Great musicians (and often composers) such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Ornette Coleman, Weather Report, Count Basie and Charlie Parker were, and will always be, the real thing. They laid the foundation. They were daring. They had style They were innovators.
Where is innovation today? Certainly not in the boring, so-called “smooth jazz,” which usually is not worthy of being labeled jazz. (Listening to an artist like Kenny G is almost torture for me.)
Even a highly skilled and knowledgeable musician like the great Wynton Marsalis is not really doing anything new. He just plays his trumpet using a foundation others are responsible for. God bless him for playing a key role in keeping a tradition alive, but you do not hear the kind of passion when he plays that you pick up on if you are listening to someone like Miles.
Jazz, sad to say, is on shaky ground.
BEYONCE is having her second solo album, “B’Day,” the follow-up to the enormously successful “Dangerously in Love,” released on her 25th birthday, Sept. 4. Billboard magazine said Beyoncé “may be the most driven and organized 24-year-old in the music business.”
Also being released in September is the new one from Lionel Richie, titled “Coming Home.” To make sure the music has contemporary elements blended with his classic style, the 57-year-old Richie is working with producers such as Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin and Raphael Saadiq.
On the way, too, is LL Cool J’s “Todd Smith, Part 2: Back to Cool.” That’s fine, but it is debatable whether it was wise to hire 50 Cent as executive producer. Let’s hope LL doesn’t lower his standards in the name of “street cred.”
While watching the “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” DVD the other night, I realized for the first time how beautiful Jill Scott is. And what a dazzling smile!
It was gratifying to hear that although his career was damaged by “scandal,” George Michael is moving on. His European tour, his first tour in 15 years, starts Sept. 23, and in three months, 600,000 tickets were sold. People in other countries tend to be less judgmental. “Scandal” sure didn’t stop Vanessa Williams and the public seems to be getting over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” (Which was blown way out of proportion anyway.)
Alone and as part of the Wham! duo, Michael did well on the R&B charts with “One More Try,” “Careless Whisper,” “Father Figure” and the duet with Aretha Franklin, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).”
THE OTHER day, Lonette McKee, the actress/singer from Detroit, crossed my mind. Way back in 1968, she was the second person I ever interviewed (the first was Little Carl Carlton). At the time, McKee, working as “Lonette,” had a local hit record titled “Stop (Don’t Worry About It)” and was a student at St. Martin De Porres High School.
Her first big break was being chosen to be a regular on Jonathan Winters’ television show. Her first movie was “Sparkle,” and after that there were many more films, including “The Cotton Club,” “Malcolm X,” “Jungle Fever,” “Which Way is Up?” and “’Round Midnight,” plus the “Women of Brewster Place” miniseries.
Applause to Bill Withers for refusing to give in to record company pressure. At one point, Columbia wanted him to do a remake of Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto.” I have always liked Presley, but can’t stand that song.
The Isley Brothers have yet another Gold album to add to their collection. “Baby Makin’ Music” has reached the 500,000 mark.
BETCHA DIDN’T KNOW.... that Marvin Gaye was the drummer on the Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman.”
JAMES BROWN MEMORIES: “Please, Please, Please,” “I’ll Go Crazy,” “Out of Sight,” “Ain’t That a Groove,” “Money Won’t Change You,” “Cold Sweat,” “I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me),” “Mother Popcorn,” “Hot Pants,” “Get on the Good Foot,” “The Payback.”
BLESSINGS to Gwen Green, Denise McClung, Morris Martin, Eric Hunter, Betty Stokes, Kevin Keegan, Adrian Stevenson, Charles Rudolph, Aubrey Wright, Rodney Stevenson, Eric Merchant, Bud McQueen and Cynthia French.
WORDS OF THE WEEK, from James Reese: “Do not go down to lower levels under any circumstances. Maintain class. And you might inspire someone.”
Let the music play!
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