A lil' clip of Roy Hargrove at the Charlie Parker Jazz fest above. (Sorry for quality, I had my camera on end and don't know how to rotate video) I went both days and had a great time. Might put some footage of Chico's solo for Max and Cassandra killing it later. In the meantime, check the recap at Hello, Babar.
Billy Harper, Gary Bartz, and (Reggie Workman obscured by Phil Schaap's head) performing "It's Time."
I was fortunate enough to make it to the Max Roach Memorial Friday morn. I sat in press pews next to older gentleman journalist who pointed out every unfamiliar song and person. Spotted a few greats myself-Sonny, Chico, Pallbearer Fab 5 Freddy, Delroy Lindo, Ruby Dee-and got extra giddy when Cosby walked in. I saw Gary Bartz for the first time to my great delight and Randy Weston too. An impressive man he is. I didn't see Ornette who I heard was there or Abbey who had to cancel her appearance at Charlie Parker Jazz fest this weekend nor did I make it to the memorial's end; it ran a little late and I had to make it into the office. My detailed recap is up at Hello, Babar.
And a few links: + Talkin Jazz has a nice post highlighting the blogger's favorite recordings. + Variety with one of the more informative obits.
The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is a free production of the City Parks Foundation, and it should be fun, not to mention it's a wonderful opportunity to hear the 77 year old Lincoln who took ill not too long ago, even undergoing triple bypass surgery in March. On this her post-surgery debut she will be joined by the great Cedar Walton who served as her accompanist in the mid-sixties. The bill also includes NEA Jazz MasterChico Hamilton (who took ill last year and couldn't perform), inventive pianist Marc Cary and Lezlie Harrison. As always if you plan to attend, drop me an e-mail.
The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is set to take place on Saturday, August 25th at the bandshell at Marcus Garvey Park (124th and 5th Ave.) in Harlem. The festival begins at 3:00pm. I will be there no later than 2:30 pm. Take the #2, #3, #4, #5 or #6 trains to 125 Street. Check the festival website for more information. And check the K. Leander Williams-penned Abbey Lincoln profile in last week's TONY.
I posted a selection from We Insist! - Freedom Now Suite (1960) at Hello, Babar the other day. Here's a treat from Lincoln's That's Him! (1957), where she was joined by Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Wynton Kelly (whose playing I love), Paul Chambers, and the late Max Roach. This song was written by the late Oscar Brown, Jr. and, notably, is one of Mark Anthony Neal'sfavs.: "Strong Man" [MP3]
-- 52 is a Jazz listening group that aims to cultivate a friendly community of open-minded jazz fans. Each month 52 coordinates outings to free or low cost venues in New York City.
My dad's been visiting with me for the past 10 days and had me at my wits end most of them. Still, after sending him off to Newark Liberty, then returning to my apartment and not being greeted by a rundown of the evening news, a greenmarket salad, a defense of Stanley Crouch, a baseball game blaring on the telly and a little crazy talk, (same difference as defense of Stanley Crouch, I know, excuse the redundancy) I got a little verklempt.
Funniest part of the hilarious, dubious science-laden African American Lives series on how not Black Black people are (with the exception of Oprah who is 100% negroid not that we didn't already know that)--did I detect giddiness on Skip's face when he found out he was "bi-racial?"--was when Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot was told she was no or miniscule parts (I can't remember which) Native American. I mean I think she may have had a feather in her hair when she found out. She wasn't so much crushed as disbelieving: to paraphrase my old pastor, "we know what we know what we know," and Kanye West "you can't tell folk nothing." To her defense, the suspect ethnicity/race test is only as good as the data bank used, which was admittedly incomplete so she could be what she says she is. But still, although our diverse ethnic makeups are not to be subsumed by Africanity, our obsessive touting of how not 'Black' we are is but another marker of internalized oppression. This brings me to Martha Redbone whom I heard last night after encountering her a few years ago at the BAM Metrotech R&B festival. I remember her then identifying as a Native American and shouting out the other BK Natives in the area and being taken aback on account of what my less PC friends would say was her "n*gger nose" and and what Martin would call her "beady bees." I mean she's light and all but nasal passages and naps don't lie. Now, I'm not saying she ain't Native; I ain't seen her papers and don't need or want to as that ain't no concern of mine. And I know there are Black Native Americans but still I was, as my Auntie Barbara would say, "cornfused" but not so much that I didn't lay out some cash for her CD.
Just cause I'm moody as a misfit and compelled to muse I'll tarry and share this; I liked 1st Born Second, loved it, really. Attempted to see Bilal in the Spring of 2000 at Joe's Pub on the strength of "Soul Sista," which I first heard in Marcia's Morehouse-James dorm room that fall and thought was D'Angelo. So when I came up to NYC by myself instead of down to Florida with all my crew to see D'Angelo at Radio City Music Hall and meet my Liverpool-bred Aunt and her BK-all day kids who had agreed to host me, I figured I'd trek in to Astor Place from Canarsie by my damn self to hear him. No luck though since I didn't know how that reservation thing worked, I was turned away at the door. I saw him later when he made it to the V103 stage at Music Midtown and he was amazing but it wasn't the same. I'm looking, listening, for those moments, pivotal and singular, I'm too spooked to live. I keep my ticket stubs in a modular shelf, dusty and overflowing, as proof of a discriminatingly consumptive life. An accomplished writer I went to prep school with hit me up Facebook the other day, and asked what I and my sister were up to, adding that he always knew we'd do great things. My sister's degrees speak for themselves but I have yet to respond. I'll hit him back when something big happens to me--no, see, that's the problem-- rather, when I manage to manufucture something big, something to hold onto.
A Flash of the Spirit: Lauryn Hill at Wingate Field
I am going to begin where Lauryn Hill ended. Her surreal Wingate Field concert, as free as it was confounding, took as its closing a Roberta Flack classic: not the '96 anthem but "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Then she parted, fans looked about, weighed the likelihood of her returning for an encore and many, but not all, in good faith remained on their itty bitty patches of wet grass chanting, "Lauryn! Lauryn!": a wise decision given Hill's subsequent about face. For her encore Hill skillfully made her way through her hits as a Fugee and solo star and offered one well-chosen cover: "How Many Mics," "Fu-Gee-La," "The Beast," Ready or Not," "Killing Me Softly," "Lose Myself," "Everything is Everything," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "That Thing." It was an exhilarating I don't know how many minutes. My notes are iffy here as I was standing on a barricade that I eventually abandoned for a chair much closer to the action all the while singing, rhyming and jamming, hard. Hill was hoarse and altogether breathless but capable despite her earlier kooky bandleading and odd pacing. "Pick it up" and "pump it up" were two of her favored non stop directives to her surprisingly cheerful band. Either these guys are Oscar caliber actors or they enjoy working with Hill 'cause they remained visibly amiable and on point all night long.
Hill didn't start off so well. After a doodie Karaoke set from opener Sean Kingston savored by his handful of tween devotees, everybody's favorite borough president before his backing of Ratner's community contested development, Marty Markowitz, introduced every pol in the borough noting at one point that Hill had yet to arrive and was en route. It was at this point that I was certain Hill wasn't gonna show but about half hour later it was announced that she was at the field and good to go but hoarse from her European tour and not too long after that, the DJ's equipment was cleared from the stage. Hill's band commenced to play pretty quickly but the same can't be said for Hill. The band made their way through ten minutes and a couple different enthusiastic grooves before Hill showed her 'fro. It was during this waiting game that I was again certain Hill wasn't gonna show but then she descended from the elevated horn section down past the keyboardist to the front of the stage. Reportedly she had been pacing back and forth stage right for some time. So at 9:52 pm my birthday bud asked Brooklyn how we were doing before venturing into some song I don't remember and didn't write down. I was too busy noticing her hot outfit, a rust colored leather fringe jacket, hella bangles, grey wool trousers, and triangle earrings which kept falling from her flailing head. The second track, Hill introduced as "familiar", acknowledging that it had been awhile. Unfortunately for us, her second selection "Lost Ones," one of my favorite songs of hers, was performed entirely too fast likely because Hill yelled "Go, Go, Go" to the band at every interval. "Lost Ones" sort of collapsed into Bob Marley's "Natty Dread," which prompted some people to pack their shit and go, including a band of disabled people immediately in front of me. Hill was on her Whitney Houston-staccato-talk-singing and was skipping verses of her songs. She seemed lucid just antsy and out of singing shape. By "Final Hour" she was exhorting the sound man to"bring the keys up," which was neither here nor there with vocals so indecipherable. I do remember her moving exceptionally well. The sharp draw backs and leg kicks are all still there. It's one of the only things that's still familiar about Hill but then again it has been a decade. She explained that her son Zion just recently celebrated his 10th birthday which puts her stardom in historical perspective as too the audience's unfailing fandom. By the time Hill drove into a remixed and sped up "Ex Factor" her indulgent set still had yet to alienate a shock and awed crowed primarily because we are still so enamored with her at her peak and how her music reminds us of our past selves.
Disorienting as the show was until the encore--I won't say it was bad since her inventive spins on her classics were not altogether ill conceived--the audience was still primarily with her. People drifted out quietly but everyone was pretty much rapt and always politely clapped. Studded through the audience also were a number of Stans who danced fervidly through every number including some of the shittier Bob Marley covers. At first I thought it ironic that Hill included "Final Hour" in her set since she was anything but sating the people that feel "Lauryn Hill from Newark to Israel," more like the people that like hopped up Bob Marley covers. Like her ex lover and bandmate (or vice versa) Wyclef Jean, Hill's obsessed with Bob Marley and focused too much of her set on him. But then after the encore of all encores that saw Hill giving identifiable renditions of her classics, offering smooth and clever transitions and playfully engaging the crowd, I realized that the Hill that we all know and deify (or maybe that's just me) still lurks underneath those layers of leather and wool, it's just that Hill ain't all that interested in bringing her out, which is while frustrating not necessarily indicative of crazy. I mean I was alarmed by what I saw by the show's midpoint and even mentioned to my sister that I felt like cutting my losses and peacing out but by evening's end I was back on the koolaid. I'm grateful that she offered a glimpse into the tight professionalism of her touring act circa '99 (since I was there Fox Theatre, ATL what!) for the encore even if her voice couldn't keep up. You could barely hear Hill over the singing of the audience anyway. And amped doesn't even come close to describing our euphoria during the encore. You just had to be there: to hear everyone screaming every single line of those Hill classics, cellphones and a few lighters up, cheese grins across faces. Like I said before, this is our version of boomer nostalgia. So, I'm tired and I'm going to bed. I hope I made a little sense.
Edit: Forgot to add that after running through most of the hit parade that was her encore Hill kept repeating, "I have one question for you," letting the suspense build before transitioning into "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," which is so real and obviously referential given all the gossip about her. She really had her wits about her. Then she kicked into "That Thing" by saying there's a reason why I asked that question. Hah! So cute. She pulled all the right strings.
Stevie Wonder with his mother after graduating from the Michigan School for the Blind 6/11/1969
I believe one day Stevland and I will be best friends but until then I have pledged to follow him wherever I can afford to go, which so far has just been uptown to the Apollo. Yesterday, Wonder announced a string of tour dates primarily on the left coast suspiciously including Portland at the exclusion of Seattle. PO is straight and all (better weather, flatter terrain, Macheesmo Mouse) but the town reigns supreme of the two Northwest metropoles.He'll hit a winery/venue in Woodinville, which is and always has been wack. (Thx to MM for the heads up.) Anyway, Stevie plays the Greek Theatre the day me and my mama arrive in LA so please believe we will be there; I am on the Greek Theatre advance sale e-mail list and all. This being his first tour in over a decade (i.e. his first tour since I was old enough to sort through and fall in love with his catalogue) I will also try to hit up one of his three East Coast dates (why no NYC area show?!) and maybe even the Dream Concert for the MLK memorial with ReRe and 'dem.
"A WONDER SUMMER'S NIGHT TOUR"
DATE CITY VENUE Aug. 23 San Diego, CA Humphrey's Aug. 25 Lake Tahoe, CA Harvey's Lake Tahoe Amphitheatre Aug. 26 Concord, CA Concord Pavilion Aug. 28 Santa Barbara, CA Santa Barbara Bowl Aug. 30 Portland, OR Edgefield Amphitheatre Aug. 31 Woodinville, WA Chateau Saint Michelle Winery Sept. 4 Saratoga, CA Mountain Winery Sept. 5 Los Angeles, CA Greek Theatre Sept. 10 Chicago, IL Charter One Pavilion Sept. 12 Detroit, MI Meadowbrook Sept. 14 Atlanta, GA Chastain Park Amphitheatre Sept. 16 Baltimore, MD Pier Six Pavilion Sept. 20 Boston, MA Bank of America Pavilion
+And here is a video clip of Stevie paying tribute to Minnie Riperton on Soul Train, I believe in the wake of her untimely death. I actually just stumbled upon this brief performance and interview with Don Cornelius about his friendship with Riperton. He make some relevant comments about the politics of Black musicians' reception transcribed below and he also sings a medley of Riperton's "Perfect Angel," which he wrote, and "Loving You."
Don Cornelius: Steve, how would you describe Minnie's talent?
Stevie Wonder: She's a very talented woman. I think that she did not get the due recognition in her lifetime, which is often the case to many very great talented people as we can go down the line and think of people that did not get the recognition in their lifetime. I think Jesse Belvin. Nat Cole, I don't think even got the recognition that he deserved eve though he was recognized as being a very incredible singer and also a pianist still did not. The same for Minnie. I think because of the stereotypes that exist throughout the world and particularly in this country, unfortunately, if a Black artist sounds too pop or too R&B they are not played on stations and I think when we rid ourselves of the categorations that we put artists in and just recognize the artist is expressing a form of art, their expression of art, that will not happen.
+And lastly, here is some random live Stevie that I procured somewhere on this here interweb a year or two ago. There's some feedback in the beginning of "Superwoman" but wait for the end. Stevie takes it to the continent. Quite lovely.
Jamming w/ Jimi Hendrix in '67 [MP3] "Superwoman" (Date Unknown) [MP3] "To Know You is to Love You" (Date Unknown) [MP3]
I'm very much concerned with the historiography of Black popular music. Not so much the stuff by legends (e.g. Stevie) or by crossover chart beasters (Rihanna). I mean what a whole lot of Black people listen to and tastemakers, oftentimes but not exclusively white, don't particularly care for. I'm particularly concerned for the R&B that I listened to growing up (on 1250 KFOX or 1420 KRIZ because in the eighties and early nineties FM radio in Seattle DID NOT PLAY contemporary Black music!!!) that I enjoy now, unironically, and how it's contextualized, if at all. I came up in a synthy, drum programmy, eventually New Jack Swingy time overarched by the ever-present quiet stormish stuff and you can't tell me that music doesn't have value. Culturally, at least, it holds a lot of weight. I'd like to research these artists (maybe write a book on them) and I touch on one, Chuckii Booker, today at my VIBE blog.