Ventriloquism by Meshell Ndegeocello. The latest album the musically shape shifting bassist, singer-songwriter puts fresh spins on 80s/90s R&B and pop hits that deeply influenced her during her formative years. Stripping away the gloss and sheen that dominated the era, Meshell and her excellent core of collaborators – Chris Bruce on guitar, drummer Abraham Rounds and Jebin Bruni on keys – give the material a sonic makeover, retaining the core essence of the song, but highlighting the exceptional lyrical content. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, whose work with Janet Jackson, George Michael, Human League and The SOS Band, Human League came to define R&B during that period are represented three times in three different styles: ‘Tender Love’, is re-fashioned as Neil Young-Harvest era ballad. The Janet Jackson Control deep cut ‘Funny How Time Flies’ is retro-fitted as a near ambient setting. ‘Sensitivity’, a solo hit for New Edition’s Ralph Travesant, is given a early Duke Ellington arrangement. Jam and Lewis’ former boss, Prince, is honored magnificently with a heart wrenching version of ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’ that will simply reduce you to mist. The complexities of love – a running theme that Meshell has explored her entire career – are well represented. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s 1985 hit ‘I Wonder If I Take You Home’ highlights Rounds’ outstanding drum work as Meshell questions her would be lover – and herself about whether or not to take things to the next level. Al B. Sure’s breakout hit ‘Nite and Day’ becomes a meditative look at love and longing. Hits by Sade and George Clinton are linked together behind an all too familiar lyrical theme: Betrayal. ‘Atomic Dog’ is given a down home, funky, Americana treatment but still manages to be down home funky, while ‘Smooth Operator’ sounds like a long lost soundtrack cut from a romantic drama. Tina Turner’s ‘Private Dancer’ become a waltz – and a strip club dancer’s lament. ‘Waterfalls’, TLC’s signature hit, is given an angelic, Zen-arrangement while still retaining the song’s cautionary message. Meshell has done revamped covers on previous albums, but to devote an entire album to it – and make it sound so remarkably vibrant – shows an artist and arranger at the height of her powers. One of the year’s best. Ventriloquism by Meshell Ndegeocello will be available this Friday through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
Tom Waits. The second phase of the iconic singer-songwriter’s massive reissue campaign continues with re-release of his days at Elektra. Personally overseen by Waits and wife/collaborator Kathleen Brennan, classic albums such as Closing Time, Small Change, The Heart Of Saturday Night and Nighthawks At The Diner have all been given sonic makeover without losing any of its edge and magic. Waits’ bohemian, full Beat musings on life from the lower rung of society put him on the musical map and into the national consciousness, with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Dion and Bob Seger, among many others covering his work. Each phase of Waits’ career has been dynamic, but these albums are essential. The reissues of Tom Waits’ years at Elektra records are available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music outlets.
Spy Of The First Person by Sam Shepard. The final work by the Pulitzer Prize-wining playwright, author, actor and music draws from his own personal experiences with battling the condition that would ultimately take his life. It tells the story of an unnamed narrator recalling his life as he undergoes treatment fro an unnamed medical condition. His illness also means he must depend on those love him to care for him. The journey takes us everywhere from a condemned building in New York’s Avenue C to the blue, clear waters surrounding Alcatraz; a border town in New Mexico to a renowned clinic in Arizona – all told with clarity, immediacy and power. Work and adventure underscore it all, with themes centering on immigration, community, trust, the wonders of inclusion and the destructiveness of exclusion. Family and nature are the book’s central themes – warm celebrations of those he loved and a deep admiration of the natural world around him. Shepard’s sisters and long time friend Patti Smith had a huge assist in helping him finish the work, and the care and devotion leaps across every page. Powerful, moving and distinctively Sam Shepard, it’s a fitting farewell to a true iconoclast. Spy Of The First Person is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.
New York City. Si Se Puede! Pioneers Of Chicano Cinema. The recent box office success of films by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman) and Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape Of Water) were the direct byproducts of the work done by the groundbreaking work by Chicano filmmakers of the 70s and 80s. The output of these pioneers are the subject of BAM Cinematek’s week long retrospective. It will include ‘Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive, the first Chicano feature written, directed and starring Efrain Guitierrez; an evening dedicated to Sylvia Morales, whose documentaries ‘A Crushing Love’ and ‘Chicana’ shed light on the role women played in the struggle for Chicano liberation; ‘Mi Familia’ and ‘Selena’, two expansive works directed by Gregory Nava. It also include an appearance by Luis Valez, who will have two films in the series: Zoot Suit, which made history twice as the first Broadway musical directed by a Mexican-American and later as the first Chicano film adaptation to be produced by a major studio; and ‘La Bamba’ the hit 1987 big screen bio of Mexican-American icon Richie Valens starring Lou Diamond Phillips. This is a wonderful salute to the great men and women who put Mexican culture on the cinematic map. Si Se Puede will be at BAM March 16th through the 22nd. You can also go to www.bam.org for tickets, a full schedule of events and more information.
New York City. Wind Sculpture by Yinka Shonibare. The latest from the British-Nigerian artist is a hand painted 23-ft sculpture in turqoise, red and orange in the shape of an untethered ship sail. The colors reflect Shonibare’s childhood days spent on the beaches of Lagos and the sail represents ‘a perfect metaphor for multi-layered identities’. It taps into the current social climate behind the the movement of people and ideas across various borders as well as the roles monuments play in our society. As the last days of winter approach and the city is about to burst of light and color, this work is a great way to start the incoming season. Wind Sculpture by Yinka Shonibare will be on display at The Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park through October 14th. You can also go to www.publicartfund.org for more information.
New York City. Being: New Photography 2018. The latest in MoMa’s bi-annual photography exhibition series is dedicated to find out what it means to be human in the face having those rights threatened and questioned on a global scale. Each of the photos challenge traditional conventions, incorporate masking, cropping, fragmentation, distortion, and at times, removing the original content with new material to reveal hidden stories. Issues surrounding privacy, exposure, community, gender, heritage and psychology are all in the mix, making this a must see exhibit. Being: New Photography will be at MoMa March 18th through August 19th. You can also go to www.moma.org for tickets and more information.
Los Angeles. PaleyFest. Now in its 35th Year, PaleyFest is the go to festival for fans who love television. This year’s lineup includes panel discussions with the cast and creators of Stranger Things, Will & Grace, The Good Doctor (among others); sneak previews of the new seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale and Silcon Valley and a special evening with Barbara Streisand, who will presented with the 2018 PaleyFest Icon Award. With a chance to get the scoop on upcoming seasons, and hear the cast and crew of shows talk craft, this is a can’t miss festival. PaleyFest runs March 16th through the 25th. You can also go to www.media.paleycenter.org for tickets, a complete rundown of events and more information.
Los Angeles. L.A. Nature Fest. Most people associate L.A. as a never ending twist of homes, highways, and a chance to get a glimpse at movie stars. But the City Of Angels is also very in tune with nature, with its fair share of birds, snails, plants, snakes, tortoises and even mountain lions. This weekend, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County invites everyone to join experts and scientists as they explore the true wild side of the city, along with the animals and plants that inhabit them. It’s a great way to get spent a day away from the daily grind of urban life. The L.A. Nature Fest will take place March 17th and 18th. You can also go to www.nhm.org for more information.