Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anna Brown, Mother of two, with out insurance, thrown out of hospital, dies in police custody

Sometimes, I am at a loss to understand this country. This story breaks my heart. It sickens me. 

This country can be so barbaric. 

I am tired of politicians offering plans to give tax breaks to the wealthy, and cut social programs.

I am tired of religious people, Christians in particular, railing against universal health care, complaining about a "government take over" of health care. They say the church should do it. Bullshit, they can't.

We let people die in this country.

We have death panels, they are at private insurance companies.

Hospitals DO NOT always take care of people without health insurance.

I am tired of people thinking that there is no more racism in this culture, it isn't true; there are not only bigots, but there is still systematic racism in this country.

Via The Los Angeles Times: "Anna Brown was homeless and had so much pain in her legs that she couldn't walk. When Brown, 29, refused to leave the emergency room at St. Mary's Health Center in Richmond Heights, Mo., a suburb near inner St. Louis, the police thought she was on drugs and arrested her for trespassing. She'd already been examined, and a doctor said she was healthy enough to go to jail. The police carried her into a jail cell by her arms and ankles, her body slackened. There were a couple of beds in the cell, but they left her on the concrete floor. A couple of officers stood by the door as she writhed and moaned, and then they walked away. "They thought she was a drug seeker," an officer said later. She had stopped moving within 15 minutes and was pronounced dead a short time later...".* Ana Kasparian, Jayar Jackson and former prosecutor Steve Oh break it down on The Young Turks.,0,171094.story

from Common Dreams:
The horrific story of Anna Brown, a black, homeless, 29-year-old St. Louis woman and mother of two who after refusing to leave a hospital because her legs hurt so much was arrested for trespassing, handcuffed, dragged into a jail cell and left moaning on the floor, where she died of blood clots minutes later. Police thought she was on drugs. She wasn't. Can anyone possibly argue there is not underway in this country a gender, color and class war, though not the one the right wing envisions? There's a petition demanding access to health care, and video. Warning: disturbing.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Esperanza Spalding Performs Black Gold and Crowned & Kissed on Jimmy Kimmel Live (March 29, 2012)

Last night (03/29/2012) on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Esperanza Spalding was the musical guest. Esperanza performed two songs from her new CD Radio Music Society, Black Gold and Crowned and Kissed. These are great performances, and it is really too bad Crowned and Kissed was not on the live TV program, but only the Kimmel Live Web site. Esperanza’s bass playing on the fretless jazz bass is superb, especially on Crowned and Kissed; her voice is in great form. Esperanza looks stunningly beautiful in these videos, with her hair, make-up, and white dress. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bible Justice For Trayvon- Reading the Bible in a Hoodie

Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush, of Illinois, was escorted off of the House floor on Wednesday after donning a hoodie and sunglasses in honor of slain teenager Trayvon Martin. The passages he was reading? Micah 6.8 and Luke 4.18-22, passages that speak of justice & liberation...

Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush, of Illinois, was escorted off of the House floor on Wednesday after donning a hoodie and sunglasses in honor of slain teenager Trayvon Martin.

Rush, who began his remarks in a suit jacket and glasses, lamented the tragic death of 17-year-old Martin, who was killed last month by George Zimmerman, a volunteer member of a Sanford, Florida, neighborhood watch. Zimmerman, who has not been charged, claims he was defending himself.
Martin was unarmed and wearing a hoodie at the time of his death.

"Too often, this violent act that resulted in the murder of Trayvon Martin is repeated in the streets of our nation," Rush said in his statement. "I applaud the young people all across the land who are making a statement about hoodies, about the hoodlums in this nation, particularly those who tread on our laws wearing official or quasi-official clothes."

At this point in his remarks, Rush took off his jacket to reveal that he was wearing a hoodie underneath it. He covered his head with the hood, violating a rule in Congress that prohibits wearing hats on the House floor.

"Racial profiling has to stop, Mr. Speaker. Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum," Rush added, swapping his spectacles for a pair of sunglasses.
At this point, Rep. Gregg Harper, a Republican congressman from Mississippi who was serving as the presiding speaker of the chamber, called Rush out of order. Rush continued reading a passage from the Bible before being escorted out of the chamber.


He has showed you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

- Micah 6.8

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?"

- Luke 4.18-22

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Favorite Albums: Stevie Wonder's Talking Book

I remember in 1972, watching on ABC TV, a concert headlined by John Lennon called the One-to-One Concert. One of the other performers on the broadcast was Stevie Wonder, who delivered a great performance of the hit single, Superstition. The drum intro and funky key board playing (on a Hohner clavinet model C) was so cool to my 12-year-old eyes and ears.

My mother, always the hippest mom in the neighborhood when it came to music (and other things), had purchased the album the song was taken from, Talking Book. I had been familiar with Stevie Wonder from the radio; he already had a decade of hits, first under the moniker of Little Stevie, and then, Stevie Wonder. Such classics as Signed, Sealed, Delivered and My Cherie Amour made Wonder a household name.

Talking Book, like all of Stevie Wonder’s 1970’s output, is soulful, creative, and funky. My favorite songs on it are Superstition, You are the Sunshine of My Life, Maybe Your Baby, and I Believe When I Fall in Love With You it Will be Forever (the last song is played in the closing scene of one of my favorite non-action guy movies, High Fidelity). I love the funkiness of Tuesday Heartbreak, which has an upbeat tone and temp, inspite of the lyrics of love lost. Big Brother is a bold, radical, political statement from the African-American context.

Talking Book is a very highly rated album. Rolling Stone Magazine ranks it #90 among the Top 500 Albums of All Time, and they also give it Five Stars, as does Q Magazine and Allmusic.  Talking Book peaked at #3 on the Pop Albums chart, and became the first album for Wonder to top the Top R&B Albums chart where it remained for three weeks. Wonder won three awards for Talking Book at the 1974 Grammys: Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for You Are the Sunshine of My Life, and both Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for Superstition.

Stevie Wonder has one of those iconic careers and prolific catalog of hits that make it difficult to say what his best album or best song are. But for me, Talking Book remains a personal favorite. 

Track Listing
1."You Are the Sunshine of My Life"  2:58
2."Maybe Your Baby"  6:51
3."You and I (We Can Conquer the World)"  4:38
4."Tuesday Heartbreak"  3:02
5."You've Got It Bad Girl" (Wonder, Yvonne Wright)4:59
6."Superstition"  4:26
7."Big Brother"  3:34
8."Blame It on the Sun" (Wonder, Syreeta Wright)3:26
9."Looking for Another Pure Love" (Wonder, Syreeta Wright)4:43
10."I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" (Wonder, Yvonne Wright)4:53
Total length:
Purchase Links for Talking Book:
Below is my Youtube playlist of four of my favorites from the Talking Book album. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Music Review: Esperanza Spalding's Radio Music Society

Earlier this week, Esperanza Spalding's new CD, the Radio Music Society, was released. I downloaded Radio Music Society on my Blackberry, and purchased the deluxe edition which includes a DVD with videos for all the songs.

Esperanza has succeeded in her stated goal for this CD: to present improvised jazz-based music in an accessible, radio-friendly format. The music on this CD has a cool R&B/Soul sound, but is still a jazz CD. On this record, as on her last one, the full scope of her talents as a vocalist, songwriter, arranger, and bassist are on display.

All of the songs stick in the brain right away. Radio Song, Endangered Species, Black Gold, Cinnamon Tree, are all very catchy. Esperanza sings on all the songs. Her voice has always been very pleasing to my ears. Her performance recently of What a Wonderful World at the Oscar Ceremonies a few weeks ago is proof positive that Esperanza is a talented vocalist.
She either wrote or co-wrote all the songs except for two covers, Stevie Wonder's I Can't Help It (featuring one of Esperanza's mentors, Joe Lovano), and Wayne Shorter's Endangered Species.

I still enjoy Esperanza's version Austin City Limits version of Endangered Species over the new version on the CD, but we still have Esperanza's meaty bass work on her Jaco Pastorius Fretless Jazz bass on the track. Esperanza wrote new lyrics for the Wayne Shorter composition, and the added lyrics are really the only difference in the two versions of the song. She is joined by Lalah Hathaway on vocals. I love Esperanza's bass playing on Endangered Species.

Some have lamented the lack of a flashy bass solo on the CD, but solos are not the only measure of great bass playing. Her bass work shines all through the CD. It is solid, intricate, and creative. There is great electric bass work on Cinnamon Tree, the Stevie Wonder cover I Can't Help it, and upright bass-playing on Smile Like That. Hearing Esperanza's bass playing inspires my own playing.

Black Gold, the first single, is a song the celebrates African heritage, is the best track on the CD. Esperanza says she wrote it to encourage black children, and hopes it is something that mothers might sing to their sons.

A few weeks ago, when the single Black Gold was released, someone commented on Esperanza's Facebook page that he felt the song was ethnocentric, and not very good. Of course, I do not agree at all, it is a wonderful song. But his wrong-headed comment raises an issue that is very important. I think Black Gold has a very appropriate message. African-Americans have been oppressed historically in this country. They have been in the minority. History is told from the viewpoint of the dominant culture. Yet, Africa has a very rich cultural history. As the lyrics of the song and the video point out, some of the earliest civilizations and democracies developed in Africa. Africa has a rich heritage for science, humanities, religion, politics, and civilization.

Also, we all have been outraged by the death of Trayvon Martin, and the refusal of the authorities to arrest his murderer. This was a classic case of someone “guilty of walking while black.” As long as young black men are characterized as criminals, there is need for songs like Black Gold, which celebrates the Black/African heritage. It is a prophetic song for this moment.

I am sure the Radio Music Society will be my constant companion on my earphones while I am working at the office the next several days.

There is no filler, all the songs are great! Esperanza Spalding made a great record, I can't wait to see her perform it live!

Track Listing

1 Radio Song
2 Cinnamon Tree
3 Crowned & Kissed
4 Land Of The Free
5 Black Gold
6 I Can't Help It
7 Hold On Me
8 Vague Suspicions
9 Endangered Species
10 Let Her
11 City Of Roses
12 Smile Like That

Purchase Links for Radio Music Society


Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society Tour Dates

April 18 - Buffalo, NY - Center for the Arts - tickets onsale January 20
April 19 - Cleveland, OH - Metro Campus Auditorium - tickets onsale January 20
April 21 - New York, NY - Webster Hall - tickets onsale January 20
April 22 - Boston, MA - Orpheum Theatre - tickets onsale January 17
April 24 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theatre - tickets onsale January 27
April 25 - Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom - tickets onsale January 27
April 27 - Hollywood, CA - The Music Box - tickets onsale January 21
April 28 - Phoenix, AZ - JW Desert Ridge Jazz Festival - tickets onsale January 16
May 1 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues - tickets onsale January 16
May 2 - Houston, TX - House of Blues - tickets onsale January 16
May 3 - New Orleans, LA - New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - tickets on sale now
May 5 - Austin, TX - Paramount Theatre - tickets onsale January 20
May 23 - Paris, France - La Cigale - tickets onsale TBD
May 28 - London, UK - KoKo - tickets onsale TBD
June 27 - Ottawa, ON - Ottawa Jazz Festival - tickets onsale TBD
June 29 - Montreal, QC - Metropolis Theatre - tickets onsale now

A Track By Track Description of the Radio Music Society songs By Esperanza Spalding

RADIO SONG – This song speaks to an experience we’ve all had at one time or another: when for whatever reason, you turn on the radio and a fragment of a song just grabs you, everything in the world seems to stop, and you sit mesmerized and uplifted by the music. That moment of “being touched” from the radio is a testament to the power of song, and it’s at that magical moment when an artist – even someone we know nothing about – truly connects with their equally unknown listener.

CINNAMON TREE – This is about platonic love among friends, especially the people from childhood that remain with you along the way—no matter what. One of my dearest friends needed a song to cheer her up, and, in an attempt to explain the origin of her nonsensical nickname, I wrote “Cinnamon Tree.” Rightly enough, ruminating on the words “cinnamon tree,” I realized the many ways she brings good to my life, like real cinnamon, too!

CROWNED & KISSED – This song is about the unsung royalty in your life, men and women who quietly, every day do the mightiest, most honorable things. Although they may not end up in castles or with great riches and power, in the eyes of those who love them, they most certainly are mighty and regal.

LAND OF THE FREE – Watching the news one day, there was a featured segment on Cornelius Dupree Jr., a man falsely accused of murder and convicted on bogus evidence. The judge would not admit DNA evidence, and he continued to be held for murder. Finally, after legal assistance from lawyers at the Innocence Project and with the admittance of new DNA evidence, he was acquitted after 30 years of imprisonment. When he spoke at the press conference after his release, he simply said, “Well, I’m kind of having a bit of mixed emotions. I’m kind of, I’m happy, and I’m kind of feeling mixed emotions. You know, after 30 years, that’s a hard walk. I just want to say that I feel that words really won’t make up for what I done lost. You know, I lost both my parents. I just feel that, you know, the system needs to be fixed, by whatever means, you know, so that it just won’t happen to anyone else. That’s about all I have to say.”

These true words certainly can’t begin to speak to the injustices in our penal system. But, overwhelmed by the story, this song just came. Proceeds from the sales of this song go to the Innocence Project.

BLACK GOLD – This song is singing to our African American heritage before slavery. Over the decades, so much of the strength in the African American community has seeded from resistance and endurance. I wanted to address the part of our heritage spanning back to pre-colonial Africa and the elements of Black pride that draw from our connection to our ancestors in their own land. I particularly wanted to create something that spoke to young boys.

I CAN’T HELP IT – I credit Gretchen Parlato for helping me choose this song. A few years back, Gretchen and I did several double bills together, and she would sing this as a duet with Lionel Loueke. I always loved this song, but hearing the melody, lyrics, and story arc pared down to its essentials, I fell in love with it even more, but didn’t know what to do with it in my own band. Sometime after, when I was sitting with the US Five Band and watching another band play standards, Joe Lovano leaned over and said, “Boy, when you do a classic, you can’t just do it the way it’s been done. You have to find your own reason for doing it.” That was the key for me, in terms of interpreting this song. For me, the energetic approach to the story is a dance between subtlety and effervescent eagerness. Joe is a featured guest on this track, and Gretchen—along with Becca Stevens and Justin Brown— is also singing.

HOLD ON ME – Good old unrequited love. When you know the feelings may never be more than internal passion, but still can’t let it go. This song features pianist Janice Scroggins, drummer Billy Hart and Dr. Thara Memory, conducting and arranging for the American Music Program Big Band.

VAGUE SUSPICIONS – In the time we live, most of us in industrialized nations feel really detached from the indiscriminate killing of war. When we read the paper or hear the news of “civilian casualties” or “children perished in the attack,” we are shocked at the details and pictures, and confused about what to do/how to react/what to even think for that matter; and then something else is bound to grab our attention. If you have six minutes to listen to this song, for better or for worse, you’re invited to use this time to think about those realities.

ENDANGERED SPECIES –Wayne Shorter’s album Atlantis is one of the great records of all time. On tour, the band and I would sing the songs in the van, and Leo Genovese (pianist) suggested playing “Endangered Species” live. There is SO much to discover in Wayne’s composition, and we were saturated for years exploring this piece at gigs. One night, I heard the first lyric “human, danger!” and kept on writing from there. Now I’ve partnered with a conservation association, so the proceeds of this song will go to protecting the lungs of the earth (which are terribly imperiled).

LET HER – This is one of my older songs where I had been playing with different ways of writing contrapuntal lines, and this is one of the first “songs” that seemed to work out those experiments. The story is a combination of many different people I’ve known who are in miserable situations and then complain when they end.

CITY OF ROSES – One of my favorite cities in the world, and my hometown, Portland, Oregon, is nicknamed “City of Roses.” This song attempts to portray the bounty of her treasures, and my fond memories of the people and the land.

SMILE LIKE THAT – This is another kind of relationship song, about one that’s clearly about to end. I’m saying, “Okay, I get it, let’s not beat around the bush, if you’re into this other person, go on ahead.” If someone you want to love doesn’t want to love you, better they move ahead, and you cut your ties and your losses…easier sung than done.

JAZZ AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT SOUL – I first heard this on The Modern Sound of Betty Carter, and it became my theme song. With the love I have for Betty, the love I have for this song, and the way it speaks so pointedly and simply to my philosophy of our music, I couldn’t not record it. With the help of Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington and the American Music Program directed by Thara Memory, our intention was to musically create a big, funky neighborhood in which to fly the banner of this song and unfurl its meaning.

source: Esperanza Spalding's Website

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fareed Zakaria: Health Insurance is for Everyone

Fareed Zakaria offers a well reasoned case for universal health care, whether it be single payer or with private insurers. One of the strong points of the article is that we will save money and lower costs with universal health care. In my view, it is a no-brainer, plus it high time the U.S. joins the rest of the civilized world in offering universal health care. Why would we not universal health care for everyone, delivered with lowers costs per capita, and as a smaller percentage of our GDP? Only greed, selfishness, ideology and stupidity can stand against the idea. 

you may read the article at CNN.COM:

from the article: 

"When listening to the debate about American health care, I find that many of the most fervent critics of government involvement argue almost entirely from abstract theoretical propositions about free markets. One can and should reason from principles. But one must also reason from reality, from facts on the ground. And the fact is that about 20 foreign countries provide health care for their citizens in some way or other. All of them - including free-market havens like Switzerland and Taiwan - have found that they need to use an insurance or government-sponsored model. All of them provide universal health care at much, much lower costs than we do and with better results...."

Esperanza Spalding Performs Radio Song on David Letterman

Last night Esperanza Spalding was musical guest on the David Letterman show. She turned in a good, tight performance as always. This is the video from last night; the song is Radio Song, one of the tracks from her new CD, Radio Music Society.

Favorite Albums: The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus

When I was a teenager, and was first getting into jazz and playing the bass, I bought as many jazz records of bassists as I could. One of the first ones I stumbled on was a record by Charles Mingus, The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus. I happened upon this gem at Woolworth's, it was in the "cut-out" bin. For those who remember buying vinyl in the seventies, the “cut-out” bin was a treasure chest of albums at a low price. They would often have the corner of the sleeve cut, or a hole in the corner of the sleeve.

The Allmusic review by Heather Phares awarded the album 3 stars stating "These 1954 Period Records sessions include the work of Thad Jones on trumpet and John LaPorta on clarinet and alto sax, combine old and new forms of classical and jazz for a cool jazz sound. Tracks like Minor Intrusion and Thrice Upon a Time demonstrate the synergy between Mingus and his players, and display his compositional skills" (from Wikipedia).  

I certainly do not agree with the Allmusic rating at all, this album is at least a four. The best tracks on the album are What is this Thing Called Love? A somewhat avante-garde version of the Cole Porter classic, and Minor Intrusion, an enigmatic Mingus original.

Other Jazz luminaries such as trumpeter Thad Jones and clarinetist John LaPorta play on this album, which was recorded in December of 1954.

I became an instant Mingus fan after listening to The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus. It is still a personal favorite, even though frankly there are several Mingus albums that are rated more highly than this one. It is still available on CD and for MP3 downloads, although, sometimes it is entitled, What is this Thing Called Love?

Track listing

All compositions by Charles Mingus except as indicated
1."What Is This Thing Called Love?" (Cole Porter) - 8:14
2."Minor Intrusion" - 10:23
3."Stormy Weather" (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) - 3:21
4."Four Hands" (John LaPorta, Mingus) - 8:59
5."Thrice Upon a Theme" - 6:47
6."The Spur of the Moment" (LaPorta) - 8:43

Recorded in New York in December 1954

Charles Mingus - bass, piano (track 4)
John LaPorta - clarinet, alto saxophone
Thad Jones (credited on original issue as "Oliver King") - trumpet (tracks 1-3 & 6)
Teo Macero - tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Jackson Wiley - cello (tracks 1-3)
Clem DeRosa - drums, tamborine

Official web site: Charles Mingus

purchase links:

Youtube Playlist for The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pope Shenouda of Egypt: Memory Eternal!

Yesterday, the Christian Church lost a great leader. Pope Shenouda, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, fell asleep in the Lord. His sure hand guided the Egyptian Christians the last several decades through much affliction and persecution. May his memory be eternal!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Giving to the Poor is Giving to God

He that hath mercy on the poor, lendeth to the Lord: and he will repay him. - Proverbs 19.17

He that sheweth mercy, lendeth to his neighbour: and he that is stronger in hand, keepeth the commandments. Lend to thy neighbour in the time of his need, and pay thou thy neighbour again in due time. Reap thy word, and deal faithfully with him: and thou shalt always find that which is necessary for thee...But yet towards the poor be thou more hearty, and delay not to shew him mercy. Help the poor because of the commandment: and send him not away empty handed because of his poverty. Lose thy money for thy brother and thy friend: and hide it not under a stone to be lost. Place thy treasure in the commandments of the most High, and it shall bring thee more profit than gold. Shut up alms in the heart of the poor, and it shall obtain help for thee against all evil.  - Sirach 29.1-3, 11-15.

But yet that which remaineth, give alms; and behold, all things are clean unto you...Sell what you possess and give alms. Make to yourselves bags which grow not old, a treasure in heaven which faileth not: where no thief approacheth, nor moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. - Jesus, in Luke 11.41; 12.33-34

Friday, March 9, 2012

Favorite Albums: The Milestone Jazz Stars in Concert- Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, and McCoy Tyner

In 1978, Milestone Records sponsored an all-star tour of three of their biggest artists- Sonny Rollins on saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, and Ron Carter on bass. Indeed, these are three of the greatest jazz artists of all time. Each one is a symbol for the instrument they play.

The brilliance of that tour is captured on the magnificent album, The Milestone Jazz Stars in Concert. Originally when the album came out in 1978, it was a double vinyl album, and I remember my copy having great sound. It can be downloaded now, or purchased on a single CD. Sometimes on the internet, it will simply be called, “In Concert” by Sonny Rollins.

Run, don’t walk, to buy this album. The performances are dazzling. The opening track, The Cutting Edge, is a tour de force. Ron Carter’s bass solo on the track is spell-binding. I embedded the YouTube video of the song below.

I remember back in the 70’s trying to convince my heavy metal friend that this is cool music, that the musicians on this record were amazing, and that their playing was more awesome than the rockers we listened to. But in my basement bedroom, my friend was impervious to my persuasion or the compelling music emanating from my turntable. His head was filled with Ted Nugent and Black Sabbath, and he had no interest in learning about jazz at that time. I too, was a rocker, and my wall was plastered with rock stars. But I became hooked for life on jazz as a teenager, and this album was one of the seminal recordings of my youth.

You may purchase The Milestone Jazz Stars in Concert here.

Click on the YouTube link below to hear the cool track, The Cutting Edge:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Favorite Albums: Anita Baker – Rapture

In 1986, Anita Baker released the best R&B album of the 1980's, Rapture. It is a beautiful, magnificent album. It is one of my favorite R&B albums of all time. It has given me hours of listening pleasure. I prefer to listen to it on vinyl. Rapture is lush, soulful album, sung beautifully by Baker; it is the epitome of R&B music, with a definite jazz tinge to it. It is a great album to make love to.

Baker was born in 1958, in Toledo, Ohio, and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She joined an R&B band in the in 1975, called Chapter 8. They released one album and 1979, had one modest hit single, but were dropped from their small label. Later, Baker released a solo album, The Songstress, which sold modestly well at 400,000 units. During this time, Baker had a day job as a legal secretary.

However, the Elektra label gave her a recording deal, and she had a huge hit album in 1986 with Rapture. The album won two Grammy Awards, and spawned several hit singles, including the sublime top 10 single, Sweet Love, which also kicks off the album. It is lovely romantic R&B ballad, and Baker sings in a lovely, soulful voice.Nearly all the tracks on the album were released as singles, and the album went on to sell six million copies.

The album launched Baker into stardom, and she followed it up with three more highly successful multi-Platinum albums, Giving You the Best You Got in 1988, Compositions in 1990, and The Rhythm of Love in 1994. Baker won four straight Grammy Awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance from 1987-1990.

After 1994, Baker spent several years out of the public eye, in order to devote herself to family life. She returned in 2004 with a studio albums, and there have been a few live and greatest hits albums. She recorded an album for EMI in 2010, but it has not been released yet.

I hope we will see more of the this talented vocalist. Her place in music history is firmly established with her great work in the 1980's and 1990's, beginning with Rapture.

Here is the track list for Rapture:

  1. "Sweet Love" (Anita Baker, Louis A. Johnson, Gary Bias; Copyright Old Brampton Road Music-Jobete Music) – 4:26
  2. "You Bring Me Joy" (David Lasley; Copyright Almo Music Corp.) – 4:24
  3. "Caught Up in the Rapture" (Garry Glenn, Dianne Quander; Copyright WB Music Corp.-Silver Sun Music-DQ Music) – 5:07
  4. "Been So Long" (Baker; Copyright Baker's Tunes) – 5:07
  5. "Mystery" (Rod Temperton; Copyright RodSongs & Almo Music Corp.) – 4:56
  6. "No One in the World" (Ken Hirsch, Marti Sharron; Copyright ATV Music & Welbeck Music) – 4:10 *
  7. "Same Ole Love" (Marilyn Mcleod, Darryl K. Roberts; Copyright Jobete Music) – 4:05
  8. "Watch Your Step" (Baker; Copyright Baker's Tunes) – 4:54
Here are links for purchasing Rapture:

It is also available on iTunes. 

Below is my YouTube play list for the album, which features both a great live performance of Sweet Love, as well as the official video.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

God has no case to make against us

"Silence is the language of God, and the only language deep enough to absorb all the contradictions and failures that we are holding against ourselves. God loves us silently because God has no case to make against us." - Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Favorite Albums: Electric Guitarist by John McLaughlin (1978)

One of my favorite albums from the 1970's is Electric Guitarist by John McLaughlin, released on CBS records in 1978. The album is the epitome of Jazz/Rock fusion music. It is pure jazz in the structure of the songs, with changing time signatures and improvisation; it is rock in its electric sound and impact.

Joining McLaughlin for this album is a Who's Who of 1970's Jazz/rock stars, including Keyboardist Chick Corea, drummers Billy Cobham, Tony Williams, and Jack DeJohnette, bassists Stanley Clarke,  Jack Bruce, and Alphonso Johnson, guitarist Carlos Santana, saxophonist David Sanborn, and others.

John McLaughlin at this stage of his career was the preeminent guitarist in the music world, playing with an extremely high level of virtuosity.  McLaughlin was an established band leader with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He was also a great innovator for jazz, the electric guitar, and music in general.

This album displays all of these gifts and talents of John McLaughlin. One thing that is unfortunate about modern music is that CD releases contain a lot of filler since the CD can fit almost 80 minutes of music on it. John McLaughlin expresses more on this 38 minute LP than a lot of artists say in a career.

Being a bassist myself, two of my favorite songs on the album feature two of my favorite bassists, Stanley Clarke on the track, “Did you hear the voices that you left behind?” and Jack Bruce on “Are you the one? Are you the one?”, a Coltrane tribute.

Clarke's solo on upright bass is typical of his playing, in that it has the fluidity and lyricism one associates with the electric fretless bass guitar. Jack Bruce soloing on the electric fretless bass provides a choppy, funky bass solo.

The song, “Phenomenon: Compulsion” features just McLaughlin on electric guitar, and Billy Cobham on drums.  It is a powerful, musical rush.

McLaughlin closes the set with a soulful, solo electric guitar ballad, “My Foolish Heart.”

If one wanted to use one LP to show 1970's Jazz-Rock fusion music at its best, John McLaughlin's Electric Guitarist would be a great choice.

Track Listing

1. New York on My Mind
2. Friendship  
3. Every Tear from Every Eye  
4. Do You Hear the Voices You Left Behind?
5. Are You the One? Are You the One?
6. Phenomenon: Compulsion
7. My Foolish Heart

Below is my YouTube play list of five of the songs from the album:

For Lent: Healing from God

I love this passage of the Bible, which sees salvation as a healing. That is what salvation is, a healing; not a rescue from an angry god. 

For Christians, the line "the third day we shall arise and live before him," is a reference to the resurrection of Christ, and our resurrection in him. 


Let us go and return to the Lord our God;
for he has grasped and will heal us;
He will smite and plug the wound with lint.

After two days he will heal us.
In the third day we shall arise
and live before him.

Let us know, let us pursue
that we might know the Lord.
We shall find him ready as the daybreak.
And he will come to us
as the early and later rain to the earth.

- Hosea 6.1-3, Orthodox Study Bible.