Monday, March 29, 2010

‘Treme’ is less than two weeks away.

And HBO has uploaded a 14-minute preview. You can check it out below. Also, TV critics are starting to weigh in. The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik dug the first episode.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I, Obama

Have y’all noticed something peculiar – and a little off-putting – about Barack Obama’s rhetorical style as president? Have you noticed how he over-personalizes shit? Makes it all about him?

I’ve noticed this for a while, but felt compelled to blog about it tonight... after President Obama’s surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Where he said this:

“I’ve made a promise to all of you who serve. I will never send you into harm’s way unless it’s absolutely necessary. I anguish in thinking about the sacrifices that so many of you make. That’s why I promise I will never send you out unless it is necessary.”

You anguish, Mr. President? You anguish? Dude, nobody wants to hear about your “anguish.” Least of all soldiers who gotta go out tomorrow and get shot at.

It’s your job to anguish about stuff like that, Mr. Obama. Being president is the hardest job in the world, and you wanted it. Now just do the job without congratulating yourself for having to do it... and without soliciting sympathy.

I found the complete text of Obama’s Afghanistan remarks online. Check this out:

I'll tell you right now the same thing that I said at West Point last December. If I thought for a minute that America’s vital interests were not served, were not at stake here in Afghanistan, I would order all of you home right away.”

Did previous presidents talk this way? I don’t think so. Nor do I think a president should talk this way... constantly referring to himself personally, to his own feelings, to his own power.

Let’s keep an eye on this moving forward. I will surely blog about it again.

Playlist: Killer musicians

Today I’m streaming tracks by four recording artists with something in common. These men are notable not just for making music... but for taking a human life. All four ended up convicted killers.

(Isn’t this a cool concept for a playlist? I semi-ripped it from another blog: Any Major Dude With Half A Heart.)

1. “Fever” – Little Willie John

A 1950s R&B hitmaker who would influence James Brown, Little Willie John was the first to record “Fever,” a tune made much more famous by Peggy Lee. I never knew about this original version, though it was a million-seller.

Now a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Little Willie John died in 1968 as an inmate of Washington State Prison, serving time for manslaughter. Several years earlier, the volatile little man stabbed a guy during a fight.

2. “A Way From It All” – Don Drummond

Trombonist and composer Don Drummond, a founding member of the Skatalites, was one of Jamaica’s greatest musicians. He was also mentally ill. Drummond died in a Kingston mental asylum in 1969, put there after murdering his girlfriend, an exotic dancer.

3. “Shame On You” – Spade Cooley

Fiddler and bandleader Spade Cooley was a country-western star. He had a popular show in L.A. during the early days of television. This recording, “Shame On You,” was No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart for weeks in 1945.

Spade Cooley’s enduring legend, however, has not to do with music. In 1961, he beat and stomped his wife to death after an argument. Did it in front of their teenage daughter. Cooley was sentenced to life in prison, and he died of a heart attack in 1969.

Dennis Quaid has been trying for years to get a movie made about Cooley.

4. “I’m Gonna Murder My Baby” – Pat Hare

Catchy title, huh? Memphis bluesman Pat Hare cut this track for Sun Records in 1954, but it wasn’t released until 1990... long after Hare had actually murdered his baby and died in prison.

A guitar player with a distinctively aggressive sound, Pat Hare gigged and recorded with the likes of Muddy Waters and Bobby “Blue” Bland. Hare moved to Minneapolis in the early ’60s to perform in Mojo Buford’s new band.

Alas, in 1962, a domestic dispute ended with Hare shooting his girlfriend dead. He also shot and killed a policeman who responded to the call. Hare got a life sentence.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

UBM goes to Metairie

This morning, for the first time since coming to Louisiana, I drove through Metairie (the nearest suburb to New Orleans). Needed to pick up my new jacket after alterations, and had time to kill.

Hey, remember that Smith & Wesson cologne I mentioned? The haberdasher hit me off with a few free samples. I’ll try it out tonight at the charity event I’m going to.

I’ll be like, “Ask me about my scent.” (And people’ll be like, “Yeah, dude... we been meaning to talk to you about your ‘scent.’ ”)

Anyhoo... New Orleans may look like no other city in America, but Metairie looks like every other suburb. Veterans Boulevard gots nothing going on except for convenient shopping. And I decided to make a few quick stops.

Passed by a pet store. On a window were painted the words “African and South American Cichlids.” I was like, “Ohhh shit! They got cichlids?”

Then I was like, “What the fuck is a cichlid?” (Turns out it’s a family of fish.)

I ducked into a CVS drug store. Made an impulse purchase of CVS-brand cookies. The dark-chocolate-topped butter cookies.

Know what I like to do with those bad boys? Y’all should try this. Get you some chocolate-topped butter cookies... and spread peanut butter on ’em.

Mmmm... yums. I’m doing it right now, bitches!!

Saturday morning cartoon

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sending love to Garry Shider

Word comes via the online grapevine that Garry Shider of P-Funk has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Shider has been a loyal soldier in George Clinton’s musical army for nearly 30 years... a guitarist, songwriter, vocal arranger and diaper-wearing hype man.

And, of course, a singer. Garry Shider is an amazing singer.

To channel some loving energy in Garry’s direction, let me stream a couple of 1970s tracks on which he wails.

Click here to hear “Sexy Ways.” You’ll notice... it ain’t just about how Garry swings a lyric. It’s about the vamping he does between lines.

Then click here and listen to “Baby I Owe You Something Good,” with special attention paid to the second verse (“I’ve loved, I’ve lost...”). Simply mindblowing.

I had the pleasure, alongside my colleague Larry Alexander, of interviewing Garry Shider back in the ’90s for a P-Funk oral history. He was generous with his time and cool as can be.

Happy birthday, Martin Short.

Martin Short, probably my all-time favorite improvisational comedian, is 60 years old today. Which is all the excuse I need to stream this tune...

“A Big Black Lady Stops the Show” is from Short’s 2006 Broadway show, “Fame Becomes Me.” (The big black lady is Capathia Jenkins.)

Click here to listen.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Smith & Wesson makes a fragrance.

I drove to Metairie today during my lunch break to buy a sportcoat, dress shirt and tie. I went the “big & tall” route to make sure I found something that fits.

Anyway, at the cash register, I noticed some colognes on display. And one of them – swear to God – was Smith & Wesson eau de toilette.

Smith & Wesson. Eau de toilette.

Smith & Wesson has been making firearms since 1852. Revolvers, shotguns, pistols, rifles. The world-famous .357 Magnum.

I don’t know how fucking long they’ve been selling men’s cologne. Or why. But I thought it was worth noting.

Random whiteness

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marva Wright (1948-2010)

Another New Orleans music star has passed away.

Blues woman Marva Wright – who sang on Bourbon Street, in the White House and throughout Europe – died this morning. She had suffered two strokes last spring.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune obituary is here.

Click here to hear Ms. Wright’s 2007 recording “Katrina Blues.” Her New Orleans home took almost eight feet of water when the levees broke.

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘Got to Give It Up’

Monday, March 22, 2010

New cuts from Bernie Worrell

One of my favorite living musicians has a new album out, and I never would’ve known except for a casual search of the eMusic database.

Keyboard wizard Bernie Worrell is way off the radar screen of today’s commercial music. That is why God invented blogs.

Having previously declared that I’ll purchase any track Bernie ever played on, I might come off as uncritical. Not the case.

Indeed, I must declare that Mr. Worrell’s new release, “I Don’t Even Know,” isn’t quite making my panties damp. The tracks sound like one-man products of a busy weekend in the home studio. For example, click here and check out “Hearin’ Dis, Playin’ Dat.”

Still... when we’re talking about a prime architect of Parliament-Funkadelic’s greatest hits, any new recording is like a handwritten letter from an old friend.

Click here to hear “Shades of The Kid.” Feel what I mean?

God bless you, Bernie. Keep on speaking through your fingertips.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson (1952-2010)

Quite sadly, I pass along news that longtime New Orleans drummer (and part-time actor) Bunchy Johnson died today, according to the Louisiana music website

Mr. Johnson will be seen acting in the premiere episode of “Treme” on April 11. (He also appears in Episode 5.)

As a drummer, Bunchy (or “Bunchie”) worked with a Who’s Who of New Orleans legends: Dave Bartholomew, Allen Toussaint, Lee Dorsey, James Booker, Dr. John, Aaron Neville, Lloyd Price...

Click here to hear a Bunchy Johnson composition – “Pass It On” – from a 2000 album by Wardell Quezergue & His Slammin’ Big Band. It’s a song about the Mardi Gras Indian culture.

And here’s a video of Mr. Johnson backing Jeremy Davenport during last year’s JazzFest:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A free Lightspeed Champion download

Seattle’s provides a nice new FREE MP3 from the eccentric hipster known as Lightspeed Champion.

Click here to hear “Marlene” on my Vox blog. To commence downloading the track right now... hit this link.

Lightspeed Champion’s new CD is called “Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You.”

Saturday morning cartoon

Friday, March 19, 2010

Name this band, win a prize.

Tonight is St. Joseph’s Night, and that’s a big deal in New Orleans... because the Mardi Gras Indian tribes will take to the streets in their elaborate costumes and strut.

So I’m doing a contest, like the ones I used to do. Click here and listen to a mystery track on my Vox blog. The first person to correctly name this band – in the comments section here – will win a prize. (Please, only one guess per person.)

That prize is a beautiful little picture book, “Eyes of Eagles,” by New Orleans photographer Christopher Porché West. It’s all about the Mardi Gras Indians. Here’s one of the photos:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another sneak peek

A free Geri Allen download

Pianist Geri Allen, one of the great women of modern jazz, has a new album out called “Flying Toward the Sound.”

The title track is available as a FREE MP3.

This project is a solo piano suite Ms. Allen composed as a Guggenheim Fellow.

Click here to hear “Flying Toward the Sound” on my Vox blog. To download it, click below.

“Flying Toward the Sound” (MP3)
Album available at iTunes Music Store
Album available at Amazon MP3

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Playlist: Irish soul bands

In honor of St. Paddy’s Day, I went searching for some Dublin funk. If you saw “The Commitments,” you know that the Irish dig soul music. Matter fact, the city of Dublin sponsors a soul festival every spring.

Here are some tracks I found from funky Irish bands:

1. “Nutbush City Limits” (live) – Santoria

This group’s influences include Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5 and (of course) Ike & Tina Turner. Santoria’s website is here. Lead singer Linzi Mckeon is hot as balls.

2. “Pass the Brack” – The Candidates

Influences include the Meters, James Brown, P-Funk and Kool & the Gang. The band’s MySpace page is here. I don’t know what “brack” means.

3. “Ghetto Life” – Mob Fandango

Mob Fandango’s website is here. These chaps don’t declare any specific musical influences... but I can tell from this track that Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album is one.

4. “Voodoo (Hoodoo)” – Ali & the DT’s

Here’s one with a bluesier vibe. Influences include Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Otis Redding. The group’s website is here. Ali De Mora and his band are coming to America, with a Baltimore pub gig scheduled for early July.

The New York Times Magazine on ‘Treme’

This weekend, the New York Times Magazine will run a cover story on my old bud David Simon and his new HBO drama series, “Treme.” The article is up online as of today.

I haven’t read it yet, except to see that I’m quoted early in the piece, sounding intelligent. (And that I’m pictured alongside Simon in the photo slide show.)

As a consequence of the sterling reputation of “The Wire,” the media will be all over “Treme” in the coming weeks. Fun fun fun.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love’

Speaking of Stevie...

... I never knew that “All I Do” – one of the great tunes off of “Hotter Than July” – was originally written for Tammi Terrell, and that she recorded it in 1966. (Yes, Stevie Wonder was a teenager when he co- wrote that song.)

Click here to hear the Tammi Terrell version. It was never released... until 2002, when Universal Music Group put out a compilation in the U.K. called “A Cellarful of Motown!”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A free Balkan Beat Box download

Here’s a new FREE MP3 from Balkan Beat Box, a crew of Brooklyn hip-hop fusionists with roots in Israel.

Click here to hear “War Again” on my Vox blog. To download it, follow this link to

Friday, March 12, 2010

A free Mulatu Astatke download

I first blogged about the Ethiopian jazz master Mulatu Astatke a year ago. The vibraphonist has a new album coming out at the end of March. It’s called “Mulatu Steps Ahead.” You can cop a FREE MP3 right now.

Click here to hear “Green Africa” on my Vox blog. To download it, follow this link to RCRD LBL.

Random hipness

Thursday, March 11, 2010

UBM’s first annual ‘Nice Try’ Awards

Why? Because I give. I’m a giver. And now, without further adoo-doo...

Third place:

Second place:

First place:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Meet Kayotic, a New Orleans rapper. I don’t know this cat or his music. Just stumbled on him on YouTube.

But we filmed part of an episode in this housing project, known as the Calliope (pronounced “Calio”). Master P was raised here. And as kids in the 1940s, the Neville Brothers lived in the Calliope for a while.

A free Garaj Mahal download

The jazz-funk jam band Garaj Mahal (which I blogged about in 2008) just dropped a new album. Want a FREE MP3?

This track was composed by the band’s bass player, Kai Eckhardt, whose fusionist credentials include close work with John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham.

Click here to hear “Witch Doctor” on my Vox blog. To download it, click the title below.

“Witch Doctor” (MP3)
More on this album

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Playlist: Recently downloaded from eMusic

I’ve been a subscriber at the MP3 retail site since 2001. And for most of that time, eMusic did not offer major-label albums.

So I downloaded mainly jazz. Lots of ’50s and ’60s jazz. Several thousand tracks. If I wanted major-label stuff, I copped from iTunes or Amazon.

Well... in recent months eMusic has struck deals with Sony and Warner Bros. to distribute their back catalogues. Now I’ve been on a renewed binge of MP3 shopping.

Matter fact, I’m getting back into my funk bag. Hereupon, a few of my latest eMusic downloads for your streaming enjoyment:

1. “Loose Booty” (alternate version) – Sly & the Family Stone

2. “Heartbeat” – War

3. “Mind Over Matter (Pts. 1 & 2)” – The Isley Brothers

4. “Celestial Blues” – Andy Bey

5. “To Sir With Love” – Chaka Khan

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday morning cartoon

This slick animated short, “Logorama,” is up for an Academy Award tomorrow. It starts getting good at 2:42. (PARENTAL WARNING: Adult language.)

Friday, March 5, 2010


We’re in the midst of filming the second episode of “Treme” written by me. I titled it “Smoke My Peace Pipe.” (The old heads know why.)

Coolest part about being on set for this one? Chatting with Tim Reid, whom we cast in a guest role as a tribute to “Frank’s Place,” a great show about New Orleans.

Being a comedy nerd, I asked Mr. Reid about his early years in standup comedy... that is, his partnership with Tom Dreesen in a pioneering black-and-white comedy act. (They wrote a very entertaining book in 2008 – “Tim and Tom” – about those days.)

If I’d known about the YouTube video below, I would’ve asked Tim Reid about this. Reid’s big break in Hollywood came as a sketch player on “The Richard Pryor Show.”

Check out this uncensored clip from the final episode of “The Richard Pryor Show.” It is scan-do-lous! You’ll recognize not only a young Tim Reid... but Marsha Warfield and Paul “Miss Thing” Mooney. (“Spoon on the end” is John Witherspoon.)

To see the next clip in the sequence, where Richard flames Robin Williams and Sandra Bernhard, click here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Playlist: We want Bootsy!

Bootsy Collins is cooking up something in his kitchen, y’all. He has been tweeting about various folks coming to Cincinnati and working on his new album... like Snoop Dogg, Cornel West and Béla Fleck.

Last week Bootsy wrote: “I just talked to Sheila E. about playing her Drums and Percussions on the New Album, STAY TUNED COULD GET FUNKY, REAL SOON.”

In the meantime between time... let’s have our own little Bootsy party right here.

’Twas 40 years ago that William “Bootsy” Collins, at the tender age of 18, was thrust into the limelight as James Brown’s new bass player. Bootsy was hired, along with his young bandmates, when Mr. Brown fired his old musicians in a dispute over money.

Several years later, Bootsy was taken under wing by George Clinton and became a primary architect of P-Funk. Bootsy Collins quickly evolved from songwriter and session musician to one of America’s most flamboyant stage performers.

I’m streaming some choice cuts on my Vox blog, tracing Bootsy’s path to glory. Click the titles to listen. (And if your computer speakers don’t deliver the low end... I recommend earbuds. Seriously.)

1. “Super Bad” (live) – James Brown

Here’s Bootsy backing the Godfather of Soul at a 1971 Paris concert. Bootsy also played on the hit single version of “Super Bad.” Hot hot high-energy bass line.

2. “What So Never the Dance, Pts. 1 & 2” – House Guests

Bootsy and his boys only stayed with James Brown for one year. Generation gap type thing. J.B. was like the stern stepfather, and Bootsy was doing stuff like dropping acid.

After leaving the James Brown camp, Bootsy and his band called themselves House Guests. This is one of two singles the House Guests released in 1971.

3. “Together” – Parliament

Bootsy first hooked up with G. Clinton in 1971, contributing to the Funkadelic double-album “America Eats Its Young.” Bootsy soon departed, but he rejoined P-Funk in time for Parliament’s 1974 debut on Casablanca Records – “Up for the Down Stroke.” And he was home to stay.

This track (written by Bootsy) is from the 1975 “Chocolate City” LP. Bootsy flexes with a Mu-Tron effects pedal. Around this time he started rocking a custom-made star-shaped “space bass”... and Bootsy’s reputation soared as a musician and as a showman.

As he told Bass Player magazine a few years ago: “Once I discovered the Mu-Tron... I could almost talk through my instrument.” (To hear Bootsy’s original version of “Together,” minus the Mu-Tron and minus G. Clinton’s vocal polishing, click here.)

4. “Disco Lady” – Johnnie Taylor

Bet most of you didn’t know Bootsy played on this 1976 smash hit, which was the first single ever to be certified platinum (meaning 2 million units shipped).

On loan to Detroit producer Don Davis (along with fellow P-Funkers Bernie Worrell and Glen Goins), Bootsy didn’t stretch out on this track. Kept it in the pocket for the most part.

Coincidentally, while “Disco Lady” was dominating the singles charts, Bootsy’s Rubber Band released its debut album on Warner Bros. Records. Bootsy was about to become a hit-maker in his own right.

5. “Freak to Freak” – Sweat Band

Bootsy Collins flourished in partnership with George Clinton as a songwriter and producer. In 1980 Bootsy co-wrote and produced this track for Clinton’s new label, Uncle Jam Records. All the old heads remember.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Random blackness

To find out what became of this gifted lad, follow this link.

Monday, March 1, 2010

‘The Best of Soul Train’ on DVD

This was a long time coming. Time Life is offering a 9-DVD set called “The Best of Soul Train.” List price: $149.95.

The DVDs won’t ship till the end of March... but Time Life is soliciting pre-orders now.

What I’m waiting for is the kick-ass half-hour infomercial. Till then, you can check out preview clips on YouTube: