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Gil Scott-Heron's 'Last Holiday'

Angelika Beener
Staff Writer
angelikabeener[at]gmail.com / @alternate_takes

“One of the things that was evident to me way back when I’d gotten into John Coltrane’s music was that you had to keep reaching. I think when you stop reaching, you die.” Gil Scott-Heron’s words are powerful when you think about the impact of the poet, author, musician and activist, (who would have been 63 years old this month), which produces a list as extensive in range as the profound gifts he shared with the world. His social anthems “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, “The Bottle” and “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” not only elucidated the plights and resilience of black Americans, but were progenitorial inspiration for hip hop’s modern messengers like Public Enemy, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and fellow Chicago native, Common. That his impact is perhaps even greater than we may have understood during his lifetime is what is most resounding in his posthumous memoir, The Last Holiday (Grove Press). The book’s title refers to Scott-Heron’s experiences as the opening act of Stevie Wonder’s 1980 tour which primarily served as a vehicle to create awareness and garner support of a national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King. The first and only federal holiday honoring an African American, Scott-Heron gives a touching and vulnerable account of the experience, as well a reminder of the integrality of Wonder’s work. “Somehow it seems that Stevie’s efforts as the leader of this campaign has been forgotten," he says. “But it is something that we should all remember.”

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Jazz Community Responds to Trayvon Martin Tragedy

Angelika Beener
Staff Writer
angelikabeener[at]gmail.com / @alternate_takes

Sean Bell. Amadou Diallo. Danroy Henry. Ramarley Graham. Orlando Barlow. Aaron Campbell. Timothy Stansbury. Oscar Grant. In the land of freedom and opportunity, the possibilities for these names to become household ones should be endless, and are what fundamentally define for what America stands at its core. Instead, these names represent a reality which has been carved out specifically for black males of this country. Sadly, we add 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to this list of people who will never reach the potential on which America thrives in theory, but fails in practice.

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For Your Consideration: Gregory Porter's 'Be Good'

Angelika Beener
Staff Writer
angelikabeener[at]gmail.com / @alternate_takes

With the sudden and astounding success of singer Gregory Porter’s Grammy-nominated debut album, Water, just fifteen months ago, there’s presumable pressure for his follow up, out this month, to do just as its title states. All can rest assured that there’s no Sophomore Slump Syndrome here; Porter’s Be Good, is.

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A Message In Our Music Part 2: Christian McBride

Angelika Beener
Staff Writer
angelikabeener[at]gmail.com / @alternate_takes

Simply put, there are bassists, and then there’s Christian McBride.

With a career as a musician, composer, arranger, and producer, which began two decades ago, McBride has since set the standard and captivated fellow musicians and audiences alike with his astounding technical superiority, his inventive, demiurgic vocabulary, and a sound which is as tremendous as the Philly native’s outgoing presence and infectious charm. McBride is the most significant bassist to come along in the last twenty years, and is unarguably one of the greatest to ever play the instrument.

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A Message In Our Music Part 1: Jason Moran

Angelika Beener
Staff Writer
angelikabeener[at]gmail.com / @alternate_takes

After digesting the phenomenon which is Jason Moran, his eminence in music is even more mind-blowing once you consider the fact that he is just 37 years old. In addition to receiving just about every award, acknowledgement and accolade within the jazz spectrum, he is also recipient of the 2010 MacArthur fellowship, and has just recently filled the imperial shoes of the late Dr. Billy Taylor as the Kennedy Center’s Artistic Advisor for Jazz. Leading one of the most relevant and longstanding piano trios of our time, Moran has also performed and recorded with contemporary and legendary artists like Greg Osby, Cassandra Wilson, Steve Coleman, Sam Rivers, and Charles Lloyd. He’s a special guest on drummer Jack DeJohnette’s new release, Sound Travels-- a stellar album with an array of artistic powerhouses like Bobby McFerrin, Esperanza Spalding, Lionel Loueke, and fellow Manhattan School alum, Ambrose Akinmusire. (Moran also produced Akinmusire’s critically-acclaimed Blue Note debut, When The Heart Emerges Glistening.)

His impressive resume aside, Moran’s influence as a pianist and composer is tremendous. The Houston native’s love for the visual arts has led to endeavors well beyond the mere “unexpected”. It was a no-brainer for me to implore Mr. Moran’s participation for this project; a special opportunity to explore the mind of the man who is, as Rolling Stone magazine puts it, “shaping up to be the most provocative thinker in current jazz.”