faith Vol. 2
, an album of soul tunes that show off Frazier’s strong voice, perform at various venues across the area and work on recording his third album.
And then there’s the movies. In a set of follow-up interviews with Frazier, he was able to talk more about some of the successes he’s been having on both the big and small screen as well as his progress with his latest album.
“I'm not sure that we got to talk about it, but I've been doing some acting as well. I was just in With This Ring
with Jill Scott and Gabrielle Union,” he says. In addition to that film, Frazier has also made appearances in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
, A Murder in the Park
along with a pilot for a webseries called DAP
Over the summer, Frazier worked with a group of kids from Open Doors Academy and took them through the entire process of creating a movie over the course of two weeks.
“That was a great experience because I love working with children,” he says. “Now, I had never done a summer camp before but it was a good challenge for me to take the things that I had learned over the years and in turn put together a comprehensive camp for kids. They worked hard. I took them through so much stuff, I don’t know how we did it.”
His latest role finds him playing a member of Miles Davis’ band in the Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead
, which has its nationwide release on April 1 (a Cleveland release is TBA).
“It’s a good feeling. I’m excited,” Frazier says about the buzz the movie has been generating. “I was a Miles fan long before I was a part of this film. I had read his autobiography three times before I got a part in the film, so I was already real hip to Miles.”
If Frazier were able to assemble his own fantasy lineup, he would reach back into the past and enlist the services of a few legends that’ve passed on.
“I would definitely say George Duke and Joe Sample on the keys,” Frazier carefully says as he mentally flips through his influences. “Stanley Clarke, George Benson and Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie on the drums. I like his style on the drums. Second bass player would be Louis Johnson from the Brothers Johnson. If I initially had to make up a unit of about five or six cats, off the top of my head those guys would be it.”
His new album is slated for release later this summer, and Frazier says he looks forward to getting the first single out to radio stations in the near future.
"The new album is a little different from my first two,” says Frazier. “But you know as an artist, you kinda need that. When I was trying to work on new material, I was feeling like I had hit a wall. The production style that I used on my first and second albums wasn’t giving me the kind of creative energy I needed to do new music. So I said, ‘Let me think outside of the box of how I normally produce and go a different way,’ and that helped to spark some ideas and led to some really good music. I have a few more songs to finish. I have a good idea of what the first single is going to be and I think we’re going to look at getting that to radio in middle to late May, definitely by June.”