Archive for November, 2008

"Offer Honey to Musicians"

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2008 by Josslyn Luckett

Please God, offer honey to musicians
who bring us such joy!

Give them strong and untiring hands
to keep playing their music.

Give them vision so, like birds in love,
they can bring Your message to our ears.

Let them drink plenty from Your river and
grace them with Your strength
so their music becomes the pillar of Your glory.


On November 2 at the first “Come Sunday: Jazz on the Sacred Side” concert, as both an invocation and to express my gratitude for Dwight Trible and his magnificent band, I read this piece by the Sufi mystic poet Rumi, from a collection I have of his called “Rumi: Hidden Music: Paintings and Poems translated by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin (ISBN 000712032 X) Below you can read the program notes from a conversation I had with Dwight the week before. And in the “We’re a Winner” post below you can hear more about the success of the series launch. Enjoy!

About our very special Sacred Side debut artist: Mr. Dwight Trible

Dwight Trible grew up in the Laurel Homes Projects in downtown Cincinnati during the time when Greater Bethlehem Temple, today one of the largest Apostolic churches in the city, got its start in his building’s basement. His mother, who played lots of Mahalia Jackson, would get all seven of her children up Sunday morning and get them down to Sunday school just so she could get a break. There was music everywhere in his home–Mama’s Mahalia in one room while his guitarist brother had Kenny Burrell LPs on repeat in the next–and in his neighborhood, from gospel, blues and jazz to the soulful sounds of early singing influences like Aretha Franklin and Linda Jones. “Most of my influence singing-wise for the majority of my life has been female.” Dwight tried to sing in both gospel bands and various R&B oriented groups, “cause I wanted to be popular too…but after a while I got sick of it. I started wanting to do something else. By that time I had started buying jazz records.” He bought Miles, “cause everybody says that’s what you’re supposed to listen to,” then he got really into Carmen McRae…then one day he saw a two record set in the cut out bin for 50 cents. He says he saw this lady singing, had no idea who she was “at all! But she looks like she’s really singing…I took the record home, played it…she was doing something I had never heard anybody doing.” The singer was Betty Carter and Dwight sights that moment as being one of the most significant in his adult life in terms of shaping what he wanted to do musically. “She was doing something different…as creative as she was, she was also technically peerless…on her game all the time.”

These qualities of technical brilliance, creativity, and rigorous consistency were the elements that would most inspire Dwight about the wise and generous men who were to claim the young singer from Cincinnati once he moved way out west. With love, awe and humility Dwight lifts up Horace Tapscott, Billy Higgins, Harold Land and Oscar Brown Jr. : “It didn’t matter where they were playing, the World Stage, some other hole in the wall or some magnificent place…they did it with all they had, all the time. No matter how old they were, they still gave it all. They didn’t think about, ‘Oh I better watch myself, I might have a stroke up here, I might die.’ No, it wasn’t like that. And that takes a certain amount of faith and courage to do that, and when you see them doing that, you know that’s what it’s all about…And that they somehow saw the potential in me for that, it gives me chills now just to think about that.” He poignantly shared, “Like I said, even though I never made any money to speak of, as of yet, hopefully (smiles)…somehow throughout my tenure, the thing that keeps me from getting discouraged is meeting these great spirits…we had a lot of time together…somehow I’ve been blessed that way and that’s more than money, that’s more than money.” The gifts from these men ranged from original songs to sage advice. Dwight hums the melody of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and tells me Oscar Brown Jr., before he died was working on a lyric for that and told Dwight, “You know, I can’t sing this but I think you can.” When we talk about the importance of making original, authentic spiritual and political statements because musicians who don’t are quickly forgotten he says, “Billy brought that up to me…’they will forget you’.” Then Dwight reflects that jazz has to be one of the most spiritual forms of music there is, “but most jazz musicians don’t openly give it recognition…most of the standards are about male and female relationships, stuff like that. Of course that’s what made Duke Ellington stand out so much because he chose to actually do sacred concerts. And John Coltrane…when they actually said, ‘I’m gonna put it out there, this is what I believe’…and I think that’s why that sticks out so much. Of course after John, Pharaoh kinda came in and took it up, Leon Thomas and those people…Still today you don’t have a lot of musicians that are openly spiritual or openly political. So I find that to be something strange. I figure, what you got to lose? I feel like, what the heck, I’m too old to be doing anything outside of what I really wanna do….Personally I do the best I can everyday…and I think it’s a great privilege that people will actually leave their homes to come and see me sing. If people are willing to do that, then you owe them the best you have.”

We’re a Winner

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2008 by Josslyn Luckett

“At last that blessed day has come and I don’t care where you come from, we’re all moving on up…lord have mercy.” Curtis Mayfield

What’s your November 4 top five? Curtis’ “We’re a Winner” is still in my car CD player on repeat. I fantasize a resurrected Nina Simone singing “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good” at Obama’s inauguration. I keep feeling Stevie’s “Overjoyed.” I also keep thinking about this song I heard Hugh Masekela sing at Royce Hall last year, don’t know the name but the English lyrics went something like: “This brown color is a winner, it will be my shining armor…” and I thought about my goddaughter, Lotus, whose mother was telling me earlier this year that in pre-school she’s already internalizing messages that her combination African American, West Indian, and Filipina brown is not beautiful. Radiant Lotus is and has always been a winner. She’s a winner “and everybody knows” she will now have winning role models Malia and Sasha Obama rolling just as beautiful as they wanna be in and out their new house on Pennsylvania Ave. I also loved reading Larry Blumenfeld’s Village Voice piece on NYC election night music and politics…apparently Charlie Haden broke into “Amazing Grace” the moment he heard the results in the middle of his Blue Note gig. Blumenfeld reported from New Orleans a couple days later that when John Boutte (if you don’t know John Boutte, google and order his music immediately!) was asked to sing “Change is Gonna Come” he said he’s not going to sing that song any more because change is here. We’re a winner and everybody knows.

What I’m so happy to report locally is that two days before that glory we experienced the most glorious, yes the most victorious launch of “Come Sunday: Jazz on the Sacred Side” with the most transformative performance of Dwight Trible with his tremendous band of John Beasley on piano, Trevor Ware on bass and Clayton Cameron on drums. I had a woman write to me after the show that she was completely healed that afternoon, she specifically said she was “transported to a place where there is no dis-ease”! Come on and heal Mr. Trible! Can’t you just feel his power in the photo of Dwight from the “Offer Honey…” post above? I just felt again so overjoyed, overwhelmed, lifted, naturally high (which is why the “smoking out” in this photo of me next to my jazz dia de los muertos altar cracks me up) knowing that this series and this sacred jazz journey is now literally in flight…and rising. I thank Dwight so deeply and I can’t thank the crowd of loved ones enough for the support and the reflection of the joy I was feeling. We just had so much fun…you need to know…you need to do whatever you can to experience this gathering in a few weeks when we get to feast together with Nailah on December 7. She’s claiming December 7 as her first step to Carnegie Hall…who doesn’t want to be there for that historic moment? Please “Come Sunday” December 7 at 3pm at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City.