FEATURE: Rev. Nathaniel Dixon Preaches the Gospel, Jazz Riffs and All

article by Corey Kilgannon via nytimes.com

While a soulful organist welcomed church congregants last Sunday, the Rev. Nathaniel Dixon stood in his office in a natty pinstriped suit, looking more like a hip jazz musician about to hit the bandstand than a pastor preparing to take the pulpit.His office, in St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in the Marble Hill section of Manhattan, bore signs of both Jesus and jazz. Its walls had framed photographs of Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, and religious literature shared space with saxophones, keyboards and guitars.

After pulling on his white pastor’s robe, Mr. Dixon grabbed a box of saxophone reeds and his microphone.“ Edmar, let’s bring that tenor down, man,” he said to his assistant, Edmar Flores, who carried Mr. Dixon’s tenor saxophone to the sanctuary. As the service heated up, with his band backing him, Mr. Dixon picked up his horn and played from the pulpit.“My Lord, my God — you are my savior,” he sang, his voice swelling up to the church’s majestic rafters. Then he took up his saxophone.

The pastor’s playing style was spare and insistent, reminiscent of one of John Coltrane’s spiritual songs. “People who aren’t used to seeing a preacher playing the saxophone are surprised,” he said. “And when they see I can actually play, they’re more surprised.” As a young jazz musician, Mr. Dixon was seasoned in Harlem clubs, and played with the likes of the guitarist George Benson, the saxophonist Sam Rivers, the pianist Kenny Kirkland and the drummer Chico Hamilton.

Back then, he played bebop. Today, it is mostly GoJa, his name for a blend of gospel and jazz that swings with a spiritually uplifting message.Mr. Dixon said he tried to match one of his songs to his sermon every Sunday. Last Sunday, it was his composition “My Lord, My God,” a lyrical ode that recalls the spiritual style of the saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. The tune helped illustrate a point he was making about the Apostle Thomas’s reaction when called upon by Jesus.“I like Jesus because he calls you out,” Mr. Dixon said, before describing Thomas’s recognition of Jesus as his “eternal God.”“Somebody ought to clap right there,” he told the spare congregation, which included older women in ornate hats and ushers in white outfits.Applause went up and seemed to mingle with the morning sunlight filtering through the stained glass windows.

During the song, Mr. Dixon pointed to members of the band, directing each to perform a solo, then adding through the microphone, “Give the drummer some.”He told the congregation he wrote “My Lord, My God” while sitting in the church alone, “just me and the Lord.”“I like to doodle on the piano,” he said. “That’s where you get a chance to hear God speaking to you.”Mr. Dixon said he grew up in public housing in the Bronx and attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. Struggling to land and keep gigs at jazz clubs in Harlem, like Smalls Paradise and Showman’s, taught him how to fend off other musicians looking to replace him.

“Just because Jesus said to turn the other cheek doesn’t mean you have to let people walk all over you,” he said.The saxophonist Stanley Turrentine taught him to play with no excuses, and the alto player Lou Donaldson helped him choose a better mouthpiece. Connecting with a jazz club audience helped prepare him to connect with a congregation, said Mr. Dixon, who worked nearly 30 years as a teacher and administrator in New York City public schools. At one middle school in the Bronx, he was allowed to keep a cot so he could head there after late-night gigs, he said.

Before retiring from teaching in 2005, he began studying for his ordination as a Methodist minister. He told the congregation on Sunday that he was “happy minding my own business, but God said, ‘I ain’t finished with you yet.’”His latest CD, “Made in New York City: Nat Dixon and Friends,” includes a version of “My Lord, My God,” with vocals by the Rev. Lori Hartman, daughter of the jazz singer Johnny Hartman and herself a pastor, at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Jamaica, Queens.

To read full article, go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/nyregion/preaching-the-gospel-jazz-riffs-and-all.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ur_20170409&nl=nytoday&nlid=58278902&ref=headline&_r=0

Gospel Legend Shirley Caesar’s Viral #UNameItChallenge Leads to New Fame, More Charity

Shirley Caesar (photo via defendernetwork.com)

Shirley Caesar (photo via defendernetwork.com)

article by Bil Carpenter via blackenterprise.com

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of DJ Suede, also known as “the Remix God,” sent him a video clip of traditional gospel music legend Pastor Shirley Caesar’s 2007 remake of her 1988 classic “Hold My Mule.” Suede, an Atlanta-based mixer with an Instagram following of almost 100K,  has said that he’ll remix anything. Since his mom was also a big fan of the 11 time Grammy Award-winning artist, he just remixed the song for fun, posting it online with the tag, “Grandma, what are you cooking for Thanksgiving?”

That intoxicating hip-hop music mashup has now become the viral success story of the season. It was even referenced during this year’s American Music Awards telecast, and pushed “Hold My Mule,” a song recorded long before Billboard started compiling gospel song charts, into the No. 1 spot on this week’s Gospel Streaming Songs chart, thanks to over 800,000 streams within the last week. It’s the song’s first time on any national chart.

In the original song, Caesar tells the story of an 86-year-old man named Shouting John, who joined a church that didn’t believe in dancing and speaking in tongues. John was kicked put out of the church for shouting too loudly during the sermon.

He countered his ouster with a testimony that God had blessed him as a farmer.”Look!” he shouted. “I got beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lambs, rams, hogs, dogs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits … you name it!” (See the 5:45 mark in the YouTube video above.) That line became the foundation for Suede’s “You Name It! ” remix.

“It was just a song,” Suede told Big Tigger, on Atlanta’s V103 radio station. Then, on November 13, R&B star Chris Brown reposted the song with his signature choreography with the hastag #UNameItChallenge on his Instagram page. It has since racked up over 2.3 million views on Brown’s page, motivating thousands of people to share it and to answer the challenge with their own video dance responses.

Initially, some observers wondered if the 78-year-old Caesar, who was a hardliner in her younger days about the separation of gospel and mainstream music, would object to the viral video. However, she’s in nearly full support of this new incarnation of it. Continue reading

In Case You Missed It: Aretha Franklin Takes the “National Anthem” to Church at Detroit Lions Game

Aretha.  National Anthem.  The Piano.  That Voice.  Game Over.

Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, CeCe Winans Pay Tribute to Cicely Tyson at 2015 Kennedy Center Honors (VIDEO)

Cicely Tyson at the Kennedy Center Honors

Cicely Tyson at the Kennedy Center Honors (PHOTO CREDIT: KRIS CONNOR/GETTY IMAGES)

Legendary actress Cicely Tyson was recognized Tuesday night for her contribution to the performing arts at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Tyson, 91, has had a dynamic career—spanning over 60 years, earning her Academy and SAG award nominations and wins from the Primetime Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Awards.

On hand to help celebrate her accomplishments were actors Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Tyler Perry during the 38th annual broadcast.

“Cicely Tyson chose to empower us when we didn’t even know it was possible for us to be empowered,” Perry began his introduction. “For six decades, she has been dilligent in her pursuit to better us all.”

Singer CeCe Winans joined in on the tribute by singing Tyson’s favorite gospel song, “Blessed Assurance.”

Click here to watch the entire show.

article by Lauren Porter via essence.com

Gospel Star Kirk Franklin Apologizes for Homophobia in the Black Church: The Bible Isn’t Written to Attack Gays

Kirk Franklin (photo via bet.com)

The Black church has, for years, been known for not being the biggest supporter of the LGBT community, but today, Kirk Franklin, a respected force in the religious community, has come forward to apologize on their behalf.

“I want to apologize for all of the hurtful and painful things that have been said about people in the church that have been talented and gifted and musical, that we’ve used and we’ve embarrassed… and all this other horrible crap that we’ve done,” he told The Grio. “We have not treated them like people. We’re talking about human beings, men and women that God has created.”

The “I Smile” crooner explained the Bible was not written as an anti-gay work, but rather, the opposite: “The Bible is not a book that’s an attack on gay people,” he said. “It’s not a book written to attack gay people. It is horrible that we have made it where the Bible is a homophobic manual.”

Bringing it all together, Franklin said that he just wants all LGBT-identifying people to know that God is in their corner. “I mean, you want to talk about things that God gets at… pride and jealousy and envy and arrogance,” he said. “But what we also see is God sending his son to save us all, because we were all… straight, gay or whatever, lost and in need of a savior, and there’s room at the cross for all of us.”

article by John Justice via bet.com

TV One to Air All 99 “Unsung” Episodes in 1st-Ever Marathon Leading Up to Landmark 100th Episode Special Hosted by Donnie Simpson

UNSUNG

In a network first, TV One has announced that the network will air all 99 episodes of its entire library of its signature series, “Unsung,” beginning Thanksgiving night, Thursday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. ET.

The “epic” six-day marathon will take over TV One, all day and night, leading up to the 100th episode premiere on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. ET.

Hosted by Donnie Simpson (he inked a multi-year agreement with Radio One – parent company of TV One – earlier this year, bringing the veteran out of retirement), the landmark 100th new episode, “Unsung: Top Ten That Changed The Game,” will feature a countdown of the top 10 most exceptional “Unsung” episodes – impacting profiles that were selected for their representation of the breadth and depth of the series through fan feedback, social engagement and their influence on pop culture.

“Since its conception over seven years ago, ‘Unsung’ has been, hands-down, one of our most loved series,” commented Brad Siegel, TV One’s President. “Music is at the root of black culture and this show continues to celebrate and honor artists vital to those roots and explore stories that continue to shock and amaze our viewers today.”

The marathon and 100th episode will be pushed across TV One’s digital and social landscape with episodic trivia, quizzes and user guesses for the top 10 artists. In addition to the six-day ‘Unsung’ event, themed episodes will air in primetime throughout the marathon, as listed below:

Primetime Episode Themes:

Motown Masters: Thursday, Nov. 26, 8 – 11 p.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – David Ruffin

· 9 p.m. ET – Eddie Kendricks

· 10 p.m. ET – Tammi Terrell

Legendary Icons: Friday, Nov. 27, 8 – 12 a.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – DeBarge

· 9 p.m. ET – Teena Marie

· 10 p.m. ET – Rick James

· 11 p.m. ET – Ike Turner

Disco Infernos: Saturday, Nov. 28, 8 – 12 a.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – Jennifer Holliday

· 9 p.m. ET – Sylvester

· 10 p.m. ET – Nile Rodgers & Chic

· 11 p.m. ET – Rose Royce

R&B Groups: Sunday, Nov. 29, 8 – 12 a.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – H-Town

· 9 p.m. ET – Force MDs

· 10 p.m. ET – Hi-Five

· 11 p.m. ET – DeBarge

Hip Hop Classics: Monday, Nov. 30, 8 – 12 a.m. ET

· 8 p.m. ET – Kid N Play

· 9 p.m. ET – Big Daddy Kane

· 10 p.m. ET – DJ Quik

· 11 p.m. ET – Nate Dogg

article by Tambay A. Obenson via ShadowAndAct

Janet Jackson Receives Dance Tribute and Icon Award at 2015 BET Awards

Janet Jackson (l) receives Ultimate Icon Award; Kendrick Lamar opens the BET Awards (photos via Getty Images)

Janet Jackson (l) receives Ultimate Icon Award; Kendrick Lamar (r) opens the 2015 BET Awards (Photos: Getty Images)

Last night, Black Entertainment Television held its 15th annual BET Awards celebration, honoring musical legends Janet Jackson and Smokey Robinson, as well as radio and television personality Tom Joyner with special tributes and awards.  Jason Derulo, Ciara and Tinashe did a tribute in dance to Jackson before she received her Ultimate Icon Award from longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

DSC_2065

Jidenna and Janelle Monae arrive at BET Awards (Photo: Jerome Dorn)

Performances by Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae, Jidenna, Kendrick LamarTyga and Chris Brown, to name a few, also energized the event, and it was no surprise when Best Acting awards went to deserving “Empire” darlings Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.  To see the full list of winners, read below:

Best New Artist
Sam Smith
Dej Loaf
Fetty Wap
Rae Sremmurd
Tinashe

Best Male Hip-Hop Artist
Kendrick Lamar
J. Cole
Drake
Common
Big Sean
Wale

“Empire” Actor Jussie Smollet (Photo: Jerome Dorn)

Best Female Hip-Hop Artist
Nicki Minaj
Azealia Banks
Tink
Iggy Azalea
Trina
Dej Loaf

Best Actor
Terrence Howard
Anthony Anderson
Idris Elba
Jussie Smollett
Kevin Hart

Best Female R&B/Pop Artist
Beyoncé
Janelle Monáe
Jhené Aiko
Ciara
Rihanna
K. Michelle

SEE ALSO: Janelle Monae and Jidenna Perform ‘Yoga’ and ‘Classic Man’ at 2015 BET Awards

Chris Brown at 2015 BET Awards (Photo credit: Jerome Dorn)

Chris Brown at 2015 BET Awards (Photo: Jerome Dorn)

Best Male R&B/Pop Artist
The Weeknd
John Legend
Trey Songz
Usher
August Alsina
Chris Brown

Best Group
A$AP Mob
Migos
Rae Sremmurd
Rich Gang
Young Money
Jodeci

Continue reading