Archive for July, 2010

“The Congregation of Ecstatic Partygoers” Hotter than Hector Lavoe

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 by Josslyn Luckett


I’m dragging a little bit this summer between the heat, the humidity, too many gigs and a summer language intensive…but I tell you, the moment I slide in disc two of the 2007 Fania release: Hector Lavoe:  The Man and His Music, I’m good…I’m damn near reborn.  My body goes wild, but it’s not just the feeling of the music…no matter how hard I groove, my mind is right there too, wondering:   Dang!  how do they do it?  How do these congeros play that fast and that tight?  And how do I, with my biracial-though-shamefully-monolingual behind, feel like I understand every sorrow and celebration out of this man’s mouth?  Thank you Señor Lavoe.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my feet, my mind, my soul and my unstoppable rolling shoulders. 

In the liner notes to the disc I mention above, Lavoe’s nephew, producer Louis Vega writes a great story about a summer night in Times Square at a roof top party when the dj, Richard Vazquez was spinning, “El Cantante”:  “I looked up.  The congregation of ecstatic partygoers was dancing and having a good time.  When the strings came in and Hector sang his ‘la la las,’ the place erupted.  I will never forget that hot summer night…”  Writer Jaime Torres Torres wrote:  “No salsa artist has ever had such an impact on the world as Hector did…because his music was a spiritual expression of his innermost feelings…. Hector Lavoe is the voice of the street, the spokesperson for hope.” 

Summertime and the living is…la la la la la la… if you listen to Lavoe.

Now, dig the congregation of Salsa legends in that photo…wow!  (see Hector up at the top right) I wanna be at that set!   Heads up too for for more summertime rooftop references, I just found out Crossover Dreams, featuring the beloved composer of “El Cantante” Ruben Blades, is now available on Netflix…if you’ve never feasted on this early Leon Ichaso film, this will be your favorite summer time surprise.  Plus, you must also see Soul Power for Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco footage that will blow your mind (talk about Afro-Atlantic swing, have mercy…).  One final shout of love to UCBerkeley Professor Mario Barrera for hipping his Chicano Cinema class circa 1988 to the Ichaso gem!

Nobody Knows Nothin’

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10, 2010 by Josslyn Luckett

New Orleans musicians, including my favorite singer John Boutte, and the visionary folk at Threadhead Records “Rebuilding New Orleans…One Song at a Time” have just released a new single, “Nobody Knows Nothin'” in support of the families of the fishing communities of the gulf coast and clean up efforts via Gulf Aid.  Please explore the links, download, support and/or simply consider passing forward…

Somewhere deep in those wetlands I know I hear Louis crying, “What did I do to be so black and blue…?”


Posted in Uncategorized on July 3, 2010 by Josslyn Luckett

I first saw this image on the cover of what is probably one of the most important books to me in my library, “In Struggle:  SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s.”  The first edition of this book had the photo above without any of the text…so in the late 1980’s when I bought it it could just as well have been an image from Soweto.  There is so much power in the image it clearly scared the publishers who opted for a more widely known image of SNCC workers doing voter registration for the next pressing.  I found all this out when I had the chance to hear the book’s author, Clayborne Carson speak last fall at Boston University for the announcement of the launch of a new MLK digital archive.  I brought my old beat up copy of the book and it visibly shook Mr. Carson.  He immediately elbowed his sister Sonia Sanchez seated next to him in the auditorium:  “Look at this!”  She shook her head and sighed, “Wow….”  Continue to build on King’s legacy…keep the faith, Carson wrote inside my book, 20 years after it blew my ethnic studies major mind at Cal (I remember even wearing SNCC-like overalls to the final exam for Carlos Munoz’s course on Student Movements of the 1960s, thinking myself intellectually and creatively in solidarity, in struggle with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, especially once I found out about the theater group that grew out of it:  The Free Southern Theater and got so excited about how similar they seemed to Teatro Campesino breaking out of Cesar Chavez’ United Farm Workers…I could go on and on…)

I was less familiar with this image…SNCC workers, including John Lewis, in prayer, on their knees, imagining a new world.  I had the incredible pleasure last weekend at the 60th Anniversary conference for the  interfaith organization Fellowship in Prayer of hearing a talk by Princeton professor Dr. Yolanda Pierce called, “Prayers for Dark People” a title she took from a collection of prayers by W.E.B. Du Bois.  Now, I don’t hate to break it, I joyfully break it to my atheist/secular humanist brothers and sisters who champion Du Bois’ revolutionary witness, Du Bois DID also pray.  For her brilliant presentation, Professor Pierce collected these amazing images of men and women from the 1960’s freedom struggle on their knees –black and white, young and too old to bend at the knee and so they bent their backs as low as they could–praying us to a more liberated future. This of course brought me right back to the inspiration for this sacred jazz journey:  Duke Ellington, who in this same era said, “Now I can say openly what I’ve been saying my whole life on my knees” when he was invited to compose his first sacred concert.  These knee conversations clearly generated so much of the energy behind this civil rights movement, this movement that I hope folks remember this weekend as some of us soulfully and sincerely consider what it means to be free and how individuals, communities, nations attain and sustain real freedom.  Think for just a minute about all the recordings….of “Come Sunday” by Ellington, by Eric Dolphy, Coltrane’s “Psalm” and “Spiritual,” Mary Lou Williams’ Black Christ of the Andes and Dave Brubeck’s Gates of Justice–all produced in the 1960’s.  Shoot Mingus released “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” a month after Greensboro, but recorded it exactly one year before.  People don’t give enough love to Mingus for his prophetic musical impulses.  He knew what was taking place at some Wednesday night prayer meetings was about to disrupt and transform a nation…and those tambourines were going to need a little extra kick.  Max and Abbey listened…

(It’s funny, listening now to “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” from Blues and Roots….there is no tambourine on the track…between Dannie Richmond’s high hat and the band’s clapping I imagined so many tambourines….it’s kinda like how everyone thought Mingus was so tall and turns out he was 5’8″ or 5’9″)