Alphonso “Fonce” Mizell, producer of early hits by the Jackson 5 and pace-setting albums by trumpeter Donald Byrd and disco act A Taste of Honey, died July 11 of unknown causes. He was 68.
Born in Englewood, NJ, and educated at Howard University, Mizell broke in at the top at Motown Records as a member of the Corporation, the production team that also included label owner Berry Gordy Jr. and songwriter-producers Freddie Perren (Mizell’s Howard classmate) and Deke Richards. The Corporation scored a trifecta of No. 1 pop and R&B singles with the Jacksons — “I Want You Back,” “ABC” and “The Love You Save” – in 1970, and also helmed the lesser 1971 J5 hits “Mama’s Pearl” and “Maybe Tomorrow.”
After the Corporation dissolved in 1972, Mizell began working with his older brother Larry. The Mizell Brothers hit immediate pay dirt with “Black Byrd,” first of a series of sleek jazz fusion albums for Blue Note by veteran brass player Byrd. That title, which reached No. 36 nationally, was succeeded by the Mizells’ productions “Street Lady” (No. 33, 1974), “Stepping Into Tomorrow” (No. 42, 1975), “Places and Space” (No. 49, 1975) and “Caricatures” (No. 60, 1977). They also produced the 1974 debut of Byrd’s R&B spinoff outfit the Blackbyrds.
The Mizells also worked with the Jacksons and Michael Jackson, as well as such other Motown acts as the Miracles and Edwin Starr. On the jazz side, they produced singer-flautist Bobbi Humphrey, organist Johnny Hammond and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
In 1978, the brothers discovered the L.A. disco group A Taste of Honey and produced their self-titled 1978 debut. The act scored the Grammy Award for best new artist behind its No. 6 bow, which contained the No. 1 pop smash “Boogie Oogie Oogie.”
The Mizells retired from production work in the early ’80s. Their material was later sampled by such rap acts as DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla. Blue Note issued a compilation of their productions, “Mizell,” in 2005.