December 17, 2007

GROVER WASHINGTON JR.

Grover Washington, Jr. (December 12, 1943 – December 17, 1999) was a jazz-funk musician born in Buffalo, New York. Along with George Benson, David Sanborn, Bob James, Chuck Mangione, Herb Alpert, and Spyro Gyra, he is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the smooth jazz genre.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Washington made some of the genre's most memorable hits, including "Mr. Magic", "Black Frost", and "The Best is Yet to Come". In addition, he performed very frequently with other artists, including Bill Withers on "Just the Two of Us" (still in regular rotation on radio today) and Phyllis Hyman on "A Sacred Kind of Love".

He is also remembered for his take on a Dave Brubeck classic, called "Take Another Five", and for his hit "Soulful Strut".

His mother was a church chorister, and his father was a collector of old jazz 78s and a saxophonist as well, so music was everywhere in the home. He grew up with the great jazzmen and big band leaders like Benny Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, and others like them. At the age of 8, with the desire for him to be more than he could be, Grover Sr. gave Jr. a saxophone. He practiced and sneaked into clubs to see famous Buffalo blues musicians.

He left Buffalo and played with a midwest group called the Four Clefs. He was drafted into the US Army shortly thereafter, but this was to be to his advantage, as he met drummer Billy Cobham. Cobham, a mainstay in New York City, introduced Washington to many New York musicians. After leaving the Army, Washington freelanced his talents around New York City, eventually landing in Philadelphia in 1967.

Grover's big break came at the expense of another artist. Alto sax man Hank Crawford was unable to make a recording date with Prestige Records, and Washington took his place, even though he was a backup. This led to his first album, Inner City Blues. He was talented, and displayed heart and soul with soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones. Refreshing for his time, he made headway into the jazz mainstream. His fifth album, 1974's Mister Magic was a commercial success, and introduced guitarist Eric Gale in as a near-permanent member in Washington's arsenal.

A string of acclaimed records brought Washington through the 1970s, which culminated in the signature piece for everything Washington would do from then on. 1980's Winelight was the album that defined everything Washington was about. The album was smooth, fused with R&B and easy listening feel. Washington's love of basketball, especially the Philadelphia 76ers, led him to dedicate his first track, "Let It Flow" to Julius Erving (Dr. J). The highlight of the album, and a main staple of radio airplay everywhere, was his great collaboration with soul artist Bill Withers, "Just The Two of Us". It was also the final step away from Motown, landing him on Elektra Records and into a new era of jazz excellence. The album went platinum in 1981, and also won Grammy Awards in 1982 for Best R&B Song ("Just The Two of Us"), and Best Jazz Fusion Performance ("Winelight"). "Winelight" was also nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

From that point, Washington is credited (or scorned, as some may say) for giving rise to a new batch of talent that would make its mark in the late 80s and early 90s. He is known for bringing Kenny G to the forefront, but also credited with bringing such smooth jazz artists as Walter Beasley, Steve Cole, Pamela Williams, Najee, George Howard and The Philadelphia Experiment.

The tragedy and irony of Washington's life was that while he was able to get his big break from another artist's absence, Washington lived long enough to bring smooth jazz to the last points of the old millennium, but didn't outlive Hank Crawford, whose absence gave him his big break (and is still alive, as of 2005). On December 17th, 1999, while waiting in the green room after taping four songs for the The Early Show, at CBS Studios in New York City, Washington collapsed. He was taken to St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 7:30 p.m. His doctors determined that he had suffered a massive heart attack. He was 56 when he died.

Grover Washington Jr.'s legacy lives on in the futures of up-and-coming jazz artists, and his life is celebrated from college campuses all around the nation to the hallowed streets of his own Philadelphia, his adopted hometown.

December 16, 2007

SONIA SANCHEZ

Sonia Sanchez is an African American poet most often associated with the Black Arts Movement. Born Wilsonia Benita Driver in Birmingham, Alabama on September 9, 1934, she has authored over a dozen books of poetry, as well as plays and children's books.

When Sanchez was only a year old, her mother died and she was sent to live with her paternal grandmother. In 1943, she moved to Harlem to live with her father, her sister, and her stepmother who was her father's third wife. In 1955, she received a B.A. in Political Science from Hunter College, where she had also taken several creative writing courses. Later, Sanchez completed postgraduate work at New York University where she studied poetry with Louise Bogan. Sanchez married poet Etheridge Knight and she had three children with him. They later divorced. In 1972, she joined the Nation of Islam, but left the organization after three years in 1975 because her views on women's rights conflicted with theirs.

Sanchez has taught as a professor at eight universities and has lectured at over 500 college campuses across the US, including Howard University. She advocated the introduction of Black Studies courses in California. Sanchez was the first to create and teach a course based on Black Women and literature in the United States. Sanchez was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University where she began working in 1977, where she held the Laura Carnell chair until her retirement in 1999. She is currently a poet-in-residence at Temple University. She has read her poetry in Africa, the Caribbean, China, Australia, Europe, Nicaragua, Canada, and Cuba. Sanchez has also appeared on Bill Cosby's CBS show in the 1990s.

The author is a member of the Plowshares, the Brandywine Peace Community and MADRE. She also supports MOMS in Alabama and the National Black United Front.

Sanchez was a very influential part of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement. Sanchez was an advocate for the people. She was a member of CORE (Congress for Racial Equality), where she met Malcolm X. She wrote many plays and books that had to do with the struggles and lives of Black America. Sanchez has edited two anthologies on Black literature, We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans and 360° of Blackness Coming at You.

Sanchez is also known for her innovative melding of musical formats - like the blues - and traditional poetic formats like haiku and tanka.

In 1969, Sanchez was awarded the P.E.N. Writing Award. She was awarded the National Education Association Award 1977-1988. She also won the National Academy and Arts Award and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award in 1978-1979. In 1985, she was awarded the American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades. She has also been awarded the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities, and the Peace and Freedom Award from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

December 05, 2007

DIANE REEVES

Diane Reeves, born 23 October 1956 in Detroit, Michigan, known more for her live performances than her albums. Alongside her peers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Diana Krall and Cassandra Wilson she is considered one of the most important female jazz singers of our time. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
Dianne came from a very musical family. Her father, who died when she was two years old, was also a singer. Her mother, Vada Swanson, played trumpet. A cousin, George Duke is a well known piano and keyboard player and producer.
Dianne and her sister Sharon were raised by their grandmother in Denver, Colorado. As a child Dianne took piano lessons and sang at every opportunity. When she was 11 years old her interest in music was enhanced by an inspiring teacher who thought that music was the best way to bring students together. Dianne discovered a love of music and that she wanted to be a singer.
Her uncle, Charles Burell, a bass player with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, introduced her to the music of jazz singers, from Ella Fitzgerald to Billie Holiday. She was especially impressed by Sarah Vaughan.
At the age of sixteen she was singing at the George Washington High School (Denver) in Denver, in a high school big-band. That same year the band played at a music festival (Convention of the National Association of Jazz Educators). Her Band won first place and it was there she met the trumpeter Clark Terry, who after discovering her became her mentor.
A year later she began studying music at the University of Colorado, before she moved in 1976 to Los Angeles. In L.A. her interest in Latin-American music grew. She began experimenting with different kinds of vocal music and finally decided to pursue a career as a singer. She met Eduardo del Barrio, toured with his group "Caldera" and sang in Billy Child's jazz band "Night Flights". Later she toured with Sergio Mendes.
From 1983 until 1986 she toured with Harry Belafonte as a lead singer. This period saw her first experiences with world music. In 1987 she became the first vocalist to sign with Blue Note records. She moved back to Denver from Los Angeles in 1992. She sang at the closing ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

Grammy Awards
She has currently won 4 Grammy Awards for "Best Jazz Vocal Performance" for her albums
2001 In the Moment
2002 The Calling
2003 A Little Moonlight
2006 Good Night, and Good Luck (Soundtrack)
She is the only singer to have won this Grammy for three consecutive recordings.

December 04, 2007

KEVIN MAHOGANY

Kevin Mahogany was born in 1958 in Kansas City, Missouri. During high school, he taught clarinet and was a featured baritone saxophonist and pianist in several jazz bands. He shifted his focus to singing while attending Baker University.

Kevin Mahogany grew up with the sound of Memphis and Mowtown as well as the ever-evolving rock 'n' roll in the turbulent '60s. He attended the Charlie Parker Foundation in his hometown of Kansas City, and was teaching clarinet by the time he was 14. He also studied piano and became an accomplished baritone saxophonist, performing with three jazz bands while still in high school. His interest in singing did not materialize until he attended Baker University in Kansas where the industrious Mahogany founded a jazz choir. He entered the school in 1976 and graduated with a BFA in Music and English Drama in 1981. After College, Kevin established two groups, ensembles focusing on contemporary R&B, crossover jazz and classic '60s soul music. At the same time Kevin was very attracted to singers such as Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and Eddie Jefferson.

Kevin recorded three well-recieved albums with the German independent Enja before landing at Warner Bros. Records in 1995. With his self-titled Warner Bros. debut in 1996, Kevin won acclamations from NewsWeek, which described him as "the standout jazz vocalist of his generation." Esteemed writer Whitney Balliet declared in The New Yorker, "There is little Mahogany cannot do," while the L.A. Times pronounced Mahogany to be "one of the first truly gifted male vocalists to emerge in years." The album also earned excellent reviews including four stars from USA Today. That same year, Mahogany appeared in Robert Altman's film Kansas City portraying a character inspired by Big Joe Turner.

Since then, Kevin has been in high demand. He appears on the upcoming Malpaso release Eastwood After Hours, a Clint Eastwood ensemble project performed and recorded live at Carnegie Hall earlier this year. Additionally Kevin headlined this year's IAJE Benefit, also at Carnegie Hall.

If Kevin Mahogany had set out to prove he is the quintessential jazz vocalist, he could not have made a more convincing album. But Kevin leaves those concerns to the critics. He simply sings with great feeling and subtlety, transporting the listener to regions of the heart and soul - to "Another Time, Another Place" his second release on Warner Bros. Records - which is the real sign of a great jazz artist. Filled with rich originals as well as swinging standards, Kevin Mahogany delivers a focused and mature collection of jazz tunes with a mega-watt panache that so impressed his listeners in his critical acclaimed self-titled debut release last year. He encompasses blues, soul, gospel, and jazz, or as Mahogany once said, "I listened to everything while I was coming up. If all that is in your background, you should be able to sing anything..."

December 03, 2007

JOHNNY HARTMAN

John Maurice Hartman was born on July 3, 1923 in Chicago, IL
Though he was never the most distinctive vocalist, Johnny Hartman rose above others to become the most commanding, smooth balladeer of the 1950s and '60s, a black crooner closely following Billy Eckstine and building on the form with his notable jazz collaborations, including the 1963 masterpiece John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. Born in Chicago, he began singing early on and performed while in Special Services in the Army. Hartman studied music while at college and made his professional debut in the mid-'40s, performing with Earl Hines and recording his first sides for Regent/Savoy. After Hines' band broke up later in 1947, Hartman moved to the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and stayed for two years, recording a few additional sides for Mercury as well.

Johnny Hartman's first proper LP came in 1956 with Songs from the Heart, recorded for Bethlehem and featuring a quartet led by trumpeter Howard McGhee. He recorded a second (All of Me) later that year, but then was virtually off-record until 1963, when his duet album John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman appeared on Impulse. A beautiful set of ballad standards including top-flight renditions of "Lush Life" and "My One and Only Love," the album sparked a flurry of activity for Hartman, including two more albums for Impulse: 1963's I Just Dropped by to Say Hello and the following year's The Voice That Is. During the late '60s and early '70s, he recorded a range of jazz and pop standards albums for ABC, Perception and Blue Note. Hartman recorded sparingly during the 1970s, but returned with two albums recorded in 1980, one of which (Once in Every Life) earned a Grammy nomination just two years before he crossed over on Sep 15, 1983 in New York, NY.

December 02, 2007

CARMEN McRAE

Carmen Mercedes McRae, born April 8, 1920 was an American jazz singer. Considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th Century, it was her behind-the-beat phrasing and her ironic interpretations of song lyrics that made her memorable.

Carmen McRae was one of the earliest, and best, bop vocalists. Her scat improvisations and choice of material would have been daunting for any singer, but her real fortitude was in the emotional depth she brought to every lyric
McRae was born in Harlem, New York City , to West Indian parents. She began studying piano as a child. As a teenager she came to the attention of Teddy Wilson and his wife, the composer Irene Kitchings Wilson. Through their influence, one of McRae’s early songs, "Dream of Life", was recorded by Wilson’s longtime collaborator Billie Holiday.

By the late 1940s she was well known among the modern jazz musicians who gathered at Minton's Playhouse, Harlem's most famous jazz club, where she was the intermission pianist. But it was while working in Brooklyn that she came to the attention of Decca’s Milt Gabler. Her five year association with Decca yielded 12 LPs.
Her live 1987 duets with Betty Carter are highly regarded.

The musicians she sang with include Benny Carter, Mercer Ellington, Count Basie, Sammy Davis Jr., Dave Brubeck, and Louis Armstrong. As a result of her early friendship with Billie Holiday, she never performed without singing at least one song associated with Lady Day.

She was married to drummer Kenny Clarke and the double bassist Ike Isaacs.
"She had the musical sense to know that when she had five notes to hit, she'd find the one in the range where she heard it in her head and would go for it," said drummer Joey Baron, who recorded with McRae. "That left so much space that was full of feeling rather than filled up with cluttered clich├ęs. And she just swung so hard!"

McRae was a prodigy on piano, she wrote "Dream of Life," which Billie Holiday recorded while McRae was in her teens. She sang with Benny Carter's orchestra in 1944 and with Count Basie and Mercer Ellington a few years later. During this time she also worked as a singer and pianist at Minton's Playhouse where she absorbed rhythmic ideas from the boppers who made the New York club their headquarters. She began recording as a leader in 1953 and continued to work for various labels and lead different groups for the next four decades. In 1988, she recorded a unique album of Thelonious Monk compositions.

McRae crossed over on Nov. 10, 1994.

December 01, 2007

"SPOTLIGHT ON JAZZ & POETRY" Celebrates One Year On The Air


Clayton E. Corley, Sr. aka Bigtrigger is celebrating his one year anniversary of bringing the best in Jazz and Poetry to the world via his internet radio program, "Spotlight On Jazz And Poetry" on National Artist League Radio. Although he began back in April of 2006 he considers his REAL program launch as of December 3, 2007.

He's just as passionate and driven today about bringing you the best that the Jazz and Poetry world has to offer, as he was one year ago. He says "Jazz and Poetry have so much in common there's no doubt that these two art forms fit together like hand in glove. They are so deep and rich in history and they're major ways of communicating with one another and negotiating agendas.




On Sunday, September 30th, 2007 "Big Trigger" received a Versatility and Image Award in recognition of his ground breaking work in support of jazz musicians and poets through the program. Accompanying Clayton Corley were a few of the artists that have greatly benefitted from the exposure from his program from right: poet Lamont "Napalm" Dixon, poet Safiyyah Amina Muhammad and saxaphonist Shenole Latimer.(pictured above)


One of the first things that you notice about Clayton is the amount of love and respect that he has for artists and their work. He grew up listening to jazz and has virtually an encyclopedic knowledge of it and its history, and both the columns that "Big Trigger" has written for Shenole Latimer's newsletter "On The Inside" and this Liner Notes blog, stand as clear illustrations of this fact.


CONGRATULATIONS BIGTRIGGER & SOJP ON A GREAT YEAR OF JAZZ & POETRY!

Here's What Folks are saying about Bigtrigger and SOJP;

Best wishes to you and congratulations on your one year anniversary. Keep up the good work!
Best regards, Claire

hardy congratulations 'trigger'...
blessings to you for shining light on those who are deserving but may otherwise go unnoticed or under-noticed...
kudos and keep doing what you do!!!!

~lorenda~

Congrats my divine brother. You do a phenomenal job at what you do and so many are blessed to partake in the gifts you share.~~ Truth Theory