Archive for the ‘jazz singers’ Category

Girl, Put Your Records On (Part 2)

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

I need a new playlist for the mood I’m in.

It’s a quiet, moody, contemplative kinda mood that I’m in these days.  Would love to crawl in a safe, dark hole and stay there with my thumb in my mouth. But light is the only thing that’s keeping me alive. Feeling kinda weepy, but don’t have cause to outright cry. Sad and joyful in the same breath. Got some decisions to make. But they will require moody record playerme to revisit some old places in my mind to find the answers I’m after. Don’t want to go there, but I gotta go to get where I need to be. Don’t wanna have to do anything, but don’t want not to be needed.  Don’t wanna talk, but don’t wanna be alone.

Watchin’ God watchin’ me.

One of those times when I wish I were a poet.

Never fails. Something about the change of season, especially the dawn of autumn, that drives me to the cave.

In the meantime, I’m on the search for some mature, mellow, contemplative ballads. Got any suggestions?

Here’s what I’m listening to these days…

Barbara Streisand, “Everything Must Change”
Stevie Wonder, “A Place in the Sun”
Christopher Cross, “Sailing”
Bette Midler, “The Rose”
James Ingram and Patti Austin, “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?”
India Arie, “Healing”
Curtis Mayfied, “It’s Alright”
Lala Hathaway and Joe Sample, “When The Word Turns Blue”
Otis Redding, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”
Nina Simone, “For All We Know”
Patti Austin, “Miss Otis Regrets”

And finally,….

Lizz Wright’s 2008 “The Orchard” is breaking my heart with its smooth, serene vibe. Wright defies easy categorization. She’s jazz, soul, blues, and everything else wrapped up with a ribbon on top. On The Orchard she’s folk singer extraordinaire with that rich, expressive tone of hers. I can piddle around the house all day drinking herbal tea in my pajamas listening to anything that comes from Lizz Wright’s vocal chords.

Like I said, I’m on the search for some contemplative ballads. What’s on your playlist these days?

Four Women–Take The Time Out

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I was first introduced to Nina Simone’s “Four Women” when I arrived on campus decades ago and heard Ethos choir, the black women’s choir on campus, singing it. “Four Women” was a perfect climax at Ethos concerts which included a repertoire of songs about young love, painful heartache, social injustices, self-determination, and faith in God.

I can still hear upperclassmen Vivian Cherry, Pat Mel, and the others singing with sass and cold hearted clarity “Four Women” which Simone wrote about four popular  stereotypes of black women (”Aunt Sarah,” “Saffronia,” “Sweet Thing” and “Peaches”). The singer recorded the song on her 1966 album “Wild is the Wind.”I love Nina’s version of the song, but I appreciate singers Lizz Wright, Dianne Reeves, and Simone (the late singer’s daughter) coming together and reprising Nina’s powerfully important song in tribute to black womanhood.

I post the video on the blog today as a way to introduce “Four Women” to the young women who visit this blog and others of you who are unfamiliar with it, and as a way to call “time out” from all the things in the universe that has us women bent out of shape and at odds with each other.

Enjoy the image of these three powerful divas coming together and paying tribute to a legend and ushering her voice back into our hearts.

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Renee wrote in challenging everyone who reads this post to be inspired to compliment four (4) women today, then tell them they have to do the same for (4) different women as well. Let me add that you should include in that number women who are different from you, women you otherwise have next to nothing in common with, because that’s what Nina Simone was after in the song. The lies and stereotypes that we bear and keep us at odds with each other. And since I’ve had to speak strongly to a couple of women this week to set them right about a couple of matters I feel particularly inspired to get going on this challenge.

“If You Knew” says Nina

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I could write about Nina Simone all day long and never get tired. I could write about Nina, and other women like her, Dinah, Billie, Sarah, Carmen, Betty, Abbey and risk losing most of my sanctified readers. Yes, I love Mahalia. But when I was looking around for role models in those early years as a woman in ministry I looked to women like Nina and Dinah as my role models. I preferred stories about women who were not saints. As I said in a previous post about women singers:

Reading stories of women living out of their suitcases night after night, singing under sometimes impossible circumstances, expected by their audiences to bring down the house every time they sang despite whatever was going on in their personal lives, the sexism they faced in the music industry, the betrayal of managers and record companies who cheated them, living with the label of being “difficult” women when they spoke up and spoke out, the multiple marriages they had but never really finding true love, the solace many of them found in the after-hour meals with their band, all of this sounds familiar to me.

After living out of my suitcase for the last couple of weeks speaking here and there, trying to remember my lines and hoping, with God’s help, to live up to my part of the bargain and give audiences what they came looking for and needed desperately to hear, I stumbled on this video this morning of Nina sitting at the piano in a dark supper club under a lone light singing, sweating, and giving her audience what they came for without giving them more of herself than she could afford to spare. What I admire most about Nina is that she learned how to use her aura to her advantage. Her striking black African looks, her unconventional physicality, which were supposed to be her undoing, became  her greatest assets. She made her audiences look at her, really look at a woman who looked like her, something they weren’t accustomed to doing without turning away, and notice the beauty. I like when women performers who don’t look like what women performers are supposed to look come out and make liars and bigots and idiots of their audiences– with talent that leaves audiences crying for more.  Isn’t that what made the Susan Boyle video a Youtube hit?

I’m a sweat-er too. Always have been. Even before “the change”. LOL. So when Nina pauses in the middle of singing “If You Knew” to wipe her forehead with her hands–and looks around the set with an expression that says “why the freak doesn’t someone bring me a towel?” and continues on with the song as though the gesture and expression were part of the song — I smile knowingly. “Pay attention,” Nina says in the video.  There’s something to be learned for you who aspire to be public speakers, orators, poets, preachers, teachers who stand everyday before a class full of students. A lesson in confidence, experience, and self-possession. Sweat and keep singing. Make the sweat work for you. Sing so that they remember the song and appreciate all the passion you put into delivering it.

The Music of Friendship

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

We live in a promiscuous society in which the quiet support of committed friendship goes largely unnoticed and uncelebrated.

-Marjorie Bankston Seasons of Friendship-

Today’s quote goes out to my friend Angela who is having hip replacement surgery this weekend. Angela came to me as one of my students, but later became a friend,  webdesigner for my first website, and eventually one of my teachers. She introduced me to jazz and tutored me in the history of women in jazz music.  Angela still sends me links from time to time containing information on one of the greats (e.g., Ella, Billie, Dinah, Sarah, Carmen, Betty), or news about a new jazz cd or jazz artist I should check out.

I came across this video of Sarah Vaughan and knew immediately that it’s one Angela and I will have to talk about when she gets out of the hospital. How aging changes the way women artists (including women preachers) perform, project, and phrase what they have to say. Just the sort of thing you talk about late into the evening with a friend sitting at a cozy booth in a restaurant with Riesling nearby.

 Here’s to you Angela and to friendship.

God bless you.