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With the final days of winter creeping to a close, Jazz Standard ushers in spring with sounds of Kendrick Scott Oracle. The quintet is comprised of Mike Moreno on guitar, John Ellis on sax, Matt Penman on bass, Taylor Eigsti on piano and Kendrick Scott on drums. The two sets featured selections his 2013 CD titled Conviction, released on his World Culture Music label. The first set was extremely melodic providing soothing, danceable grooves that one might hear at Club Shelter on Sunday in the early afternoon. The second set was up-tempo, lively and was propelled by Scott’s driving percussion. Although some of the music performed was composed by other members in Oracle, all of it showcased the superb backbeat of master drummer Kendrick Scott. Ancients looked to oracles to predict the future, music in so many ways show where we are and where we are heading. With Kendrick Scott Oracle the prediction is passionate playing equals good music.
Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project, released in 2014, is the latest offering by premiere bassist Rufus Reid, but there was nothing quiet about The Big Band Sound of Rufus Reid as they played selections from this Grammy nominated work. Quiet Pride is an homage to the work of Black graphic artist, sculptor and activist Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012). The titles of the six piece suite are all titles of works created by Catlett and Reid’s compositions and arrangements serve to be beautiful accompaniments to what are already visually stunning pieces of art.
At Jazz Standard Rufus Reid’s big band spilled off the stage and into audience. Along with Reid the band included Steve Allee tickling the piano, Vic Juris strumming the guitar, Chris Beck’s pounding the drums, Charenee Wade’ vocal styling and a reed and horn section that included 15 musicians. Conductor Dennis Mackrel stood in front of the performers to make sure that each of them was on point. And “on point” would be a feeble colloquialism to describe the robust, wall of sound that echoed from The Big Band Sound of Rufus Reid.
They started their set with Recognition, followed by Mother and Child, Tapestry in the Sky, Singing Head and Glory. The music was so plush, so luxurious in texture, so rapturous in harmony. Reid’s aural reimagining of Catlett’s work is as soulful and magnificent as the work itself. I was particularly impressed with Charenee Wade; her haunting voice held its own with band and proved that voice is indeed its own instrument. Chris Beck hit the drums like he was midway through a possession. His drum solo was ferocious and had me clapping my hands and stomping my feet.
Artists often inspire other artists. Quiet Pride is sure to spark many imaginations. I thought The Big Band Sound of Rufus Reid was a beautiful ending to February and Black History Month at Jazz Standard. One legend recognizing another with the timeless language of music – doesn’t get any better than that.
Few jazz artists have the legacy of Ravi Coltrane. To say jazz is in his blood is an understatement; he is jazz royalty. His father, John Coltrane, created the quintessential jazz opus with Love Supreme and is actually a saint. His mother, Alice Coltrane, was a jazz pianist, composer, harpist and organist who led her own band and accompanied her husband.
Extending the legacy given to him by his parents, Ravi is an accomplished post-bop saxophonist. Since 1998 he has released six albums as a band leader, the last being Spirit Fiction in 2012 on Blue Note along with dozens of appearances as a sideman on various artists’ albums ranging from Steve Coleman to Flying Lotus. He is also the co-owner of RKM Music.
Although this winter has been one of the harshest in recent history, Coltrane’s appearance at Jazz Standard got February started on a smooth, sublime note. The Ravi Coltrane Quintet, comprised of Coltrane on tenor sax, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Aaron Parks on piano, Bob Hurst on bass and Jeff “Train” Watts on drums, were featured at Jazz Standard from February 3-8. The set included five numbers; the first was Ornette Coleman’s Bird Food. The second was Word Order from Coltrane’s 2000 album From the Round Box. The third was a piece titled Between Lines. The set concluded with For Turiya a piece written for Alice Coltrane and Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners with arrangements by Jeff Watts. The Ravi Coltrane Quintet played the role of shamen. They enchanted us with soothing, intricate layers of melody. Hearing Coltrane live with the accompaniment of Parks, Hurst, Alessi and Watts was magical. Overall it was like a hot toddy on a frosty night – warm, soothing with just the right dose of kick courtesy of Watts’ arrangement of Brilliant Corners. It swung with a bit of a hip hop beat and would make a perfect sample. As for Coltrane, he has successfully carried the legacy of his family all while carving a lane for himself. He has truly earned the moniker “renaissance man.”
Most clubs don’t live up to the illustrious names that their owners bequeath to them. Jazz Standard is the exception, it is the prototype of what jazz spot should be – intimate, comfortable and filled with melody. Located at 116 East 27th Street, any jazz buff can walk down a flight of stairs and treat themselves to a plate of barbeque and night of legendary talent and the best new artisans of jazz.
Since the beginning of mankind, humans have kept records of events. These narratives shape our civilization. People turn to the history books to learn about the past, understand the present and possibly predict the future. But visual art can sometimes render words unnecessary. Such is the case of Ken Kaminski and his paintings that chronicle the events of 911, the recovery period that continues to unfold and indeed the period before September 11, 2001. Through hues of purple, yellow, red, blue, black, white, and through the style of Abstract Expressionism, Ken Kaminski retells a story that is permanently etched in the minds of everyone in this nation.
Last August Kaminski’s 9/11 Paintings were featured at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Edward Williams Gallery. This exhibit offered viewers a pictorial on canvas spanning from the airplanes slicing through perfect blue skies, to the chaos and destruction of the twin towers and ultimately their demise. And like history, the lessons of the past can and sometimes do repeat themselves. With Kaminski the story of his 9/11 work has come back around again and although the plot is slightly altered, the impact is just as potent. On January 31, Kaminski’s Recovery Paintings exhibit opened at Walter Wickiser Gallery. The exhibit is comprised of seven paintings: Baghdad (1991), Wounded Towers (2002), Collapse (2011), Intersection (2011), Intersection 2 (2011) and Ghost Towers (2011). On the crisp white walls of this Chelsea gallery, Kaminski’s paintings and the story they convey take on new life.
The tale begins with Baghdad. Geometric shapes burst from a tawny plain. Waves of red and black anchor the bottom to the painting. In a way these impressions look like oil and blood that has been shed for that oil. Dead center is a bull’s eye. If a history buff was inclined to trace back the events that led to 9/11 one would have to make a stop at Baghdad, in fact, some might argue it was the first ground zero.
Wounded Towers goes straight to the center of that horrible day. As the towers bend, slowly yielding to their fate, bold colors of red, white, blue, yellow, green and black entangle the surface. Between the brushstrokes and paint Kaminski smeared with his fingers, the agony of the fuming towers is consciously and unconsciously evident. While I viewed this painting last year, this time I was able to see a under case “p” resting in the middle. When I saw it I was gobsmacked. Why haven’t I seen it before? P…pain, and why haven’t I ever used that word to describe that day?
Collapse is an overwhelmingly tumultuous piece. You can see the tower being taken asunder in copious shades of blue and black and streaks of yellow and orange and a splash of red. As with Wounded Towers a “p” appears in the center of the painting. It’s dark and sweeps over you like a tidal wave.
Intersection and Intersection 2 return once again, and more directly, to the geometric shapes that are present in Baghdad only these shapes are surrounded by thicker, darker hues. The dense globules of paint reminded me of the soot that covered the surrounding area of Ground Zero or the heavy plumes of smoke that hovered over the smoldering remnants for days. Like its title these works act as a conduit linking what was to what is and the possibly of what might be.
Ghost Towers is a piece with spiritual dimensions. In this work Kaminski pays homage to lives lost on 9/11. In total, all of these works tell a distinct story about history from a very distinct point of view. But chronicling modern events using paint and canvas is only one of the narratives this exhibit tells. The other signifies the title of the exhibit itself, Recovery Paintings. Although Kaminski has fused sociopolitical themes into his work previously, the paintings that were influenced by the events of 9/11 were his therapy – a way to reconcile the horror and enormity of a moment in time that continues to affect us. Indeed his recovery has become our recovery and as we continue to look back on 9/11 while trying to navigate our present and future, Kaminski gives a starting point that can be used in our healing as we continue to record and create history.
“No matter what…it is with God. He is gracious and merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly – a love supreme.” – John Coltrane. On December 9, 1964 the John Coltrane Quartet, consisting of John Coltrane on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums visited the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs to record one of the most influential, brilliant concept albums ever recorded. That album was A Love Supreme.
A Love Supreme was recorded in a single session and is considered Coltrane’s most seminal work. It is poetic, a sermon and a testimony translated into a magnificent aural feast that inspires the most rapturous emotions about God, spirituality and enlightenment. To listen to A Love Supreme can be inspiring and life changing; it’s the type of work most artists strive to achieve, not matter the medium, but are lucky if they get remotely close to. Coltrane died almost three years after this recording at the age of 40. He never got to witness how this opus impacted the music world, but I feel safe in saying that Coltrane’s autobiography and legacy was summed up in this piece. For me it was the musical equivalent to the “Big Bang Theory” – a melodic explosion that created an alternate universe where I was able to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the world in which our bodies reside. In other words, A Love Supreme was an introduction to the metaphysical plane here on Earth.
It has been 50 years since Coltrane and company recorded A Love Supreme in Englewood, New Jersey, and its relevance is just as potent today as it was back in the 1960s. In recognition of this important contribution to jazz and American music, Jazz Standard enlisted saxophone virtuoso Azar Lawrence to celebrate the creation and recording of this masterpiece. The Azar Lawrence Quartet includes Benito Gonzalez on piano, Billy Hart on drums and Reggie Workman, who worked with Coltrane, on bass. The celebration was over two nights, December 9 and 10, and was a fitting tribute to this piece. Coltrane once said, “God breathes through us so completely…so gently we hardly feel it… yet, it is our everything.” It’s evident that the most high was present during the recording of A Love Supreme and the spirit of Coltrane was at Jazz Standard when the Azar Lawrence Quartet performed selections from this work. These men breathed passion into a work that is already filled with emotion. They were awe-inspiring. I fell deeper in love with this work, if it’s possible to do so. They played the house down and it was one of the best tributes I have been privileged to witness with my own eyes. The vibrations could be felt in every corner of the room. I believe we all left feeling connected. Thank you John Coltrane for creating a work that will last as long as human history exists. And thank you to Jazz Standard and the Azar Lawrence Quartet for allowing us to rejoice in a work and an artist that used his abilities to uplift humankind.
Written by Afrika Brown, F.A.M.E NYC Editor and Founder
Tears etch scars down my cheeks
Fresh blood, new death each week
Black bodies and Blue justice gone viral
New day but its HIStory we rival
We scream no justice, no peace
We create footsteps in the streets
Covering the prints of elders before
But what really lies at the core
Is it my melanin?
The place I live in
The coiled roots of my dome
Or the fact that this land was never my home
We contribute to the prosperity of red, white and blue
But Uncle Sam don’t give a damn ‘bout folks with my hue
Occupy Wall Street, Hands Up –Don’t Shoot
And while we “die-in” stores, corporations still get loot
Weren’t we sick and tired with Fannie Lou Hamer
Technologies advance with frozen minds, it don’t get no stranger
Are we the problem or the solution?
The cure or the pollution
Maybe we are everything you see
Cause this land made for you and me
Is a whore born out of hypocrisy
A blind lady holding up scales
The bitch is deaf too and dead men tell no tales
Seventeen watching Rodney King
Twenty –two years, new video, same sting
Can you see the ring I’m trying to paint?
Full circle of blood smeared and stained
With the crimson of Mike Brown, Sean Bell, Trayvon
Amadou, Anthony Baez… do I have to go on?
No, I don’t need to go any farther
Cause the tombstones go past Eric Garner
Unarmed man blasted in a project stairwell
And still you don’t think Jim Crow ain’t alive and well
Dead black men just pictures on your TV
Not too different from black men swinging on trees
They called them strange fruit
KKK, zealous pigs, identical boot
Bearing down our larynx
Shouting NEXT GENERATION…NEXT
So I can’t trust the boys in blue
Or the boys in blue
And red bandannas who
Fit the criminal profile
But wait…we all fit the profile
Of being descendants of the three-fifths lifestyle
Cause when these laws were being made
My great-grandparents were slaves
For a country made for you and me
It’s been slow in spreading equality
And while the twentieth century is written about in books
The new millennium carries the shadow of a familiar look
And while CNN tries to discover who really is the foe
I say it’s just the ghost of SAMO
This year Sejong Soloists had two very important milestones to celebrate, 2014 marked their 20th anniversary and the 70th birthday for artistic director Hyo Kang. On October 28, Sejong Soloists took the stage of Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center for their annual benefit concert. Emmy award-winning journalist Paula Zahn returned for her 12th season as host for the event and joined the string orchestra on stage playing cello as they performed, “Serenade Humoristique a l’ espangnole.”
The Sejong Soloists is the brainchild of Kang conceiving the idea of a conductor-less string orchestra. In 1994, Kang invited 11 young, gifted musicians from across the globe, all of whom were attending Julliard School, in order to develop and mentor the newly formed ensemble. Kang himself was a violin faculty member at Julliard at the time and through his mentorship, the young string players and many others, who have taken part in the ensemble during the past two decades, have been able to forge relationships with composers, become rising stars themselves and have entertained hundreds with their sublime musicality and bowing showmanship.
During the gala concert Sejong Soloists performed works from Bach, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, as well as J. Hyun, Carlos Franzetti, Hal Leonard and Pablo de Sarasate. On stage Sejong Soloists were joined by violin virtuosos Gil Shaham, Adele Anthony, Yura Lee, David Chan, Catherine Cho and Chee-Yun to perform various solos throughout the concert, each adding another wonderful layer of depth and fullness to the overall performance. Those who were in attendance witnessed a spectacular that was as stunning to the eyes as it was to the ears. The physicality of the performers truly demonstrated the passion that was coming through their instruments. If this was an Olympic competition, Sejong Soloists would receive nothing but 10s across the board. Technically they exhibited a tonality that was rich with various levels of sound. It was amazing to hear how the sound completely filled the stage and the hall itself. At no point did the music seem sparse; it flowed from the stage in waves and felt larger than the ensemble that had gathered on stage. The achievement of Sejong Soloists’ big sound can only be attributed to the guidance of Hang as well as their enormous talent. This string orchestra is certainly one of the most enjoyable musical experiences I’ve had in a while.
Sejong Soloists is a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization. The annual gala concert provides an opportunity for lovers and neophytes of classical music to experience the next luminaries of this genre as well as to honor the tireless effort of those who assist in growing this exceptional artistic organization. To learn more about Sejong Soloists or to make a donation, please visit, http://www.sejongsoloists.org/.
Nothing can warm up a cool autumn night in NYC like a plate of barbeque, a glass of wine and the sound of live jazz. With Jazz Standard, you’re guaranteed a night of good food and good music. Located at 116 East 27th Street, Jazz Standard is one the nation’s premier jazz clubs. Each month they offer an array of legendary and new talent in an intimate candlelit setting. This month they started off with the Terence Blanchard Quintet. In my book Blanchard’s music is the secret ingredient that takes Spike Lee’s films to another level. Blanchard’s horn can also be heard in the 2001 movie Original Sin.
From October 1-5 the Terence Blanchard Quintet enraptured patrons of Jazz Standard with selections off his latest album Magnetic as well as other selections composed by members of the quintet and other pieces from past albums. The quintet is comprised of virtuoso Blanchard on the trumpet, veteran Brice Winston on saxophone and upcoming stars Joshua Crumbly on bass, Fabian Almazan on piano and Justin Brown on drums. I was privileged to be in the audience for Blanchard’s last two sets on Sunday. Both sets were as electrifying as the name of Blanchard’s latest album starting off with an energetic, toe tapping piece, then following up with a more down tempo, melodic number and ending the set on a beautiful, robust note (pun intended).
Along with the Terence Blanchard Quintet, Jazz Standard’s features for October include Steve Wilson Quintet, James Carter’s “Django Unchained,” and Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble. Every Monday belongs to the music of Charles Mingus. Billed “Mingus Monday,” the regular series presents the genius innovations that made Charles Mingus one of jazz most prolific bassists and composers. It doesn’t matter whether your jazz exposure has been Kenny G or if you’re lifetime member to WBGO, you’ll be thoroughly entertained at Jazz Standard. The mix of artists proves why jazz is one of the last true art forms to come out of America and why this music must be preserved and continued for future generations.
To learn more about Jazz Standard, click www.jazzstandard.com.
If you’re a fan of Sex and the City’s fab four, you’re going to love this. One of the oldest slot machine makers in the world, IGT, developed a game that carries with it the commercial license of HBO’s hit romantic comedy. Fans of the show will feel at home playing it, as they will find a lot of recognizable slot machine reel symbols that are actually based from the characters, setting, and theme of Sex and the City.
The Sex and the City slot machine is a colossal success at the Resorts World Casino in Queens. An article by New York Mag, stated that some of the guests even came all the way from Manhattan when they learned that Sex and the City slot machines were being offered by Resorts World.
“I came just for this game,” said Janis Savit, a jewelry designer that the New York Mag interviewed for their Sex and the City slot machine feature. “It was more fun than doing work.”
Perhaps the success of slot machines can be attributed to how they change along with the times. No longer the traditional coin-op and lever machine, these slots have become the money-spinners of casinos thanks to their high-definition graphics, surround sound entertainment, and progressive jackpot features. According to data, the slot machine business is so successful that not only is it a $160 billion industry, but companies that offer it online are also doing very well. Cryptologic,the operator of the first online casino brand in 1996 InterCasino, is still in operation and has recently optimized their games to HTML5 in order to make their titles playable on many gaming platforms. In the U.S., the online gaming market is predicted to be valued at around $73 million by 2015.
Sex and City is the epitome of a modern slot machine. Apart from the 5-reel interface, the game offers bonus rounds and huge jackpots to players who are patient enough to hit them.
The bonus features of the game also carry with them the identity of the show that millions of Americans have come to love. For example, when players hit the “Shoe Closet” feature they will be able to see stylish shoes that the Fab Four wore at some point in the show. Another bonus feature of the game is called “Simply Fabulous” and features Charlotte wearing an engagement ring. In this game, players need to select four engagement ring boxes that would reward them credits in the end.
Click here to learn more about the Sex and the City slot machine game.
One of my favorite childhood fables was the story of Henny Penny. What always stuck with me was the repeated use of the phrase, “The sky is falling.” It was the first time I was ever confronted with a tale that dealt with hysteria. How could I had known that one day I would feel driven to scream those exact words, but when I saw the twin towers ablaze and the mayhem that was unfolding in real time as we helplessly watch on TV, I felt like that manic chicken wrought with panic and fear. September 11, 2001 is a mental scar I’ll always carry with me.
As intense as the memories are of that day, I can scarcely remember any color with the exception being the perfect blue sky that offered the delusion that nothing that terrible could befall us. What I remember most are the feelings that coursed through me at rates so fast I could barely record them, terror firmly placing a grip around my neck, anxiety tapping Morse code up and down my arms, disorientation mushrooming in my brain and grief taking possession of my heart. I returned home from my job, where we had to evacuate because of a bomb threat, turned on my TV and laid down on my bed to hear the sounds of faint whistles from dying firemen. I felt absolutely defeated.
The tragedy of 9/11 left this country reeling and sent us all on our own journeys as we tried to reconcile what happened. Ken Kaminski’s journey took him to the canvas creating a series of work that spans well over a decade. Using the template of abstract expressionists like Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Emerson Woefler, Kaminski has attempted to record the events and emotions of that day as well as the recovery period that continues to shape us. His efforts also allow those who are too young to remember 9/11 the ability to witness the emotion of that day.
FAMERS I am here to report that his endeavors are wildly successful. I had the pleasure of viewing a few of Kaminski’s 9/11 paintings at the Edward Williams Gallery, located at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Hackensack campus. The exhibit includes eight selected works that brilliantly convey the events of that day brightly expressed in various hues. The exhibit begins with Blue Sky Day – triptych. This three panel painting brings you face to face with speed of these flying bombs and the majestic sky that it corrupted. With each panel the viewer sees the countdown of the planes getting closer and closer until it hits making its bloody and destructive impact.
911 The Moment It Happened is an eerie mix of color. The space surrounding The World Center no longer is colored in blue like the atmosphere painted in Blue Sky Day, instead the blue is muddled with streaks of different colors showing the chaos that followed the impact of the first plane, represented in an explosion of oranges and reds bursting from the side of the tower. Streams of black cover one of the towers like a foreshadowing of despair to come.
Blindsided shows the line of fire going straight into one of the towers then blasting out of the other side. Crippled from the blow, the tower bends and the pain is obvious. All that is missing is the scream, but if you remember the sound of the planes hitting the towers, then this painting will ensure that the awful roar of the plane echoes in your ears. Blindsided is an acute observation of a drive-by.
Twins! is a stoic, almost haunting, vision of The World Trade Center towers before 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001. They were proud and victorious, a symbol of might and power. They represented everything that was great about The Big Apple. In Kaminski’s painting they appeared alive and vibrant again instead of frozen as they are in photographs. The yellow background also contributes to the energy of the piece. It makes you long for the nostalgia of what used to be. If this painting were a song, it would be called The Way We Were.
Wounded Towers is a kaleidoscope of disorder. The colors vividly capture the confusion permeating the area as people scrambled for safety and the bent, smoldering towers desperately tried to remain the symbols of glory that they once were, a last valiant effort before they ultimately disintegrated into dust.
Collapse is engulfed in a blending of hues that bring chills to the spine. The voices of those who were lost don’t just whisper, they shriek. It shows the true potential of visual art. There are no words necessary, this painting is one of the most telling portraits of pain and suffering that I’ve ever saw. If someone wanted to understand the mood of the country when the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, all they would have to do is view this painting.
Considering this year will mark the 13th anniversary of 9/11, I believe Kaminski’s exhibit couldn’t visit the New York metropolitan area at a better time. It allows another way for us to remember and venerate a day that will forever be a part of our history. Kaminski’s work carries with it a raw, emotional ambiance. It pulls you in. No matter how hard the visuals may be to look at, Kaminski’s work burst past your pupils and forces you to deal with whatever memories or residual feelings you may have buried. For as much as Kaminski’s work is steeped in tragedy, it is also immersed in the resilience of the city of New York and its people. Yes, the sky did fall, but we didn’t get mired in the pain. We stood atop the ashes; we rebuilt and honored those we lost. The 9/11 paintings are not only powerful and healing; they are a testament that when an artist creates from his or her soul the work that is generated is timeless.
To learn more about Ken Kaminski and view more of his work check out, http://www.kenkaminski.com/. Kaminski’s 9/11 Paintings will be on display at the Edward Williams Gallery, located at 150 Kotte Place, Hackensack NJ, until 9/26/14. Gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Photos and Video: F.A.M.E NYC Editor