Redhead Quickie – Depression Era Series – Pt 4

Several of the poems in The Dream Keeper by Langston Hughes have seasonal themes. Featured on this icy January night is Dreams.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.


Our featured redhead is Mickey Rooney. Rooney starred in over 300 films, his career reaching all the way back to the silent film era. The 5ft-2in Rooney was quite the ladies’ man, and his Andy Hardy series in the 1930’s marked the period of his greatest popularity.

mickey-rooney-judy-garland-1938

Our featured song is Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Fats Waller. The song didn’t apply to Rooney who was married eight times, six of those marriages ending in divorce.

No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I’m happy on the shelf

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you
For you, for you, for you

I know for certain
The one I love
I’m through with flirtin’
It’s just you I’m thinkin’ of

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you

Like Jack Horner
In the corner
Don’t go nowhere
What do I care

Your kisses
Are worth waitin’ for
Believe me

I don’t stay out late
Got no place to go
I’m home about 8
Just me and my radio

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ all my love for you

I don’t stay out late
Got no place to go
I’m home about 8
Just me and my radio

Ain’t misbehavin’
I’m savin’ my love for you

  • Writer(s): Andy Razaf, Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller, Harry Brooks

Fats Waller

Redhead Record Review – Vol. 9

I discovered Taxi on Hulu, so our featured redhead is Marilu Henner.

henner

One could argue that the ensemble cast has always been a part of popular television, but it was 70’s era shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, MASH and Taxi that created the format we’re most familiar with today. The production team of Brooks and Davis, along with the writing of James Burrows, are legendary in modern TV history and have been behind many major hit series and movies over the past 30 years.

Likewise, most of the core cast, which included Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Carol Kane and Jeff Conaway, went on to bigger fame after Taxi‘s successful run ended in 1982.

The featured album, Touchdown by Bob James, was released in 1978 and served as the soundtrack for the sitcom’s inaugural season. Touchdown included the song Angela with the subtitle Theme from Taxi. Nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary here; just feel good smooth jazz of the kind that filled the WRVR playlist and New York airwaves back in the day. The personnel list reads as a Who’s Who of the finest studio musicians of the era.

Here’s the opening for Taxi to give you a sense of the vibe for the rest of the album:

Track listing
All songs written by Bob James
“Angela (Theme from Taxi)” – 5:48
“Touchdown” – 5:44
“I Want to Thank You (Very Much)” – 7:07
“Sun Runner” – 6:17
“Caribbean Nights” – 8:46

Personnel
Bob James — Yamaha Grand Electric Piano, Fender Rhodes, Synthesizer (Oberheim Polyphonic), Acoustic Piano, Arranger, Conductor
Hiram Bullock — Guitar, Electric Guitar, Vocals
Eric Gale — Guitar, Electric Guitar
Earl Klugh, Richie Resnicoff — Acoustic Guitar
Idris Muhammad, Steve Gadd — Drums
Mongo Santamaria, Ralph MacDonald — Percussion
Gary King — Bass
Ron Carter — Piccolo Bass, Acoustic Bass
Hubert Laws — Flute
David Sanborn — Alto Saxophone
Harvey Estrin — Flute, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Jerry Dodgion — Alto Saxophone, Flute
Phil Bodner — Alto Saxophone, Flute, Oboe
Howard Johnson — Clarinet (Contrabass), Baritone Saxophone
George Marge — Tenor Saxophone, English Horn, Flute, Oboe, Recorder
Jon Faddis, Mike Lawrence, Randy Brecker, Ron Tooley — Trumpet
Alan Raph, Dave Bargeron, Wayne Andre — Trombone
David Nadien — Concertmaster
Charles McCracken, Jonathan Abramowitz, Richard Locker, Seymour Barab — Cello
Emanuel Vardi, Jean Dane, Sue Pray, Theodore Israel — Viola
Diana Halprin, Harold Kohon, Harry Cykman, Harry Lookofsky, Herbert Sorkin, John Pintavalle, Lewis Eley, Louis Gabowitz, Matthew Raimondi, Max Ellen, Richard Sortomme — Violin

Redhead Record Review – Vol. 8

Our featured redhead is Jessica Rabbit. Her exaggerated features and over-the-top sexuality well represent the 1992 album X-tra Naked by Jamaican star Shabba Ranks. All boobs and butt, Jessica would fit in nicely with the dancers featured on the Jamaican dancehall videos playlist on Rockers TV.

jessica rabbit

X-tra Naked was Shabba Ranks’ most popular release, and won the 1993 Grammy for Best Reggae Album. Categorizing this album as reggae is misleading as it is more a mix of hip-hop, R&B, and West Indian dancehall, and its cross-over appeal made Ranks the most internationally recognized Jamaican artist since Bob Marley.

Shabba’s style and lyrics are raw. You might want to be mindful of your audience if you plan to blast this album off your back deck. However, if the neighbors are not up to speed with their Jamaican patois, they likely will not understand half of what they hear.

Ting-A-Ling is a good launch point to get a feel for the patterns and beats common in dancehall, two quick phrases, followed by a double-length third line.

Ting-a-ling a ling, dancehall it swing, DJ head stuck up when hear boom riddim.
Ting-a-ling a ling, schoolbell a ring, knife and fork ah fight fi dumplin.

Shabba shouts the intro to Slow and Sexy which blends reggae and R&B, and features New Edition alum and 90’s crooner, Johnny Gill, growling and scatting alongside Shabba’s booming vocals.

Will Power has a throwback rub-a-dub style, both in the instrumental arrangement and rhythm, while Muscle Grip is Shabba’s take on tenderness as it his most restrained performance on the album, and opens with a sample of Earth Wind & Fire’s Reasons.

Rude Boy is a Jamaican anthem that draws from the spirit of Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud by James Brown. Read unrepentant for rude and man for boy, in dealing with authority.

The lyrics to Cocky Rim are so crude and nasty that I’ve yet to listen past the first verse. 5-F Man provides much of the same. There is no subtlety to be found anywhere in this collection. While the message in Bedroom Bully varies little from this theme, musically it is intriguing. Shabba leads in with raw scratchy vocals while a sinister descending synthesizer riff plays over the top, then switches to a deep baritone echoed by a pounding drum beat.

What’cha Gonna Do? displays Rank’s skills as a rapper. He spits lyrics at breakneck speed, rivaling Busta Rhymes and Rakim. Shabba briefly shares the beat with Queen Latifah, back when she was more hip-hop artist and less movie star. It’s a fine performance, and after her verse is complete, Shabba blazes off, leaving everyone in the dust.

While What’cha Gonna Do? is a hip-hop track with Jamaican flair, Ready-Ready, Goody-Goody is the flip side, contemporary Jamaican dancehall with an R&B influence. Another One Program is more traditional dancehall, complete with its unique instrumentation and sound effects.

Rounding things out are Two Breddrens with Chubb Rock launching into the lyrics with his best impersonation of Shabba, and Mr. Loverman, the most popular single from this album.

Mis-ter Lover-man, Shabba!

This album is Shabba Ranks at his finest, and a great synthesis of Jamaican dancehall and hip-hop. Wind ya body!

ranks

Track listing

  1. Ting-A-Ling – 3:52
  2. Slow and Sexy (Featuring Johnny Gill) – 5:18
  3. Will Power – 3:35
  4. Muscle Grip – 4:01
  5. Rude Boy – 3:54
  6. Cocky Rim – 3:37
  7. What’cha Gonna Do? (Featuring Queen Latifah) – 3:50
  8. Bedroom Bully – 4:13
  9. Another One Program – 3:39
  10. Ready-Ready, Goody-Goody – 4:07
  11. Two Breddrens (Featuring Chubb Rock) – 4:25
  12. 5-F Man – 4:14
  13. Mr. Loverman (With Chevelle Franklin) – 5:58

Redhead Quickie – Depression Era Series – Pt 2

More music and movement from Langston Hughes.

Song for a Banjo Dance

by Langston Hughes

Shake your brown feet, honey,

Shake your brown feet, chile,

Shake your brown feet, honey,

Shake ’em swift and wil’—

Get way back, honey,

Do that rockin’ step.

Slide on over, darling,

Now! Come out

With your left.

Shake your brown feet, honey,

Shake ’em, honey chile.

Sun’s going down this evening—

Might never rise no mo’.

The sun’s going down this very night—

Might never rise no mo’—

So dance with swift feet, honey,

(The banjo’s sobbing low)

Dance with swift feet, honey—

Might never dance no mo’.

Shake your brown feet, Liza,

Shake ’em, Liza, chile,

Shake your brown feet, Liza,

(The music’s soft and wil’)

Shake your brown feet, Liza,

(The banjo’s sobbing low)

The sun’s going down this very night—

Might never rise no mo’.


Our featured redhead is Christina Hendricks, best known for her role as Joan Holloway on Mad Men. The show takes place in the 60’s, but the main character, Don Draper, grew up as Dick Whitman during the Depression, the product of a prostitute mother who died when he was a young boy, and an abusive father. Joan, limited by the attitudes of her times toward women, uses her sexuality to advance her career, but not without emotional consequences.

christina-hendricks-300-4


The featured popular song from this period is “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” by Young and Ahler which became a standard after it was first recorded by Fats Waller and released on May 8, 1935. I’m not sure which cover I recall from my Grandpa’s collection, but the melody was catchy and the lyrics always tickled me.

I’m gonna sit right down
And write myself a letter
And make believe
It came from you.
I’m gonna write words
Oh so sweet,
They’re gonna knock me
Off my feet,
A lot of kisses
On the bottom –
I’ll be glad I got ’em.

I’m gonna smile and say
“I hope you’re feeling better,”
And close “with love”
The way you do.
I’m gonna sit right down
And write myself a letter
And make believe
It came from you.

Redhead Quickie – Depression Era Series

This is a spin off of the “popular” series Redhead Record Review. It is a celebration of the poetry of Langston Hughes and popular American music of the Great Depression.

For those of you who are of the belief that there is nothing new under the sun, this may help to explain why we sometimes feel we are born into the wrong period in history. The post-hippie conservative inflationary 70’s I grew up in probably had a lot in common with the edge of the Jazz Age Roaring Twenties leading into the Great Depression of 30’s America. Some of my earliest and most lasting memories are of my grandfather sharing the music of his youth on old 78’s, Hi-Fi records and reel-to-reel tapes.

The poetry of Langston Hughes, from his 1935 collection The Dream Keeper, echoes the popular music of the times.

langston hughes

Negro Dancers – Langston Hughes

‘Me an’ ma baby’s
Got two mo’ ways,
Two mo’ ways to do de Charleston!’
Da, da,
Da, da, da!
Two mo’ ways to do de Charleston!’
Soft light on the tables,
Music gay,
Brown-skin steppers
In a cabaret.
White folks, laugh!
White folks, pray!
‘Me an’ ma baby’s
Got two mo’ ways,
Two mo’ ways to do de
Charleston!’

Our featured redhead is Mae West. I think she was actually platinum blond, but since photos and movies were in black and white, I can take some liberties. Besides, I already featured Shirley Temple in an earlier post.

Just kidding; representing the period is the great Katharine Hepburn with her performances in Little Women and Morning Glory for which she won an Oscar in 1933.

Katharine-on-the-set-of-Morning-Glory

To lift the spirits of a nation suffering under the weight of desperate times, many of the popular songs featured optimistic and dream inspired melodies and lyrics.

On the Sunny Side of the Street is credited to Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, but there are some who claim that it was actually written by Fats Waller who sold the rights. The song has been covered so many times, with slight variations. I’ve selected an excerpt from a Billie Holiday recording.

On the Sunny Side of the Street

Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street
Can’t you hear a pitter pat
And that happy tune is your step
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street

I used to walk in the shade
With those blues on parade
But no I’m not afraid
This Rover crossed over

If I never have a cent
I’d be rich as Rockefeller
Gold dust at my feet
On the sunny side of the street

Redhead Record Review – Bullhead (Melvins)

Our featured redhead is Shirley Temple. Temple began her film career in 1932 at the age of three and was Hollywood’s biggest box office star from 1935 to 1938. In addition to being nearly as cute as my granddaughter Penelope, Shirley was a talented tap dancer.

shirley temple

Here is her classic staircase dance with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson:

Fans of the Melvins are probably aware of the connection between our featured redhead and the 1990 Melvins album Bullhead on Boner Records. Joining founding lead guitarist and vocalist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover is Temple’s daughter Lori “Lorax” Black, featured on bass.

lori black

Melvins

Formed in 1983 in Montesano, Washington, the band Melvins is hard to define, but their signature slow, heavy metal and punk influenced sound has been described as doom metal, drone music and sludge metal, and was a big influence on Seattle grunge and tribute drone bands. Bullhead is a HEAVY as it gets. The music is a physical presence as much as it is sound. The opening chords of Boris churned out by Osborne against the pounding drums of Crover and rumbling Lorax bass line immediately set the tone.

ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR WAAIIL-DOOMMM

The pattern repeats over and over while Buzz spits, drools and gurgles the lyrics.

Anaconda is like an unstoppable force, leveling everything in its path, while Ligature is shifting tectonic plates, forcing continental masses upward. Osborne’s guitar wraps a stranglehold around mountain peaks, painfully yanking them skyward. Overflowing everything is oozing molten metal.

It’s Shoved and Zodiac are the closest you will get to driving rock in this collection. Buzz is aptly named as his guitar style is heavy on distortion and sustain. My overall impression of Osborne’s vocals is that they sound more like an exorcism than singing. Not surprisingly, the cataclysmic event is represented by If I Had an Exorcism. Osborne’s opening incantations are filled with venom and vomit, alternating between suppression and release until launched by deliberate drumming and thunderous bass. The guitar riff is a single repeated note, evocative of an air raid siren, sustained over the remaining minutes of the song.

Your Blessened returns to the mood and tone of Boris; dance hall music for dinosaurs. You can picture massive, plodding feet raising dust clouds as they stomp in a ritualistic, prehistoric mosh. Crover is the Cow in the finale, oblivious to everything except his drums, stepping out of time to play as he feels. It is a fitting end to a set that is active and physical while maintaining core musical elements. Darken the room and crank up the volume.

Bullhead Playlist (all written by Buzz Osborne)

1. “Boris” 8:34
2. “Anaconda” 2:23
3. “Ligature” 3:49
4. “It’s Shoved” 2:35
5. “Zodiac” 4:14
6. “If I Had an Exorcism” 3:07
7. “Your Blessened” 5:39
8. “Cow” 4:31

In what has become an afterthought, and maybe a bit anticlimactic, my short story, Pops continues:

jamsession

One hot, sticky morning in July, I arrived at Pops’ store and was surprised by a CLOSED sign on the front door. Checking the door and finding it unlocked, I slowly pulled it open and entered the store. The noonday sunlight filtered through the front window, illuminating the store in a streaky glow. The floor creaked as I started toward an open door at the rear of Pops’ office, and was met halfway by the muted sounds of a trumpet. The sounds were low and melancholy and held me there between Pops’ empty grocery shelves. I stood motionless, listening to the slow, reflective melody, until the notes suddenly became light and buoyant. They seemed to dance before me, just beyond my reach, and then, waft skyward. I stepped to the elusive notes which lifted themselves upward, always upward, lifted themselves upon invisible wings.

I found myself in the doorway, looking out at a small courtyard where Pops stood with his back to me, his shoulders hunched and his eyes closed in concentration. Pops gently swayed as he played, and moved forward with short, mincing steps. Sensing my presence, he turned in a small circle toward me, opened his eyes, and blew one last softly rising note.

“Don’t get too many customers when it’s this hot, so I decided to take the day off,” Pops explained, “One of the advantages of being your own boss,” he added. I smiled self consciously and nodded. I remained silent, still embarrassed after being caught watching.

“Well, what do you think of my garden?” Pops asked.

My eyes scanned the courtyard. It wasn’t the kind of garden that would win any awards as “an oasis of beauty and growth in the midst of urban decay.” Actually, it was a direct reflection of the difficulty that Pops experienced with everything that he attempted. The soil was dry and sandy and full of glass fragments that Pops had been unable to sift out. However, also like everything else that he attempted, the garden somehow yielded a meager crop of lettuce, tomatoes, string beans, and collard greens. There was even a thin, stubborn birch which leaned against the rear wall of the courtyard.

“I didn’t know you were a musician,” I said, ignoring Pops’ question.

“I guess there’s quite a few things that people don’t know about me,” he replied. “Do you play?

“I play the tenor sax,” I answered automatically.

Pops leaned back and chuckled. “Looks like you’re full of surprises yourself — especially the way you snuck up behind me — nearly scared me half to death.”

“You didn’t look so surprised. Besides, you shouldn’t leave your door open like that,” I laughed, feeling more relaxed, “You know how this neighborhood is.”

“Well now, I wouldn’t worry about that too much. I think I know most of the people around here pretty well.”

“But, what about Bobby?” I asked. “Why do you put up with him?” I crossed my arms and waited for Pops’ answer. He reached into his apron pocket and pulled out his pipe. Lighting it and wedging it in the corner of his mouth, Pops smiled slightly as he wrinkled his brow in thought and began to speak.

“I can’t see that I got much choice in the matter. Bobby is part of this street.” Pops stopped suddenly as the sky darkened and it began to drizzle. “I think we better move inside.”

He started back toward the doorway, and I followed. Once inside, Pops pulled up a folding chair for me and sat himself on the edge of the counter in front of me. He leaned forward, drew on his pipe, and continued.

“Like I was just about to say, the boy is confused is all. He don’t see too many choices available to him, so he’s frustrated, mad and frustrated. Look at me, I can barely pay my rent. We all need something son, something to help us get through. Bobby’s got his bottle and I got my horn. When I play, sometimes I can understand why I hurt and why Bobby hurts. At least I can let my horn do the talking for me, but Bobby, he don’t have no voice.” Pops lowered his head and became silent for several seconds, until he turned to me.

“It’s different for you son — you got choices. You don’t have your back to the wall. No sir, you got options…you can do anything you want.”

Pops had struck a nerve. I didn’t know whether to feel grateful or ashamed for this privilege, or was it an unfair advantage that Pops had implied? Resenting what I believed was an accusation, I answered defensively, shoving my hands into my pockets to hide their trembling.

“But, that’s no excuse. I get confused too. You don’t see me running around in the streets all day, trying to bully people. I can’t always do what I want either.”

The storm outside grew stronger as Pops leaned closer in the fading light.

“What do you want to do son?” he asked softly.

Pops had me there. I had been trying to avoid that question, hoping that an answer would somehow be revealed to me, that my life would work itself out, but I knew from Pops’ grave expression that he would not accept my idle optimism. I stuttered something about wanting to feel my music again, and then, suddenly dashed out of the store in an overwhelming panic, as Pops called out behind me.

Redhead Record Review – Birth of the Cool

This one has it all; a redheaded basketball coaching legend, a book review, and a jazz classic.
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair…
From what I remember, Coach Holzman didn’t have much hair either, and what he did have was gray. He of the ironic nickname was born William, but dubbed “Red” by his wife, Selma, back in the day when he sported a flaming red mane. Archived photos of Holtzman unfortunately are disappointing in their hue. Red Holzman guided the Knicks to NBA championships in 1970 and 1973, making him the most successful coach in their long history. Those teams were led by Willis Reed, Dave Debusschere, Bill Bradley and superstar guard Walt “Clyde” Frazier.
Clyde shared his nickname with infamous criminal Clyde Barrow, thanks to his tenacious opportunistic defense and to his sense of style. The age of superstar sneaker endorsements was born with the introduction of the Puma Clyde in 1973. Frazier took it a step further in 1974 with the release of his book Rockin’ Steady – A Guide to Basketball & Cool. No important detail was overlooked by Clyde; he detailed everything from applying deodorant “pit juice” to improving your reflexes by catching house flies. Clyde was, and will always be, the master of dishin’ and swishin’.
As great as he was, Clyde didn’t corner the market on cool. Miles Davis and the three classic 1949 and 1950 sessions with his nonet, that included Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan, would become the 1957 Capitol release Birth of the Cool. Considering the technical limitations of the recording industry, including the three minute time limit of the 78 RPM disc, and the overwhelming influence of bebop, these recordings produced nearly 70 years ago are still fresh and revolutionary in their unique orchestration which emphasized the tonality of the ensemble over the back-and-forth trading by soloists featured in bebop.
Arranger Gil Evans and Davis shared a common vision and experimented with the new sound during informal sessions at Evans’s 55th street apartment, close to the 52nd street Manhattan jazz scene. A lot of thought went into the pairings of the horn section. Along with Mulligan’s baritone sax you hear the trombone, French horn and tuba, providing a rich low end not common in small jazz ensembles.
Lest you think this is classical music out slumming, don’t worry, this album swings. The sound is jazz with classical elements. Likewise, the terms “cool jazz” and “smooth jazz” are sometimes interchanged. In what has come to define smooth jazz, you have a generic rhythm section, with a featured soloist playing an instrumental version of a popular song. Improvisation, a key element of jazz, is limited as the musician doesn’t venture far from the core melody. This is not that; the melodies and arrangements on Birth of the Cool are original and challenging.
How to define cool? Besides laid back, one might think aloof, detached, disinterested. Ironically, these adjectives, with the exception of the last, were often associated with Davis. Throw away the stereotyped images of the smoky café or breezy Riviera inspired landscapes. Think of a fine suit, not something off the rack at Men’s Warehouse, or even the more expensive Armani inspired mass produced upgrade. Picture instead a custom hand sewn suit designed and tailored by an artistic, old-world craftsman. Made of the finest fabrics with timeless patterns, it fits you like a second skin, and you move like a cat when you wear it. That’s cool!
Birth of the Cool is the sound of musicians comfortable in their skins. The underlying structure of the arrangements are there to support, freeing the soloists to explore beyond the melody both individually and at times in unison. There is still plenty of up-tempo bop influence in Move and Budo, but the new school of cool is introduced in the opening bars of Jeru and Rocker, and culminates in the three minutes of perfection that is aptly named Venus de Milo. The opening theme and melody is so balanced in tone and expression that the first minute could stand alone as a finished work. Followed by the second act of thoughtful solos by Miles and Mulligan, again perfectly timed in the second minute, the stage is set for the final act as the ensemble restates and expands the boundaries of the new form.
There are the beautiful ballads Moon Dreams, Boplicity and Darn That Dream, that swing, maybe not in the traditional big band Basie style, but move and glide and dance in their own space. Deception begs for visual accompaniment; it’s like a backdrop to an urban exploration. Mulligan’s deep and rich baritone sound carries the opening bars of Godchild, and he, Miles and the entire band weave a masterwork of cool.
Since there have been several releases that include the songs mentioned here, but vary slightly with additions from the 1949 and 1950 sessions, I’ll let you search for your preference. Here is the complete personnel from the 1957 Capitol release: Miles Davis: trumpet, Kai Winding: trombone, J.J. Johnson: trombone, Junior Collins: French horn, Sandy Siegelstein: French horn, John Barber: tuba, Lee Konitz: alto sax, Gerry Mulligan: baritone sax, Al Haig: piano, John Lewis: piano, Joe Shulman: bass, Nelson Boyd: bass, Al McKibbon: bass, Kenny Clarke: drums, Max Roach: drums, Kenny Hagood: vocals.
Serial release of my short story Pops continues below. Hope I still have your attention…
Bronx-Street-Art-Graffiti
Since that first day, the daily milk delivery became a fixed ritual, a ritual with rules known only to Pops and myself. I would enter the store prepared with a pencil and pad for Pops to write his order for the day. Returning it to me with a smile, he would announce, “I guess that should do it,” as I nodded in agreement. Pops was able to conceal his lack of cash, but not his frustration and disappointment as he watched his $20 milk order evaporate by noontime. The same was true of his potato chip order, which was delivered three times per week. Junk food went faster than milk in that neighborhood. Pops knew that he could sell as much as he could put on the shelf, but could never stock more than a few dollars worth of stuff at a time.
Despite his obvious problems, Pops always made me feel at home. Having nowhere else to go after finishing my route, I began spending my afternoons in the store talking to Pops and his customers. The store was always filled with music from a portable radio that Pops carried around with him. Pops played mostly jazz, which was his great love. He especially liked Cannonball Adderley and often commented that Cannonball plays a sweet sax. I liked Cannonball too, and agreed with Pops about a lot of other things.
Pops had the same effect on everyone who entered his store; after being treated like family, you couldn’t bring yourself to leave. There was a curtain hung across a doorway in the back of the store which concealed a small room where all of Pops’s friends would spend the day smoking and playing cards and checkers. Pops wouldn’t allow any drinking, but someone always managed to slip in a flask while Pops worked behind the counter. Most of the time that someone was Bobby, the biggest problem that Pops inherited with the territory.
Bobby had no job and no intention of finding one. At twenty-six, his black, whiskered face was already lined with the strain of living on the edge. His mouth was twisted in an eternal grimace, and he had the annoying habit of continually smacking his thick lips. His most disturbing characteristic was the wild, anxious movements of his eyes and limbs. His long, thin frame would jerk this way, then that, as though driven by a mad puppeteer. I always feared that the fine lines that held him would suddenly snap, sending him careening out of control. Pops said that Bobby lived with his mother, a hardworking woman who was a member of Reverend Davis’s church next door, but her son spent most of his time in or around Monk’s Bar with his friends Johnny and Leon. When they weren’t racing up and down Lincoln Avenue in Johnny’s gray Buick, they were either drinking, hassling passersby or ducking in and out of Pops’, Monk’s or the church. All three were a general annoyance and were avoided by everyone whenever possible.
Even with this precaution, Bobby always managed to get into a confrontation with someone. There wasn’t a day that went by without Bobby making some kind of trouble. The smallest inconvenience would set him off. Once, a young Puerto Rican woman made the mistake of trying to use Bobby’s “private phone,” which was the pay phone on the wall near Pops’s office.
“Yo man, get off the phone,” he shouted. The woman glared at Bobby and continued talking.
“Hey — lady, I gotta make a phone call!” This time he was much louder, attracting everybody’s attention.
“Just wait a minute,” the woman replied.
Bobby yelled to Pops, “Hey — old man, tell this lady I got an important phone call to make.” Pops looked like he was out of patience.
“Take it easy Bobby. Leave the customers alone. How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Get off the motherfuckin’ phone bitch!” Bobby ignored Pops as he jerked toward the woman. The woman mumbled some obscenity quickly in Spanish and shoved the receiver into Bobby’s shaking hands.
“Here!” she spat, as she hurried past him and out of the store.
“That’s better,” he grunted, satisfied with himself. “Must be crazy, takin’ up my phone time.”
“What’s wrong with you boy?” Pops asked, shaking his head in disbelief, but Bobby was already talking animatedly with one of his buddies, his hands flying in every direction.

Redhead Record Review – Vol. 3

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.

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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:

  1. “Too Tough” 5:36
  2. “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” 3:04
  3. “Tonight I Give In” 3:21
  4. “You Could Come Take Me Home” 3:51
  5. “Love You Too Much” 3:56
  6. “Is This a Dream” 5:11
  7. “Song for a Rainy Day” 3:37
  8. “I Can See It In Your Eyes” 3:31
  9. “Accept Me (I’m Not a Girl Anymore)” 3:34
  10. “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.

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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

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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.”

Redhead Record Review – Song For My Father

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…

opie

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.

  1. “Song for My Father” – 7:17
  2. “The Natives Are Restless Tonight” – 6:09
  3. “Calcutta Cutie” – 8:31
  4. “Que Pasa” – 7:47
  5. “The Kicker” (Joe Henderson) – 5:26
  6. “Lonely Woman” – 7:02
Here is the continuation of my short story, Pops.

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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.

Redhead Record Review

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.

katie-leclerc-tca-exclusive

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.

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“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.

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