Who is Eric Frazier?
Jazz music lovers will know him as one of the most prolific drummers in Brooklyn, with six albums under his belt and still giggin’ as the head of the Eric Frazier Quintet (sometimes “Quartet,” and sometimes “Trio”), to a packed house at clubs in and around New York City.
Others may remember him as Principal Frazier from his days working for 30 years as a teacher and school administrator at M.S. 385 and P.S. 28 in Bed-Stuy.
While others, still, may know him as that guy that loves to show up at the local Karaoke sets, unafraid to sing his heart out and maybe even add in a little tap dance.
Frazier’s various incarnations and talents go on and on. So, then, how would he describe himself?
“I wouldn’t say a musician, no,” said Frazier. “I’m still a teacher, a messenger with one lesson for people, and that’s that they can do anything they set their minds to.”
And that’s no catchy proverb or saying for the sake of saying. For Frazier it’s his life story.
During his time in college as a history major in the 1960s, he decided he needed to make more money. He noticed musicians seemed to always be working with the flexibility to gig pretty much when and where they wanted. So he picked up a conga drum and started playing.
Yes, he studied some of the greats, such as Mongo Santa Maria, Olatunji and others. But no one ever knew or suspected that he had taught himself in a matter of months.
Later on in life, he decided he wanted to tap dance. His mother used to tap, and he remembered watching her closely. So he figured he could do it as well. He started studying the greats, such Cab Calloway, Brownie Brown, Reggio and Gregory Hines. He picked up a few moves from them, and the following week, started tapping at shows.
“People started asking me where I took classes. And so I said to myself, ‘I guess maybe I should go take a few classes.’
“So I took one class and I remember they were like showing us this basic ‘click, click, click,’ and I was like, ‘I’m going backward. I gotta get outta here man!’ You can’t listen to what people tell you are your limitations, because after awhile, you’ll actually start believing them.
“My lesson to people is that God makes us all very intelligent. Thinking out of the box is actually just thinking. But the way we’re taught in this society is to be limited in the way we think. Society actually can make you dumb. But you can measure a person’s intelligence, not by how much education they’ve received, but by what a person does in situations where they haven’t had any previous experience.
“I want the people of my community to understand this. So it’s one of the reasons why I do what I do, teaching people how to reach their potential.”
Frazier has just completed a documentary about his life, “The Brooklyn Jazz Icon: Eric Frazier,” a project he embarked upon after filming his father, who is 89, tell his own life story earlier this year.
“I had him speak about his entire life; everything he went through since he was born until now. And the entire family learned a lot of history,” said Frazier. “The effect it had on the family, the connections we made… you could see the pride and the understanding and the impact. And most importantly, the impact on my dad; he felt fulfilled.
“I get goose bumps when I think about it. For the children and even the unborn children, when we talk about the family tree, you can actually see it.
Frazier’s documentary was completed in April, and it is a compilation of all of the articles, footage and some interviews that he has been archiving since his college days. For a copy of his documentary or his music, visit his website.
“I believe documenting is so important, because it’s another means of showing people the immense potential inside of them, and I want them to fulfill their potential as human beings,” he said.
“I’m not saying that you don’t need to study. Anything you want to do and do well, you have to practice and study.
“I’m proof that, if you're dedicated, there’s really nothing that you cannot do… Well, except sing,” he chuckled. “Yeah, for that, I had to take lessons.”