Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Kandia Crazy Horse moves to Village Voice...

One of my favorite music writers, the award-winning Kandia Crazy Horse, editor of Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock and Roll, late of BlueGum, and previously a freelance journalist, will be joining the staff of The Village Voice as Senior Associate Editor next month. This is exciting news, and I'll be looking for her writing on all things rock, and southern, country fried, as well as whatever other topics a Senior Associate Editor pens about from a Village Voice desk.

Ah, yes, and if that weren't enough I hear she's also been appointed an Anschutz Distinguished Fellow in American Studies at Princeton University during the Spring 2009 semester. She'll be teaching a course called "Roll Over Beethoven: Black Rock and Cultural Revolt."

From that course title it may be apparent that Crazy Horse is an advocate of black rock. While some folks think that area of cultural production began with Living Color, or the AfroPunk community movement, African American involvement in the rock genre considerably predates those phenomenon. Crazy Horse has been a long-time chronicler of black rock and southern rock, making the connections between black musicians and listeners and the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd within the racial complexities of southern music history and culture. She's also been a major proponent of Joi, and other acts that have been rejoining musical territories that were/are torn asunder by the racial political of commercial radio. Crazy Horse is outspoken, often unapologetically so, opinionated, poetic, lyrical, and passionate about music. It's an important combination.

A short bio of Crazy Horse from the Anschutz site:

"Kandia Crazy Horse is an independent writer and editor specializing in rock music criticism, black feminist theory and cultural studies. Her work appears in publications including the Village Voice and Kandia is a contributor to The Blues (HarperCollins, 2003), the companion volume to Martin Scorcese's series on the roots music genre, and has edited a collection on black musicians' rock experiences, Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock & Roll (2004). Her current research project, entitled The Dirty South, promises to make original contributions to multiple fields of inquiry - part memoir, part investigative journalism."

• A bibliography of some of Crazy Horse's writing from Rock's Back Pages.
Rob Field's audio interview with Crazy Horse from Bold As Love.
• Pre-Rip It Up publication interview with the ever direct Crazy Horse at
• Crazy Horse riffing on the up and coming Earl Greyhound, 18 months ago in the pages of The Village Voice.
• Crazy Horse choice offerings from her stint at the southern alternative weekly, Creative Loafing.
• (Added 8/15/08) I almost neglected to add one of the more interesting reads on the recent female British soul mimicry invasion (everything but the burden, indeed) Crazy Horse's 9 May 2007 San Francisco Bay Guardian article, "Digital Venuses: UK pop starlets vie for America's heart of darkness."

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Monday, July 28, 2008

R.I.P guitarist extraordinaire Hiram Bullock

Hiram Bullock, 11 September 1955 - 25 July 2008

From the Independent via Nedslist:
Hiram Bullock: Charismatic jazz-rock guitarist
Monday, 28 July 2008

Hiram Bullock was a talented and charismatic guitarist, a rock'n'roller with
a jazz head who bridged the world of sophisticated pop and the avant-garde
New York jazz scene.

A super-session player, Bullock was mentored by the producer Phil Ramone,
and his work can be heard on Steely Dan's Gaucho (1980), Paul Simon's One
Trick Pony (1980), Sting's Nothing Like the Sun (1987), Billy Joel's The
Stranger (1977) and Barbra Streisand's A Star Is Born (1976). He also played
with the Brecker Brothers, Jaco Pastorius, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, James
Brown and Al Green, among many others. He was a member of one of Miles
Davis's last touring groups, and his guitar graced countless jazz albums. Hiram Bullock also put out over a dozen records under his own name.

Bullock was a consummate showman: his live performances were enhanced by his habit of wandering deep into the crowd whilst soloing. "Rock'n'roll guitarists might do that," said the promoter John Cummings, "but it wasn't common at jazz shows. You'd find a sedate jazz audience in Switzerland where the uptight burghers would be surprised by Hiram sitting on their daughters' laps whilst continuing to play. He invented himself as a jazz-rock guitarist and entertainer."

Did such live ostentation from the guitarist reflect the origins of his choice of instrument? "I played bass in my high school rock band (like a million other teenage boys)," Bullock said. "One day our guitarist, who was slightly older and looked like Eric Clapton, passed out while in the middleof the solo on 'Mississippi Queen' (he said later that he was 'tired'). Immediately, 10 girls jumped up onto the stage, stroking, consoling and otherwise 'reviving him'. At that precise moment I decided to switch to guitar."

Hiram Bullock was born in 1955 in Osaka, Japan to parents serving in the US military. When he was two the family returned to the United States, where they settled in Baltimore, Maryland. Hiram studied piano at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in the city, playing his first recital at the age of six. He also became a fluid saxophone player, and finally made the switch from bass to guitar at 16.

At the celebrated University of Miami music college, Bullock studied alongside Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius and Will Lee, discovering musical soul-mates. He paid his way at university by playing nightclub gigs in Florida, and hooked up with the singer Phyllis Hyman. When she landed a recording deal and moved to New York, Bullock went with her.

In Manhattan he made an immediate impact. 'He was a phenomenon,' remembered Jamilla Samuels, a sound engineer at the Mix Studio. "All the players were talking about this new cat in town with this great guitar style. If you had a buzz like that amongst the musicians, it meant you were good. But I noticed that straightaway he fell in with the fast crowd."

Soon Bullock was playing with the master saxophonist David Sanborn and the Brecker Brothers band. He then formed the 24th Street Band with the drummer Steve Jordan, the keyboardist Clifford Carter and bassist Mark Egan, later
replaced by Will Lee. Very popular in Japan, the 24th Street Band released two records there, with the keyboard player Paul Schaffer producing thesecond. Schaffer recruited Bullock, Jordan and Lee for his group the World's Most Dangerous Band, which played on the talk show Late Night With David Letterman from the programme's début in 1982, bringing to national attention the guitarist's habit of performing barefoot.

Other habits also revealed themselves. Bullock was known to suffer from an occasional "attendance problem" on the Letterman show, a consequence of the drug binges associated with the crowd he was hanging out with. He was no
stranger to heroin and cocaine, but found his drug of choice when the crack epidemic swept the United States in the mid-1980s.

Most of the time, however, he kept it together. Tour managing him with Carla Bley's group and then with the Gil Evans Orchestra, John Cummings recalled his energetic extroversion: "He used to really tear it up playing with Carla, and even managed to persuade Van Morrison to perform Hiram's own arrangement of Moondance at Gil Evans' 75th birthday concert. He was a great player and a fantastic guy, and he was completely clean."

Yet the effects of Bullock's recreational pursuits soon became evident in his physical shape. From having once seemed the thinnest man on the planet, his body ballooned unflatteringly. His work did not suffer, and he continued to make great records, notably Late Night Talk (1996), an organ session featuring Lonnie Smith on the Hammond B-3, and Try Livin' It (2003), a funk-rock record that highlighted his songwriting skills.

In the autumn of 2007 Bullock was diagnosed with cancer. But his cast-iron constitution pulled him through, and he made a full recovery, setting off immediately on a lengthy tour with the Miles Evans Orchestra. There were no signs of post-operation fatigue; Bullock was playing at his peak. But the old problems remained. The attempt to maintain the post-performance high after the tour's end resulted in another crack binge, one that his depletedbody was simply no longer able to endure.

Chris Salewicz

Hiram Law Bullock, guitarist and songwriter: born Osaka, Japan 11 September 1955; married (two stepsons); died New York 25 July 2008.

Bullock rocking a solo at a recent Wolfsburg JazzFestival.

Video of Bullock performing "Funky Broadway" on Late Night with David Letterman (where he had been the original guitarist) from his first album From All Sides (1986). That first band that Paul Schaeffer put together had some really amazing players from the jazz fusion scene.
• Wikipedia bio.
• Bullock's MySpace page.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

More free music...Giant Step Presents....

Giant Step & Central Park Summer Stage '08 bring it on next weekend:

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More theater...Off-Broadway...Closing Soon...

Closing August 3, 2008

Expatriate written and composed by poet, performance artist, and playwright Lenelle Moïse; directed by Tamille Woodard.

Just reviewed by Andy Webster in the New York Times:

"With all the theater out there, how inspiring it is to be reminded how invigorating an Off Broadway play can be with just two appealing performers, compelling music and a searching, intelligent script. Lenelle Moïse, a poet, playwright and performer, has written, composed and stars in “Expatriate,” a two-woman production at the Culture Project that delivers on all counts.In the first act the play follows the best friends Claudie (Ms. Moïse ) and Alphine (Karla Mosley) from childhood in the Boston projects to New York. Understated, earnest Claudie, in dreadlocks, attends Juilliard while exuberant but needy Alphine, in a glittery short dress, works briefly as a stripper and sings at jazz gigs. Though Alphine goes out with Omar, Claudie’s ne’er-do-well twin, a rising hip-hop star, it’s clear the women reserve their greatest support for each other. When Omar dies, Claudie, despondent, flees to Paris, where she falls in love and moves in with a woman. Alphine follows her there, and the two find success as the singing duo Black Venus. As they struggle to define their relationship, Alphine goes solo, succumbing to the temptations of fame and substance abuse. Claudie emerges from under her shadow and finds her own inner star. With the Black Venus numbers, the play breaks out its big musical guns, suggesting the glory of the stage but with minimal fuss. Ms. Moïse’s compositions, enhanced by Nick Moore’s music direction and sound design, are often recorded percussive vocals accompanied by live singing. The stripped-down result is effective. Nicco Annan’s choreography and Stephen Arnold’s unobtrusive projection design also make an impact. Ms. Moïse has written a thoughtful narrative laden with observations about childhood, black identity in the United States and abroad, and the cost of show business on performers. As directed by Tamilla Woodard, it never lags nor gets ahead of itself. But the production’s greatest asset is Ms. Moïse and Ms. Mosley’s heavenly symmetry, entwined in dialogue and song. Ms. Mosley’s contribution cannot be underestimated. She calibrates Alphine’s decline with subtlety, bringing out her shrill, brittle insecurities and petty vanities organically, without undue pyrotechnics. You see the result but know where it came from. Claudie has her own transformation. When she tears into the song 'Rebel' toward the end, it’s as if a spirit has been passed on — of Nina Simone, of Josephine Baker, of Alphine."

Culture Project
55 Mercer Street (between Broome and Grand)
Tix :212-352-3101 or go to their website

The Return of Freedom Train Productions! Fire! New Play Festival
Plays in Development That Matter
3 Plays 3 LGBT S/Heroes All Free!
August 6 - 21, 2008

Featuring the public reading of delta dandi a new work by performer/playwright Sharon Bridgforth.
August 6-7
South Oxford Space
138 South Oxford
Fort Greene
Brooklyn, NY
About delta dandi:

"About delta dandi...

Theatre in the round. Large screens loop digital images. Platforms house performers. The audience inhabits the space/an installation. Drummers beat out syncopations. A jazz quartet jams. A gospel choir sings. Actors embody the stories. Dancers invoke the world of the piece. I conduct it all. Using the delta dandi text as the 'score' I create in theatre a living cacophony. A theatrical jazz experience of Black American history. The audience are participant/witnesses.
We Be Bop’n/YEAH…

"delta dandi is a Conjure woman born and reborn in Congo Square. The delta dandi text is constructed with monologues, chants, choral tellings and songs which are layered weavings of different time dimensions and contrasting rhythms. Using models that Duke Ellington created with his Sacred concert series and Black, Brown and Beige, (1943) which he called a Tone Poem, I will conduct delta dandi for theatre. delta dandi pays homage to the ways in which art has traditionally been a living form of prayer, power and release for Black Americans."

• Audio interview with Sharon Bridgforth on "Blues, Langston Hughes, and Non-Linear Theater" and more info on delta dandi here.

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Recent Favorite Bits: Music...

1. Jill Scott, "He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)" Jill Scott: Live in Paris+ (Hidden Beach Recordings, 2008; recorded in 2006)
This DVD is really the hotness. I haven't ever seen Jill Scott live, but this was an amazing sampling of her live show, and the talented musicians she's assembled for her band Fat Back Taffy, particularly Musical Director/Keyboardist Pete Kuzma. The real joy of this concert footage is the intimacy she achieves with the audience, she's constantly addressing them, engaging them, and encouraging the artist-audience dynamic. One particularly special performance on this DVD is the final cut, her post-divorce rendition of "He Loves Me" which she introduces while backlit, a partial halo around her 'fro, by saying in a soft clear voice, "I always wanted to sing a song like this...always." She starts singing, "You love me-" with the barest keyboard accompaniment, her hand to her face as though holding stillness and composure there. The crowd roars then goes silent so as not to miss any of the song. Scott signals the rest of the musicians to hold off on coming in, and holds all of the emotion of the song with just herself and Kuzma on keyboard. Her voice and face in close up are showing so much of the mix of feeling she's obviously going through walking through the performance of this song. But clearly even the audience in the back row get it, because when she gets to the phrasing "...happily excited/By-" she notably swallows. It's less than half a second, yet the audience is right there holding her up singing the lines in her stead "your cologne, your hands," and then she smiles that spirit-sunshine smile, and sings with them "your smile, your intelligence." Without any signal the audience goes silent again and she continues, with the solo keyboard accompaniment eventually cuing in the backup singers and the band. Beautiful synergy between artist and audience.

2. Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings: "Meditations" Other Stories (Three Suites) (482 Music, 2005)
A friend and I have been talking about pianist Cecil Taylor for a while and recently he mentioned Taylor Ho Bynum. Bynum, a cornetist and composer, is a member of Taylor's orchestra and has also collaborated and recorded with saxophonist (and AACM member) Anthony Braxton. I know I've heard of Bynum, but not heard his work. 'Till now anyway. So I checked out his Myspace page and heard "Meditations" from Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings one of his numerous ensembles. You know those moments when you hear a sound and it answers a question, or a longing, or an ineffable "something" that was inside you such that you stop in your tracks and simply say: "Yes." That was my experience listening to this track. SpiderMonkey Strings instrumentation includes string quartet (2 violins, viola, cello), electric guitar, tuba, drums and vibraphone, plus Bynum on cornet. The resulting sound, its color(s) and texture(s) certainly had something to do with my response. The other factor was certainly Bynum's compositional voice and arrangement. I was happily stunned and it made me rethink my ambivalence about the tuba (I really love the tuba, but not very much of how it's often arranged which results in me sometimes forgetting how much I love the tuba). But tuba and vibraphone together, plus the electric guitar and the treble and bass (or at least alto) clefs being represented in the string quartet means the tuba isn't alone providing the bottom, talking to itself, and it's not alone with the vibraphone creating a sympathetic resonance in that alto clef as well (typical vibraphone range is F3 (F below middle C) to F6), but from a different sonic palette than the cello. The conversatin' of the whole is something to behold. Yes.

3. Graham Harley and Michael Polley, "Cheer Up Hamlet" "Slings and Arrows" (CBC/Rhombus Media, 2003-2006)
I've become attached to this Candadian television show about the trials, tribulations, thrills and titillations of a Canadian Shakespeare Theater Festival in the fictional town of New Burbage, which may or may not be loosely based on Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival. There are the usual divas and would-be-divas, a possibly mad genius director, as well as a Shakespearian chorus made up of Graham Harley and Michael Polley whose renditions of "Cheer Up Hamlet" and "Call the Understudy" begin and close the show. And no show about art would be complete without the ubiquitous struggle between art and commerce. The first season features a villain in the form of sociopathic US business woman Holly Day, played by Jennifer Irwin with an imperfect middle-America accent, that periodically slides back into a Canadian one. This is forgivable because her portrayal is so gleefully over the top: e.g. Holly Day driving to the hospital to make a "sympathy" visit to a rival Festival Board Member while mouthing affirmations along with a self-actualization tape: "I am the center of my universe. All things revolve around me. My power is beyond measure. I am God. Please turn tape."

Paul Gross as mentally (and sartorially) shambled, but gifted, director Geoffrey Tennant has a wonderful scene in which he confronts an actor playing Ophelia who has opted to use her recent memories of being stoned to simulate madness. Gross' Tennant seamlessly dives into the deep end of Ophelia's emotions and pulls out again, returning to his director persona and capping it off with a punchline "OK. Let's try it again, without the Vietnam flashback." It's a scene that lasts about 2.5 minutes and it made me wonder why I hadn't seen Gross in more projects. It was riveting.

But this is about the song with lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Bob Martin, and music by Greg Morrison (part of the creative team behind Broadway's The Drowsy Chaperone). It's something of a sing-a-long English drinking song tune and features lines like:

So your uncle's a cad who murdered dad and married mum,
that's really no excuse to be as glum as you've become


Your incessant monologizing fills the cast with ennui,
Your "antic disposition" is embarrassing to see,

And by the way, you sulking brat, the answer is "to be!"

Polley (actor/director Sarah Polley's father) and Harley perform the track during the opening credits of every show of the first season. They're at an upright piano in the middle of what turns out to be the theater cast's traditional haunt, having a great old time performing for the regulars and the bar workers. It's the shared camaraderie of two-long time theater actors, along with the unmistakable glee with which Harley and Polley attack these lyrics that makes the whole thing work. Delightful.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fela Kuti coming to Off-Broadway: August 5, 2008

Well, I just got the news via Joe's Pub that the life of Fela Kuti is coming to Off-Broadway, in the form of FELA! A New Musical. Helmed by Tony award-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones who is directing and choreographing the musical with a book by Jim Lewis and arrangements by Aaron Johnson and Antibalas, performed by members of Antibalas.

Apparently it was Bill T. Jones' who conceived of bringing the story of the creator of Afrobeat, genius Nigerian multi-instrumentalist/composer and controversial political and human rights activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-1997) to the theater. The iconoclast Kuti was an international figure, whose popularity on the African continent and in his home of Nigeria made him a frequent target of the government. Kuti died in 1997 from AIDS-related complications. Here's Bill T. Jones talking about his complex vision of Kuti and the impetus to produce a theatrical expression of Kuti's life. Jones is so wonderfully brilliant; check out this video. Also, check the musical's website for more video of interviews, rehearsals, and performances.

The show is running August 5 - September 21, 2008
37 Arts
450 West 37th Street @ 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Box Office: (212) 560-8912
Google Map

(The tickets aren't cheap: $51.25 the last I checked. But the Ticketmaster site isn't currently selling any tickets -SEE BELOW for $25 tix!)

• The Fela Kuti Project, combining Palgrave Macmillan's publication of a collection of essays, Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway, the 2003 art exhibition Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti and initiatives meant to commemorate Kuti's life and legacy.

• A note from the Fela! folks:
You can actually get $25 tickets to Fela! if you visit and use code Social1

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

FISA + Obama • Jackson + Obama • that New Yorker cover • Al Gore steps it up

Not much time for blogging these days. Embarrassing since Ernest Hardy, whose laptop just died-

(a moment of silence for the importance of the loss of that appendage-like tool for any freelance writer).

-has still managed to keep posting. But he's a professional writer, while I am something of a different animal.

In the meantime, the world keeps turning and events and moments keep occurring that I want to jot down to consider later; with url links etc. So this little stream-of-consciousness ditty will be a placeholder for those future considerations. Bear with me.

Obama & FISA ("I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden...")
Last week, before I could even wrap my head around it, the FISA bill passed, AND Barack Obama voted for it. Yikes. I was, well, not exactly comforted, but rendered somewhat less despairingly flummoxed by an article cited by Eileen, a J'sTheater reader. On July 10th, the New York Times published Op-Ed columnist Gail Collins' "The Audacity of Listening," wherein Collins remind us that Obama never promised us a rose garden of radical change and accountability, instead what he offered was the building of a "new consensus" which actually means a new form of political compromise. It's just that the new form of compromising ("you've got to give a little...") looks a lot like the old form we've been (allowed ourselves to be?) subjected to. Another point Collins makes:

"...if you look at the political fights he’s [Obama] picked throughout his political career, the main theme is not any ideology. It’s that he hates stupidity. “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war,” he said in 2002 in his big speech against the invasion of Iraq. He did not, you will notice, say he was against unilateral military action or pre-emptive attacks or nation-building. He was antidumb."

Jesse Jackson... (he what?!...where?!)
Then while I was busy woodshedding away, the Rev. Jesse Jackson decided to go on Fox News. As I said to my friend Dr. P when we conversed about this over the phone, 'What?! He went on Fox News! People, Fox News is not a friend to black people. Didn't the Rev. Wright conflama teach people anything?' Black + FoxNews = Unfair/Underhanded Coverage. Don't try to be the exception to the rule. Fortunately, Jackson wisely declined Bill O'Reilly's "invitation" to appear on his show to explain his comments.

Really, have we learned nothing from the Clinton campaign and Brian Springer's documentary Spin (1995)? Springer recorded satellite feeds of news outlets for a full year and then edited into a documentary which showed what people said when the cameras weren't broadcasting signal to the networks, but the feed was still rolling for satellite capture. In all fairness, this film never got the major release it deserved. If it had, its current standing would be on par with the best of Michael Moore's work and Errol Morris' The Fog of War (2003). Among its various illuminating lessons on media communications, Spin demonstrated how Clinton learned early on that the camera never stopped rolling. He was always campaigning, even while getting a make-up retouch during commercial or station breaks.

Also, fortunately, former Time columnist Jack White penned a response to the Jesse Jackson response to the (in some quarters) controversial Obama Father's Day speech which I still haven't heard. On July 10th, The Root published White's "When the Man Is One of Us" along with Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill's "Defending Jesse Jackson... Kinda" on July 17th. White's piece makes the following point about the Obama candidacy and the upending of certain expectations around marginalization and race that some African Americans may not have even know we have:

"We haven't really been in a place this confusing since 1954, when the NAACP's crusade against segregation culminated in the Brown vs. Board decision and the walls came tumbling down. It's fair to say that we were so focused on winning that fight that we weren't prepared for the victory or its aftermath. We've spent nearly 60 years since then trying to figure out what kind of relationship we want to have with America and with each other. For the most part, we, like Jackson Sr., have seen ourselves as outsiders battling for justice and a seat at the table. Our default has been to protest. And while that mindset has served us well, it has, in a flash, been made damn near obsolete by the prospect, even the likelihood, that one of us may soon become the most powerful man in the world. If that happens, how can we seriously argue that we're being held back by anything but the limits we place on ourselves? "That, it seems to me, accounts in part for the frustration some of us are feeling by what we interpret as Obama's move to the center [the FISA vote, etc.]. We are simply not accustomed to one of our own playing real, power politics..."

I'm not sure I agree with this last point. I think many of us have seen power politics being played by African American politicians--just not inhabiting the position of a presumed presidential candidate. White goes on to discuss the Obama Father's Day speech and what he considers a growing "new consensus that places more emphasis on a public discussion of personal responsibility than on protest, on publicly delving into our own shortcomings and dysfunctional behavior." A consensus among who I'm not sure: Obama and Bill Cosby?

The New Yorker... (rueful head shake)
But still I say we're fortunate to have the Jack White comments to brace us, because right around the corner comes The New Yorker July 21st issue cover. This proves that White could have included not just African Americans in his article's tagline statement: "[Jackson's] latest gaffe shows how none of us is really ready for this moment."

In between moments of looking at various emails landing in my inbox featuring the cover, outraged comments about the cover, a link to the full size JPEG of the cover... I sat aghast, literally speechless, thinking where's Mark Twain when you need him? Or at least hadn't the New Yorker realized that some/many people 100 years later still don't get Twain's racial satire--but they really expected people browsing a news kiosk for 5 minutes to get this New Yorker cover? Plus if they really wanted to satirize the media misinformation why don't the actual sources of said misinformation of the Obama's appear central in the satire? However, I had the presence of mind to visit writer Tayari Jones' blog which always offers grace, joy, incisiveness, and the real served up in equal portions. This day was no different as Jones had linked to comments by writer Victor LaValle (whose writing I love), published by his friend fellow writer Maud Newton on her blog. LaValle (bless him), under the title "The New Yorker cracks up," lays it out, and goes where Jack White didn't. White liberals have lost it. While people have worried about whether or not the white folks in middle America would vote for Obama, they should have been worried about their left-leaning friends. As Lavalle does the negotiated read (thanks Stuart Hall) on the cover, the following points are made:

"The magazine has defended itself, saying this picture is meant as satire, but I’m not quite sure who the joke is on. Is the joke on Michelle and Barack? No. They say the joke is about the fears and anxieties that exist about Barack and Michelle in the White House. But normally this kind of picture might also include the true subject of the satire, maybe a sleeping figure in the lower right hand corner who represents these fearful masses. Maybe George Bush or Rush Limbaugh. Or, unfortunately, even Jesse Jackson. The image of the Obamas would be inside those fluffy lines that indicate a dream. "But if nothing like that is in the picture whose nightmare could this be?"

Whose indeed?

The most pointed insights LaValle reserves for the Older White Liberals aka OWLs, and their conflicting instincts towards "rational liberalism and irrational fear" who at dinner parties that some of his white friends have been at (and where no blacks were present) question Obama as presidential material. But not on position on specific issues, or his voting record, or his experience, but with the intangible assessment, “I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about him that I can’t get behind.” LaValle characterizes these OWLs as "over 50, generally well-off and liberal to a fault." Basically The New Yorker's core readership, who as it turns out might yet... vote for McCain???

These are strange days indeed.

Al Gore's 10 year Plan
On the upside, Al Gore is concerned about the survival of the nation, environmental stability, and global accountability and he's pledging to do even more about it. He's joined We Can Solve It, and his video address is shooting around the internet, along with a petition demanding "America must commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and other clean sources within 10 years."

Yes, I signed it. A big selling point for me was Gore's insistence that coal miners should not be displaced by this policy change, and should be first in line for the new jobs created by a new solar energy focus. Also, his memorable tagline "we should be taxed on what we burn, not what we earn" regarding a reduction in income tax that would be shifted to a fossil fuel tax equivalent to the cost of environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. Right On.

If you want to find out more about this effort and see/hear Gore's speech check this We Can Solve It webpage.

• FoxNews video of the Jackson comments during the broadcast break (brought to you by the Coal Industry: Go Global Warming!) on Fox's Talking POINTS. Bill O'Reilly's subsequent Talking Points editorialize about how "unlike what Jackson himself often does" FoxNews won't be speculating as to the motivation behind Jackson's comments, "or describe his comments in any pejorative way," while both he and the scrolling intertitles next to him (with headers like "OBAMA BASHING" speculate as to Jackson's motivations (e.g. "now some believe that there's a rivalry between the two men, but we've seen no evidence of that other than [pregnant pause] , what you've just heard." ) And all of this gets framed as Rev. Jackson "having some negative comments about Senator Obama's recent support of faith-based based charities operating with government funds." Which is certainly off-point from Jackson's comments but this fudging allows FoxNews to paint Jackson as against a popular, but nonetheless-charged Bush/Reagan policy (Uh hello, separation of church and state), and take a solid dig at his standing as "a man of faith."
Barack Obama's Father's Day Speech text, courtesy of The Huffington Post.
Al Gore speech video from CNN.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Another Cripus Attucks Day + An Embarrassment of Riches: Hardy & Farris

Ah, yes it's that time of year again: Crispus Attucks Day!


Haven't heard of it?! Say it ain't so!

OK, well don't lie.

Here, go to this post from last July that'll explain the whole thing. Plus it'll (briefly) contextualize some of the key notions concerning freedom, race, nationhood, etc. in the formation of US independence and national identity. (photo: Crispus Attucks monument in Boston)

You'll note I'm not talking about "celebrating" Crispus Attucks, un-hunh, history is a complicated animal. Just read the post.

And the
embarrassment of riches? Part I & II...

Part I
That's about the fact that even though he's recently taken on a ton of work to keep food on the table and gas in the tank, writer/film & music critic Ernest Hardy has been blogging up a storm lately. Hardy's been taking us down memory lane with reminisces, images, and video from his
Detroit high school days as a burgeoning critical thinker on the complexities of the everyday black music scene; an interview with pioneering lesbian filmmaker Donna Deitch; and an excerpt from an essay on filmmaker/photographer David LaChappelle's documentary on the Los Angeles krump dance phenomenon, RIZE (2005) from his second essay collection Blood Beats Vol.2. Oh, and do check out the "ton of work" link above to read about the wisdom afforded by Hardy's meeting the "Weed Woman"--it is and isn't what it reads like in that suggestion. But if you're an artist who's ever dealt with the digestive tract flaming that can be "the rejection letter," you'll appreciate the post.

Part II
The (Return of) Dionne Farris. Remember Dionne Farris? I l-o-o-v-ed Dionne Farris, back in the day. She knocked me out with her pretty-pretty country-girl rocker in the big city aesthetic ("I Know")
and her mix of jazz fusion-like squeaky clean production juxtaposed with country-fried rock wall of guitar sound ("Passion"). Plus she could pull back the layers and bring on a timeless soul classic like "Hopeless" (co-written with Van Hunt), from the Love Jones (1997) soundtrack (as good as Ashford & Simpson in their prime). That album, Wild Seed - Wild Flower was definitely a breakthrough, and most people imagined she would easily get a sophomore effort album out within the next year or two and go on from there. But that didn't happen.

Farris released a new CD in March 2008, Signs of Life (check this link to listen to sample tracks), she's got a blog (Dionne Farris' Weblog), and she's self-distributing the CD as a digital download using PayPal--the link system seems to still have a few kinks, but keep trying and you'll eventually end up at her Dionne Farris dba Free & Clear Records PayPal site. You can also check out sample videos from her Remember My Name Video Album produced by her Free & Clear Records and the ATL's FunkJazz Kafé. This work is considerably more mellow than the more rock-kissed works on her debut. Her voice is still in good form, and she's still writing about subjects that matter. R&B, hip hop soul for grown ups.

I don't know the last time Farris performed in the NY-area but she's coming this way next week. She's playing the Blue Curtain 2008 Concert Series at the Pettoranello Gardens in New Jersey on Saturday, July 12th. Blue Curtain's concerts are free community events, Farris is headlining a bill with Kulu Mele African American Dance Ensemble. Then she'll be at The Cutting Room in NYC on Monday, July 23rd. Lastly, Farris is coming to Joe's Pub on Tuesday, August 1st for the first time. I hope people get in the know and get out to support one or more of these shows.

Writer Marlon James says just what I was thinking, and more, in this post from back on 13 February 2008, titled, "Whatever Happened to Dionne Farris?" Here's a little sample:

"Maybe it was only a feeding frenzy after all. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Anytime an artist sidesteps formula and hits upon a winner along comes the deluge, the signing shitstorm that starts off promising but ends up with diminished returns, Shabba Ranks leading to Snow, Pearl Jam leading to effluvia like Creed. But this movement was something else. I didn’t believe it myself. Back in the mid nineties you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a brilliant black female musician. "The sheer number was staggering: Ambersunshower, Carleen Anderson, Jhelisa, Davina, Amil Larrieux [sic], Sha-Key, 99, Meshell
NdegeOcello, DK Dyson, Nicole Renee, Cherokee, Julie Dexter, Erykah Badu, Ndambi, Angel, Joi, Joi Cardwell, Janice Robinson, Skin, Res, Sandra St.Victor, N’Dea Davenport, Jazzyfatnastees, Kira, Des’Ree, D-Influence and Caron Wheeler. Neneh Cherry had just released Homebrew, a stunning new direction for hip-hop that showed you could be a blues-heavy world-wise funky mother of two and still wear no panties if you wish. This was the glory days of Vibe magazine under Jonathan Van Meter, where every week they seemed to dig up brand new funky thing. Like the so-called black wave of film directors (remember that NY times cover?) this wave of unclassifiable black women talked like a revolution, artists who were neither divas nor garden tools and who weren’t afraid of taking their minds to the dance floor. Dionne Farris in particular was championed by the magazine. Late of critical darlings Arrested Development and ready to take on the planet, she had even a better album than her former group...."

Read the rest at Marlon James, Among Other Things, and you might get some insight into the naming of Farris' Free & Clear company. For a short answer to James' title question check out the Creative Loafing profile listed below.

Video Wind-Back
Showing a little love to Ms. Farris and all the beautiful and brilliant gap-toothed, shorn and close-crop pated sisters and brothers out there (and a little shout out to the brother with whom I recently shared a black hair love moment; 'cause you gotta show the love!)

Farris' standout first single,
"I Know" from her 1994 debut Wild Seed, Wild Flower. Looking every bit the everyday iconic black rock star and showing her way with harmonies as she has that great "ti-i-ime" run 2/3rds of the way in followed by that great crunching slide guitar.

Another release "Passion," from the same album. Note the textural juxtapositions of smooth and rough in the guitar arrangements from verse to chorus, also the bass color, and the way it's mixed forward and provides a steady counterpoint to Farris' vocals. I think her vocals were mixed a little too forward on this cut, but I still like it. And Farris once again working that country-city aesthetic, and proving bald is beautiful.

Finally, "Hopeless" from the Love Jones soundtrack(1997) with Farris daring, without irony, to wear a pair of glasses and a thick cable-knit sweater in a music video that shows black-boho-geek-beauty in much diversity (with a babyfaced Van Hunt on guitar, and Randy Jackson on bass--
pre-"American Idol." The man did have a serious past as a producer before becoming part of the pop culture reality-TV machine.)

• 18 June 2008 Creative Loafing profile of Farris.
Baggage, the first short film from Farris' Remember My Name Vol. 1 video album. The song was co-written with her former writing partner Van Hunt. Farris hanging in the San Francisco Bay Area, and performing at Yoshi's in Oakland.
Fair, the second short film from the Remember My Name, Vol. 1 video album. Farris performing live (with an unfortunately off-key backup vocalist).
For U, the third short film from the Remember My Name, Vol. 1 video album. Farris as a grown up musician with children, a house, and everyday concerns like laundry and paying the bills.

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