December 04, 2013

Sweet Moment's

Originally from Queens, New York, Rhenda Fearrington always delivers an authentic and warm presentation of Jazz Standards mixed with Soulful originals. She is "true" to her roots which includes performing on the International stage as a back-up singer for Roberta Flack and MTUME, respectively! When Rhenda sings, it's quite evident there's a story being told...and it begins and ends with Joy! 
She has also spent years as a Commercial/Jingle Singer; 15 years performing for schools with her "Feel Sooo Good Tour;" a motivational program that focuses on building the self-esteem of children! 

Rhenda Co-produced her first solo CD, "This Moment's Sweetness," in 2012, with prolific Philadelphia Jazz Bassist, Mike Boone, featuring Tenor Saxophone Legend, Larry McKenna. 
Rhenda is also a writer who had a published column, "The ABC of it," in the Suburban & Wayne Times, for 6 years as well as writing Children's Book Reviews for Kids Can Press, LTD (Canada). Rhenda writes independent blogs/reviews about the Philadelphia Jazz scene, and is currently pursuing having her two children's books published, in 2014.

Rhenda was honored for her patronage and voice at Chris’s Jazz Café here in Philadelphia, where she has a special place on their Wall of Fame. “It’s such an honor. I feel like Cinderella coming out of a pumpkin when I walk in at Chris’s “ Rhenda says

For the little girl from Queens who belted out Roberta Flack tunes, the time has come for her to wear the glass slipper.

November 17, 2013

Cecile McLorin Salvant

Cécile McLorin Salvant was born on August 28, 1989 and raised in Miami, Florida of a French mother and a Haitian father. She started classical piano studies at 5, and began singing in the Miami Choral Society at 8. Early on, she developed an interest in classical voice, began studying with private instructors, and later with Edward Walker, vocal teacher at the University of Miami. 
In 2007, Cécile moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, to study law as well as classical and baroque voice at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory. It was in Aix-en-Provence, with reedist and teacher Jean-François Bonnel, that she started learning about improvisation, instrumental and vocal repertoire ranging from the 1910s on, and sang with her first band. In 2009, after a series of concerts in Paris, she recorded her first album "Cécile", with Jean-François Bonnel's Paris Quintet. A year later, she won the Thelonious Monk competition in Washington D.C.
Cécile performs unique interpretations of unknown and scarcely recorded jazz and blues compositions. She focuses on a theatrical portrayal of the jazz standard and composes music and lyrics which she also sings in French, her native language as well as in Spanish. She enjoys popularity in Europe and in the United States, performing in clubs, concert halls, and festivals accompanied by renowned musicians like Jean-Francois Bonnel, Rodney Whitaker, Aaron Diehl, Dan Nimmer, Sadao Watanabe, Jacky Terrasson (with an a noted collaboration in his "Gouache" Universal CD), Archie Shepp, and Jonathan Batiste.  She sings for the 2nd consecutive year for the Chanel’s « Chance » ad campaign. In August 2012, Cécile recorded at the Avatar Studios a CD to be released early next year for the Mack Avenue Label with Aaron Diehl, Rodney Whitaker, Herlin Riley and James Chirillo.
Cécile has performed at numerous festivals such as Jazz à Vienne, Ascona, Whitley Bay, Montauban, Foix, with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in New York’s Lincoln Center and Chicago’s Symphony Center and with her own band at the Kennedy Center, the Spoleto Jazz Festival, Detroit Jazz Festival and other venues.
Ben Ratliff writes in The New York Times “she sings clearly, with her full pitch range, from a pronounced low end to full and distinct high notes, used sparingly — like the one I heard a few weeks ago at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on the last word of “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” the spire in a magnificent set. Her voice clamps into each song, performing careful variations on pitch, stretching words but generally not scatting; her face conveys meaning, representing sorrow or serenity like a silent-movie actor. She also presents a lot of jazz history, and other things…”

To visit the Cecile McLorin Salvant website CLICK HERE

November 03, 2013

Feelin' Kind Of Blue

Omar Sosa (born April 10, 1965, in Camagüey, Cuba) is a composer, bandleader, and jazz pianist. Sosa began studying marimba at age eight, then switched to piano at the Escuela Nacional de Musica in Havana, where he studied jazz. Sosa moved to Quito, Ecuador, in 1993, then San Francisco, California, in 1995. In San Francisco he became deeply involved in the local Latin jazz scene and began a long collaboration with percussionist John Santos. He also made a series of recordings with producer Greg Landau, including the ground-breaking Oaktown Irawo, featuring Tower of Power drummer Dave Garibaldi, Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry and Cuban percussionist Jesus Diaz. Sosa and Landau recorded with Carlos “Patato” Valdes and Pancho Quinto and worked on several film scores. Around 1999 Sosa moved to Barcelona, Spain.

Omar Sosa is one of the most versatile jazz artists on the scene today: composer, arranger, producer, pianist, percussionist, and bandleader. He fuses a wide range of world music and electronic elements with his native Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original urban sound – all with a Latin jazz heart. On stage, Mr. Sosa is a charismatic figure, inspiring his fellow musicians with his dynamic playing and improvisational approach to the music – an approach full of raw emotional power and humor. Mr. Sosa invariably inspires audiences to their feet and to join him in chorus vocals, heightening the sense of spontaneity and connection.

Mr. Sosa’s latest CD on Otá Records, Mulatos , features Latin jazz master Paquito D’Rivera on clarinet. The recording is an adventurous, finely wrought, and wholly delightful mélange of Cuban jazz, Latin dance grooves, French chanson, North African trance music, and European folk. It dances with rhythmic inspirations of Indian tabla, jazz drums, and studio mixing. Also featured is the delicate voice of the Arabic lute, the oud, and the composer himself on marimba. “Mulatos” was recently nominated for Latin Jazz Album of the Year by the NYC-based Jazz Journalists Association.

Mr. Sosa’s music is a unique style of Afro-Cuban jazz, and while it is rooted in the folkloric traditions of the African Diaspora, he always takes an exploratory approach – never one to let orthodoxy stand in the way of his pursuit of freedom. Sosa offers a joyful mix of jazz and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, combining percussive forays inside the piano and a series of electronic effects with his inspired, passionate playing at the keyboard. His tempos are fluid, and his moods change freely. Sosa revels in the irresistible clave grooves of Latin jazz, while adding experimental touches to keep his listeners on their toes.

Omar Sosa has released 15 recordings on the Oakland-based Otá Records label since 1997, including 2002’s GRAMMY-nominated Sentir . He performed recently with his Octet at the opening of Carnegie Hall’s new Zankel Hall, about which Alex Ross of The New Yorker remarked that Sosa has “a ferocious flair for rhythm and a keen musical wit”. Composer John Adams, who curated the opening of Carnegie Hall’s new venue, commented that “Sosa is a deeply creative musician with an extraordinary harmonic sense. His piano playing is sui generis : It has obvious roots in Cuban music, but he’s taken his approach to the keyboard into completely new regions”. And Don Heckman of The Los Angeles Times recently wrote “Sosa’s vision of contemporary jazz reaches across every imaginable boundary”. For more information, please visit

Omar Sosa was nominated in 2003 for a BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the ‘Americas’ category, along with Ibrahim Ferrer, Caetano Veloso, and Os Tribalistas. He began 2004 with the debut of his first work for symphony orchestra, entitled From Our Mother , performed at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland by the Oakland East Bay Symphony under the direction of Michael Morgan. The 45-minute work in three movements, which combines folkloric elements from Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador with modern jazz harmonies, was co-commissioned by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Oakland East Bay Symphony, with partial funding from the Rockefeller Foundation

EGGUN released 2013 (OTA1024)

EGGUNThe Afri-Lectric Experience began as an Omar Sosa commission from the Barcelona Jazz Festival in 2009. The assignment: to compose and produce a tribute performance to Miles Davis’ classic recording, Kind Of Blue, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Inspired by various musical elements and motifs from Kind Of Blue, Omar wrote a suite of music honoring the spirit of freedom in Davis’ seminal work.

Featuring trumpet and two saxophones, Eggun provides a medium for musical elements from Africa to shape and develop the music. The resulting jazz textures are further enhanced by the subtle and expressive use of electronic elements. At the heart of the recording is the spirit of Mother Africa.

The featured horn players are Joo Kraus on trumpet (Germany),Leandro Saint-Hill on alto saxophone and flute (Cuba), and Peter Apfelbaum on tenor saxophone (U.S.A.). Omar’s longtime rhythm section of Marque Gilmore on drums (U.S.A.) and Childo Tomas on electric bass (Mozambique) create the foundation.

Special guests on the project include Lionel Loueke on guitars (Benin),Marvin Sewell on guitars (U.S.A.), Pedro Martinez on Afro-Cuban percussion (Cuba), John Santos on percussion (U.S.A.), and Gustavo Ovalles on Afro-Venezuelan percussion (Venezuela). The CD was recorded primarily in Brooklyn, NY. Of particular interest is a set of sixInterludios interspersed among the primary tracks of the recording, inspired by melodic elements from the solos of Bill Evans.

Eggun, in the West African spiritual practice of Ifá and its various
expressions throughout the African Diaspora, are the spirits of those whohave gone before us, both in our immediate families and those who serve as our Spirit guides.

From the liner notes, by Joan Cararach, artistic director of theBarcelona Jazz Festival:

Harmony, peace, respect, freedom. That has been Omar Sosa’s
response to our proposal: to revisit Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis, from his own (quite exceptional) aesthetic assumptions. The year was 2009. The 41st Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival had hired drummer Jimmy Cobb – the only surviving member of the group’s original line-up who created that record – and a tribute band committed to revive, in concert, the memory of that iconic jazz piece. But Kind of Blue, rather than a museum piece, is a mysterious record with an intimacy to be disclosed very slowly, generation after generation, beyond the commonplaces of history books.

That’s why we asked two artists who are familiar with our festival to revisit Kind of Blue from another perspective, following the artistic principles evoked by Bill Evans in his notes to the record signed by Davis: be yourself, be spontaneous, give all you have to give, everything you learned from those who came before and those you are sharing the road with. We selected Chano Domínguez, from Andalucía, who contributed Flamenco Sketches (Blue Note, 2012), and Cuban Omar Sosa, who did a powerful research of Miles Davis’ record.

Eggun (ancestors) is not a typical record, just as Sosa is not a typical pianist. The artist, at first reluctant, became obsessed probing into Kind of Blue to find nothing else but the paradoxes of a never-ending search: love and indifference; exile and emigration; being here and now with the lessons of those who illuminated us; restless energy and deliberate contemplation; the uncanny twists and turns of our souls and the shades of our lives; the constant strain between grief and joy, contradictory and supplementary at the same time.

Eggun essentially derives from the melodic cells of Kind of Blue’s solos and has the aim of honoring that record, which, let’s say it once more, is hardly known in spite of having been used and abused. Eggun is like all of Sosa’s works, an invitation to a journey plentiful with luxury, peace and sensuality (thanks, Baudelaire!). We have a welcome withAlejet – whitein Arabic – and El Alba. All the sounds of the African diaspora – where Moroccan bendir meets Dominican merengue and Puerto Rican plena: So All Freddie. The interludes, almost sacred invocations to the genius of Bill Evans. And a passionate desperation in the finale, as in records conceived the old way, like a narrative, followed by the final rest, grace in a religious sense, like an overflowing energy which at the end of the journey becomes pure togetherness. Kindness, in short.

To visit Omar Sosa's website CLICK HERE

October 13, 2013

Click the artists name or picture below and listen to
Clayton "Bigtrigger" Corley 


Jazz guitarist Roni Ben-Hur has earned a sterling reputation as a musician and educator, renowned for his golden tone, improvisational brilliance, compositional lyricism and ability to charm peers, students and listeners alike. Eminent jazz critic Gary Giddins wrote in the Village Voice: "A limber and inventive guitarist, Ben-Hur keeps the modernist flame alive and pure, with a low flame burning in every note... [He's] a guitarist who knows the changes and his own mind." Ben-Hur - born in Israel in 1962 but a longtime American citizen, now based in New Jersey - has released nine albums as leader or co-leader, with Time Out New York calling him "a formidable and consummately lyrical guitarist." The Star-Ledger of New Jersey summed him up this way: "A deep musician, a storyteller, Ben-Hur works with a warm, glowing sound and has an alluring way of combining engaging notes with supple rhythm." Along with releasing acclaimed educational products - including the instructional DVD Chordability and method book Talk Jazz: Guitar - Ben-Hur has directed international jazz camps for nearly 15 years. Jazz guitar star Russell Malone got it right when he said: "Everything Roni does is beautiful. He has the magic touch."

Ben-Hur's latest album is Our Thing (Motéma Music, 2012), a co-led trio project with Panamanian-born bassist Santi Debriano that also features Brazilian drummer Duduka Da Fonseca. Marked by soulful grooves, telepathic interplay and a rich, organic ensemble sound, Our Thing ranges from deeply swinging interpretations of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys" and Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance" to a pair of poetic tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim and several beautiful originals that channel the players' Middle Eastern, Latin and Brazilian heritages through a post-bop prism. One of Ben-Hur's compositions is a fresh rendition of a longtime favorite in his songbook: "Anna's Dance," written for one of his two daughters. DownBeat called Our Thing "mesmerizing," while New York City Jazz Record captured it colorfully: "Ben-Hur, Debriano and Da Fonseca sway with the grace of palm trees, exuding a laidback introspection." The Buffalo News encapsulated the album by describing it as "delectable jazz internationalism of near-Olympic variety. Ben-Hur and Debriano are players of first-rate fluency and taste."

Ben-Hur's family relocated from Tunisia to Dimona, Israel, where he was born into large family - teaching him good ensemble values early on. The guitarist began playing in wedding bands and in Tel Aviv clubs as a teenager enraptured by the recordings of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell. The young musician also came to love the classical Spanish repertoire via Segovia, hearing a Moorish sound that resonated with his family's North African roots. Later, after moving to New York in 1985, he would fall for Brazilian music, particularly through the work of guitarist-composer Baden Powell. When Ben-Hur came onto the New York jazz scene, he was fortunate to be taken under the wing of veteran jazz pianist Barry Harris, a Monk disciple and Grammy Award-winner who led the influential Jazz Cultural Theater during the mid-'80s in Manhattan. The up-and-coming guitarist played in Harris's band, absorbing musical wisdom and life lessons.
Teaching has become increasingly important to Ben-Hur over the years, as he has developed an international reach as an educator. As founder and director of the jazz program at the Lucy Moses School at the Kaufman Center in Manhattan since 1994, Ben-Hur has educated a multitude of jazz enthusiasts in ensemble playing, improvisation and jazz guitar. Along with his jazz camp with Santi Debriano in the South of France, Ben-Hur led camps for years in Patterson, N.Y. More recently, through his company Adventures in Jazz - which he operates with his wife, singer Amy London - Ben-Hur conducts jazz camps in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, in Istanbul, Turkey, and in Schroon Lake, N.Y., teaching workshops in straight-ahead jazz, Latin jazz and Brazilian jazz with Debriano and other teachers. With Brazilian bassist Nilson Matta, Ben-Hur also co-leads Samba Meets Jazz camps in Paraty, Brazil, and in Bar Harbor, Maine.

With his partner in the Samba Meets Jazz camps, bassist Nilson Matta, Ben-Hur released the album Mojave (Motéma, 2011), which also featured drummer Victor Lewis and percussionist Café. The album was the second in Motéma's Jazz Therapy series. The series was co-founded by Ben-Hur and the label to raise money and awareness for the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund of New Jersey's Englewood Hospital and Medical Center Foundation, which provides care for uninsured jazz musicians. The first album in the series wasSmile, Ben-Hur's 2008 duo set with veteran guitarist Gene Bertoncini.

Ben-Hur and Matta are each masters of a musical tradition, the guitarist with bebop and the bassist with samba. Mojave sees them meld the two worlds, in league with New York jazz drummer Victor Lewis and Brazilian percussionist Café. They range from pieces by such Brazilian icons as Jobim, Baden Powell and choro pioneer Pixinguinha to Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" and deftly rhythmic originals by all four players. One of Ben-Hur's contributions is the moody beauty "Eretz" (Hebrew for "land"), another of his signature tunes interpreted afresh. The Rochester City Newspaper offered a glowing review of the album: "Mojave is magical from start to finish... The combination of Matta's samba and Ben-Hur's swing is a marriage made in heaven.
Acclaim for Smile, Ben-Hur's dual-guitar album with Gene Bertoncini, was equally wide-spread. The New York Times lauded the "sophisticated and lyrical" musicianship, and DownBeat simply called the album "stunning," as the players stretch from the Charlie Chaplin title track and the Arlen-Mercer standard "Out of This World" to an enterprising take on Roberta Flack's hit "Killing Me Softly" and two of Ben-Hur's personal standards - his "Anna's Dance," written for one daughter, and "Sofia's Butterfly," penned for the other. Jazz sage Nat Hentoff praised the "lyrically meditative dialogue" between the two guitarists in the Wall Street Journal, while the Washington Post was enamored by "the dazzling dexterity and tasteful elegance of these duets."

Two other key albums in Ben-Hur's discography are Fortuna (Motéma, 2009) and Keepin' It Open (Motéma, 2007), both quintet sets with piano vet Ronnie Matthews and ultra-swinging drummer Lewis Nash, plus percussionist Steve Kroon. Keepin' It Open, which also includes bassist Santi Debriano and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt in the group, has a wide purview, from Monk's rollicking "Think of One" to a dark-hued old Sephardic melody, "Eshkolit." Tapping into his family's Sephardic Jewish roots and his love of the Spanish classical guitar repertoire, Ben-Hur recasts Granados' "Andaluza" as an ensemble piece. And the guitarist's originals include the finger-snapping "My Man, Harris," a tribute to his mentor Barry Harris. JazzTimes called the album "a delight from start to finish," while critic Scott Yanow singled out the guitarist on All Music, saying that Ben-Hur "can swing as hard as anyone."

Fortuna, which has Rufus Reid on double-bass, sees Ben-Hur recast Albéniz's "Granada" with an ear for the early Israeli popular music influenced by the Moorish sound. Along with two Jobim numbers, the disc includes the Irving Berlin ballad "I Got Lost in his Arms" and Ben-Hur's funky original "Guess Who." Jazz scholar Dan Morgenstern listed Fortuna as one of his top 10 discs of 2009. JazzTimes described the album this way: "A keen story teller, Ben-Hur's dexterous, melodic and emotive playing is supported by a tight-knit cast of stellar musicians... his skill and warm tone underscoring the band's chemistry." All About Jazz said, "Fortuna is a sparkling ode to the brightness of life."

Ben-Hur's album Signature (Reservoir, 2005) put the guitarist in the company of pianist John Hicks, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Leroy Williams, again plus percussionist Steve Kroon. The tracks include the first appearance of Ben-Hur's gem "Eretz," plus two pieces by Villa-Lobos and tunes by Jobim and Cole Porter. DownBeat said: "Signature is a collection of consummately played music that matches the six-stringer's consistently creative melody reading, soloing and comping with the supportive work of superb sidemen. Ben-Hur's original compositions are similarly impressive, from opening burner 'Mama Bee,' which dazzles with a brilliantly constructed guitar solo, to 'Eretz,' a gorgeous ballad intended as a tribute to the guitarist's native Israel that feels like an instant standard."

For Anna's Dance (Reservoir, 2001), Ben-Hur convened a combo of elders: Barry Harris on piano, Charles Davis on saxophone, Walter Booker on double-bass and Leroy Williams on drums. The highlights include the debut of Ben-Hur's title composition, as well as the Billy Strayhorn ballad "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing." In the Village Voice, Gary Giddins said: "As eloquent as a cool breeze, this understated exercise in bebop equilibrium goes down so easy that you might underestimate the magic. Ben-Hur and Charles Davis, who trades in his Sun Ra baritone for suave tenor, speak Harris's lingo like natives." Ben-Hur's kick-started his discography with two bebop showcases.Sofia's Butterfly (TCB, 1998) saw the guitarist - with drummer Leroy Williams and bassist Lisle Atkinson in tow - offering much promise; there's the ultra-fluid virtuosity of his take on Monk's "Four in One," not to mention the first appearances of his original title tune and "Fortuna." Ben-Hur made his initial splash on record with Backyard (TCB, 1996), which presented him with the Barry Harris Trio.
In addition to leading his own bands, Ben-Hur has shared the stage and the studio not only with the heroes and great peers mentioned above but with the likes of Cecil Payne, Etta Jones, Marcus Belgrave, Charles McPherson, Jimmy Heath, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Earl May, Teri Thornton and Bill Doggett. Ben-Hur regularly performs in the top jazz venues and in major festivals across the country and around the world. As an educator, he has established jazz programs in New York City high schools, along with presenting workshops for students of all ages in the U.S. and Europe. His instructional releases include the DVD Chordability (Motéma, 2011), which offers 20 lessons on chord voicings and jazz harmony for intermediate and advanced guitarists. He also translated "the Barry Harris method" to guitar with the publication Talk Jazz: Guitar (Mel Bay, 2003), which has appeared in English and Japanese editions.

Ben-Hur’s latest album is Our Thing (Motéma Music, 2012), a co-led trio project with Panamanian-born bassist Santi Debriano that also features Brazilian drummer Duduka Da Fonseca. Marked by soulful grooves, telepathic interplay and a rich, organic ensemble sound, Our Thing ranges from deeply swinging interpretations of Thelonious Monk’s “Green Chimneys” and Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” to a pair of poetic tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim and several beautiful originals that channel the players’ Middle Eastern, Latin and Brazilian heritages through a post-bop prism. One of Ben-Hur’s compositions is a fresh rendition of a longtime favorite in his songbook: “Anna’s Dance,” written for one of his two daughters. DownBeat called Our Thing “mesmerizing,” while New York City Jazz Record captured it colorfully: “Ben-Hur, Debriano and Da Fonseca sway with the grace of palm trees, exuding a laidback introspection.” The Buffalo News encapsulated the album by describing it as “delectable jazz internationalism of near-Olympic variety. Ben-Hur and Debriano are players of first-rate fluency and taste.”

To Visit Roni Ben-Hur's website CLICK HERE

October 06, 2013

Speaking Life's Truth's


Wanda Robinson better known as Laini Mataka was born and raised in Baltimore, Md., one of 10 children, and was raised by her Grandmother. She's been writing poetry since the age of thirteen. Her first paid writing gig was composing letters, at a quarter apiece, for girls whose boyfriends were being sent to Vietnam. She wrote about, she says, "things I knew nothing about": "it was all about love- 'oh, he broke my heart!'"

As the war progressed and she entered college, her work became more political. After hearing R&B singer Arthur Prysock's poetry-based 1969 album, "This Is My Beloved," she decided to set some of her poems to music.
She read poems into a tape recorder with a stereo playing in the background, then she played the finished product for her classmates at the Community College of Baltimore. A local DJ, Anthony Davis played some of her work on his show. Soon after, she got a call from Perception Records which invited the 20 year old if she would like to come to NYC to cut a record.

When Laini (named for a settlement in Kenya's central Province) was picking music for her album, the label opened it's library up to her. "They said to use any music I wanted - they owned the rights to everything," she remembers. She selected a great deal of material from Black Ivory, a soul trio from Harlem- and then walked into what she describes as a sort of disorganized, never-ending party. She remembers label folks keeping artists working however they could. "Whatever you wanted, they would get it for you," Mataka says. Laini wanted nothing was what she told them!

After recording her album "Black Ivory" in 1971, performing doggedly to promote the record - at a beauty pagent, on an episode of Soul Train she never saw - Laini fled, feeling overworked and underpaid. "I hid," she says. "I said i'd never give my work to white people again to exploit me, and I didn't."

She went home to Baltimore, where she put in time at the CSX railroad, in libraries and in a warehouse. She didn't want to deal with labels, agents or producers anymore, but, encouraged by friends, met with a guy who'd worked with Maya Angelou. They took a cab ride, he disrespected her, she got out and didn't take any more meetings.

In the meantime, Laini says, "Me And A Friend," was cobbled together from tracks she recorded for Black Ivory. Although she's never listened to the whole recording, she did once read the lyric sheet. "They didn't know what I was saying," she says. "They misspelled a lot of words."

Still the disc has done a lot to maintain her profile among crate-diggers. DJ Shadow, the British electronica duo Pressure Drop and New York house producer Floppy Sounds have all sampled Laini's work. And those are just the "Credited uses." No doubt since Perception records went bankrupt and the catalog was purchased, she probably could regain some of the ownership of her work.

In the mid - 70s, Mataka met Paul Coates, owner of Baltimore's Black Classic Press. Once he began the process of starting a publishing house, he told her that is she waited for him that his company would publish everything she wrote. Coates made good on that promise. In 1988 "Never As Strangers, In 1994 "Restoring The Queen." And, in 2000 Bein A Strong Black Woman Could Get You Killed," were all published by Black Classic Press.

Laini Mataka is the real deal. Even 30 years ago her voice was uniquely original and still is even today!
She would even like to sing. "I want to mix it up," she says, "start a song, then stop in the middle, like a jazz musician (her favorite music) run a poem, then pick up on the other side."

But for now, she's continuing to work with young writers, constantly composing poems and trying to finish up a novel about a childhood boyfriend who was killed. That last project, she admits, is giving her some trouble. "It needs a happy ending," she says, "and I don't know anyone who's having one right now."

To purchase the work of Laini Mataka CLICK HERE

To catch Laini Mataka on Facebook CLICK HERE

Listen to Spotlight On jazz and Poetry's "Spotlight Conversations with Laini Mataka" hosted by Clayton "Bigtrigger" Corley, Sr.

September 18, 2013

McCoy Tyner

 McCoy Alfred Tyner is best remembered from the John Coltrane Quartet. In the past decades since he has become one of the major pianists and composers, expanding the vocabulary of color and harmony. His lusty piano is richly percussive and hammering, while full of cascading and romantic sounds. His unique and forceful style has inspired and influenced a whole new generation of musicians. 

Tyner was born in Philadelphia on December 11, 1938, the oldest of three children. He was encouraged to study piano by his mother. He finally began studying the piano at age 13 and within two years, music had become the focal point in his life. 

In the beginning McCoy practiced on a neighbour's piano. When his family bought one, he began hosting jam sessions. Among his friends and neighbours were a number of young musicians who would go on to make their marks in jazz, such as trumpeter Lee Morgan, saxophonist Archie Shepp, pianist Bobby Timmons, and bassist Regie Workman. "Bud and Richie Powell moved into my neighbourhood. Bud was a major influence on me during my early teens. He was very dynamic." In addition, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum were young McCoy's major influences. McCoy studied at the West Philadelphia Music School and later at Granoff School of Music. 

At age 17, while playing at a local club called the Red Rooster, he first met JOHN COLTRANE. Coltrane was in Philadelphia between gigs with Miles Davis. The saxophonist, whose style was still in its formative stages and whose reputation was on the rise, had no working group of his own, but secured a few engagements in and around Philadelphia, with McCoy often in his rhythm section. The rapport between the two was so apparent, that Coltrane made it clear that he hoped to eventually have a regular band with McCoy Tyner in it.

His first main exposure came with BENNY GOLSON being the first pianist in Golson's and Art Farmer's legendary Jazztet (1959). By 1960, when John Coltrane finally left Miles Davis to form his own group, McCoy left Art Farmer. Tyner continued with Coltrane through 1965, participating in all the major recording sessions.

The pianist participated in numerous historical recording sessions with Coltrane, including for instance Africa Brass, A Love Supreme, and My Favorite Things. While with Coltrane, Tyner also recorded many of his own albums for Impulse!, including such classics as "Inception", "Night of Ballads and Blues", and "Live at Newport", and later for Blue Note, which enabled him to feature his densely rich piano sound to great effect.

Upon Leaving Coltrane (1965), there was a lull in Tyner's popularity. The future looked bright and the trio he formed seemed to have a big future. In fact he spent the next five years playing superbly but getting more and more disillusioned due to lack of acceptance. But he rebounded in the 1970's. Due to groups featuring Sonny Fortune and Azar Lawrence and recordings for Milestone like "Sahara", which received two Grammy nominations and was named 'Album of the year' in the Down Beat Critics Poll, Tyner gained recognition. He toured and recorded with SONNY ROLLINS, Ron Carter and Al Foster as the Milestone Jazzstars in 1978, and in the mid-1980s led a quintet that included Gary Bartz and violinist John Blake. 

Since 1980, he has also arranged his lavishly textured harmonies for a big band that performs and records when possible. In the late 1980s, he mainly focussed on his regular piano trio featuring Avery Sharpe on bass and Aarron Scott on drums. As of today, this trio is still in great demand. He returned to Impulse in 1995, with a superb album featuring MICHAEL BRECKER. In 1996 he recorded a special album with the music of BURT BACHARACH. In 1998 he changed labels again and recorded a interesting latin album and an album featuring STANLEY CLARKE for TelArc. While he avoids modern conventions and the trappings of the moment, Tyner's sound remains contemporary to this day. 

Tyner's full use of the piano's keyboard, with a striking exploitation of dynamics, sets him aside from more introverted players like Bill Evans and Keith Jarret. Their "musique de chambre" links them more with the European-oriented piano tradition, whereas Tyner follows the track back to the roots of the Afro-American quintessence of jazz music.

Tyner's music has been a major influence over the adoption in jazz of quartal and quintal harmonies, modes and pentatonic scales. He achieved a revived appreciation as a major player in the international jazz scene, a status he continues to maintain

September 02, 2013

Christopher L. Fields

Christopher L. Fields is a Spoken Word Artist out of Washington D.C. His wordplay, passionate delivery and his love for Poetic Expression earned him the moniker of “The Poetry Man”

A natural born Poet, with no formal training, Christopher wrote his first poem when he was 7 years old – An Anniversary gift to his Parents; Charles & Dorothy Fields.

Although he was a shy child, he continued to write, but he didn't share his poems with anyone around him. That all changed the day that his Mother discovered some of Christopher’s Poems hidden away in a box, and told him; “You need to write”.

It would be a few years down the line before Christopher fully embraced the role of Poet, but the rise of “Hip Hop” gave him yet another platform to display his lyrical skills on. Ghost Writing for a friend, until that same friend convinced him to step out of the shadows and stand center stage.

Now armed with the sophisticated elegance of Poetry, and the Raw guttural expression of Hip Hop, Christopher developed his own style of writing and performance. Christopher doesn't recite poetry; he is Poetry - in motion, in the stillness of your heart, in the recesses of your mind and down into the wells of your soul.

Christopher’s strong belief in the power of collective works leads him to coin the phrase:

"WE" are Greater Than "i".

Welcome to The Poetry Man Experience.

Memberships: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

August 18, 2013

George Duke

The keyboard-player, composer and producer George Duke enjoyed a multi-faceted career that lasted close to five decades and tapped into the collective consciousness from a variety of directions. His résumé read like a who's who of jazz, funk and soul and included collaborations with Cannonball Adderley, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis, as well as Al Jarreau, Anita Baker, Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson – particularly on the title track for the superstar's Off the Wall album in 1979.

Duke produced hit records for Jeffrey Osborne – the ballad "On the Wings of Love" in 1982, the floorfiller "Stay with Me Tonight" in 1983 – and Deniece Williams's ebullient US No 1 "Let's Hear It for the Boy", from the Footloose soundtrack in 1984. He also scored films and was musical director for myriad events, including 11 Soul Train Music Awards and Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa at Wembley Stadium in 1990.

Both as leader of his own jazz-fusion band and in partnership with the virtuoso bassist Stanley Clarke, he was a crossover colossus, making the most of his multi-instrumental skills as well as his affecting falsetto on the synth-led disco smash "Reach for It" (1978), the smooth ballad "Sweet Baby" (1981) and the irrepressible "Shine On" (1982), which all charted in the US and across Continental Europe. In the UK, his most popular album was A Brazilian Love Affair, reflecting his passion for the country and its music. It was recorded in Rio de Janeiro in 1979 with the vocalists Milton Nascimento and Flora Purim and the percussionist Airto Moreira.

The versatile and prolific Duke was also a mainstay of the Montreux Jazz Festival, where he performed over a dozen times and debuted his ambitious Muir Woods Suite for orchestra and small jazz band – subsequently released in 1995. "Serious black orchestral writers don't often have the opportunity to have their works performed, so I realise I was blessed to have this chance. Besides, I've always liked breaking down barriers," he remarked. "I used to call my music Multi-Stylistic. I grew up listening to all kinds of music, and I didn't see why I should be kept in a box musically. I felt that there is intrinsic worth in all forms of music, even the simpler forms. I've always wanted to bring cultures and music together – you know, make a nice stew."

George Duke was born in San Rafael, California, in 1946, he grew up in Marin City, located a few miles north of San Francisco. He demanded a piano after his mother took him to see Duke Ellington in concert when he was four, and he began taking lessons a couple of years later. He was already absorbing influences like the gospel he heard in his local Baptist church. "That's where I first began to play funky," he said. "I saw how music could trigger emotions in a cause-and-effect relationship."

By the early Sixties, he was playing jazz with fellow pupils at Tamalpais High School, and developing a style influenced by the West Coast luminaries Les McCann and Cal Tjader, as well as Davis. He would eventually collaborate with the trumpeter as composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist on a brace of tracks on the Eighties albums Tutu and Amandla.

While studying trombone and composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he gigged with his own trio, and sometimes with Jarreau – then working as a rehabilitation counselor in the city, but soon to emerge as one of the preeminent jazz vocalists of the era. They reunited in the early Eighties when Duke played on Jarreau's Breakin' Away album and in 1988 when he produced the vocalist's Grammy-nominated Heart's Horizon album.

After depping for McCann on a quiet Monday night at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco in 1966, Duke was approached by SABA Records to cut an album he felt didn't reflect his potential. "For some reason, I thought all I had to do was play the head of a tune real nice and then proceed to rattle off myriads of notes at high velocity. This did not make for a pleasing result, but it was all I knew," he said of his first studio recording.

Duke completed a Masters degree in composition at San Francisco State University and had a short spell teaching jazz and American culture at Merritt Junior College in nearby Oakland, before hooking up with the talented French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty after sending his US label World Pacific a note stating, "there is no other pianist for this guy but me." In September 1969, they recorded The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio album live at Thee Experience club in Los Angeles, where Duke found himself playing a Fender Rhodes, since the requested acoustic piano was nowhere to be seen.

"The club was packed, so I knew I had to be on. Jean-Luc and I had developed a buzz on the West Coast because of our high intensity progressive jazz style. In attendance were Frank Zappa, Quincy Jones and Cannonball Adderley," he recalled of the groundbreaking jazz-fusion recording that preceded the emergence of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report on the East Coast.

Zappa hired Duke for two spells, interrupted by a couple of years during which he toured with Adderley. The keyboard-player contributed to several albums central to the Zappa oeuvre, including Chunga's Revenge (1970), the soundtrack of the 200 Motels movie (1971), and the bestselling sequence of Over-Nite Sensation, Apostrophe, Roxy & Elsewhere (all 1974), One Size Fits All and Bongo Fury (both 1975) – also featuring Captain Beefheart. The concert I saw Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, with Duke, give in Marseilles in 1974 was astonishing – and memorable for both its virtuosity and wit.

Duke thrived with Zappa, building up confidence as a vocalist, even if he never considered himself a "proper singer", and taking up the synthesizer after the guitarist bought an ARP 2600 and presented it to him as a fait accompli. "He put it next to my Rhodes. It was as simple as that," recalled Duke. "At the time, there were no presets or ways of saving patches. Not only that, but you were limited to one note at a time. So overdubbing, a good memory and management system became very important."
Indeed, Duke became such a distinctive and proficient synthesizer player and programmer that his Seventies and Eighties recordings have since been sampled by electronic acts like Daft Punk and Mylo and hip-hop stars Kanye West and Ice Cube. He also helped to popularise the keytar – a light, portable keyboard, which he strapped on to venture centre-stage during his shows.

On the 40-plus, occasionally self-indulgent but mostly engaging and excellent albums he recorded under his own name, or in partnership with other jazz-fusion stalwarts, Duke collaborated with the drummers Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon and the guitarist John Scofield. He produced albums for his cousin Dianne Reeves, the vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and the disco act A Taste of Honey – and also worked with Barry Manilow, Smokey Robinson, the Pointer Sisters, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick and Howard Hewett of Shalamar fame.

Duke seemed unstoppable, but the death of his wife, Corine, last year, hit him hard. He dedicated his recently released album, Dreamweaver, to her. 

George Duke crossed over from chronic lymphocytic leukemia in Los Angeles on August 5, 2013

"I really think it is possible to make good music and be commercial at the same time," he wrote on his website. "I believe it is the artist's responsibility to take the music to the people. Art for art's sake is nice; but if art doesn't communicate, then its worth is negated, it has not fulfilled its destiny."

August 04, 2013

Terence Blanchard

Terence Blanchard (trumpet) is one of the most important musician/composer/band leaders of his generation. His emotionally moving and technically refined playing is considered by many jazz aficionados to recall earlier jazz trumpet styles. 

Born March 13, 1962, in New Orleans, the only child to parents Wilhelmina and Joseph Oliver Blanchard, a part-time opera singer and insurance company manager, the young Blanchard was encouraged by his father, Joseph Oliver, to learn to play the piano. In the third grade he discovered jazz trumpet when a big band, featuring Alvin Alcorn on trumpet, played at a school assembly. In his teens Blanchard attended the New Orleans Center of Creative Arts, where he studied and played with saxophonist Donald Harrison. While performing with Lionel Hampton's big band, he studied for two years at Rutgers University under the tutelage of Paul Jeffrey and Bill Fielder.

In 1982 Blanchard replaced Wynton Marsalis under his recommendation in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, working in that band up to 1986 as lead soloist and musical director. He then co-led a prominent quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison, recording seven albums for the Concord, Columbia, and Evidence record labels in five years, including a stirring in-concert tribute to the Eric Dolphy/Booker Little ensemble. 

In the '90s, Blanchard became a leader in his own right, recording for the Columbia label, performing on the soundtracks to Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Mo' Better Blues, and composing the music for Lee's film Jungle Fever. In fact, Blanchard has written the score for every Spike Lee film since 1991, including Malcolm X, Clockers, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour, Inside Man, and the Hurricane Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke for HBO. With over 40 scores to his credit, Blanchard and Mark Isham are the most sought-after jazz musicians to ever compose for film. In the fall of 2000, Blanchard was named artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Keeping up with his love of live performance and touring, Blanchard also maintains a regular studio presence, recording his own original music for the Columbia, Sony Classical, and Blue Note labels. Albums include The Billie Holiday Songbook (1994), Romantic Defiance (1995), The Heart Speaks (1996), the acclaimed Wandering Moon (2000), Let's Get Lost (2001), Bounce (2003), and especially Flow (2005), which was produced by pianist Herbie Hancock and received two Grammy nominations. Blanchard has been nominated for 11 Grammys and has won four in total, including awards for New York Scene with Blakey (1984) and the soundtrack A Tale of God's Will in 2007. In 2005, Blanchard was part of McCoy Tyner's ensemble that won the Grammy in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category for Illuminations.
A quintessential sideman as well as leader, he has worked with prominent jazz players including Cedar Walton, Abbey Lincoln, Joanne Brackeen, Jay McShann, Ralph Peterson, Ed Thigpen, J.J. Johnson, Toots Thielemans, the Olympia Brass Band, Stevie Wonder, Bill Lee, Ray Brown, Poncho Sanchez, Dr. Billy Taylor, Dr. John, Lionel Loueke, Jeff Watts, and many others. Scarecrow Press published his autobiography, Contemporary Cat. By April of 2007, the Monk Institute announced its Commitment to New Orleans initiative, which included the relocation of the program to the campus of Loyola University in New Orleans, spearheaded by Blanchard. During 2007, the Monterey Jazz Festival named Blanchard Artist-in-Residence, and the festival formed a 50th Anniversary All-Stars ensemble featuring trumpeter James Moody, Benny Green, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, and Nnenna Freelon. In 2008, Blanchard helped scored the hit film Cadillac Records. Signing with Concord Jazz in 2009, he released Choices -- recorded at the Ogden Museum of Art in Blanchard's hometown of New Orleans -- at the end of that summer. In 2011, he paid tribute to the innovative Afro-Cuban recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo by teaming up with Latin jazz percussionist Poncho Sanchez for the studio album Chano y Dizzy! In 2012, Blanchard returned to his film work by scoring the soundtrack to director George Lucas' WWII action/drama Red Tails.

“I’ve always believed that in life, what you keep in your mind is what you draw to yourself.” That’s how trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard explains the title of his 20th album, Magnetic, which finds a stunning variety of sounds and styles pulled together by the irresistible force of Blanchard’s vision.

That credo stems directly from Blanchard’s personal faith; raised in the Christian church, he has turned in recent years to Buddhism after meditating with Herbie Hancock while on the road with the legendary pianist. The idea of a spiritual magnetism “is a basic concept in any type of religion,” he says. “Both Christianity and Buddhism have forms of meditation - one’s called prayer and one’s called chanting. But it’s all about drawing on those things to help you attain enlightenment in your life at the same time that you’re trying to give back to the community.”

Magnetic gives expression to that belief through the combined voices of Blanchard’s always-scintillating quintet. Its latest incarnation brings together longtime members Brice Winston (saxophone) and Kendrick Scott (drums) with pianist Fabian Almazan, who made his debut with the group on its 2009 album Choices, and its newest member, 21-year-old bass prodigy Joshua Crumbly. In addition, they’re joined by a trio of remarkable special guests: master bassist Ron Carter, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke.

The vast array of approaches undertaken by that ensemble is striking, from the blistering bop of “Don’t Run” to the fragile ballad “Jacob’s Ladder;” the psychedelic electronic haze of “Hallucinations” to the urgent edginess of “Another Step.” As Blanchard says, “It’s a wide range of musical ideas that come together through the efforts of the guys in the band.”

Magnetic marks Blanchard’s return to Blue Note Records, which last released A Tale of God’s Will, his triumphant 2007 requiem for his home city, New Orleans, in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. That harrowingly emotional song cycle is just one of many large-scale projects Blanchard has undertaken in recent years. Since first writing music for Spike Lee’s 1990 jazz-set movie Mo’ Better Blues, Blanchard has become a renowned film composer with over 50 scores to his credit, most recently the WWII drama Red Tails for producer George Lucas.

This summer, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis will combine forces to premiere Blanchard’s first opera, Champion, an “Opera in Jazz” based on the story of the gay boxing champion Emile Griffith. This follows his recent score for Emily Mann’s Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.

After the broad scope of such lofty undertakings, returning to a small group setting can be a challenge. “You get accustomed to having so many different colors at your disposal,” he says. “So I try to figure out a way to have as much diversity in everything that we play, the same expansive color palette as when you have an orchestra and voices.”

One way that Blanchard expands his palette on Magnetic is through the use of electronics, creating an overdriven, electric guitar-like sound for his horn during “Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song” or brewing the mind-altering atmospherics of “Hallucinations.”

The latter tune, though titled by Blanchard’s 14-year-old daughter, also touches on the lifelong spiritual search evoked by the album-opening title track and “Central Focus,” which was originally recorded twenty years ago on Blanchard’s album Simply Stated. “When chanting for meditation,” he says, “you can have those moments of reflection that will bring new ideas to you. Some people may not call them hallucinations, but I think they’re all related in some fashion.”

Not every tune comes from such profound motives. The hard-bopping “Don’t Run” was written solely with the intention of allowing the band to joust with Ravi Coltrane’s soprano and Ron Carter’s mighty bass runs. The title was inspired by a taunt from Carter to Blanchard, asking only half-jokingly when the trumpeter would call on the legendary bassist’s services. “Stop running from me, man,” Blanchard recalls him saying, and when Carter speaks, you listen.

Coltrane’s contributions, which also include a taut, powerhouse turn on tenor for “Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song,” came about simply because Blanchard was blown away by the saxophonist’s latest album, Spirit Fiction. “Ravi has developed a style and a sound that’s very unique,” Blanchard explains. “It’s an incredible feat given who his father was and what instrument his father played. But his being on my record has nothing to do with any of that; his being on my record is simply due to the fact that I love the way he plays.”

The same goes for Benin-born Lionel Loueke, who first came to prominence through Blanchard’s quintet before becoming widely renowned as one of the most innovative guitarists and vocalists in modern jazz. “He’s a very unique talent,” Blanchard says. “Lionel always brings a certain spirit and energy to any project that he’s a part of.”

Blanchard also readily sings the praises of his core group, which has been evolving over two years together to reach the deeply attuned point at which Magnetic finds them. “I’ve always appreciated the artistry of Brice and Kendrick,” he says of the band’s two veterans. “They’ve very seriously committed to developing their own unique styles of playing.”

Of newcomer Crumbly, he says, “Josh is a young guy who’s very talented and brings a lot to the group.” And of Almazan, he continues, “Fabian has been growing by leaps and bounds. His harmonic knowledge has taken the band in interesting directions and he colors things in ways that I think are very fresh and forward-thinking.”

So enamored is the bandleader of Almazan’s talents that he affords the pianist a solo spotlight, the captivating “Comet.” Almazan, Blanchard says, “plays with such grace and beauty. We did five or six takes and all of them were so beautiful that it was a hard to choose just one.”

Each member of the group provides their own contributions to the album: Crumbly, the lovely and delicate “Jacob’s Ladder;” Scott, the forceful, rhythmically intense “No Borders Just Horizons;” Winston the lithe and intricate “Time To Spare;” and Almazan an “emotional roller coaster” dedicated to his mother, “Pet Step Sitters Theme Song,” which is later reprised as “Another Step.”

“We had so much fun playing that tune that we just couldn’t leave it,” Blanchard explains. I thought it showed the diverse nature of the group, when you see the directions that it goes into, totally different from the first take.”

In his role as mentor to his younger bandmates, Blanchard takes the mantle from his own onetime mentor, Art Blakey. Stressing the importance for young musicians to compose as well as improvise, Blanchard recalls the legendary drummer’s advice: “Art Blakey told us that composition was the path to finding your own voice. If you improvise, you don’t sit down and reflect coldly on what it is you’re playing because you’re moving so quickly onto the next thing. Whereas when you compose, you have to sit down and really contemplate what each note means and how you get from one to the next. That in itself will create a style.”

Terence Blanchard’s own style continues to evolve and expand in exciting and compelling fashion. Magnetic is sure to capture listeners with an attractive power nearly impossible to resist.

To Visit Terence Blanchard's website CLICK HERE