January 17, 2008. Posted by David Tallacksen.
The Katrina Project tells the story of the infamous hurricane and its affect on the arts and cultural life in New Orleans. Tonight's standing-room-only gallery reception featured a discussion with photographers Douglas L. Adams, Jr. and Norman DeShong. Moderator David Cruz was also joined by panelists Tanisha McHarris, Roland Angland, and Yanada Essex.
The conversation was frank and honest - the kind we should hear more of, since the Crescent City's troubles continue. I encourage you to take a listen.
The hauntingly beautiful gallery continues for just a short time more, so check it out - you can find out more here.
© 2008 WBGO
January 15, 2008
Residents of a Bronx building where hip hop was born say they have a plan to buy it so that they can keep it affordable. Tenants at the building on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue got word last year that the owners wanted to opt out of a state affordable housing program, which could mean big rent increases for them. They want to buy each apartment for a few thousand dollars each.
During the 1970s, DJ Kool Herc spun records at parties in the basement rec. room, ushering in the the hip-hop era. While a lot of today's hip hop annoys me, the stuff that came out of the Bronx in the late 70's and early 80's is forever ingrained in my mind (and soul.)
I was never at one of Herc's basement parties or any of those classic sets in abandoned buildings in the Bronx of the early 1980's. But I can remember my utter amazement at seeing break dancers and rappers for the first time in pre-Disney Times Square (circa 1980.) I'm sure I had no clue at the time that I was witnessing the birth of a nation.
Here's a clip of Herc from a European documentary on the birth of hip hop. Dig it. - David Cruz
© 2008 WBGO
January 14, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Sometimes, everything works in your favor. Earlier this evening, I was God - well, the The Voice of God, actually - during the NEA Jazz Master Awards Concert. I only get this opportunity once a year, so I do my best to take advantage of the moment. When you're posing as a deity in a crowd of real ones, you might as well take control of reality. Michael Bourne refers to this unique ability of customizing your universe as being a Master of Space and Time.
Backstage was a real hang. Old friends Quincy Jones and Jon Hendricks, who share a lot of history, swapped stories about an era of music that I know only about because I read books. They lived it.
But I'm not afraid to talk to anyone. So I struck a note with Hendricks shortly after I took this photo. At 86, he's 53 years my senior. And he has more energy then I do. No more than ten minutes later, I'm in a cab with him. We're meeting Quincy Jones and a couple of friends for dinner. This is really happening...
We gather at Greg Couillard's Spice Room and Chutney Bar, a private dining area in a Yorkville mall. The room seats about 40. It's 11:30pm. The place is ours alone.
Couillard, from one of Canada's oldest families, and David Nganga, a Kenyan, are two of Toronto's finest chefs. They combine dishes with an understanding of spices from every world trade route - Africa, Asia, Indonesia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, India. They brought five courses of their own creation, and each one worked. Giant prawns, short ribs, lamb chops on a bed of chutney, flying fish and callalou pepperpot, Alberta filet mignon with foie gras, a dessert sampler to die for, and biscuits so good that a Southerner like myself had to ask for seconds.
I did not bring a microphone, nor a recorder. This wasn't the right time for such things. Anyway, we were improvising. What I can tell you is that the conversation went many places - New Orleans, Brazil, Toledo [OH], Dubai, Vegas, Miami's South Beach, New York. The stories were many - Q on the road with Lionel Hampton, Sing a Song of Basie, teaching kids about jazz and democracy, you name it.
What fascinated me most about Quincy Jones was his understanding of international politics. He knows the internal dynamics of most nation states, including the United States. He's an international businessman and a humanitarian. He has to know it all.
What you need to know about Quincy is that he is jazz. He never sleeps. He uses his power and wealth to affect social change. He's sending an envoy of New Orleans musicians to the favelas of Rio this year to show the rest of the world that poverty exists, and that it's inhumane. He's followed everywhere he goes (except to tonight's dinner) by a camera crew. They're making video podcasts. You should watch them.
He loves great food. His favorite is gumbo from New Orleans' Dooky Chase Restaurant, run by the Queen of Creole cooking, Leah Chase. Q knows the Chase family. He has the gumbo recipe, and someone cooks it for him when he's nowhere near New Orleans.
Quincy is also opening five clubs this year, in the US and abroad. They're called Q's Jook Joints. Frankly, wherever Quincy Jones is, that's where you'll find the real Q's Jook Joint. I'm glad that for one night, I got to jam there with two masters - Quincy Jones and Jon Hendricks.
When you're a Master of the Universe, even for just one day, you'd better know how to improvise.
© 2008 WBGO
January 8, 2008
It may be time to re-examine the French, y'all.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is in Egypt today and the paps have been on his tail, not because he's the prez of France or because he's doing anything especially earth-shaking. Nowadays, the recently-separated Sarkozy, 52, is attracting attention for the company he's keeping, one lovely and talented former super-model and heiress Carla Bruni.
Bruni, 39, is not only quite beautiful (she's a super-model, for goodness sake.) but the Italian-born French citizen sings pretty good, too. She released an album in 2003 that was actually quite well received. So, I looked her up. Here's some of Carla Bruni on a Euro TV show. It ain't jazz but I could listen to this. - David Cruz
© 2008 WBGO
January 8, 2008
This will be a very busy week in politics. The new state legislature is being sworn in today, with the highest turnover of lawmakers in a generation and with more women than ever in the history of New Jersey. It is before this new group that Governor Jon Corzine will deliver his third annual State of the State address. The big news expected to come out of that speech is the official unveiling of the governor's so-called Asset Monetization plan.
That plan is going to mean major toll increases, 50 percent every four years, (That is not a misprint.) beginning in 2010, on the NJ Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway, not to mention the creation of new tolls on route 440. On the bright side, says Corzine, the state will be able to borrow money against the future toll increases in order to pay down the debt and improve the state's infrastructure.
The plan is going to need approval from the legislature and that is not a given, especially given a new class of lawmakers and what is expected to be a collective gasp from motorists around the state.
We'll be keeping an eye on this all day day, after which we'll turn our attention to New Hampshire. Our interest in New Hampshire is not so much the results there, per se, but what they may mean for New Jersey's Democratic primary in February.
Senator Hillary Clinton has maintained a huge lead in New Jersey, but observers believe that if Senator Barack Obama wins New Hampshire big, as expected, New Jersey would be in play. With that in mind, Obama has scheduled an organizing rally for tomorrow in Jersey City.
In case you're wondering, here's how the state's Democratic big-wigs are lining up. Governor Corzine, Rep. Donald Payne and Senator Bob Menendez are down with Hillary, while Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Jersey City Mayor Jerremiah Healey are backing Barack. Prepare to be relevant New Jersey. Like Yung Joc said "It's goin' down!" - David Cruz
© 2008 WBGO