Tag Archives: Blues

Sunday Jazz Corner With Etta James

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The one and only Etta James.  It is sad to think we have just only recently lost Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins)  on January 20, 2012.  She was born January 25, 1938 and she died five days before her birthday on which she would have been 74 years old.  James was known as an American singer-songwriter.  Her style spanned a variety of music genres including blues, jazz, R&B, soul, rock and gospel.  Whenever anyone thinks of the jazz classic “At Last” they think of Etta James.  Etta’s version as compared to versions by other jazz singers, belonged to her.

James was married to her husband Artis Mills, whom she married in 1969.  They had two sons, Donto and Sametto.  Both started performing with their mother — Donto played drums at Montreux in 1993, and Sametto played bass guitar circa 2003 with his mom.  Etta James battled with Heroin addiction for years and her husband Mr. Mills served a 10-year prison sentence for heroin possession.

From 1989, James received over 30 awards and recognitions from eight different organizations, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences which organizes the Grammys.

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Now perhaps more trendy than ever Etta James is a “cult hero” with producers and remixers waiting in line to remix her legendary sound and style.  We continue to hear her though samples in rap, hip hop, electronic and pop music of today.  Her legacy lives on through blues and jazz singers in clubs worldwide honoring her sound.  Here she is singing “At Last” as only she could.  And the second video is of a young Etta James singing “Got A Hold On Me.”

At Last (live) [VIDEO] – Etta James

Somethings Got A Hold On Me (Live) [VIDEO] – Etta James

Sunday Jazz Corner With Donny Hathaway

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A Song For You, was written by Leon Russell in 1970 and is considered an American classic.  Many performers have sung this song, from jazz icons to pop superstar Elton John.  But nobody has sang it quite like Donny Hathaway.  This song is a great example of how a really powerful ballad can transcend all genres and styles of singers from rock to soul, blues to jazz, pop to country.  Donny’s version brings out the soulful core of this heartfelt classic with his distinct vocal timing and texture and emotion bringing it to a level that few performers can reach with such conviction and truth.  You really believe those lyrics that he is singing.  There is no doubt in our minds that he has lived this song and he commands our complete attention with that touch of church added to it from his early gospel roots where he sang in the church choir with his Grandmother, who was a professional gospel singer herself.  It definitely ranks in the top 10 songs written of all time, if not in the top five.

Donny Edward Hathaway was an American jazz, blues, soul, and gospel vocalist and musician.  Known for his own songs and solo career he also had many hits with vocalist and friend Roberta Flack, including “Where Is The Love” and “The Closer I Get To You”.  His friendship with Roberta Flack goes back to college days where they attended Howard University together and remained friends until Donny’s death in 1979.  It is reported Mr. Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York’s Essex House hotel, and that he had jumped from the balcony.  His life ended tragically and way too soon.  It is written he had battled with psychological issues throughout the best part of his career.  He began to suffer from severe bouts of depression and it was found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.  Over the course of the 1970s, Hathaway’s mental instability wreaked havoc on his life and required several hospitalizations.  The effects of his melancholia also drove a wedge in Flack and Hathaway’s friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the successful release of “The Closer I Get To You” in 1978.  Flack and Hathaway then resumed studio recording to compose a second album of duets.

Hathaway and his wife, Eulaulah, had two daughters, Eulaulah Donyll (Lalah Hathaway) and Kenya.  Lalah has enjoyed a successful solo career, while Kenya is one of the three backing vocalists on the hit TV program American Idol.  He also had another daughter, Donnita Hathaway.  If you do not have any music by Donny Hathaway here is a great starter album for you to buy A Donny Hathaway Collection.  He remains one of the finest singers of our time.

Here is Donny Hathaway singing Live  1) A Song For You and below it is the original version, 2) A Song For You by Leon Russell.  Not just anyone can write a song like this.  When you listen to Leon’s version, you can almost hear the song “visually” through his humble conviction and the sincerity in which he sings it.  A timeless song transcends through all musical styles.  The final video is a duet with Roberta Flack, 3) You Are My Heaven, which was co-written by Stevie Wonder for Donny Hathaway.  He had a lot of angels in his corner.  A very sad ending for an incredible talent.  As one of the commenters writes in the comments section below, “this is music at its best.”

Sunday Jazz Corner With Billie Holiday

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Pure Jazz perfection.  Billie Holiday singing the blues live in this video version of Fine and Mellow with Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan, Vic Dickenson and Roy Eldridge.  You can see Billie’s talent and vocal gift of timing and delivery as she carries on with each of these talented musicians taking turns expressing the blues.

What a gift for us all to have this video footage of Lady Day from back in the day.  As she says in her own words in the intro “There’s two kinds of blues there’s happy blues and there’s sad blues.  I don’t think I ever sing the same way twice, I don’t think I ever sing the same tempo.  One nights a little bit slower the next nights a little bit brighter depending on how I feel.  The blues is sort of a mixed up thing you just have to feel it.”

VIDEO: Fine And Mellow Billie Holiday With Coleman Hawkins Lester Young Ben Webster Gerry Mulligan Vic Dickenson Roy Eldridge

Sunday Jazz Corner With Gil Scott-Heron – Is That Jazz?

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Gil Scott-Heron was a jazz and soul, musician, and author, known for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and 1980s.  With a wide range of diverse fans he delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles.  He referred to himself as a “bluesologist”, which he defined as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues.”

After a 16 year stretch he recorded his last album released in 2010 entitled  I’m New Here.  A memoir he had been working on for years up to the time of his death, April 27, 2011.  In looking through his video footage today, I chose one in particular besides Gils obvious talent and the amazing Midnight Band, was because of something he said before he starts his performance at the half way point in the video.  He said “Every once in awhile I have gone into record stores lately and found our music in a category called miscellaneous.  Bothered the hell out of me.  Folks are often to anxious to put things into various little compartments.  To often they are to anxious to sweep certain sorts of music under the corner of the rug.  We find that this is particularly true with music that they refer to as jazz.”

Update: This video was deleted unfortunately on youtube,  so I have reposted two more videos instead.  The first one is Gil Scott-Heron “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” an excellent 60 minute documentary.  The second one is Gil Scott-Heron  “Is That Jazz” performed live.

Check out Gil Scott-Heron’s last album “I’m New Here” on  iTunes MUSIC.  And while you are there browse and listen to all of his work and you will understand why he became a cult classic and an inspiration for many new artists.