Master Class with Motown's Paul Riser, hosted by Sylvester Rivers

LA 12 PM  NY 3 PM  UK 8 PM  


Master Class with Motown's Paul Riser

Hosted by Sylvester Rivers

Featuring Special Guests -
Ray Parker Jr.
McKinley Jackson
The Motown Funk Brothers -
Jack Ashford
Joe Messina

Motown's most prolific arranger of it's Golden Age will share secrets of arranging the iconic and classic hits, such as  "My Girl" and "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" by The Temptations, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, "If I Were Your Woman" by Gladys Knight & The Pips, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand) written by Ashford and Simpson as performed by Diana Ross, "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" by Jimmy Ruffin. Paul will discuss advanced arranging techniques, voicing, orchestration and how to achieve maximum impact, regardless of the ensemble size.  He will show you the elements of arranging that lift a song beyond the ordinary and into the realm of hit status with mass appeal. 



Paul Riser (born September 11, 1943) is an American trombonist and Motown musical arranger who was responsible for co-writing and arranging dozens of top ten hit records. His legacy as one of the "Funk Brothers" is similar to that of most of the other "Brothers", as his career has been overlooked and overshadowed by the stars of Motown that became household names. Some of the Funk Brothers he worked with include: Earl Van Dyke, Johnny Griffith, Robert White, Eddie Willis, Joe Messina, Dennis Coffey, Wah Wah Watson, James Jamerson, Bob Babbitt, Eddie Watkins, Richard "Pistol" Allen, Uriel Jones, Andrew Smith, Jack Ashford, Valerie Simpson, Eddie "Bongo" Brown, Benny Benjamin, Cornelius Grant, Joe Hunter, Richard "Popcorn" Wylie, Marcus Belgrave, Teddy Buckner and Stevie Wonder.

Early career

A graduate of Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan where he studied classical and jazz trombone, Paul was introduced to Berry Gordy at Motown by a friend who had already been working there. He went on to become an uncredited trombonist on most of Motown Records' hits in the late mid 1960s and early 1970s (Motown did not list session musician credits on their releases until 1971), and he has become regarded as one of the most important trombone players in modern music history and his writing and arranging skills are without parallel - having written or arranged on such hits as: "My Girl" and "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" by The Temptations, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, "If I Were Your Woman" by Gladys Knight & The Pips, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand) written by Ashford and Simpson as performed by Diana Ross, and "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. The instrumental arrangement for "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (The Temptations) earned Riser a Grammy with writer/arranger Norman Whitfield for Best R&B Instrumental Performance. He co-wrote Jimmy Ruffin's hit single "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted".

Later career

After 11 years of working steadily with Motown, Riser found work with other record labels. Artists that Riser has arranged for outside of Motown include:Luther Vandross, Phil Collins, The Carpenters, Carly Simon, The Doobie Brothers, Tom Jones, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Michael McDonald, Johnny Mathis, Mary J. Blige, and Patti LaBelle.

Riser arranged and conducted the strings on "I Believe I Can Fly," a 1996 song written, produced and performed by R&B singer R. Kelly. In 2003, he was also a notable presence on the R. Kelly album, "Chocolate Factory", arranging many songs on the album including the top 10 hit, "Step in the Name of Love".

In 2009, Riser was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum and he attended the Motown 50th anniversary celebration. As of 2010, Riser is still active in the field of music - teaching and arranging.

When asked in a recent interview what his favorite musical rhythm arrangement was, he replied that it was Diana Ross' cover version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", which he arranged in 1970.

Partial discography

  • Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations LP (Co-arranger - Motown, 1968)
  • Soul Spin LP by The Four Tops (Co-arranger - Motown MS 695, 1969)
  • Signed, Sealed & Delivered LP by Stevie Wonder (Co-arranger - Motown TS 304, 1970)
  • Natural Resources LP by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (Co-arranger - Gordy 952, 1970)
  • Great Expectations LP by Kiki Dee (Arranger - Tamla 303, 1970)
  • War and Peace LP by Edwin Starr (Co-arranger - Motown, 1970)
  • The Return of the Magnificent Seven LP by The Supremes & The Four Tops (Co-arranger - Motown, 1971)
  • If I Were Your Woman LP by Gladys Knight & the Pips (Co-arranger - Motown SS 731, 1971)
  • One Dozen Roses LP by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (Arranger - Tamla 312L)
  • Surrender (Arranger - Motown, 1971)
  • Exposed LP by Valerie Simpson (Arranger - Motown, 1971)
  • Floy Joy LP by The Supremes (Arranger - Motown M751L, 1972)
  • All Directions LP by The Temptations (Arranger and conductor - Motown, 1972)
  • Neither One Of Us LP by Gladys Knight & The Pips (Arranger - "Can't Give It Up No More" - Motown, 1973)
  • Masterpiece LP by The Temptations (Arranger - Motown, 1973)
  • All I Need Is Time LP by Gladys Knight & The Pips (Arranger - "Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again)" - Motown, 1973)
  • Diana & Marvin LP by Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye (Arranger - "Just Say, Just Say" - Motown, 1973)
  • Eddie Kendricks - LP by Eddie Kendricks (Arranger - "Where Do You Go (Baby)" - Motown, 1973)
  • Everybody Likes Some Kind of Music - LP by Billy Preston (String and horn arrangements - A&M, 1973)
  • Syreeta LP by Syreeta and Stevie Wonder (String arrangements, Motown, 1974)
  • I Want You (Marvin Gaye album) - LP by Marvin Gaye (Arranger - "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" - Motwon, 1976)
  • Look Out For#1 LP by The Brothers Johnson (Horn arrangements, A&M, 1976)
  • Any Way You Like It LP by Thelma Houston (Writer, Arranger, Motown 2643-S, 1976)
  • Keep It Comin' LP by Valerie Simpson (Arranger, Tamla/Motown, 1977)
  • Shake It Well LP by The Dramatics (Co-arranger, ABC Records, 1977)
  • Who's Zoomin' Who? LP by Aretha Franklin (String arrangements, Arista, 1985)
  • In Square Circle LP by Stevie Wonder (String arrangements, Tamla/Motown, 1985)



Ray Parker Jr. is a classic multi-hyphenate: Musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor. As a solo performer, he wrote and performed the theme song to the 1984 movie Ghostbusters. He also performed with his band, Raydio, and Barry White.


McKinley Terrell Jackson, musician, producer, songwriter and prolific arranger, also affectionately known to many as Maestro, was born and raised in the city of Detroit. His first session at Motown was Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby”. With the knowledge and experience he acquired at Motown working with such artists, musicians and producers as Norman Whitfield, The Funk Brothers and Ruby Robinson, to name a few, in 1968 he signed an artist deal with Holland Dozier Holland’s Hot Wax Label and released his album, McKinley Jackson and the Politicians. The album did quite well.  He also served as in-house arranger working with such notable artists as Freda Payne, Sherry Payne, Chairman of the Board, Eloise Laws, Glasshouse, to name a few. McKinley's enormous talent and love of his craft propelled him to new heights and in August of 1973 he moved to Los Angeles, California and signed with ABC Dunhill Records, producing Lamont Dozier, Clarence Carter and Aretha Franklin, among many others.  Later as an independent producer and arranger, he worked with Helen Reddy, Jose Feliciano, The Jones Girls, Dionne Warwick, The Pointer Sisters, Tower of Power, Pharoah Sanders, Bloodstone, Phyllis Hyman, The Beach Boys, The Four Tops, Tom Jones and so many others.  One of the highlights of his life and career was to work with Marvin Gaye and serve as his Musical Director for the Midnight Love Tour.


Jack Ashford is widely known as the percussionist for Motown Records' in-house, legendary Funk Brothers band during the 1960s and early 1970s.  Ashford is most famous for playing the tambourine on hundreds of Motown recordings.  Instruments he is known to have played are the tambourine, vibraphone, marimba, maracas, cabasa, bells, chimes, bell tree, finger cymbals, kazoo, triangle, wood block, handclaps, foot stomps and hotel sheet. His definitive performance is on "War" by Edwin Starr. Other notable songs Ashford played tambourine on include "Nowhere to Run" by Martha & the Vandellas, "You Can't Hurry Love" by The Supremes, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, and "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston. He played vibes, shakers, and the marimba on Motown recordings such as The Miracles' "Ooo Baby Baby."  Jack Ashford is also an independent record producer and songwriter.


Joe Messina is an extraordinary guitarist. Dubbed the "white brother with soul," Messina was one of the most prolific guitarists in Motown Records' in-house studio band, the legendary Funk Brothers. By his mid-twenties, Messina was playing in the ABC Television studio band, accompanying guests that included Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Jack Teagarden, Lee Konitz, Jimmy Giuffre, Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd, Eddie (LockJaw) Davis, Frank Rosolino and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. Also while at ABC, he played on the nationally televised Soupy Sales Show alongside notable guests such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. In 1958, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy recruited Messina for his Hitsville U.S.A. studio musicians group known as the Funk Brothers. In the 1960s and early 1970s, they recorded the instrumentals for hundreds of Motown hit records. During this time, Messina worked with performers such as Diana Ross & the Supremes, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Among the many Motown hits Messina played on are "Dancing in the Street" (Martha & the Vandellas, 1964), "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" (Four Tops, 1965), and "Your Precious Love" (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, 1967). Messina is the creator of an alternative music technique known as The Interval Study Method, which uses the chromatic and diatonic scales to create music. He still resides in Detroit, where he performs as a jazz musician. On March 21, 2013, the Funk Brothers were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Funk Brothers were also the subject of the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown.


Composer, arranger and pianist Sylvester Rivers has recorded with numerous hit artists including Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, The Jacksons, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dionne Warwick, Nancy Wilson, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin, New Edition, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Barry White, Marc Bolan & T. Rex, Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio, Deniece Williams, The Fifth Dimension and many others. Composing, arranging and orchestrating for television and film, as well, such as the television series Fame, songs for the Kevin Bacon/Laurence Fishburne film QuicksilverBreakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, The Arsenio Hall Show and numerous others, he has been prolific in producing music throughout a wide spectrum.


Event Date Saturday, February 27, 2021 12:00 pm
Registration Start Date Saturday, February 20, 2021 12:00 pm
Cut off date Saturday, February 27, 2021 3:00 pm
Individual Price Free
Location Online

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