Ganja & Hess. Bill Gunn’s 1973 cult classic gets a much deserved revivial. Restored to the original director’s cut, it stars Duane Jones (Night Of The Living Dead) as Dr. Hess Green, a wealthy black anthropologist studying African cultures who routinely drank blood. The arrival of Hess’ assistant George Meda (Gunn) takes a disturbing turn when the suicidal Meda stabs Hess’ with an ancient African dagger. Presuming that Hess is dead, Meda kills himself. Shockingly, Hess comes to, with no signs of the stabbing, but with a newfound thirst for blood. He initially fulfills this need off of Meda’s corpse and stolen blood from a doctor’s office, but quickly realizes that he needs new victims. When Meda’s estranged wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) arrives looking her husband, she instead seduced by Hess and his lavish lifestyle. When she discovers Hess’ secret, rather than leave, she joins him on a dark path that shows just how deep the blood runs. Audiences weren’t quite ready for Gunn’s mix of blaxploitation, horror, sensuality and spirituality, but the film would have a profound influence on an entire generation of filmmakers, including Spike Lee (who would remake it under the name Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus in 2014). Thanks to the restoration, it’s still a visual marvel, and gets a rightful place as a groundbreaking achievement in Black cinema. Ganga & Hess is available now at Metrograph in New York and will be in select theaters starting June 7th. You can also go to www.kinolorber.com for more information.
Sanctuary by Sandra St. Victor. An in-demand vocalist for nearly 30 years, singer-songwriter Sandra St. Victorhas shared stages with Roy Ayers, Chaka Khan, Freddie Jackson and Glenn Jones, among others. She was also the featured vocalist for the group The Family Stand, whose hit with ‘Ghetto Heaven’ was the centerpiece of several critically acclaimed albums, including the now classic Moon In Scorpio. In 1993, St Victor recorded her debut solo album Sanctuary for Elektra Records, with the hope of it doing for her what Seal’s 1st effort did for sister company Warner Bros. But when label head (and St Victor supporter) Bob Krasnow left due to internal struggles with the Warner Music Group, his successor, Sylvia Rhone shelved the project believing that St Victor’s mix of R&B, funk, and rock would not find an audience. Ironically, variations of songs from the album would find their way onto albums by Prince, Chaka Khan and Tina Turner. St. Victor would go on future Family Stand and solo releases, but fans have always wanted to here the great ‘lost’ album. On May 28th – St Victor’s birthday – she surprised fans by making Sanctuary available to stream via her Bandcamp page. The response was so overwhelming that she decided to make it available for download. Listening to it now really makes you wonder what Rhone and Elektra executives were thinking: It’s a funky, sexy, sensual, groovetastic, feminist, spirtual declaration by a world class vocalist. She’s also anchored by a slew of amazing musicians and collaborators including Family Stand bandmates Peter Lord and V. Jeffrey Smith, Vernon Reid and Doug Wimbish of Living Colour; Daryl Hall, producer/musician Arthur Baker, Taylor Dayne, Ronny Drayron and other A-list hired guns. An album of, in, and ahead of its, a seminal work by the Mack Diva finally gets its much deserved moment to shine. Sanctuary by Sandra St. Victor is available exclusivley at sandrastvictor.bandcamp.com.
Medicaid Fraud Dogg by Parliament. After decades of legal wrangling, Parliament’s first album in 38 years is finally out in the universe. Though its considerable shorter than Funkadelic’s 3-CD, 2014 album First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate, this new release does sport 23 tracks of loopy R&B, hip hop, and, of course, funk for nearly two hours. To coincide with Clinton’s annoucement that he was retiring from touring next year, the album represents both a requiem and a passing of the torch to his children, grandchildren and the new wave of musicians and collaborators who are part of the ever-evolving P-Funk All-Stars, while also giving props to Snoop Dogg, OutKast, Flying Lotus, Thundercat and other current P-Funk inspired artists. As with most P-Funk albums, there’s also a deeper heading meaning concept/theme running thorughout. This time, Clinton and Crew take dead aim at America’s love affair to addiction, whether its through Big Pharma or Big Media. Whether or not Clinton’s plan to wind it up remain to be seen, but with this album, he’s leaving behind a strong epitaph. Medicaid Fraud Dogg by Parliament is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
Lo-Fi Exploits Of A Misplant On Shaolin by Bruce Mack. Over the span of four decades, Bruce Mack has worn many hats. Co-frontman and songwriter for the New York-based bands PBR Street Gang and Tricky Dilemma. Founding member of Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber. Former President of The Black Rock Coalition. Music Educator. Now you can add solo artist to this list with the release his self-produced solo album. With a intimate, after hours setting, it runs the gamut from avant garde jazz to Marvin Gaye-inspired R&B to a punk-funk blowout. Lo-fi in the truest sense (you can hear the analog hiss on a number of tracks), Mack’s skills as a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and arranger shine time after time throughout the 33 minute set. Whether you are looking to expand your musical palatte or searching a cool chill record, this is an album worth checking out. Lo-Fi Exploits Of A Misplant On Shaolin by Bruce Mack is availabe now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
The New Jerusalem by Patti Smith. Punk’s poet priestess first presented this prose at the Nexus Institute’s ‘Education In Counterculture’ Symposium and now it’s available for those who couldn’t attend. An expansive look at how art & humanity, along with faith and freedom, can escape power can unchecked, as well as the mechanisms of social control, Smith channels everyone from William Blake to St. John, using it as a guide and a battle cry for the resistance. Smith also supplies photographs and artwork for the project, with Rob Riemen providing the forward. It’s another gripping addition to what has already been a incredible career. The New Jerusalem by Patti Smith is avaialble at select bookstores and through www.nexus.instituut.nl.
New York City. Book Con. Described as the place where ‘storytelling and pop culure collide’, Book Con is now considered as one of must see literary events of the year. Legendary authors Walter Mosley, Chuck Palahniuk and James Patterson will be joined by actors turned authors Taye Diggs and Omar Epps to discuss craft and their latest projects. Politics will be front and center as Civil Rights icon and Congressman John Lewis and former President Bill Clinton will be appearing to discuss their latest forays to the written word. There will also go be writing workshops, autograph sessions, a ton of exhibitors and much more. Whether you an avid reader or looking to develop your writing skills, this convention has it all. You can also go to www.thebookcon.com for tickets, a complete rundown of events and more information.
New York City. Split Screens Festival. The 2nd annual salute to the art and craft of television is back at the IFC Center. Curated by critic and author Mark Zoller Seitz, the festival will feature conversations with actors Jeffrey Wright (Westworld), Thomas Hayden Church (Wings, Divorce), Jean Smart (Designing Women, Legion); exclusive screenings and panels of Younger, Snowfall, Twin Peaks and a panel featuring some of the top women working behind the camera. Sandra Oh, star of the BBC series Killing Eve will be this year’s recipient of the Vanguard Award. With the right mix of panels, screenings and star power, this is quickly emerging as a must see festival event. The Split Screens Festival is running now through June 3rd. You can also go to www.SplitScreensFestival.com for tickets, a complete rundown of events and more information.
Los Angeles. Last Remaining Seats. Go back in time as the L.A. Conservancy presents some of cinema’s all-time best in grand old Downtown L.A. movie houses. Timeless classics such as The Birds, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and In The Heat Of The Night will screen alongside new favorites such as Who Framed Roger Rabbitt, The Joy Luck Club, and Kiss Of The Spider Woman. Chances are that today’s movie goer has never seen any of the films on the silver screen, so this series is ideal. Last Remaining Seats will run June 2nd through the 23rd. You can also go to www.laconservancy.org for tickets, a complete schedule of films and more information.