November 01, 2012

By Joy Childs

LAWT Contributing Writer


After he and his quartet (piano, Renee Rosnes; drums, Payton Crossley; and percussion, Rolando Marales-Matos) confirmed why the 75-year old has long been regarded as the number one jazz bassist in the world today, Ron Carter could have emerged from the stage beaming, pleased by the audience’s standing-O and constant outpouring of applause and adoration for the legend.

Instead, asked how he felt about performing at this writer’s alma mater, his immediate response was quick and blunt:  “I’d like to see more people come out who are of our persuasion!”

What he was bemoaning was the lack of Black folks at Royce Hall last Saturday night for his gig, along with the Robert Glasper Trio, clearly expressing a frustration that runs deep in the hearts of many a straight-ahead artist:  ‘Where are the Black folks?’ 

Added Carter, “We need more help from your community [to get folks out to see live jazz.]”

His swift candor resonated with the backstage group (some even chuckling) that was assembled in the press area, both Blacks and Whites.

After a few more zingers, he declared, “Look:  All you can do, Joy, is play enough good melodies that someone takes one home with them …”

The Saturday night audience had the good fortune of hearing Carter perform enough good melodies that everyone took every one of them home.  After welcoming the crowd to the quartet’s fourth night of a tour that began in Shanghai, China, Carter opened with “You and the Night and the Music” from one of his newer recordings.

The 90-minute set doubled as a lesson on what today’s jazz bassists should sound like. As tall and handsomely bearded as ever, Carter ‘instructed’ the audience on recognizable but brilliant versions of standards like “Seven Steps to Heaven” and “Sketches of Spain” as well as tunes from his enormous discography. 

All one could exclaim after each of his solos was “Wow!” in disbelief at the beauty of what was played as well as the ease with which he plucked the strings.

Along with ‘big bass brothers’ Leroy Vinnegar, Milt Hinton, Paul Chambers and Ray Brown, Ron Carter is among the most prolific, most influential, most recorded jazz bassists of all time.  With more than 2,000 albums to his credit, he has performed with virtually every major jazz artist, past and present, a very short list including Cannonball Adderley, Tommy Flanagan, Dexter Gordon, Lena Horne, Wes Montgomery and, most notably, from 1963–1968, with the Miles Davis Quintet, as a member of the quintessential jazz group of those days.

He’s received innumerable awards and accolades, including a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Group, the Miles Davis Tribute Band (1993), and another Grammy for Call Sheet Blues (1998), an instrumental composition from the film “Round Midnight.” 

Most recently, after 18 years on the faculty of the music department of The City College of New York (CCNY), he’s now Distinguished Professor Emeritus there.

Thankfully for jazz lovers, as a performer, he remains as active as ever. So do yourself — and Ron — a favor:  Come out and see him the next time he’s in town.

The Robert Glasper Trio opened with an all acoustic set. After many joking stops and starts, the leader showed why he’s the piano phenom flavor of today, playing Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady” and, most glowingly, Herbie Hancock’s “I Have a Dream.”


Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

November 01, 2012

Ava DuVernay has emerged as one of the most intuitive storytellers in modern times. 

Celebrated for a growing body of work including “This is the Life” (her directorial debut), “I Will Follow” and “My Mic Sounds Nice” (a heralded documentary on female rappers), DuVernay’s “Middle of Nowhere” --her second feature length film-- is an arresting and satisfying drama of love at a crossroads where we find Ruby (newcomer Emayatzy Corinealdi), a burgeoning medical student, stymied after her husband’s incarceration for drug dealing and possession charges.

 Additional cast members include Omari Hardwick (“Sparkle,” “For Colored Girls”), David Oleyowo (“The Help,” “Last King of Scotland”), Edwina Findley (HBO’s “Treme” and “The Wire”), Dondre Whitfield (“35 and Ticking”, “Two Can Play That Game”) and Lorraine Toussaint (“The Soloist,” “Dangerous Minds”).

“Middle of Nowhere” took top honors at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, receiving the Best Director award, making DuVernay the first African American to snag the honor.  The former film publicist says her personal goal is to make one film per year to continue growing as a filmmaker.

Stephanie Allain, film producer (“Hustle & Flow,” “Black Snake Moan”) and director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, champions DuVernay, calling her work spectacular.

“I respond to positivity and to stories that let us see our potential as human beings, as artists. I respond to stories where art somehow lifts one up; I respond to things that move me,” Allain said.

“Ava’s ‘Middle of Nowhere’ lets us see Ruby in a predicament struggling to make the right choice. I like that. I like to see us make the right choice. And, if we make the wrong choice, I like to see us learn from that. Those are the stories that really turn me on.

 “Ava shows that you can transform yourself, your life, by following what you believe in. She decided ‘she had to’ make movies because nobody else was making movies that ‘she’ wanted to see. Many times in Hollywood you’re type cast in a role and she has just burst through all of that becoming the shining example of writer, director, distributor, producer, of the caliber in which she served as publicist.  It’s a pretty spectacular evolution on her part.”

No less spectacular is the role of Ruth, Ruby’s unrelenting mother, brilliantly performed by Toussaint (Lifetime TV’s “Any Day Now” and “Saving Grace”).

Toussaint said of DuVernay, “I totally trusted Ava.  She’s a young director who I felt confident with.  I knew I was in good hands.  She knows how to speak to actors and she ‘likes’ actors.  She’s collaborative, not afraid to hand you the reigns and get out of the way, or completely step in and guide.  I love the way that she often keeps the camera rolling.  Sometimes, scenes need a certain momentum.  She knows that and let us have room –even on a tight schedule—which was wonderful.”

Reportedly, DuVernay pulled off the project with a meager $200K, a virtually unheard of film budget for movies on the order of “Nowhere.”


Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

November 01, 2012

By Kam Williams

LAWT Contributing Writer


Co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) is at the helm of SouthJet Flight 227 from Orlando to Atlanta only because the plane’s captain, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), has passed out after a night of debauchery devoted to drinking booze and snorting coke while carousing with one of his stewardesses (Nadine Velazquez). But when the commercial airliner unexpectedly encounters severe turbulence and starts losing altitude, the concerned rookie immediately rouses the senior officer out of a deep sleep for assistance.    

Despite a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit, the veteran aviator assumes control and quickly ascertains that the plane’s plunge is due to a complete failure of the hydraulic system. He further surmises that the only hope of pulling out of the precipitous nosedive depends upon his lowering the landing gear prematurely, dumping fuel, and flying the aircraft upside-down.

Against all odds, he executes each step flawlessly, unless you count clipping the top off a church steeple moments before making an emergency landing in an open field. 96 of the 102 souls aboard survive, and Whip’s astonishing feat is soon the subject of a national media circus, ala Sully Sullenberger’s real-life Miracle on the Hudson.

However, in the course of conducting its routine investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) subsequently uncovers incriminating evidence that the pilot had a blood alcohol level of .24 at the time of the accident. And since a half-dozen people perished in the crash, Captain Whitaker could conceivably be held criminally liable for their deaths.

Will the celebrated hero’s image be tarnished by scandal? Not if his defense attorney (Don Cheadle) and union rep (Bruce Greenwood) have anything to say about it. The two hatch a plan to suppress the toxicology report and to sober Whip up by the time of the NTSB hearing.

Directed by Academy Award-winner Bob Zemeckis (for “Forest Gump”), “Flight “is a riveting thriller marked by spellbinding special effects and a nonpareil performance on the part of two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington (for “Glory” and “Training Day”). After the spectacular, stomach-churning, opening scene plane crash, the picture shifts in tone to a character-driven portrait of a self-destructive addict in denial and plagued by demons.            

The capable supporting cast features Kelly Reilly as Whip’s love interest, John Goodman as his drug dealer, Melissa Leo as a snoopy NTSB bureaucrat, as well as Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood. But make no mistake, this is as much a star vehicle as Zemeckis’ “Cast Away,” where Tom Hanks was the only actor on screen for over an hour.   

An instant screen classic destined to be deemed among the very best of Zemeckis, alongside “Gump,” “Back to the Future” and “What Lies Beneath.”

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for drug and alcohol abuse, nudity, sexuality and an intense action sequence.

Running time: 139 minutes

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

November 01, 2012



Drive the speed limit this week or you could wind up with a ticket. Why rush? Serenity is available if you only stop and listen for it inside of you. Discharge your usual obligations with dignity and count your blessings. Soul Affirmation: I am guided by the joy within.



Justice is on your mind again this week. This may be in a cosmic sense, or you may still be speeding along trying to get a ticket. Slow down and relax your brain-energies! The universe knows how to take care of itself and of you. Trust! Soul Affirmation: Distant love is sometimes sweeter.



No need for rowdiness, wild ones. You can make your point without waving your hands and arms about wildly! Speak your wisdom softly, gently this week, so that others can hear it and benefit. Soul Affirmation: I face each week with a smile and the week smiles back at me.



Things speed up again this week and you are in a highly creative mood. An outspoken female in your circle may illuminate a thorny question for you. You’ll be surprised and pleased by what you hear. Soul Affirmation: I look for the good in all that comes to me this week.



One of your most unique gifts is the power to change your mind. You know how to change the way you think, and it gives you great personal magnetism. This week you may be called upon to change the way you think about a person close to you. Do it. Soul Affirmation: Friendships are shock absorbers on the bumpy roads of life.



Focus intently on the personal this week. Others may seem scattered or impersonal, but it’s not about you. Keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself until others are more receptive to your good vibrations. Soul Affirmation: I master fear by knowing that all is well.



A personal decision is made, and you are happy for the person who makes it. This person may be younger than you, but you’ve got a karmic bond between you. Enjoy the excitement of moment, and know that faith is being kept by your very actions. Soul Affirmation: This week I forgive myself for everything that has happened.



Hidden resentments could surface and you’ll want to be able to gracefully back away from arguments this week. Appreciate the good vibrations and ignore the negative. You’ll be doing the universe’s work! Soul Affirmation: What I’ve been waiting for has been here all along.



Charming, simply charming is what you are this week! Use your sparkle to set a few dreams in motion by meeting with those who can help you move forward. Wow! Have you got it going on! Keep your spontaneous side in check this week. Soul Affirmation: I know that enjoyment is a state of mind this week.



Think things through before you act. Concentrate on small details. They will make the difference between success and failure in your endeavors this week. Don’t go for the gusto just yet, your ideas need to be massaged a bit more before you present them openly. Call that special someone that has been on your mind. Soul Affirmation: True friendship is a mirror into which I look to see the beauty of my inner self.



Your financial constraints will soon come to an end. Meanwhile, make a game of spending less. See how long you can go without letting lose a dime and you will be in a better position to make decisions about bigger ticket items soon. Start thinking about where you would like to take a short excursion. Soul Affirmation: I paint my world in colors of the rainbow.



For the past two weeks you have been playing it safe. Now you can live on the edge a little. Luck is back with you again. You’ll be aware of love prospects lingering around you. You’ll see that your career is full of bright possibilities. Now is a good time to take a chance. Soul Affirmation: Self-confidence is the key to my success this week.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

November 01, 2012

By: Chelsea Battle

LAWT Contributing Writer



What do you get when you mix a former member of the Wu Tang Klan, Kung Fu, and Quentin Tarantino’s production skills? “The Man With the Iron Fists” is what. The new Kung Fu thriller, set for release in theaters November 2, is not only rapper RZA’s directorial debut, but also marks his first time co-writing and starring in a major feature film.

Working alongside an all-star cast, including such heavyweights as Russell Crowe and Lucy Lui, RZA plays a humble blacksmith turned lethal martial artist who helps to defend his village against a rising fleet of warriors, assassins, and a rogue war hero.  Set in 19th century feudal China, the movie affords him the opportunity to live out his childhood fantasy of playing a martial arts hero. 

“I’ve fantasized about being a martial artist since I was a kid,” he reveals.

Still, the hip hop trailblazer’s ties to a Kung Fu thriller might seem to some an unlikely union. Having gained his fame as a member of the group Rolling Stone once called “the best rap group ever,” RZA’s battles have usually been set to beats.  However, the multifaceted artist shares that he has been an avid Kung Fu junkie since the late 70s. In fact, when the Wu Tang Clan formed in 1993, its name was derived from one of RZA’s favorite Kung Fu flicks: “Shaolin and Wu Tang.”

Born Robert Diggs, from the time he was 9 years old the Brooklyn native lived and breathed martial arts films, from the Wuxia (movies with Chinese martial arts) to the Jidaigeki genre (Japanese films featuring samurai, craftsmen etc.) and beyond.  It was after seeing the Shaw Brothers film, “The 36 Chambers of Shaolin,” that his passion for martial arts films was significantly heightened.  RZA muses that he began to recognize the similarities between the movie and his life. 

“‘36 Chambers of Shaolin’ is about a guy who is a student and there’s oppression going on,” he explains.

“As a student he feels compelled to be a part of the revolution, and eventually he has to flee to Shaolin. On the way his friend flees with him and eventually sacrifices his life for him. So I’m seeing brotherhood.  I’m seeing loyalty.  I’m seeing the fight against oppression. These types of things I’m feeling in my own life, in my own neighborhood—being together with my crew, being with my brothers, and fighting against the day-to-day struggles of life and what we feel to be oppression in the projects.”

In 1993 when the Wu Tang Clan debuted their first album, which they entitled “Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers),” it was a way of paying tribute to the movie.

Kung Fu movies quickly became an escape for RZA, who would go to theaters and float effortlessly into a different world.  Fast forward to the present, the real world where RZA would discover that actually directing a film—his own film—was not an easy process.  “The Man With the Iron Fists” is a project 6 years in the making.  RZA admits that he was not the best screenwriter at the time the story idea was conceived, so he relied on the tutelage of those close to him in the film industry. Although RZA created the story, the film was actually co-written by his friend Eli Roth, whose credits include directing “Hostel” and acting in “Inglorious Bastards.”   The movie was produced under the guidance of award winning film director Quentin Tarantino.

“I was advised by Quentin Tarantino to write my ideas down,” says RZA.

“I wrote [‘The Man With the Iron Fists’] into a 90 page script.  I wasn’t very good at writing screenplays—I hadn’t studied it; I wrote songs.”

In the movie’s infancy, production companies initially shot down the script, suggesting that the characters needed more development. After collaborating with Roth, who expressed an interest in the story early on, the script was expanded and pitched again. 

“My buddy Eli Roth heard about the story and thought it would make a great movie and he came on board,” says RZA.

“He took it to some people, some producers, and they couldn’t really see the vision so he took the 90 page script and rewrote it into a 130 page screenplay. Then they had the vision and saw what it was.”

Once he had a winning script RZA needed to be certain that his directorial skills were up to par. After studying filmmaking under the well-seasoned eye of Tarantino for 6 years, he looked to his mentor for the green light.

“I had to be ready to direct,” RZA stresses.

“Tarantino was in there, but he wasn’t going to let me take any job unless I was ready… I asked him after 2 years and he said, ‘Bobby, I don’t think you’re ready.’ I asked him after 4 years; he still didn’t think I was ready. But after the sixth year he said, ‘Bobby, I think you’re ready!’ Eli came to him and told him what we had… and he gave us his blessings and we went for it.”

Testimony and evidence have shown how instrumental the Wu Tang Clan and martial arts movies have been in allowing RZA to express himself. Both have now led him to this moment, the big screen, which in his opinion is the ultimate form of expression.

“When I saw ‘Kill Bill’ (Tarantino’s award-winning film), I saw the lane I wanted to go in; I saw something that showed me that music is just one expression of myself,” he reflects.

“Clothing and designing is one expression, writing is another. But there is a medium where I can take all those expressions and put into one package, and that’s filmmaking.”

RZA has arrived, and all signs point to go. Set to be released in theaters this week, “The Man With the Iron Fists” serves as impressive evidence of what this talented artist can do when he puts his mind to it.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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