Saturday, January 26, 2013

Valentine's Day Weekend in NYC: The Sweetheart Soiree

On February 17, my trio and I will perform at the elegant Sweetheart Soiree with Michael Arenella and his Sextet at The Stone Rose Lounge in the Time-Warner Center overlooking Columbus Circle.  There will be performances by The Minsky Sisters as well as Grace Gotham, a dance lesson with the one and only Roddy Caravella, and of course a kissing booth.

We will be performing rare sides and well known standards from Billie Holiday's body of work. It should make for an interesting evening of romance and love.

More details:

Doors open at 7pm
Live entertainment from 8pm to 1am
Admission: $60
One complimentary glass of Prosecco upon entry
Complimentary hors d'oevres
All guests must be 21 and over
Black tie and evening attire is encouraged

Please note: This event will sell out. Tickets are limited. Please click here to get your tickets now.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On the road again...!

As of today, January 22nd, I'm on tour in Europe as vocalist with guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer's iconic band Odyssey. For tour dates, click here -- and if you'd like to follow along as I blog all about it, please go to This Rock 'n Roll Blackgrrl's High Life -- A Cautionary Tale. Danke!

Here's what Odyssey sounds like -- via a live performance in Tokyo, 1983 -- doing one of my favorite songs Are You Glad To Be In America?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Envisioning Emancipation

Apparently, this somewhat celebratory moment that commemorates the Emancipation Proclamation isn't lost on Hollywood or the media. There are an avalanche of movies, documentaries, exhibits and the like that are to be released within the next two years. Here's a little something that caught my eye. 

The book Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and The End of Slavery -- released on January 1st by Temple University Press -- has me spellbound. I get lost inside those faces, their collective stance, the feel of it all. They are somber, elegant and in most instances, they are painfully well dressed. What's especially disturbing is that they look too familiar. I remember thinking, I know that look on that little boy's face. The way that soldier's shoulder is thrown back, the way her arms are folded. If I look at those pictures for too long, I can almost sense their thoughts. It's all so dignified, so full of self-respect and hope.

Many of the photos have never been seen before. God only knows where they were hidden or how they were found. 

Images in media are so much more important than we think they are.  As we are shown someone else's perspective of us, we are taught so many things  -- who we are, what we look like, where we stand, whether we truly matter.  For God knows how long -- for too long, really -- we have seen ourselves through the bluest eye. And now this: thousands of photographs taken by us, for us -- black photographers capturing snapshots of black people as they stand on the brink of freedom and true self-determination. I have seen other pictures from this era and when I look at these, I can feel the difference.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Free films! (Yes! Free!)

Snag Films has thousands of independent films that you can watch anytime for free and share with others.  I highly recommend this site. It's inspiring stuff.

I'm really into documentaries right now.  I think they can be a great way to learn about things that usually fly under the media radar.  Nowadays, I suppose most things do.  Everything around me seems determined to shift my attention to Honey Boo Boo or some celebrity squabble instead of the killings in Chicago that rage on unabated, the ravages of war in the Middle East or the financial mess we're in. The struggle continues -- for my almighty dollar, for my right to fight but most importantly, my attention span.

Here's the blurb for a documentary about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Really makes you wonder what else they've been sitting on for decades, doesn't it. Enjoy.

A Man of Peace In a Time of War: A rare and candid TV interview with Martin Luther King, Jr. -- unseen for 40 years -- is the centerpiece of this timely tribute, featuring exclusive interviews with such notables as Jesse Jackson and Colin Powell that provide fresh insight into the life and personality of the late civil rights leader.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

graduate school post script

i got accepted to new york university's tisch school of the arts mfa program last year and delayed entry for one year to look for a way to pay for it without having to take out six figures in loans and turn myself and mpb into debt slaves for the rest of our adult lives. everyone else i know has no qualms about being up to their ears in debt forever. i can't. i don't want anyone to own me, certainly not any bank or corporation.  get out of debt is a chant that has been on a slow boil in my life for awhile. now that i'm close to that finish line, here comes a situation that would land me right back into the hole i'm about to crawl out of.

am i sisyphus or what.

graduate school has always felt inevitable, somehow. i never intended to leave new york city without an advanced degree.  i'll feel a lot better about getting out of here, once i get one.

needless to say, i'm still looking for money. the foundation center seems to be a solid place to start. if anyone has any other suggestions, get at me. i would love to hear them.

in the meantime, i found a 26 minute documentary called scholarslip about the student debt crisis that really sums up so much of  what's fundamentally wrong with the system.

and as if all of that weren't enough, here's a word from frugal dad -- college isn't cheap!

College Isn't Cheap

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Why I Liked Django Unchained (Spoiler Alert!)

(Please note: This is the second trailer for Django Unchained. Enjoy!)

I don't think Spike Lee was wrong -- I want to honor my ancestors, too -- but I can't criticize a movie if I haven't seen it. And yet everyone has an opinion on Django Unchained.  I supposed that's understandable. It's been awhile since Roots had everyone glued to their televisions for a week. And then we wanted to talk about it. We wanted to find our roots.

As a nation, we are in dire need of a collective roundtable discussion about race. And for once, we really need to make it an honest one. Perhaps the success of this movie will trigger an avalanche of talks, documentaries, exhibits and yes, more films.  Nothing gets more movies made in Hollywood like a blockbuster. The more information, the better.  Anything to get the ball rolling.

I have way more than ten reasons as to why I liked Django Unchained.  These are the ones that floated to the surface initially.
  1. It's funny.  Needless to say, the most telling moments happen when white people stop laughing and black people can't stop cracking up. The white guy behind me was giggling quite freely until Django beat the brakes off of that white man with a bullwhip. 
  2. It's fiction. Of course, that won't stop people from treating it like a documentary. 
  3. It's about slavery in the United States -- something of which way too many Americans know very little. They certainly know even less about its atrocities.  And they seem to know less than nothing of the Black Holocaust.
  4.  It's got a black (ex)slave hero. The truth is, there were hundreds of thousands of Nat Turners, disrupting anything whenever they could. Where's that movie?
  5. It's got a black hero that's beating, whipping, maiming, shooting and killing a garden variety of insufferably racist, bigoted white people. I can't think of any black people that wouldn't want to see that. Repeatedly.
  6. It's got a loving, solid black marriage.  Yes, black people want to see that, too -- in any time period. Slaves fought desperately for their marriages -- and their children. It didn't start with the Huxtables.
  7. Believe it or not, the black hero's wife doesn't pass the paper bag test.  Shocking, right?
  8.  It's got a black hero that's focused on saving his black wife by any means necessary.  I don't know about you but I don't see very many leading men in filmdom going to the absolute limit for the love of a black woman.
  9. Maybe it's my recent forays into the Rhineland or the research that I'm doing about Germans in the (Antebellum) South but I loved the German references within the storyline. (Interestingly, my last name is German. More on that later.) And those filthy greedy Australians? That was just too perfect.
  10. It's got a beautiful ending: the black hero and his girl ride off into the sunset together. I remember seeing that and thinking, Why not? Why shouldn't they run off and be happy? At Harlem's Magic Johnson Theater, the audience stood up and cheered.'Nuff said.
Perhaps Dangerfield Newby is the "real" Django Unchained.  He tried to buy his wife Harriett and their 7 children out of slavery but when the agreed-upon price was abrubtly raised once he'd met it, he sought other means and joined John Brown's raiders at Harper's Ferry. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

wait, what happened to me in 2012?

i can't remember the last time i made a new year's resolution. it's probably because i list my goals constantly -- dated, well organized, layered -- and i make every effort to prioritize them. that bright, shining end of the year moment is kind of lost on me because i'm resolving to do things every day -- and then i do them, by any means necessary.

every year is more and more of a blur, so instead of dwelling on what i didn't do last year, i decided to make a list of exactly what i did do.

let's see now...2012 was the year that i

sang harmonies with joseph arthur on the david letterman show

was featured as a jazz dancer -- doing the black bottom, of all things -- on boardwalk empire. (that's my second time on that show, folks.  jazz dancing is a fun gig, but i won't quit until i'm a gangster's moll...)

had two stellar sold out performances at the apollo theater's music cafe of the billie holiday project, a show i performed in and wrote.

opened for and sang with the legendary jazz vocalist jon hendricks at the 35th annual harlem stage gala

got accepted to the nyu/tisch school of the arts mfa program

wrote a bunch of rock and roll songs with my bennett guitar

got a banjo (on permanent loan, sort of -- thanks michael!) and started learning how to play it (fingerpicking is hell on earth.)

started to get really good at boxing -- and LOVE it
(hitting men strategically, with power and velocity, and outmaneuvering them, is sublime.)

was selected as a semi-finalist in the performance category of the unsigned only music competition 
won a blue ribbon at the jazz age lawn party's pie contest -- twice!  (fyi: the first one in june, best savory, was a tomato pie and the second one in august, most unusual, was a vinegar pie. dee-lish!)

threw myself a birthday party with plenty of cool friends and low country fare

danced again (something i was always told i was lousy at, by the way) for a new idea i'm growing with the francesca harper project at the first annual harlem arts festival in marcus garvey park -- on my birthday!

toured europe singing in guitarist james "blood" ulmer's black rock experience that included g. calvin weston on drums and mark petersen on bass

accompanied myself on guitar (for the very first time ever!) and premiered a few of my original country tunes at a sold out gig deep in the heart of brooklyn

recorded ruler of my heart, an allen toussaint song made famous by irma thomas, for a tribute album dedicated to him -- with the little big band swingadelic

got a beautiful soprano martin ukulele as a christmas present from mpb

performed with my quintet the hot five in the salon's fifth annual new year's eve eve fete

sang in the new year at the astor room

yeesh. i guess 2012 was kinda dope...