Tag Archives: Jazz

Modern Griot Reviews: #FunkGodJazzMedicine at Weeksville


IMG_3676Our society often focuses more on representation and showing images of oppressed people as proof we have “progressed,” but the other side of true moving forward for people who live in oppressive societies is self-determination, something that often gets ignored for the more superficial representation only politics. Self-determination is the freedom and ability to control your own life, taking full responsibility in making decisions for yourself that will impact your future. That is something often not celebrated or promoted when it comes to those of us who are not at the top; we are expected to remain dependent on the dominant powers.

The recent month-long exhibition at Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, set out to highlight ways black communities in Brooklyn have in the past and today are doing actions of self-determination. Funk, God, Jazz and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn honored the history of the neighborhood of Weeksville in Brooklyn, founded by James Weeks, who bought land in 1838 in that area in order to receive the right to vote and convinced other black people to do the same. New Weeksville executive director Tia Powell Harris listed a few words that represents the history of Weeksville and the projects: empowerment, equity, sustainability, self empowerment and self actualization. Placing four different art and community projects throughout the neighborhood as well as having different conversations focused on the different aspects of the exhibition, Funk, God, Jazz and Medicine revealed interconnections between self-determination, community, politics, art, spirituality and health that often are disregarded in the individualistic mainstream culture.

The four parts of the title were attributed to each project:

Continue reading Modern Griot Reviews: #FunkGodJazzMedicine at Weeksville

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Modern Griots: Rahsaan Roland Kirk


Today is the day I entered into this world and one way I will celebrate is with a tribute post to musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, with whom I share a birthday.

“Y’ know, Music is a beautiful thing.
When I’m reincarnated, I’m gonna come back as a musical note!
That way can’t nobody capture me.
They can use the hell out of me
but ain’t nothin’ too much they can do to me.
They can mess me up. They can play the wrong note.
They can play a C, but they can’t really destroy a C.
All it is, is a tone.
So I’m gonna come back as a note!”
— Rahsaan Roland Kirk

“…Keep searchin’ for your mystery note on the universal piano of life.” — R. R. Kirk

“I can only say that he sounded like a snake charmer from another planet…It was a sound I had never heard in my life, but it was something that was certainly seductive” – Tod Barkan

Rob Jones’ drawing of Kirk

Although another jazz musician, Charles Mingus once said that Kirk was “…what jazz is all about. He’s real,” Kirk’s musical abilities and performances placed him from the realm of the unreal. Imagine someone standing on stage with multiple wind and brass instruments hanging on him and playing up to three of them at the same time, including a wooden flute with his nose. He could also sing or hum while playing the flute. Kirk’s circular breathing was the only thing keeping him from blowing a hole in his head during his continuous one-man band performances.

On top of that, he constantly tinkered with several musical and non-musical wind instruments, even a section of a garden hose dubbed “the black mystery pipes.” Additionally, in his studio recordings he would use tape manipulation and early electronic sounds before they were common. Kirk was so awe-inspiring that even rock legend Jimi Hendrix bowed to him. You could say that he was the jazz version of Inspector Gadget.

File:The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color.jpgThis visionary, who happened to be blind, actually began his experimentation with a dream at sixteen about playing three instruments at once. After the dream, he went to the Gaetz music shop where he was introduced to two old-fashioned saxophones (straight alto saxophone and mangled saxello) from Spanish military bands, which he turned into the stritch and the manzello (“moon zellar”). His discovery led him on a sonic exploration, releasing to the world his inner-visions and inner-sounds. Together with his band, the Vibration Society, he created what he described as “black classical music” until his death in 1977 from a stroke.

His albums, like I Talk With the Spirits and The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color, were filled with symbolism and social and political commentary. For example, the latter album confronted the rising dependency on computers in our society. Through out his career, Kirk kept on top of the current events and would comment on his albums and in his performances. Still to this day, he continues to influence musicians, including those from bands like the Flecktones, Jethro Tull, Sonic Youth and Radiohead. Kirk was influential because of his ability to, as John Stubblefield said, “…hear around corners.”

Read more about his life here.

  Excerpt from documentary in progress, Return of The 5000lb Man

“I Talk With the Spirits”

Moving On the Wires: SHAOLIN JAZZ L!ve in DC


For those in the Washington, DC area today, Shaolin Jazz is doing their first musical performance tonight at the legendary Blues Alley. It is the first DJ-led performance at Blues Alley including DJ 2-Tone Jones, the co-creator of SHAOLIN JAZZ, his fellow band members of Sound of the City and special guest artists.. Their repertoire will consist of tracks from the SHAOLIN JAZZ – The 37th Chamber album. Shaolin Jazz fuses the raps of the Wu-Tang Clan with instrumentals and samples from jazz classics. For more information read below and here.

  • Date: Monday June 25th
  • Time: 8pm and 10pm shows
  • Tickets: $18 – link
  • Location: Blues Alley 1073 Wisconsin Ave NW (in the alley)

Modern Griots: Onyx Ashanti


Onyx Ashanti created a new style called Beat Jazz,” which is all produced on two handheld controllers, iphone and a mouthpiece. This is how he describes his work and himself:

I am what can only be described as a cyborg musician.  in other words, the music I create live, can not be replicated without technology. My music is called “Beatjazz.” It is a mix of sound design, live looping and jazz improvisation. My instrument of choice over the years has been a Yamaha Wind MIDI controller, but now the limitations have started to stunt the growth of this new form, so i designed an instrument that can take it into future.

He is now working on a helmet-mounted controller, which he codenamed Tron.

…An Album By Its Cover: Herbie Hancock


Herbie Hancock is an innovative jazz musicians, but he also knows how to pick great album covers. Also, here is an article placing Hancock in a futurist context.

Thrust (1974), Cover by Robert Springett

Magic Windows (1981), Cover by David Ross

Head Hunters (1973), Cover by Victor Moscoso

The Solid Steel Interview (2002)

Future Shock (1983),  Cover by David Em

Flood (1975), Cover by Nobuyuki Nakanishi

Man-Child (1975), Cover by Dario Campanile

Dis Is Da Drum (1994), Cover by Sanjay Kotari

Crossings (1972), Cover by Robert Springett

Sextant (1972), Cover by Robert Springett

Rewind: “Bridging the Gap”


Nas feat. Olu Dara- Bridging the Gap

I remember seeing this video a few years ago and I remember liking it, but it did not fully connect with me until recently when I started my research on jazz, blues and hip-hop for my senior projects. My appreciation of Nas increased knowing that his father is jazz singer and musician, Olu Dara. Also, the sample of Muddy Water’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” tied the genres together because of the musical idea of the “break” or “stop-time.” My topic for one of my papers (for my jazz class) is comparing the reception of early jazz to the reception of hip-hop and I like how this song clearly connects those genres showing how the old blends with the new.