posted by Kamaad Tauhid @blues2jazzguy
North on South Central Avenue, the jazz and dance musical took their audience in a time machine and harkened it back to 1940s/50s Los Angeles . Back to the days of a thriving economy spurred on by lot of wartime jobs and plenty of vice to loosen up some of that money.. the scene was a stretch of town that took you from Downtown-north all the way south to Watts/Compton on a street named Central Avenue. This wonderful musical was completely the total package in every respect. Oh you had your great Musical numbers , sung by professional singers cast as not only singers but actors as well. The multi-award winning play was directed by multiple award winning Director ,Carla Dupree Clark, in which up to now has amassed 14 nominations and 7 awards, as director,co-writer or co-producer. This includes this 2017 project’s previous run in the mid-2000s which garnered 14 nominations and four awards. Clark is quite the able-bodied director that Hollywood should be calling soon. Supported by the partnership of TPC(Theater Perception Consortium) Mr. Larry Robinson Producer/actor/writer & set designer. as well as Tu’Nook( Barbara Alexander) Producer/Writer and casting director for the company. This crew has consistently nailed hit plays or musicals for the last decade or more.(ARE YOU LISTENING HOLLYWOOD!) First, Clark created a brilliant approach to opening the play by having a truth-teller or “Griot in a Tux” (Robby Royale aka Robert J. Carmack) comes out and tell you what you’re going to see, and how it was done, then, where.. after getting a few “Amen” on relating to the Black Hollywood moniker that was given the “L.A. Jazz scene” going back as far as the 1920s and 30s.
Blacks had their own way of “livin” and swingin” and going to Church… With a rich cast of characters, NOSC, opens in today’s time with an old man sitting at a bus stop, when a young man rolls up in a wheel chair .The story centers around the most famous and “notorious” club in LA history, The Club Alabam.. the West coast equal to New York’s Cotton Club. Glamorous patrons and famous black celebrity entertainers appeared night in and night out.
Clark’s piece offers a glimpse into what it must have been like as a person living during the days of gangsters; Mickey Cohen, or a Bumpy Johnson like figure in a character known as “Black Dot” , a man who owned lots of businesses and kept the small time hoods in line to keep the Cops away from the real gravy. Carla Clark’s production juxtapositioned the great music of the times with strong vocals and acting like lead actress,Windy Barnes . Barnes portrayed owner of the Alabam along with Larry Robinson as husband and wife team, Eloise and L.C. Lomax. A stand out scene from the play ..the Lomaxs are in a pickle, when gangsters are blackmailing them to gain control of their very popular and profitable club. She absolutely nails a song penned by her & co-writer, Andre Washington entitled, “Hold On”.
Barnes, a veteran actress from the musical stage beginning with her California debut in the national touring company’s The Wiz. Eloise character provided glue to the story of the Alabam’s plight and the overall story of the Jazz scene in Black Hollywood. All the greats were present in this magnificent showcase of glamour and Soul. Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, (brilliantly portrayed by jazz vocalist Pat Sligh), along with special guest cameo performance by jazz and pop singer/actress Ms. Eloise Laws… performing a blistering rendition of “Dinah Washington’s What a Difference a Day Makes.
Also appearing on stage was a electrifying performance by Larry Robinson’s portrayal of Little Walter and Dr. Richard Sanders as Muddy Waters on guitar and Robinson “trading fours” back and forth on Harmonica(They Jammed hard). Its rare to get all of the feel of a real life club and the soul and panache to boot. But Clark’s production North on South Central is in my opinion, Fully Copacetic!
Hopefully this play is Broadway bound or at least national tour.. I also must mention the great music playing band, Conducted by pianist Duane Laskey.
As a side-note in remembering Arthur Blythe,. I am reposting a story I did back in 2014 about his need for help..via Gust Tsilis. a former band mate.
posted by Robert J. Carmack @blues2jazzguy
Growing up during the early 1960s people of my generation was soaking up a lot of “STUFF” politically, socially,economically and musically… some of the big guns that were speaking to the progressive Black youth were the artists of the so-called Avant Garde movement like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and by the Late 60s, Black Arthur.. Arthur Blythe was spitting phrases on his alto like an Amiri Baraka poem.. hitting you in the gut with truth and spiritual bliss. His signature bluesy, buttery-vibrato laden tone. Unique band instrumentation was his calling card incorporating a tuba as a lead and comping instrument was not unusual for Blythe. The last time I saw him live was early 2004 at Yoshi’s Jazz house in Oakland California. He has been ill for a while now , including a serious daily battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He…
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By Robert J. Carmack photo from Duane Deterville collection
COMING SOON …BLACK ARTHUR BLYTHE: A Jazz Perspective…April is JAZZ Appreciation Month
As we approach the birthday of a musical genius and hard working family man. I have reprinted my blog for your enjoyment
posted by Robert J. Carmack #@blues2jazzguy
Arranger/producer Charles Stepney is heard on gold and platinum hits by the Dells and Earth, Wind & Fire, as well as Chicago soul acts ranging from Rotary Connection to Terry Callier. While a staff arranger and producer at Chicago-based Chess Records, label artist Ramsey Lewis recorded one of his tunes, “Close Your Eyes and Remember,” on a ’60s Chess LP. Stepney worked with Lewis on his Chess sides and his 1975 gold Columbia album Sun Goddess, which peaked at #12 on Billboard’s Top POP 200 Albums chart in early 1975. Lewis, Elton John, and many of his peers list Charles Stepney as a strong musical influence. Dells group member, Chuck Barksdale met Vibes player Stepney, who headed his own jazz trio. The meeting proved to be pivotal for Charles, who began doing orchestral arrangements on the Dells’…
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San Francisco Bay area jazz pianist, arranger, composer and educator from East Moline(Iowa) widely known as “The Jazz Professor” died Saturday evening at the age of 80 at his home in Oakland, Calif. July 1936 – March 2017
“Professor” Bell mentored and inspired many professional musicians as a college music professor and jazz band director.
He also recorded several jazz albums and worked with the likes of Benny Carter, Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Lou Rawls, Louie Bellson, The Supremes, and Carmen McRae.
He never forgot the Watertown section of East Moline where he grew up being called “Little Bill.” Those who knew him are mourning his loss and treasuring their memories. Those in the East bay and through-out the San Francisco bay area are mourning too, along with family and loved ones.
Mr. Bell did make recordings and composed a “work” for the San Francisco Symphony. He also began a long career as an esteemed educator that included being chairman at the College of Alameda, Music Department, jazz improvisation teacher at the University of California, Berkeley, and Director of the Stanford University Jazz Band.
Prominent students Bell mentored included Sheila Escovedo, better known as Prince’s collaborator Sheila E.; jazz pianists Benny Green and Michael Wolfe also, trumpeter Jon Faddis.
The following text is a reprint of a Hipster Jazz blog review written by Robert J. Carmack ,November 7 2007, Oakland,California.
It was announced by Robert J. Carmack, executive producer and vice-president operations for SFBAAAM, that their first concert was a complete success. the first in a continuing series entitled “Back Street Jazz Series”, was held Sunday, November 4th at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music in downtown Oakland California. The show which featured the musical leadership of Jazz educator/pianist, Dr. Bill Bell. The SRO crowd applauded, yelled and whistled at the tight band assembled by Bell and a trio of sultry vocalists featured on the first set. jumping blues to ballads with a “big band feel” using arrangements by Bell himself, an accomplished arranger/composer. Sunday’s show opened with local favorite Ms. Robin Gregory as she torched the audience with her rendition of Blue Gardenia, followed by a lovely arrangement of Cole Porter’s Night & Day.
Valerie Cooper, a talented up and coming singer in the bay area followed Robin. “It was truly magical” stated Joye Slayton, a visiting jazz fan from Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Bell just simply pointed at certain musicians and they responded with blistering solos and sublime “comping” and coloring. Finishing up the first set was veteran vocalist, Darlene Coleman, a very talented songstress, who just nailed both her songs with polished tenacity and sheer vocal power.
The evening’s host and producer, Robert Carmack introduced a panel of jazz educators and musicians to discuss, “how jazz could further develop their audiences” by including more youth and starting early in the exposure of jazz to young people.
Local jazz radio host, Sonny Buxton, Ms. Anna De Leon, Anna’s of “Jazz Island” night club, Karlton Hester, department head of music at UC Santa Cruz, Multi-instrumentalist Roger Glenn and “Professor” Bell, conductor of first set’s band, also participated.
An assorted menu of food items were served to the hungry crowd, as they purchased dinners and beverages to help raise money for continued jazz programming and to expand the series for the Black Musicians Forum.
The evening was not done, as Carmack gathered the crowd for the start of the second set. It featured an entirely different band and musical director. Mr. Glenn Pearson. Pearson, head of music department at The College of Alameda presented a more “edgy” sounding ensemble with sax, trumpet, bass, drums and piano, the saxophonist Roger Glenn doubling on vibes and flute. OPCM founder, Ms. Angela Wellman(trombonist/educator) was totally elated at the success of the evenings’ joint venture between BMF/SFBAAAM and OPCM. a relationship that is developing into a great marriage quickly .
Many of the patrons spoke volumes of praises as they exited the building for the night. a slogan has been adopted by the two organizations and will be publicize wherever it can.
We Own This! Use It, Feel It, Live It! Next event is slated for Sunday, December 2nd at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, Oakland California.