Category: Jazz/Blues/Folk

Lena Horne, Legendary Performer and Civil Rights Activist, Honored with U.S. Forever Stamp

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The U.S. Postal Service today celebrates the life and legacy of Lena Horne as the 41st honoree in the Black Heritage stamp series during a first-day-of-issue ceremony at Peter Norton Symphony Space.

“Today, we honor the 70-year career of a true American legend,” said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman, who dedicated the stamp. “With this Forever stamp, the Postal Service celebrates a woman who used her platform as a renowned entertainer to become a prolific voice for civil rights advancement and gender equality.”

Joining Stroman to unveil the stamp were Gail Lumet Buckley, an author and Horne’s daughter; Christian Steiner, photographer; and Amy Niles, president and chief executive officer, WBGO Radio.

The stamp art features a photograph of Lena Horne taken by Christian Steiner in the 1980s. Kristen Monthei colorized the original black-and-white photo using a royal blue for the dress, a color Horne frequently wore. Monthei also added a background reminiscent of Horne’s Stormy Weather album, with a few clouds to add texture and to subtly evoke the album title. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp. Anyone can share the news of the stamp using the hashtags #LenaHorneForever and #BlackHeritageStamps.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 30, 1917, Horne was a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color and used her fame to inspire Americans as a dedicated activist for civil rights.

Horne began her career as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club and later became a featured vocalist with touring orchestras. The rampant racial discrimination she encountered from audiences, hotel and venue managers and others was so disconcerting that she stopped touring, and in 1941, she made her move to Hollywood. A year later, she signed a contract with MGM — one of the first long-term contracts with a major Hollywood studio — with the stipulation that she would never be asked to take stereotypical roles then available to black actors. Her most famous movie roles were in Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, both released in 1943.

During World War II, Horne entertained at camps for black servicemen, and after the war worked on behalf of Japanese Americans who were facing discriminatory housing policies. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in pressing for anti-lynching legislation. In the 1960s, Horne continued her high-profile work for civil rights, performing at rallies in the South, supporting the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participating in the 1963 March on Washington.

Horne’s awards and honors include a special Tony Award for her one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music; three Grammy Awards; the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Actors Equity Paul Robeson Award. She was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 1984, and her name is among those on the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

Customers may purchase the Lena Horne Forever stamp at The Postal Store at usps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Office facilities nationwide. A variety of stamps and collectibles also are available at ebay.com/stamps.

“Girls Trip, “Get Out,” “Black-ish,” Garner Multiple Wins at 49th NAACP Image Awards

The cast and crew of “black-ish” accepts award for outstanding comedy series at the 49th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, in Pasadena, Calif. Pictured from left are Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Anderson, Jeff Mecham, Jenifer Lewis, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kenya Barris, Yara Shahidi, Miles Brown, Peter Mackenzie, Marsai Martin, and Marcus Scribner (Credit: Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The winners of the 49th NAACP Image Awards were announced last night during the live broadcast from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium which aired on TV One. The two-hour live special was hosted by Anthony Anderson and opened with a powerful moment in support of #TIMESUP featuring Angela Robinson, Kerry Washington, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Laverne Cox, Lena Waithe and Tracee Ellis Ross.

Ava DuVernay was honored as the NAACP Entertainer of the Year. NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell presented the NAACP Chairman’s Award to William Lucy, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson presented the NAACP President’s Award to Danny Glover and several members of the Memphis Sanitation “I Am A Man” Workers were also in attendance – they were presented with the NAACP Vanguard Award earlier in the week during a press conference at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.

Gap Band leader Charlie Wilson was honored with the Music Makes a Difference honor which is bestowed upon an individual within the recording industry who has achieved worthwhile success and inspiration for civic engagement, criminal justice, education, economic opportunity, or criminal justice.

“Girls Trip” triumphed as the winner in the Outstanding Motion Picture category, and picked up a second award for its breakout star Tiffany Haddish in the Supporting Actress category.

Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele‘s horror opus “Get Out” received three awards, including Best Actor honors for lead Daniel Kaluuya, and Best Director and Best Writing wins for Peele. “Black-ish” took home the award for best television series, while host Anderson won Best Actor, Tracee Ellis Ross repeated as Best Actress and Marsai Martin won for Best Supporting Actress in a TV series.

In recording, Bruno Mars took home awards for Outstanding Male Artist, Outstanding Music Video/Visual Album  and Outstanding Song – Traditional for “That’s What I Like.” Kendrick Lamar owned the Outstanding Album, Outstanding Song – Contemporary and Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration categories (the latter with Rihanna).

The winners of the 49th NAACP Image Awards in the non-televised categories were announced during a gala dinner celebration that took place Sunday, January 14, 2018, at the Pasadena Conference Center – the event was hosted by The Real’s Adrienne Houghton, Loni Love, Jeannie Mai and Tamera Mowry-Housley.

The NAACP Image Awards is the premiere multicultural awards show. It celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film, and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors.

For all information and the latest news, please visit the official NAACP Image Awards website at: http://www.naacpimageawards.net.

Below are all of the winners for the 49th NAACP Image Awards:

MOTION PICTURE

Outstanding Motion Picture – “Girls Trip” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture – Jordan Peele – “Get Out” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture – Daniel Kaluuya – “Get Out” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture – Octavia Spencer – “Gifted” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture – Idris Elba – “THOR: Ragnarok” (Marvel Studios)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture – Tiffany Haddish – “Girls Trip” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Independent Motion Picture – “Detroit” (Annapurna Pictures)

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture – Jordan Peele – “Get Out” (Universal Pictures) Continue reading ““Girls Trip, “Get Out,” “Black-ish,” Garner Multiple Wins at 49th NAACP Image Awards”

Music Legend Sonny Rollins Endows “Sonny Scholars” Jazz Ensemble at Oberlin College

Jazz Master Sonny Rollins (photo via knkx.org)

via jbhe.com

Sonny Rollins, the legendary jazz saxophonist, has made a generous contribution to establish the Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble Fund at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.

Beginning in spring 2018, Oberlin College jazz studies majors may audition for the Oberlin Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble. Each student’s candidacy will be considered on the basis of four criteria: an audition for Oberlin’s jazz faculty, evidence of academic achievement, thoughtful response to a question about the place of jazz in the world, and service to humanity.

“Sonny Scholars” must dedicate at least two semesters to performing in the ensemble. They must also complete a winter-term project that embodies Rollins’ spirit of giving.

In explaining the rationale for this aspect of the program, Sonny Rollins said “people are hungry for a reason to live and to be happy. We’re asking these young musicians to look at the big picture, to tap into the universal power of a higher spirit, so they can give people what they need. Giving back to others teaches inner peace and inner spirituality. Everything is going to be open for them if they devote themselves in this way.”

Rollins gift to Oberlin grew out of his friendship with author and musician James McBride, a 1979 graduate of Oberlin College. The gift was made in recognition of the institution’s long legacy of access and social justice advocacy. In particular, Rollins was moved by Oberlin’s place as the first institution of higher learning to adopt a policy to admit students of color and the first to confer degrees to women, and by the contributions of alumni such as Will Marion Cook, a black violinist and composer who graduated in 1888 and who went on to become an important teacher and mentor to Duke Ellington.

Andrea Kalyn, dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, stated “that the legendary Sonny Rollins — an artist of truly extraordinary accomplishment, soulfulness, and character — would entrust Oberlin to steward his legacy is the highest honor, and deeply humbling.”

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2017/11/music-legend-sonny-rollins-endows-a-jazz-ensemble-at-oberlin-college/

Jay Z Leads 2017 Grammy Nominations with Eight, Kendrick Lamar Earns Seven

via Variety.com

Jay Z led the nominations for the 60th Grammy Awards, annouced on Tuesday morning, with eight. He’s followed by Kendrick Lamar, whose “DAMN.” album scored seven; Bruno Mars with six; and Childish Gambino (aka actor Donald Glover), newcomers SZA and Khalid, and producer No I.D. (who worked on “4:44”) with five each.

The rap icon was the only artist to score nods in the top three categories (record, album, and song of the year) for his 13th studio album, “4:44,” while Mars’ “24K Magic,” and Gambino’s “‘Awaken, My Love!’” each landed two noms in the general field.

Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Andra Day announced the nominees in the four general field categories: best new artist, record of the year, song of the year, and album of the year on “CBS This Morning” at 8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT.

The 60th Grammy Awards will air live from New York’s Madison Square Garden Jan. 28 on CBS.

Here is the full list of nominees for the 60th Grammy Awards:

GENERAL FIELD

Record Of The Year:
“Redbone” — Childish Gambino
“Despacito” — Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
“The Story Of O.J.” — Jay-Z
“HUMBLE.” — Kendrick Lamar
“24K Magic” — Bruno Mars

Continue reading “Jay Z Leads 2017 Grammy Nominations with Eight, Kendrick Lamar Earns Seven”

R.I.P. Della Reese, 86, Singer and ‘Touched by an Angel’ Star

Ms. Reese performed in concert in 2001 as part of Detroit 300, a festival celebrating the city’s 300th anniversary. As a singer, she had her first big hit record in 1957, with the romantic ballad “And That Reminds Me.” (Credit: Paul Warner/Associated Press)

by Anita Gates via nytimes.com

Della Reese, the husky-voiced singer and actress who spent almost a decade playing a down-to-earth heavenly messenger on the CBS series “Touched by an Angel” and became an ordained minister in real life, died on Sunday night at her home in Encino, Calif. She was 86.

Her death was confirmed by her manager, Lynda Bensky. She did not specify the cause but said that Ms. Reese had diabetes.

Ms. Reese had been under contract to Jubilee Records for three years when, in 1957, she had her first big hit record, the romantic ballad “And That Reminds Me.”

Named the year’s most promising “girl singer” by Billboard, Variety and Cash Box, she was soon making regular appearances on the leading television variety shows of the day. Her biggest hit was “Don’t You Know” — adapted from “Musetta’s Waltz,” an aria from “La Bohème” — which reached No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart in 1959.

But she became best known as an actress, particularly in the sentimental drama series “Touched by an Angel,” which had its premiere in 1994 and evolved into one of prime time’s top-rated shows. It placed in the Nielsen Top 10 from 1996 to 2000, with an average of more than 20 million weekly viewers at one point.

In the show, Ms. Reese, by then in her 60s, was cast as Tess, a stern but loving supervisor of angels who guided a softhearted and less experienced angel, Monica (Roma Downey), in helping humans at crossroads in their lives. The series told reassuring stories of forgiveness and second chances with mild irreverence. (“You get your little angel butt back to the city,” Tess told Monica in one episode.)

Ms. Reese contended that no career switch was involved. “Every time I sang the blues, I wasn’t blue,” she said in a 2008 interview for the Archive of American Television, alluding to her emotional connections and delivery as a vocalist. “I was already acting.”

Ms. Reese’s religious faith was a major influence in her career. In 1996 she told The Chicago Tribune that she had consulted with God about whether to sign on for “Angel.” “As clearly as I hear you,” she said, “I heard him say: ‘You can do this. I want you to do this, and you can retire in 10 years.’ ”

The series lasted nine years, and she continued to act for another decade after that.

Continue reading “R.I.P. Della Reese, 86, Singer and ‘Touched by an Angel’ Star”

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward Receive 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Grants

2017 MacArthur Fellowship Recipients Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward (Photo collage via blavity.com)

via blavity.com

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s fellowship, better known as the “genius” grant. 24 fellows were chosen, whose professions range immensely across the board. There are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers, and architects.

What they all have in common is that each of the recipients has been selected for having “shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation “as an investment in their potential,” paid out over five years with no strings attached. This year, there were six black recipients of the amazing award:

1. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, painter living in Los Angeles

“Njideka Akunyili Crosby is visualizing the complexities of globalization and transnational identity in works that layer paint, photographic imagery, prints, and collage elements.”

2.  Dawoud Bey, 63, photographer and educator living in Chicago

“Dawoud Bey is using an expansive approach that creates new spaces of engagement within cultural institutions, making them more meaningful to and representative of the communities in which they are situated.” Continue reading “Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward Receive 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Grants”

Grammy Award Winner Esperanza Spalding Joins Harvard’s Department of Music as a Professor

Esperanza Spalding (Photo: Sandrine Lee)

via blavity.com

Esperanza Spalding is at the top of her field. She’s won just about every award a musician can win: four Grammys, a Smithsonian award, an NAACP Image Award, a Frida Kahlo award, a Boston Music Award — we could go on for ten minutes. And now, according to a press release from Harvard University, Spalding is going to teach others how she did it.

The bassist and singer has been appointed the a professor of the practice in the university’s Department of Music. The university’s professors of the practice are individuals “who have a national or international reputation as leaders” and who are “the best in the field.” That certainly sounds like Spalding. The press release refers to the artist as “a national treasure with global resonance” who “stands apart for the intelligence and deep sense of humanity” found in her work.

This won’t be Spalding’s first time in front of students, either. She taught at Boston’s Berklee College of Music from 2005 to 2008, and has instructed many pupils as an artist in residence in the years since. At Harvard, Spalding will lead courses in songwriting, improvisation and performance. The school also promises that Spalding will bring her “commitment to music as a voice for social justice” to the classroom with her.

To read full article, go to: Esperanza Spalding Is Now A Harvard Professor | BLAVITY

Happy 100th, Ella! American Musical Legend Ella Fitzgerald Born on this Day in 1917

Early Hardship Couldn't Muffle Ella Fitzgerald's Joy
Legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald (photo via npr.org)

article by Tom Vitale via npr.org

Ella Fitzgerald, who would have turned 100 today, was one of the most beloved and versatile singers of the 20th century. In a career that spanned six decades, Fitzgerald recorded hundreds of songs, including definitive versions of many standards. Along the way, she influenced generations of singers.

But the first thing that strikes you about Fitzgerald is that voice.

Cécile McLorin Salvant, who won a Grammy last year for Best Jazz Vocal Album, says a combination of qualities made Fitzgerald’s voice unique. “When you hear the tone of her voice — which has kind of a brightness, kind of a breathiness, but it also has this really great depth, and kind of a laser-like, really clear quality to it — it hits you,” she says.

Salvant, 27, says she learned to sing jazz standards by listening to Fitzgerald’s versions.

“I remember being 17 and living in France and feeling really homesick and wanting to go back to Miami, and listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,’ ” Salvant says. “And I would listen to that all day. All day. For, like, weeks. And it felt — it created a home for me.”

Fitzgerald had perfect pitch, impeccable diction and a remarkable sense of rhythm. And it all came naturally to her, as she told the CBC in 1974.  “What I sing is only what I feel,” she said. “I had some lady ask me the other day about music lessons and I never — except for what I had to learn for my half-credit in school — I’ve never given it a thought. I’ve never taken breathing lessons. I had to go for myself, and I guess that’s how I got a style.”

That style was an immediate hit. Fitzgerald was discovered at an amateur contest and began her professional career when she was only 16, singing with the Chick Webb Orchestra at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. When she was 21, she became internationally famous with a hit record based on a nursery rhyme, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”

Tony Bennett says that when he was starting out as a young singer, Ella Fitzgerald was his idol. “She was a complete swinger,” he says. “She just understood the whole art of jazz phrasing.” Continue reading “Happy 100th, Ella! American Musical Legend Ella Fitzgerald Born on this Day in 1917”

Photo of Jazz Legend Ella Fitzgerald Going on Display at National Portrait Gallery Museum in D.C.

via blackamericaweb.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Portrait Gallery is putting up a photograph of American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, often referred to as “The First Lady of Song.”

The portrait is on view beginning Thursday, ahead of the 100th anniversary of Fitzgerald’s birth. Fitzgerald, who died in 1996 at the age of 79, would have celebrated her 100th birthday April 25.

The National Portrait Gallery said in a statement the photograph on display is of Fitzgerald in performance flanked by Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie and Milt Jackson. It was taken around 1974 by William Gottlieb, who learned to use a camera to take pictures to accompany his weekly music column for The Washington Post. It’s the first time the photograph has been displayed at the museum.

It will be on view through May 14.

Source: Photo Of Ella Fitzgerald Going On Display At DC Museum | Black America Web

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