ChanteSez … Make Dad’s day

10 Jun

You’ve got a few days, but Father’s Day will be here before we know it. I was asked to write a couple of paragraphs about fathers recently, and it was tough to keep it brief considering how much I love and appreciate my dad.

Before we get to that, here’s a rule that applies to dads (and moms).

If “Dad” is his name, capitalize it all the same.

My father’s name is Ronald. That’s a proper noun. My mom’s name is Cynthia. Same deal — since their names are proper nouns, they’re capitalized.

And in the example above, because you’re using “Dad” as his name, it’s capitalized.

Try this: Replace “mom” or “dad” with their real names. If it fits, capitalize it.

I went to my dad’s house for breakfast — his pancakes are the best!

My mom and I talk at least once a week — when I can get her to answer her phone!

If there’s one thing Dad believes in, it is learning.

I thought I was good at putting together a quick dinner, but Mom is the master chef.

Recap: Jose James sings Billie Holiday at Variety Playhouse

11 Apr
Jose James at Variety Playhouse April 2015

Photo by Tiffany Powell

Growing up listening to Billie Holiday can have quite an impact on a man. Nearly 35 years after first hearing her unmistakeable voice, and in the year that would have seen Holiday’s 100th birthday, Jose James brought a few of her classics to the Variety Playhouse on Saturday, April 4.

The strength of the show was James’ ability to channel and connect with Holiday without being encumbered by the responsibility of trying to sound just like her. That, and his tendency to incorporate elements of his more present-day techniques to brighten — and familiarize — the experience.

As a set up for James’ new album, Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday, the performance likely secured his fandom among frequent followers. A little less sure is its ability to convert those more interested in Lady Day than her contemporaries.

And that’s perfectly OK. As James’ ode to the unequivocal jazz vocalist, it’s necessarily personal, and at the start, unpredictable.

While the mixed crowd of jazz devotees, newbies, young, old and various races likely signed up to see James, they were treated to a strong opening set by Detroit drummer Brandon Williams. Of the guest vocalists, the strongest by far was Anesha Birchett, who’s featured on Williams’ new album, XII. She had just enough depth in her vocals to make them soulful, but her skillful, varied stylings made it all the way jazz.

As entertaining as Williams and the crew were, I found myself impatient for James. Before long, host Jamal Ahmad of the Dangerfeel Newbies was proclaiming the honor of breaking James on his WCLK-FM show, “The S.O.U.L. of Jazz,” seven years ago.

Out steps James, all cool, in a soft brown leather jacket, a darker hat, and even darker shades.

The first song on the album was also the first of the set: “Morning Heartache.” He drew every bit of sorrowful resignation on the “can’t shake you no how” phrasing, an indication of things to come. It was all ears on the beautifully ribboned keys solo by Leo Genovese, a contrast to James’ repeated “morning” riff, a la a record scratch from your favorite turntabilist.

“I’ve been looking forward to this night for a long time,” James said after the song. “I promised I would come back … and I’m back.”

He mentioned how both Holiday and Frank Sinatra would have celebrated their centennial in 2015, and with “Body and Soul” next, he said with a smile, “We had a Sinatra ending on that one.”

A tune Holiday wrote, “Fine and Mellow,” followed, with a fine bass solo by Solomon Dorsey, and more “do, do, do” riffing by James that went on a tad too long.

“Tenderly,” James’ “favorite standard of all time,” came next, and behind it, “Lover Man,” with elements of Mingus and Al Green. Like the best hip-hop samples, it worked seamlessly.

“They talk about jazz like it’s real academic and safe. I’m pretty sure Miles Davis did more drugs than any hip-hop artist,” he said, to chuckles and applause from the crowd, before referencing “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” a standard that Holiday recorded. “If that’s not hip-hop, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Moments later, James fans are treated to a familiar track from his 2013 No Beginning, No End album, “Come to My Door,” segueing into the Al Green classic “Simply Beautiful” and its “I’d expect a whole lot of love out of you” challenge. From there, he and the band smooth into a first-fime-for-them cover of D’Angelo’s “One Mo’ Gin,” and then “Red Clay” by Jack Wilson — familiar to ATCQ fans via “Sucka Nigga.”

James’ hip-hop influence becomes tactile with a freestyle, telling listeners that he’ll never sell his soul to the devil and is on another level.

He anticipates the crowd’s question — “How in the world are we going to get back to Billie Holiday?” — and answers with one of her definitive songs, “God Bless the Child.”

Jose James Variety Playhouse April 2015 Strange Fruit encore

For the encore, James returns to the stage alone and without his jacket, signaling the stripped down sounds to come. Using single tracks of his voice and handclaps, looped and layered against the backdrop of his acoustic guitar and perfect spaces of silence, “Strange Fruit” becomes the haunting, heart-wrenching symphony of cotton fields.

In that moment, James’ impact is a worthy addition to Holiday’s legacy. Yesterday we may have had the blues, but by James’ musical might, and by her spirit, it’s a new day.

So many reasons to celebrate: Mo Audio turns 1

1 Apr Small promo photo

One week ago today, Mo Audio celebrated its first birthday. Our guest was soul and R&B singer Donnie, whose critically acclaimed album The Colored Section broke the mold for what modern soul should sound like.

Donnie’s an amazing artist. And he’s just one of the amazing artists we’ve had the pleasure of talking to on our show over the past year.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with my co-hosts, Carlton Hargro and Larmarrous Shirley. We had a podcast together years ago when Carlton and I were colleagues at Creative Loafing. Here’s a throwback shot from one of our sessions. We used to record at Harlem Bar, now BQE Lounge, off Edgewood Avenue.

Carlton-Chante AudioFloss

It’s really something how things come full circle. Now, instead of being underwritten by our local newsweekly, Carlton and Larmarrous have Slo Mo, a publication dedicated to all things soul music, to support our weekly broadcast.

I frequent Edgewood Avenue — including what I think will be a fun summer with DJ Tabone‘s Kool School Sundays at BQE.

Then there’s the connection with Jabari Graham, with whom I first crossed paths via Art Beats & Lyrics. Plus, he was friends with Dubelyoo, and we had North Carolina in common.

J’s the reason we have our show now, being the founder of AB+L Radio. And AB+L Radio was recently awarded a Best of Atlanta Award by Creative Loafing.

I am truly blessed to have such talented, striving, inspiring visionaries in my life. They make my life substantial. They make me feel like I’m a part of something special. Because they all certainly are. I love you guys. Thank you for everything.

ChanteSez … ArOus yourself

10 Dec

Arous front

“Awaken your senses,” proclaims the flier for ArOus, an event designed to connect Atlanta to a variety of visual art and music — in a sexy way for the inaugural event Friday, Feb. 21, at Spring 4th Center.

With Sky Hy, Madam CJ and Rahbi Raw performing, along with a set from DJ Tabone, the event is off to a solid start. Exhibitions from local artists that play up the sensual theme will stiffen the vibe for sure.

Stay tuned for more details.

Chante Sez … It’s unfair to judge

12 Nov

If we would take the time to judge ourselves — examine ourselves first, that is — we often wouldn’t be judged by others. Of course, when others do judge, it’s unfair.

I try not to judge myself for constantly misspelling judgment. I’m always inclined to add a second “e.”

Here’s my tip on how to avoid “judgement.”

Judgment is wrong; it’s an an error. Since “error” starts with “e,” remember that it’s an error to add one.

Joey Sommerville heats up Suite Jazz Series with Overnight Sensation album release show

2 Nov
Courtesy Joey Sommerville on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joeysommervilletrumpet

Courtesy Joey Sommerville on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joeysommervilletrumpet

The temperature in Atlanta may have dropped, but trumpeter Joey Sommerville kept the Suite Food Lounge hot during the album release party for Overnight Sensation on Thursday, Oct. 30.

With a career spanning more than 20 years, the album’s title is tongue in cheek. “I’ve been doing this for a while,” Sommerville joked after his opening song. “It’s so good to see a room full of people who came to hear your songs,” he said.

Count good observation among Sommerville’s skills. The room was packed with people seated in the main room and the adjacent lounge enjoying dinner and cocktails for the weekly Suite Jazz Series.

The mixed crowd of mature adults and a handful of below-fortysomethings included “King of Strings” violinist Ken Ford and How Big Is Your Dream drummer J. Fly, as well as WCLK-FM morning show host Morris Baxter.

JOEY-SOMMERVILLE-OVERNIGHT-SENSATION-COVER-300x263Sommerville and the band played tunes from the new album, which dropped Oct. 28, and a few selections from previous releases.

Paul Preyer stood in for guitarist Earl Klugh on “Desire,” track No. 2 from the new album, and sax man Ryan Whitehead added some heat to a hip, heavy mashup of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.” Its stealthy bassline made the timeless song thoroughly modern.

After heavy applause and a few fist pumps from the crowd, Sommerville slowed things down with “Rebecca of Birmingham,” an ode to his grandmother and the city she called home.

The bluesy, sweet number is reminiscent of Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” at moments, with something special in the pauses and end notes.

Sommerville popped off his jacket just in time for “Make the Spot Hot,” making his way through the crowd and past a few ladies line dancing to the groove from his 2011 album, The Get Down Club.

“I didn’t plan to get out of hand,” Sommerville said with a knowing smile. The crowd didn’t seem to mind as dancing picked up table side and in the back near his merch table.

Courtesy Joey Sommerville on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joeysommervilletrumpet

Courtesy Joey Sommerville on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joeysommervilletrumpet

After introducing the band — Al Smith on keys, Louis “Styx” Newsom on drums, music director Tres Glibert and Derek Scott both on guitar — the guys played “Forever.” It was first recorded in 1993, but released on Overnight Sensation.

Billy Ocean boogie comes to mind with a lovely bridge and guitar solo. Even though the trumpet is prominent, it blends particularly well in this song.

Like the red cups on each table that signify a real house party, Sommerville and the crew showed the room a real good time. He had the entire crowd responding to his demand to “Put your red cups up!”

While his sing-song rap wasn’t the stuff of true hip-hop MCs, the go-go feel of “Red Cups Up” and its party vibe made it all just fine.

Sommerville’s horn added a perfect accompaniment to a B.B. King blues number. “Look out baby,” goes the chorus, “You might have made your move too soon.” Not so, if the folks who couldn’t stop dancing were any indication, especially one man up front who followed Sommerville’s trumpet note for note, step for step.

“We’re going to take you south of the border now,” Sommerville said before leading into my favorite, “Like You Mean It.” The Latin-styled song that encourages listeners to “shake your hips” is off the 2007 album of the same name, and gets regular rotation on WCLK.

For his encore, the band funked things up with Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Sommerville had a couple of “taking you to church” moments with his vocals, pushing the funk deeper.

Fans of live music can check out the Suite Jazz Series every Thursday. It’s a nice change of pace. Complimentary parking is a plus, as is the decent sound and redesigned space.

Be prepared for spotty service at the bar, but full-on fun with quality musicians. If the show Sommerville and his friends put on is any measure, it’s going to be a long, hot winter.

ChanteSez … Cool it now

22 Oct

With cool weather comes references to temperature.

A common mistake is to say the temperature is getting warmer or — in the case of autumn and winter — cooler.

But think about what’s at play here. It’s the temperature itself, not the weather.

Temperatures only rise or fall when used in this context. A few examples:

My dad would always make me wear a hat when the temperature started to fall.

Folks love it when August hits and the weather gets cooler — but not so much when there’s a big temperature drop in the winter.

Georgia has distinct seasons. When September comes, the days start cool but then the temperature raises to the mid-70s.

Think of it this way: Temps drop, weather does not.

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