July 19, 2012

By Joy Childs,

Watts Times Contributing Writer


Like manna from jazz heaven, tributes to two icons — Miles Davis on June 27 and Ray Charles on July 11 — came down on the Hollywood Bowl’s summer jazz series. They were two of the best tribute celebrations in recent memory at LA’s premier venue.

“A Celebration of Miles Davis”

If you haven’t been to the Bowl, or a post office lately, you might not know that the United States Post Service and the Bowl have unveiled the Miles Davis (1926−1991) commemorative stamp. The jazz icon’s stamp is a forever stamp (meaning it’s a perpetually valid first-class postage stamp), which  bears a likeness of Davis’ signature swaybacked stance blowing the hell out of a trumpet. 

The ceremony was attended by family members Cheryl Davis (daughter) and Erin Davis (son) as well as Herbie Hancock, who then had to rush over to the Bowl to moderate the concert honoring Davis.

What a brilliant celebration it turned out to be.

After telling the crowd about the commemorative stamp ceremony, to wild applause, Hancock revealed that his first gig with Davis was on the very stage from which he was speaking … i.e., at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964. That statement was enough to make the real jazz lovers in the audience smile in the imagination of what the stage might have looked like back then, set up, as it was, for one of the greatest jazz bands of all time: Hancock, Davis, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. OMG!

The show transported you back to the Miles Davis of the ‘60s and forward. First up — and fittingly so — was Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band. The drummer, at 83 years young and attired in his ever-present suspenders and cap, has the distinction of being the sole surviving member of Davis’ “Kind of Blue” masterpiece album, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Cobb and his band mates, including Javon Jackson (who, on tenor sax, was a ringer for John Coltrane); Buster Williams (bass); Larry Willis (piano) — and both Vincent Herring and Jeremy Pelt on trumpet — did an absolutely sterling job of recreating “King of Blue” in its entirety, songs so well known it wasn’t even necessary to call out their titles.

Moving on to the ‘70s and’80s was the Miles Electric Band. Their set opened with  Badal Roy on the tabla, which is a pair of small different-sized hand drums used especially in music of India. He was soon joined by trumpet extraordinaire/young lion Nicholas Payton, who tore it up on Davis’ 1971 recording of “Jack Johnson” before venturing in to “In a Silent Way,” regarded as one of Davis’ earliest experimentations with electric piano and guitar and rock improvisation.  Their grooves were augmented by black-and-white film footage and stills of Davis with fellow heavyweights Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.

The last third of the concert was devoted to the Miles Electric Band, headed by porkpie hat-wearing Marcus Miller, whose musical choices included “Splatch,” “Portia,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Goree,” and “Tutu,” Davis’ title album from 1986, dedicated to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first Black Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. Little known is the fact that originally Davis was to have worked with Prince but ended up working with bassist/clarinetist Marcus Miller.  And given the result of “Tutu” and its progeny — “Tutu Revisited” (2011) — funketeers are no doubt thankful it was ultimately Miller’s off-the-chain funky licks that landed him that original recording date — and the Hollywood Bowl tribute as well.

“Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz”

How do you pay tribute to RC? It’s got to be an all-star event, joining world-class bands like the Count Basie Orchestra and an All-Star Band, of course, with special guest vocalists in a spectacular homage to one of the most distinctive voice of all times.

It may have been an odd choice for Tavis Smiley to have been the moderator, but it was all good. In fact, having Bebe Winans infuse his brand of gospel on Charles’ 1954 gospel-inspired “I Got a Woman” was a really good choice, and Winans was definitely up to the task on what had been Charles first R&B hit. And if you’re Winans, you can’t help but bring a soul injection, a gospel tinge to a song like “Drown In My Own Tears.”

A bit of a musical lesson was provided by Dave Koz, who told the audience, “A lot of people don’t know that Ray Charles was a great sax player [Note: This writer didn’t know.]” before taking the stage with his own musical hero, Tom Scott on “Them That (I Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet).  And Dee Dee Bridgewater, along with Houston Person on sax, was as sassy as she wanted to be on “Hallelujah I Love Him,” adding that she’d met Charles while doing “Sophisticated Ladies, that he’d invited her and the entire cast to his home for a cocktail party, where he told her, “Baby, I like your voice!” She also had tons of fun blowing on “Busted.”

Another highlight was Terence Blanchard doing a smoky, New Orleans bluesy – sounding strokes throughout the set.

The Raelettes were a hoot — soulful, preachy Patti Austin on “Come Rain or Come Shine.”  Sweet-sounding Lynne Fiddmont. Sexy siren Siedah Garrett. And Country Music Academy award-winner Martina McBride.  The Count Basie Band was in full swing mode on “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” which Smiley announced was the first official crossover hit known.

Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, donning dark glasses like Charles, certainly did justice to “Let the Good Times Roll” with the Count Basie Band and “Hurts to Be in Love,” as well as on “Cryin’ Time” with Monica Mancini.

One hysterically funny moment came from a 1977 “Saturday Night Live” clip featuring the comedians of that show posing as “The Young Caucasians” and singing a dismal version of “What’d I Say” in a 1950’s Four Freshmen style … which brilliantly led to a rocking, soulful version by the tribute musicians.

After ending with an all-star, patriotic “America the Beautiful, there was no doubt that Miles Davis and Ray Charles each left their stamp on the sphere of music — and a Ray Charles stamp is expected in 2013.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 19, 2012

By Cora Jackson-Fossett

LAWT Contributing Writer



What does ‘The Soul Man’ do on Sunday?  He worships God, and on July 15, that’s just where he was – praising the Lord at three Los Angeles area churches.


Cedric The Entertainer, who portrays the Rev. Boyce ‘The Voice’ Ballentine on TV Land’s ‘The Soul Man’ sitcom, joined his family and cast members at First A.M.E. Church, West Angeles Church of God in Christ, and The City of Refuge.


The visits actually served a two-fold purpose for Cedric, who hails from a strong Christian background.  He got his ‘praise on’ enjoying the singing, prayers and sermon as well as addressed the congregations to encourage viewership of ‘The Soul Man.’


“It’s a blessing to be here and have an opportunity to talk about my show. You could see I was about to go to the big ‘desk’ before Pastor John (Hunter) pulled me back,” he jokingly told FAME’s 1,000+ members at the 10 a.m. service.


“We’ve had great shows in the past like ‘Amen,’ but I had the vision for this show, where we could talk in our community about some of the issues that are going on, show a family that’s loving, growing, learning, and we do it with each other.


“We hear talk about African Americans not having any presence on television and film, but when we have them, we must support these shows,” said Cedric.


Joining the audience in applauding Cedric’s comments, Pastor Hunter noted, “This is supporting and blessing our own.  There are not many positive, affirming, family-oriented shows that are clean on television. It’s the kind of family program that doesn’t undermine the image of African Americans, but it reinforces the positive with levity and fun.”


The series, created by Cedric and Suzanne Martin, revolves around the Rev. Ballentine, an R&B superstar-turned-minister. Upon hearing the call to ministry, he leaves his career and high life in Las Vegas to serve in his father’s church in St. Louis.  Reluctantly joining him are his wife, Lolli (played by Niecy Nash) and daughter, Lyric (played by Jazz Raycole). Rounding out the cast are Barton, Boyce’s cantankerous father (played by John Beaslely) and Stamps, Boyce’s crafty brother (played by Wesley Jonathan).  Reviewers agree that the show provides comedic, yet realistic, insights into the faith-based African American community.


A Sunday in the life of The Soul Man continued at The City of Refuge led by Bishop Noel Jones.


Nearly 2,000 parishioners viewed a special videotaped message from Cedric before hearing from ‘The Soul Man’ himself.


“It’s great that Bishop Jones allowed me to come in.  I have known him for a long time.  He married me and my wife 13 years ago,” said Cedric.


“Also, it’s very important, if you have an opportunity, to watch this show and tell others to watch, too.”


Bishop Jones revealed, “The reason I allowed Cedric to speak is that I know it’s going to be tasty, it’s going to be tasteful and the show is going to impact many people. I think that’s a good thing.  Entertainment is a good way to transfer a great many values.


“Hopefully, something within that show will have a message and entertainment that will uplift and encourage people.”


Uplifting people is a quality instilled in Cedric at a young age according to Eric Rhone, executive producer of ‘The Soul Man’ and his business partner since 1983.


“Cedric has a very strong family and upbringing back in Missouri, so those core values of respect and family have always been there for him.  We want to put out positive images and messages that we can all be proud of, particularly young people who come into this business after us,” said Rhone.


Cedric shared similar intents as he explained how the church became the setting for the show.


“I started looking at demographics, niche markets.  For us, I knew that black people are so spread out economically, but one place we come together is in the church environment. From hoodlums to educators, all of them are trying to be saved,” he said.   


“I just thought this was a great forum for me to do a show and it allows me to tell great stories because all types of people come there.  The church is the hospital for the soul.”


Another strength of ‘The Soul Man” is its ability to portray a variety of challenges encountered by both pastors and parishioners.


“It’s not only about what happens in the church.  Most people think the church is only on Sunday, but ministers are in operation all week long.  You’re dealing with people’s marriages, funerals, problems, and sometimes addictions.  We thought, ‘What a great platform.’


“When I was thinking of this show, it made sense, as a great platform, to do our community, our world, things that make sense to African Americans and at the same time, it also fits a broader community,” said Cedric who added with a laugh, “Now, I’m a flawed individual, trying to get right, so don’t write me saying, a preacher don’t do that.”


‘The Soul Man’ airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on the TV Land network.  Check cable or local listings for the channel.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cable channel truTV is putting Shaquille O’Neal on its team with a new series.

The channel said Wednesday that it’s ordered 10 episodes of “Upload with Shaquille O’Neal,” the working title for a series with the basketball star. Actors and comics Gary Owen and Godfrey will join O’Neal on the show.

The trio, along with a weekly guest, will share funny videos they find online and create their own, truTV said. Pranks and pop culture parodies also will be part of the mix.

In a statement, O’Neal promised “Upload” will “deliver big laughs.” A debut date for the series was not announced.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 12, 2012

By MESFIN FEKADU | Associated Press


NEW YORK (AP) — The music industry is showing support to R&B singer Frank Ocean after he revealed that his first love was a man.

Ocean announced the news Wednesday on his blog. His record label’s president, Joie Manda, showed support to the rising singer in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday.

“The courage he displayed in his beautiful and eloquent letter was touching on many levels. Frank broke down a wall that should never have been built,” Manda’s statement read. “The overwhelming show of support from his peers was awesome and inspiring. Island Def Jam is so proud to stand beside Frank Ocean — the artist and man — now and always.”

Def Jam founder Russell Simmons wrote in a post that he’s moved by Ocean’s “courage and honesty.”

“Today is a big day for hip-hop,” Simmons wrote on his Global Grind website Wednesday. “Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.”

Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers tweeted: “Strong move by frank ocean, makes me happy.”

And others, from Solange Knowles to RuPaul to Rita Ora, also tweeted positive thoughts.

Actor Johnny Knoxville called Ocean's decision a “brave thing to do, and the right thing to do” in a tweet Thursday.

Ocean is best known for the R&B songs “Novacane” and “Thinkin Bout You.” The 24-year-old self-released his debut, “nostalgia, ULTRA,” to critical success last year and will release an official album, “Channel Orange,” on July 17. It features collaborations with John Mayer and Andre 3000 of OutKast.

Ocean has also written songs for Beyonce, Justin Bieber, John Legend and Brandy. He appeared on two songs from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaborative album, “Watch the Throne.”

The singer is also a member of the alternative hip-hop group Odd Future. His band mate, Tyler, the Creator, is known for using homophobic words in songs, but he also has showed support for Ocean.

Outside of the celebrity world, some fans have praised Ocean. Others, though, weren’t as supportive, with some saying they could no longer listen to Ocean’s music because he was romantically linked to a man.

Ocean will launch his U.S. tour next week.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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