Thanks to Natalie of natalieslovelyblog.com, the writings of my son, Cliff, and of course his chickens for the inspiration
Half-done like a soft-boiled egg, bright and sun yellow, you gently poke and it oozes its sticky nectar.
My mission? To find a redheaded Latina to tie in with my featured artist. Since nearly every famous Latina has sported red tresses at one time or another, this really wasn’t that difficult, but I’m striving for authenticity. I’m not sure if Gloria Estefan is a natural redhead, but she looks fair and freckled, and there sure are a lot of photos of her with red hair. Besides, the color suits her well, especially in this picture of Gloria with the flaming curls.
Before there was Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, before there was Christina Aguilera, J-Lo, or Selena Gomez, or even her tragically slain namesake, there was Angela Bofill. Angie’s music–I’ll forgo the formality of the traditional jazz critics’ use of Miss Bofill–necessarily contains Latin elements; she is of Cuban/Puerto Rican heritage, and grew up in the Bronx, but is also strongly influenced by her love of jazz and R&B. Her crossover appeal caught the attention of fledgling jazz label GRP Records, which was also the producer for her longtime friend, flutist Dave Valentin.
Her first two albums on GRP, Angie in 1978 and Angel of the Night in 1979, were marketed to a predominately jazz audience, getting extensive airplay on WRVR in New York and other urban markets. Her early success caught the attention of Clive Davis at Arista Records. Since Arista had a distribution deal with GRP, Angie switched labels for her 1981 album Something About You, produced by Narada Michael Walden. This collaboration with Walden led to Bofill’s greatest commercial success, with the 1983 release of Too Tough.
Her earlier recordings have a rawness, both emotionally and in the unique phrasing, virtually devoid of vibrato, resulting in a plaintive call. It is at once tough, with a husky, signature cry that emanates from, then is drawn back to, her chest. The Walden produced recordings display more polish and maturity, and Too Tough showcases Bofill’s virtuosity without sacrificing her emotional strength.
To be honest, when this album was released, it slipped right by me. The post-disco title tune garnered most of the air play and caused me to overlook the strengths of this collection, including many of my now favorite ballads, Tonight I Give In, Song for a Rainy Day, and Accept Me. The coming of age song Accept Me appeals to the reason of her lover, “I’m a woman now, I’m not just a girl.” The lyrics are spare, but the message becomes more pleading and insistent until you can almost envision the singer stopping her feet and waving her hands as she desperately seeks understanding.
“I’m not a girl any-more,
not your girl an-y-more,
not your lit-tle girl an-y-more,
I’m all grown up now!”
Song for a Rainy Day is a textured torch song that also questions until it builds to a climax.
“Love, you cast me aside
Threw me away
Are you saving me up for a rainy day?
First, you make me feel fine
Now, you make me feel blue
What did I do to you?”
The cover of the classic Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hit Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing is well represented in a duet with Boz Scaggs. Angie displays a true affinity for the music she grew up with and makes you wish she recorded more like it. Unlike Bofill’s earlier albums, there is not a lot of Latin influenced music, but I Can See It In Your Eyes has a Brazilian feel and Angie closes with some melodic Portuguese. Here’s the full playlist:
- “Too Tough” 5:36
- “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” 3:04
- “Tonight I Give In” 3:21
- “You Could Come Take Me Home” 3:51
- “Love You Too Much” 3:56
- “Is This a Dream” 5:11
- “Song for a Rainy Day” 3:37
- “I Can See It In Your Eyes” 3:31
- “Accept Me (I’m Not a Girl Anymore)” 3:34
- “Rainbow Inside My Heart” 3:44
A bit of trivia about a couple of the musicians accompanying Bofill on this album; Randy Jackson of American Idol fame is the bassist and Sheila Escovedo the percussionist featured on these sessions.
Finally, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Dave Valentin on March 8th due to complications from a stroke and Parkinson’s disease. His great spirit and musical voice, a sound that complimented Angela’s on many recordings, will be greatly missed.
My hope is that you are reading my short story following these reviews. Your comments, good or bad, are encouraged. Here is the 3rd installment of Pops…
My first day on the job was uneventful, except for my introduction to Pops. He was busy at the register when I entered the store. I remember being pleased that his appearance matched my expectations of him; he really did look like somebody’s father. He was stout and a little heavy around the middle, his round belly separated into two soft rolls by his white apron strings. His brown hands were large and strong and moved smoothly behind the counter as he exchanged money with his customers. A yellow baseball cap, Pops’ lucky cap, was perched on top of his large head, and appeared to be about a half size too small. Smoke from his pipe hovered about his full, dark brown face.
I, on the other hand, didn’t make a good first impression on Pops. Ignorant of his tight budget and his pride as an independent businessman, I made the blunder of asking out loud the usual amount of his daily purchase. Checking me with a frown and excusing himself from his customers at the register, Pops grasped me firmly by the wrist and led me to the back of the store where he pulled a pencil and a small slip of paper from his apron pocket. Silently writing the figure $20 he pressed the slip into the palm of my hand. Avoiding his eyes to conceal my embarrassment, I hustled out to my truck to select his modest order.
When I returned, Pops was smiling, having completely forgotten the awkwardness of the moment before.
“Thanks son,” he said, his eyes communicating forgiveness for having caught him off guard. “You have a nice day now.”
Relieved, I smiled and mumbled, “You too — I’ll see you tomorrow.”
There are music historians who profess that Jazz is America’s only native art form. They will get no argument from me. To understand the state of Jazz in America today, I’ll recount a story I read a few years ago in a local newspaper.
The f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) store in a nearby mall received complaints that adult videos were being openly displayed on shelves where they could be easily viewed by minors or other customers who might be offended by their content. The solution? Move them next to the Jazz section, because, as the manger explained, “Hardly anybody ever goes back there.” The sad thing was that the statement was true. How can it be that there is not one 24-hour Jazz station in New York City? It has not always been so. Once upon a time there was a shining beacon of Jazz in New York that went by the call letters WRVR.
The station had a history deeply rooted in the community surrounding Riverside Church in upper Manhattan, where it broadcast hard-core Jazz for over 17 years, before moving to Woodside, Queens and updating its format to include more crossover styles of Jazz and jazz-related music. The philosophy was that the new format would appeal to a larger audience while exposing them to more traditional styles of Jazz.
For those of us who became fans of the station, we were immensely loyal, but the hybrid never grew the audience needed to make the station financially viable, so without warning, at 12:00 P.M. on September 8, 1980 Jazz station WRVR became country station WKHK. Like every other fan, my car and home radios were locked into WRVR, so when they mysteriously disappeared, I desperately twisted and turned the dial trying to figure out WTF was going on. The station was deluged with calls from irate listeners. WKHK which went by the name Kick-FM, sure felt like a kick in the ass to the abandoned fans of WRVR.
The departure left a huge void for Jazz fans. For several years WJAZ in Stamford, CT broadcast Jazz 24 hours, frequently hosted by bassist Rick Petrone. WBGO in Newark, NJ is still broadcasting and comes closest in style and mission to the Riverside Church broadcasts. The emergence of the smooth jazz format brought CD101.9 to the New York market and its playlist was representative of some of the crossover artists you might find on WRVR during the years they broadcast out of Woodside, but it lacked the personality and edge of my beloved station and was a bit too formulaic for my taste. However, if you were a fan, and miss the station, it’s now available streaming here:
To get a flavor of the WRVR sound, you can search for audio clips or clones on the various streaming services. Here is a sample playlist:
As great as the music was, the deejays at WRVR were a big part of the emotional connection with the New York audience. The names at the bottom of the program list, Herschel, G. Keith Alexander, Batt Johnson, and especially the signature voice of the station, Les Davis, were true characters. They were funny, dedicated to the music, and genuinely loved their work and their listeners.
I still hold out hope for the resurgence of Jazz as popular music in America, and for an environment to spawn the WRVR for future generations of Jazz fans.
Today’s featured redhead is Ron Howard as Opie Taylor. A current photo of Ron wouldn’t display much hair. A well known fact is that redheads possess magical properties. This is especially true for Howard as evidenced by his long, successful career as an actor and director.
Andy and Opie shared a special father-son bond and often enjoyed a day of fishing in idyllic Mayberry. I sometimes refer to this show to explain what a certain segment of the population, e.g., voter for Donald Trump, means when waxing poetic about “the good old days.” You know, when life was so much simpler, minorities and women knew their place and there was no Roe vs. Wade, no gays or lesbians. The air was cleaner and the skies bluer. That’s for another day…
Like Opie, jazz composer and musician Horace Silver had a special relationship with his father. Song For My Father on Blue Note Records is Silver’s tribute to his father, John Tavares Silva, who he describes in the liner notes as, “of Portuguese origin, born on the island of Maio, one of the Cape Verde Islands.” This album has always been one of my jazz favorites, maybe because I appreciate the sentiment implicit in the title, but more I think because Silver is rarely mentioned with the great composers like Ellington, Monk, Miles Davis or Charles Mingus, or with other jazz piano masters. Song For My Father is Silver at his finest, and elevates him into this rarefied company.
If the opening bars to the title song sound familiar, it’s because they were borrowed by Steely Dan for Rikki Don’t Lose That Number. They are immediately followed by another well known refrain from Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.
“Don’t you worry ’bout a thi-eh-eh-eh—eh-eh-eh—eh-eh-eh—eh-eh-eh-ing.”
Silver describes the rhythm as a bossa nova, but it’s a different slant from what fans heard earlier from Getz, Jobim and Gilberto, which by this time were becoming a bit too familiar. Some critics have described this album as “hard-bop,” but that is ignoring the beautiful subtlety in Silver’s internationally flavored style. There are Asian and Latin influences underlying a soulful bluesy sensibility. Of course, some of these numbers are jumpin’, especially on The Kicker with the tight horn section, and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson’s in your face solo, truly kickin’ ass, but more impressive is Silver’s sense of space and restraint in letting the music breathe.
Several CD collections of this album include alternate and bonus tracks. The original consists of the playlist below and concludes with the beautiful mournful ballad Lonely Women which soars in its pure understatement, and I believe stands next to Monk’s Ruby My Dear in its artistic expression of sorrow, remorse and loneliness. Listen to the use of space, the extended pauses, and a melody which cries out for lyrics, “I’m such a lone-ly wo-man…” Once Silver trails off to end the album, the listener is left transfixed in a state of empathy.
- “Song for My Father” – 7:17
- “The Natives Are Restless Tonight” – 6:09
- “Calcutta Cutie” – 8:31
- “Que Pasa” – 7:47
- “The Kicker” (Joe Henderson) – 5:26
- “Lonely Woman” – 7:02
Here is the continuation of my short story, Pops.
It didn’t take me long to realize that just keeping the store open was no easy chore; any money that Pops made went back into his store, to pay his electric bill and restock his slim inventory. Most of the shelves and the old, tired refrigerators, that Pops repeatedly repaired himself, were empty. They often reminded me of the old nursery rhyme, “Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard.” There were times when you could fit Pops’ entire inventory into the back seat of your car.
I delivered milk to Pops’ store every morning. It was the last stop on my route, at the end of Lincoln Avenue, the street which functioned as the dividing line between the North and South side of town. A brick wall couldn’t have done a better job of marking the northernmost border of the Black community. Only a handful of black families, those with enough money to buy themselves in, lived on the North side, and no white people, that I know of, made their home on the South side. Anyone that questioned this boundary need only note the railroad cut which ran behind Pops’s store and the rest of the avenue. The regular rumblings of the passenger trains were a constant reminder of the steel border.
I, of course, lived on the North side and never ventured much into the unfamiliar territory of the South until I began my job at the dairy. I took the job in late May, hoping to put an end to my parents’ accusations that I lacked a “sense of responsibility” and had no direction. Having dropped out of music school nearly six months earlier, the accusations were becoming more frequent, and more accurate. My problem was one of definition. Life was no longer a clearly marked course, a series of classes to be passed or failed. Entering the Parker School of Music, I was the “promising young tenor” who would develop his raw talent and become the next Coltrane, but endless classes in theory, composition, and harmony only frustrated me. Music, which had been feeling, was now hard work, and my classmates, with their superior technical skills, intimidated me. I lasted one semester. Putting my horn aside for a while, I set out on my career in the milk business.
Give a little, maybe get a little…
When I started this blog, I viewed it as an vehicle to share some of my old short stories. After viewing the work of my fellow bloggers, I realize it’s a lot to ask for someone to read through page after page of poorly formatted text. I also envisioned posting a good number of music reviews and stories devoted to my New York sports teams. Alas, the best laid plans…
Since my posts are already all over the map, why not mix up a few categories in the same post? Which brings us to my first installment of the Redheaded Record Review. I am/was actually the redhead, well at least auburn like my mom, but I do still have freckles, and the record reference exposes my age. Here’s the deal; tell me what you think.
I’ll profile the redhead of the day, and tie them into a record review. Following the review I’ll provide a snippet of one of my stories in a serial format. Maybe you’ll be kind enough to give it a read and let me know what you think?
Today’s featured redhead is Katie Leclerc, co-star of the Freeform series Switched At Birth. Katie plays a deaf character Daphne Vasquez, and in real life has sustained hearing loss as a result of Ménière’s disease. The featured album is March To Fuzz by Mudhoney, which could be a favorite of many deaf fans who like to crank up the volume to feel the music.
I was turned on to grunge and the Seattle music scene very late, listening to all of the well known bands, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, that are all now more mainstream than alternative. Bands changed and exchanged members and formed new groups. I had read about Melvins and Mudhoney and their influence on the Seattle sound; Kurt Cobain cited Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff as being most influential on Nirvana’s sound. Since I’m a big Nirvana fan, I had to give them a listen. I was expecting something similar to Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach, on the Sub Pop label. March To Fuzz shares some of those seminal elements, but there is so much more.
March To Fuzz, by Seattle area based Mudhoney, is a two disc set of recordings from 1988-2000. The first is a “best of” compilation of 22 songs, and the second contains experimental tracks, b-sides and covers. With a grand total of 52 quality songs, this may be the greatest musical deal outside of the bargain bin. The music in this 2000 Sub Pop release contains seeds of everything, strewn across the Seattle music scene, and echoes of artists that came before.
With that, March To Fuzz is derivative of nothing. The ground breaking mix of primal beats, fuzz-infused distortion, screaming irony, and punk attitude would come to define grunge. Not to be underestimated, this band is laser-focused and tight, with a twisted sense of humor. In ‘n’ Out of Grace opens with a Peter Fonda audio clip from the 1966 movie, The Wild Angels. Then, five deliberate chords followed by drummer Dan Peters launching into a rolling train of drumming carrying feedback and distortion filled guitar riffs. Growling vocals from Mark Arm, and we’re off…After five and a half minutes of near perfection, you’re hungry for more.
Maybe it’s because I’m always looking for a point of reference, searching for similarities in appearance and sound, but several tracks reminded me of The Rolling Stones. Turns out, some of that was not such a coincidence as the band enlisted record producer Jim Dickinson who also worked with the Stones. Judgement, Rage, Retribution & Thyme is straight up blues-rock. I Have to Laugh opens with a twangy Keith Richards inspired guitar riff, and ends with screaming vocals that would later become a Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl trademark, “I have to laugh, I have to LAUGH, I HAVE TO LAUGH!!!!” You Got It is the most Stones influenced song here, with lead guitarist Steve Turner again channeling Keith Richards, and Arm strutting all of his Jagger swagger and attitude. “You got it, yeah you got it, I don’t want it! Keep it outta my face!”
Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More lurches forward like Melvins sludge metal, and would later become Nirvana’s, “Daddy’s little girl ain’t a girl no more.” Who You Driving Now? features a driving beat and an anthemic chant of “Hey, hey, hey, yeyeyeah…” Arm sounds like a crazed dolphin. Generation Genocide shares the mood of Nirvana’s Under the Bridge, while Into the Drink in a similar solemn tone utilizes doubling vocals a la Alice In Chains, and 60’s organ with Leslie speaker effects over the top. A Thousand Forms of Mind could be the end of Layla with Clapton’s and Allman’s birdlike riffs, or a frenetic jam trailing a Doors live performance.
This is but a small sampling of the many twists and surprises you’ll find on this album. My attempt to describe the unique sounds in words doesn’t do this masterpiece proper justice. Give it a listen.
Now, for what it’s worth, here’s the intro to my short story, Pops.
“I shall create! If not a note, a hole.
If not an overture, a desecration.”
From, Boy Breaking Glass by Gwendolyn Brooks
His name was Nate, but everyone knew him as Pops; at least that’s all I ever heard anyone call him, except for Bobby, but Bobby had his own special way of addressing people. Pops had a small grocery store in a poor neighborhood. There was a faded and chipping sign in front that he had painted himself. The sign said, “Pops’ Community Store.” That community was nothing to advertise, but I never knew Pops to be ashamed of who he was or where he lived.
Flanked on both sides, by a storefront church called Faith in Christ Tabernacle on the right, and by Monk’s Bar on the left, Pops’ store was one of the few buildings on Lincoln Avenue that could make this claim, most of the street being made up of empty lots with the charred and crumbled remains of past buildings. Pops existed comfortably between these two extremes and had frequent visitors from both sides.
The store was Pops’ home. He slept on a cot in his office which was behind a wooden door in the right hand corner of the store. There were no windows in his office, and the only piece of furniture, besides the cot, was an old heavy wooden desk with large drawers that held Pops’ clothes and a few personal items. Two doors led to a closet and a small bathroom with a shower stall, a toilet, and a sink. Pops slept in his office because he couldn’t afford to rent both an apartment and the store. Having his own business had always been Pops’ dream, so he clung to it no matter what it took. He once told me that if he could do no more than support himself and keep his store open, that he would be satisfied.