Category Archives: Music

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.

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.

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 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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