Antoine Dodson rules in the Year of the Fool.

"A damn fool? Why, yes I am, thank you very much."

Another year almost in the books and so many people had their 15 minutes of fame and used up every last second of it. Lawd have mercy, you must have loved fools. You made so many of them.

You have your professionals: Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck. Ann Coulter, Bill O’ Reilly, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews. Sean Hannity.

You have your politicos: Rep. Joe Wilson. Rahm Emanuel, John McCain, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Sarah Palin, Rep. Joe Barton, Sharron Angle, Christine O’ Donnell, Alvin Greene, Rand Paul, Michael “fried chicken and potato salad” Steele, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Joe “this is a big fucking deal” Biden and some guy named “Barry Otero.”

You have a slew of others to choose from such as BP CEO Tony Hayward, Alvin Greene, Carl Paladino, Helen Thomas, Haley Barbour, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Kanye West, Andrew Breitbart, Charlie Rangel, Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Bernie “fuck my victims!” Madoff, Queen Birther Beeyotch Orly Taitz and my personal cringe-worthy favorite, Antoine “they rapin’ everyone” Dodson.

I’m not saying Antoine was worst than Christine O’ Donnell who was trying to bring her dumbness to the Senate or Sarah Palin, a member for life of the Biggest Twits in the World Society or the Hitler and Stalin ravings of a Glenn Beck.   Certainly Joe “You Lie!” Wilson takes White Men Behaving Badly to a new low.   It’s that Dodson’s brand of dickery was particularly offensive in how much effort and enthusiasm he put into looking stupid as hell.

If you’re not Black there is no way you can understand what an eye-adverting, skin crawling embarrassment to the race Antoine Dodson is.   Cashing in on attempted rape is really keeping it classy, Antoine, but hustlers gotta hustle.   By the way, where’s your sister’s Billboard hit?   She was nearly as ghetto as you.

It’s a personal call choice if you like Antoine’s antics. He plays a most convincing fool. Just like the way he played to the cameras in his over-the-top, buffoonish “ghetto fabulous” way.

Playing the fool for fun and profit and into the worst Black/gay stereotypes is quite an accomplishment. Flavor Flav must be sooooo jealous.

Dodson is just the You Tube version of what African-American TV reporters call the “hair roller Black folks.” Something happens, the TV news vans roll up and out jump the reporters who stick a mike under the mouth of the most ghetto, ignorant, mushmouth they can find standing there with pink hair rollers and droppin’ their “g’s” like mad.

Oh, I seen the whole thing. It was like, ‘DAMN, that one dude just was standin’ there and den this other dude rolled up and he shot the one dude in his face, like “BLAM!” and den he took off runnin’ and shootin’ and I was watchin’ House ’cause I loves House, he so funny and like dat and I was like “Holy Jesus! Holy Jesus! I can’ts believe it!

Every Black television reporter I know has had an Antoine Dodson moment and most try to avoid them like a sickness.

Dodson represents a hi-tech version of a played out meme: the Black buffoon who clowns himself for the amusement of others. It’s 21st century cooning.

All that’s missing is the burnt cork and ripe watermelon.

Props and respect to Monica Roberts for the idea of a Fool of the Year post.   Thanks, Monica!

The spiritual forefather of Antoine Dodson.

One Year in Jazz: Nine of the Best and One of the Worst.

"Best Album of the Year? Me?"

1. Chris Standring/Blue Bolero: Playing jazz in America would serve as a great cover for someone in the witness protection program. A musician can labor at jazz for years and put together a nice body of work, but the music industry, the media, and the public may barely notice in their search for the next teenage pop star.

Chris Standring has never made an album quite like Blue Bolero. Standring could have stayed in a smooth jazz comfort zone of safe and innocuous music. Low risk can mean high reward, but Standring chose to go a different, riskier and far more ambitious route. The result is an album he should be both pleased with and proud of.

There are signature moments in a musician’s career when they make an album that both defines them and sets the course for their future. Herbie Hancock had his with Head Hunters (Columbia, 1973), Weather Report reached their summit with Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977), and George Benson took off with Breezin’ (Warner Brothers, 1976). Whether or not Blue Bolero belongs in that kind of distinguished company is a judgment call, but it is the best album Standring has made yet.

2.  Fourplay/Let’s Touch the Sky: For Fourplay, it’s all a numbers game. 2011 marks the band’s 20th anniversary, Let’s Touch the Sky is their 12th album, and “new guy,” Chuck Loeb is both Fourplay’s third personnel change and third guitarist replacing Larry Carlton, who stepped in for Lee Ritenour in 1998.

Loeb has the advantage of appearing on several of James’ solo albums, and that familiarity serves him well, as his guitar is featured early on his own “3rd Degree.” Loeb’s style meshes well with the signature Fourplay radio friendly tunes, but his playing is noticeably funkier than Carlton, and his familiarity with James would seem to indicate his period of adjustment into this supergroup will be a relatively quick one.

Changes in personnel can be leading indicators of a band reaching the end of the line. Not this time. If anything James, Mason and East seem invigorated by their new playmate. Loeb is a perfect fit, and with his addition to the group as both a composer and player, Fourplay is well situated to continue on both artistically and commercially as a force with which to be reckoned.

3.  Stanley Clarke/The Stanley Clarke Band: Stanley Clarke is still playing the bass the way he wants to, still pulling sounds out of his assortment of electric, acoustic and Alembic basses like nobody else, and still slapping, plucking and thumbing his way through contemporary, fusion jazz, rock, funk and whatever else he puts his mind to.

Clarke, in all his improvisations and incarnations as an artist, has never distanced himself from his jazz-rock roots. “Larry Has Traveled 11 Miles and Waited a Lifetime for the Return of Vishnu’s Report,” despite its clumsy title, is a well-intentioned homage to the genre’s giants including drummer Tony Williams’ Lifetime, Weather Report, trumpeter Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Orchestra among others.

There’s a sense of closure from The Stanley Clarke Band and it’s quite deliberate. Clarke says he’s done with making electric albums for a while. Aged 59, Clarke has considerable and deserved pride in what he’s accomplished as a composer and musician and whatever direction his future endeavors take him in, his legacy is already secured. He is to the electric bass what Jimi Hendrix was to the electric guitar; an unparalleled virtuoso who sets the standard for others to follow even as they create their own legacies.

4. The Trio of Oz: The dilemma for modern jazz artists is how to grab the ears of younger audiences, while remaining respectful of the legacy of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong without recycling yet another variation of “So What?” The eclectic and restless musical tastes of drummer Omar Hakim and pianist Rachel Nicolazzo (aka Rachel Z) offer some mighty impressive bait to reel them in, The Trio of Oz‘s repertoire reading like an hour’s worth of college radio station programming.

Whenever jazz is in danger of becoming safe, static and scared to stray out of its comfort zone, that’s when it’s in the fast lane to becoming the Muzak for museums naysayers already claim it is. The Trio of Oz strikes that delicate balance between respecting tradition while refusing to be handcuffed by it. There’s a lot here, in one of 2010’s most brilliant debuts for both purists and pioneers to admire.

5. George Duke/Deja Vu: Duke is a proven funk master, highly successful producer, underrated pianist and masterful entertainer who, while never taking himself too seriously, never takes his jazz roots for granted, no matter how often he’s accused of abandoning them. Déjà Vu is a splendid, high energy and completely satisfying record by Duke, who has mastered the delicate art of looking back while simultaneously moving forward.

6.  Mindi Abair/In Hi-Fi Stereo: As soul music has vanished from urban radio, driven out by the predominance of rap, hip-hop and Auto Tune, it’s become harder to find real soul made with real instruments, either on record or on the airwaves.

A Mindi Abair album is not the go-to place that comes to mind for a showcase of old school soul and bluesy funk. Abair has carved out a niche as a capable, if not always inspired, smooth jazz saxophonist, cut from the cloth of her contemporaries Kenny G., Richard Elliot and others, whom occasionally dip a toe into R&B, but never totally immerse themselves in the idiom.

Once again, the danger of making assumptions is proven, because with In Hi-Fi Stereo Abair takes the plunge headfirst into the deep end of soul-infused jazz. Equal parts homage to the music of David Sanborn, Hank Crawford and The Crusaders offer a testimony of her own artistic growth. Abair makes a declarative statement that she is a formidable talent who can do far more than smooth jazz noodling.

7.  Hiromi/Place To Be: Some musicians take the tortured artist thing too far. With their on-stage, “in the zone” demeanor, some pianists look as if they’re on the verge of a heart attack. If they relaxed a bit would anyone think less of them? Hiromi Uehara is certainly a serious musician yet never leaves the impression of taking herself too seriously. She’s having too much fun for that.

Since her 2003 debut, Another Mind (Telarc), Hiromi has straddled genres of post-bop, acid jazz, and freewheeling improvisation while refusing to be neatly categorized. A leader in her own right and an accompanist,she’s proven herself to be no neophyte and for seven years through growth and development, she continues to create challenging music that is both edifying and gratifying.

8.  Sade/Soldier of Love: The best thing about Sade Adu is also the worst thing about Sade Adu: her near fanatical commitment to consistency. There’s no difference between vintage Sade and contemporary Sade. She’s the antithesis of the snowfall cliché: with Sade you always know exactly what you’re going to get.

Soldier of Love is Sade’s first album in a decade, and only the sixth by the group in 25 years. Flooding the market with material is not a crime Adu can be accused of. However, while this is a new album it’s the same sort of music Sade has been making all along.

Soldier of Love seems longer than its tidy 41 minutes. It might be because, even on the mid-tempo songs like the title track and “Babyfather,” neither Sade Adu the front woman or Sade the band swing. But then, you don’t buy a Sade album because you want to dance. You buy a Sade album because no matter how bad your day’s been, hers has been worse. A lot worse.

9.   Ronny Jordan/After 8: The ninth best album of the year was actually released in 2004, but I didn’t hear it until 2010 and since it’s my list I get to choose my own qualifying criteria.   There’s no shortage of great guitar players in jazz, but so many of them are only recycling riffs from Wes Montgomery/George Benson.   Jordan is going off in different directions as if to say, “”We’ve done that.  Let’s try this.”

 

In a field full of imitators, Jordan is an original and After 8, he goes beyond the acid-jazz/funk and just kicks back to jam.   The result is an album I listen to repeatedly and with the volume turned up high.

…and the WORST album of 2010 was…

10.  The Jazzmasters/The Jazzmasters VI: To understand why Paul Hardcastle’s latest Jazzmasters album is such a tedious drag its first necessary to understand that the multi-instrumentalist has taken an unfortunate interest in a subdivision of smooth jazz, called Chill.

Chill relies on ambient sounds, airy vocals, quietly tinkling keyboards, and the occasional alto sax bubbling away in the mix. It’s so smoothed-out and laid back that it’s nearly comatose. Chill is less ambitious than smooth jazz but not as lightweight as New Age. Take a marshmallow, pour honey over it, dip it in a sugar bowl, then swallow the gooey, gloppy mess whole in one bite. That’s Chill.

Note:  I really, really hated this album.  When I wrote my first review I just dumped all over it for the cardinal sin of being a lazy-ass waste of time.   The editor at All About Jazz rejected the review and we swapped some terse and tense e-mails back and forth over lines like this:

” This is music to peel potatoes, iron clothes and vacuüm the rug by.  This album is so devoid of an impromptu moment,  Hardcastle probably woke up one morning, sipped a cup of coffee, padded off in his slippers and robe to a home studio, banged this out in a few hours and was finished by lunch.”

“This is modern day Muzak that should be piped in the overhead speakers of upscale shopping malls and day care centers to lull unruly pre-schoolers into taking their naps.”

“Jazz” is a catch-all for various genres that are only loosely connected to each other.   Paul Hardcastle has carved out a niche for himself as a staple of the smooth jazz/Chill division, but it takes a certain presumption to proclaim oneself as a “Jazzmaster” when the music barely meets the minimum qualifications.”

I don’t usually like ripping a musician a new one, but Jazzmasters VI didn’t just bore and displease me.   It offended me on a fundamental level.  I gave in to the editor’s wish for a more diplomatic review, but I make no apologies for dogging out the record for the utter piece of shit it was.

To find the rose you gotta  risk the thorns.

Sacking Singletary

I wanted a winner too, but you're just another loser.

The 49ers fired head coach Mike Singletary too late.   The team had already clinched their tenth consecutive losing season weeks ago but in bedraggled NFC West they had not  lost the vague possibility of making the playoffs and possibly winning the division.   The St. Louis Rams delivered a day late Xmas gift by snuffing out the 49ers with a 25-17 loss and ending Singletary’s reign of error as well when team owner Jed York fired him with one meaningless game to go in this death march of a season.

The man who bellowed, “I want winners!”  turned out to be just another loser in the sad-sack 49ers clown car of failures.   Not as good as Mike Nolan and maybe not as bad as Dennis Erickson, but with a record of  18-24  even more disappointing than both.

If nothing else, I respect Singletary for getting talented, but unmotivated players like tight end Vernon Davis to tap into his immense potential.    Everyone knew Singletary wasn’t an X’s and O’s guy.  He had never been a head coach, coordinator or assistant on any level.   His main qualification was he was Nolan’s linebacker coach.   He had a personality as opposed to the stoic Nolan and he was a Hall of Fame player with the Chicago Bears sporting a Super Bowl ring.   For a while, Singletary’s force of will compensated for his lack of skill as a coach.    The 49ers looked good coming off of this year’s undefeated preseason beating up on rookies, free agents and scrubs

But the year the Lions went 0-16 they had won every preseason game too.  When the real season began, Seattle exposed the Niners and Singletary as the complete frauds they were.   Players retired suddenly, starters were benched, cut and traded,  Singletary supported and then fired his offensive coordinator, screamed at his rotating roster of  has been, never weres and never will be quarterbacks and after every disappointing loss said he would have to “look at the film” before he could explain what had gone wrong.   Look at the film?   All you had to do was look at the 49ers sucking every Sunday to see how sorry they were and how completely they had bought into its own hype.

The 2010 San Francisco 49ers were the biggest steaming pile of shit in the NFL.   They were one of only two teams to lose to the league’s worst team, the Carolina Panthers, and it wasn’t even an upset when they did.

"YOU! Get in there and start coaching!"

I can’t recall the last time I saw a head coach in the NFL who was so utterly overwhelmed and unprepared for the challenges of the job as Singletary.  He made QB switches like a fan, traded away Shaun Hill so Alex Smith had a clear path and then threw him aside like a used Kleenex, realized too late why everywhere David Carr has been he’s proven he isn’t a NFL caliber quarterback, pampered Michael Crabtree, never developed any sort of consistency on the offensive line, couldn’t produce a pass rush, and watched the overpaid and under talented Nate Clements steal money without a gun.

But I got over being mad about the 49ers  after the Chiefs throttled them in the third game.   I’d turn on, watch a while, see them bumble, stumble and fumble and knew Singletary didn’t have Clue One in how to right this sinking ship.  I have no idea why Sing would wear a headset during the game.  It’s not like he knew the plays or called any.  But now I know why he wore that huge crucifix around his neck.  He was praying for divine guidance.

By the time this week’s game rolled around, I was almost pulling for the Rams.  Color me spoiled, but I saw those great Montana and Young teams winning divisions and Super Bowls.   Was I supposed to get excited about a 5-9 crap team trying to make the playoffs with a sub .500 record?

The 49ers used to be the league’s Gold Standard.  They’ve been fool’s good for so long it’s hard to remember when they weren’t a terrible football team.  A decade’s worth of losing will do that to your memory.

This was a mercy killing.   Singletary will go on to have a great career as a motivational speaker but unless he gets a shot as a position coach or defensive coordinator (and he’s given no sign he’d be any good as one)  he will never be a head coach in the NFL again.

Singletary turned out to be Dingleberry.

Merry Grinchmas (and all that jazz)

Merry Xmas from The Domino Theory

I have to work this Christmas Day but mind you, I’m not complaining.  I’m happy just to have a job this year.    In this economy just being employed seems like a gift.   I was able to get my beautiful wife a nice present and the kids passed the Barbie dolls and action figures stage many moons ago.  The girl always wants more clothes and the boy always needs more clothes so they’re a lot easier to shop for. 

Later on after I’ve had a chance to grab some sleep I’ll swing by my brother’s house to drop off a few gifts.  There’s plenty of lousy NBA and NFL football on today, but I’ll only pay passing attention to any of it.   Maybe at some point my wife will make brunch and I’ll have some time to chill before I head back to pull my next shift.   I don’t much mind largely being absent on Xmas.   With both my parents gone and all the little ones turning into big ones, Christmas doesn’t give me the kick it once did.    It’s always been about the kids, but with the kids in my family aging out  it gets a little less so with every passing year.

"Ho-ho-ho, my peeps."

The worst thing about Christmas is 95 percent of Christmas music is pure crap.   Most of it is either sentimental sludge, corny, poorly sung and played garbage that’s an insult to both music and good taste.   If there must be Christmas music I prefer to let the music do the talking as it does on the Boney James version of “Christmas Time Is Here.”   I like a bit of soul to my season greetings.   

Whether its spent with family, friends, foes or alone with a goldfish swimming in a bowl of water,  I hope you made out like a bandit this Christmas and Santa brought you a lot of crap.   Some of which you might actually have wanted.    

I’d wish for peace on Earth and good will toward all men, women and children, but wishing alone has never made it so.    It takes a little less hand-wringing and a lot more commitment to action.  We all need to look a bit deeper in the mirror and make the personal changes that enable to change the world around us.  

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.  ~Dr Seuss

Merry Christmas.  And Happy Holidays.   Just to piss off Bill O’Reilly.  

Bigots Bent Over Black Actor Cast As White God.

Yeah, I can see the resemblance.

The Council of Conservative Citizens, the modern-day offspring of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s favorite segregationist organization, the White Citizens Council, is seriously ticked off over a Black man playing a Norse god in the upcoming comic book movie, Thor.

Roll that thought around in your mind and consider just how silly that is.

The Council of Conservative Citizens has launched a website calling for a boycott of the new Marvel comic-inspired film Thor, because a character is being played by a black actor.

The CCC is the contemporary incarnation of the segregationist Citizens Councils, which sprung up across the South in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education and which possible Republican presidential candidate Haley Barbour praised in a recent interview.

“It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves,” a post on the CCC’s website reads. “An upcoming movie, based on the comic book Thor, will give Norse mythology an insulting multi-cultural make-over. One of the Gods will be played by Hip Hop DJ Idris Elba.”

Elba is probably better known as the award-winning actor who starred in The Wire, American Gangster and a brief stint on The Office.

Boycott-thor.com expands on the CCC’s position: Marvel has a history of advocating for the left-wing. In early 2010 they even used their Captain America comic to attack the TEA Party movement. Marvel front man Stan “Lee” Lieber personally funds left-wing political candidates. Now Marvel has inserted left-wing social engineering into European mythology, casting a black man to play a Norse deity.

Now those are some bloodshot eyes!

Idris Elba is a “hip-hop DJ?”  Get the hell outta here!  Who knew?   Elba has taken flak from comic book nerds upset that the very Black actor was cast by Thor director Kenneth Branagh to play the very White and Nordic Heimdall.    For his part, Elba is having fun with the color-blind casting.

“There has been a big debate about it: can a black man play a Nordic character?  Hang about, Thor’s mythical, right? Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers. That’s OK, but the colour of my skin is wrong?

“I was cast in Thor and I’m cast as a Nordic god  If you know anything about the Nords, they don’t look like me but there you go. I think that’s a sign of the times for the future. I think we will see multi-level casting. I think we will see that, and I think that’s good.”

When I read Elba was playing Heimdall, I just shrugged.  No, Heimdall isn’t Black, but neither was the Kingpin when Michael Clarke Duncan played him in Daredevil.  Where was the Council when Halle Berry followed in the boots of Eartha Kitt in giving Catwoman an extreme makeover?  Now there’s a movie that deserved a boycott.

I did like the way the Council put it out front that Stan Lee’s real last name is “Lieber” because he’s Jewish, you know and we all know how those Jews just love to subvert Aryan superheroes like Thor and Odin.  I bet when Stan “the Man” Lee and Jack “the King” Kirby (real name Kurtzberg) came up with the idea of turning the Norse god of thunder into a super hero and setting him against the likes of Mangog, The Grey Gargoyle and the Radioactive Man, they were secretly hoping to make Thor an advocate for affirmative action.

The site also foams the mouth over Marvel’s dark history of publishing “extremist Black Power” comics like The Black Panther.  Gee, what would they say about Luke Cage marrying a White woman and fathering her baby?  Hey kids, Miscegenation Comics! Sweet Christmas!

Here we have just another in a long series of superhero movies where casting decisions are made all the time that infuriate and baffle fans of the original comics.   Some have already griped the actor cast as Thor looks as though he should be toting a surfboard and not an enchanted hammer.   The Council really has nothing better to do than call for boycotts of comic book influenced movies based on mythical characters?

The Council should relax, light up a cross or two,  and unclench. It really could have been much worse.

This is just wrong on so many levels.

Facing the Music With George Duke

The Master of the Game says, "Wassup, baby bobba?"

I’m in study mode this week for a certification test next week, so no long posts this week.   Still, I have to give  myself a little shout-out for FINALLY getting my much-delayed George Duke interview published.   It’s now available at Allaboutjazz.com and you can read it in its entirety there.   Also up on the site is my review of Duke’s latest album, Deja Vu.   Check it out.  I could use the page hits.

Some interviews are a labor of love and some are just labor.  This lengthy (over 7,000 words), far-reaching and career-spanning interview with George Duke is easily one of the longest I’ve ever done.   I’m glad it is now available.   I enjoyed it and I’ll never do it again:

Here’s an excerpt:

All About Jazz: When you were wearing your producer’s hat you still tapped into your jazz background. Nobody had heard a song like ‘Sukiyaki” with a Japanese instrument like the koto in it.

George Duke: I had worked with a group called Hiroshima and I knew June Kuramoto, who is an extraordinary koto player and could play in a pop concept. I asked her to come in and do something on the song, but it was Janice Johnson, the band’s bass player that brought the song to me. I was like, “Man, what am I going to do with ‘Sukiyaki’?’ I thought she was crazy, but I said it that’s what she wants to do, I’ll do it. We did the song and had Claire Fisher do the string arrangement and brought June in to give it a Japanese flavor. We added a R ‘n’ B section and that was it. It was a simple tune I never thought would become a hit. To this day I can’t believe it was as big a record as it was.

AAJ: Does having the kind of success as a producer of big hits like ‘Sukiyaki” and “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” begin to pull you away from your solo career?

GD: It did turn into that. The offers came in and it was very tough to turn down. During the Eighties and Nineties I would go out in the summer to something like the Montreux Festival with a band I’d put together. Otherwise, I was in the studio producing records until the bottom fell out of the industry. Those were my golden years in terms of producing because the money was there and artists were willing to try something with a “jazz artist” like me.

It was tough though for the record labels to accept black artists could sell those kind of numbers of records. With Jeffrey Osbourne and “Stay With Me” and “On the Wings of Love” or even “Sukiyaki” Janice had to force Capitol to put that record out as a single. When Stanley Clarke and I made “Sweet Baby” we believed in it but we had to get behind with our own money. We had to hire an independent publicist to support that record but once it started selling only then did Epic Records put their full weight behind it.

The pop music department said, “You guys are jazz artists.” The R ‘n’ B department said, “Nothing we can do with this.” The jazz department said, “It’s not a jazz record.” We had no choice but to step outside the system.

AAJ: I’ve read books about the recording industry and I always thought record labels were full of people who were bold thinkers trying to find and promote new and exciting music, but apparently I was wrong and there’s a lot of guys who stand in the way of creativity.

GD: I think some of the best visionaries of that time were the ones that stayed out of the way and let the artists do what they do, especially if they weren’t drugged out or crazy. That’s changed now. A lot of it is done by committee with the A&R department saying, “You’ll record this song and work with that producer” and that kind of stuff.

All the records I did with Jeffrey, Denice or Barry Manilow, I dealt directly with the artist. My relationship with the record company was strictly a legal and business one, not creative. I was the voice between the label and the artist and I translated back and forth. We’d keep them abreast of what was going on, but they weren’t telling us what to do.

AAJ: You seem to have mastered both the artistic and the business aspect of the musical industry. How did you learn to handle matters not just in the recording studio but in the suites of record companies as well?

GD: I guess I was blessed. There’s nobody that was teaching me this. To a degree it was working with Frank Zappa that had an influence on me. Watching him and how he seemed to control his own destiny influenced me quite a bit. He was the only musician I met that was that self-contained. Zappa knew as much as the engineer about the recording studio, had the business aspect together and he had to be able to play the crazy music he made.

It was always interesting to me to play that kind of stuff that wasn’t on the radio except from midnight to 5:00 a.m. on some obscure station. He had this huge audience and we could sell out places most pop artists couldn’t.

I took something from that. Something told me I should not give up my publishing rights. I’ve been asked many times to give up my songwriting rights. I’ve been told, “We want your song for Michael Jackson but you have to give up your publishing rights” and I said, “No. Uh-uh. It ain’t gonna happen.” They would say, “But your song won’t go on the record” and I’d reply, “Well then, it ain’t going.”

It takes some chutzpah to do this because I know I’m giving up money. But something told me to hold onto my rights and that extends into recording where I have my own label and control my own product.

Read the complete interview at All About Jazz.com.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Discriminate Anymore.

 

Mission accomplished.

~Letter to the editor, The Advocate

The time is always right to do the right thing, Dr. King said, and it was right for the Senate to finally end the discriminatory policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” 

The bigots and homophobes of the GOP like Saxby Chambliss shuffled their feet, scratched their heads and stammered out weak excuses.  “Should it be done at some point in time?   Maybe do, but in the middle of a military conflict is not the time to do it.”

When exactly is the right time for equal rights?   When exactly is it the right time to say, “We will honor the service of our brave soldiers and we will not single you out because of whom you choose to love.”  It was rednecks like Chambliss who said the same thing when it was Black Americans demanding an end to discrimation.DADT was an embarrassment and with its demise America moves one step closer to growing up a bit. 

But it fell to John McCain, the erstwhile “maverick” whose public slide into dementia continues to progress like a wildfire.   “So here we are about six weeks after an election that repudiated the agenda of the other side and those who would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are acting in direct repudiation of the American people”

Wrong again, Senator Self-Righteous.   A  Washington Post/ABC News poll last week revealed 77 percent of the American people want to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces.  What’s being repudiated here is your ignorance and intolerance against soldiers whom happen to have a different sexual orientation and that’s what’s annoying you like a wart on your wrinkly ass.

A day ago, McCain was openly chortling over the defeat of a defense appropriates bill laden with $7 billion worth of pork barrel spending.   Now karma had boomeranged on him.   DADT has been ended and the margin of victory 65-31 wasn’t even close. 

McCain’s bitter vitriol proves how right the voters were in rejecting him in 2008.  He was unfit for the job.   Under a President McCain, an anti-gay policy would not have been repealed, but supported and advocated.  It took  President Obama to drive the stake into the heart of this beast of repugnant discrimination and I certainly hope all those progressives who have excoriated him over the tax cut compromise will take note that he delivered in full on this particular campaign policy. 

For all the HATERS out there whom have had a lot of fun whacking President Obama like a piñata for the tax cut compromise, since it was under his administration that DADT finally ended (something that would NEVER have happened if John McCain had won), I got five words for you: HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW? 

 
 

A small man continuing to grow smaller.

 

 

 Soldiers who are not afraid of guns, bombs, capture, torture or death say they are afraid of homosexuals.  Clearly we should not be used as soldiers; we should be used as weapons.

Esperanza Spalding: Jazz’s Great Hope or Hype?

"Wanna hear me play 'Purple Haze' on this thing?"

Whenever a new CD arrives in the mail I open it with the hope it’s going to be something I will be excited to listen to and I will be motivated to write a glowing review recommending it to potential buyers.

Sometimes that’s exactly how it plays out.  Most of the time it’s just a chore.   There’s a lot of music out there and a good deal of it is bad, boring, forgettable or all three.

Which is why I was absolutely surprised to read of Esperanza Spalding receiving a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.   Jazz artists don’t usually get thrown in the mix right along with pop acts like Justin Bieber and Drake.   It looks like the big push her record label put behind Chamber Music Society,  her newest album, really paid off.

It helps if you can come up with a particularly compelling hook to separate you from the pack.   Spalding’s is she  sings and plays the acoustic bass;  an instrument that looks bigger that she is.   The fact that’s she’s easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt either.  Spalding played for President Obama at his Nobel Prize presentation and was invited by Prince to perform on his “Welcome 2 America” tour.

Well,  good for Esperanza.   It’s a nice change to see an actual musician getting a little taste of some acclaim and awards.   Maybe she’ll make a buck or two as well.

Unfortunately, I can’t stand Chamber Music Society.  It is a terrible album  which I had to force myself to listen to in its entirety.   I had a root canal I enjoyed more.    It was easily one of the worst records I’ve heard all year.

Everything about the album screamed “big push” about Chamber Music Society.  The art, photography and packaging were first-class all the way.  You just don’t see that kind of time and expense put into a jazz record that might sell several thousand–maybe.    Then again, for most folks their image of jazz is either some old Black dude honking into a saxophone or Kenny G. noodling away on some snooze jazz shit.    There’s a definite “hey, she’s a babe” vibe to Spalding’s sudden success.

It’s not in her music, that’s for sure.   Yes, she plays some competently, but it’s not going to inspire a nation of anorexic teenage girls to pull their fingers out of their mouths to pick up the upright bass.   Spalding is good, but she’s hardly transcendent.

Then there’s her singing.  She sang a lot on her previous album, Esperanza and she’s singing even more on Chamber Music Society.   That’s a mistake as I noted when I reviewed the record for All About Jazz.

...she’s going to have to decide whether she’s a bassist who sings, or a singer who plays bass. She may choose to be both, but while Spalding is a capable vocalist, she has a long way to go before she becomes an exceptional one. As a bassist, she’s much closer.

As the principal musician, songwriter, composer and producer, Esperanza Spalding might have been better served to have an executive producer supervising. There is a lot of ground covered here; and while she’s brimming with ideas, this album is crying out for some judicious editing. You can hear the joy and passion of this 23-year-old talent, and you certainly can’t criticize her for enthusiasm.

The trouble is Spalding doesn’t know when to quit when she’s ahead. Clocking in at over an hour in length, she doesn’t really have enough first-rate material to justify the running time. Some of the songs go on too long, meander tediously and become a bit repetitious. Spalding’s intentions never seem less than a willingness to please and demonstrate her considerable chops, but she doesn’t yet know that more isn’t always better. Sometimes more is just more, and a little restraint could have boosted Esperanza from “pretty good” to “great.

Shows what I know because everything I worried about in 2008–her lack of vocal strength and range, her tendency toward excess and a lack of first-rate material–is made even worse in 2010.

Look,  maybe it’s just me.   No two people hear the same thing the same way.   I listen to Spalding and I hear someone who isn’t as good a singer as she believes she is.   I report and you decide for yourself.

In a conversation with a jazz fan, I said I was so disappointed by Spalding’s record I passed on reviewing it.   When you know you’re going to be the lone holdout and you’re yawning at what everybody else is raving about, maybe it’s you that’s the odd ball.    Sometimes it really is better to say nothing at all when you can’t say anything nice and I had nothing nice to say about Chamber Music Society.

We agreed Spalding is not the Next Big Thing.   If anything,  Spalding is a victim of too much, too soon.   She’s still too young (26 years old), too inexperienced as a supporting player though she has worked with vets like Joe Lovano and McCoy Tyner.   It’s ready or not, Spalding has been appointed the newest savior of jazz music.

Jazz always needs new blood.   While it’s true the old guys are doing nothing but getting older and there’s a serious lack of interest in jazz in America, the genre has been pronounced dying or dead for years.   But jazz not only survives, it thrives.     It’s a good thing that someone like Spalding comes along, but it’s her looks as much as her music that’s drawing attention.

Spalding’s follow-up, Radio Music Society drops early in 2011 with her switching from acoustic to electric bass.   I won’t prejudge an album I haven’t heard yet, but my expectation is a little less playing and even more singing.    She’s not so young she doesn’t know what’s going to help her get over.

Eat your heart out, Troy Polamalu.