Monday, March 5, 2012

Gettin' While The Gettin' Is Good!

Next week is one of those special weeks that reminds us of how much richness goes down in our home space. Three top-notched acts utilizing very different approaches are descending upon the East Bay and considering the recent activity along the Hayward Fault. I'm gonna get me some goodness while I can!
March 13th-18th, The Alvin Ailey Dance Company re-invades The Zellerbach to give its annual reminder of who really put modern dance on the map. Ailey once said, "I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people." After 50 years of blowin' minds, the company is showing no signs of pulling back from Alvin's mission.

During this run, three new pieces will be making their Bay Area premiers: Home, Arden Court, and Takadame. Also included are theclassics Minus 16 (set to music ranging from Dean Martin to mambo, to techno, and traditional Isreali music), Ulysses Dove, and the powerful Ailey signature piece, Revelations.

I am not a dance aficionado. Frankly, I pulled most of this from the Internet after my girl informed me she had tickets for Thursday night. Don't get me wrong, I have seen the troupe perform and have loved the spectacle, power and passion these great artists channel. And they are simply breathtaking. I just learned my lesson to be prepared after rolling out to see the Bill T. Jones Dance Company @ The Z recently without checking them out online first. I enjoyed the show, but it was some weird shit! Thanks to Aliyah E. for giving me a text heads-up while I was waiting for the show to start.

Bonus Question: What could be better than seeing finely tuned bodies flying around the stage? See for yourself...

Can't Knock The Hustle
Later the same night I will be droppin' in on another guilty pleasure: A rare small venue performance by the Godfather of Bay Area Hip Hop, motherf*****n' Too Short! Short Dog will be burnin' down The New Parish for a rare Oakland performance. Like Ailey, the idea of seeing a TRUE rhyming legend (2008 VH-1 Hip-Hop Honors Inductee) in a small hometown venue is too irresistible to pass on. Too Short's legendary rise and continued relevance in the world of hip hop is to be appreciated for his sheer drive alone.
I'm a little torn about this show. Being real: Short's music denigrates women and glorifies the "pimp game". I'm not a pimp, never pretended to be a pimp, nor do I condone pimpin'. In a evolved society, the idea of taking advantage of the weakness in others is atrocious and intolerable. The reality is that these things happen and pretending they don't is weak and short-sighted. Short's stories are based in fact. The realities of the streets and the bravado required to survive "the game" are legitimate. I would argue that Too Short's simple truth-laden narratives have saved more lives by raising awareness to the pitfalls of the streets than have been ruined by any perceived glorification on his part. In this instance, the truth is definitely "the light". Ok. I'll admit that I wouldn't ask Short to council 8th graders.

Too real? Too funky? Definitely always, Too Short! That sounds (and smells) like Oakland to me!

Heir Apparent?
Recently there has been a controversy brewing over the word "jazz". Some highly trained and educated musicians see the word as derogatory and no longer adequate to describe a music form that saw its heyday end in 1959. They see the word jazz as a mere "label", a brand if you will, to be used to simplify the art form created by the descendants and sojourners of the African Diaspora. They even imply that a decrease in attendance by black audience members is further evidence of the watering-down of this true African American art form. Anybody seen The Blues lately? Remind me to contact TVONE's "Find Our Missing".

Which brings me to my next sure thing for this week: The Robert Glasper Experience.
The Houston-based jazz pianist brings his super hot quartet to The New Parish on Saturday March 17th to perform music from their recently released CD entitled "Black Radio". The internet has been on fire since its issue on February 28th-live jazz playing mixed with Black Radio Superstars. What distinguishes this album from other collaboration-based mash-ups is its use of of jazz as a soul, R & B, and hip hop showcase.

The "album" opens with a intro track thats part hip-hop microphone check, part classical music tuning, and part artist introduction all rolled into one. Right out of the gate Glasper lets us know that he and his crew are about to bring it! Fellow Houstonite, Erykah Badu is fun, warm, and jazzy as usual. Lupe Fiasco dreams "I hope to see these gangstas actin' like teachers/Wake up out there sleep dare to dream in a world so Martin Luther King-less". (Where the REAL OG mentors at?) Lalah Hathaway uses Sade's ponytail to mop up "Cherish The Day". LA-based KING made my heart flutter (yeah flutter) with silky-smooth vocals. If you don't know about KING, get ready for those ladies-they are on the verge. Musiq Soulchild & Chrisette Michelle create a instant vintage soul classic. Mint Condition front man Stokely Williams finally sings a tune that enables use of his complex range and showcases his abstract side. The Bay's Grammy nominated vocal firestorm known as Ledisi kills (as she always does) on "Gonna Be Alright". Take special note to listen to the players converse about the record biz on last 1:34 of that track. My main man Bilal seals his position as the voice of masculine sensitivity and complexity on the Bowie poem "Letter To Hermione". Glasper even Muzaq-ifies Nirvana's classic grunge rock hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and makes it Stevie Wonder cool.

While I may not be qualified to speak on the sociological impact of the use of the "j" word, I am qualified to tell you that this album is simply dope! Who knows where jazz will end up. Is it up to the public to demand more, the musicians to raise the bar higher or music business "big wigs" to quit forcing their opinions on us? I feel confident that Robert Glasper is doing his part to extend jazz's metamorphesis in a direction never anticipated by the ancestors. This is a beautiful surprise and a bonafide tribute to those artist who have used music to rise out of despair, pain, and mistreatment. Any argument questioning who jazz belongs to should end right here!

Thanks to The Z-List for sharing this free download. Enjoy!

Oakland Stand Up!

Mr. Oakland

For tickets to see The Alvin Ailey Dance Company, visit

For tickets to see Too Short and The Robert Glasper Experience featuring Bilal, visit