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On the Rise: A Conversation With Kris Bowers

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

At the start of the second set at Greenwich Village’s Jazz Gallery last week, pianist Kris Bowers was playing for a packed and eager house. A packed, eager, young, and particularly diverse house, to be more exact, with a look, vibe and mood much closer to a college music festival versus what the typical jazz audience tends to resemble. For a brief moment, I thought I was having auditory hallucinations with the amount of hoots and hollers being emitted from young, female voices. It is a rare occurrence within the jazz club setting. In Bowers’ performance debut as a leader, that would not be the last series of eyebrow-raising observations for the evening.

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Geri Allen On Her First Christmas Album and Embracing It All

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

Geri Allen is, with all certainty, the renaissance woman of Modern Jazz. Musician (and more pointedly, instrumentalist), scholar, professor, mother, African American, and female, Allen has deepened the complexities (and possibilities) of what it means to be a jazz musician. It is likely for this reason that she has been recognized in ways not characteristic of typical jazz commendation. She is the first woman to receive the Danish Jazzpar Prize, she is a Guggenheim Fellow for Musical Composition (2008-2009), she has received honors and awards from various universities, as well as receiving the first Soul Train Lady of Soul award for jazz and an NAACP Image award nomination. Her ever-enduring desire to teach and learn is immersed in her artistry. She is a professor by profession, but she is a natural scholar, making her one of the most profound musicians in the field. With Allen, nothing is surface. Her works are always layered with a combination of cultural homage, imagination, and inventiveness. The jazz master, whose recording career as a leader is just shy of thirty years, is still embarking on uncharted territories, with the release of her first Christmas album, A Child is Born.

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Ali Shaheed Muhammad: On Life and The Low End Theory

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

This past September marked the anniversaries of some of the most pivotal music of my generation. It has been twenty years since Nirvana shook up the pop culture macrocosm with their momentous Nevermind album, turning indie rock into a mainstream phenomenon. Pearl Jam has also reached the double-decade landmark with their album Ten, which was released just a couple weeks before. Growing up in the 90s, thirty-something music junkies like myself revel in these musical milestones, not simply for the nostalgia, but because of the actual genius of these ground-breaking stalwarts. However, there is one group whose essentiality matches that of their rocker contemporaries. Twenty years ago, A Tribe Called Quest released The Low End Theory. Hip hop would never be the same.

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Gil Noble: Jazz, Journalism, Lessons and Legacy

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

After 43 years on the air, last Sunday, ABC's Like It Is came to a sudden and saddening end. Emmy award winning producer and host Gil Noble suffered a stroke this past July and the fate of the program had been subsequently undetermined. The last episode, which re-aired yesterday, was hosted by ABC newscaster Lori Stokes and featured Noble's daughter Lisa, Bill Cosby, Danny Glover, Al Sharpton, journalists Bill McCreary and Les Payne, and New York City Councilman Charles Barron, who praised Noble's maverick style of journalism, having profiled political prisoners like Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu Jamal. Noble, who has interviewed some of the most prolific figures in American history, from Adam Clayton Powell, to Muhammad Ali, to Bob Marley, is known for being one of the most provocative journalists of our time. With Noble ultimately becoming unable to return to the public affairs program, ABC has developed a replacement called Here and Now, which is creating push back from the Black community for its seemingly half-hearted development. There is also concern that the new program, while promising to pay particular interest to topics relevant to the Black community, will not be in the same raw spirit, which is Noble's legacy. If that's to be so, it's a real shame. There has been no other program that has given voice to the totality of Black America -- politics, current and public affairs, arts, culture and more -- than Like It Is. Further, I can't think of a journalist more progressive, introspective, and passionate than Gil Noble. He was also the first image of a Black journalist that I had ever seen, which made an indelible impression on my conscious and subconscious young mind. Growing up watching Like It Is every Sunday was as routine as afternoon football, church, or any other traditional Sunday activity. Being part of a household which nurtured both the arts, and social and cultural awareness, Like It Is was a reflection of my real life lessons and experiences, particularly as it pertained to jazz.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On the Importance of Jazz

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

Today history is made.

This morning, the first monument of an African American on the National Mall in Washington D.C. will be dedicated by, among many other distinguished figures, the first African American President of the United States. With all of the turmoil and strife going on in our nation today, sadly including the continued practices of racial and class discrimination that Dr. King sacrificed his life to help end, this is indeed a proud day.

In honor of this day and Dr. King, I would like to share a speech that you may or may not be aware of. It's a speech Dr. King made from the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival.