Author Archive: Jeff Winbush

Hiromi Comes “Alive”

Not the savior of jazz and doesn't want to be.

Not the savior of jazz and doesn’t want to be.

 

If jazz has become a niche market in the music industry (and it has), a contributing factor for its slide into cultural irrelevance is a failure to promote and support new artists. No matter what sub-genre of jazz you personally love, across the board there is no sustained effort to develop a roster of first-tier talent in jazz. Every so often along comes a Esperanza Spalding who joins the long list of earlier “saviors” of jazz such as Wynton Marsalis or Robert Glasper and is saddled with the unasked-for responsibility of reviving interest in the incredibly shrinking jazz field.

Writing in The Root, Frank McCoy painted a gloomy picture for the idiom, “It’s even harder in jazz today as CD/album sales have plummeted. In 1999 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said that jazz sales were 3 percent of all recording sales. By 2008 they were 1.1 percent. In 2000 Soundscan reported that 18,416 jazz albums were sold; nine years later, fewer than 12,000 jazz-genre albums were purchased.”

For jazz not only to thrive, but survive, it must begin to create its own superstars who can deliver a much-needed shot of adrenalin to the flagging art form, but have skills in social media and marketing, creating a global brand, and finding new forms beyond record sales, radio play and live gigs in fewer clubs and concert halls to reach the new breed of jazz fans.

Hiromi Uehara is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the vanguard of bold creative minds revitalizing jazz. At 35, the pianist from Shizuoka, Japan, has over the span of nine albums as a bandleader and solo artist demonstrated how well she absorbed the tutoring of Ahmad Jamal and bassist Richard Evans when she matriculated at the Berklee College of Music. Hiromi has led two separate bands, Hiromi’s Sonicbloom and The Trio Project and stints with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, as well as a duet with Chick Corea have solidified her credentials as one of the best and brightest young musicians in contemporary jazz.

Hiromi_Alive_jaw

Matching her inclination for improvisation, drummer Simon Phillips and bassist Anthony Jackson hold down the rhythm responsibilities, freeing up Hiromi to do things with a piano most human beings can’t begin to imagine doing. Alive might be the finishing stroke in a trilogy of adventurous albums for the band. Nothing definite has been said by Hiromi that the group has run its course, but there is a sense of finality in the third Trio Project. Always a restless soul, it’s an open question how long Hiromi will continue this collaboration.

With Voice (Telarc, 2011) and its sequel, Move! (Telarc, 2012), Hiromi found in Phillips a drummer who could match her high velocity piano playing blow-for-blow. Jackson is the silent partner in the band who rarely takes solos and simply does his job with equal parts efficiency and creativity. He’s given opportunities to step out on Alive, but Jackson’s temperament leans to deferring to his colleagues when it’s time to let it all hang out. Overlength is at times an issue with four tracks going nine minutes in length, two clocking in at eight minutes. “Seeker” and “Firefly” both push past over seven minutes and at 6:49, the closing “Life Goes On” draws the shortest straw. Play strong, play long is the philosophy of The Trio Project, which is not a criticism, but to fully appreciate Alive , completed in only three days with Michael Bishop handling co-producing duties along with Hiromi.

Alive makes no bones about being a deep dive that necessitates several listens to fully grasp the complexity of Hiromi’s compositions., but it deserves it.  This is not simple music nor a record one pops into the CD player during a pizza run.

Sandwiched between the four albums with her Sonicbloom band and the trio of Trio Projects is Place To Be (Concord, 2010) Hiromi’s solo piano exercise where she proved even accompanied only by a piano she is a force to be reckoned with . When David Fiuczynski came aboard for 2007’s Time Control (Telarc) Hiromi could finally realize her jazz and rock synthesis with a guitarist as expressive (and equally prone to occasionally lapsing into excursions of stylistic excess) as herself. Phillips fills that role now far more harmonically than Fiuczynski whom occasionally had to struggle to be heard over Hiromi’s piano pyrotechnics.

Hiromi ‘s trust in her bandmates (and herself) free herself to simply play instead of continually dazzle with an onslaught of prodigious speed and technique. “Dreamer” is an example of that restraint with Phillips and Hiromi duking it out on their respective instruments until the 8:04 mark where they both pull back and gracefully close the frenzy with an understated climax. “Seeker” gives Jackson’s contrabass a soulful groove for his partners to work around and have some fun.

Ahmad Jamal nailed it when he observed, “Hiromi has discovered her own genre, and continues to pursue it with great sensitivity, energy, and dazzling virtuosity.” As time passes and her experience grows, Hiromi has not only become a better player, but a better listener. Compare the tasteful understatement of 2014 version of Hiromi onthe elegant “Firefly” with the frenetic, bug-on-a-hot-stove of 2004’s “Kung-Fu World Champion” and the difference is like that of night and day.

Dare we call Alive the dreaded “F” word? Fusion? Yes, and deservedly so even if this is not your daddy’s  jazz fusion. Even without the electric guitar of a John McLaughlin, or the arsenal of synthesizers employed by Herbie Hancock, The Trio Project is a legitimate inheritor of the legacy left by Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius when Weather Report called it a day.

That’s heavy company, but Hiromi’s Trio Project is one of the most consistently exciting and accomplished bands making music in any genre of music. Period. End of sentence. That it is also flying under the radar of most consumers is a sad commentary on jazz today, yet still provides hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Track Listing: Alive; Wanderer; Dreamer; Seeker; Player; Warrior; Firefly; Spirit; Life Goes On.

Personnel: Hiromi Uehara: keyboards; Anthony Jackson: contrabass guitar; Simon Phillips: drums.

Record Label: Telarc Records

Hiromi_3_photo_by_Muga_Miyahara

“No, I don’t know any Peter Frampton songs, silly. “

The Evidence of Things Now Seen.

There is no reason for this. No justification. No excuse. No forgiving.

Regarding the NFL’s suspending (or more precisely extending) Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice two-game suspension to an “indefinite” one I have two questions.

Is anyone so gullible to really believe the NFL never saw the video of Rice punching out his fiancée before TMZ released the video to the world?

If so, could I interest you in some oceanfront property in the desert?

This is a billion dollar business that suspends a player for the entire season for smoking marijuana while giving another TWO GAMES for knocking out and dragging an unconscious woman off of an elevator and dumping her on the floor like a sack of potatoes.

This is a league that misled, deceived and lied to the players of the damage concussions were doing to them and then tried to nickel-and-dime them in a lawsuit with a settlement so chintzy even a federal judge threw a penalty flag on it.

The NFL doesn’t give a damn about women. Why would they? There are active players in the league whom have killed people, who have been convicted of drunk driving, gang bangers, drug addicts and other law breakers and given them chance after chance to play in the league. If Aaron Hernandez wasn’t behind bars under suspicion of murdering at least two people, he’d probably still be catching passes from Tom Brady on Sunday afternoons.  Conduct a poll of the average fan and they’re probably less concerned about domestic abuse than what Rice’s suspension means to their fantasy football team.

Welp, I guess I got more time to work on being the new Mike Tyson…”

To be a fan of NFL football means you gotta take a lot of bad with the good and I should know. I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan.

What’s the lesson here? Beat a woman’s ass and you get a couple of weeks off. Fail a drug test and you’re done for the year. Some lesson.

Roger Goodell‘s much ballyhooed new policy cracking down on woman beating ballers only came to pass after the NFL caught hell from the public and press for the sloppy wet kiss Rice received. The league doesn’t care what the players do to their wives, girlfriends and significant others as long as it doesn’t blowback on their precious, carefully calculated image.

Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens are enablers of violence against women. Which is kind of funny when you consider how in Goodell’s NFL the big killshot hard hit has nearly been flagged, penalized, regulated and legislated out of existence.

The NFL hasn’t gotten around to Atlantic City elevators.  I knew this shoe was going to drop. If anyone can go to You Tube and watch video of Jay-Z and his sister-in-law duking it out on a lift, who’s gonna believe the most powerful and wealthiest professional sports league in America can’t get their hands on what happened to Janay Parker before Ray Rice dumped her on the floor of an Atlantic City hotel?

Commissioner Clueless.

Goodell, the Ravens and Rice all lied, all deceived,  until it all blew up in their faces.    Had this video not emerged, Rice would be two weeks away from practicing and playing against the Browns.    Now he’s got a lot of free time to kill and Janay  should be worried about what he’ll do with all that idle time on his hands.

When the shitstorm of criticism blew up in his face,  Goodell weakly admitted he “didn’t get it right” with Rice’s wrist slap.  Goodell is nothing but consistent:  He’s still not getting it right.

The NFL doesn’t advocate domestic abuse.   But it doesn’t take it seriously either.

 

Joan Rivers Is Gone. You Don’t Have to Pretend She Was A Nice Person.

Can we talk? Nah, we don’t have to.

 

I liked Joan Rivers but I did not like Joan Rivers.

The difference is between who Rivers was and what she became. One was a funny, comedic pioneer of almost iconic proportions. The other was a mean-spirited, foul-mouthed hag who spewed bigotry and venom and there’s nothing funny about that.

Is it too soon to be candid about Rivers? De mortuis nil nisi bonum, and all that? I don’t think so. Rivers rarely bit her tongue and I don’t either. Death doesn’t suddenly make somebody a saint. Over the last decade or so something inside Joan Rivers curdled and her humor turned into a sharp weapon that skewered her targets without restraint or mercy.

Rivers because she’s had personal ordeals in the past. EVERYBODY has had personal ordeals in the past, present and in the future. That’s not a reason to be as pitiless and cruel as Rivers was time and again.

The best comedians are often caustic, acidic and downright nasty in their humor.   Rivers seemed to take gleeful pride in saying horrible things at exactly the worst time.    She made it work for her, but where was the gag?   Or maybe it was there was no gag and that was the best gag of them all.

Where did Rivers go wrong?   Molly Ivins,  the late political observer and satirist explained a possible reason, “There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity — like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule — that’s what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel — it’s vulgar.”

Rivers never played by that rule.  She reveled in being vulgar and the only rules she played by were her own.   Anyone was fair game and no matter how vulgar it was she would steadfastly refuse to apologize and  why would she? It’s not as though she was sorry for anything she said.

When the rest of us were aghast at the plight of the women held hostage by Ariel Castro for a decade, Rivers said, “They got to live rent free for more than a decade”. When Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus said they were hurt by Rivers joking about their ordeal, she sneered, “One of them has a book deal. Neither are in a psych ward. They’re ok. I bet you within three years one of them will be on Dancing with the Stars.”

Rivers didn’t mind offending and went out of her way to offend as much as she could.

Or what about this one about Whitney Houston: ‘I hate Houston. It’s crawling with bugs. Oh, wait, that’s Whitney Houston; I’m sorry, my bad. (Can I just mention that Whitney looked fabulous at the Grammys? She was in mahogany from head to toe.)’

That’s humor? That’s a joke? That’s supposed to be funny?

Throwing shade at pop stars, airhead actresses and pompous politicians kept Rivers relevant even when she seemed to be the only one in on the gag.  She’d probably be pretty amused at all the accolades being showered on her, but then it’s a natural human reaction to maximize the good of the departed and minimize the bad.

That’s not how Rivers lived her life.   That’s not how I note her death.

Rivers was a comedy legend and that much no one can ever take from her. I can’t imagine she would let anyone try either.  She was a trailblazer.  She opened doors.  She kicked open doors for women in comedy.  It’s there’s ever a Comedy Hall of Fame she’ll have a big-ass statue and good for her.

But she wasn’t a nice person and if it makes me a bad person to say it that’s better than being a hypocritical one.

Joan would have understood.

Dead Black bodies are a growth business (and business is good).

michael brown_autopsy_

And we’re back.

I needed some time off and I took off. No mystery to it. I’ve written about dead Black bodies that only came to my attention when they ceased being live Black bodies. I could have lived a happy life blissfully ignorant of Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell, Justin Davis, Renisha McBride, Hadiya Pendleton, Antonio Smith or Michael Brown’s existence. Now they are part of mine. Despite never knowing them or meeting a part of them lives on in me and their restless spirits travel with me even as I wait for the next name to be added to theirs.

I could write every day for every last day of my life on dead Black bodies bleeding out in the street and never run out of material and I’m tired of it. It makes me angry and then it makes me depressed and then it makes me want to lie in bed all day long with the curtains drawn until its night again. How many words have I written over the past 22 years about dead Black kids where only the names and locations change but the details stay all too similar? I don’t know the exact number, but I know it’s been far too many.

Michael Brown and Antonio Smith were the last dead Black bodies that pushed me to and then over the edge. Ishmael Reed once declared “writin’ is fightin’ “, but these were the murders that made me drop my gloves. It’s not that I’m never gonna stop writing or fighting. How can I when I know I’m not going to throw a brick through anybody’s window or burn down anyone’s store or spit in the eye of any cop no matter how much I might want to.

You don’t have to smell the putrid funk of dead bodies to be sickened by it. I’m tired of writing worthless words which do nothing but make one man feel a bit better about the things he can’t stop or change.   Words are the only bullets in a writer’s gun, but depending on what the subject we’re drawn to and compelled to talk about we can fire for a while before we start shooting blanks. Dead Black boys provides a lot of ammo and Lord, do I wish I could put this gun down and never pick it up again.

Got no justice.  Can't rest in peace.

Got no justice. Can’t rest in peace.

Yet I know I will.   I always do.  In six weeks or six days or six hours there will be another Mike Brown and another and another after that.  Dead Black bodies is a growth industry.  I’m never going to run out.   No matter what else draws me away the certainty of cold hard steel tearing through warm soft flesh will draw me back to this subject time and again.

It will make me angry and it will make me mad and it will make me so depressed I’ll want to lie all day in a dark room with the curtains drawn and I’ll be thankful for only one thing: that’s it’s not my son or daughter.

I’ll pray it’s never my son lying face down in the street or my daughter staring up at the stars with dead eyes wide open that see nothing. I’ll pray for that even as curse living in a sick, sick, SICK world where any parent anywhere should ever have to pray “Lord, don’t let it be mine, let it be someone else”

Maybe tomorrow nobody will die.  Maybe nowhere in the world no trembling hostage will have some sadistic bastard cut his head off.   Maybe a Black teenager won’t get blown away with his hands raised hoping to save his life from a White cop determined to take it.   Maybe no woman will be raped or beaten or strangled.   Maybe there won’t be any war anywhere because maybe both sides decide to take a day off.

Maybe.   And maybe I’ll just wake up and wait for the next batch of bad news to come looking for me.

 

Black Lives Matter. But Not Every Black Life Matters As Much.

Just another day. Just another dead kid

Elsewhere in America, another kid gets shot in Chicago.

The story of Antonio Smith is a short one. After all, he was only nine years old. He wasn’t a celebrity. He accomplished no great deeds. He made no enduring mark on the world.

Then again, most nine-year old kids don’t. They’re real busy just being kids.

Until someone takes their life. Then they’re a statistic.

Antonio lived a short life. He died a quick and violent death.

CHICAGO (WLS)Antonio Smith, 9, was fatally shot in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, his family told Eyewitness News Wednesday night.

The victim’s relatives made a plea to the shooter, who remains at large on Wednesday night.

“He was just a child, just a baby, still had a whole life ahead of him. And like, why? Just a child,” said Kenya Eggleston, victim’s cousin.

Smith was shot multiple times in the chest around 4 p.m. Wednesday in the 1200-block of East 71st Street.

“At first I didn’t know if they were really shots or not. I just heard pop, pop, pop, pop, pow. So I just kept doing what I was doing,” said Dave West, neighbor.

“It hurts my heart, really, to see the young kids just, just killing each other. And school is getting ready to start,” said Robert Blake, neighbor.

School’s out for Antonio Smith. Forever.

There are no protests. Al and Jesse aren’t in the streets. Reporters aren’t tripping all over each other to stick yet another hot mic under another agitated person’s mouth hoping they’ll say something raw and juicy.

When he was running for his life whose name did Antonio call? His mother? God? Did he scream for help or plead for mercy? Too many kids like Antonio have survived birth only to be killed by a hard life where there’s no mercy, no forgiveness, and no pity. Too many of us are just like Mr. West. We hear “pop, pop, pop, pop, pow” and since it’s not us we go back to what we were doing.

We March. But Not For Antonio.

After all, what’s the big deal? Antonio was a nobody. He wasn’t popped by a White cop (unlikely). He got done in by somebody who probably looked a lot like him (more likely).

I know you’re sick of hearing about it. I’m sick of writing about it. Jesus. Another Black kid got shot? How many does that make this week? And it’s only Thursday. Scratch that vacation to Chicago, honey. When does ski season start in Vail? You know those people hate the snow and cold. That’s why you never see them win anything at the Winter Olympics.

It’s just another dead Black kid. Life ended. Promise snuffed out. The mean streets claim another one. You know the routine. Roll out the yellow tape. Mark where the body fell. Shuffle the paper. Record the name. Bury ‘em, forget ‘em and keep it moving. Tomorrow is another day and tomorrow is Friday which in Chicago means the start of the weekend and a fresh supply of dead and wounded mostly Black bodies ready to be stacked, packed, body-bagged and toe-tagged.

Oh well. No big loss. It’s not as if any of them were going to grow up to come up with the cure for cancer or run a Fortune 500 company. Fuck it. Antonio Smith might have grown up from being another kid with a crooked, cocky smile into yet another big scary Super Predator like Mike Brown going around stealing stogies, shoving store clerks and being a Menace II Society before he gets put down like the mongrel he was.

We’ve become desensitized to dead kids. A cop killing a brother isn’t rare, but brothers killing brothers over nothing is common.  We as a people we’ve become remarkably adept at coming up with ways to divert our attention from the slaughter in our streets.

America doesn’t notice anymore. It can barely tear itself away from its petty partisan politics, worthless entertainments and minor amusement to pay attention to just another dead kid face down in the street or staring sightlessly up at the sky.

Plenty more where Antonio came from. Plenty gone and plenty still to go.

The slaying of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson comes at a perfect time for the news media. Congress is on vacation. The President is on vacation. We’re all sick of hearing about Israel, Ebola, Isis, the Ukraine and Boko Haram. There’s nothing good on TV. Even the NFL isn’t playing any meaningful games yet. It’s a harmonic converge. There’s nothing else going on.

Wonder why it is we as Black people care so much when a killer cop guns us down and care so little when a killer who looks like us does the same thing. Does Black life only matter when its taken by a White man?

I’d prefer it wasn’t so, but I think I’d be lying to myself.

“Don’t Shoot…Oops. Too Late.”

Mike Brown

A week after Michael Brown was shot multiple times and killed for reasons that remain unknown, Ferguson Police Department Police Chief Thomas Jackson held a press conference which accomplished exactly two things:

1. We learned the name of Brown’s shooter was one Officer Darren Wilson.
2. The police released a surveillance video of a man fitting Brown’s description apparently stealing $48 worth of cigars from a convenience store and then turning on and physically confronting a store clerk.

There were two more things wrong with this. The first is is even in Missouri, a “strong-arm robbery” as Jackson described it is not an executable offense. The second, and more important fact is Wilson didn’t know Brown was a suspect when he stopped him and in less than five minutes, shot him dead.

Even if Brown understood the clerk would call the police, he wasn’t running or trotting or making any effort to hide or conceal himself. At worse, Office Wilson stopped Brown for jaywalking or being a hazard to drivers by walking in the street.

Maybe that was dumb behavior. Jerky behavior. Smart-ass behavior. But none of it explains what happened between Wilson and Brown.

Young. Black. Male. Better shoot him before he becomes dangerous too.

No audio recordings. No video recordings. No eyewitnesses testimony. No ballistic reports and no statement about what was found at the crime scene. Jackson didn’t take questions and didn’t offer any new answers.

Why did it take numerous Freedom of Information requests before the Ferguson P.D. finally released the name of the officer involved? Why did the Ferguson P.D. share surveillance photos of what appears to be an altercation between Brown and a store clerk, but have yet to provide a timeline of Brown’s actions or Wilson’s?

Why is it we still don’t know how many times Wilson pulled the trigger and how many shots hit Brown? Even without an autopsy report, don’t the Ferguson P.D. have Wilson’s gun?

Can’t they count?

The chief’s press conference satisfied nobody (except for Fox News talking heads and they don’t count) and actually made things worse.   The fragile calm that had settled in after the National Guard replaced the the heavy-handed police presence of the Ferguson and St. Louis police force didn’t hold and the chaos and looting began anew.  Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and issued a curfew.   It hasn’t helped settle matters much as the Black community in Ferguson remains frustrated by the stonewalling and the slimy attempt by Jackson to smear a dead teenager with allegations of a criminal act.   As if that justifies shooting him down in the street.

The Ferguson P.D. gassed and harassed the media until they could come up with a plausible story and reasonable doubt. Now they are attempting to manipulate the media and the public. If Michael Brown can be made to look like a guilty thug, he becomes less of an innocent victim.

The police are public servants. They answer to the public, not the other way around. That’s clearly not happening here and it has turned a local tragedy into a national scandal. The longer the cop’s “account” of what happened goes unshared, the greater the likelihood when it finally does the story will be more about covering asses than uncovering truth.

The protests by the people should continue until they get the answers the authorities have failed to give them. The burning, looting and violence has to stop. It does nothing to help Brown’s family and the community if criminals are exploiting a tragedy to help themselves. Leave the protesters alone. The criminals should be arrested, prosecuted, and if proven guilty, punished and possibly imprisoned.

All the things which Michael Brown was not.

If the shooting Mike Brown was the explosion, the choking of Eric Garner was the fuse.

An observation: Brown was 6’4″ and 292 pounds and allegedly stolen cigars from a convenience store before his fatal encounter with a police officer.

In NYC, Eric Garner was 6’3″ and 350 pounds and allegedly was selling illegal cigarettes (or “loosies”) when he had his fatal encounter with police officers.

The conclusion seems to be if you’re a big Black guy, if the tobacco doesn’t kill you, the cops will.

Who’s afraid of a large Black man? Everybody. Or at least the cops seem to be. Any cop who is so scared of a large Black man their only recourse is to kill them, is a coward and has no business with a badge and a gun.

One more thing. I’ve been impressed by how attentive young Black people have been to the goings on in Ferguson. This has engaged them in a way similar killings have not.

How Michael Brown’s met his end is no more heartbreaking than that of Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Jonathan Ferrell, or even Trayvon Martin. Unlike Eric Garner’s demise, no video of the last moments of Brown’s life exists, but there are 40 FBI agents in Ferguson knocking on doors just to be sure.

But the image of Brown’s bloodied corpse lying in the street like a dead dog was seen on Instagram, on Twitter, on cell phones and all over the world and it incensed a generation for whom the Los Angeles riots in the wake of the acquittal of the four police officers who beat the hell out of Rodney King happened before many of them were born.

This is their Rodney King moment. Eric Garner was the fuse. Michael Brown was the explosion.   They’re angry.  They’re engaged.  They’re paying attention.   If the dreamers stay awake they may take a hard look around and realize they have been living in a nightmare.

What will it take then to put them back to sleep?   Quick!  Gimme an update on the state of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s marriage!  We need to keep these Negroes happy and complacent!

No more civil rights marches should not to be taken to mean nothing is wrong, because as the world watches in horror and fascination, Ferguson 2014 looks a lot like Birmingham 1964.

It’s news when an American city looks like the Gaza Strip (photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)

Dead Again.

Michael Brown

Left in the street like a dead damn dog.

Michael Brown was supposed to start college today.  Supposed to.  He didn’t make it.  He wasn’t absent.  He was dead.

Another young Black man dropped by the cops shouldn’t be any sort of big newsflash by now. Like celebrity divorces and mass shooting episodes, fatal encounters between cops and Black males more often results in a dead Black male than a dead cop.

What makes Michael Brown’s killing any different? Nothing, really. It’s actually sort of ordinary.

Cop stops an unarmed teenager for reasons only the two of them (and potential witnesses) know.

Something happens. Maybe the teenager says “the magic word” that sets the cop off? We don’t know. The official story isn’t sounding very official so far. Everything is still being investigated. Or everything is being covered up. You decide.

Why would Brown struggle with a police officer days before he was supposed to start college? Seems like an odd time to show a secret death wish for suicide by cop.

No mother should have to bury a murdered son

As Brown’s body laid in the street, a puddle of blood trickling down the street, the excuse was the cops (all 15 departments that were involved) were processing the scene, gathering evidence, and waiting for their Krispy Kremes to arrive. What the corpse of Michael Brown baking on the hot August asphalt said to the hundreds of neighbors, onlookers, parents and children was, Look at me. Look at what they did to me. They could do this to you too. Anytime they want.

There is a LOT of information missing from this story, but the insensitive and inept way the Ferguson cops have handled matters couldn’t be much more tone-deaf. If there’s looting and pillaging going on the police practically dared the community not to respond to their provocation.

Leave a dead kid on the street like a dog for hours, but hurry up and get the SWAT teams, riot guns and dogs ready ’cause them Black folks might get uppity!

All the right things are being said and all the now standard pacification protocols are being implemented. Call in the FBI to aid in the investigation. Politicians and public officials will make pleas for peace and calm while they put the home number of the governor on speed dial should the National Guard need to be mobilized when the savages stop burning cars and looting liquor stores and start burning cop cars with cops still in them and looting White neighborhoods.

It would seem the hacktavist activist group Anonymous has gotten wind of what’s going down in Ferguson, Missouri. They aren’t too cool about it either.”

It’s worth sharing.

Twitter pic by Raheem DeVaughn

Greetings, world. We are Anonymous.

“On August 8th in Ferguson, Missouri, the 17-year-old and unarmed Mike Brown was shot several times and killed by an officer of the Ferguson Police Department. His body was left to lie in a pool of blood in the sweltering heat for hours while 15 police departments militarized the area against protestors, sealed the roads leading to Ferguson in a vain attempt to prevent protestors from reaching the city.

“The police has clearly crossed a line in the sand….

“To the good people of Ferguson, take heart and take your streets. You are not alone. We will support you in every way possible. Occupy every, square inch of your city. Demand justice….

“To the Ferguson Police Department and any other jurisdictions who are deployed to the protests, we are watching you very closely. If you abuse, harass, or harm in any way the protestors in Ferguson, we will take every web-based asset of your departments and governments offline. That is not a threat. It is a promise. Attacking the protestors will result in the release of personal information on every, single member of the Ferguson Police Department… We will seize all your databases & emails pools and dump them on the Internet.

“This is your first and last warning….

“The time has come for more than simple justice for these atrocities…. Until justice prevails, hack and protest will replace it.

“Operation Ferguson engaged.

“We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget.

“Ferguson, expect us!”

If Anonymous says it, they probably mean it. Known for their sense of humor they are not. Anonymous adds an interesting twist to the story, but I don’t believe they are going to find justice for Mike Brown by threatening to crash into the cops’ computers and unearth all the dirt.

That sort of threat has never slowed cops from killing any Black man that makes them feel uneasy.

Riots are terrible. Looting is terrible. Setting stuff on fire is terrible.

It’s also terrible when yet another Black man has yet another fatal encounter with the police.

Reference Sean Bell. Or Amadou Diallo. Or Oscar Grant. Or Patrick Dorismond. Or Jonathan Ferrell. Or Eric Garner.

Or Mike Brown.

We’ve been here before. We’ll be here again. Change the name, but the game remains the same. Oh, we’ll get hyped for a while, but then we’ll calm back down and wonder what’s on TV tonight? It’s easier to get people hyped over non-events like the state of Queen Bey and Jay-Z’s marriage than killed by cops due to Living While Black or the rape of a 16-yr-old who is raped a second time when her assailants go viral with video.

Ain’t we got NO shame? Or priorities?

There is a sickness killing our souls like Ebola is killing Africans. Maybe we’ll notice it at some point. Probably we won’

Martin Luther King noted a riot is the language of the unheard.

Can you hear them now?

Mike Brown was supposed to start college today.  His family can start planning a funeral instead.

“Get On Up” is Super Bad. That’s Not A Compliment.

Papa don’t take no mess and Papa shouldn’t watch this mess. either.

Here’s a fun fact: James Brown was known as Soul Brother #1 and he never had a Number One pop hit.

Brown put 99 songs on the chart over a 30 year career which puts him on the Top 10 of the most successful pop artists.  The closest the undisputed Hardest Working Man in Show Biz  got to the top spot was  “I Got You (I Feel Good)” at #3 and “Living In America” which got it to #4 with 21 years passing between the two hits.

This is not something you are going to learn in the new James Brown biopic, Get On Up?  This  simplistic, spineless biopic runs a Hoover over any dirt in Brown’s life with only the briefest glances at his dark corners. When the producers fired Spike Lee off the project and replaced him with Tate The Help Taylor it was natural to expect the rough edges of Brown would be filed down,  but who knew they would suck the soul right out of The Godfather of Soul?

The wife and I had a free pass to see Get On Up. The price was right, but the movie is all wrong. It stole 2 hours and 18 minutes I will never get back.

There is a difference between a film that rolls back the carpet and shows all the dirt its subject did in their lives and one which blows sloppy, slobbering kisses. This is the latter and Brown’s bad habits of overindulgence in drugs and drink, spousal abuse, womanizing, and bizarre behavior is briefly referring to and then cuts away to another musical number.

Don’t worry. THIS James Brown never shows up in the whitewashed “Get On Up.”

The sheer energy of the classic James Brown music almost saves this sanitized Hollywood hackery and there’s a lot of music here (though the absence of “The Payback” is one of many glaring omissions). Chadwick Boseman‘s version of Soul Brother#1 is energetic. He learned a lot of Brown’s moves, but as far as capturing his character, Eddie Murphy did it about as well on Saturday Night Live decades ago. Boseman tries hard and some approving critics rave he gives an Oscar-caliber performance.   It’s okay, but only if you didn’t grown up with  Brown the way I did.

When the music stops so does the movie dead in its track with Taylor spasmodically jerking the viewer through time and place with the attention span of a housefly. At one point I leaned forward in my seat with my chin in my hand in wonder of Taylor’s muddled, cluttered direction.

Get On Up never gets on the good foot.  Mostly it just kind of lays there and rolls over. How the hell do you take James Brown and make him so damn BORING? It’s not a certainty Lee would have made a better movie but he wouldn’t have made a duller one.

What motivated Brown to write an anthem of Black pride and power like “Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud? Why did he sing that same song at Richard Nixon’s inaugural ball in 1968 and endorse him in 1972? You’ll never know from the script by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth which reduces the singer’s political activism to mostly a footnote. The same guy who counted Al Sharpton as a buddy also voted as a conservative Republican. Nobody will buy a ticket expecting details on this apparent contradiction, but it’s a tantalizing and largely facet of Brown’s character. Taylor and the Butterworths don’t even find it worth a mention.

When this movie isn’t being sloppy it is simply superficial. Brown’s music made him an icon. Get On Up makes him nothing but a jukebox.

We’re long past the point where we should be falling to our knees like Brown singing “Please, Please, Please” in slobbering gratitude whenever White Hollywood deems to tell a Black icon’s story. Not every film with Black people at the center of the film has to be exclusively produced, directed, written, scored or filmed by Black filmmakers, but it would be nice if more of them were.

For every Malcolm X or Raging Bull that works, there are dozens of other bio pics that fail dismally and for me, nobody else, Get On Up is a missed opportunity and a boring failure.

Tricky Dick meets The Godfather. Just not in this movie.

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