Category Archives: Music

Fragility

This was originally written right after Roy Hargrove’s passing.  I needed some separation from the time of writing until now.

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Woke up this morning with my mind staid on Jesus but wasn’t about to go to church while fending off the vestiges of some cold/sinus/whatever this thing is I have going on. So I’m home, in the bed writing those inconsistent morning pages and I started thinking about the foolery that is my life as I currently live it. I generally do this life assessment thing when something jarring happens. The jarring this time was the untimely death of the trumpet great Roy Hargrove. This brother just turned 49 and now he’s gone.

I didn’t write when Prince passed. Though I loved him the majority of my life, there was nothing to say, too much grief,  too many well known, highly talented, music writers and cultural critics filled that space. Besides, I’m just a fan. The same holds true in this instance as well but something mundane happened this morning that put my thoughts about Hargrove and life in perspective. I broke a bowl into a million pieces.

Hargrove’s death is personal. When I discovered his music, all I lived, breathed and  spent money on was jazz. This was the early nineties. I heard everything,  I knew what was hot, I was down for sure but my genre of choice was jazz and as far as I was concerned,  Hargrove was the hottest with his cool. What I loved about him was that he wasn’t trying to blow up the trumpet,  the mic or my ears. His tone, his phrasing, his technical aptitude, his respect for the artform was all I heard and it was beautiful.  The brother was a hard bopper, a balladeer, a funkateer, soulful and hip-hop. He did it all. He was the soundtrack for my life, his music felt good.

Whenever he dropped something I was on it. When he dropped Habana? It was over. People often talk about seminal recordings, landmarks what have you, Habana was it for me. As I write this I hear the opening cut O My Seh Yeh clearly. I felt the music, I felt him, the musicians, Cuba and the continent of Africa.  This was soul music, for real. And I’m thankful for having experienced it.

I listened to it all, his quintet, fronting a big band, the Soulquarians, absolutely bumpin’, always stellar. I kept Hargrove on my hotlist of artists to see. I saw many that he collaborated with from Herbie Hancock to Erykah Badu, but I never saw him. When I heard he was gone I literally clutched my heart, it was broken. As I read about his death I learned that he was broken, fragile. He had kidney disease, was on dialysis for years. He had some ups and downs, but he was still playing, still recording, still working though he was clearly ill.

Maybe that’s what I’ve gotten from his life, his work. He didn’t have it all together anymore. He was fragile, yet he continued to keep it moving. He continued to inspire and mentor, he continued to do the work that he loved regardless of his fragility. So I say,  thank you Brother Hargrove for sharing your art with us. May your trumpet sound all the more beautiful in eternity.

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Photos: MsThorns
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Not a Music Critic Benefits from the Robert Glasper Experiment

Thanks to WCLK I learned of the Schemes and Dreams Foundation benefit concert on May 5. The featured performer for the evening was the Robert Glasper Experiment.   At last I would finally get to see Glasper and the group in action after missing the opportunity to do so at Jazz Fest last year.

About the Benefit
Schemes and Dreams “is a 501(c)(3) based in Atlanta, Georgia that teaches our youth the value of nourishing their creative outlet while also creating a path to wellness and personal success. We provide programs for at-risk youth that avidly support them in formulating progressive schemes to follow and become their dreams.” The audience was able to enjoy the fruits of the foundation’s music program in the form of Jazz Future, a group of high school students.

Openers
20130505_195825Jazz Future played a short set featuring a few standards and closed with a lively take on Roy Hargrove’s Strasbourg/St. Denis. Following Jazz Future were the Be-Hip All Stars. A collective of musicians who are all artists on Be-Hip Records. Standout performances from the collective came from Akeem Marable on saxophone and Lester Walker on trumpet. The collective closed with a nice rendition of Donald Byrd’s Alter Ego.

The Closer
20130505_214129The Robert Glasper Experiment entered the stage with Glasper thanking the audience for supporting Black Radio while making jokes about his belly, the Best R&B Album Grammy awarded to the group for the album, and how people think that he has all the artists that appeared on the album in his pocket. What we found out on this evening, was that it doesn’t matter who this group has in its company, it can play with anyone and play anything.

Set List (as I recall it)
All I Need (Radiohead)
Think Twice (Donald Byrd/Erykah Badu)
No Church in the Wild (Jay-Z, K West, F Ocean)
Cherish the Day (Sade)
I think I’m In Love (Unknown title and artist)
Onstage Intermission
Ah Yeah (Glasper/Musiq/C Michele)
Solo
All Matter (Glasper/Bilal)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Letter to Hermione (D Bowie/Glasper/Bilal)
Encore -Say Yes (Floetry)

This set list is an excellent representation of what the Robert Glasper Experiment is about, a cross genre musical exploration, with a jazz foundation.  All the songs were at once recognizable, but were interpreted to be more funky, more mellow, more jazzy or more striking than the original.  I loved every single minute of the performance but was particularly enthralled with their interpretations of  No Church in the Wild, Cherish the Day and Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The Solos

Drummer Chris Dave is THE Funky Drummer that James Brown sang about it. Bassist Derrick Hodge has some bass virtuoso chops and is newly signed to Blue Note Records.  Saxophone, Flautist, Vocalist Casey Benjamin can do everything.  I’m not much of a vocoder person but Benjamin is GIFTED, he makes it sound sweet and there was all manner of swooning going on during Ah Yeah and Say Yes.  Then there’s Glasper.

20130505_223904Glasper sat alone on stage under a red light. His playing, I’d like to describe as  waves of sound.  Not crashing waves, but continuous, consistent ones.  These waves are produced on what sounds like five pianos/keyboards at a time.  I did not recognize the songs that he played, what I did recognize was his technical prowess and his touch — waves.

Wrap-up
This Experiment is successful. The versatility, skill and musicianship of the band was on full display as evidenced by the set they played.   The performance was seamless with some playful bits from Glasper interspersed.  What I really enjoyed about this show was that the music was the star.  As great as Glasper and his band mates are, the music they played moved the crowd and at the end of the day what else can you ask for.

If the Robert Glasper Experiment comes to your town, queue up for a ticket if you want to hear and experience something that will stretch your musical sensabilities.
For more information about the Robert Glasper Experiment and upcoming tour dates please visit the website.

(Note: Black Radio 2 is complete, some of the artists on the next release include Brandy, Faith Evans, Jill Scott and Dwele.  Stay tuned.)

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Not a Music Journalist Rolls with McBride

So this is how it went down. I found out that a certain artist whom I love coming to town. I really wanted to go but being a “solo artist” the venue wasn’t a good choice for me.  As it turns out another supremely talented musician was coming to town the same week.  I first heard this musician back in the 90s as a part of Joshua Redman’s band.  Since then HE has been on a trajectory as a leader/musician/composer that has crossed genres, but to me he is a jazz man, that likes to make it funky.  After some crowd-sourcing and a reality check  I got a ticket to check out super-bassist/composer/band leader Christian McBride, this time as leader of a trio of the same name on November 3.

The Scene

I’ve been to Clayton State several times but this was my first time at Spivey Hall.  There was an immediate fail upon arrival as the lights in the parking lot were out.  It was completely black, no security and no police on site.  There were officers on site after the show, to the University’s credit. Spivey is an older, but beautiful facility.  The concert hall is small and intimate with some great architecture.  They have a strict no photo policy so I only managed to snap a few photos on the sly of the stage area.  I dare not take any of the artist though I did see one guy get one after the show.
Having come fairly fresh off another jazz show, this crowd was a bit different.  From what I could tell this was more of the jazz aficionado crowd.  Older, decidedly un-trendy and whiter than the last show I attended.  Atlanta (I think) has gotten better in terms of African-American attendance at jazz shows.  This is a hip-hop town after all, but from what I can see we have gotten a bit better than when I first started going to shows here in the early 90s.  My folk are giving me hope.  Additionally there were very few late arrivals at this show (thank God).

The Band
Christian McBride – Acoustic (upright) bass
Christian Sands – piano
Ulysses Owens Jr – drums
McBride started young and in Jazz years he’s still young, 40 but his trio mates are even younger, the pianist Christian Sands is 23 and a virtuoso.  The drummer Owens, didn’t look to be yet 30 himself but these dudes played their tails OFF.  They had tremendous energy and looked to enjoy playing together.  The interplay between the three was so natural and there were plenty of smiles.  In my years of observation, jazz musicians are oh-so serious.  These guys were playing serious music, they certainly had “the look” from time to time but when they were riffing off each other it was all fun and a joy to watch.  McBride is a master of his craft AND proved to be a master showman as well at times charming and witty and quite engaging.

The Music
The music was the star of the show and in a word was absolutely OUTSTANDING.  Here’s the set list (as I recall it).
  1. Duhty Blues – it’s named blues but this tune was swinging.  We were treated with our first taste of Sands and Owens via solo.
  2. I Mean You – immediately recognizable though I couldn’t recall the name.  A very uptempo and fun interpretation of Thelonius Monk’s composition.
  3. I Guess I’ll Have to Forget – This tune had a distinct beginning, middle and ending. Slow in the beginning, uptempo in the middle and slow at the conclusion with the piano featured.
  4. The Most Beautiful Girl in the world – the drummer, Owens went off on this one, an outstanding solo.
  5. My Favorite Things – had us pretty much whipped into a frenzy.  The way McBride flipped this was incredible.  It started off sweetly with Sands’ piano and moved into the tune that we all know.  The song progressed into a sort of futuristic feel as we heard and watched the drummer and pianist play their instruments in unconventional fashion.  The drummer using elbows and a variety of brush sticks and other things I can’t name. The pianist placed a towel on the inside of the piano and played the inside of the piano.  McBride grounded the future and sent it into funk mode which he does WELL.  The song ended in the same sweet fashion it began in.
  6. Easy Walker – a Dr Billy Taylor composition
  7. I Have Dreams – from the King and I.  This one was all McBride with him employing a bow on the bass, it was really beautiful.  I just closed my eyes remembering it.
  8. Who’s Making Love – McBride made no bones about being a funk guy and from this selection a blues guy, letting us know that the muse for the Trio is Johnnie Taylor.  The band got DOWN on the last tune of the set.  I thought at any minute the show would turn into a blues show, with all the head nodding and lip-syncing.  McBride and the guys didn’t stop however they mixed Michael Jackson’s Shake Your Body, the Gap Bands Shake in which we were treated to a bit of scatting and singing from McBride.  Nobody wanted this to end and it didn’t.

Encore
A dear friend and former classmate of McBride’s was in the audience.  This friend was called to the stage and blessed us with My Funny Valentine and brought me nearly to tears.  Who was it? Ms Avery Sunshine.  Some of the crowd didn’t know who she was, us soul heads knew and she killed it. I even heard folks leaving commenting on how great the encore was.

Final Impressions
Christian McBride/The Christian McBride Trio is the absolute total package. McBride’s talent is incomparable. Just watching his hands put in work was amazing. The two young musicians rounding out the trio bring great energy (not that McBride needs it as he is quite lively) and a level of talent that is really awe-inspiring.  As stated earlier, these guys work well together and it showed.  If the Christian McBride Trio makes a stop in your city, just hit the submit button, make the phone call or run, not walk to the box office to get a ticket.
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Not a music journalist but I dug “Ladies of Jazz”

I know a good ticket when I see one and this ticket was a deal. For $40 + all those ridiculous surcharges, on Friday night October 19, the old broad headed to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center for the Ladies of Jazz show featuring Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding.

The Scene
Last time I went to the Center was four years ago. Having been open only a few months at the time, it was a sparkling facility and it’s just as sparkling now as it was then. The ushers were very friendly and helpful, the bathrooms and common areas were spotless. Upon being seated in the auditorium the crowd seemed to be fairly light. Which was unusual because for a Friday evening, there were no traffic snarls on the way to the venue. Little did I know that there would indeed be a full house. People were just late and not even fashionably late but rudely late. Many arriving halfway through the first artist’s set. Atlanta music patrons, please get it together. The artists deserve better than that.

The Artists

Terri Lyne Carrington
Drummer, Terri Lyne Carrington and her band opened the show. Her set was short, too short for me which amount to about seven songs some of which were from her most recent release Mosaic. I’d only recently discovered her music after watching a YouTube video with footage from some of the Mosaic recording sessions and finally purchased Mosaic a few weeks ago. Carrington opened her set with “Triad” (from Mosaic) which is a burner. Her band consisted of guitar, acoustic bass, trumpet and saxophone. Moving quickly through her set, other standouts tunes included the third cut “Hopscotch” followed by a cut entitled “Sweden” which she said was inspired buy a recent tour date there. The finale which I cannot name opened with an outstanding drum solo, which from what I hard and saw, makes me really dig her playing, which is her efficiency. There’s no wasted energy, no theatrics, flying drumsticks, sweaty brow and such. Carrington takes command of her kit like a bawse! I’ve heard many a drum solo in my day and have watched drummers play as if they’re trying to kill their kit no such thing with Carrington. She commands while being understated and it works.

Impressions
The saxophonist, who also played in Spalding’s band is special. Her name is Tia Fuller. She’s released a few albums as a leader and can flat-out blow. I also would have like to hear more from the bassist. The guitarist was efficient and the trumpeter seemed to be having some wardrobe malfunction with her shirt sleeves. I don’t know how she played as I was distracted by her shirt sleeve fidgeting :-/
Upon hearing Carrington live and reading up on her I regret being late to the party. From this show, I’d say she’s a musician first and a performer second. There’s no doubt that more of Terri Lynne Carrington’s music will be added to my library and hopefully additional opportunities to hear her live.

Esperanza Spalding
Turns out that the auditorium was full for the second set when bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding hit the stage. I first heard Spalding via @Fave and his former podcast show Friday Favecast. She was all the hype at the time and won a best new artist Grammy in 2011. Though I’m not a music journalist, I am a bit of a music snob and when I hear hype or what I perceive as hype I steer clear. Fast forward to 2012 and he release of Spalding’s Radio Music Society. I “caved” copped it and loved it. She has a sweet vocal and in my ear I hear shades of two important vocalists, Michael Franks and Minnie Ripperton. Divergent, a bit, but to me she references them both in delivery and tone but let’s be clear it’s not just Spalding’s vocals that garner attention, she gets down on the bass, acoustic and electric.

The Set
This is my recollection of Spalding’s set (with comments), all from Radio Music Society:

  1. City of Roses – Spalding entered the stage on electric bass, the crowd was bananas and there were catcalls from my section (fans please get it together, this isn’t appropriate). She introduced her entire band which included, piano/keyboards, three saxophonists, two trombonists, two trumpeters (the female trumpeter was also a vocalist) a male vocalist, drummer and guitarist.
  2. Hold On Me – Spalding simmered on this. Nice range and beautiful clear tone. She nailed this.
  3. I Can’t Help It – MJ would have been pleased with this rendition.
  4. Smile
  5. Crowned and Kissed
  6. Black Gold – The intro featured the male vocalist who referenced Trayvon Martin. The intro nearly brought me two tears for both the vocal and the content. Algebra Blessett joined Spalding for the remainder of the song.
  7. Land of the Free – Spalding provided narrative on this one. Telling the story of Cornelius Dupree who was imprisoned for 30 years and set free as a result of the efforts of the Innocence Project. Proceeds from merchandise at the show were donated to Innocence Project
  8. Endangered Species – the entire band went hard on this one, male trumpeters solo was excellent.
  9. Radio Song – finale with audience participation and was great fun
  10. Encore – I’m not sure of the name of the tune but Spalding played acoustic bass accompanied by Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. Brief but nice with a stripped down sound and feel.

Impressions
I can honestly say that I’m now a believer. For me the true test is always how a musician comes across live and quite frankly she nailed it. She has the musical and performance chops and is really engaging. Her band was excellent and didn’t miss a beat. Spalding definitely has the chops and will hopefully be around a long time to bless us with her talent. I’d certainly see her again.

If you caught the Atlanta Ladies of Jazz show or have heard these artists live in your town. I’d love to hear your thoughts, please feel free to do so in the comments.

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Not an Opera Connoisseur but LaRoche was Lovely

As a matter of fact I know nothing about opera other than what I seen on TV and what my parents told me as a child. I can name who I know on one hand, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Kathleen Battle and Luciano Pavarotti. I’m not an opera hater, quite the contrary, I recall “fake opera singing” quite a bit as a child. I just never carried any enthusiasm for it into adulthood until now early one Sunday I watched with bleary eyes a community program on TV People to People which did a segment on a local opera production called LaRoche by Americolor Opera Alliance. The story was compelling, centered around Joseph Philippe Le Mercier LaRoche, the only black passenger on the Titanic. I called up my always game for something new girlfriend and we set out for LaRoche.

The Sights

The performance was held at Atlanta Metropolitan College in a classroom. The set was minimal with the chamber (musicians) seated diagonally from the state. The stage was soon lit up upon the arrival of the performers, who in the first scene of Act I were in a Haitian marketplace.

The Sounds

From the opening of Act I to the finale in Act III I really enjoyed all that I heard. The cast members all sounded beautiful in chorus in each of the scenes that featured choral type vocals. There were of course some really standout performances as follows:

Reisha Lauren, soprano – Ni Ni, flower vendor in the market place. Lauren had a beautiful voice and great stage presence Her range could probably break glass. I tapped my girlfriend and said “that girl can SANG.”

Timothy Harper, tenor – President La Conte, Mr. Futrelle, Father Byles. There was no raised seating in the room and I was seated behind some fairly tall people. When I heard his voice, I had to stand up and see from whom that sound was coming. His voice was really moving.

Marlyssa Brooks-Alt, soprano – Juliette LaFargue LaRoche. The clarity and strength of her voice was the perfect vehicle to portray the heartache Juliette must have felt as she first separated from her father to go back to Haiti with her husband, and when she separated from Joseph who went down with the ship.

Wendel Stephens, bass – Joseph LaRoche. Stephens voice was surprisingly beautiful. Not because I had an expectation that he couldn’t sing, but surprising because his voice had “boom”. I guess I expect a big guy to sound like that, yet he was a really average sized guy who produced a really big vocal which was fitting as the lead of the production.

Special Treats

This wasn’t all opera as it had elements of a stage play, parts of which were absolutely hilarious. The farewell dinner with the back and forth between the LaRoche servants as they mocked Madame LaRoche (Joseph’s mother) was dead on and Madame LaRoche had the aristocratic demeanor down pat. There was also a funny scene (if you can imagine) as the Titanic was going down between two drunken card players, who continued to “drink to that” as though the fun they were having at that moment was all that mattered.

Overall Impression

LaRoche was a perfect first timer’s Opera. The founder and director of Americolor Opera Alliance, Sharon J. Willis has done a masterful job at bringing opera to the masses in a palatable form, while telling a compelling story. That the company is primarily made up of persons of color made it all the more worthwhile for this first timer and has even piqued my interest to go hear more. What I’d like to see happen with the Alliance is growth and that growth can happen through sponsorship. As such if you’d like to know more about Americolor or become a sponsor, please visit their website.

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Not a music jounalist finds heaven near the grind

The intention was to get a little walk, talk and look for a photo to post for the G+365 Project with a girlfriend of mine.  While looking for something compelling to photograph, across the street I saw some nice artwork on the side of a building.  I looked at the front of the building to see the name of the business which was Decatur CD.  Girlfriend and I decided we would stop in for a second on the way back to the office.

Why on earth did we do that?


The place gets no interior design points but it gets MASSIVE points for its music collection and the memories it invokes of the neighborhood record shops of old.  They have CDs and Vinyl which collectors will surely enjoy. What made me particularly excited was the jazz collection.  Being a worshipper of the Emperor Coltrane, the jazz section was my first stop.  A large portion of my Coltrane collection was on cassette, all of which was discarded over a decade ago with the intention of replacing these items by either recording to CD my father’s vinyl (which is massive) or re-buying everything on CD.  Digital was never an option for Coltrane as I MUST HAVE the liner notes to see the musicians and as well as the where and when of the recording. Low and behold two of my favorites (well they all are) were in the stack, Impressions and Africa/Brass.  Since I didn’t have sufficient funding I hustled my tail back to the office to get my card and went back to make the purchase.

The store owner’s sales records are decidedly old school, notebook and pen.  He said, “this is how we kept track of everything before computers.”  (He does have a credit card machine).  I’ve got no qualms with the way he keeps records as long has he has good music, I’m good.

If you’re in the neighborhood, go check out my man at Decatur CD and forget about leaving there empty handed.

 

Note: Africa/Brass was my first listening selection.  When I heard those first bass notes of the intro, I went into a FULL SHOUT in the car.

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Not a Music Journalist but… What’s Going On With This Tribute?

Discussion of the show begins with a RANT.
Google Navigator provided the most convuluted directons known to woman for the Ferst Center at Georgia Tech.  I was in a full-blown panic upon reaching the venue, believing that I’d missed part of the performance, I was wrong.  The will-call line was out the door at 8:10 for a show that started at 8:00 pm.  Which leads to rant #2.  The show didn’t start until 8:44 pm AND they had run out of programs.  What you see in the photo was one I got from a guy sitting in front of me, who made me BEG, just to look at it.  Rant #3 having attended the show solo, I was in between a couple and a group of three dudes.  The male half of the couple, gave me a tongue lashing because my phone was too bright (I was using it for photos and notes).  This same guy had nerve to talk considering the blinding I received from his cornflower blue shoes.  The gentleman to my right, likely a student, was drunk or either hungover because he slept through the entire performance and was making some curious twitching moves while sleeping.
With all that you’d forget there was a show going on but there was, A Tribute to Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?
Welcome/Master of Ceremonies – Harold Watkins, the founder of Invictus Productions (producer of the show) was living in Detroit when What’s Going On? was released in 1971.  He and his brother went to a local record shop and purchased the album, which he presented to he crowd to the sound of thunderous applause.   Watkins introduced the MC for the evening, Jamal Ahmad (pronounced Ahmed).  Ahmad hosts the Soul of Jazz on 91.9 WCLK in Atlanta.  It is his show, solely (in my opinion) that is responsible for exposing Atlanta listeners to the likes of Avery Sunshine and Julie Dexter. The show streams live and I highly recommend that you give it a listen.
What’s Going On? was performed in it’s entirety by Atlanta favorites (those who reside here and those that we love here).  Here’s how it went down.
What’s Going On? – The Darryl Reeves Group: Reeves and the band during first half of the selection played in an understated fashion.  If you didn’t know the song it was almost unrecognizable because the tempo was so slow.  Yet in the second half the band shifted gears building to what could be considered a sense of urgency.
What’s Happening Brother – Joey Sommerville: Sommerville is Mr. Atlanta Jazz, well known and much loved in the city.  I’ve never seen him perform but have heard him plenty on WCLK.  His performance of What’s Happening Brother was a rousing affair.  He pretty much got the crowd into full froth with his showmanship and playing.
Flying High In the Friendly Sky – Rahbi: First I had to get past the fact that the young man came out as bedazzled Marvin, with wings attached to his back – WHEW! I wasn’t close enough to get a good photo but his costume was reminiscent of this one.

 (via wearemoviegeeks.com) and was really out of this world.  Rahbi’s wings though were appropro, he gave a beautiful almost angeli falsetto on Flying High.
Save the Children – Julie Dexter: Atlanta’s own (via Birmingham, England) gave a jazzy but too short performance of Save the Children. As soon as she went into scat mode the song was over.
God is Love – Carmen Rodgers: is new to me, but may not be for you.  I had a hard time hearing her.
Mercy Mercy Me – The Darryl Reeves Group and Avery Sunshine: it is a shame, I am a fan and had never seen her live until now.  Her performance of Mercy Mercy Me, was beautiful, clear, massive, too massive for how short the performance of the song was.  In her brief appearance she lit up the stage.
Right On – Anthony David: they could not get David’s microphone right and as much as I dig him, his performance of this song was pretty dry.  He just didn’t seem into it and with the mic issues, I couldn’t hear him very well.
Wholy Holy – Kipper Jones: Lay people, like me would not know this guy, but he got his chops writing for the likes of Brandy and Vanessa Williams and was a session singer at Motown.  On this night however he blessed the crowd with his rendition of Wholy Holy and Jones took us to church.  He flat out SANG the song.
Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) – Phonte: blue shoes sitting next to me, didn’t feel it but the crowd went back into frenzy mode. Phonte sang capturing the essence of Marvin.  He rapped, a verse from Foreign Exchange’s Be Alright (Connected 2004), he hyped the crowd and brought humor while reiterating the relevance of the album for 1971 and for 2011.  He gave a great performance and the only one that wasn’t shortened.
Finale – all performers were brought back to the stage for a reprise of What’s Going On with two surprise additions: Donnie who sang a sentence and made me hyperventilate and India.Arie who was last to bless the mic as we exited the theater. The appearance of Donnie and Arie left me wondering, how different would this how have been had they performed in the main line-up.
Overall the show was decent and not great or even good the album was performed to the specs of the original.  Outside of Inner City Blues and the Finale, the songs were not performed in concert time but in album time of which the original was around 40 minutes.  With the break for the MC in the middle, and remarks at the end the audience was leaving the venue at 10:00 pm.  There were some standout performances however short, from Joey Sommerville, Avery Sunshine, Kipper Jones and Phonte.  It was nice to hear Marvin’s music from a variety of artists in one place, however considering the importance of What’s Going On to multiple generations and it’s landmark status, the show missed the mark in terms of execution.
Did you attend the show in Atlanta? Has there been a tribute show in your city in which you were in attendance? If so let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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Not a Music Journalist but… I Dig Mr. Nice Guy

Oh, today’s R&B singers should be so nice as Eric Roberson.  Now since I’m not a music journalist I can say without shame that I came late to this brother’s music in fact I started listening to him about three years ago.  The first song I heard by him was Softest Lips and I nearly  passed out when I heard him sing it LIVE about two ears ago.  But I digress.  Having added Left and Music Fan First to the collection Mister Nice Guy was a no brainer.  “Erro” is a guy that really doesn’t require a preview of the album and Mr Nice Guy is no exception.   Here’s the track by track breakdown.

Mr. Nice Guy – Roberson is telling an old story about the good guy who never catches a break.  He contemplates just chasing the a** but decides to stick to his guns with the believe that the nice guy will find a nice girl.  The vocals sound effortless and the beat matches well with the content.
Strangers – The full circle of meeting someone, falling in love, breaking up and becoming strangers just like in the beginning.  The beat is bouncy, the organ and piano makes it feel “churchy”.  Roberson is singing a simple song that is catchy.
Summer Anthem – Never mind that I’m hearing this for the first time in December, it’s still a nice summer/happy jam.  Musically I’m transported to Change during Luther’s tenure. Chubb Rock has a verse on the cut and it’s just enough.
Come With Me – Um wow.  This is another “featuring” cut but the featured artists Yaw and Khari Lemuel are carrying this one.  So much so that I had to go and look them up.  Lemuel is the composer and is the featured vocalist on this song about hope and gratitude. In fact I have listened to this song four times.  The three vocalists together – beautiful.  This song is just too short.
Picture Perfect – This could be considered a Roberson standard.  This is HIS sound, tone, music and content as he waxes poetic about the perfection of a woman .  The inclusion of Phonte rhyming and singing, just brings it all home.  The video is pretty nice too.
Fall – Mr Nice Guy become Mr Lover Man.  The music and the vocal style betray, (or maybe not) the content.  The chorus says “we fall in love” but this sounds like seduction music.
Shake Her Hand – Love this little ditty about temptation.  The music sounds classic, puts me in the mind musically of Narada Michael Walden’s production for Chaka when she went out on her own.  Content wise, we are talking about Mr Nice Guy, so he took the advice of the wise man, shook her hand and walked away, because he’s got a woman at home. Hope that he has this one his live show.
The Magician – This sounds orchestral with the strings and a bit melancholy as he laments his inability to use his Roberdini skills on the ladies and puts me in the mind of something by Sting that I can’t quite recall right now.  Great fit of the sound and the story.
Love’s Withdrawal – You can call this “the sprung song”.  He’s fallen in love with his friend and can’t get his mind off of this woman.  Waiting on a call, a ring of a doorbell, dreaming about her.  Near the end, we get Omari Hardwick (I had to look him up too, he’s an actor) talking all kinds of lameness.  I suppose this cut right here is the one I could do without.
How Would I Feel? – The music is really secondary to the story in this case.  This man has gone into his woman’s diary, looking for something that he didn’t find and Jean Baylor (formerly of Zhane’) asks him how should she feel? Just dope.
Talking Reckless – Riding a nice groove as he sings about going out with his new flame, spotting his old flame with her new dude.  It’s an uncomfortable situation as he’s thinking about what used to be while looking at her.  He realizes that he needs to put those thoughts down.  This one can go on repeat, definitely.
At the Same Time – The beat puts me in the mind of Jill Scott’s The Way, which is all good since they all sort of came out of the same experience. A beautiful song about bad love timing.
Male Ego – A bouncy hip-hop beat with a great message, about letting the ego go and sticking with the one you’re with.  Hezekiah, a Philly emcee has two nice verses on this cut.  I’d like to say this is a good radio cut.
Try Love – This continues along the themes of Male Ego, letting brothers know that is okay to love and okay to express it.  Musically it has big modern percussion, with an old late 60s early 70s sound with the featured horns.  Another song that would be great in a live show.
All For Me – this is a beautiful pop song. The vocals, the soaring orchestration, the whole nine make this an academy worthy dedication song.  Hopefully he will be recognized for it.
The the musical styles vary, the lyrical content makes the album cohesive.  Mr Nice Guy will be in heavy rotation on all available music players in this house because it’s music that make sense, that sounds good and is good for the soul.  My hope is that with this release, Mr Roberson will capture a larger audience and be more appreciate for his musicianship.
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Not a headset expert but the Backbeat 903+ was a fail

In a moment of frustration and desperation with my iPhone 3G I ran to the AT&T store to pick up a new phone. I purchased some accessories while along with a new Android phone (so far a fail), one being the Plantronics Backbeat 903+ Bluetooth headphones. There were no plans to use them for talking, they were strictly to be used for listening to music through the new phone or anything else I could hook them up to.

The Good
The headphones were easy to connect to the handset, were fully charged within about two hours and were really comfortable on the ear and inside the ear. The sound is good and you can pause, skip forward/back, adjust the sound of the music and take calls from the headset. The transmit range is listed at 30 feet and it may be a bit more based on my usage. The very best thing about the Backbeat 903+ or any of its competitors is the freedom from a wire. I can’t tell you how many times I have hit that blasted wire and watched whatever music player I was using fly off the back of a treadmill, elliptical, etc. I highly recommended the 903+ for about two months, then November came.

The Bad
I need to play music for 1 hour and 15 minutes, that the maximum time I’d spend in the gym. For two months I could go in, run those headphones three days in the gym and charge them once a week. However when November came I’d charge the headphones on Sunday night, head to the gym Monday morning, listen to the headset lady tell me I have 7 hours remaining and withing 30 minutes of a treadmill run that same lady was telling me “battery level is low”, “recharge battery”. Understanding that the 7 hours is talk time, not listening time, I still couldn’t understand how I could go from 3 hours of listening a week or more between charges to 30 minutes. The malfunction was wholly unreasonable and an incredible fail for somebody who MUST have music in the gym because the music they play over the air is WACK. Well these headphones turned out to be wack as well.

To Be Determined
I called Plantronics customer service and of course the young man was surprised and said that he never gets calls about the 903+ (yeah right), however, he was helpful and efficient and today I transmitted documentation for a replacement headset as they are still within warranty. What is to be determined is whether the replacement headsets will perform for longer than two months. I hope they do because I really did dig them.

What about you?
Do you use a wireless headset? Which one(s)? How do you use them and have you had any failures? Let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, I’m rocking these Sony earbuds which sound great but leave my ears hurting when I take them out.

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