I Am The Blues. Just about musical idiom that has come out the United States can be traced back to the blues that came out of the South – specifically in the swamps of Louisiana Bayou, the Mississippi Delta and the Hill Country of Mississippi. A number of artists who came from that background – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, and a kid from Tupelo named Elvis, have graduated to icon status. Others have found success as well, maintaining a steady touring schedule in the region’s so-called Chitlin’ Circuit. This new documentary by Daniel Cross looks at a number of the musicians – most of whom are in their 80s – still keeping the blues alive. Bobby Rush, guitar hero Barbara Lynn, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Little Freddie King, Lazy Lester and others take us deep into the heart of the South to tell their many stories behind the songs and how the blues shaped their lives. Rush’s story is the most compelling: He’s been road dogging it for over 50 years and, at the age of 83, won his first Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. With stories as rich as the Southern soil and killer music to match, this is a must see film for Blues fans and music fans in general. I Am The Blues is Quad Cinema in New York now and will be rolling out in select screens starting July 15th. You can also go to www.iamthebluesmovie.com for more information.
14 Steps To Harlem by Garland Jeffreys. For someone who just turned 74, Garland Jeffreys is working at a pace faster than most artists half his age. His latest album – his third in 6 years – is, all his previous releases, rich with stories that ties his roots with the branches. Family is at the center of the work: The title track is a meditative song that honors the work ethic of his father (who traveled each work day from Sheepshead Bay to Harlem) and his mother (who worked at the Domino Sugar Factory). ‘Venus’ and ‘Time Goes Away’ are moving songs about his wife Claire with the latter also featuring their daughter Savannah on vocals and piano. Jeffreys also pays homage to the many musical giants that he got to befriend throughout his 40 plus year career. Lou Reed – whom Jeffreys met while they attended Syracuse University and remained friends until Reed’s passing – is saluted with a spirited performance of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting For The Man’. Jeffreys is also close with Reed’s widow, Laurie Anderson, who adds violin to ‘Luna Park Love Theme’, a love song set in Jeffreys hometown of Brooklyn. ‘Reggae On Broadway’ looks back at The Clash’s epic 1981 run of shows at Bonds in Times Square and how he found a fan – and a friend – in Joe Strummer. Jeffreys also got know John Lennon in the 1970s and pays homage to the former Beatle with a beautifully slowed down reworking of ‘Help’. There’s also gutbucket blues, Latin infused pop wth a splash of doo wop, folk infused social commentary, and good old fashioned rock n roll that runs throughout the 12 song set. It’s another gem from an artist who has been delivering winner after winner for decades. 14 Steps To Harlem by Garland Jeffreys is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers. You can also go to http://www.garlandjeffreys.com/ for more information.
4:44 by Jay-Z. Hip hop has always been a celebration of self and the culture within it. But as many of its stars mature and hit middle age, its also be a strong source to become reflective and introspective. Jay-Z’s 13th album puts the microscope – and the mic – deep inside the head of Shawn Carter, the father, husband, son, businessman and a musical force. The results are raw, honest and doesn’t present himself in the best light More confessional than catharis, Jay-Z opens up on everything from infidelity, his mother’s coming out as a lesbian, fatherhood and everything in between. There’s also a pro-black nationalist message running throughout the album as Jay’s thoughts on racism, self-determination, and generational wealth at its core as much as his personal revelations. This is Jay-Z’s best work in over a decade and shows that hip hop can indeed age gracefully. 4:44 by Jay-Z is available now through Amazon, iTunes, Tidal and all major music retailers.
New York City: We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965-1985. This current Brooklyn Museum exhibit looks at political, social, cultural and aesthetic contributions women of color made during the second wave of the feminist movement. Using film, video art, photographs, paintings, print made pieces, sculptures and more, it presents the feminist campaign from a perspective that has rarely, if ever, been depicted in any context. Given the political climate that we are in now, this retrospective is more vital and needed than ever. We Wanted A Revolution will be at The Brooklyn Museum through September 17th. You can also go to www.brooklynmuseum.org for tickets and additional information.
New York City: Notes On Camp. Summer is in full swing and one of the favorite pastimes is send your kids – or yourself to summer camp. BAM Cinematek is presenting a week-long look at this annual rite of passage that captures all of its highs and dark lows becoming one with nature. The series will features comedies (Meatballs, Wet Hot American Summer, Addams Family Values), horror flicks (Friday The 13th, Sleepaway Camp, The Burning) musicals (Camp), satire (But I’m A Cheerleader), documentaries (Jesus Camp) and, a Wes Anderson movie (Moonrise Kingdom). It’s a great getaway for those who are forced to stay and sweat out the summer in the city. Notes On Camp runs at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music through July 18th. You can also go to http://www.bam.org/ for tickets, a complete schedule and additional information.
New York City: Naked Soul Presents Martha Redbone. By combining elements of Native American music, Appalachian folk, funk, Piedmont Blues, and all points in between, award-winning singer-songwriter Martha Redbone has established herself as one of the premier vocalists working today. The Rubin Musuem will present Redbone as part of their ‘Naked Soul’ series, in which acts must perform without microphones and amps, thus presenting themselves in the artistic sense, naked. Redbone, whose roots stretch from Virginia’s Clinch Mountain to Harlan County in Kentucky right up to Brooklyn, is as strong as storyteller as she is a singer, so this promises to be a night for the ages. Come out and see a musical force. Naked Soul with Martha Redbone will take place at The Rubin Museum on July 21st. You can also go to http://www.rubinmuseum.org/ for tickets and additional information.
New York City: Rico Gatson: Icons 2007-2017. The latest exhibit from the Brooklyn-based graphic artist and sculptor draws from history. Specifically, Black History, as Gatson puts Black cultural icons such as Nina Simone, Amri Barak, Miles and Billie Holliday and Coltrane against backdrops that range from the minimalist, and constructive, to the abstract and populist. As the title suggests, some of these works span close to a decade, and presents the artists in the fullest and grandest of light and color. It’s a dazzling display that celebrates the finest that Black artists has given back to its community and to the world. Rico Gatson: Icons 2007-2017 will be at the Studio Museum Of Harlem through August 27th. You can also go to www.studiomuseum.org for more information.
New York City: Go Nightclubbing! Downtown New York 1977-1980. There’s been tons of stories written about the New York downtown music scene that produced punk, New Wave and hardcore. But its not often that we get to see it captured in all of its tattered glory. From 1977 to 1980, Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong captured some of the musical magic on video. That footage is the focus of a three day series that will be at the Anthology Film Archives, which is only a few blocks from where most of the bands performed. Elvis Costello, John Cale, The Go-Go’s, Kid Creole & The Coconuts, and Suicide are just some of the artists featured in the grainy black & white footage, which wonderfully captures the vibrancy and manic energy of the period. It’s a great look back at a city and a scene on the edge and sounding great. Go Nightclubbing! will be at Anthology Film Archives July 14th through the 16th. You can also go to www.anthologyfilmsarchives.org for tickets and more info.
Los Angeles: Sound In Focus. KCRW teams up with the Annenberg Space For Photography for a series of free concerts that will run for the remaining Saturdays in July. Miguel, Paul Oakenfold and Rodrigo y Gabriela will perform and there will also be tours of Skylight Studios, special DJ sets and more. Attendees will also get an opportunity to check out the great photo exhibits, picnic and enjoy an adult beverage in the Beer Garden. With great weather, hot music and overall cool vibe, this is one of the must see events of the summer. Sound In Focus runs July 15th through the 29th. Tickets are free, but you must RSVP at http://soundinfocus.kcrw.com/.