Friday, October 19, 2012

Attallah Shabbaz, Malcolm X's Daughter, Gives Inspiring Talk in St. Paul

Attallah Shabbaz

Last night, Thursday, October 18th 2012, I had the pleasure of hearing Attallah Shabbaz speak, and had the honor of meeting her at Metropolitan State University, in St. Paul Minnesota. Attallah Shabbaz is one of Malcolm X's daughters.

In an event sponsored by the university's Muslim Student Organization, Attallah Shabbaz gave an inspiring talk on spirituality, self-esteem, and community.

Attallah Shabbaz is an elegant, beautiful woman and warmly engages her audience. She presented her father, Malcolm X as a compassionate person, who had love and concern for all people. She explained that he his views were broadened before his trip to Mecca, and that his nationalistic phase was only one chapter of his life.

During the Q&A, I asked her how she felt about various parties and groups trying to claim her father, and how her father might view our current context were he alive. She said he had his own opinions, but she felt he could not be claimed by anyone's agenda or party. In answering this question, she made a clever statement which the audience enjoyed very much: “if you are pissed off, don't put my father's face on your flag, put your own face!”

Ms. Shabbaz's talk was not just about her father, or even primarily about her father. She invoked his memory fondly, yes, and provided some wonderful quotes from Malcolm X. She is her own person, and it is her message in her own voice that she presented to the audience.

I was very moved by her view of God. She said at one point “Allah is always with you, loves you unconditionally. Tell your self good things about yourself, God won't accuse you of being vain.” I got a little misty-eyed as she spoke these words. As a Christian, I felt this Muslim woman was speaking in the Holy Spirit. One of my friends who came late to the talk said he could feel the wonderful atmosphere in the auditorium as he entered it.

Shabbaz proclaimed herself an “Ecumenist,” who rejoiced “that God gave us many ways to reach him,” a reference to the various religious traditions of humankind.

Shabbaz presented her fathers slogan, “by any means necessary,” in a fresh light. It is not about violence but about doing whatever it takes to overcome the obstacle's in one's life, or, for a community. One of quotes she gave from her father was "The greatest tool of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." Her point is that we can imprison ourselves with our limited thinking, by accepting the narrative of the oppressor, or our own narrative of powerlessness. Her talk reminded me that Malcolm X's message was about empowerment.

Although part of her message was one of self-esteemed, based on God's presence in our lives, it was not an individualistic message. She exhorted us that we when we vote, “Make sure your vote is more than just about you.”

As she closed her talk, she said that one of the things her father said, is that we need to be concerned that others around have what they need.

Attallah Shabbaz's talk was a beautiful, inspiring one. I was glad and blessed to be at this event.

- Lance
I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Shabbaz after the presentation

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Esperanza!

Happy Birthday, Esperanza! Esperanza Spalding, the beautiful, talented young bassist, vocalist, songwriter, bandleader, is 28 today! Here is Esperanza performing one of my favorite songs from her Radio Music Society CD, Smile Like That.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Does Having a Black President Signal the End of Racism?

The proposition that because we have an African-American president, we no longer have racism, is ridiculous. That might mean at best that the majority of people are not racist. If anything, the presence of a Black man in the White House has given occasion for some ugly if subtle racist attitudes to be expressed. When the unemployment rate is no longer double that for Blacks as it is for whites in some areas, when the prison population is no longer 2/3 people of color, when 39 percent of Black, non-Hispanic children, and 35 percent of Hispanic children are no longer living in poverty, among many other things, than, I might accept that racism is becoming a thing of the past.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour Revisited - Arena - BBC Documentary - 2012 - HD

Here is a documentary on the making of the Magical Mystery Tour, called The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour Revisited - Arena - BBC Documentary - 2012 - HD

This documentary features interviews with Paul and Ringo. The Magical Mystery Tour is a fun movie, and the American LP is one of my favorite Beatle Albums.

This documentary is broadcast on the occasion of the new release of the Magical Mystery Tour movie. You may purchase the deluxe version of the Magical Mystery Tour, which includes the DVD, vinyl EP, and 60 page book. 

A project largely conceived by Paul, the Beatles went out to the country side in a painted bus, and filmed the movie, which largely consisted of made-up adventures, psychedelic fantasy and dream sequences, and great videos of Beatle songs. The movie at the time was savaged by the critics, but since has become a Beatle fan favorite. As Paul McCartney once said, "What other movie can you watch and see John Lennon singing 'I am the Walrus?'"

In England, the six movie songs were released as a double 45RPM Extend Play (EP); in the United States, a full album was released, which in addition to the movie songs contained both sides of their last three non-album singles. It was a number one LP in the United States, and the Britain eventually put out the album version later, in 1978.

As an album, it is one of the Beatle's finest, but then again, all the Beatle albums are great. Such Beatle classics as the title track, I am the Walrus, and number #1 singles Hello Goodbye,  Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, and All You Need is Love appear on the album. The Magical Mystery Tour is a personal favorite of mine.

I had the enormous pleasure of watching Paul McCartney perform Hello Goodbye, Penny Lane, and Magical Mystery Tour in concert.

Here is the song list:

Magical Mystery Tour 
Fool on the Hill 
Blue Jay Way
Your Mother Should Know 
I Am the Walrus 
Hello Goodbye 
Strawberry Fields Forever
Penny Lane
Baby You're a Rich Man
All You Need is Love

Below I have both my Youtube play list for both the entire movie of the Magical Mystery Tour, and for the videos of all 11 songs on the album. Enjoy!

The Magical Mystery Tour Movie 

The Magical Mystery Tour album. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LIVE VIDEO & Concert Review: Esperanza Spalding Wows Minneapolis with Performance of the Radio Music Society

Sunday night (09/30/2012) I saw Esperanza Spalding & the Radio Music Society perform at the State Theater in Minneapolis. I received my ticket as a gift, which was very nice to begin with!

The concert was great, what a terrific performance. Esperanza Spalding is a superb bassist on both electric and acoustic bass, and has a lovely, strong soprano voice. It was reported that Esperanza's friend and mentor Prince was in attendance, and that his Purpleness was "blown away," by the concert, as was the rest of the audience.

As a prop, a giant cut out of a boom box is on stage. The lights of the radio dial come on and we hear the sound of someone tuning up and down the dial, with sounds of music and static. Soon, Esperanza's band, dubbed the Radio Music Society for this tour, begins playing some funky instrumental music. A few moments later Esperanza herself steps out, dancing and playing her bass, and she introduces the band members at the beginning of show. They perform a Thad Jones tune, Us.

Esperanza proceeded to perform all the songs from the Radio Music Society album.

The first album song the band launches into after that is one of my personal favorites from the Radio Music Society album, Hold On, a big band -sounding song about obsessive love. Esperanza is in great form on upright bass.

Next she launches into her brilliant rendition of Stevie Wonder's I Can't Help It, which shows off Esperanza's bouncy bass guitar work. It is her best bass guitar song both on the CD and in this concert, but her electric bass playing was superb through out the show. She never ceases to amaze bass players by her ability to sing and play complex bass lines at the same time. Watching her it appears she left no note on her bass untouched throughout the night, she knows her away around the neck of her fretless Fender Jazz Bass.

Her virtuosity on upright bass was displayed on Smile Like That, a song about a relationship coming to an end, and on Vague Suspicions, a song about the war on terror and drone bombing. Although Esperanza has always been able to play fast and fluid, drawing comparisons to Charles Mingus, she seems to me that she has picked up some speed since the last two times I have seen her. She was playing some very Stanley-Clarke-ish type solos on her acoustic bass.

One of the most moving moments of the evening was the performance of Black Gold, Esperanza's song about African-American heritage and identity. She has said she wrote the song with the idea that mothers might sing it to their children. In her introduction for the song, she engaged in a banter with vocalist Chris Turner and she spoke of how African-Americans must find their affirmation within themselves, and not from the world. This garnered some "Amens" and "that's right!" from the audience. I dare say that we were on the brink of "having church" at that point of the show, the spirit was very positive and uplifting. Black Gold has a gospel feel to it, with gospel-tinged organ playing and vocal harmonies. This is the song that I believe will be associated with Esperanza 30 and 40 years from now. I keep searching Youtube to see if a church choir has covered it yet. Chris Turner trade lines with Esperanza on the song, and a local reviewer compared his voice to Stevie Wonder.
Esperanza's stage about 13 minutes before the show
Esperanza shared a strong social justice message with audience this night. She let her audience know of her advocacy of the Innocence Project, which tries to free people unjustly imprisoned. Her sad but beautiful song, Land of the Free, is about Cornelius Dupree, an innocent man who spent 30 years in prison. This song also has a gospel feel. Esperanza has a brilliant lyric in the song about Dupree being "Five fifths of a man, but the judge only seeing three," an unmistakable reference to the U.S. Constitution, which in its original form held black people as being only three-fifths human beings.

Endangered Species is a Wayne Shorter song, originally an instrumental, for which Esperanza wrote lyrics about the precarious nature of human beings and other life on the earth in light of the environmental crisis. This is yet another song in which Esperanza turns in a great bass guitar performance.

The last song of the regular set was the theme song for the Radio Music Society project, Radio Song. As the band began playing the song, Esperanza taught the audience the chorus, and she encouraged the audience to sing throughout the song. It was her "Paul McCartney/Hey Jude" moment, and a fitting close to the set.

For an encore, Esperanza and back up singer and trumpet-player Leala Cyr dueted on InĂștil Paisagem, accompanied only by Esperanza's upright bass.

Esperanza is an excellent performer. Not only is she an extremely talented vocalist and bass player, but has a compelling stage presence. She talks a lot to the audience and gives often humorous introductions to the songs. One of the natural beauties of the music world, she exudes a sexy wholesomeness, smiling often, raising up her arms for emphasis or to encourage the audience to sing, swinging and dancing gently with her bass back and forth across the stage.

I certainly enjoyed the show, it was one of the most entertaining concerts I have ever been to. If you have a chance, try and catch Esperanza Spalding and the Radio Music Society. You will be in for a treat.

Here are the remaining Tour Dates:

Radio Music Society Tour.

Esperanza signs autographs in the lobby of the State Theater, Minneapolis

After the concert, Esperanza sat at the merchandise table and signed T-shirts, albums, CDs, and posters. I would guess about 100 fans took advantage of her accessibility. Of course, I was one of them (see picture), and I had both my vinyl and CD editions of the Radio Music Society signed. I have had the pleasure of meeting Esperanza three times, and I have never met a celebrity who is more friendly and grateful to her fans as Esperanza Spalding seems to be.

I have my album and CD signed 
Purchase Radio Music Society:
Deluxe Edition with CD/DVD


So far, I have only found 3 videos from the performance on Youtube, and I have them posted here in a playlist:

1) Vague Suspicions
2) Cinnamon Tree
3) InĂștil Paisagem