Alphonso “Fonce” Mizell, a renowned producer, songwriter and member of Motown hit-makers The Corporation as well as half of the legendary production duo The Mizell Brothers, has passed away, according to a report in the L.A. Times. The cause of his death is not known. He was 68 years old.
Alphonso “Fonce” Mizell with his brother Larry and their Sky High Production company transformed the soul jazz genre by combining Motown’s commercial sound with the music virtuosoity of the Blue Note roster producing a number of now-classic LPs.
Alphonso Mizel was born January 15, 1943 and raised in Englewood, New Jersey where he and his younger brother Larry learned to play trumpet. Alphonso, Larry and their classmate Freddie Perren formed a doo-wop group called the Nikons. The trio would later go on to attended Howard University. In 1961 they formed a jazz-harmony quartet called the Vanlords, which at one point included Donny Hathaway. Fonce, as he was nicknamed, studied with legendary horn player Donald Byrd with whom the Mizells would later achieve their greatest success.
Writer-producer Deke Richards recruited Alphonso and Freddie Perren to join The Corporation, which included Motown founder Berry Gordy. The group wrote and produced The Jackson 5’s early hits, including “I Want You Back,” “ABC” and “The Love You Save” as well as “Bless You” for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
After parting ways with Motown, Fonce and his brother Larry formed their own production company, Sky High Productions. The duo helmed Donald Byrd’s Grammy-nominated “Black Byrd,” for Blue Note and a string of albums that would come to define the soul-jazz genre. This included Byrd’s “Street Lady,” flautist Bobbi Humphrey’s “Blacks And Blues,” and Gary Bartz “The Shadow Do,” as well as A Taste of Honey’s 1978 debut recording which contained the hit “Boogie Oogie Oogie.”
Their vastly under-appreciated albums are considered crate-diggers gold and a new generation of hip-hop artists would go on to sample the Mizells’ work, including: A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, J Dilla, Pete Rock, De La Soul, Tupac, and Ludacris.
In 2005 Blue Note released the compilation “Mizell Brothers at Blue Note Records: 1973 to 1977 and Beyond,” which helped renew interest in the brothers’ body of work.