Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quick, to the TV! A Take 6 Sighting!

Here's a photo of Take 6 doing a soundcheck for tonight's performance with Stevie Wonder at the Democratic National Convention.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Two Diverse Articles on Classical Music and Jazz

Lately, I've been enjoying a lot of classical and jazz music. Right now my favorite classical piece is William Banfield's "Essay for Orchestra." Snag yourself a copy of African Heritage Symphony, Vol. 3, and see if Banfield's composition doesn't make you feel like you can fly. Works of The Chicago Sinfonietta and Imani Winds are also among my current classical favorites, and a couple of months ago I found an album of Arias performed by Leontyne Price that I've been playing a lot.

When it comes to jazz, I'm familiarizing myself with the works of Sir Duke, and looking forward to Take 6's upcoming release of jazz standards. (By "looking," I mean "checking the mail every day for my review copy." But my faithful readers knew that.)

I have a longtime interest in issues of diversity related to higher education. The last couple of issues of Diverse Issues In Higher Education featured articles that combine those issues with significant developments in classical music and jazz:

Bringing Diversity to the World of Classical Music
The Sphinx Organization provides opportunities for young musicians of color to showcase their talents.

This article highlights violinist Aaron Dworkin's efforts to found and cultivate the Sphinx Organization, which provides music education and competitions to encourage young minority musicians to pursue classical music.

Keeping the Tradition Alive
The relatively low percentage of Black students in jazz studies programs remains a topic of interest as scholars want to ensure that the musical culture of an earlier generation of African Americans lives on.

Garry Boulard's report includes this particularly interesting quote from Carl Allen, the artistic director of jazz studies at the Juilliard School:
"A good deal of jazz came up from gospel music and playing in the church. Now
we are seeing another shift where jazz is influencing other genres of music that
may not be readily apparent to the ear or to those who are not musicians."
If I were interviewing Allen, I would not have been able to resist the desire to ask for some examples. Although I'm sure the response wouldn't necessarily fit into this story, I bet it would become a fascinating tangent that could lead to a different piece altogether.

Boulard also interviewed Bobby Watson, the saxophonist/composer who is director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri's Conservatory of Music. Watson offered some intriguing thoughts about the importance of band music courses in urban schools:

"It's no wonder so many of the younger kids, both African-American and
White, got away from this kind of music. Hip-hop became popular because many
students in urban areas like Kansas City didn't have any instruments to
play. And without an instrument, it's hard to play jazz."

Watson's theory would make for a challenging cultural studies-related essay or paper. In the meantime, Blogosphere, I'm interested in hearing your responses to Watson's specific thought as well as to this more general question: How are people's cultural tastes shaped by socioeconomic status?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mary Williams: Preserving Traditional Gospel

Last week, on my way to the UNITY Journalists of Color conference, I heard a snippet of this story on Mary Williams, who works to preserve traditional black gospel music not only through her performances, but also through a class she teaches at Duke University. Click this link to hear the whole thing.

Image Credit:

Meme, Myself and I

Caryn of Mama's Got a Fake I.D. tagged me with a meme. Here are the rules of the meme:

Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

OK. Here goes:

1. I really love gospel music, even the stuff that predates the term gospel. In fact, I rock out to Goodbye Babylon sometimes while I'm working. But--except for her version of "Come Sunday" (performed with Duke Ellington)--I don't enjoy Mahalia Jackson's music. Weird, I know. But I bought a box set of her work a few years ago, and haven't yet made it through. I. Just. Can't. Don't Know. Why.

2. I keep a list of songs in my head that I'd love to sing some time. And a lot, a lot, a lot of them were featured on Ron Winans' Family & Friends Choir albums. For example, "I Have a Father," led by CeCe Winans; "Now Are We," performed by Kayla Parker on Ron Winans Family & Friends Choir 2; "Salvation is Free," led by Vanessa Bell Armstrong on Ron Winans Family & Friends 5. Other favorites include "Going Up Yonder," as performed by Tramaine Hawkins; "There Is No Way," the Tommies' classic; and "Let the Glory," from Hezekiah Walker's Focus on Glory. But I don't actually belong to a choir right now.

3. I attended seminary a couple of years ago. Although I didn't stay long--I realized that although I liked it, I didn't want to continue--I made a great friend and got one of my best pieces of writing ever out of my short stay.

4. Speaking of writing, I am blogging right now from the Best Writing Chair Ever: It's a leather armchair in a soft yellow color called "Buttercream," with a storage ottoman. I am a compact individual (read: short girl), and it fits me perfectly. I hadn't planned on buying a chair the day I saw it, but it's a leather armchair in a soft yellow color called "Buttercream," with a storage ottoman. I mean, I'm a writer, so it's practically a tool.

5. I love neologisms, and coin them frequently in everyday conversation. Some of them have even made it past editors into my music reviews.

6. When I'm not blogging/writing, my other hobbies include baking, crafty but not kitschy sorts of things, photography, collecting items that represent African-Americans in interesting ways, reading about the Civil Rights Movement, and Learning About Stuff.

OK. Now, I'm tagging:

and one other person, To Be Determined.

Gospel Parody: Never Would Have Paid It

I know, I know. It's been a minute since I posted, but I haven't forgotten my loyal gospelgal readership. Would you believe I've been working hard, making money to put directly into the gas tank? Here's a hilarious parody of Marvin Sapp's chart-topping "Never Would Have Made It," courtesy of J. Anthony Brown. Follow the link, and enjoy.

Got more gospel-themed fun? Let me know at latonya at gospelgal dot com.

Image credit:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

April 4, 1968

Things I'm listening to and reading to observe the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Gospel Memories: As always, gospel music historian and friend-of-this-blog Bob Marovich is on the case. Tomorrow morning's radio broadcast, from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. CST, includes a tribute to Dr. King. Listen on Chicago's WLUW (88.7 FM), or on

Bob writes, "Dr. King was the subject of more gospel songs than any leader in modern history. Not all King-related songs were written and recorded following Dr. King's death. Some recordings sang his praises while he yet lived."

His April 6 show will feature vintage gospel music tributes to Dr. King by artists such as the Norfleet Brothers, Brother Will Hairston, Rev. Claude Jeter, Bobby Jones & New Life, Bill Spivery & the Sons of Truth, the Loving Sisters, and some of Dr. King's personal favorites, sung by Mahalia Jackson.

(Bob's blog also hipped me to a new article on Dr. Horace Clarence Boyer in the Amherst Bulletin. If you love gospel, you need to know who Dr. Boyer is. And if you already know who he is, you'll enjoy the article as well. I interviewed Dr. Boyer a few years ago, and it was such a treat.)

King: The Soundtrack Martin Johnson interviews guitarist-activist Vernon Reid on how MLK's death affected black music (

The Night James Brown Saved Boston: News and Notes' Farai Chideya talks with filmmaker David Leaf about his rockumentary, The Night James Brown Saved Boston. Many believe the Godfather's April 5, 1968 concert prevented rioting in Boston. From the film's website: "James Brown kept the peace in one of America's most racially inflammatory cities. And he did that just by being James Brown -- setting the stage of the Boston Garden on fire. And the city itself didn't burn. Boston remained peaceful and the night became legendary."

King Came Singing: A King Tribute presented at Seattle Pacific University. You can find audio and visual footage of the event on iTunes. Or scroll down on the linked page and download it that way.

Freedom Creek by Willie King and the Liberators. Movement music meets the blues. My favorite quote from the lyrics: "You know, they killed Dr. King's body, but you know they couldn't kill his mind./ Killed Dr. King's body, but you know they couldn't kill his mind/ He said I'm going away/ I'll be back my second time/ . . .May do me wrong, but my mind is strong/ Can't kill my mind."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Faith, Hope and Jazz

A few months ago, I had the honor of sharing some thoughts in a chapel service at my alma mater. You can listen here.

In this talk, I share how I use metaphors related to jazz to help me understand my life as a follower of Christ. I'm interested in hearing what metaphors/imagery help you understand your faith. Feel free to comment below.

Update: If the first link doesn't work, you can also hear my talk by clicking here. You'll need to scroll down a bit. The date to look for is 2007-10-10.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Let Us Turn Our Thoughts Today to Martin Luther King

The title of this post comes from James Taylor's "Shed a Little Light," which you can listen to here for free. Some lyrics:

"Let us turn our thoughts today/ To Martin Luther King/ And recognize that there are ties between us/ All men and women/ Living on the earth/ Ties of hope and love/ Sister and brotherhood/ That we are bound together/ In our desire to see the world become/ A place in which our children/ Can grow free and strong/ We are bound together/ By the task that stands before us/ And the road that lies ahead"

"Shed a Little Light" is one of many great songs, albums and podcasts to listen to as part of a King Day reflection.

This year, I'll be listening to the Chicago Sinfonietta's album I Have a Dream: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, which includes William Grant Still's "Afro-American Symphony," and Morton Gould's amazing "Revival--Fantasy on Six Spirituals."

I'm also going to enjoy Adolphus Hailstork's "Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed," which you can download here.

A few of my other favorite songs/albums along these lines include:

Kim Weston's intriguing version of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," available on The Best of Kim Weston: The Millenium Collection, but originally recorded for her Motown album This Is America.

Mahalia Jackson's version of "We Shall Overcome."

Morris Robinson's interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday." Or Sir Duke's--with Mahalia Jackson. Or almost any version.

"If I Can Help Somebody" and Mary Lou Williams' "Tell Him Not to Talk Too Long."

A few albums I've already mentioned on this site:

Rick Recht's Tearing Down the Walls
Verity Records' tribute to Rosa Parks
Let My People Go: A Jewish and African-American Celebration of Freedom

I also recommend these podcasts:

Music and the Winds of Change: The Civil Rights Movement (scroll down to Episode 14)
The I Have a Dream speech (scroll to the bottom of the page) and Robert Kennedy's Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (same page).

Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments. Here's wishing you a peace-filled day of reflection and action.