Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Jazz – The African (American) Art Form: From Deep Within the 40(plus) Year Archives of ‘Like It Is’ with Gil Noble

Below is an informative and under-told discussion about the historical context and origin of jazz music.  It's well worth watching, and using as a cultural enrichment and educational resource - for youth and adults alike.

From the opening exchange:

Question:  Do you all know the story of 'Paul Revere'?

Response:  Indeed.

Question:  But do you know the name of the horse that Paul Revere rode?

Response:  Nobody knows that.

Final question:  You know why they don't know it?

Final response:  That's because the horse did not write the story!

The story of jazz is ours to tell.  Gil Noble tells a part of that story in this early episode of his 43-year educational show, Like It Is.

Originally aired in May, 1970. Note that this was developed and aired some 30+ years before the mass marketed documentary by Ken Burns aired on PBS during 2001.


Cassandra Wilson ‘Couldn’t Wait’ To Reinvent The Billie Holiday Songbook

Cassandra Wilson's Coming forth By Day - Available today!

Via NPR Music:

Vocalist Billie Holiday was born 100 years ago this week. Today, her place in music history is clear.

"I think we witness in Billie Holiday's music the beginning of the jazz vocal age, really," fellow vocalist Cassandra Wilson says. "Her phrasing is very conversational, and it swings — it moves with the musicians. She's very much in charge of her place in the music. She's in control of the story, and in control of her cadence."

Wilson — one of the premier jazz singers of her own age — is about to release a tribute album to Holiday, titledComing Forth By Day. But as she says in an interview with NPR's Arun Rath, she aspired to much more than re-creating the original iconic recordings.

"I couldn't wait to get inside of this material and spruce it up, reinvent it, do some wild and crazy things to it," Wilson says. "I'm in that line of singers that really mine the emotional content of a song. You steer clear of the cliches and go straight for the heart of the song.

"It's beyond improper — it's considered rude, in jazz, to imitate someone. So for me to do a tribute to Billie Holiday and imitate her style or her context would be almost insulting."

For example, Wilson's take on "Don't Explain," a song Holiday wrote about a cheating lover, comes from an empowered perspective.

"It's a different version, because it takes more of a womanist reading," Wilson says. "The reading is not so much, 'I'm the victim,' or 'You cheated on me.' It's more of a sense of, 'You may be doing something, but it needs to stop right now.'"

Wilson also takes on "Strange Fruit," a protest against racism — specifically, the lynching of African-Americans. Her version takes on renewed purpose in light of the recent high-profile police killings of unarmed black men, and the Black Lives Matter movement which rose in their wake.

"When I sing this song, it sounds more like there's a chorus, in terms of the musicians who join me," Wilson says. "And it is more emphatic, because it's ridiculous that we would still be dealing with these issues in 2015."

Wilson did contribute one original song, which she calls "Last Song (For Lester)." Holiday and tenor saxophonist Lester Young were the closest of collaborators — "musical soulmates," Wilson says — who had a falling out. When Holiday first learned of Young's death, Holiday immediately flew back to the U.S. from London to be at the funeral, where she expected to be able to sing for her dear friend. When she was barred from performing, she was devastated. "I'll be the next to go," she predicted — and indeed, Holiday died four months later.

Wilson's song imagines a message from Holiday to Young. As she sings:

You are my morning star
Forever rising, forever breaking my heart
But I'd do it — I'd do it all again
If they would let me sing the last song for you


Gregory Porter: Newport Jazz 2014

Gregory Porter - Newport Jazz 2014

Adam Kissick for NPR

 Gregory Porter at the 2014 Newport Jazz Festival

Wish I was there... A great performance, by a superb artist!

CLICK to enjoy...


Brothers Hypnotic: Watch now; Through April 27, 2014

Brothers Hypnotic is an excellent documentary video, and I'd argue a must-watch for all music lovers! It's even more meaningful for all who understand and appreciate the importance of transmitting values and wisdom from one generation to the next.

It's a story of one father's passion for music, African culture and all of the family's children. It's also a story of the children's commitment to one another, their shared values, their musical craft and making their mark in the world.

You can watch it online at least through April 27th.

The brotherhood of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is literal. Through an unorthodox upbringing, the eight boys were forged into a band as children by their father, Chicago jazz maverick Phil Cohran. Now as young men, making their way on the streets of New York and in the music business, with stardom on the horizon, they must test their father's ideals against their own brotherly vision.


Remembering the Great DIZZY GILLESPIE

dizzy gillespie

Yesterday, January 6th, marked the anniversary of the 1993 passing of one of the world's greatest musicians... the great John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie.

As a special treat, I wanted to pull together and share a few videos highlighting Dizzy's musical genius.  The first two videos are a couple of my kids' favorite Dizzy songs (School Days, as well as Stevie Wonder's Do I Do which features Dizzy).  Then there are a couple of additional really great Dizzy recordings, and finally a nice documentary from Cuba about Dizzy Gillespie and his music.  I hope you all enjoy these as much as I do!

Before the clips is a biography I'm sharing from the official Dizzy Gillespie site...

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, along with Charlie Parker, ushered in the era of Be-Bop in the American jazz tradition. He was born Cheraw, South Carolina, and was the youngest of nine children. He began playing piano at the age of four and received a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. Most noted for his trademark "swollen cheeks", Gillespie admitted to copying the style of trumpeter Roy Eldridge early in his career.

He replaced Eldridge in the 'Teddy Hill' Band after Eldridge's departure. He eventually began experimenting and creating his own style which would eventually come to the attention of Mario Bauza, the Godfather of Afro-Cuban jazz who was then a member of the Cap Calloway Orchestra, joining Calloway in 1939, Gillespie was fired after two years when he cut a portion of the Calloway's buttocks with a knife after Calloway accused him of throwing spitballs (the two men later became lifelong friends and often retold this story with great relish until both of their deaths).

Although noted for his on and off-stage clowning, Gillespie endured as one of the founding fathers of the Afro-Cuban &/or Latin Hazz tradition. Influenced by Bauza, known as Gillespies musical father, he was able to fuse Afro-American jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms to form a burgeoning CuBop sound. Always a musical ambassador, he toured Africa, the Middle East and Latin America under the sponsorship of the US State Department. Quite often he returned, not only with fresh musical ideas, but with musicians who would eventually go on the achieve world renown.

Among his proteges and collaborators are 'Chano Pozo'. the great Afro-Cuban percussionist; Danilo perez, a master pianist and composer originally from Pnama; Arturo Sandoval, trumpeter, composer and music educator originally from Cuba; Mongo Santamaria, an Afro-Cuban conguero, bongeuro and composer; David Sanchez, saxophonist and composer; Chucho Valdes, an Afro-Cuban virtuoso pianist and composer; and Bobby Sanabria, a Bronx, NY-born Nuyorican percussionist, composer, educator, bandleader and expert in the Afro-Cuban musical tradition. Indeed, many Latin jazz classics such as "Manteca", "A Night in Tunisia" and "Guachi Guaro [Soul Sauce]" were composed by Gillespie and his musical collaborators.

With a strong sense of pride in his Afro-American heritage, he left a legacy of musical excellence that embraced and fused all musical forms, but particularly those forms with roots deep in Africa such as the music of Cuba, other Latin American countries and the Caribbean. Additionally, he left a legacy of goodwill and good humor that infused jazz musicians and fans throughout the world with the genuine sense of jazz's ability to transcend national and ethnic boundaries--for this reason, Gillespie was and is an international treasure.

So... since I highlighted Stevie Wonder's Do I Do video above, I also wanted to share another version of that song that I also came across.  If no other reason than I just love the piano in this recording!!

Stevie gives a rare studio concert at London's Teddington Studios following the release of his 'Conversation Peace' album. A sensual ride for an intimate audience of less than 200 fans.


George Duke: A Musical Tribute

As many of you have heard by now, our great jazz musician George Duke made his transition into the community of ancestors on Monday at age 67.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and close friends.

I used to go see George Duke in concert almost every year, mostly at Wolf Trap over in Virginia during the 1990's.  I loved those concerts, which typically featured George Duke along with Rachelle Ferrell, Jonathan Butler, and sometimes even Al Jarreau.  Those were some classic concerts.

I offer the clips below as a small tribute to his life and musical legacy.  In these clips we have George on keyboards, piano, and singing, and also - along with his band - in performance with Sheila E., Rachelle Ferrell and Jonathan Butler.

Thanks for all of your gifts, Mr. Duke.

May you be welcomed among the Ancestors...