Listen to everything Michael!
Continue to rest R.I.P. Legend. Icon. King of Pop!
AAMAM appreciates Michael!
Check out “Smooth Criminal” Live!
In 1987, amid the throes of “Reaganomics,” the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, gang violence, and the A.I.D.S. scare, musical genius and artist extraordinaire, Prince released his album Sign O’ The Times, which contained the single of the same name. Prince’s album addressed many carnal issues of mankind such as love, lust, contentious relationships, and androgyny. However, one song stood out as the social commentator to the happenings of the mid to late 80s—“Sign O’ The Times.” It placed the ills of American society front and center and challenged the listener to not turn away but to address them. The song reached #1 on the Billboard R&B charts and was couched there for several weeks.
According to Susan Rogers, Prince’s sound engineer, he wrote and recorded “Sign O’ The Times” all on a Sunday—his most productive writing day. The song was scheduled to appear on both his 1986 albums Dream Factory and Crystal Ball. However, both albums were famously shelved and songs were dispersed to other albums including the album Sign O’ The Times.
Prince’s social commentary reached beyond the city limits of Chanhassen, Minnesota to span the globe and resonate with an international audience who faced similar issue in their social and political spaces.
Happy AAMAM! And Happy Birthday Prince!
(Go listen to “Sign O’ The Times” in your Prince collection . . . you do have a Prince collection?)
Today I’m going to introduce you to that new soulful voice you’ve been looking for for some time now. He’s singer songwriter, Tony Momrelle! He has been laying down amazing groove oriented soul from across the pond for years. Sorry, your favorite terrestrial radio station may be clueless to who he is and thus will never air his talent in any rotation. Their loss! Momrelle is a talent who has for years been the lead vocalist for the flat out bad ass British band Incognito; a featured vocalist for the dance and smooth grooves group Reel People; as well as a backing vocalist for my girl, Sade. Yep!
Momrelle’s Extended Play (EP) titled Fly was release almost a year ago and is still kickin’ today. The standout tracks are the eponymous “Fly”–an up tempo jam with a James Brown “funky drummer” shuffle rhythm which opens up a vast space where Momrelle demonstrates bright flashes of the vocal stylings of Stevie Wonder. His lyrics are both simple and fantastically poetic. Upon listening to the song, SoulBounce writer Ivory, stated, “Hope and happiness seem just within reach on this joint” and imagined through the lyrics “getting away from it all could be so simple.” While his second track Spotlight spins a tale of meeting that special someone amid a crowd of people. This cut finds Momrelle’s voice settled deep in the soul aesthetic surrounded by a driving groove.
This is Tony Momrelle Ladies and Gentlemen! Take a listen and know this is the soulful voice you been looking for. Add some Momrelle to your iPod and you will thank me later!
Check out “Fly”
Check out “Spotlight”
Welcome back to your Sunday iPod add. It’s been a minute so let’s get to it! This year I have really made an effort only to listen to what I deem as good music. Music with lyrics that actually move beyond the sophomoric and say something or at the very least try to say something; music that sonically takes you on a ride by consciously utilizing verse, chorus, and bridge; musicians whom know how to employ most of the following: the turnaround, refrain, and tag; Oh and unique, sincere, and talented voices are indeed a necessity for creating good music. So for me listening to over the air radio is a poor option–at least in my neck of the woods. In this endeavor I have been relegated to listening to various Internet radio stations–which if you find the right station can be a dream come true.
Thus far I have found some amazing jazz, blues, 60s and 70s era stations, and even Latin jazz stations that kill. But what I have found myself gravitating to the most are so called underground neo soul music stations. In other words newly recorded soul music by individuals who strive to retain elements of authentic soul. A couple of stations use the terms contemporary soul and organic soul to help explain their content. However it’s all music with groove, feeling, and mature lyrics. Think Aretha, Marvin, Chaka, Stevie, Gladys, Donny and Roberta. Good music, right?
Anyway, in my search for good music I’ve come across some amazing artists who are skillful songwriters, musicians, and singers that I would like to share with you.
That being said let me introduce you to Latasha Lee & the Blackties. What an awesome band! Comparable to Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Lee and the Blackties are contemporary artists who combine both the musical precision of Motown and the gritty-ness of Stax with ease. Lead singer Lee, whom was born and bred in Corpus Christi, Texas, has a noticeably strong yet nimble voice. I was taken back on first listen because her voice emitted the timbre of the late Amy Winehouse. Blogger E. of Music Nerdery notice this fact a year ago and stated, “It’s almost uncanny to a certain extent. She’s not TRYING to sound like Amy…. she just… does.” Austin City Limits Music Fest web site also chimed in on Lee’s voice after a great performance at the event a few months ago, the site wrote Lee’s “soulful voice cuts cleanly and crisply through the genre clutter with a groove that slices directly to the heart with honest power.” Yep!
Certainly Latasha Lee & The Blackties, who have been together for a little over a year and a half and recently graced the stages of SXSW, are unpretentiously reviving classic 60s doo wop. Their self-titled album Latasha Lee & the Blackties is a pleasure to listen to, which you need to add to you iPod. It’s good music. I do believe you will thank me later.
The African-American musician has occupied a crucial space in American history. The African-American violinist is but one of these musicians. Since bondage, they have with their music, shown a preponderance of excellent artistry. The African-American violinist has navigated huge challenges in pursuit to education and training on a particular instrument that embodied the elite in European society. These violinists have over time, masterfully incorporated overwhelming ancient African rhythms and minor tones into European music theory. As such, the violinist has improvised a musical genre where one did not exist. They used music to carve out spaces of privilege and have certainly tasted tiny bits of liberty in an era of enslavement. Solomon Northup notes his peculiar status as a violinist while held captive in his 1853 narrative:
Alas! Had it not been for my beloved violin, I scarcely can conceive how I could have endured the long years of bondage. It introduced me to great houses–relieved me of many days’ of labor in the field–supplied me with conveniences for my cabin with pipes and tobacco and extra pairs of shoes, and oftentimes led me away from the presence of a hard master . . .(p.217)
With the drag of the bow across the vibrating string, the African-American violinist sonically opened a path that led Black bodies out of the perceived state of the primitive and into enlightening agents of sophisticated art.
African-American violinists and their musicianship have been present in the various epochs of African-American history from Black bodied violinist whom were present as slave ships traversed the Atlantic en rout to a new world with the likes of ship fiddler Joseph Antonio Emidy, who due to his grand musicianship suffered the same fate as Solomon Northup albeit more than 50 years earlier. (Emidy went on to teach and conduct chamber music in Brittan) to Jacques Constantin Deburque, who organized the Negro Philharmonic Society of New Orleans in the 1830s to Joseph Douglass, a herald virtuoso and grandson of the late great orator Frederick Douglass (who played some violin himself), toured the U.S. and Europe for over 30 years and became the “first violinist ever to record for Victor Talking Machine Company” to Stuff Smith, who is known for swinging his violin in the pop music genre in the first half of the 20th century. Collectively these African-American violinists have contributed to a continuum of violin music, which still rolls on today.
Black violinist such as Aaron Paul Dworkin; carry on the excellent artistry that has always accompanied them. Classically trained, Dworkin is one of the top violinists in the country. He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship a.k.a. the “Genius Award” in 2005. His passion to pass on the art of classical music has led him to lend his talents to teaching the urban underprivileged, to serving on the National Arts Policy Commission, and mentoring youth in his own program the Sphinx Organization.
Beyond the classical, contemporary African-American violinists are found in all genres of music further expanding and redefining the musical capabilities of the violin. Artists such as Obed Shelton, shares his musical praises in gospel, Ken Ford, Karen Briggs, and Regina Carter (she is a Genius Award winner, too ) all smoothly bow in the jazz genre.
Meanwhile several ‘Young Gifted and Black’ violinist are actively involved in a cultural and generational call and response as
they incorporate elements of R&B, soul, and hip-hop in their music. Musical groups such as Nothing But Strings and Stuff Smith inspired Black Violin as well as soloist Seth G, innovate genres of music by recalling overwhelming ancient African rhythms intertwined with classical delivery, which harkens back to the work of early African-American violinists. One soloist who has separated himself from the rest in terms of his use of minor tones and incorporating vocals is Marques Toliver. Toliver is able to ebb and flow through out all genres of music. Critics have lauded him as “too big and broad to fit into any one box.” Again improvising a new musical genre where one did not exist.
As a signpost of a sophisticated musician, the African-American violinist has traveled through time, bow in hand, continuously creating musical spaces to witness and musically recount the presence of Black bodies in America. Today they retain classic elements of music as well as rhythmically bow and pluck their strings in new genres of music demonstrating excellent artistry.
Please search the web for more African-American violinists. The above are just a few and they’re a are plenty.
Check these sources for more info:
This is a great photo of Ella Fitzgerald experiencing a playfully embrace by the often-jovial Dizzy Gillespie while back stage in New York in 1950. The famous Jazz photographer Herman Leonard took the photo. Although at times Leonard talked his subjects into the perfect pose, this photo, however, captures that intimate moment when two legends of Jazz goof off as a way of quelling nervous tension before a performance.
The importance of a photo cannot be overstated. It is a wonderful medium in which we fully appreciate and place a critical amount of social, cultural, political, and economic value. It is through photos that we have the opportunity to peer into the past to see that an event did in fact happen. A photo helps us to keep memories alive and well; they help us to remember the moment. They also communicate a wonderful sentiment from the past to the present. If you are like me you can get lost in a photo wondering what it sounds like or smells like or what is just beyond the edges of the image.
In the case of photographer Herman Leonard he has had a lifetime of capturing the essence of the moment especially in the world of Jazz. Some of his photos are so iconic they conjure up the very definition of Jazz and the Jazz artist. Without his photos we would have no ideal how Sonny Stitt bends his body as he digs for that note or how tightly Sarah Vaughan closes her eyes before her improvisation or even how artists look as they goof off back stage before a performance.
Here’s to Jazz, the Jazz artist, and the photographer documenting Black music!
Enjoy your BMM!
In the above photo are band leader/pianist/singer/actress Hazel Scott (23) and singer/actress Lena Horne (26). These talented beauties are posing for a quick photo op during the filming of the 1943 musical I Dood It! where they appeared and performed as themselves and not as written characters. It was Scott’s first film appearance!
These two sirens of song and screen paved the proverbial road for African-American women singers and entertainers in America.
Lena Horne and Hazel Scott were pioneers and standard bearers of Black beauty in the American mainstream. Their image on stage and under the bright lights was embraced by all and allowed them to ascend beyond Black genre cinema and entertainment during an era of perpetual Jim Crow and segregation . . . as long as they kept quiet about the state of race relations. However, Scott and Horne were unable to keep quiet. In there own way, they participated and held significant roles in the struggle for civil rights. For this, they were shunned and maligned by the very forces that once welcomed them into the arena of mass appeal.
Scott’s career suffered and never regained the heights it once held in the mid-century when she was falsely accused of being a Communist sympathizer. Meanwhile, Horne’s career stagnated as Hollywood distanced themselves from her as she continuously made alliances with outspoken leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Her career never soared as high as it should have.
There is much more that you should know about the lives of these two pacesetting women. If you want to know more on the amazing musical genius of Hazel Scott before she posed for the above photo, her marriage to Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and later her ‘exiled’ time in Paris, you have to read pianist and biographer Karen Chilton’s book Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist, from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC. Equally, as well, if you want to know more about Lena Horne’s life, her controversial marriage, her struggle to stay embedded in entertainment, and how she used and resented her beauty, you really need to read James Gavin’s book Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne.
In the end, both Scott and Horne defined the very definition of Black beauty and sophistication in the public as necessary requirements for crossover appeal, which still exist today (See Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Hudson).
Black beauty and Black music telling its story since day one in America!
Enjoy the remaining days of BMM!
Take a look at Scott and Horne’s kick ass scene: