Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jazz Performance at Twins Jazz [VIDEO]

Always in a jazzy mood, I thought I'd share a jazz performance I did at Twins Jazz in DC about two years ago.  This was part of the finale performance for a Jazz Vocal Workshop, led by the extraordinary Chris Grasso, I participated in for 8 weeks.  Backed by The Chris Grasso Trio, I sang "When Your Lover Is Gone," "Lush Life," and "Sometimes I'm Happy."

I had a blast participating in the workshop and performing (always).  I look forward to participating in the workshop again some time in the future.  If you're in the DC Metro Area, I highly recommend it.

Related Post:Day 63: Black Music Month - BuddahDesmond

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Influences: Billie Holiday "Lady Day"

I had to be about 11 or 12 when I discovered the the Original Decca Masters Billie Holiday compilation album.  My mother and I were at my grandmother's house for the weekend.  I was on the search for some good music.  For this, I could always depend on my grandmother's collection of cassette tapes, LPs, and CDs.  She had music from the 1930s up to present day.  Around this time I was really digging jazz.  Much to my delight, I came across this Billie Holiday album.  I remember my mouth was agape upon seeing the album cover.  I was floored by Billie Holiday's beauty.  She had to be one of the most stunning women I'd ever seen.  Couldn't say I'd heard (or remembered hearing) much of her music at the time.  So you know I was dying to put the CD in for a spin.  I don't think anything could've prepared me for the experience.

Image courtesy of MTV's website.

The Original Decca Masters album changed my life.  After one listening, my whole perspective about music had changed.  My appreciation and love for music grew exponentially.  As a music fanatic, singer, and lyricist (even then), it widened my interests and expanded my knowledge.  After hearing Billie Holiday's voice I knew why she was considered one of the best vocalists ever.  The timbre of her voice, the way she'd bend notes and sing behind the beat, her sense of rhythm, swing, timing, and phrasing--she had it all (and then some).  In her voice I could hear the influences of her favorite singers, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong and Bessie Smith.  Yet her style was extraordinarily distinct.  From her (and a few other vocalists), I learned how to truly get inside of a song and make it believable.  With Billie Holiday, there was no doubt that she knew what she was singing about it.  She felt it.  And you, as a listener, couldn't help but feel it too.

Image courtesy of the More Than Just Wine blog.

In remembering Billie Holiday and her voice, singer Annie Ross said, "There's a whole life in that voice."  Listen to songs like "Solitude," "You're My Thrill," "Good Bless The Child," "Keeps On Rainin'," "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do," "Lover Man (Where Can He Be)," and "Good Morning Heartache" and that life unveils itself.  In fact, you'll be able to glean something new and different each time you listen to her music.  This is why Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan (amongst others) remain the blueprint for song (of any genre), period.

Image courtesy of A Liberal's Libretto site.

After hearing the Original Decca Masters album, I devoured as much as I could about Billie Holiday.  Books, documentaries, videos, music, you name it.  She was one of the best and I committed myself to learning as much about her as I could.  I thought it sad her passing so early.  But the richness of the legacy she left behind is eternal.  Her influence is limitless, boundless.  Billie Holiday will forever be one of my favorite vocalists.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco's "One Today"

Image courtesy of NPR's website.

Richard Blanco made history on Monday, January 21, 2013 by being the first Latino (Cuban American), openly gay, and youngest inaugural poet.  Blanco, also a Civil Engineer and teacher, got into writing poetry later in life.  In an interview on
the PBS News Hour, Blanco says, "...after I graduated from engineering, I started, as I say, doodling around with poetry, fooling around with poetry, then went to a creative writing course at a community college, at Miami-Dade Community College. And then the one thing led to another. And as they say, the rest is history."
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.
~ Richard Blanco, "One Today" (2013)
Blanco's work is noted for its descriptiveness, beautiful imagery, and its discussion of identity, culture, inclusion, and place in society.  His inaugural poem "One Today," is one of unity and highlights the connection that we Americans share.  Regardless of background, class, religion, sexual orientation, education, race, ethnicity, we're all in this together.  We must not let the often underhanded and divisive tactics of political, social, and religious figures and organizations paint a different picture.  We are one.  And Blanco's "One Today," is a beautiful example of this and the ties that bind us together.

Richard Blanco's works of poetry include: City of a Hundred Fires (1998), Nowhere But Here (2004), Directions to the Beach of the Dead (2005), and Looking for the Gulf Motel (2012).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Weeky Musings on Life, Love, and Politics - Week 8

Greetings all! Here's the latest round of weekly musings:
  1. It's hard having faith in a system that's broken.  Or if not completely broken, a system in need of major rehab.  While there may be people in positions working to fix the system, resistance, backbiting, partisanship, and corruption prevent change from taking shape.  One day... Just maybe one day this won't be the case.

  2. I hope I never get to the point where my personal interests take precedence over all, especially when they are to the detriment of those around me.  Sometimes you need to take a step back and think about the short-term and long-term impact of what you do and the effects it may have on others. 

  3. When only you and those like you are winning, everyone else loses.  We can't win when self-serving and party-serving interests take precedence over the needs and interests of the larger society.  Until we get back to "WE THE PEOPLE," everything will fail.

  4. There's an "unwritten" code or script in life that many of us follow.  Within this code or script lies expectations about the type of life we should live, how and where we get educated, the field of work we go into, who we love/marry, the type of community we live in, etc.  Now there's nothing wrong with following this code/ long as it provides you with the life you truly want.  The big "Oops!" or "WTF!" moment for many of us comes when we realize that following the code/script hasn't fulfilled us (at all).  A gaping, persistent void will figure prominently until we feed our souls what it's been missing and revive the dreams that died on the way to PC, cookie cutter living.

  5. College isn't for everyone.  Marriage isn't for everyone.  Having children or parenting isn't for everyone.  Corporate America isn't for everyone.  Christianity isn't for everyone.  Everything isn't for everybody.  Just because it's working for you doesn't give you the right to force it on to others or expect everyone else to do as you do.  Just live and let be.

  6. Confidence is a light that shines through.  When it's peaking, everyone can see it.  There's a certain assurance and glow about you.  Everyone can see it, feel it when it's dim too.  Oh, the difficulty trying to convince others of anything when you don't have the confidence or belief in yourself. 

  7. You cannot fully embrace/accept the love you need/want or be able to successfully sustain any romantic relationships unless you truly love yourself.  The inability to love yourself makes it virtually impossible to love anyone else (at least in the way they need or deserve to be loved). 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's Not That Serious (from Prevail)

Mind racing,
Can’t seem to concentrate,
Trying to go to sleep.
But worries keep you awake
Night after night
You’d think one would grow tired,
But other people’s problems

Have you ignoring your own desire.
Get a grip—it’s not that serious.

You’re living for everyone else but yourself,

When you should be concerned with you and no one else,
Steadily letting matters of your concern slide.
As each day passes you keep looking for a place to hide.
It must stop—it’s not that serious.

The drama goes wherever you go
Whatever you do, other people’s problems and issues always seem to follow.
You have yet to realize the power you hold.
You won’t say, “Fuck it!”
And “No!” in your eyes is too bold.
If you’re in the line for people pleasing know that it’s career suicide.
When it’s all said and done
And you’ve got a problem,
People are hard to find.
Then you’re screwed—and that’s serious.

There’s nothing wrong with being kind,
But what about your peace of mind?
It’s a sad tale when you can solve everyone else’s problems but your own.
You’ve got to know when to let go,
Because being tired is enough.
Being tired—from other people and their drama—is beyond too much.
Get it together.
Other people and their issues—they’re not that serious.
You and your well-being—now that’s serious.

© 2012 BuddahDesmond 

Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics is available at iUniverse, Amazon (Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle), Barnes & Noble, Book-A-Million (Paperback | Hardcover), and other retailers.    

Related Post:
101 Days Project: Prevail

Monday, January 14, 2013

Jody Watley is Still a Thrill

Image courtesy of the Lucy Who site.
I have always been reinventing myself...I like to challenge myself and keep it interesting. I like evolution. It is part of my journey as an artist. ~ Jody Watley, 2012, More Magazine
I cannot recall when I first heard Jody Watley's music.  But I know that I've been a fan nearly all my life.  There's something about Watley that's always moved and fascinated me.  She's a multi-talented, intelligent, knockout beauty who's always been at the top of her game.  Whether it was dancing on Soul Train, being an original member of Shalamar, or being a solo artist, Watley has always stood out from the rest as a trailblazing, trendsetting phenom in music, video, style, fashion, and dance.  

Image courtesy of Jody Watley's Official Website.

Watley was never one to follow the pack.  She charted a path that has consistently set her apart from her peers and the musical trends of the day.  You can play each of Watley's albums in succession and be astounded by the freshness, uniqueness, passion, and most importantly, the artistic growth.  She gets better with each project.  Easily fusing and moving between the lines of pop, r&b/soul, funk, jazz, dance, and electronica, she continues to defy categorization. 

Image courtesy of Jody Watley's Tumblr.

Watley's art has been fueled by substance, innovation, and evolution, not be record sales.  She's also been involved in every aspect of her career.  I remember being even more inspired by Watley after discovering her fifth studio album Affection (and subsequent albums Saturday Night Experience, Midnight Lounge, and The Makeover) was released on her own label Avitone Recordings (in 1995).  Leaving the major record label system behind, Watley had even greater control over the direction of her career.  

Ever the pioneer, Watley was one of the first artists to (successfully) cross-market music and fashion (via celebrity campaign ads and appearances in several high-profile fashion magazines), the first African American woman (and musician) to release a million-selling video (1990's Dance To Fitness), and the first African American to play Rizzo in the musical Grease on Broadway (in 1995).

The cover of Jody Watley's 1987 self-titled debut solo album.
I’m not a trained dancer, singer nor writer – I do them all from my soul with my own distinct feel and style much like an improvisational jazz musician. There is a joy in dancing no matter the style. I’ve always loved it and always will – watching and doing. ~ Jody Watley, 2012,
There's no denying how dynamic Watley is as a performer.  All of the elementsmusic, style, fashion, and dancecome together in a way that is extraordinarily effortless.  Even from her days on Soul Trainfrom her fashion sense to her dancingshe just had it.  Speaking of her dancing, I have a running joke with friend and author Trent Jackson that Watley's been voguing since 1978 (see Watley doing a waacking freestyle dance).  This joke grew out of my frustration that she (and other artists) didn't (always) seem to get credit for pushing the creative boundaries of music, video, dance, and fashion (as the praise always seemed to go to other artists of the day).  Judging from recent accolades, appearances, and media features, the praise is coming back around.

Image courtesy of the Living Legends Music site.
 With her recent collaboration on French Horn Rebellion's single "Cold Enough," the forthcoming release of "Nightlife" (featuring Gerald Brown, formerly lead singer of Shalamar), the first single from her tenth studio album Chameleon, and appearances on the Soul Train Cruise and the Essence Music Festival, 2013 is destined to be a major year for Jody Watley.  And it should be.  So here's to Jody Watley...still a thrill after all these years!

Jody Watley Albums:  Jody Watley (1987), Larger Than Life (1989), Affairs Of The Heart (1991), Intimacy (1993), Affection (1995), Flower (1998), Saturday Night Experience, Vol. 1 (1999), Midnight Lounge (2001), and The Makeover (2006).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

RIP Jayne Cortez, The Avant-Garde Jazz Poet

Image courtesy of the Jazz Beyond Jazz website.
Jazz isn’t just one type of music, it’s an umbrella that covers the history of black people from African drumming to field hollers and the blues... In the sense that I also try to reflect the fullness of the black experience, I’m very much a jazz poet. ~ Jayne Cortez, 1997, The Weekly Journal
On December 28, 2012, the world lost Jayne Cortez, a masterful, fiery poet, performer, and activist.  Ms. Cortez, who's often referred to as an Avant-Garde or Jazz poet, came to prominence during the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.  Her work is visceral, varied and rich, pulling from jazz, blues, the written tradition,  the African/African-American oral tradition, jazz, blues, and the colloquy of social and political protest.  "Meant for the ear even more than for the eye, her words combine a hurtling immediacy with an incantatory orality," Margalit Fox of The New York Times said when describing her work.  

Collectively, she produced nearly two dozen volumes of poetry and recordings, many of which were recorded with her band the Firespitters.  Some of her volumes of poetry include: Scarifications (1973),  Firespitter (1982), Poetic Magnetic: Poems from Everywhere Drums & Maintain Control (1991), and The Beautiful Book (2007); some of her recordings include: Unsubmissive Blues (1979), There It Is (1982),  Taking the Blues Back Home (1994) and Find Your Own Voice: Poetry and Music, 1982-2003 (2004). She founded the Watts Repertory Theater Company, Bola Press, and co-founded the Organization of Women Writers of Africa (OWWA).  Ms. Cortez was the recipient of the American Book Award, Langston Hughes Award, and International African Festival Award (amongst others).  

Though Jayne Cortez is no longer with us, her authentic style and voice will continue to incite, inspire, teach, and uplift for many generations to come. 

To learn more about Jayne Cortez, please go to her official website and check out her passionate, intense performance from the "Artists On The Cutting Edge" Series in the video below. (Warning:  The beginning of the video contains flashing elements.)

Monday, January 07, 2013

Universal Love

You preserved your heart
The way a doctor would to save a patient's life,
So that it would be mineeternally.
It's an out-of-this-world union
That will sparkle and shine long after we've gone.
Destined for its own place in the universe,
It's totally divine.
We are lovers
In spirit, body, soul, heart, and mind.

© BuddahDesmond

Thursday, January 03, 2013

From 2012 to 2013: Happy New Year!

The new year is here!  And with it comes the chance to start anew.  Time for reflection and introspection.  The opportunity to take inventory, evaluate, and re-evaluate where you are, where you're going, where you'd like to be, and what you need to do to get there.  It's goal-setting time or recognition time for goals you've achieved.

If it didn't work in 2012, don't bring it into 2013.  If it created a lot of drama in 2012, abolish it and look for ways to alleviate/avoid it altogether in 2013.  If you didn't like it or wanted to change it in 2012, 2013 is the best time to get started.  Instead of making resolutions, commit to life or lifestyle changes.  But be realistic.  If you're doing it because it sounds good or because you're seeking approval from others, you probably won't be committed to it beyond the first few weeks or months of the year.  Let it be something meaningful.  Let it be something you truly want to do.  If it's something that benefits the community, environment, or larger societyall the more better.

Looking back on 2012, three of my biggest accomplishments were 1) successfully completing my MBA, 2) my partner and I celebrating our first year of marriage, and 3) publishing my first volume of poetry Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics.  2012 afforded me the opportunity to form deeper bonds with family and friends.  I was able to network, connect, and learn from so many people in various stages of their careers in the arts and other fields.  I was able to devote more time to my passions (the arts, cooking/baking, etc.).  I got back into my fitness regime and stuck with it for most of the year (at least until my academic life took over in the latter months of the year).  While I didn't reach all of my fitness goals in 2012, I will continue on with them in 2013.  Another blessing was hearing the news that my mother, who is a three-time cancer survivor, is 100% cancer free.  How relieved we all were to receive this news.  We hope and pray mom's cancer remission.

There were many struggles in 2012, but I'm not going to harp on them.  I'm leaving them behind but taking the lessons and wisdom forward.  I will be more patient.  Will place more trust in my intuition and the voice within.  I will continue to work to maintain my cool, my calm when situations are heated (approaching these situations with a level-head versus a hot-head is always preferred).  I will give myself more credit and kudos for my accomplishments, skills, talents, and abilities (leaving  self-doubt in the dust).  I will stop forsaking my well-being for the betterment of other things (institutions, organizations) and people (self-neglect doesn't lead to progression or growth).

In 2013 my (general) goals are: 1) looking for, participating in, and/or creating opportunities to promote my work and myself as an artist (and aspiring renaissance man), prayerfully opportunities that will challenge and strengthen me creatively, socially, mentally, and personally, 2) being proactive and taking the necessary steps for optimal health, 3) doing more to give back to the community, 4) spending more time with family, friends, and godchildren, 5) building stronger connections with fans, followers, peers, and those I admire in the arts, and 6) and hopefully taking a real vacation.

Before closing out, I'd like to take this moment to say from the basement floor of my heart THANK YOU to the readers/followers/supporters/fans for your ongoing love, praise, constructive criticism, and support.  For this, I am extremely humbled, grateful, and blessed.

I wish you and your families an amazing 2013!  Let it be filled with love, joy, harmony, good health, and prosperity!

Peace, Love, and Many Blessings,