Sunday, February 26, 2006

Musical rants

To say I don't care about the WAMMIES is a false statement. After all, I was a little disappointed that our "Live at Blues Alley CD" didn't get nominated for best blues album, after we have sold close to 400 copies since its release last November. But I also also thrilled that Deanna Bogart and Big Joe Maher (finally!) won the blues vocalist awards this year, both of whom played with us at the Cabin Fever swing dance. We must be doing something right!

Mike Marcotte of Capital Blues says, "Clarence should've at least deserved a nomination." I agree, since Clarence has proven himself to be a well-rounded guitarist, vocalist, frontman, and entertainer, a rare quadruple threat in the DC blues scene (Bobby Parker comes closest to mind).

Simultaneously, I don't care for the WAMMIES because many nominees and winners were not well deserved. Gene was perceptive in pointing out that a few people who won in the jazz categories didn't sing or play "one note of jazz."

So do the WAMMIES mean something? Yes, it means you're recognized by your peers. To paraphrase Mary Shaver, playing with some of the best musicians in the region beats winning any WAMMIES. I've done just that in the past 3 years and quoting what Whop Frazier once said to me, "You have done quite well for yourself."

Played three fantastic gigs this weekend. That's all it matters.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More to the story

This story has taken an unexpected turn. While we all thought Mr. Whittington's condition was stable, he is now back at ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Slate has published a brilliant analysis on the case. Check out this great quote: "Aaron Burr was the last sitting vice president to shoot a man. He killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Since then, vice presidents have become known for attending funerals, not necessitating them."

I'm going to analyze the debacle from a purely colloquial standpoint. First, Cheney was going to shoot some quails (Dan Quayle - a Republican; George's Bush's vice president 1989-1993). By accident (or on purpose), he shot a fellow Republican Whittington. As Whittington's condition was getting stable over the weekend, the doctor said today he had a mild heart attack. This incident showcases the dog-eat-dog nature of the Republican party and the slow response from the White House. This incident shows that the Republicans are going downhill.

Shame on you, Dick!

P.S. Just a note to my readers - Why does the press neglect to even pinpoint the fundamental problem of this whole thing? As a hunter, you should make sure there's absolutely no human being before you shoot. Cheney has committed the fatal error as a hunter, and as a human being. A mistake that he'll have to pay for. But then, do you think he really cares, after so many people died in Iraq, for him?


Sunday, February 12, 2006

I think he did it on purpose!!

They said Cheney accidentally shot man during hunting. I think he did it on purpose. What he did to the man he could do it to the country. This man is dangerous and should not stay in office.

Someone kick him out please!


Friday, February 10, 2006

Breaking news!

Clarence Turner's wife Sabrena gave birth to baby girl Maya today at 3 p.m. She weighs 6 pounds. Congratulations to the Turner family!


Fresh from the oven

In addition to masters A, B, and C, here's an official entry to the competition:

Praise the Lord (demo)

Composed by Roger Chung
Lyrics by Frank Chung & Roger Chung
Arranged by Roger Chung

Hacken Lee meets Ronald Cheng meets the Beatles. Melody reminiscence of "Hey Jude" and Danny Summer's "An Unspeakable Future." Lots of Cantopop and western pop influence.

An unbiased view: Nothing short of a masterpiece.

Good luck.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Grammy afterthoughts

Is that all the music industry could offer?

That's my main summary from watching the Grammies last night - perhaps the most disappointing year of music. It's always nice to have the nominations of old farts such as Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Sting, etc. But have they really given any thought into the nomination process?

The best album last year was obviously Fiona Apple's "Extraodinary Machine." Aside from its nomination in one category it wasn't even nominated for "Album of the Year." The award actually went to U2's half-assed "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," their weakest outing in years, a far cry from their classic "Joshua Tree" or "War."


And the performances....Silence....Silence....

Why does Mariah Carey think singing and screaming are synonymous? And poor Bruce Springsteen sitting on the stool playing his guitar and blowing his harmonica on an uninspired song "Diamond & Dust." I was so bored I actually did laundry in between verses. I came back and found out Bruce was still singing the same crap.

(A side note: Bruce Springsteen's best vocal performance ever was his solo on "We Are The World." Most people forgot that he was on the song and those who remember decline to talk about it. Well, take that from me.)

And did you all see Christina Aguilera struggling and stumbling on Leon Russell's "A Song For You" even though Herbie Hancock was delivering tastefully melodic phrases and feeding it off to Christina? She just didn't get it. It was hard to watch. Lack of rehearsal maybe?

I thought Sly Stone was going to be the highlight of the show. It seemed like he grudgingly got pulled onto the stage by Steven Tyler and he became "Shy Stone." Not only was he not singing into the microphone he got so scared he went backstage in the middle of his solo. Poor thing. It really wasn't Sly's fault after 19 years of absence from public performance. You would get stage fright too. But why did the Grammy people think it's okay to drag an unwilling person out of retirement and subject him to blatant public humiliation is beyond me. It was painful. And after Sly went backstage, all the artists on stage, especially Joss Stone, were stunned and didn't know what to do...

Pairing Paul McCartney with Jay-Z and Linkin' Park to sing a hip-hop version of "Yesterday" was unwise. McCartney and the rest butchered the song. Another bad taste in my mouth. The whole night was a diasater, including some awkward moments from Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys. Not to mention Tom Hanks mispronuncing the last names of The Weavers. Embarassing.

The actual awards did music no justice. While Hubert Sumlin's "About Them Shoes" was last year's best blues CD, they felt they had to give it to B.B. King, as if he hasn't gotten enough awards in his life. Fame and fortune are indicators of award likeliness, not the actual product.

My friend Kelvin and my brother Roger both entered my church's 70th anniversary theme song composition. I hope the judges can view their products in a fair and unbiased manner. After all, their music is better than 90% of the crap I saw on national TV last night.


Monday, February 06, 2006

The future of music: A divergence

I've been receiving some good reviews for my new compilation disc "Romance For A Week." I'm extremely gifted at making compilation CDs because my song choices resonate with people's daily rhythms. A friend wrote, "Suddenly, I'm listening to all this jazz and by some some beautiful coincidence, a package that was posted to my address but was meant for someone else, had a book in it called 'But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz.' Coincidence or magic?"

This is rather simple, because jazz and blues just happen to be good music. I find myself connect to jazz and blues more and more, because the music conveys a sense of depth that most pop music cannot do. To put it simply, there's "more going on" in jazz and blues than say, Ludacris. Don't get me wrong, I often return to some good pop music time and again to connect to reality and what youths feel these days. Lately, however, I find myself perusing aisles of classical music at Tower Records and sitting down on a couch listening to Emanuel Ax play Beethoven or Maria Callas' opera styles. Classical music is also another great form of art that conveys complex feelings. I'm slowly getting accustomed to classical music, but still, the spontaneity of jazz and blues speaks more personally to me.

Also, I'm narrowing down my CD collection. Now, I'm trying to cut it down to the "bare essentials." It's a hard task, because there are many CDs by many artists that I just can't get rid of. For example, I like all the Oscar Peterson CDs I have, even though not all the songs on all CDs are breathtaking. Also, I tried very hard to let go of a Dave Brubeck double CD set that I have. It's painful to sell some of the music you used to love. But at the same time, there are many CDs that I never listen to and will never listen to I just put them on the CD shelf to impress people. But then again, how many people will really be impressed by a Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt live concert featuring Don Patterson on the organ? Have most people even heard of Fenton Robinson and Johnnie Bassett?

The hardest CDs to let go are the Blue Note and Chess recordings. Those CDs I tend to keep. That was the golden era of jazz and blues, and the best recordings were made then. No matter how hard Sun Records was trying to compete, when you have a lineup of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sunnyland Slim, J.B. Lenoir, Lafayette Leake, etc., Chess Records was hard to beat. Sun Records gained its momentum with the early rockabilly stuff with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis. That stuff was gold too.

I could go on and on...but the key is: there's only good and bad music. A word of wisdom to the MTV/Ipod generation: if you think Usher is the only good thing out there, shame on you. At least you could name Brian McKnight I would go easy on you.

It's sad that Ipod is taking over the music industry. Because most of the good stuff is still on CDs and vinyls. I don't know what's going to happen to music in the next 20 years, but I don't remain hopeful seeing how youngsters do not dig deep into T-Bone Walker. Maybe I'm too sensitive.


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