Tag: Ray Charles

MUSIC REVIEW: Prince Stuns at Emotional ‘Piano and a Microphone’ Solo Show

Prince; Live Review; Paisley Park
Prince played his first ever solo piano show at his Paisley Park compound on January 21. (Photo: NPG Records)

Prince approached the piano, a purple baby grand. He landed a single chord, resonant and bassy. He stood. He walked away.

As we could have guessed, Prince’s first-ever (first ever?) solo show last night at Paisley Park, his home compound in suburban Minnesota, was no simple, straightforward affair. The 57-year-old funk-pop wizard approached the performance as a challenge, an opportunity to prove that he could deliver a full Prince show without much of anything we expect from a full Prince show: No powerhouse band, no impossibly lithe dancing, no masterful guitar fireworks. Just, as the show’s official title put it, “Piano & a Microphone.” And a lot of Prince. Maybe more Prince than he’s ever shared before.

Prince framed the evening as an autobiographical struggle, the story of how he mastered the piano and emerged from the shadow of his father, a jazz pianist. The set moved chronologically (with a few exceptions) through the first decade of Prince’s career, including at least one song from each of his first 10 albums. Familiar melodies splintered into virtuosic cascades for a dreamlike effect, as though Prince was remembering the birth of his career in real time.

The night began with some introductory psychodrama. Elegantly casual in his mauve pajamas, that enormous afro dominating his slim frame, Prince took a stage decorated sparsely with candles, befogged by a smoke machine, his personal glyph looming from behind, illuminated by kaleidoscopic patterns. His voice was doused in heavy echo as he expressed the dreams and doubts of a child who sneaks down without permission to play his father’s piano. “I can’t play piano like my dad. How does dad do that?” he wondered, while attempting improvisations that, at one point, suggested Thelonious Monk teaching himself the theme to Batman.

Then it got sexy. Prince’s fingers were everywhere during “Baby,” a ballad from his 1978 debut For You that served as foreplay to the full-body workouts “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Dirty Mind” before the ecstatic squeals of “Do Me, Baby” provided the climax. Multiple climaxes, even.

Prince moved between songs fluidly. He introduced the moving ballad “Free” by celebrating “the freedom to say no,” later interrupting the song to wipe a tear and briefly mourn David Bowie: “I only met him once. He was nice to me. He seemed like he was nice to everybody.” Before we knew it, he was in the middle of a gorgeous take on a longtime Prince favorite, Joni Mitchell‘s “A Case of You,” which transformed into a bluesy vamp that Prince used as a lesson in musicology. “The space between the notes — that’s the good part,” he said. “How long the space is — that’s how funky it is or how funky it ain’t.” And just like that, he was was moaning the spiritual lament “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

The intimate setting was ideal for falsetto-wrenched ballads like “Sometimes It Snows in April” and “The Breakdown,” one of a handful of newer songs inserted into the set. But Prince never forgot that the piano is a rhythm instrument. If the old-time boogie-woogie masters didn’t need drums to rock a party, well, neither did Prince. He remade “Paisley Park” as a bluesy, gutbucket romp, and his pumping left hand recalled Ray Charles, a debt he made clear when he ripped into the soul legend’s “Unchain My Heart,” a song he recalled playing with his father.

“I thought I would never be able to play like my dad,” he said. “And he never missed an opportunity to remind me of it.” But Prince’s playing belied his modesty. His florid right-hand runs had a little of the theatricality of Liberace in them, but with more tasteful jazz inflections as well. Paying tribute to his past collaborators Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, he credited Lisa with introducing him to the complex chording of jazzman Bill Evans then played the harpsichord part she wrote for “Raspberry Beret.” “That’s the whole song, right?”

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United Negro College Fund Announces New Michael Jackson and Ray Charles Scholarships

michael-jacksonr-ray-charles
Musical legends Michael Jackson and Ray Charles (photo via eurweb.com)

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is putting the icon status of Michael Jackson and Ray Charles towards a great cause with the establishment of two new scholarship programs.

A press release reveals the Michael Jackson scholarship will provide financial assistance to communication arts and social science students attending a UNCF college/university during the upcoming academic year.

To qualify for the scholarship, high school seniors must plan on enrolling at a UNCF member school in the fall. Proof of acceptance at the UNCF college/university must be submitted. Depending on the financial need of the student as verified by the attending University or College, the scholarship will provide an award totaling up $5,000.

In addition to the Michael Jackson scholarship, the release detailed the intent of the Ray Charles Endowed Scholarship, which is set up to help African-American students with high academic promise that have significant financial need.

Endowment scholarships, which are renewable for up to one year, will be awarded to students who meet the recommended eligibility criteria. Criteria includes students being an African-American junior enrolled full-time at a UNCF member HBCU and having a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. In addition, students must have a demonstrated unmet financial need that is verified by their college or university.

For more details on the Michael Jackson UNCF Scholarship, click here. More information on the Ray Charles Endowment Scholarship can be found here.

article by Qwest7 via eurweb.com