Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An Esoteric Night...

I had never heard of Tom Terrell until a few days ago, but then I ended up feeling like I had to be among the few who hadn't. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay for the full night of music: such is the lot of those near enough to get to NYC, but who don't actually live there.

Who is he? Well here's a little from the Giant Step website:

"A DC native and Ft. Greene veteran Tom Terrell has been in the music industry mix since the early 80s. Among many contributions, Tom has served Publicity Manager for Verve Records, NPR Commentator, liner note writer and contributor to Global Rhythms, Jazziz, Vibe, Trace and Essence, DJ at DC’s 9:30 Club and Alt Rock Champions WHFS-FM.

"This past summer Tom was diagnosed with cancer, and is without health insurance. As a result, artists whom Tom has influenced over the years and vice versa including, Meshell Ndegeocello, Angelique Kidjo, Joaquin “Joe” Claussell, Marc Anthony Thompson, Vernon Reid + many more with special unannounced guests, have gathered together to bring this worthy fundraiser to fruition. Encompassing the myriad of sounds that Tom Terrell embraces, this one-of-a-kind event is a loving shout-out to a creative catalyst, tireless fan and resident of Planet Rock."

On September 11, these New York folk were celebrating life, and one in particular; Terrell's friends who organized the evening sold out the show just by word of mouth and internet forwards. Terrell had a list of songs he wanted to hear, "his own personal ipod" hence the title "An Esoteric Night" and the artists he wanted to hear do them. In some cases he got a special treat as when a surprise appearance by singer/songwriter Toshi Reagon accompanied by Chocolate Genius aka Mark Anthony Thompson, resulted in a folk rendition of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" with Reagon starting off by delivering the message to the folks who had mistakenly thought it was a glorified club show. Reagon, extolled these folks to consider the notion that they were "in church" not one that ascribed to any one particular religion, but one were they could create and hold the energy for a transformative experience. This after some folks hadn't really warmed to pianist Randy Weston's African Rhythms and the multitimbral, polyrhythmic otherworldly playing of the percussionist dueting with him, whose name I've forgotten. We were in the front, plenty warm and responsive and not paying mind to those who weren't.

By the time Reagon and Mark Anthony Thompson were done the crowd was feeling it! One of my giddy moments was listening to the Peter Apfelbaum & the New York Hieroglyphics, horns, horns (saxophones, trombones, trumpets), bass drum and vocals belting out a bouncing celtic-reggae version of the Clash's "Straight to Hell." Vocalist Nora York with backing on a harmonium and Chocolate Genius once again sitting in on backing vocals provided a soaring ethereal read of Jimi Hendrix's "Angel." A hair-raising moment, hairs on my body at full attention: Angelique Kidjo singing Sade's "Pearls" in her Eartha Kitt-kissed intonations. By the time Kidjo let loose with the repetitions of "Hallelujah" from the song's break she didn't need the reverb the FOH sound person put on her vocal, that was just icing, her voice flooded the room and swallowed us, and we were glad to be afloat in her resonance. But I have to say the highlight for me was Harriet Tubman. I had never seen them perform, but recently read an interview with bassist Melvin Gibbs on sound recording in the excellent Tape Op: creative recording arts magazine. With their rich future-past-present sonic revelations, they literally blew my mind and had me waving my hand in the air and testifying like I was in church. I do not lie! I wanted to ask Melvin Gibbs to be my bass teacher, oh please, oh please!!

But then we had to leave before it got too late and things got too live on the train back to Jersey. I was tempted to stay to see Meshell NDegeocello, but I was supposed to be up early, it was already almost midnight, and I'd spent part of the day dragging furniture up three flights of stairs. Still I danced for hours and it was a transcendent night, amazing, dang, there really aren't words. And I must say that the most-most beautiful thing was the demonstrations of love for this man Tom Terrell, and all the black men hugging each other, there was so much unabashed love for this man it was a holy revolution of love. And we could all use more of that.

Appearances included: Angelique Kidjo, Alfredo "Catfish" Alias, Butch Morris, Coati Mundi, DJ Funmi Ononaiye, Greg Osby, Harriet Tubman, James Hurt, DJ Joaquin "Joe" Claussell, Craig Street (Musical Director), Kenny Barron, Liberty Ellman, Marc Anthony Thompson, Marc Cary, Meshell NDegeocello, Morley, Nora York, Oren Bloedow, Randy Weston's African Rhythms, Stephanie McKay, Vernon Reid, + more....

Yes, I know, no photos. Disappointing to me as well. Hopefully my camera situation will be resolved next month.

Tom Terrell's NPR commentary on Reggae Band Steel Pulse (he was once their road manager)
Essence Magazine articles by Tom Terrell


At 9:40 PM, Anonymous tom terrell said...


thank you for the wonderful review, kind words and sweet thoughts. Sorry you had to leave before Stephanie McKay and Vernon reid tore UP "Trouble Man" and Coati Mundi closed the night out with "Me No Pop I" (I was cutting quite a salsa rug onstage!)

I'm doing OK. Just started chemo two Fridays ago and am in very good spirits. You're a fine writer. KEEP 'EM COMING!

ps: check out my three "Cafe C'Est What" columns on www.popmatters.com.

Peace and Love Every Time,


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