Kool and the Gang concert tonight

Cool chat with ‘Kool’ from Kool and the Gang

Originality, creativity and longevity are among the reasons Robert Bell and his gang are so dang “kool.”

But Kool and the Gang’s decidedly cool name definitely hasn’t hurt the band.

The name has a pretty simple back story.

Bell gave himself the nickname “Kool” after his family moved from Youngstown, Ohio, to Jersey City, N.J.

“I was trying to fit in. There was this guy who called himself ‘Cool,’ but he spelled it with a ‘c,’” the singer-songwriter and bassist explained with a laugh. “I took on the name and spelled it with a ‘k.’”

The band that has sold 70 million albums worldwide will perform a 7:30 p.m. show Thursday, Aug. 14, at the Fraze Pavilion located at 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering.

Tickets to the show, a part of the WHIO concert series, are $30 to $55.

WHIO and the Dayton Daily News are Cox Media Group Ohio companies.

Tickets are available at the Fraze FanFare Store in Town & Country Shopping Center, 300 E. Stroop Road, online at etix.com or by phone at 1 (800) 514-3849.

Bell’s band got its start 50 years ago as Jazziacs and eventually evolved from Kool and the Flames to Kool and the Gang as not to be mistaken with James Brown’s Famous Flames.

He said Kool and the Gang has more than proven its value as a band name.

“Sometime people want to know if it is a good gang or a bad gang. But it is still cool,” Bell joked. “It has been used in movies and people in Philadelphia and Chicago when something was hip they would say ‘hey, it is Kool and the Gang.’”

Actor Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield uses the phrase during a conversation with Jimmy played by the film’s director Quentin Tarantino in the cult classic “Pulp Fiction.”

Kool and the Gang’s music has evolved over the years with music that hits on numerous genres.

“(In the 1960s,) we had established a sound that was more R&B, jazz and funk. Going into the 70s we continued that style and then we ended up getting a couple of big hits in the mid 70s with ‘Hollywood Swinging’ and ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Funky Stuff.’ Those were pop hits, Hollywood Swinging and Jungle Boogie,” Bell said.

“Then we had ‘Summer Madness’ (on the album) Light of the World. And then we had ‘Open Sesame’ and that was part of the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ movie and ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack.”

Former lead singer James “J.T.” Taylor joined the band in 1978 and more hits came.

“Our music was constantly changing,” Bell said. “We went on to cut songs like ‘Lady’s Night,’Get Down on It’ and ‘Cherish’ all throughout the ’80s.

Bell said the band, which has four of its original eight members, now plays concerts around the world with musicians that range from the rock band Van Halen to country/rock rap act Kid Rock to jam band the Dave Matthews Band.

“Just this weekend we sold out two shows at the Hollywood Bowl with Gladys Knight (in Los Angeles),” “We mix it up, and we have been doing quite well with it.”

Kool and the Gang has no plans to slow down. The band is planning a new album and is in talks about a staged musical based on its story.

Bell also sees acts following his gang’s kool footsteps.

Bruno Mars is among the acts that Bell thinks has very long shelf life.

“He reminds me of a young Kool in the Gang,” Bell said of Mars. “They are funky, jazzy. They mix it up.”

He also says Usher, CeeLo Green and Mint Condition have legs.

As for his Ohio roots, Bell credits jazz partly for the state being home to such a long list of funk and R&B acts.

The list includes Dayton’s Ohio Players, Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame, Zapp, Faze-O, Heatwave, Sun, Slave and Lakeside.

“Various groups from Ohio have been about the funk — the Ohio Players, the Roger Troutman movement. Over in Cincinnati, you had L.A. Reid,” Bell said. “We (are) just funky people I guess.”

Contact this blogger at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth

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