By Chris J. Walker

the word contemporary
The Soraya

Charleston, South Carolina-based Ranky Tanky’s infectious songs and rhythms are derived from the African-rooted Gullah culture. It originated in the state’s isolated Sea Islands area, where many of the enslaved population’s dialects, rhythms and ceremonies were maintained by its descendants. Traditionally, it’s characterized as being a cappella and non-instrumently percussion oriented.

However, the quintet made up of Quentin E. Baxter-drums, Kevin Hamilton-bass, Quiana Parler-vocals, Clay Ross-guitar/vocals and Charlton Singleton-trumpet/vocals with strong influences from groundbreaking and crusading folk/gospel singer/storyteller/preservationist Bessie Jones, added roots, jazz, R&B, gospel, funk and Caribbean touches to the music. The results of the unique synergy are international popularity, top-selling recordings and two Grammys.

At the Soraya’s Club Stage with powerhouse singer Lisa Fischer, also a Grammy-winner and well-known for her long associations with Luther Vandross and the Rolling Stones as a backup singer, they turned the Soraya’s Jazz at The Nazz Festival into a house of joyful celebration. The quintet got the audience fired up with their good time songs “That’s Alright” and “Rejoice (Raise Every Voice.”

With Fischer, they got funkier and even lowdown with early 20th century gossiping folk/blues classic “Pick Poor Robin Clean” and jazzy “Let Me Be” featuring hot vocal choruses, and ripping solos from trumpet and guitar. While Louie Vega’s dance tune “The Star of a Story” was transformed into an enchanting ballad, beautifully sung and harmonized by Ranky Tanky and her to draw strong audience reactions.

For more variety, bassist Hamilton did a rhythmic intro to set the mood for Caribbean and jazzy “Freedom” featuring riveting singing from Parler and the guest vocalist, with adjoining choruses from the other band members. Additionally, guitarist Ross did a jolting mix of rockabilly and Pops Staples-like textures with heartfelt singing.

Fischer also shined with a hypnotic version of Bill Withers’ classic “Grandma’s Hand” fueled by jaunty rhythms and scorching guitar, along with an extended version of the Beatles’ immortal “Come Together.” Wrapping up a fun and enlightening show was vintage blues/gospel song “You Got to Move” that overflowed with soul-drenched singing and captivating playing/soloing. For more info go to: and

Samora Pinderhughes and Friends: The Healing Project February 1, 2024 at Royce  Hall - KPFK 90.7 FM

Samora Pinderhughes and Friends: The Healing Project at C.A.P. UCLA’s Royce Hall was an extremely ambitious and deeply meaningful abolitionist focused concert. Conceived and produced by keyboardist and singer Pinderhughes, with producers Anna Deavere Smith, Glenn Ligon, Sarah Arison, and Vijay Iyer, the endeavor brings to light the plight of the incarcerated population that mostly are unseen and unheard.

Over 150 people were involved in the process and the core participants were Rafiq Bhatia-guitar/sounds, Jonathan Pinson-drums, Elena Pinderhughes-flute/vocals/sister, Joshua Crumbly-electric bass, Boom Bishop-electric bass and Chris Pattishall-keyboards. Vocalists/orators and dancers were Nio Levon, Nia Drummond, Dani Murcia, Elliott Skinner, Jehbreal Jackson and Nina Moffit. Additionally, supporting them and band were the Zelter Quartet String Quartet that included violinists Kyle Anthony Gilner and Gallia Kastner, violist Carson Rick, and cellist Allan Hon.

They spun a web of somber and thematic soundscapes interwoven with recorded video interviews from Sam VaughnPrison University Project graduate and community mentor, prisoners Keith LaMar (currently on death row with a 2027 execution date), Peter Mukuria aka Pitt PantherRoosevelt “Bliss” Arrington Dante ClarkCyril Walrond and others.

Musically, the program included jazz, fusion, folk and light R&B/hip-hop.

However, the most moving of all the moods and pieces performed was the negro spiritual “Give Me Time to Pray” by Levon initially, with other singers joining in. It literally stopped the show and evoked overwhelming emotions. For more info go to: and

Celebrating James Brown: Say It Loud | Black Cultural Events

Coinciding with Black History Month, the Grammy Museum hosted Celebrating James Brown: Say it Loud for a screening of five clips from A&E’s forthcoming documentary James Brown: Say It Loud that chronicled Brown’s development. It was produced by the Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger for his Jagged Films and the Roots Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson for his Two One Five Entertainment.

In between the selected clips, there was a panel discussion with participants Writer/Director Deborah Riley Draper, mega Producer/Songwriter Jimmy Jam, and the Universal Music Group’s General Council and Executive Vice President for North America, Jeff Harleston, moderated by Billboard Magazine’s Gail Mitchell. The panel spoke about Brown’s amazing artistry, determination, and entrepreneurial acuity to successfully take risks that helped him ascend to being Soul Brother #1. Draper was drawn to the incredibly dynamic showman because her father and his brothers all from the same region as Brown idolized him. Essentially, he did and said all the things they wanted to—but couldn’t.

That prompted her to explore a person who moved the culture and changed how black people thought about themselves. The filmmaker added, “In my research, I stumbled across a 1969 cover of Look Magazine that asked. Is James Brown the most important black man in America?” That question became the impetus for her miniseries/documentary. Jam noted that almost all modern R&B and pop performers have been influenced by Brown, including Prince who he worked with when his career started. While Harleston was struck by his focus and energy, saying that the icon would have been successful in anything he pursued.

Naturally, the song that made Brown much more than just an entertainer, “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud)” released in 1968 was discussed. Harleston recalled as a seven-year-old in Boston when MLK was assassination (4/4/68) that Brown performed there the next day at a 14,000-capacity theatre (prior to the song’s release) and people were urged to stay home. As a compromise the concert was aired on PBS to a much larger audience and the showman was compensated accordingly. Jam said the song which came out months later changed the language and was an affirmation. With a driving beat, it went directly to your soul, much more than words alone could have done.

Draper added more context by noting that Brown performed in 1966 at HBC Tugaloo College on the last day of the March Against Fear and James Meredith had been shot days earlier. All the top black leaders and celebrities were there, including MLK, Sammy Davis Jr., Dick Gregory and Stokely Carmichael, along with Marlon Brando. That was the first time Carmichael boldly proclaimed “Black Power.” Ultimately, being around all the civil rights echelon made a strong impression on Brown and his performances there and afterwards.     

Other topics covered were James Brown innovative band additions, Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish, Fred Wesley, Bobby Byrd and Pee Wee Ellis, moving to Polydor Records, historic concerts in Africa in association with top boxing events, ditching his process hair style and hip-hop sampling his music. As a bonus, a never released James Brown hard funking song “We Got to Change,” recorded August 1970 in Miami was premiered to the crowd’s delight.

Q&A from the audience included, did Brown know how influential he was, his influences (Louis Jordan, Little Richard and gospel music, his earliest acknowledgement of his talent (winning a talent show at the age of 9), their favorite James Brown songs and the most interesting thing about him (all of the businesses he was involved). For more info go to: and

Band on top if the word Fusion

It was a fusion lovers’ dream come true when bassist extraordinaire Alphonso Johnson and his Allstar Band appeared at The Grape in Ventura. The bassist was a member of the immortal Weather Report Band from 1974-1976 and also sideman with John McLaughlin. Johnson’s stellar band included drummer Simon Phillips, keyboardist Mitchell Forman, violinist Christian Hebel, guitarist Alex Sill and drummer Simon Phillips.

The crew began with Johnson’s elegant Latin original “Nova Iguacu” which was not part of the Weather Report catalog. But it was perfect for guitar and violin that was not ever used for any WR compositions or outings to palatably intermingle. Wayne Shorter’s funky and hard jamming “On The Milky Way Express” followed and was recorded about 10-years after the incredible group’s disbanding. The piece ended with touches of their frenzied crescendo piece “Boogie Woogie Waltz,” grandly embellished by violin to sound more like John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. That was revived during the second part of the concert.

WR, though not as well-known for subtlety did have a few standout ballads, most notable of them was the thematic “A Remark You Made.” It was beautifully adorned with guest saxophonist’s Jacob Scesney sensitive playing, along with keyboardist Forman and the bandleader. He quickly segued into the throbbing bassline of waltz tempered “Lusitanos” with the guitarist and violinist reeling away.

While “Cucumber Slumber” signaled the return of the saxophonist who injected fiery playing as Johnson laid off a hypnotic backdrop that also included hard-hitting drumming from Simon. Equally compelling was rhumba-fused “Elegant People” with the saxophonist and guitarist playing in the stratosphere to the audience’s delight and the vibrantly unfolding “Three Marias.”

As mentioned, the second half of the program was McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra oriented material. Guitar and violin even more so in the forefront, beginning with the electrifying raw guitar laden “The Dance of Maya.” Scorching drums and violin additionally propelled the tune wrought with rock dynamics, but with much more sophistication. “You Know You Know” with its mystical signature McLaughlin guitar motif, slowly evolved from being easy flowing to fiery, through powerful drumming.

For a respite from the flailing jamming were the resounding splendor of acoustical guitar/violin and keyboard trio pieces “Thousand Island Park” and “A Lotus on Irish Streams” that highlighted McLaughlin’s equally amazing sensitivity. Be on the lookout for this show to return to The Grape and come to other venues. For more info go to: and

The Pacific Jazz Orchestra featuring Rufus Wainwright - "Wainwright does  Weill" @ United Theatre on Broadway (formerly Theatre at Ace Hotel) - Mar  2, 2024, 7:00PM

At the beginning of the Pacific Jazz Orchestra’s third concert, this time with Rufus Wainwright at the United Theater (formerly the Theatre at The Ace Hotel) that was filmed and recorded, Orchestra Leader and Founder Chris Walden explained. “A jazz orchestra is sort of a hybrid between a symphony orchestra and a jazz big band. A symphony has 80-90 musicians, but none of them play saxophone. A jazz big band has saxophones, trumpets, trombones, but no strings. The PJO is the perfect-sized orchestra that can play music of any style and genre—and this orchestra is the only one of its kind in the country.”

The concert, Wainwright does Weill, a celebration of the legendary and celebrated composer Kurt Weill, whose birthday was 124 years ago on that same day March 2nd, covered all the stages of his career, including his early years in Germany. He left the country in the ‘30s to escape Nazi oppression.

Countertenor Wainwright, whose music spans rock, pop, folk, theatre, opera and classical, and a life-long fan of Weill, began the two-hour, non-stop concert with the composer’s Broadway themed songs. They were melancholy “September Song” and cabaret-like “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” which Wainwright described as channeling Ava Gardner. While, “Die Muschel von Margate (“The Shell of Margate” or “The Petroleum Song”) came from the composer’s years in Berlin and Wainwright thought its context resembled present times.

Musically, suite-like “The Sailor’s Tango” was the most challenging for the singer and he was happy to get it out of way. As expected, the audience loved it and cheered enthusiastically afterwards. Wainwright followed with his favorite Weill song, the very emotional and superbly sung ballad “It Was Never You.”

Midway through the fascinating concert, Wainwright mentioned that the songs were in English, German and French, but all with similar Weillian traits. Yet, there were distinct differences. The French ones require knowing the score and everything being precise, like an impressionistic painting. For the German ones, you can’t stop and the English were less stressful. That led to him beautifully singing “Youkali” in French (he grew up in Montreal) with a Latin backdrop from the orchestra to astound the audience. Also, since Weill was German, along with Walden and Wainwright’s husband, lullaby-like “Fürchte Dich Nicht (Don’t be Afraid)” was performed.

For more variation, the headlining singer, gave the orchestra a break and showcased some of his own music. New song, paradoxically called “Old Song” with him playing piano interestingly had a Weill-like feel to it. While “Early Morning Madness” was bolstered by Walden accompanying and soloing on trumpet, and included a manic piano interlude.

Alternately, Wainwright did Weill’s “Je ne T’aime Pas” as a mesmerizing duet with pianist Josh Nelson. While for comedy relief, singer/actress Bloom sang and danced with him for “Tango Ballade” from Weill’s renowned Three Penny Opera. “Mack The Knife” his most popular song from the musical was sung in German and English, and subtly orchestrated initially. However, it closed with a blistering foray to draw an ecstatic standing ovation.

For the encore, Wainwright solely played piano and sang his poignant “Going To A Town (I’m so Tired of America),” and Leonard Cohen’s immortally inspiring “Hallelujah” with all its verses as the audience sang along. For more info go to:, and

Segerstrom Center for the Arts on X: "🎶Fred Hersch and ETHEL quartet are  teaming up for two extraordinary performances! Making a highly anticipated  return to Samueli Theater, pianist Fred Hersch will collaborate

Pianist Fred Hersch a multiple prestigious award-winner and 15-time Grammy-nominee, may be considered the “Susan Lucci” of jazz in that regard. Nonetheless, there’s no drama to his playing or persona. He’s a mindful Buddhist and utilizes meditation to keep himself centered and to purposefully channel his creativity.

Awakened Heart

At the Segerstrom Center For The Arts’ Samueli Theater he performed Breath By Breath his 2022 record, which his SATI SUITE is part ofSupporting him for the occasion was his trio that included bassist John Hébert and drummer Jochen Rueckert, along with the ETHEL string quartet, Ralph Farris-viola, Kip Jones-violin, Dorothy Lawson-cello and Corin Lee-violin. They won a Grammy with lauded singer Kurt Elling and have also toured with rockers Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson.

The featured suite was derived from the Buddhist Pāli Canon word sati that means mindfulness/awareness and was inspired by aspects of Buddhist wisdom and Hersch’s own religious/mediative practice. Through titles such as “Awakened Heart,” “Begin Again,” Breath By Breath, “Monkey Mind” and “Rising, Falling” the consummate pianist superbly intermeshed with and propelled the string and jazz players to astonishing heights. The results were a beguiling merging of jazz and classical that was far from being rote.

During the last third of the concert, Hersch shifted to music that wasn’t part of the suite. “Pastorale” was an enchanting classical/jazz piece inspired by his childhood in Cincinnati and learning to play Robert Schumann’s “Kinderszenen Op. 15, “Scenes From Childhood.” While, Jules Styne’s tenderly rendered “This is Always” and cool/offsetting “Pannonica” fell into his concert ritual of always including a ballad and a Monk tune, which drew a standing ovation. For more info go to: and

Bernstein and Wooten at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sun, Mar 17th, 2024 -  2:00 pm

Bernstein and Wooten at Disney Hall was one of the more varied programs presented by the LA Philharmonic. Renowned funk/fusion bassist Victor Wooten showcased his Concerto La Lección Tres, and the orchestra performed Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dance from West Side Story and Afro-Brit Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s (called the African Mahler) 1898 triumphant Ballad in A Minor, Op. 33, with Thomas Wilkins conducting all the segments.

Five-time Grammy-winning Wooten’s concerto was originally slated to debut in 2020 with the Chicago Sinfonietta, but due to the Pandemic it was postponed until 2021 and then livestreamed. Four months later it was performed for a live audience in Boston. Now with the deadly epidemic clearly in the rear-view mirror, the bassist was able to premiere it to full audience in Los Angeles. He utilized his custom four-string Fordera Yinyang bass and another one by the same manufacturer that could be bowed and was futuristic looking.

For the bassist’s first movement the orchestra spun an underscored and gradual exposition, with explosive percussive forays that highlighted galactic sounding brass and sweeping swings. All the while, Wooten soloed and weaved in and out of the LA Philharmonic’s soundscapes. Unfortunately, his playing, despite his efforts, was mostly drowned out.

During the II Interlude the headliner’s playing was more discernable as his trademark rumbling was in the forefront with sparse support. For comic relief, Wooten went up to the double bassists’ area and interacted in call and response mode with them as he played his special bowed bass. Returning to the front of the stage, Wooten closed vibrantly playing with full orchestra in sinfonia concertante mode to amaze and impress the audience. They enthusiastically gave the bassist and orchestra a standing ovation.

As would be expected, the preceding 24-minute Bernstein program, which included: Prologue, Somewhere, Scherzo, Mambo, Cha-Cha, Meeting Scene, Cool, Rumble and Finale was exceptionally dynamic and crowd-pleasing. It included cool finger snapping from the orchestra members, explosive percussion, dramatic dancing, roaring horns and impassioned strings—but no singing. That’s for other parts of the enduring musical and film. For more info go to: and

Guitarist/singer/composer Ethan Margolis with his Emaginario Group, consisting of Katisse Buckingham-reeds, Deron Johnson-piano, Luca Alemanno-bass and Chris Wabich-drums presented an amalgamation of cultures and genres at Sam First. The bandleader was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio ingesting rock, funk and jazz, while in the Southern U.S. he played Delta blues, and in Spain he was involved with flamenco and world music. Those disparate regions strongly influenced his collective musical outlook and explorations.

With a new album slated for a July 12, 2024 release date on Ropeadope Records, Margolis did somewhat of a preview of his original compositions. They were structured with gypsy and jazzy intros and outros with cores of old Delta blues songs embedded in the middle that allowed for high-risk/adventurous jamming to meld it all. An example of that was when he led off with Andalucía/Romaní gypsy singing and light guitar playing before the other musicians slowly eased in with supporting rhythms and textures, as he layered it all with spoken word and poetry.   

Another time the quintet got into a lightly grooving section featuring them all turning in tasty solos. Also, flute and bass were featured for a moody ballad of sorts working off “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” adorned by Margolis’ defiant poetry and scatting. Keep the feeling going was a smoldering mix of Afro-Cuban and flamenco from the Caribbean, with a 6/8 cadence.     

Margolis continued the music variations with a breezy mix of flamenco, blues and jazz to showcase his atmospheric Gabor Szabo-like guitar skills as the other players backed him with a percolating backdrop. Alternately, the group shifted to something resembling bossa/sambo, but with flamenco and blues edginess. Furthermore, it was fueled by a ballistic drum solo and tradeoffs, while melodic piano improvisations took it all home to blow the audience away. For more info go to: and  

The word world in blue colors and green colers
Taj Mahal & Sona Jobarteh – The Luckman

It’s hard to believe that Taj Mahal has been performing for nearly sixty years. Though not a bluesman in the purest sense, which he constantly ridicules, his music has touched the hearts of many listeners and amassed several Grammy’s. Foremost, Mahal is a talented multi-instrumentalist (banjo, guitar, piano, harmonica) and gravelly pitched singer. He deftly intermixes Delta blues, Caribbean calypso, African folk, jazz and Afro-Cuban elements to essentially create his own unique genre.   

At the Luckman Theatre on the CSULA campus, Mahal worked with his longtime bandmembers Bobby Ingano-guitar, Bill Rich-bass, Robert Greenidge-steel drums and Tony Durham-drums. After some banter with the crowd, the bandleader served up “Wild About My Lovin’” with decidedly Caribbean styling featuring steel drums and sensual gruff singing. His vintage hits “Corina” and “Fishing Blues” were given the same treatment and bolstered by Mahal’s superb National resonator guitar picking.

Switching to a regular guitar he performed traditional Delta blues songs “Queen Bee” and “I Got The Blues So Bad.” For the latter song Mahal had the audience enthusiastically singing verses with him and on their own. Even more blues oriented and lightly rocking with steel drums accenting and soloing were “Betty & Dupree” and “Going Up to the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue,” which featured his lead guitarist wailing away to blow the audience away.   

Mahal further mixed things up was country/blue grass styled instrumental “Banjo Rag” that spotlighted his prowess on the instrument and inspired the audience to “whoop it up.” Alternately, dreamy and Hawaiian sounding 1960s non-vocal hit “Sleep Walk,” first recorded by Santo & Johnny, showcased guitarist Ingano who impressed everyone. The final number was an invigorating jam with both Mahal and Gambian kora master Sona Jobarteh’s bands.

Jobarteh opened the show with a tantalizing and inspiring display of African music with her sextet, which included her son Sidiki on guitar and balafon (gourd-resonated xylophone). The bandleader has the distinction of being the first female professional kora player to come from a griot family. Along with being a groundbreaking musician, composer and singer, Jobarteh is an activist, educator and the Founding Director of The Gambia Academy. For more info go to: and

Ozomatli - The Venice West

In the mid ‘90s Ozomatli a multi-cultural LA-based band, encompassing hip-hop, R&B, funk, rock Espanol, salsa and world music was considered LA’s hottest live band and burgeoned with 12 members. The band was on fire, touring worldwide, selling out concerts consistently, garnered a Grammy and even was the house band for Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand Up Revolution TV show. 

In recent years, the band has scaled down to a sextet made up of Wil-Dog Abers-bass/marimba/vocals, Raúl Pacheco-guitar/tres/jarana/vocals,
Justin ‘El Niño’ Porée-percussion/vocals/rapping, Asdrubal Sierra-trumpet/vocals/piano, Ulises Bella-saxophone/vocals/keyboards and Jiro Yamaguchi-drums/percussion/vocals. Nonetheless, they are as powerful as ever and extremely busy. Included in their schedule was a weekly residency at Venice West in January and February.

Marching On - CD

There, the band showcased tunes from their latest album Marching On, along with some of their classics. Among them were livewire/hard rapping and funked out “(Get Ready For The) Saturday Night,” brass propelled and Spanish sung “Eva,” ranchero-themed “Esa Morena” and mostly acoustic tribal-rooted “Ya Viene el Sol.” It featured a reveling tres solo and electrifying singing/chanting. The sextet also took a moment to pay homage to ground breaking and punk rock influencer MC5 guitarist/singer Wayne Kramer with a clarinet driven instrumental.

For more variety, Ozomatli featured several guest artists. Included were guitarist Joey Delgado turning in a blistering and extensive bluesy solo for the soulful tune “After Party.” Ghanian singer/guitarist Rocky Dawuni appeared for Afrobeat classic “Soul Makossa” (considered the most sampled African song) that was filmed.  And rocking funk jam “Elysian Persuasion” was adorned with guitarist Danny Avilia wailing away.

Additionally, super dynamic singer/trumpeter Adelaide Pilar, who was the show opener, joined, the band for R&B hit “Reunited.” It was done with a driving Latin spin to captivate the audience. Furthermore, Veronique Medrano a singer from Texas rocked the house with jolting Tejano/bluesy/country styled “He’s Going to Stay a Wreck.”

After almost 30 years of delivering crowd-pleasing, global-spanning music, Ozomatli remains extremely vital and entertaining with plenty of energy and creativity to carry on for many more years. For more info go to:, and

The Soraya on X: "Cuban pianist @haroldlopeznuss discusses bringing new  music to @TheSorayaStage's #JazzatNaz Festival tonight, his band, Buena  Vista Social Club, and sharing the stage with the legendary @EliadesOchoa  >> #

The Soraya on the campus of CSUN concluded its 2024 Jazz at Nazz Festival series with a Cuban program spanning the pre-Fidel Castro era of the ’30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, and the 21st century after he appointed his brother Raúl president in 2008. He later stepped down in 2018 after relaxing many of the past harsh restrictions enacted by Fidel.

Pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa, who presently lives in France opened, and represented the apex of modern Cuba’s music. With superstar harmonica player Grégoire Maret, bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Ruy Adrián López-Nussa (his brother), he delivered a beyond belief thrilling performance showcasing pieces from his latest CD Timba a la Americana. “Guajira,” not on the project, highlighted their set and began as an explosive duet with his brother, who later soloed incredibly. It jettisoned with propelling rhythms, while showcasing astonishing piano playing and sophisticated harmonies and interplay with Maret to garner a standing ovation.

Buena Vista Social Club's Eliades Ochoa strums, chats about new album | WLRN

Elides Ochoa, of Buena Vista Social Club fame, is the “old guard” of Cuban music, and was barely in his teens before Castro’s regime and developed during the ‘60s in Santiago de Cuba. Nonetheless, the guitarist/singer who dons his signature cowboy hat romantically sang of the bygone era with a backing band that included horns, piano, percussion and backing singers. He charmed the audience and spoke a scant amount of English, while focusing on traditional Cuban son songs that were interlaced with his raspy singing, and zesty guitar/tres playing. For more info go to:, and

Text Special Mention
Sing and Swing: A Jazz at Lincoln Center Production featuring Bria Skonberg  and Benny Benack III - Vermont Arts Council

Jazz at Lincoln Center PRESENTS a celebration of the Great American Songbook Sing and Swing: Our American Songbook tour with rising emissaries, trumpeter/singers Bria Skonberg and Benny Benack III. They landed during their 45-city tour at CSULA’s Luckman Theatre for an evening of rapturous singing and playing. Stalwartly supporting the singer/trumpeters were Charles Goold- drums, Mark Lewandowski-bass, Jocelyn Gould-guitar and Jon Thomas- piano.

Skonberg showcased her chops early on by doing a Roy Eldridge interlude from an Anita O’Day song. Afterward she teamed up with her cohost Benack for a Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald inspired rendition of their celebrated duet “Cheek to Cheek” with them appealingly singing and playing together. The Canadian singer/trumpeter also spotlighted her velvety vocal prowess through Hoagy Carmichael’s immortal ballad “The Nearness of You,” which was garnered with a supple guitar solo.

For contrast, Benack with his cohort launched into Dizzy Gillespie’s spirited and fun number “And Then She Stopped,” featuring a couple of reprises propelled by the drummer. Continuing, the New York-based trumpeter/singer reeled off a list of jazz trumpeter/singers including a few not as well-known as Armstrong, such as Gillespie, Billy Eckstein, Jack Sheldon and of course Chet Baker.

That led to a piano and vocal/trumpet duet of “Crazy She Calls Me” with a mischievous insertion of “My Funny Valentine” to get the audience going.

Staying in the easy flowing mode, Skonberg with full band served up a gentle interpretation of “Stompin at The Savoy” that later ramped up for swinging scatting and trumpet playing by Benack, including tradeoffs with the backing players. Somewhat related, due to trumpeter Harry James being the first bandleader to hire him, was Sinatra’s sultry classic “I Got You Under My Skin” and self-deprecating pop hit “Somethin’ Stupid” that were coolly performed by the headliners.

For a break from the timeless classics and standards, the Canadian artist showcased her gentle bossa-tinged original “Have a Little Heart” in response to all the conflicts and destruction currently plaguing the world. While, the New Yorker, showcases the hip-swinging title track of his album Third Time’s The Charm.

Additionally, guitarist Gould, also a bandleader and multi-Juno-winner (Canadian Grammy) showcased her jaunting version of Sigmund Romberg’s century old “Lover Come Back to Me.” For a rollicking conclusion, “Come Love” done New Orleans and salsa style was performed to prompt a fervent standing ovation. For more info go to:, and

Sold Out – Second Show Added | Blue Note Records 85th Anniversary Tour at Lodge  Room on Sun, Feb 4th, 2024 - 10:00 pm

The Blue Note Quintet, comprised of the label’s its young lion artists, alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, drummer Kendrick Scott, bassist Matt Brewer and pianist/Music Director Gerald Clayton embarked on a 35-city tour to celebrate the renowned record label’s 85th anniversary. At the Lodge Room in Highland Park the high caliber collective delivered a seamless, unannounced performance that included intermittent spoken word soundbites from the label’s list of illustrious artists such as Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Chick Corea, and Duke Pearson.

The music showcased was primarily post-bop and had little connection to the forementioned musicians, except partially to Shorter, who remained progressive and pushed the envelope up to the end of his amazing career. On the other hand, the young and very enthusiastic audience had little to no knowledge of the Blue Note icons. Generally speaking, each of the quintet members spotlighted their own music extensively with long solo sections, while also strongly supporting each other.

The intriguing aspect of the very engaging concert was trying to discern when one musician’s section ended and the other ones began. Rightfully, the audience didn’t seem to be concerned and thoroughly delighted in being in the presence of the young masters who definitely were in their own dimension. Smartly, Blue Note Records has an array of playlists available to help the attendees become more familiar with the artists. For more info go to: and

Bennie Maupin: The Jewel in the Lotus Album Review | Pitchfork

Living legend, reedist Benny Maupin celebrated the 50th Anniversary of his groundbreaking debut solo album The Jewel in the Lotus (his only one for ECM Records) at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. The singular recording was heavily influenced by Maupin’s involvement with Miles Davis’ iconic Bitches Brew, and Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi and Headhunter recordings. The reedist who also had tenure in Lee Morgan and Horace Silver’s bands, went in a more organic direction, exploring harmonic, spatial and textural variations with minimal electronics and effects, yet is atmospheric, spiritual and avant-garde.

Maupin masterfully rekindled the 44-minute project in its entirety for the 90-minute concert. Supporting and abetting him were Darek Oleszkiewicz-bass, Eric McKain-percussion, and Kenny Sara-drums/percussion, Tim Feeney-percussion/marimba, David Arnay-piano, Caleb Veazey-guitar and Steve Lehman-alto sax. Additionally, Eyvind Kang-viola d’amore, Jake Hansen-cello and Miguel Atwood Ferguson-violin provided lush string accompaniment.

Opening track “Ensenada” was the exposition as the ensemble interwove with the bandleader’s slow evolving flute playing with Lehman complimenting. Whereas, “Mappo” was starker and bordered modern classical with layers of reeds, percussion and piano. “Excursion” was highlighted by Maupin’s serpentine bass clarinet playing to a backdrop of driving percussion. The most “electronic” sounding of the selections was “Past+Present=Future” that included reverberatory effects from the bandleader’s searing soprano sax playing.

The title track, longest of the compositions, returned to Maupin’s signature bass clarinet playing and was a slow developing thematic groove of sorts with the other players gently easing into it. Breaking out of the meditative-like pieces was “Song for Tracie Dixon Summers” featuring Arnay and strings flourishing.

A surprise insertion into the concert and not on the record was Hancock and the Headhunter’s ethereal-like and groove oriented “Butterfly.” It overflowed with Maupin’s surreal soprano playing and became an extended piece that delighted the audience. Without a doubt, the composition made it easier for them to connect to the highly regarded album. For more info go to: and

Detroit-born Kathy Kosins thinks of herself as a soul and jazz artist. However, her current style of R&B differs from Aretha Franklinthe Queen of SoulAtlantic Records, Motown and the southern grit of Stax Records and Al Green. Kosins, instead embodies a more holistic, inner-driven and un-urban approach that has similarities to singer/songwriters Carol King, Laura Nyro and to a lesser degree Bill Withers.

Her recent LA gig, produced by Cathy Segal Garcia, at the G-Spot was with keyboardist Carey Frank. He plays in a variety of settings and also is Veronica Swift’s touring keyboardist. Kosins and Frank got down to business with “Can We Pretend” that featured the singer scatting at the end of the song. Coincidently, it was first recorded by Withers and written by his ex-wife, actress Denise Nicholas.

The duo quickly changed things up with the keyboardist switching to organ for the altruistic ballad “If Love Could Talk” that was accentuated with powerfully evocative singing and a charged organ solo. Staying in that mode, the duo jumped into New Orleans styled soul tune “Put The Voodoo on Me,” derived for Aaron Neville’s “Voodoo” with the audience clapping along. Alan Goldman, owner of the beautiful and intimate venue, also got involved and soloed on piano to rile up the crowd even more.

Kosins, both a prolific songwriter and knowledgeable song curator, spotlighted many enjoyable standards with Frank back on piano. Among them was the sweetly sung ballad “Spring is Where You Are,” stride piano-based “Tomorrow is Another Day” and Tamir Hendelman’s percolating arrangement of Al Cohn’s “Nightbird” that Anita O’Day popularized.

The ASCAP Award-winning songwriter eventually returned to her soulful ways and showcased the title track of her latest album Uncovered Soul that she called “Indie Soul,” with Nyro-like singing. Introspective ballad “Alone in the Dark” made its audience debut as Kosins’ stirringly expressed vulnerability. While, “How Do We Get to No Connection” was C. King-like and revealed frustration. Uniquely, Burt Bacharach/Hal David’s Dionne Warwick hit “Walk On By” was transformed by Kosins into an upbeat celebration with the audience supplying rhythmic clapping.

For more variety, the Beatles “Long And Winding Road” was done soulfully and “From A 2 B” had Broadway/pop-like qualities to end the lively set. Additionally, as Frank played a thematic contemporary jazz original, the singer quickly created an abstract painting, which she calls “improvisation on canvas” and was purchased by someone in the audience. Unquestionably, Kosins is a gifted artist in a variety of ways. For more info go to: and   

Amber Weekes headlines the benefit concert “Women of Jazz” Friday, March 1  at 7pm at the Moss Theater in Santa Monica. This is a spec... | Instagram

The New Roads World Music Concert Series presented Women in Jazz at the Moss Theater on National Black Women in Art and Jazz Day. The featured ensemble for the occasion was led by vocalist Amber Weekes who graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s University, one of the concert co-sponsors. Weekes’ frontline musicians consisted of saxophonist/Music Director Keschia Potter and trumpeter Tatiana Tate, with backing support from Michael Alvidrez-bass, Clifton E. Brown-guitar, Donovan Brown-drums and Serge Kasimoff-piano.

After some ceremonial acknowledgements and announcements from the University’s administrators, the septet, without Weekes played a couple of tunes. First, was a high-spirited rendering of the theme song for Spike Lee’s film Mo’ Better Blues, composed by Terence Blanchard and featuring Potter blazing away. Following her, Tate shined doing Freddie Hubbard’s melodious gem “Little Sunflower.” Besides them, a few other songs, such as Grover Washington’s soulful groove “Winelight” were appealingly rendered by the saxophonist and trumpeter.

Next, MSMU Equity, Diversity and Justice scholars were introduced and spoke briefly about the program. Following the exceptional students, Weekes hit the stage serenely doing her enchanting bossa version of the Gene Wilder classic “Pure Imagination” from the endearing family film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The bandleader further charmed the audience with Peggy Lee’s very affectionate “I Love Being Here With You” accented by a bass solo and brass choruses. While, tenderly sung ballad “More Than Know” was the final layer of icing on a very saccharine cake and drew strong applause from the audience.

Weekes, though, is lot more than a sweet-sounding singer and displayed her sassier side through Oscar Brown Jr.’s immortal cautionary song “The Snake.” It’s always included in her shows and this time around was tastefully adorned by muted trumpet playing. Similarly, “It’s All Right With Me” was hot and swinging, with the singer riding the crest of the jazzy wave generated by her band.

A Lady with a Song - Wikipedia

For something very different, the singer introduced bluesy “Suppertime” from her upcoming album Lady With a Song, Celebrates Nancy Wilson. The song was written by Irving Berlin for the 1933 musical As Thousands Cheer was among those taken from headlines of the day. This particular one was “Unknown Negro Lynched By Frenzied Mob (in Florida).” Ethel Waters, the first black person to have a starring role in a Broadway musical sang it. She played the wife expecting her husband home for dinner and found out he had been lynched.

Needless to say, the song that predated Billie Holiday’s explosive “Strange Fruit” by six years drew harsh criticism. Nonetheless, Artie Shaw with Helen Forrest recorded it in 1939, Ella Fitzgerald in 1958, Oscar Peterson in 1959, Barbra Streisand in 1964 and Nancy Wilson in1969, along with many others. For more info go to: and

Five-time Grammy-winner, the first to win three successive times in any category, and the first LA Philharmonic Creative Chair For JazzDianne Reeves made her loosely biennial appearance at Disney Hall. She also has the distinction of being the first singer to perform at the somewhat fabled venue a little over 20 years ago during its debut season, and replaced Melody Gardot who was originally scheduled to perform on that date.

Overall, Reeves’ concert with stellar cohorts, Romero Lubambo-guitar, John Beasley-piano/Music Director, Reuben Rogers-bass and Terreon Gully-drums, along with guest Myungo Jackson-percussion was somewhat of a homecoming or rather reunion. She warmly greeted the audience with a rapturous version of “What’s New” and then somewhat coyly sang “Social Call” with a touch of scatting.

In many respects, the singer is really a “grand communicator” and mentioned the world is crazy, but that the venue is a “sacred place filled with peace and grace.” With that in mind, Reeves gently sang Horace Silver’s call for global harmony “Peace” with mostly piano, and light touches from the other bandmembers.

She stayed in that mode a little while longer with just guitar supporting as she scatted/yodeled during the initial stages of Pat Metheny’s Brazilian/Amazon Forest tinged “Minuano (Six Eight)”. After the other musicians eased in for a tropical funk jam, she and band rocketed into the juggernaut-like body of tune that has become a staple of her shows in recent years.

After the highflying and crowd-pleasing jaunt, Reeves winded down and recalled her days in late ‘70s to early ‘80s playing at Venice’s Comeback Inn with Billy Childs and others. Chick Corea happened to catch them play one time and asked them to play “My Funny Valentine” at his party. After that and hearing Reeves was in the process of recording her first solo album, he invited them to use his studio and engineer. That led to Reeves doing the song as an enticing duet with Lubambo that also featured his astounding acoustic guitar soloing.  

Also, their ballad and her storytelling for “I Wish You Love” (and a winning lottery ticket) was related to Reeves’ who returned to Denver many years ago, getting further educated by jazz’s top singers at the Parisian Room during that era too. Also in the romantic vein was Fleetwood Mac’s mid-tempo “Dreams” and standard “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Wrapping up the exceptionally warm and inviting concert was a whirling homage to recently departed Wayne Shorter through his long living classic “Footprints.” It featured the Music Director and Reeves doing her singing/scatting announcement of her players to draw a jubilant standing ovation.

For the encore, she rendered a hypnotic version of “You Taught My Heart to Sing” with her guitarist and partially off-mic singing to win over more hearts. Reeves may live in Denver now, but she’ll definitely always have a home in Los Angeles. For more info go to: and

Lisa Hilton Malibu Tickets, Raitt Recital Hall Mar 06, 2024 | Bandsintown

Pianist, composer and producer Lisa Hilton is a prolific artist, with close to 30 albums out, and pretty much releases a new one annually. The most recent recording, Coincidental Moment was spotlighted during her concert at the Raitt Recital Hall,locatedon the Pepperdine University campus in Malibu. Working with Hilton for the outing was Igmar Thomas-trumpet, Luques Curtis-bass, and Rudy Royston-drums/percussion.

“Fast Time Blues” from her 2022 record Paradise Cove, along new numbers “Jagged Little Blues” and “Anxiety Society” incorporated hardbop, Latin and Caribbean rhythms reminiscent of Horace Silver and Amad Jamal’s popular tunes from the ‘50s and ‘60s. With the addition of trumpeter, Thomas the dimensions of Hilton and her other band members’ sound was expanded.

She was aware that some of the audience had a limited knowledge of jazz and explained who John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was before doing his popular tune “Birks Works.” Along the same lines musically was Hilton’s “Happily Go Luckily.” Both were somewhat more bluesy and hard-bop oriented than the previous numbers, featuring the bandleader and trumpeter injecting complimenting vamps and solos that delighted the crowd. 

The title track of Hilton’s new record was showcased without Thomas, and Erik Satie-like “Another Simple Sunday With You” with him, was a return to the pianist’s better known impressionistic stylings. Hilton also injected a bluesy solo into the latter piece. Further showcasing her easy flowing pieces was the solo, unaccompanied composition Seduction, the title of her 2005 album.

With the rhythm players, new age composition Waterfall from 2000 was performed. Both drew strong crowd reactions. While, new piece “Everyday Anthem” with trumpet returning, mixed classical/new age with jazz and blues excursions to end the program and received resounding applause. For more info go to: and

Jazz and Walt Disney have been intertwined since his earliest films. Although never officially stated, the ground breaking animator, producer and amusement park developer was known to be a fan of jazz and many of his films incorporated varying amounts of the genre. During the last 10-15 years, there have been many jazz artists doing Disney-themed projects. Among them are Kat Edmonson’s Dreamers DoJamie Cullum, Melody Gardot, Gregory Porter and others together for Jazz Loves Disney 1 & 2, and Gil Goldstein & Friends Disney Meets Jazz: Tribute to Walt Disney.

Disney Jazz, Vol. 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat included Dave Brubeck and was released a year before his death in 2012. It was somewhat of a successor to his 1957 record Dave Digs Disney. Other significant jazz heavyweights following in Brubeck steps were Duke Ellington Plays Mary Poppins in 1964 and Louis Armstrong’s 1968 Disney Songs the Satchmo Way. It was personally requested by Disney, but his death in 1966 prevented him from hearing the finished product.

Also paying tribute to Disney are Matt Johnson & The New Jet Set: Swingin’ the Disney Songbook. They played at the Sierra Madre Playhouse and have an edge on all the forementioned artists—emcee/drummer Johnson and vocalist Adryon de Leon, who came out later, are current Disneyland cast members and perform there regularly, but in different shows.

Johnson possesses encyclopedia-like knowledge of everything Disney and informed the audience of lesser-known facts and tidbits relating to the songs played. In addition to his commentary, corresponding film clips, photos and posters were displayed above the stage. With bandmates, Chris Barron–Music Director/piano, Miles Jensen- guitar and David Miller–bass, Johnson launched into the high-spirited “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins.

Before getting any further into the show, the drummer/emcee quickly stated that the group wasn’t authorized, affiliated with or otherwise endorsed by the Walt Disney Company. From there, the players were free to showcase tunes without any worries of reprisal. They settled into a brisk and jazzy instrumental version of Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.” Historically, it was from the first Pixar/Disney collaboration Toy Story and also the first full-length animated film to be 100% computer generated.

Train-like and coolly swinging “Casey Jr.,” and soothing guitar-laden ballad “Baby Mine” were both from Dumbo. The film was hastily made to recoup losses from Pinocchio and Fantasia, and surprisingly won an Oscar for Best Original Score in 1941. Though not Academy Award winning, 1970 The Aristocats, the last animated film Disney personally approved, featured the hip and enduring “Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat.” It was sophisticatedly rendered by the quartet and acknowledged voice actor/baritone singer Thurl Ravenscroft.

That was the perfect segue way for de Leon to join the band. She injected more energy into the already entertaining show with sassy and Broadway-like singing for “Cruella De Ville” from The Hundred and One Dalmatians, and The Princess and the Frog’s “Down In New Orleans” bolstered by hot group interactions. She also slowed things down with the inspiring and inclusive (Halle Berry sang it in the film) “Part Of Your World” from The Little Mermaid.

Johnson was also in the spotlight and showcased his scorching drumming skills for Winnie The Pooh, and Barron grandly played “Never Never Land” from Peter Pan solely. Not in the band, was the emcee/drummer’s friend arranger/composer Tom Kubis. His mash of Benny Golson/Quincy Jones’ “Killer Joe” and Disney’s “Heigh-Ho” amusingly became the delectable and ultra-jazzy “Killer Ho.”

Ending the show was “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1940 (Disney’s first Oscar) and of course is the company’s ubiquitous signature song. For more info go to: and

the word cinema
2024 Pan African Film & Arts Festival | BlackNLA

The 2024 Pan African Film Festival showcased many extraordinary films relating to jazz and music in general for 2024. At the top of the list were:

Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes The story of musician Max Roach, whose far-reaching ambitions were inspired and challenged by the inequities of the society around him. His stunningly diverse seven-decade career marked him as one of the great musical artists of the 20th century—and a pioneering cultural activist—at times when the nation was steeped in racism. Viewers follow Roach across a rich and complicated life, days of now-legendary achievement and also deep personal struggle, and the price he paid for his outspoken views. Commentary was by Max Roach, Quincy Jones, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Sonny Rollins.

BOB MARLEY: ONE LOVE celebrates the life and music of an icon who inspired generations through his message of love and unity. On the big screen for the first time, discover Bob’s powerful story of overcoming adversity and the journey behind his revolutionary music. Produced in partnership with the Marley family and starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as the legendary musician and Lashana Lynch as his wife Rita.

Music Pictures: New Orleans celebrates the rich history of New Orleans music along with rare backstage footage and personal insights into the lives and artistry of four New Orleans music icons: Irma Thomas, Little Freddie King, Ellis Marsalis, and The Tremé Brass Band, this Mardi Gras feast follows these local legends, all in their 80s, as they continue to navigate their musical journeys in the city that shaped them.

The Orchestra Chuck Built, in 2016, the League of American Orchestras conducted a study that revealed a shocking statistic: only 1.8% of the professional orchestra workforce in the US are Black. From an old church rec room in the inner city of Los Angeles, former lawyer-turned-conductor Chuck Dickerson is on a mission to change that. Through ICYOLA – The Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles — the largest majority Black orchestra in the country — Chuck is creating life-changing opportunities for his community that did not previously exist. The Orchestra Chuck Built is a loving portrait of a tireless mentor and a testament to the transformative power of music.

BronX BandA: Arturo O'Farrill & The Bronx (2023) - IMDb

BronX BandA: Arturo O’Farrill & The Bronx pay homage to the history of the Afro-Latinx music that was born in the Bronx, the economically poorest congressional district in the U.S., 6-time Grammy Award-winning pianist Arturo O’Farrill brings to life a 9-piece hip-hop-jazz-funk ensemble converting stories of South Bronx life into music resounding in the streets.

African Reasons (Razões Africanas) an exploration of the influence of the African diaspora in the formation of three important musical rhythms: blues, rumba and jongo. The film follows the journey of three characters in six countries, revealing the African origins common to these musical styles that have spread around the world.

Sing! Fight! Sing! Fight! From LeRoi to Amiri, a first-person account of the life & work of revolutionary poet, playwright, jazz critic and intellectual Amiri Baraka, co-founder of the Black Arts Movement which changed and affects the concepts and boundaries of Black art to this day. Appearances by Amiri Baraka, Coyt Leroy Jones, Asha Bandele, Allen Ginsberg, Hettie Jones, Sekou Sundiata, Quincy Troupe and Marvin X.

GLORIA GAYNOR: I WILL SURVIVE is the story of a Disco legend who, for five  decades, has inspired millions with her words I WILL SURVIVE, ... |  Instagram

Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive, the story of a disco legend who for five decades has inspired millions with her words I WILL SURVIVE,but only understood the lyrics when she hit rock bottom at age 65. The film tells the story of a true second act made possible by Gloria’s private philosophies and life-choices (fueled by earning a psychology degree at age 70) that would empower her to produce and win a Grammy for her self-funded album TESTIMONY – 40 years after winning for I WILL SURVIVEGloria Gaynor’s life lessons will inspire people worldwide to not only “survive” but “thrive.

Taking Back The Groove | Women Make Movies

Taking Back the Groove reintroduces the world to Bronx-born ’80s disco superstar Richie Weeks. Like many Black artists throughout American recording history, his talent was strip mined to enrich white-owned record labels. When disco cooled down, Richie Weeks and many other artists like him faded from view. Taking Back the Groove tells the story of how Richie Weeks clawed back the rights to his music in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and his ongoing fight to restore his legacy and share his music.

The Good Life is about a hopeful musician who is caught in the crossfire of a deal gone bad. As a result of that he loses his sight, his wife and his passion for music. It takes time…but eventually he finds the light at the end of this long road.

The Rhythm & The Blues shows guitar blues legend Eddie Taylor being challenged by a corrupt industry, family drama, and British rockers’ appropriation of his music, while continuing to fight to prove his genius before the industry discards him.

A Hip Hop Story, hip hop culture is in a crisis! A pioneer of the culture joins forces with a few of rap music’s elite performers to attempt to save hip hop. Exciting and hilarious, this film also offers relevant social commentary on the state of hip hop culture. Directed by Damaine Radcliff with an original screenplay by Affion Crockett.

A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. In August, 2021, the Wu-Tang Clan, backed by the 60-piece Colorado Symphony Orchestra performed at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheater. Roughly 10,000 fans witnessed one of the most extraordinary concerts in hip-hop music history. Welcome to A Wu-Tang Experience.

Lost Soulz, Sol (rapper Sauve Sidle) is an aspiring young rapper living with his best friend Wesley (Siyanda Stillwell), whose family has embraced him as a brother. When a raucous night goes too far, Sol abandons Wesley unconscious at a house party, and soon leaves home for good to join a touring group of hip-hop artists. As they travel across Texas creating and performing, he discovers who he is as an artist and person. Set to a hazy, genre-bending hip-hop soundtrack, Katherine Propper creates an enigmatic energy that underlines her leading man’s desire for friendship and belonging – and his guilt for leaving his brother behind.

From a socio-political and humanitarian standpoint, there were:

One Person, One Vote? An absolute must-see for anyone who can vote for president in the United States, this eye-opening exposé of the origins and contentious history of the Electoral College gives context to current events recalling the often-forgotten role of slavery in its creation and how throughout American history, it has dramatically impacted American politics and society particularly with respect to voter suppression and the devaluation of the minority vote. Featuring commentary by scholars Dr. Jelani Cobb, Dr. Carol Anderson, and Dr. Paul Finkelman, cameo performances by Kelly McCreary, Boise Holmes, Tyee Tilghman, Veralyn Jones, and Peter Jerrod Macon with stunning animation by Pierre Bennu.

GENIUS: MLK/X follows both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) and Malcolm X (Aaron Pierre) from their formative years, where they were molded by strong fathers and traumatic injustices, to their rich, parallel stories as they shaped their identities and became the change they wished to see in the world. The docudrama series offers an intimate look into their complex lives as husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, taking them off the iconic T-shirts to show their humanity.

GENIUS: MLK/X also brings their wives, Coretta Scott King (Weruche Opia) and Betty Shabazz (Jayme Lawson), who are often portrayed as peripheral figures, to the forefront and shows them as formidable equals of the Movement. Episodes will explore the moments between the monumental historical events we’ve come to know and shine a light on how each leader and those closest to them questioned their resolve and decisions as they navigated the rigors of balancing a public persona with a private life. While King and X met only once and often challenged each other’s views, neither would have been as successful without the other.

Respect My Crown: The Rise of African American Women In California Politics, with who’s who interviews from the worlds of politics, community activism, organized labor, and the judicial system, this is a 170-year herstory chronicling the struggles and sacrifices of Black women seeking equity while battling race and gender barriers in pursuit of equality and political power in the State of California.

A Double Life, the true story of Stephen Bingham, a lawyer accused of passing a gun to prisoners’ rights leader George Jackson in 1971. Forced into a life on the run, Bingham spends 13 years underground, eluding capture while fiercely determined to clear his name. Through a mesmerizing blend of firsthand accounts, rare archival materials, and poignant interviews, the story traces Bingham’s astonishing odyssey.

Golden Hearted, narrated by actor Danny Glover, this is the story of the life and legacy of former Congresswoman Diane E. Watson, who after growing up in South Central LA in a Jim Crow society during WW2, became one of the country’s most influential voices. Commentaries by Howard Hewett, Jayne Kennedy, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, Kathleen Bradley and Tico Wells.

How to Sue the Klan, in a historic 1982 civil case using the 1871 KKK Enforcement Act, five women took on the Klu Klux Klan, winning a victory exposing the Klan to financial vulnerability and leaving a lasting impact on legal battles against the Klan and all hate groups. Commentary by Attorney Ben Crump.

Life or Death: The Arthur “Silky Slim” Story, after escaping death several times, former gang leader Arthur “Silk Slim” Reed becomes a civil rights activist when he teams up with Attorney Benjamin Crump. A heartwarming tale of survival and redemption with commentaries by Benjamin Crump, Jonathan Majors, Megan Goode and Rev. Al Sharpton.

Love is Not Enough; institutionalized racism and poverty are inexorably bound along with its accessory–the gun. Gun violence breeds insurmountable grief within Chicago’s Black community. This is a story of the road to change, showing how a few strong community-based leaders can release the bonds of entrenched poverty and racism to light the way to equal education that allows the children to compete.

Racist Trees, in the city of Palm Springs, cut off from the glitz and glamor and eclipsed by towering Tamarisk trees, lies a historically Black neighborhood known as Crossley Tract. Planted in the late 1950s along the 14th fairway of a city-owned public golf course, these trees have become a symbol of segregation, sparking frustration among locals, reigniting racial tension and devaluating property values. For decades, residents have been forced to put up with the tangled overgrowth of a species so invasive, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has officially categorized them as pests. Until now.

Becoming Black, a white couple in East-Berlin (GDR) in the 1960s tells their daughter that her dark skin color is pure coincidence and has no meaning. This is also what the girl prefers to believe, until she accidentally discovers the truth as a teenager. It will take many more years before she decides to embark on a journey to Togo to look for her African family.

NEGRITA, exploring the ideology of Blackness, diverse Afro-Latinas explore and confront culture and racism while defining their own identity in the U.S. – Racially Black Ethnically Latina.

This World is Not My Own, a delightfully inventive, historically rich, multi-media documentary reimagining the world and life of Georgia-raised, self-taught folk artist Nellie Mae Rowe, whose life spanned the 20th century and whose unconventional, magical creations were championed by an unlikely, wealthy, eccentric Atlanta Jewish gallery owner who opened the world’s eyes to Rowe’s visual genius.

And for pure fun and adventure:

The debut of Outlaw Posse an American western film written, directed and starring Mario Van Peebles (Chief). It also stars Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer, Edward James Olmos, John Carroll Lynch, William Mapother (Angel), Cam Gigandet, Allen Payne, Neal McDonough, and M. Emmet Walsh in his final film role before his death in March 19, 2024. In 1908, Chief returns from years of hiding to claim stolen gold. In his quest, he reunites an ensemble of familiar faces – together they fight off Angel, whose rationale to the gold leaves a trail of dead bodies. For more info go to:

Anything to be considered for this column can be sent to: