Working this Hispanic Heritage Month angle has pushed me to explore and examine artists I’ve never heard before. Take vocalist Yolanda Duke, who used to travel the world with the Tito Puente Orchestra. (Ms. Duke was born in the Dominican Republic.)
I’m not deep into big-band jazz, or Latin jazz, or even vocal jazz. Hard-bopping small groups are my thing. But I know hot when I hear it.
And La Duke’s rendition of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – off her 2008 album “Many Moods” – is bubbling hot, in that grandiloquent big-band fashion. It’s also available as a FREE MP3.
Tito Puente died in 2000, but his band swings on. The Tito Puente Orchestra is all over the “Many Moods” album.
Click here to hear “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” on my Vox blog. To download it, click the song title below.
Today’s FREE MP3 is doubly on-time. One, it fits with Hispanic Heritage Month; alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Two, the cat was just named a MacArthur Fellow. That means he’ll receive $500,000, no strings attached... a so-called “genius grant.”
(The MacArthur Foundation always manages to reward one badass musician amongst the scientists, writers and visual artists it blesses likewise. Last year it was bluesman Corey Harris. In 2006, jazz violinist Regina Carter.)
If you follow this link to Miguel Zenón’s website and scroll to the bottom, you can download a full 54-minute set that Zenón’s quartet recorded live in Paris (for radio broadcast) on May 16, 2008.
Click here to hear a portion on my Vox blog. This tune is titled “Ulysses in Slow Motion.”
The other compositions on the MP3 are “Santo” and “Third Dimension.” All three are from Zenón’s latest album, “Awake,” which was produced by Branford Marsalis.
If you like what you hear, check out the 5-minute promo video at Amazon.com. It includes a testimonial from Marsalis.
As the world continues to notice the half-heartedness of Bill Clinton’s “support” for Barack Obama – most recently Tom Brokaw on “Meet the Press” today – I came across a couple of month-old YouTube clips that might explain something.
(Leave it to Fox News to milk the moment for cheap laffs.)
Chris Rock’s new standup special, “Kill the Messenger,” debuted last night on HBO. I had seen him perform most of this material in L.A. five months ago... and it didn’t blow me away then.
So rather than rehash that, let me tell you about Chris’s younger brother, Tony Rock, who is making moves of his own in the comedy world.
I’ve seen Tony’s name on comedy-club marquees the past couple of years, but I never got around to checking him out.
On YouTube you can see his 2006 appearance on “Def Comedy Jam.” I’ve embedded that clip below.
As you might guess, Tony Rock isn’t in the same league as his big brother. Watching that 7-minute “Def Comedy” clip, I smiled twice, didn’t laugh at all, and spotted one borderline steal from Dave Chappelle (regarding the deliciousness of chicken).
Paul Newman – one of the great Hollywood leading men of the last half-century – died yesterday of cancer. He was 83.
Newman was also a noted humanitarian and liberal activist. He spoke at a 1963 “freedom rally” in Chicago along with Dick Gregory, Dorothy Dandridge, Ralph Albernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Paul Newman was the only actor on President Nixon’s original “enemies list.” (As that infamous list grew, it would include Jane Fonda, Gregory Peck, Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand, Carol Channing and Tony Randall.)
Newman was targeted by the Nixon White House because of “Radic-lib causes. Heavy [Eugene] McCarthy involvement ’68. Used effectively in nationwide T.V. commercials.” I can’t find online any video of Paul Newman in a political ad. Maybe those will emerge.
But there is on YouTube a cool Hollywood artifact: Newman together with James Dean in a 1955 screen test for “East of Eden.” It’s embedded below.
I’m also streaming an audio clip in honor of Mr. Newman. It’s his final courtroom speech in the 1982 film “The Verdict.” Written by David Mamet, this is a beautiful speech, beautifully acted. Click here to hear it.
“The Verdict” and “The Color of Money” are my favorite Paul Newman movies.
Hark. Is the clock striking midnight? Will the magic carriage that brought Sarah Palin to the ball revert to a pumpkin?
Is the political Cinderella story to end all Cinderella stories about to get grim?
The second part of Gov. Palin’s interview with Katie Couric aired on CBS last night. It was so damn shaky, even Republicans can’t put a good spin on it. (And more is coming, too!)
“It did not inspire confidence,” said Pat Buchanan this morning, referring to Palin’s rambling assertion of expertise on Russia.
Joe “Morning Joe” Scarborough (former Republican congressman) said just a few minutes ago: “She has given ample evidence that she may not be up to the task.”
And Ed Rollins (Reagan’s former campaign director) said on CNN last night: “I wouldn’t put her in any more interviews like that.”
If Rollins were running the campaign, he said, he would use Palin only for fundraising and talking to conservative audiences. (Wow. This woman could become President of the United States... but for God’s sake keep her away from Katie Couric!)
Now, today, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker drops this bomb on the governor of Alaska:
“Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.
“Do it for your country.”
Double wow. That’s a conservative writer urging Sarah Palin to quit! Why? Because, she writes, Sarah Palin “Is Clearly Out Of Her League.” (Parker herself capitalized those words.)
“... I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.”
And this is the same Kathleen Parker who, three short weeks ago, was singing Palin’s praises: “She has animated voters who had little enthusiasm for the race. She has given them the very thing Democrats have been enjoying the past several months: hope and change.”
Well... as Parker writes today: “It was fun while it lasted.”
Yep. Cinderella felt the same way. Watch and wince, y’all:
I hope I’m not being unfair to the former president. Or certifiably paranoid.
But I listened to the introductions Bill Clinton gave for John McCain and (via satellite) Barack Obama at this morning’s meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative... Bill’s big humanitarian project.
Clinton said he was “personally profoundly honored” by McCain’s presence and “profoundly grateful” that he came.
When it was Obama’s turn, Clinton thanked him less effusively. Clinton had words of praise for Obama, but he also managed to slip in this weird racial remark: “And as you might imagine, he’s pretty popular in Harlem.”
I’m taking that out of context. But even in context, it was... off.
I have uploaded both introductions to my Vox blog, for anyone who wants to listen for oneself. Click here to hear Clinton’s introduction of McCain; click here for his introduction of Obama. (Full video webcast is here.)
I realize the Clinton Global Initiative isn’t a partisan enterprise. It wasn’t the place for Bill to put down the Republican nominee or cheerlead for the Democrat.
But considering Clinton’s other public comments this week, I just feel him trying to boost John McCain.
Not all Latin artists make “Latin” music. If that makes sense.
Angelica Sanchez – born in Phoenix, now living in Jersey City – is an avant-garde jazz pianist. She gained notice five years ago with her debut album, “Mirror Me.”
Today’s FREE MP3 is a track from the 2003 recording “Alive in Brooklyn” by the Malaby/Sanchez/Rainey Trio. That’s Angelica on electric piano, her husband Tony Malaby on tenor sax, and Tom Rainey on drums. (Malaby, like Sanchez, is Mexican-American.)
If you have a taste for “out” jazz, click here and check out “The Hat” on my Vox blog.
With the legendary Last Poets in the early 1970s, Umar cut such incendiary tracks as “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” (click here to listen) and “This Is Madness.”
During the 1980s, he got caught up in crack addiction. As Umar told me in a 1993 interview: “[A] little selling here, a little smuggling here. I was dancing to the piper, I had to pay the price.”
Emerging in the early ’90s with a revived Last Poets, Umar recorded under the auspices of star producer Bill Laswell. The rage of youthful discontent was replaced by an aching maturity. Rappers now treat him as an elder statesman.
Umar Bin Hassan (born Jerome Huling) has created “street poetry” of tremendous passion, honesty and grace over the last 15 years... often for other people’s projects.
If you’re into funk, jazz, hip-hop or poetry, please take the time to hear the tracks below.
From the 1995 release “Funkcronomicon,” produced by Bill Laswell, this track features Funkadelic guitar god Eddie Hazel. The music was recorded shortly before Eddie’s death in 1992. Umar’s poem is a séance, a communication with the departed. It is sorrowful. And beautiful.
Given the tornadic nature of Web rumors and “urban legends,” it’s often hard to nail down a starting point... an original source of bullshit information.
Not so in the matter of a nasty right-wing myth that Barack Obama is “43.75% Arab.”
That Internet meme started on February 14, 2008.
The man who started it is Kenneth E. Lamb. He’s an obscure conservative blogger, retired journalist, radio talk-show host, small-business owner, born-again Christian and civic activist in Pensacola, Fla.
Lamb posted on his blog a long, rambling email he’d sent to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen on February 11.
In that email, Lamb presents what he calls “the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb.” To wit:
“Researching [Obama’s] roots reveal that on his father’s side, he is descended from Arab slave traders.”
“Why is the fact that Mr. Obama is only 6.25% African Negro not reported?”
“... Mr. Obama is 50% Caucasian from his mother's side. He is 43.75% Arabic, and 6.25% African Negro from his father's side.”
“[N]o matter the racist presumption of seeing his skin and without question calling him black, the hard, cold, genetically inarguable reality remains: he is not an African-American.”
Kenneth Lamb provides no evidence for this “inarguable reality.” But he tells Richard Cohen: “I can get with your choice of researchers to have them document my documentation.”
When questioned by one of his own readers about his lack of evidence, Lamb responded: “We are working to prepare the information in a format that will not violate any contractual obligations about its use.”
He has never produced it.
So... based on this one blogger’s say-so – and nothing else – the meme that Barack Obama is “Arab” has spread far and wide in the conservative blogosphere. And it was pushed on nationwide radio this week by Rush Limbaugh.
I will email Kenneth Lamb tonight and ask him where his proof is.
UPDATE (09/24/08): It turns out Rush Limbaugh wasn’t the first to spread Kenneth Lamb’s horseshit on coast-to-coast radio.
Media Matters reported back in June that Monica Crowley (now a Fox News contributor) did likewise while guest-hosting “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Here’s some of what Monica Crowley said on June 23:
“[A]ccording to this genealogy – and again, because I haven’t done the research, I can’t verify this – but according to this guy Kenneth Lamb, Barack Obama is not black African, he is Arab African.
“And yet, this guy is campaigning as black and painting anybody who dares to criticize him as a racist. I mean... it is the biggest con I think I’ve ever seen.”
These scoundrels. I can hardly believe it. Based on nothing, they spread this stuff!
Bill Clinton will be on “Larry King Live” tonight.
Yippee. A chance for him to do more of his passive-aggressive crab walking in “support” of his party’s nominee, Barack Obama.
Watch him NOT say: “I will vote for Barack Obama.”
And watch him praise John McCain for his suffering and sacrifice in Vietnam.
Watch Clinton NOT say: “Obama is the best choice for America.”
And say only good things about Sarah Palin.
UPDATE (09/24/08): Here’s a vidclip. And it’s just like I figured.
You want passive-aggressive? Check out when Clinton says about Obama’s success in the primaries: “[Voters] began to think, ‘Well, you know, maybe prior public service and hard effort, making hard decisions, maybe doesn’t amount to anything.’ ”
(Because, you know, otherwise they would have voted for Hillary, right?)
Zigmat is a Brooklyn-based electro band fronted by Monica Rodriguez, who’s from Puerto Rico. Which means these guys get the UBM Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight shined on ’em. (Because I like working a theme, dammit!)
Zigmat has a FREE MP3 out there. Click here to hear “Between Bullets” on my Vox blog.
During his Monday broadcast, Rush told his listeners that Barack Obama is “not black. ... He’s Arab. You know, he’s from Africa, he’s from Arab parts of Africa.”
Click here to hear it with your own ears on my Vox blog.
The truth, of course, is that Obama’s father – Barack Obama, Sr. – belonged to the Luo tribe, one of seven major black ethnic groups in Kenya. And Kenya is not an “Arab part of Africa.” Less than 1 percent of the Kenyan population is Arab.
But wait, there’s more!
Another liberal site, Think Progress, caught Limbaugh doubling down on that lie today.
Rush read from a Philadelphia Daily News article that says, in part: “Obama’s name and his African heritage are obstacles to the party’s chances of capturing the White House, party activists are finding.”
That’s not how Limbaugh read it, though. Limbaugh actually said – swear to God – that “Obama’s name and his Arab-African heritage are obstacles to the party’s chances...” (Click here to listen.)
So what’s Limbaugh’s hustle here?
He is feeding into a rumor/smear campaign/Internet meme that’s been out there for months.
Back in February, a right-wing blogger who uses the pseudonym “John Trenchard” quoted this from another conservative blog:
“Mr. Obama is 50% Caucasian from his mother’s side. He is 43.75% Arabic, and 6.25% African Negro from his father’s side.”
“If true,” wrote Trenchard, “this could well be the nuclear bomb that destroys his candidacy.”
That “43.75%” figure is oddly specific. It’s also easily Googlable. So let’s see who else has been spreading it around.
Linda Cowan, on a popular website called The Conservative Voice, headlined her July 23 column: “Obama, a 43.75% Arab-American.”
She followed that up the next day with a piece called “Arab Obama and his Arab Friends.”
(The Conservative Voice was founded by Nathan Tabor, who worked on Duncan Hunter’s Republican campaign for president this year... and whom Jerry Falwell once called the “young Jesse Helms.”)
“I have not found references to Obama’s Arab heritage in the mainstream media,” he wrote, “but one Internet poster reported this:
“ ‘Senator Obama will be the first Arab American president if he is elected. The Senator’s background is: Caucasian from his mother [and] Arab African from his father. Before all the Obamiacs jump on the answer, the Kenyan Obamas are listed in the Kenyan census as Arab African not as Tribal ‘Black’ African. His father’s great great grandmother was a Tribal African.
“ ‘Therefore by ethnic lines the Senator is 50% Caucasian, 43.75% Arab, and 6.25% Black African (from where the Senator gets his skin pigmentation). ...’ ”
On Wednesday, I’ll tell you about the guy who started this “43.75%” business.
Whenever he’s asked about the presidential race, his “support” for Barack Obama is weak, lukewarm, half-hearted.
Meanwhile, Clinton never misses a chance to pump up Republican memes such as John McCain’s heroism in Vietnam and Sarah Palin’s attractiveness as a vice presidential candidate.
Amazing. Ridiculous. He’s not even trying to sell Obama as the best choice for America.
Bill Clinton never says, “I will vote for Barack Obama.” Instead he says, “I think Obama’s going to win.” And when asked why, Clinton blathers on about the generic advantages of being a Democrat in 2008.
Yesterday on “The View,” for example, here’s what Clinton said about McCain: “I like him. The American people, for good and sufficient reasons, admire him. I mean, he’s given something in life that the rest of us can’t match. But, yes, I do believe Obama will win.”
On the subject of Obama, Clinton said: “I think he’s a good candidate, he’s a smart man. He’s shown growth as a candidate. ... I think he’s ready to be president, and I think McCain’s ready to be president. I think you’ve got to decide which president you want.”
Uhhh... no shit, Sherlock.
Watch the top video below and see how grudgingly Clinton speaks well of Obama... and how enthusiastically he speaks well of McCain.
Then, on “Late Night with David Letterman” last night, Clinton said this:
“Right now, we all need to be thinking here. ... We need to be thinking about this election. Who is best for our future? Who is best for our children’s future? Who can turn the economy around? ... Who can do the right thing on these complex national security issues?”
Clinton does NOT then say: “I think that man is Barack Obama.” He says, “I think it’s a fascinating election.”
See for yourself in the middle video.
Chris Rock joined Letterman after that. And he called Clinton out on his half-assedness. That video is on the bottom.
Keep an eye on Bill Clinton, y’all. Parse his language. I think he’s rooting for McCain. Big time.
I enjoyed the “retro soul” conversation that jumped off yesterday. Wanna keep it going? Below are three more videos with that ’60s flavor... from artists I had not heard of.
The first one is Jully Black (pictured). Born in Toronto, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Ms. Black is a gold-album artist in Canada.
This 2007 video is for her biggest single, “Seven Day Fool” (an old Etta James cut).
The middle one is Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators. Ms. Willis is a native Brooklynite who got her music career cooking in London. The Soul Investigators are “Finland’s premier funk band.” (Seriously.)
As I’ve mentioned before, Raphael Saddiq and Nikka Costa have new albums totally drenched in a ’60s soul vibe. But they’re not the only ones acting like they cut their records in Muscle Shoals, Ala., or the basement of Hitsville.
Below are three music videos – from Solange Knowles, Estelle and Ryan Shaw – illustrating there’s a full-blown fetish going on.
(At least Estelle has an excuse; she’s from the U.K. The Brits never stopped loving our soul music.)
I’m not knocking it. Just seems a little gimmicky.
Down in Argentina there’s a folk-rock trio called Fuego Indio. These guys make the kind of music I was looking for six years ago while I was producing a TV show called “Kingpin.” It’s atmospheric and soulful.
Click here and check out “Zamba del Guerrero” on my Vox blog. Wouldn’t that howling electric guitar lay right nice on a soundtrack?
“Zamba del Guerrero” is available as a FREE MP3. To download it, follow this link to Download.com.
On Fuego Indio’s MySpace page, there are more free tracks to download. Click here to hear one of them... “Bailecito.” Lovely!
Tonight on Fox News, you can expect to hear lots of outrage directed against Sandra Bernhard.
Why? Because Ms. Bernhard, in a Web video that captures 1½ minutes of her new stage show, repeatedly calls Sarah Palin a “bitch.”
And also this: “You whore in your cheap fuckin’ New Vision cheap-ass plastic glasses...”
(That metallic sound you hear is Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly locking and loading. Heck, Rush Limbaugh might even get the ball rolling in an hour or two.)
Y’all know how I feel about Sandra Bernhard: I was for her before I was against her.
And this clip seems like the kind of self-absorbed oh-so-“outrageous” horseshit ranting that Bernhard pretends is “art.” What it really is is a played-out comedian acting like she’s still on the cutting edge of American culture.
The clip below has been online for a week... with only a couple of hundred views. But now it has been noticed by the conservative blog NewsBusters and by the Drudge Report. So, like I say, you’ll be hearing about it. (Drudge is how these right-wing talking points go pandemic.)
NewsBusters and Drudge are hyping the story with a line that’s not in the video. Here’s their header: “Sandra Bernhard: Palin Would Be Gang-Raped By Blacks in Manhattan.”
That grabber comes from a blog post by Ari Roth of Washington’s Theater J, which is currently hosting Ms. Bernard’s show. To wit:
“When Sandra warns Sarah Palin not to come into Manhattan lest she get gang-raped by some of Sandra’s big black brothers, she’s being provocative, combative, humorous, and yes, let’s allow, disgusting.”
Yeah yeah yeah. And, let’s also allow, irrelevant. Except to Sean Hannity, proud sock puppet of the Republican Party.
UPDATE (09/18/08): When I’m wrong, I’m wrong. Looks like Fox News didn’t mention the Sandra Bernhard video at all. But then, Sean Hannity had the night off. (Exhausted, no doubt, from all the research he put into his Sarah Palin interview.)
On a slow news day, this could’ve been a big one.
Still, Ms. Bernhard needn’t feel ignored. This YouTube clip got 19,000 hits via the Drudge Report, and another 9,000 courtesy of Michelle Malkin, in a day and a half.
Oh, and Rush Limbaugh did mention it on his radio show. So I was right about that much. Click here to hear a 2-minute clip on my Vox blog.
(And if you’re wondering about the unspeakably obscene Jeffrey Ross joke that Rush alludes to, it’s probably this: “I wouldn’t fuck Sandra Bernhard with Bea Arthur’s dick.”)
Songwriter and producer Norman Whitfield – the man who took the Motown Sound beyond sweet soul and into psychedelic funk – died yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 67 and had suffered with diabetes.
Whitfield co-wrote such Motown classics as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” “War” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me).”
Influenced by the early music of Funkadelic, he changed up the style of the Temptations in 1968, and he scored gold records with “Cloud Nine,” “Psychedelic Shack” and “Ball of Confusion.”
After his Motown years, Norman Whitfield produced a string of R&B hits for Rose Royce.
To honor Mr. Whitfield, I’m streaming a few cover versions of hit songs he wrote with his longtime collaborator, Barrett Strong. (Roger Penzabene also co-wrote “I Wish It Would Rain.”) Click the song titles below to listen.
Do you know who Bill White is? There’s no reason why you should.
The only reason I do is because I read about organized racists with the same morbid fascination that other people read about exotic spiders or skin diseases.
Bill White, who lives in Roanoke, Va., is “Commander” of the American National Socialist Workers Party. He’s also the webmaster of Overthrow.com and the publisher of National Socialist magazine.
Last year, White published the home address and phone number of Leonard Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize-winning black columnist (whom White called “Nigger Pitts”). White didn’t like what Pitts had written about a black-on-white murder case.
White later wrote: “Frankly, if some loony took the info and killed [Pitts], I wouldn’t shed a tear.”
So that’s the kind of head case we’re talking about.
Bill White is now trying to raise a few thousand dollars to publish the next issue of National Socialist. It’ll have Barack Obama on the cover. And the words “Kill This NIGGER?”
(The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch website reported this a few days ago.)
Last night White appealed for cash on his Internet radio show. Click here to hear a 2½-minute excerpt on my Vox blog.
And below is a vidclip from earlier this year, with Bill White speaking in Chicago to honor Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
When karma catches up with this guy... it ain’t gonna be pretty.
So from now until mid- October, I’ll go out of my way to point to FREE MP3s with a Latin flavor. Starting with one from Argentina’s Juana Molina, an indie-pop singer/songwriter who’s often compared to Björk.
Molina’s new album, “Un Dia,” comes out in early October. The title track is free to download now.
Wanna hear a taste? I’m streaming “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” on my Vox blog. Click here to listen. (That’s Dr. John rattling the ivories.)
Now, below is a very cool video artifact. It’s B.B. King performing at Sing Sing prison on Thanksgiving Day, 1972. His performance was captured in a 1974 documentary film called “Sing Sing Thanksgiving.”
Need something to look forward to? On October 14, Verve Records will release a new CD from Phoebe Snow... her first concert album.
“Phoebe Snow – Live” was recorded on July 30 and 31 in Woodstock, N.Y. I’ll remind you about it again when it drops.
Here’s the track list:
1. “Shakey Ground” 2. “Something Real” 3. “All in the Game” 4. “If I Can Just Get Through Tonight” 5. “Poetry Man” 6. “You’re My Girl” 7. “Natural Wonder” 8. “The Other Girlfriend” 9. “Piece of My Heart” 10. “Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu” 11. “With a Song in My Heart”