Sunday, October 30, 2011

Movie Recommendation - Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975

I saw an awesome movie this weekend, which I strongly recommend - Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975- chronicles black liberation for that period. Profiles Malcolm X (even though he had passed) MLK, Stokely Charmichael, Bobby Seals, Angela Davis, and others, and it was really good. It was a documentary with period footage by a Swedish News team and contemporary artists like Eryka Badu provided commentary.
Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975

Purchase the Black Power Mix Tape.

Angela’s 1970 interview in Prison with Barry Callaghan

Friday, October 28, 2011

Esperanza Spalding is Named Jazz Artist of the Year for 2011 in Downbeat Reader's Poll

The Readers of DownBeat Magazine voted Esperanza Spalding Jazz Artist of the Year for 2011. The results were published on DownBeat's online site, and will be featured in the December 31st print issue. It is the first time a woman has ever been accorded this honor. In August, Esperanza was also named top Rising Star for Electric Bass in the DownBeat Critic's Poll. She was also named top Rising Star for Acoustic Bassist in the 2010 Critic's Poll.

DownBeat online states: "Esperanza Spalding is the first woman to be named Artist of the Year in a DownBeat Poll. She represents the next generation of terrific artists out there who—in the finest jazz tradition—are looking for new ways to express themselves." 

I have had the pleasure of seeing Esperanza perform twice in the last three weeks here in the Twin Cities area; once with her Chamber Music Society, and once as a member of Joe Lovano's ensemble, US5 (See my post on her Chamber Music Society Show in St. Paul MN here, and her appearance in Hopkins MN, with Joe Lovano and US5 here). Both shows were terrific; Esperanza is charismatic performer and an amazing bassist. I spoke to Joe Lovano after the US5 show, and he said that Esperanza works hard and is an ardent student.

We have a lot to look forward to as Esperanza Spalding's career develops. She has a new CD coming in Spring of 2012, the Radio Music Society. Esperanza Spalding will be around for decades creating great music, drawing people to jazz, and expanding the range of the electric and acoustic bass.

Below are links to the announcement and poll results: 

Esperanza performing her masterpiece, Wintersun: 

Video of Esperanza's Little Fly

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why Corporate Elites Should Be Petrified of Occupy Wall Street | | AlterNet

Why Corporate Elites Should Be Petrified of Occupy Wall Street | | AlterNet

from the Article:
The power elite cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Esperanza Spalding Bass Solos, with Joe Lovano and US5

Last night, I had the great pleasure of watching Joe Lovano's excellent ensemble, US5 perform at the Hopkins Art Center in Minneapolis. US5 features rising stars Esperanza Spalding on bass, Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III on drums and percussion, and James Weidman The show was terrific, featuring songs from Joe & US5's last two CDs, Folk Art and Bird Songs.

Joe was very generous in allowing Esperanza to have several bass solos. I have video of two of them here.

I apologize the visual quality of both my pictures and videos are not all that great (my phone camera isn't the best), but the sound quality on the video is fine.

I met the band after the show and got another autograph from Esperanza.

If you have an opportunity to see Joe Lovano and US5 live, do so. It is one of the best jazz concerts you will ever see.

Joe Lovano 

Esperanza Spalding 

Bird Songs by Joe Lovano and US5

Folk Art by Joe Lovano and US5

Saturday, October 22, 2011

From Andrew Sullivan: The Untold Story of the Actual Obama Record

Andrew Sullivan praises the Obama record, but also chides the Administration for not doing a better job touting their successes and managing the narrative.

Here is an excerpt from Andrew's post:

If you'd told me in January 2009 that the banks would pay us back the entire bailout and then some, that the auto companies would actually turn around with government help and be a major engine of recovery, that there would be continuous job growth since 2009, however insufficient, after the worst demand collapse since the 1930s, that bin Laden would be dead, Egypt transitioning to democracy, al Qaeda all but decimated as a global threat, and civil rights for gays expanding more rapidly than at any time in history ... well I would be expecting a triumphant re-election campaign.

You may read Andrew's essay here:
The Untold Story Of The Actual Obama Record

The Gospel of the Right: From the Book of Wisdom 2.10,11

Let’s take advantage of the day laborer who does what’s right. Let’s not be afraid to abuse the widow. Let’s show that we couldn’t care less for the gray hair of our elders. May strength be our only law and determine what’s right, for it’s clear to us that what is weak is worthless.  - Wisdom 2.10,11 Common English Bible 

I have watched most of the Republican debates. So far, the audiences at these events have:

  • Cheered for Rick Perry's numerous executions 
  • Cheered for allowing a person without health insurance to die 
  • Booed a gay Iraq War veteran who served his country in battle 
  • Cheered for Herman Cain's ignorant and calloused assertion that if you are not rich, it is your own fault.

These spectacles are repugnant. It seems as though that in the Republican Party these days, cruelty is cherished and that there is an utter contempt for compassion.

This is a party that seems to have only one over-riding concern: DON'T TAX THE RICH! Oh, yeah, and one other thing- let's make the black, "Muslim," "socialist" President fail!

On the other hand, they offer regressive tax schemes (like Cain's 9-9-9), cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and a vigorous attack on public employee unions, in any state in which they hold power. They seem hell bent on destroying the middle class.

It is not only Republicans, but some Democrats, too, people like Ben Nelson and Joseph Lieberman, who were against the public option in health care, and have helped to obstruct President Obama's jobs bill.

These positions are attacks on workers, the elderly, and the most vulnerable people in our society. These people on the right often claim to have values, wrap themselves in Christianity, and claim to follow the Bible. I suppose they do-  they are following the people described in the Book of Wisdom, chapter 2, verse 10 and 11.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bill Maher and Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress: A Civil and Interesting Conversation

Despite the title below, this clip is not just about Mormonism. Rather, it is a fine example of how a liberal atheist and a conservative Christian pastor can have an interesting and civil conversation. Bill Maher who in my mind is heir both of Bernard Shaw and Will Rogers is very respectful toward Pastor Jeffress and asks some really good questions. Pastor Jeffress presents a concise evangelical understanding of the gospel. They discuss not only Mormonism, but also the gospel, Rick Perry's stadium prayer event, the killing of Bin Laden, the teaching of Jesus on loving your enemies, and on voting for Romney or Obama. I found particularly interesting their discussion about the authority of Paul's words in relation to those of Jesus in the New Testament. In this very polarized and divided country, we need more conversations like this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kitties and Cookies!

So I was going to take a package of Oreos to work to have on hand as snacks. I left them out by the door, so I would not forget them, but of course, I did anyway. I came home that night, and found the package torn open, and about a dozen Oreos on the floor. I went to pick them up, and they felt sticky. Then I realized what had happened; my kitty, Lillith Cat, tore open the Oreos, but instead of consuming them, she licked them all over. Kitties are such fun!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Protesting at the Federal Reserve in Minneapolis

My good friend and comrade Kate is in this video, along with other Occupy MN people protesting at the Federal Reserve in Minneapolis.

John Calvin on the Sublime Mystery of the Eucharist

“The a secret too sublime for my mind to understand or words to express. I experience it rather than understand it."

-John Calvin.

Calvin sounds more like a Greek Orthodox than a Protestant here! He had a much higher view of the Blessed Sacrament than Calvinists typically have! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Esperanza Spalding on Bass Guitar

Esperanza Spalding is known as a great upright bassist, and won the 2010 Downbeat Critics Poll for up and coming upright bassists. But she is also a great bass guitarist. Here are four videos that show case Esperanza's bass guitar playing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Original Occupy Wall Street Protester

Jesus in Jerusalem at Passover
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. 15 He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. 16 He said to the dove sellers, “ Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business. 17 His disciples remembered that it is written, Passion for your house consumes me.

- John 2.13-17, Common English Bible

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rowan Williams takes Mugabe to task in Zimbabwe sermon - from the Guardian

Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury took the bold step of calling out the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe during his visit there. Many Anglican Christians are being persecuted and harrassed by the state. Williams compared the current regime to the old colonial powers.

This is the kind of boldness we need to see from Church leaders. One of the roles traditionally attributed to a Christian bishop is that of protecting the flock, as Christ does (John 10.1-30).

from the article:
"The archbishop of Canterbury has risked angering the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, ahead of a crucial meeting with him, by attacking the country's lawlessness and comparing it with the 'greed of colonialists and imperalists'".

"In a brave and possibly career-defining appearance at Harare's national stadium, Rowan Williams told a crowd of more than 15,000 that it was tragic that so many lived in daily fear of attack if they failed to comply 'with what the powerful require of them'".

See also:
Archbishop Hands Mugabe Dossier of Grievances

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Esperanza Spalding- Concert Review October 4th, 2011 at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium, St. Paul Minnesota

Last night, me and four friends had the pleasure of hearing Esperanza Spalding's Chamber Music Society perform at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

It was a terrific show. I am a fan, so I may seem biased. But my friends, none of whom are jazz fans, enjoyed the show too, and were very impressed with Esperanza's performance.

The Chamber Music Society album, which was released in August of 2010, is a very creative work. In it, Esperanza combines a Jazz trio with a strings- two violins and a cello. The result is a fresh and unique approach to jazz and popular music.

The concert itself was well performed; Esperanza herself is very talented- a terrific vocalist and ace bassist. She has a commanding stage presence and a warm, charismatic personality. Esperanza is really fun to watch in concert. She is pretty, performs barefoot, and she tosses her beautiful afro around as she bops her head to the music. She did a really funky dance to the song Chacarera (see a video of this song from last night's performance below).

I was extremely impressed with her upright bass playing. For this show, she did not play bass guitar. I have read one reviewer say that Esperanza's playing is reminiscent of Charles Mingus, a high compliment. She certainly is a virtuoso on the bass, despite her humble insistence that she is not yet a master of the instrument. Her upright bass playing is very fluid and melodic, technically flawless. As a bass player myself, I am inspired by Esperanza's playing.

The band also was excellent. They moved, they cooked, they rocked - to mix a bunch of metaphors- they were tight and in a groove all night. One of my friends who is not familiar with jazz was very impressed with how tight they were, "playing such a free form of music." Any professional jazz ensemble that is any good will play tight with improvised music, and the Chamber Music Society is no different.

This show was a jazz concert- make no mistake. The presence of strings is innovative, but it is still jazz- fusion jazz, and progressive - but true jazz. The presence of strings does not tame the jazz; rather, Esperanza's Chamber Music Society funks up strings!

The set list was simply all the songs from the Chamber Music Society, performed in a slightly different order than what appears on the CD. I think this may have been the order of the songs, but I am not sure, I didn't write them down during the show:

Little Fly
Knowledge Of Good And Evil
As A Sprout  
Wild Is The Wind
Apple Blossom
InĂștil Paisagem  
Short And Sweet
What A Friend
Winter Sun
Really Very Small

There was also a two song encore, featuring an original composition by Esperanza's pianist, Leo Genovese, kind a of Celtic jazz piece with strings! The other is Esperanza's love song, Fall In, from her second album.

The concert starts out with Esperanza appearing on the far right side of the stage. She takes of a coat and her shoes, and pours herself a glass of wine. She sits in a chair next to small table with a lamp. The light goes out, and the band plays a brief overture.

Esperanza then comes on stage and opens with Little Fly, a William Blake poem she set to music, sung beautifully. The band then launches into the Nature of Good and Evil, which is also the second song on the CD. This song, like others on the album, showcases her scatting talents.

I would pay to hear Esperanza sing the phone book, to utilize a cliche.

All the songs were wonderful, but I think that four really stand out for me.

Esperanza sat in a chair and sang Apple Blossom, and Leo Genovese replaced the guitar part from the CD version with some brilliant piano playing. It is a beautiful song.

What A Friend is a jazzy funky romp.

And then there is what I think so far is Esperanza's masterpiece, Winter Sun. The band rocked and Esperanza  went nuts on the bass. The Bossa Nova bass line is so infectious. I could see the people all around me really getting into it.

Finally the other song that really stood out was the last song of the night, Esperanza's beautiful love song Fall In. She does not play her bass on it, but showcases her lovely voice, accompanied by Leo on the piano.

As you can see from the pictures, I got to meet Esperanza after the show. It was very brief, but she was very gracious about signing autographs and taking pictures with people. It was a pleasure to meet her.

There are already two Youtube videos posted of the performance from last night:

First, Esperanza's performance of Apple Blossom. Although it is an amateur video, and a person's head blocks our view of Esperanza in some parts, the sound is terrific, and captures one of the finest moments from the show.

Secondly, Chacarera, with Esperanza's excellent scatting abilities on display.

I was sitting in the 3rd row, in the orchestra pit, and this is pretty close to my view of the show - but I did not take the video - My hats off to Patrik, who did an excellent job capturing both of these songs!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Jesus would NOT do

Esperanza Spalding Fall 2011 Tour Promo Video- Concert Tonight in St. Paul at the O'Shaughnessy Auditorium

Esperanza Spalding is completing a fall tour, the last concerts of the Chamber Music Society. I will be attending the show in St. Paul tonight with a group of six friends, and hope to have a review on the blog tomorrow.

Here are the tour dates:

09/30 Los Angeles, CA
10/1 Oakland, CA
10/2 Napa, CA
10/4 St. Paul, MN
10/6 West Lafayette, IN
10/7 Chicago, IL
10/8 Indianapolis, IN
10/10 Red Bank, NJ
10/11Bethlehem, PA
10/12 Richmond, VA
10/14 Philadelphia, PA
10/15 Union, NJ
10/16 Washington, DC

If you live in the Twin Cities area, you can still get some tickets for tonight's show:
Dakota Jazz Club and the O'Shaughnessy Auditorium present Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Society

Coming on like the lovechild of Joni Mitchell and bass legend Charles Mingus the outrageously talented US bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding's sophomore release is a shimmering string-laden album of song-orientated jazz.  ... Her voice is impressive too, be it breathy and soulful, or jazzy and wild, it's as rich and resonant as her bass playing.”

- Mike Flynn, AllAboutJazz

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Franklin Roosevelt: The Test of our Progress (We are Failing!)

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States


I heard some very sad and disappointing statistics on MSNBC the other day which indicate profound social injustice in our society: 12% of white children live in poverty in the US, 35% of Hispanic children, 39% of African American Children. Wages for the average worker in 2010 has only risen 2%; but 27% for CEOs.

Some will be proud of that; for them, this represents "freedom."

Some Americans believe that they too, will be rich one day, not realizing that their chance of becoming rich is about the same statistically as winning the lottery.

Meanwhile, America is becoming a third world country. As Roman Catholic Bishop Timothy Dolan stated recently, nearly one-sixth of all Americans and one in four U.S. children now live in poverty.

These numbers are not statistics, but people suffering and wounded in their human dignity. They are parents who cannot feed their children, families that have lost their homes and jobless workers who have lost not only income, but also a sense of their place in society,” the Bishop wrote (see the National Catholic Reporter).

Will America fail the test? Will voters give into fear, and elect those who only offer support for the wealthy, corporations and the powerful? Or will we vote for candidates who are in solidarity with the people? ARE there any candidates who still care about poverty, the poor, and the quickly vanishing middle class? Minorities are suffering in greater numbers, poverty is devastating the African-American Community, for example. But, it is going to affect us all eventually. It already is. We are all feeling the squeeze.

These are momentous times. We need a Franklin Roosevelt. Progressive need to not give up, but make their voices heard. We need to apply pressure to President Obama from the left, and elect progressive candidates to office.

The "American Dream" is quickly fading, and turning into a nightmare.

Who REALLY Increased the U.S. National Debt?

Click on the graph above to see a bigger picture of it.