Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Stephen B. Steward Wants To 'Enter Your Gates'



TOP CELEBRITIES EMBRACE NEW ARTIST STEPHEN B. STEWARD 
 HIS DEBUT ALBUM, ENTER YOUR GATES, AVAILABLE MAY 20TH IN STORES & ONLINE
Steward Set to Perform Singles “Purify My Soul’ and “The Sound of Heaven” on TBN’s ‘Praise The Lord’ Thurs. May 22nd at 10 pm ET/ 9 pm CT
Sharing billing with Grammy®-nominated gospel legends Jonathan Butler and Andrae Crouch at the “One Night Only” concert special live from Pasadena, award-winning new artist Stephen B. Steward wowed the audience with live renditions of numbers found aboard his forthcoming debut album, ENTER YOUR GATES, available in stores and online May 20th via Central South Distribution.
In addition to seeing Steward lend stunning performances of his songs, With My Whole Heart, Purify My Soul, title track Enter Your Gates, The Sound of Heaven and many more, the star-studded event, held at Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium on April 12, featured a special guest appearance from Steward’s mentor, Grammy®-award winning gospel icon Andraé Crouch. The event was hosted by Radio DJ Andrae Russell (KJLH).
In attendance to support Steward’s big night were top celebrities, media and radio personalities that included; Emmy and Tony Award nominated actor Obba Babatunde (Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Dreamgirls), Judge Mayblean Ephriem, Actress/Singer Dawwn Lewis (A Different World) , Jawn Murray (Pop Culture Commentator/AlwaysAList.com), Tonya Moore (BET Networks), Ernest Owens (Huffington Post/USA Today), Jazz Singer Freda Payne, TV Host Kiki Shepard (It’s Showtime at the Apollo), Actor Earl Billings (What's Happening), stage, film and television actor Glynn Turman (A Different World, Cooley High) Torrez Harris (Clear Channel) among many more.
 [L-R] Jonathan Butler, Stephen B. Steward and KJLH Program Director Aundrae Russell
As Steward’s debut album approaches he sat down with The Huffington Post (http://huff.to/1ijmdD0) to discuss his upbringing in Mississippi, marriage, kids, law enforcement career, musical career and his mentor Andrae Crouch.
Shortly before serenading the audience with his soulful croon, Steward also delivered a helping hand to his non-profit organization, LOV Olive Branches, and the long-awaited youth talent show at the SBS Youth Music Festival. There, in front of celebrity judges, nine talented hopefuls vied for a $1000 grand prize scholarship.
For more information on this concert, visit www.stephenbsteward.com
The showings only helped drum up even more buzz for his debut album, ENTER YOUR GATES, now available for pre-order at iTunes. Kicked off by the soul-stirring, Andraé Crouch-assisted hit With My Whole Heart, the single’s equally moving successor, Purify My Soul, continues to resonate with listeners for its daring and open testimony.
To connect with Stephen B. Steward, please visit:
Official website: http://www.stephenbsteward.com
Twitter: @stephenbsteward
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Stephenbstewardmusic
About Stephen B. Steward:
Stephen B. Steward is an award-winning gospel singer, songwriter, and producer whose contemporary worship stylings have seen him touted as one of the genre’s top rising acts.
Before his highly anticipated national debut album, Enter Your Gates, enters digital and brick-and-mortar record shelves in spring 2014, Steward made his triumphant debut on the wings of ‘With My Whole Heart’ – his high-spirited collaboration with GRAMMY® winner/gospel icon Andraé Crouch. The joint venture not only landed him a hit on the Billboard Top Gospel Singles Chart, but also helped him nab three 2013 Prayze Factor People’s Choice awards and, subsequently, three 2014 Rhythm of Gospel Award nominations in “Worship/Praise Artist of the Year”, “Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year”, and “Songwriter of the Year” categories.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Daniel Beaty Delivers A Brilliant Paul Robeson



 
Daniel Beaty as Paul Robeson

By Darlene C. Donloe

Daniel Beaty is a theatrical bolt of lightning!

He’s known for wowing theater audiences with his one-man shows, (Through The Night, Emergency, Mr. Joy). But his latest offering as Paul Robeson in the Mark Taper Forum production of TheTallest Tree In The Forest may just be his best effort to date.

It is spectacular!!! It’s not only entertaining, it’s educational, scandalous, awe-inspiring, controversial, revealing, explosive, funny, eye-opening and heartwarming.

This one-man tour-de-force, accompanied by a live three-piece ensemble and directed by Moises Kaufman, explores the life of entertainer and activist Paul Robeson. This is the second show in Los Angeles this month to showcase Robeson. Keith David, who is equally spectacular, is enjoying a successful run in the Ebony Repertory Theatre’s production of Phillip Hayes Dean’s Paul Robeson, running through April 27.

The Tallest Tree In The Forest, presented in two-acts, starts off with Beaty appearing in the doorway at the top of some stairs. He descends slowly, takes center stage and soon thereafter he mesmerizes with a rendition of Ol’ Man River, which became Robeson’s signature song. Beaty’s voice has volume and passion and is a complete showstopper.

A powerful performer, what sets Beaty apart is not only his extraordinary storytelling ability, but his remarkable agility at portraying a myriad of distinct, rich characters giving them all individualized voices and mannerisms. He eases in and out of those characters with such compelling panache that you don’t see it coming. It’s truly astounding. 

The elaborate and impressive set looks somewhere between a library, a living room, a ski chalet and an old theater. The addition of live music, including Beaty’s baritone voice on 13 songs, along with video of vintage, era-specific events adds texture. But, it’s the scene where several Negroes are hanging in silhouette that sets a powerful tone for the show. It’s emotional and uneasy  - exactly as it should be.



The scene where Robeson delivers an impassioned speech at McCarthy’s infamous House Un-American Activities Committee is engulfing. While he, himself, was being accused of being un-American, Robeson intensely accuses the committee of being “un-American.” The scene was met with raucous applause at the Taper opening night.

Beaty not only stars in this turner, he also wrote, The Tallest Tree In The Forest.  A gifted writer, Beaty doesn’t skim the service of Robeson’s life, he digs deep and reveals warts and all. 

“In writing this play, I used research from a multitude of books, films and other resources,” says Beaty. “In the end, though, the play is my original writing, since the research has been filtered through my imagination and personal understanding of this complicated man. I have taken some poetic license, when necessary, to meet the unique conventions of theatrical storytelling. Still, I hope The Tallest Tree in the Forest honors the spirit and truth of Paul Robeson’s life and character.”

Beaty describes Robeson as a complicated man. It would be safe to say he was also conflicted. For instance, Robeson didn’t have a problem with speaking out against Russia’s sudden oppression of its Jewish citizens while he was in that country, but did have a problem expressing those same sentiments on his home turf.

Beaty as Jamal Joseph, Columbia University professor


Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

At one point in the show Beaty, playing Jamal Joseph, a professor at Columbia University, suggests that there may be a generation of people who don’t even know the accomplishments of Robeson or who he is for that matter. That may be sad, but true.  However, if any of those individuals gets a chance to attend one of these performances, they are sure to walk away with a secure understanding of who Robeson, his character, as well as his significance.  He was an All-American athlete, a lawyer, actor and singer who became the first black actor to play Othello on Broadway.  Above all that, Robeson, who reportedly could speak upward of 15 languages, was a man’s man who wasn’t afraid to speak his peace or run, head first, into his progressive causes.



Beaty delves into Robeson’s personal life rather extensively, particularly his relationship with wife, Dr. Eslanda ‘Essie’ Cardozo Goode Robeson, herself a woman of many talents.  ‘Essie’ acted as Robeson’s manager and acting coach and helped to shape his legacy.  There relationship was complicated, put apparently came from a place of mutual love and respect.  He also touches upon Robeson’s relationship with his brother and his father, who was a former slave. Watching the scene where Robeson visits a Jewish friend in Russia, who knows he’s about to die at the hands of the Russians – is like taking a punch in the gut. It’s done exquisitely, pulling at every emotional core.

While Robeson was a revered activist, actor and athlete, he was also, allegedly, a womanizer.  Beaty also delves into Robeson’s apparent fascination with the Soviet Union after visiting at the invitation of a friend. It was his stance on how Negroes were favorably treated with equal rights in the Soviet Union and how America could take some lessons on civil rights that raised the ire of the U.S. government. His sympathetic remarks about Russia once Stalin came into the picture made him a target for the House Un-American Activities Committee. The government eventually silenced Robeson by taking away his passport, thereby thwarting his ability to make money abroad.  For eight years the government prevented Robeson from leaving the country. Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the State Department couldn’t strip a citizen’s right to travel because of political beliefs.  By the end of his life the once revered Robeson, who was the most well-known and popular Negro in the country, had lost the respect of his nation – and even more important – that of other Negroes who labeled him a traitor.



This show is not to be missed! As a part of the history curriculum, schools should flood the theater with students. As for adults, those who know who Robeson was should get reacquainted and those who don’t know Robeson’s story should get to know him.  Whether one agrees with Robeson’s actions or not, his place in history is solidified. With Beaty at the helm, his story will live on.

The Tallest Tree In The Forest is directed by Moises Kaufman and written and performed by Daniel Beaty.

The Tallest Tree In The Forest, Mark Taper Forum, 135 Grand Ave., Los Angeles, Tues.-Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat. 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sun. 1 and 6:30 p.m. through May 25; No 8 p.m. performances Fri., Apr. 25, Sat., May 3 and Fri., May 16; no 6:30 performance Sun., May 11; no public performances on Tues., May 13 and Wed. May 14; no 1 p.m. performance on Sun., May 25; $20-$70 (ticket prices are subject to change); 213 628-2772 or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), The Tallest Tree In The Forest gets an E (Excellent).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Robey Theatre's 'Knock Me A Kiss' Delivers


Cast of Knock Me A Kiss
 (top l-r) Keir Thirus, Ashlee Olivia and Jason Mimms
(seated l-r) Ben Guillory, Toyin Moses and Rosie Lee Hooks

By Darlene Donloe
  
‘I like cake, And no mistake. But, baby, if you insist, I'll cut out cake, Just for your sake. Baby, come on, Knock me a kiss. I like pie. I hope to die. Just get a load of this, When you get high, Doggone the pie. Baby, come on, Knock me a kiss’.

Those are the opening lines to the song, Knock Me A Kiss, which was recorded by several artists over the years including B.B. King, Louis Jordan, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa and Jimmie Lunceford, who recorded it in 1942.

Charles Smith’s play, Knock Me A Kiss, currently enjoying a successful run at the Los Angeles Theatre Center through May 4, is loosely taken from that song of the swing era. The song is referenced by Lunceford’s character in the play.

The Robey Theatre production, which is a Southern California premiere engagement, is, thus far, one of the best plays of the season.

Directed crisply and fluidly by Dwain A. Perry and starring an exceptional ensemble that includes Robey Theatre Co-Founder Ben Guillory and veteran actress Rosie Lee Hooks, Knock Me A Kiss tells the story of the failed marriage between NAACP co-founder W.E.B. Du Bois’ daughter, Yolande, and popular Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen. The play is a fictionalization based on actual people and events.

 
(l-r) Toyin Moses and Jason Mimms


The show takes place in 1928, when, Jimmie Lunceford (Keir Thirus), a rising bandleader at the time, was dating Yolande (Toyin Moses). Wanting to take the relationship further and even proposing marriage, Lunceford is kicked to the curb by Yolande, who wants to marry someone more befitting her social and political stature. Enter the single and eligible Countee Cullen (Jason Mimms) a refined, respected, handsome, educated and popular man-about- town. The impending nuptials between the two powerhouses is considered the social event of the season. The first of its magnitude, the union is deemed Black American royalty at the height of the Harlem Renaissance.

After the marriage, things between a free-spirited Yolande and the reserved Countee quickly begin to unravel. When Countee reveals he has affections for someone else, Yolande is heartbroken, then devastated once she learns with whom.

Smith has written a wonderful, juicy and captivating script about love, sacrifice, betrayal, jazz, rivalry, ambition, acceptance and the social graces. The dialogue is brisk, witty, refreshing and feels authentic. The play is both dramatic and comedic, which actually works perfectly for some scenes – most notably when Lunceford discovers Yolande is seeing another man. If you have any problems with the ‘N’ word be warned that the word flows freely by the Lunceford character.  Although W.E.B Du Bois is obviously a central character, Smith’s play isn’t so much about his genius and accomplishments so much as it is about his daughter, Yolande.

Perry has assembled a cast that is worthy of Smith’s words. With no weak link in the chain, Perry directs a show that flows with an effortless pace.

Keir Thirus, as the always-ready-for-a-party Jimmie Lunceford, nearly steals the show with his easy cadence, good looks, charm, clever repartee and resolute intention.

Ben Guillory gives a strong performance as the conservative and sure-footed activist W.E.B. Du Bois.  Both the dialogue and Guillory reveal Du Bois’ shortcomings as both a husband and as a father. He’s a man willing to gamble away his daughter’s happiness for the cause, or what he deems is the better good.

 
(l-r)  Toyin Moses and Ashlee Olivia


Rosie Lee Hooks is unforgettable as Nina Du Bois. Giving her character meekness and naivete, Hooks leaves room for Nina’s strength and savvy to shine through.

Jason Mimms gives a steady performance playing Countee Cullen as both a ladies man and a man’s man.

Ashlee Olivia is a brilliant and hilarious standout as Lenora, Yolande’s flashy and worldly friend.

Toyin Moses shines brightly as a sturdy, but complex Yolande, who eventually becomes a lonely soul. Marching through life as the confident, devoted daughter of one of the country’s first black public intellectuals, Yolande tries to play both ends against the middle. While she desires the attention of a financially strapped, but always swangin’ musician like Lunceford, she longs for the status of a scholar like Cullen.  To her surprise, she finds she can’t have her cake and eat it to. Although she thinks she knows what she wants, she’s left perplexed once she actually gets it.

All the pieces come together in this production.

Knock Me A Kiss is a sturdy enough story that is hitting on all cylinders.

Knock Me A Kiss debuted in Chicago and was subsequently produced in Cleveland, Houston, For Worth, Miami, New York, Sacramento, and at the National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina.

Knock Me A Kiss, written by Charles Smith and directed by Dwain A. Perry, stars Ben Guillory, Rosie Lee Hooks, Jason Mimms, Toyin Moses, Ashlee Olivia and Keir Thirus.

Approximate running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, including intermission.

LOUIS JORDAN’S KNOCK ME A KISS:

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Knock Me A Kiss gets an E (excellent).

Knock Me A Kiss, Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 Spring St., Los Angeles, 8 p.m., Thu.-Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. through Sun., May 4.  $10-$30; (866) 811-4111 or www.thelatc.org

Friday, April 18, 2014

Keith David Inhabits The Role Of 'Paul Robeson'


KEITH DAVID

By Darlene Donloe

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that two major theater houses in Los Angeles are producing one-actor shows about Paul Robeson at the same time.

The Tallest Tree in the Forest, written and performed by Daniel Beaty, opens at the Mark Taper Forum this weekend and runs through May 25.

The Ebony Repertory Theatre’s production of Phillip Hayes Dean’s Paul Robeson, starring two-time Emmy Award-winner Keith David, opened its run March 12 and was originally supposed to close March 30, but has extended the performances through Apr. 27.  The new dates are April 18-20 and April 25-27.

Some might question why two different Los Angeles stages would choose to have two different shows about Robeson in production at the same time.  Why not?

Not only is April the month of his birth, Robeson is surely worthy of the dual honor.  One of the most accomplished and well respected men of his or any other time, Robeson was on the front lines as a political activist for civil rights long before it was fashionable. Threatened and berated, he stood his ground. Not only was he an advocate, he was an impressive actor, singer, lawyer and an All-American football player. 

His brilliant, sometimes turbulent, but meaningful life is the subject and focus of Dean’s Paul Robeson.

(Dean, who made his Los Angeles directorial debut with the show, regrettably, passed away April 14, in Los Angeles at the age of 83). 

There is no getting around it – Keith David, in the title role, – quite possibly gives one of the best performances of his career. Even hampered with a knee injury that postponed the show’s opening, ever the trooper, David doesn’t miss a beat as he commands the stage with a grace and elegance that only a veteran performer of his stature can pull off.  His booming voice is reminiscent of Robeson’s, his delivery, whether dramatic or comedic, is engaging. The result is a fulfilling and entertaining night of theater.

Armed with the poignant, emotional, and sometimes hilarious dialogue provided by Dean, David conducts a master class performance as he tells the story of a man who came to symbolize the strength and determination of the Negro.

A charming storyteller, David inhabits Paul Robeson with a zeal and verve that is palpable. Holding the packed Ebony Repertory Theater audience in the palm of his hands, David, who is accompanied on piano splendidly by pianist/musical director Byron J. Smith, is like a breath of fresh air as he takes the viewers on a biographical journey.  His rendition of Ol’ Man River is a show-stopper and worth the price of admission.

Presented in chronological order, Dean delves into Robeson’s personal, professional and political life. We watch as Robeson talks about why he stayed with his sister in Philadelphia, the conflict between his brother and his preacher father, becoming a star athlete, attending law school, how he tried to impress the ladies, how he tried desperately tried to avoid marriage, confronting bigotry, escaping violence and assassinations and more.  And still he stood!



Usually there are pros and cons to a one-person show. Not so with this production. While it might be interesting to see David play off of other characters on stage, there is something more intriguing and theatrically challenging watching David unpeel various characters right before our eyes. 

Dean’s words are the co-star of this production. It’s a  presentation that takes the audience step-by-step from his childhood through to the man he would become. When doing a biographical piece there is no way a playwright can present everything about a person’s life. Everyone may not agree with what Dean has written, although it’s obvious by its insertion that he, himself, deemed it pertinent and pivotal, which is his prerogative as the playwright. What he’s deftly written encapsulates the breadth and depth that was Robeson. When he was writing the show, Dean, who met Robeson on a train when he, himself, was 13-years-old, said he wanted to honor him because he was inspirational and considered him his first real hero. 

Dean, a Chicago native who also grew up in Pontiac, Mich., takes the audience from Robeson’s childhood in New Jersey to his adult life around the world. The Drama Desk-winner for The Sty of the Blind Pig, Dean, 83, writes how Robeson faced racism in the early part of the 20th century and how his determination and triumph in rising above it all, made him a modern day hero.

Dean’s Paul Robeson originally opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1978, later transferring to the Booth Theatre, starring James Earl Jones and directed by Lloyd Richards with original staging by Charles Nelson Reilly. The one-man play had two revivals on Broadway – 1988 at the John Golden Theatre and in 1995 at the Longacre Theatre.  Both productions starred Avery Brooks and were directed by Harold Scott.

Dean’s Paul Robeson is befitting and worthy. The staging is simplistic, but the play’s content is powerful. Dean’s direction is non-intrusive and Dan Weingarten’s lighting illuminates. Costume Designer Wendell C. Carmichael’s placement of David in a tux, brings the appropriate sophistication to Robeson.



Robeson’s relevance has never waned. His accomplishments, which can’t be denied, are now part of the public record. His legacy is well-built. It’s always majestic to give honor where honor is due. 

If the audience's 'OMG' reaction while leaving the show is any indication, Ebony Repertory Theatre may have to extend the run yet again. 

Kudos to everyone involved in this robust, admirable and gratifying production.

Don't miss Paul Robeson! If  you don’t see the last show on the 27th, you’ll be mad on the 28th.
 
Rest in Peace Phillip Hayes Dean!

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no!), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Paul Robeson gets an E (excellent).

Paul Robeson, Ebony Repertory Theatre, Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, through Apr. 27, 2014; Fri., Apr. 18 at 8 p.m.; Sat., Apr. 19 at 8 p.m.; Sun., Apr. 20 at 7 p.m.; Fri., Apr. 25 at 8 p.m.; Sat., Apr. 26 at 8 p.m. and Sun., Apr. 27 at 3 p.m. (final performance). Tickets range from $30 - $60. Single tickets are available online at ebonyrep.org or by phone at 323-964-9766. Groups of 10 or more are available via email at groups@ebonyrep.org or 323-964-9766.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Skirball Cultural Center Announces Line-Up

 
SUNSET CONCERTS
Thursday evenings, July 24–August 28, at 8:00 p.m.

2014 season features sounds of the Americas⎯from folk to zydeco, Cuban “son” to Tejano⎯plus Moorish fused with funk and a klezmer/milonga mash-up

LOS ANGELES, CA – (August 17, 2014) The Skirball Cultural Center announces the line-up for its eighteenth annual free Sunset Concerts. Circumnavigating the globe from the Americas to Africa, the 2014 season features a dynamic mix of traditions and styles. The schedule is as follows: the California debut of Noura Mint Seymali (July 24); the California debut of Conjunto Chappotín y Sus Estrellas (July 31); The Haden Triplets (August 7); Flaco Jiménez and Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs (August 14); Yiddish Tango Club (August 21); and Jeffery Broussard & The Creole Cowboys (August 28).

While staying true to the series’ world music roots, the 2014 season reflects the Skirball’s deepening interest in the national scene and Americana. Jordan Peimer, Vice President of Programs, remarks, “Taking their critically hailed debut album on the road, The Haden Triplets will enthrall our audiences with their unique take on American folk. Meanwhile, Jeffery Broussard and his Creole Cowboys are sure to have everyone dancing to their lively zydeco.”

“We are also happy to present the California debut of Conjunto Chapottín y Sus Estrellas, a band that has been a dynamo of Cuban ‘son’ since the 1940s,” adds Peimer. “And, of course, we look forward to Tejano star Flaco Jiménez, who returns to the Skirball stage on his landmark 75th birthday tour.”

Committed to music that defies categorization, the 2014 Sunset Concerts also includes world artists who are updating their culture’s age-old traditions with modern American influences. Peimer notes, “Mauritanian griot Noura Mint Seymali’s meditative songs blend African and Arabic styles with Western rhythms, perfectly illustrating the West African tradition from which American blues arose. And, rounding out this year’s line-up is the Yiddish Tango Club, who epitomize an only-in-the-Americas mix of klezmer and milonga.”

The six Thursday night concerts are presented free of charge in the Skirball’s picturesque central courtyard, where music fans of all ages sing along, dance in the aisles, and gather at the foot of the stage to celebrate with the performers. A popular choice for a group outing, family-friendly fun, or a romantic date night, Sunset Concerts invites Angelenos and out-of-towners alike to arrive early to dine al fresco, visit the Museum galleries, and explore the Skirball’s distinctive modern architecture and hillside setting.

About the Artists:

Thursday, July 24: Noura Mint Seymali (California debut)

Noura Mint Seymali, one of Mauritania’s foremost musical emissaries, began her musical career at the age of thirteen as a supporting vocalist for her legendary stepmother, Dimi Mint Abba. Her homeland boasts a unique cultural and geographic identity, as a desert nation located physically and socially between North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Seymali’s music is a vital and vibrant bridge from the Medinas of Fez and Algiers to the dance clubs of Bamako and Dakar, and she has emerged as an important voice of Africa. With an already formidable resume of international debutsat events like Festivalau-Desert (Mali), Festival Pirineos (Spain), and Festival Timitar (Morocco), and collaborations with artists such as Tinariwen, Bassekou Kouyaté, and Baaba MaalSeymali is steadily gaining wider recognition and is poised to bring Mauritanian music to the world.

Composing for an ensemble with traditional instruments at its coreardine (harp), tidinit (lute), and t’beul (bowl drum)and backed by Western bass and drums, Seymali employs the instruments and modal structures essential to Moorish tradition while adopting the format of a pop song. As the Chicago Reader noted, Seymali creates “a mesmerizing tension between ancient and futuristic.”

Thursday, July 31: Conjunto Chappotín y Sus Estrellas (California debut, U.S. premiere tour)

With roots dating back to the 1940s, Conjunto Chappottín is one of the top Cuban “son” groups on the scene today. Its founder, Arsenio Rodriguez, is one of Cuba's most renowned bandleaders, and, as the first to add reed and brass instruments to a Latin band, he is widely regarded a major influence on Latin, jazz, and salsa music.

When Rodriguez left Cuba in 1950 to go to New York, he handed the baton to his first trumpet player, Felix Chappottín. For the remainder of the decade, Chappottín and his group, featuring vocalist Gerardo Martinez, released hit after hit and appeared regularly on Cuban television. Despite the band’s political struggles with the Cuban government and dictator Gerardo Machado, Chappottín continued to inspire Afro-Cuban music with his sweet-toned trumpet playing. He successfully led Conjunto Chappottín until his death in 1983, after which his son, Angel Chappottín Valdes, carried on as musical director. Since the 1990s, Jesus Angel Chappottín Coto, the grandson of Felix Chappottín, has directed the band together with singer/percussionist Miguelito Cuni, Jr. Their performance at the Skirball marks Conjunto Chappottín’s highly anticipated California premiere, on their debut US tour.

Thursday, August 7: The Haden Triplets

The Haden Triplets (Tanya, Rachel, and Petra) – daughters of legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden – sing with vocal interplay that only a lifetime together as sisters could achieve. Their debut album, produced beautifully by American legend Ry Cooder, expands on Americana’s musical traditions in a very personal way.

In the Hadens’ own words: ”During our early life, we were surrounded by music on both sides of our family. We visited our dad’s family in Springfield, Missouri, where they taught us old country songs they used to perform on the radio as The Haden Family. Our grandparents on our mother’s side used to sing us to sleep with old Yiddish songs. Growing up, we often had music playing in the house, whether it be our mom playing Billie Holiday and Nina Simone records, or our dad playing Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman in the living room. We met Ry when we played with his son Joachim, and Joachim asked him if he’d sit in for our show. Once Ry heard we were singing “Voice From On High” by Bill Monroe, he was in right away. The next day we got a call from Ry suggesting we record an album. We wrote down a collection of songs we all liked, then narrowed it down to the music that became The Haden Triplets album. These songs are rich in history, and by recording them we hope to help keep them alive.”

The album was released in February 2014 to unanimous critical acclaim. The Los Angeles Times touted, “Cooder's production is fittingly raw, putting no phony gloss on songs brimming with heart-on-sleeve honesty. Petra Haden has created a cottage industry with multitracked recordings showcasing the versatility of her own voice, but in tandem with her sisters, the vocal lines bring to bear the power of family harmony that's long been an important foundation of traditional country music. The Haden Triplets carry on that tradition marvelously.”

Thursday, August 14: Flaco Jiménez and Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs

Five-time Grammy winner Leonardo "Flaco" Jiménez has led the way in bringing conjunto music from his community in San Antonio, Texas, to new audiences in the United States and worldwide. The Billboard Guide to Tejano and Mexican Music hails, “What B.B. King is to the blues, or George Jones is to traditional country, Grammy-winning accordionist Flaco Jiménez is to the world of Tex-Mex conjunto.”

Born in 1939, Jiménez is the son of conjunto pioneer Santiago Jiménez, Sr. By the age of seven, Jiménez was already performing with his father, even earning the nickname “Flaco,” or “Skinny” that had previously been attached to his father. Jiménez spent his youth mentored on the accordion by San Antonio musicians, including Toby Torres, Joey López, and Los Caminantes, and built his reputation by performing in San Antonio saloons and dance halls. In the 1960s, Jiménez began playing with Douglas Sahm, the founding member of the Sir Douglas Quintet. When Sahm finally recorded his first solo album for Atlantic Records in 1973, he invited Jiménez to join the sessions (which also included guest spots from Bob Dylan and Dr. John).

In the 1990s Jiménez and Sahm reunited to form the group Texas Tornados with Freddy Fender and Augie Meyers, recording six albums and winning a Grammy. He also recorded with the Mexican super-group Los Super Seven that included Fender, Joe Ely, Ruben Ramos, Rick Trevino, and Cesar Rosas and David Hildalgo of Los Lobos, netting another Grammy. In total, Jiménez has received five Grammy awards, including three awards for his solo work. In 1999, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Billboard Latin Magazine and has been inducted into the National Hispanic Hall of Fame and the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in New York City.

Throughout his nearly seven-decade career, Jiménez has introduced the traditional conjunto sound to mainstream pop and country listeners thanks to collaborations with Dwight Yoakam and the Mavericks. He is applauded by adventurous rock fans through his work with Carlos Santana, the Rolling Stones, and Ry Cooder, in particular after receiving international acclaim for his contributions to Cooder's landmark album Chicken Skin Music.

At the Skirball, Jiménez will join forces with the acclaimed Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs. Jiménez and Baca recently teamed up for the February 2014 release Jiménez and Baca: Legends and Legacies, which features the duo’s interpretations of the best of the conjunto repertoire. Each an inheritor of a musical legacy from his father and grandfather, Jiménez and Baca chose the repertoire they consider most important to their respective musical paths. Baca was seven when he met Jiménez at a concert; twenty years later, he became his bajo sexton player. Jiménez brought Baca into the Texas Tornados, whose combination of country, rock, and conjunto hasinspired Baca’s Los Texmaniacs. The band’s 2009 Smithsonian Folkways album, Borders y Bailes, won a Grammy, and its 2012 album, Texas Towns &Tex-Mex Sounds, received a Latin Grammy nomination.

Thursday, August 21:  Yiddish Tango Club

The Yiddish Tango Club is a talented group of musicians who combine traditional Jewish music with Latin flair and a youthful vibe. From the early “milongas” to the Yiddish theater, Yiddish tangos have been a voice of Argentina’s Jewish people and their culture for centuries. Part of the new wave of Jewish music, the Yiddish Tango Club explores a fluid and imaginative amalgamation of the two genresa contemporary Los Angeles sound fused with the traditional music of Eastern Europe (beginning with the earliest renditions of klezmer) and the fresh sensuality of tango argentino. Diva Divina Gloria and dancer Bruce Bierman will join clarinetist Gustavo Bulgach and the Yiddish Tango Club to create a unique and all-inclusive experience.

YIDDISH TANGO CLUB IS PRESENTED AS PART OF “VIVA!” AN ONGOING SKIRBALL INITIATIVE THAT EXPLORES THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN JEWISH AND LATIN AMERICAN CULTURES THROUGH LECTURES, CONVERSATIONS, AND PERFORMING, VISUAL, AND MEDIA ARTS.

Thursday, August 28: Jeffery Broussard & The Creole Cowboys

One of the most influential accordionists and vocalists in modern zydeco music, Jeffery Broussard has endured as an innovator. One of the genre’s most dynamic performers, he developed the nouveau zydeco sound in Zydeco Force, and has now returned to the more traditional zydeco sound with his own band, Jeffery Broussard & The Creole Cowboys.

Broussard’s music career started early in life, similar to many other famous zydeco musicians. At the age of eight he started playing drums in his father’s band, the renowned Delton Broussard & The Lawtell Playboys. After seventh grade, Broussard left school to work on the family farm full time. He spent long days digging and sorting potatoes, but, whenever he could, Broussard would sneak into the house and teach himself how to play his father’s accordion.

During his teen years, Broussard played drums in his oldest brother’s band, Clinton Broussard & The Zydeco Machines. His brother would let him play accordion on a few songs from time to time, but Jeffery was too shy to speak on stage, let alone sing. It wasn’t until Jeffery joined the band Zydeco Force that he overcame his shyness and began singing in public.

Broussard has a range that is seldom seen in zydeco, from traditional songs to originals, single-note and triple-note accordion to fiddle. Whether he is playing a festival stage in front of thousands of dancing fans, a small theater of seated patrons, giving a press interview, teaching a lesson or playing at a trail ride, Broussard’s warmth, talent, and love for music shine. His dedication to preserving and promoting the Creole culture and traditional Zydeco music is unwavering.

'The Showers' To Perform At N.O. Jazz Festival

TheShowerspressphoto

Hammond, LA (April 17, 2014) — Gospel’s rising family collective, The Showers, are set to perform at the 2014 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 25th and the Cincinnati-hosted 'I Hear Music Concert' on May 17th also featuring Mary Mary, Israel Houghton among others.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a 10-day cultural festival developed to showcase the best in music, food, and craftsmanship, will see the dynamic group join a star-studded lineup that includes some of pop, rock, R&B, and gospel’s biggest names. Drawing crowds that exceed 400,000 annually, the Jazz Fest will host The Showers as part of its “Gospel Tent” segment on Friday, April 25th at 1 p.m. Visit for more details.
Hosted by gospel music great Byron Cage and Season 2 BET Sunday Best winner Y’Anna Crawley, the highly anticipated event will see The Showers billed alongside an accomplished collection of gospel recording artists.With their energetic stage presence and soulful harmonies in tow, the group is set to grace the performance stage on May 17th at the Inspirational Baptist Church, 11450 Sebring Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45240. Doors open at 6pm and concert begins at 7pm. Visit www.ihearmusicintheair.com for more details.
The Showers has been garnering national attention since the release of their 1st single "Praise Your Way Through" which peaked in the Top 30 on the Mediabase Gospel Songs Chart. The group debuted the single in November 2013 on highly rated Bobby Jones Gospel Show on BET.
The group released their follow-up single "Better" written and produced by budding gospel artist Deon Kipping. Gospel greats Donnie McClurkin, Tamela Mann and R&B songstress Kelly Price performed the song at a pre-oscar event in Hollywood earlier this year after hearing The Showers deliver a powerful performance of the song. Watch performance here: (http://youtu.be/sjoB9aaJ0Yk)
About The Showers:
Comprised of ten real life siblings, The Showers are the latest family collective to take the gospel music scene by storm. Quickly likened to the genre’s prized family acts The Winans, The Hawkins, and more, the Louisiana natives first gained notoriety aboard the success of their top-selling 2009 independent debut album “Hear My Prayer”. Going on to land the group top industry honors from Rhythm of Gospel to En-Sound Awards, the album also courted acclaim from some of entertainment’s most endeared critics.
Their highly anticipated, self-titled follow-up album, due soon, will act as the group’s national debut. Led by the empowerment anthem “Praise Your Way Through”, featuring production from Bruce Robinson, Jr. (Justin Bieber, Fantasia, Joshua Rogers) and vocal production from GRAMMY® award winner Myron Butler (Tamela Mann, Marvin Sapp) and Shawn Willis, the song made its way through to the Top 30 on the Mediabase Gospel Songs Chart with an accumulative listening audience of over 1 million ears.

'Transcendence,' An Eerie Look At What Might Be



By Darlene Donloe

Transcendence, the new Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman thriller, is an eerie and creepy movie – mostly because I don’t think we’re that far from that actually happening.

The sci-fi film, set for a nationwide release on Fri., Apr. 18, takes a scientific look at man’s intelligence and the transferring of the same to a far-reaching machine.

One would have been early in the 20th century that high-level prosthetics would not allow people to pick up tiny objects, speak or even run in the Olympics. But it happened.

In Transcendence, Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions.  His highly controversial experiments have made him so famous he has groupies, which gives him a rock star appeal. Some applaud his work. However some do not and will do anything to stop him. His experiments have made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who want to destroy Caster’s findings.

In their attempt to put an end to Will’s work, they unintentionally become the channel for him to succeed—to be a participant in his own transcendence. 

Aiding Will in his efforts is his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and his best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany). Both are fellow researchers, who initially believe in what Caster is doing, but then begin to question the bigger picture.

Of course their worst fears are realized when Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly all-pervading quest for power. To what end – they don’t know.  

But, that’s not even their biggest fear. They become terrified at the prospect of possible being unable to stop him. After all, they have housed his brilliant mind inside of what is essentially the internet.   Huh?  Yeah!  It’s strange, but like a train wreck, you can’t stop looking.

The big question becomes  - it what they are doing ethical and moral?  And, what makes it juicy is there is no right or wrong answer – or is there?

This is a tricky thriller that sheds light on what the world could become if technology is allowed to run amuck. The movie is sleek and impressive and opens up a long repetitious list of ideas.  

Good performances from a good cast!

This is probably right up some techies alleys. Others may find it a bit far-fetched and a bit too out of this world to be plausible or pleasing. If an audience member is not familiar with algorithms, they could get lost in the minutiae. If nothing else, though, the film is entertaining.

Alcon Entertainment presents “Transcendence,” directed by  Oscar®-winning  cinematographer Wally Pfister, stars Oscar® nominee Johnny Depp, Oscar® winner Morgan  Freeman, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy and Clifton Collins, Jr.

Transcendence marks the feature film directorial debut of Pfister (Inception and the Dark Knight movies). A commendable first effort.

Transcendence, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
 is Rated PG-13; Running time: 120 minutes. 

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), gets an O (OK).

Website http://www.transcendencemovie.com/  
 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TranscendenceMovie