September 04, 2014


By Ron Scott

Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News



John Blake Jr., who continued the early tradition of bringing the violin into the jazz arena and making its voice heard with the music of Africa to avant-garde, R&B, blues and spirituals, died Aug. 15 in Philadelphia.


The cause of death was complications related to multiple myeloma, said Charlotte Blake Alston, his sister.


Blake wasn’t a media magnet, but among his many fans and established and young musicians he inspired throughout the United States, Europe, Japan and South America, he is considered a master violinist and genius of the music. Those fortunate enough to have witnessed Blake in concert understand the concept of his genius and significant contribution to the world of jazz and beyond.


John Edward Blake Jr. was born in Philadelphia July 3, 1947, and began studying violin at age 9. Classically trained, he graduated from West Virginia University and continued postgraduate work at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Montreux, Switzerland, where he received a grant to study East Indian music. He later studied the music of West Africa.


Blake is considered a jazz violinist, but his collaborations illustrate a musician who seamlessly took to the mountainous terrain of world music before it became a popular cliche. He collaborated with his sister, the master storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston, for the program “Tell It on the Down Beat,” which featured storytelling infused with a jazz band. He was also significant in “Fiddlin’ Stories,” which focused on the role of string instruments in African and African-American cultures.


Blake gained recognition in the early 1970s with the avant-garde saxophonist Archie Shepp performing on his album “Attica Blues.” For three years, his reputation extended worldwide as a member of Grover Washington Jr.’s band, which double-Dutched between R&B and jazz.


With his reputation as a daring violinist in the tradition of Eddie South and Stuff Smith, he became a member of pianist McCoy Tyner’s various groups over a five-year period. Regardless of the band, Blake brought an undeniable sound and intensity to the mix. As a musical explorer, he disregarded categories, looking to bring new experiences to his fans and ­students.


His varied R&B, blues, jazz, and rock journeys included recordings with Norman Connors on “You Are My Starship” (1976), and again in 2010 with Connors’ “You Are My Starship/Romantic Journey,” Phyllis Hyman’s “One On One” (1998); Patti LaBelle’s “Flame” (1997); James Blood Ulmer’s “Harmolodic Guitar with Strings” (1993); Steve Turre’s “Right There” (1991); Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother” (1970); and Buster Williams’ “Dreams Come True” (1981).


When Blake held his violin, it turned into a magical instrument, accommodating all assigned performances, including the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Turtle Island String Quartet, Quartet Indigo, the Billy Taylor Trio, Avery Sharpe, Cecil McBee and Jay Hoggard.


“Maiden Dance” (1984) was Blake’s recording debut as a leader and composer, the first of five acclaimed projects on Gramavision Records, which included being reunited with McCoy Tyner and Grover Washington Jr., and one with fellow jazz violinists Michal Urbaniak and Didier Lockwood.


His most recent release was “Motherless Child” (ARC Music, 2010), an album of hymns and spirituals arranged for his quartet and the Howard University vocal jazz ensemble Afro Blue. In 2010, Blake also produced jazz violinist Regina Carter’s album “Reverse Thread” (E1Music). He was a mentor and teacher to Carter.


Blake was also an accomplished composer, arranger and producer as well as an author, teacher and lecturer who presented hundreds of workshops annually to musicians at all levels. With Suzuki educator Jody Harmon, he co-wrote “J.I.M.E.,” the definitive beginning string jazz method book and CD in use around the world.


In addition to lecturing on campuses throughout the United States, Blake was on the faculties of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and Manhattan School of Music in New York City.


In 2004, he was appointed to the Basler Chair of Excellence for the winter semester at East Tennessee State University, and during that year he was awarded a Chamber Music America Jazz Composer Grant.


In addition to his sister, Blake, who lived in Philadelphia, is survived by his wife of 38 years, Barbara Irene Blake; a son, the drummer Johnathan Blake; two daughters, Beverly Woodson and Jennifer Watson; another sister, Vivian Blake Carson; two brothers, Alan and Elliot; and six grandchildren.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 04, 2014


Aries Mar 21 - Apr 19


Relationships and romantic opportunities show up this week as Mercury eases into Libra, making it easier to talk about tricky issues and find the best solution for all. Plus, the continued presence of Jupiter in Leo puts you in the mood for fun and fresh adventures, especially of the amorous kind. However, there's work to do, too, and the move of Venus into Virgo could be a reminder to keep things sweet with co-workers. Regarding health, you might want to amp up the attractor factor by getting yourself in shape.




Taurus Apr 20 – May 20


Getting the right balance between work and play or diet and exercise could be easier starting this week. You'll be motivated to pay attention to what works best for you and what doesn't in terms of lifestyle issues. It's time to review your habits and chuck any that don't support your ultimate goals. Romantic opportunities brighten over this week, too, with Venus enhancing dating options and enticing you out for more fun. Home-based projects fare well, too, especially if you have something ambitious in mind.




Gemini May 21 - Jun 20


Romantic opportunities show up as Mercury eases into Libra, enhancing seductive and flirtatious conversation. You might also be drawn to cultural activities, such as exhibitions, music, and the arts in general. You'll also be busy on the home front and eager to clear out clutter and create some space around you. The move of Venus into Virgo hints that you may be doing more entertaining at home for business or pleasure. You're also in a phase when researching and sharing important information could be quite lucrative.




Cancer Jun 21 - Jul 22


Concerning money, you may feel more relaxed and optimistic about your situation. The presence of Jupiter can incline you to splurge, though it also pushes you to seek opportunities to earn extra cash. In addition, a new focus on family matters encourages conversation as a way to increase harmony at home. Constructive discussion might also push you to start a project that's so far been in the planning stages. Meanwhile, the move of Venus into Virgo might entice you to explore fitness opportunities and so enhance your looks.




Leo Jul 23 - Aug 22


Though you're upbeat and positive, you might find that the situation at home taxes your strength. Thankfully, a tricky issue seems to be easing, which may reassure you that things really can improve. When it comes to getting your message out to the world, try to do so in as balanced a way as possible. Consider everybody's needs and target your words in a way that people can understand and resonate with. Financially, you may be motivated to splurge on small luxuries, but you deserve it!




Virgo Aug 23 - Sep 22


The spiritual and mystical side of life continues to be in focus as Jupiter enhances your intuitive awareness and encourages you to pay attention to dreams or unusual synchronicities. Ardent desires may find release as a budding romance develops its more passionate side. Either way, things are looking up. As Venus edges into your sign, this is an opportunity to think about your image and consider your style signature. Tweaking your everyday wear just a little could enhance your confidence and the opportunities that come your way.




Libra Sep 23 - Oct 22


You'll find it easier to put words to your feelings and express yourself in general as Mercury bops into your sign early this week. You'll be more inclined to chat if you have plans to share or something to get off your chest. Your social life continues to be a positive experience that you should nurture as much as possible. Make a point of networking regularly and you'll greatly benefit in the romantic as well as business sense.




Scorpio Oct 23 - Nov 21


Even though things may have been tough lately, you seem to have come through with flying colors. While you're not completely out of the woods, the current alignment adds strength and support that you'll greatly appreciate. You may be in the spotlight or in a position of importance, but a part of you may feel like keeping a low profile, or at least keeping your cards close to your chest as a way to ensure your privacy. Encouragement from pals may be all you need to stay strong and succeed.




Sagittarius Nov 22 - Dec 21


The idea of cutting ties and sailing into the wild blue yonder may appeal to you, particularly with Jupiter urging you on. Mercury's presence in Libra, starting Monday, hints that romance can happen when you're willing to socialize and move in new circles. Career ambitions also beckon this week, and it helps to have a plan or strategy that can move you along the path to success. As Venus dances into Virgo, you'll also find that mingling with the right folks can help you achieve your goals.




Capricorn Dec 22 - Jan 19


You're in the mood to profit from any business ventures and explore entrepreneurial ideas for investment and pure fun. There's also a focus on learning and discovery, suggesting that this is a good time to upgrade your skill set or explore subjects that pique your interest. A career matter or personal goal might benefit from liaising with the right people. Advice from someone in the know could be the missing ingredient that helps you make great progress this week.




Aquarius Jan 20 - Feb 18


Romantic, business, friendly, or other relationships continue to flourish. But Mercury's move into Libra hints that it's time to move in new circles and connect with people who can pique your imagination and enthusiasm for new ideas. Finances benefit from a sound budget and strong plan. This is a good time to start repaying debt and so ease any attendant anxiety. Make time to meditate, too. You'll find that it helps to bring peace of mind no matter what challenges come your way.




Pisces Feb 19 - Mar 20


Positive experiences on the work front may be giving you more confidence, encouraging you to showcase your skills and abilities, and helping you to feel good about the future. This is a great time to look for work that might be more challenging and lucrative. Relationships also come into focus, enticing you to see key connections in a new light or from a fresh perspective. Plus, Mercury's move into Libra is all about balancing your financial situation and feeling more harmonious as result.


Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 04, 2014



Associated Press


Chris Brown pleaded guilty September 2 to punching a man in the face outside a Washington hotel, an assault that occurred while the singer was on probation for attacking his then-girlfriend Rihanna.


Brown pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to time served. He spent two days in a District of Columbia jail in the case, one that further tarnished the image of the Grammy-winning singer.


Brown, 25, admitted that he hit a man who tried to get in a picture the singer was taking with two women outside the W hotel a few blocks from the White House last October. The victim, Parker Adams, suffered a broken nose.


At the time of the arrest, Brown was on probation in a felony assault case for attacking pop star Rihanna hours before the 2009 Grammy awards. The arrest led a judge in California to revoke his probation, and he was ordered in May to serve an additional 131 days in jail. He was released in June.


Brown’s attorney, Danny Onorato, argued that Brown had already suffered extensive consequences from the Washington case, noting the additional jail time in California and the four months he spent receiving inpatient counseling. He said that Brown’s career has been on hold for nearly a year and that he wanted to take responsibility for his actions so he could go back to work, including a tour in support of a new album.


“To say that he’s been punished severely in this matter is an understatement,” Onorato said.


Brown spoke only briefly, ­saying: “I would like to say to the court that I’m sorry.” He did not comment as he left court, swarmed by photographers and a handful of fans.


Brown had previously pleaded not guilty in the case. A trial scheduled for April was delayed, and two previous attempts to reach a plea deal fell through. Onorato said there were “nuances” of difference in the potential deals.


“As Chris Brown himself has now finally acknowledged, he punched a man in the face without provocation,” U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a statement. “No matter your status or celebrity, you will be held accountable for such conduct in our city.”


Brown had a squeaky-clean image before his attack on Rihanna, but since then he has had several flare-ups that have been reported to authorities and noted by Los Angeles prosecutors. Brown broke a window after a 2011 “Good Morning America” interview in New York and was accused of snatching a woman’s cellphone in Miami after she tried to snap pictures of the singer. He was also slightly injured in a New York nightclub brawl and, earlier this year, was accused of being involved in a fistfight with Frank Ocean’s entourage over a parking spot at a West Hollywood recording studio.


He was not charged in any of the incidents, but they have hurt his public standing. Nonetheless, legions of fans, including many of his more than 13 million Twitter followers, continue to support him. Following the hearing, he tweeted “#XTheAlbum,” a reference to his new recording, due out Sept. 16.


Onorato said his client has learned to “be more judicious” in his dealings with the public.


“He’s an incredibly talented and charismatic kid,” Onorato said. “I think he’s misperceived a lot. He’s a wonderful person, and I’m glad this is behind him.”


Brown’s bodyguard, Christopher Hollosy, was convicted of misdemeanor assault in April for his role in the same scuffle. He has not yet been sentenced. The victim, Adams, has also filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Brown and Hollosy.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

August 28, 2014


By Jineea Butler

 NNPA Columnist



Hip Hop has always had a fetish with gangster movies and characters. We often see artists referring to themselves in lyrics or using popular characters as their stage name: Public Enemy, Scarface, and Little Caesar were all popular gangster films of the 1930s. The Notorious B.I.G. lost a court battle for the right to use the name Biggie Smalls, a character in “Let’s Do It Again” with Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. Even French Montana borrowed half of his name from Tony Montana made famous by Al Pacino in Scarface.


My favorite is the Godfather trilogy. It is a timeless chronicle of a 1940s New York Mafia family, redemption and the struggle to protect their empire from rival families. The current state of Hip Hop could be looked at as having five controlling families; New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago.


In the Godfather, Marlon Brando played a violent and vicious hero. One could argue that the description is redundant, but are you familiar with Hip Hop Veteran James ‘Bimmy’ Antney? Yes, Love and Hip Hop’s Waka Flacka and Deb Antney’s kin, and a former member of the Supreme Team. His moves are much like that of Don Corleone. In the Godfather II, Robert De Niro won an Oscar for portraying Young Vito Corleone and his rise to power. In a candid conversation with Bimmy, I learned how he earned the right to be called New York’s unofficial Don of Hip Hop.


When I asked him why he got so much love and respect from his peers when most are met with hate, he quoted mobster John Gotti: “Everybody is a Gangster till the real Gangster walks in the room.” Oh. Now I am not implying that Antney is involved in a life of crime. I could tell the streets raised him, but the desire to “be street” left the building long ago. Just like Don Corleone, he has been there and done that, but his experiences and wisdom has led him to understand that he must lead responsibly.


Bimmy is woven into the fabric of Hip Hop. He lived and slept on the floor in the early days of Def Jam in the famous Chung King Studio when Slick Rick did “Children’s Story,” when Run DMC did “Rock Box, when LL Cool Jay did “I’m Bad.” He witnessed Hip Hop being born in its purest form.


Young Vito Corleone realized that the reigning Don Fanucci was taking advantage of the people of Little Italy and decided that the only way to save them was to give him an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Likewise, Bimmy expressed his deep disdain of how New York artists are treated and not revered as they once were. Bimmy wants everybody to understand one thing: while he may have worked for and popped artists from all over the country like Gucci Mane and 2 Chains, he loves his city and wants to restore New York to greatness. After a gap of 14 years since their last project together, LL Cool Jay entrusted him to lead the crusade on the production and arrangement of the highly anticipated album GOAT 2. LL’s statement on Shade 45 VIP Saturdays says it all, “My man Bim, threw me to the wolves, I’m out here with the wolves and we doing what we do.”


When Vito became the Don, he was everybody’s go-to man. He catered to the people of the community and solved problems for the community. He negotiated truces and collaborations with the other five families, he even was the voice of reason when necessary. His team was comprised of his family and his most trusted allies.


I see Bimmy Antney carrying out the same obligations and undertakings representing the New York music scene. He led me to believe that is he the answer to making sure real Hip Hop lives, especially in New York. He said, “Who I am to down play Hip Hop, if I am not going to help. These young artists need to be nurtured and learn how to ask for and accept help. Maybe then their careers won’t be so short. I know the formula, I’m taking it back to when we first started and all we had was the bull horn. Hip Hop follows the streets and the street game is backwards right now. I care about the mistakes, a mistake could cost us a whole borough. God appointed me to monitor it and care about it and I do.”


The Godfather trilogy is fiction; Bimmy is not. Far from being a member of the Mafia, he writes his own movies and is an example of how life can imitate art. As LL Cool Jay is wrapping up G2 and eyeing a G3, Bimmy is setting the stage for Hip Hop to accept an offer no one can refuse.


Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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