Archive for July, 2009

Power of Cool

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Donald Harrison, cookin

The King of Nouveau Swing Donald Harrison, Jr. brought his bold sax (plus dance moves) to Syracuse last week and spiced up the Northeast Jazz and Wine Festival like a plate of red beans and rice.  His band members, average age about 19, were the perfect compliment and despite the rain, they belted out enough flavor to make Clinton Square sound more like Congo Square…at least for an hour or so.

Roll Call

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The entire list is too long, but here are some of my all-time favorite radio personalities then and now: Frank Ski (Baltimore), Donnie Simpson (Washington, DC), Red Alert (New York), Lady B and Georgie Woods (Philadelphia), DJ Showcase and Rick Wright (Syracuse).

I must add Texas Fred aka the Zydeco Cowboy (Washington, DC) to my list. I’ve checked out his show on the internet for the past few years and he delivers a unique experience over the airwaves.

A Tribute

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
Leonard Stephens, Jr.

Leonard Stephens, Jr.

Jonathan Stephens III sent us a tribute to his cousin Leonard Stephens, Jr., who passed away last week.  Leonard was a talented song-writer, producer and a master on the steel pedal guitar.

Age Aint Nothing But a Number

Monday, July 27th, 2009
Young Cats

Young Cats

Props to the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet (pictured are members Nick Frenay and Chad Leftkowitz Brown) the young cats who served as the defacto house band for the Northeast Jazz & Wine Fest late night jam sessions at Jazz Central over the weekend.

It’s gotta be the shoes

Monday, July 27th, 2009

SIF Advisory Board member and photographer Alton Ritter shot a lively campaign for The Shoe Crush. See the pictures here.

Tear the Roof off tha Sucker

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Sax man Marion Meadows said he’s wanted to perform in Syracuse for a long time, sick especially since his sister lives here.  He finally got his chance last night during a sizzling performance for the Northeast Jazz and Wine Festival (formerly Jazz in the Square).  During the set Meadows did a roll call of musicians that have influenced his band, people such as Grover, Ella, Miles, Coltrane, James Brown and some others. Then before bringing the house down, he asked a simple question: “What happens when some Funk falls into your cereal?”

The crowd in Clinton Square for the festival concert got the answer, but Meadows added a cresendo later when his band brought their steady rhythms to Jazz Central for an intimate late night jam session (which typically follow the festival performances).

In addition to his quartet, Meadows vibed with musicians such as Eudy Ferdandez and The Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet, featuring Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, Noah Kellman, Nick Frenay, Zach Brown, and Corey Fonville.

Joe Magnarelli also joined the session, which funked up the house til well past midnight.

Straight, no chaser

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Excelsior College Commencement Speaker Soledad O’Brien (left) with Excelsior College graduate Lawrence E. Minor, Jr (of Delaware)

Last week I attended the Excelsior College Commencement in Albany. The Commencement Speaker was Soledad O’Brien. Her speech was simple and direct, which fits well in this current climate.

What Happens to a Dream Deferred

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

I met designer Pamela Williams last week during her first annual “Elegance from the Soul” Fashion Extravaganza. She explained that about 3 years ago she was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer and put her dreams of fashion and design on hold. During the recovery she was encouraged by video producer and friend Jay Dunmore to rekindle her dreams and career aspirations.  So with faith and the strong support of her family, including husband Steven and son Melvin Eisland (aka M. Island), and a cadre of  friends, she organized the show.

1st Annual Elegance from the Soul Fashion Extravaganza

Williams hopes that in addition to highlighting fashion and designers from around the region, the show will also be a catalyst to raise awareness of cancer.

The show featured a typical runway scheme along with live music.  “It was amazing,” Williams said of her son M. Island’s  performance. She particularly enjoys his song You Can Make It.

Syracuse’s the Blacklites also performed.

At the close of the show Williams shared her experience and brought many people in the audience to tears.   Williams recommended early detection to detect and manage cancer. (She says a portion of the proceeds from the show will be made to the American Cancer Society)

You are truly Friends of God for helping me make this happen, she said.

For a first show the execution was great. I asked Williams how she could top this performance: “Come to next year’s show,” she said.

The dream continues.

A Son of the South Shines in Syracuse

Monday, July 6th, 2009
  A Brief Conversation with Charles Cannon: Lead singer/Founder (Bells of Harmony), Radio Host (Charles Cannon Gospel Hour, 1540 WSIV-AM)

Charles Cannon, gospel singer, radio host

 When did you come to Syracuse: August 1966 from Cuthbert, GA. I left when Georgia had “colored” restrooms and I picked cotton. When I got to Syracuse, I realized there was a better life. There were job opportunities, I could provide for my family without struggling. I worked for GM. The move from Georgia at age 18 was wonderful for me. I have no intentions of moving back. I go to visit or perform.

On Singing: I’m 62 years old, I’ll be 63 in June. Singing used to be so much fun, but now it has turned out to be a job. I don’t like the travel, but I go because I love singing. That’s what I do. I never get tired of singing.

How many concerts have you done: In 43 years…thousands.

When did you start in radio: I started in 1978; I started the C&O Gospel Hour [with my cousin who is now deceased]. Now [the show is called] Charles Cannon Gospel Hour. This is a great experience. I do it every Friday.

At studio of 1540 WSIV-AM

At studio of 1540 WSIV-AM

Who is your favorite artist: The Mighty Clouds of Joy. I’ve done concerts with them. They are my favorite because they do traditional gospel. I’m a traditional gospel singer. [Traditional gospel] speaks about your daily living, where you’ve come from, what you’ve been through and how the Lord has blessed you to persevere. I’m the kind of person when I listen to a song, it has to have a message, otherwise there’s no need to listen.

What is your favorite song (to sing): The Lord Will Make a Way. I always believe whatever the circumstance, whatever the situation, He’ll make a way for you. I wrote that song and it’s on our latest CD.

What are you listening to now: In my car I’m listening to a CD by the Texas Boyz. They sing a song that says Only the Strong Survive. I always have gospel on in my car.

If you could have everyone in the region listen to one song what would it be: If Jesus Can’t Fix it, Nobody Can, by the Mighty Clouds of Joy. If [people] would listen to the worlds, they would be spiritually uplifted.

I’m a Christian, I don’t deny that. I tell it everywhere I go.

Who has been your biggest influence: My mom. There was a song my mom loved to sing: Wont It be Grand.  When I was growing up we used to go into the garden, we grew all our vegetables in Georgia, and she would sing Won’t It be Grand. I re-did it and I had a chance to play it for her before she passed in 2002. Where ever I am, where ever I go, I always talk about my mom.


Bells of Harmony fans at Juneteenth

Closing thoughts: There’s no need for me to be here [at the studio] playing only what I want to hear. I do that when I get in my car or when I’m home. When I get to the studio, what ever [the listeners request], that’s what I play.

My listening audience and fans have [supported us] all these years and whenever I  perform on stage they are there. [The audience] has never let me down and I’m thankful. I don’t take it for granted.

Kenneth & Kenny: Watching one, Listening to the other

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
Kenny G 2009 Syracuse Jazz Fest

Kenny G JazzFest 2009

I had the opportunity to cover the 2009 Syracuse Jazz Fest at OCC last week and see Spyro Gyra and Kenny Gorelick (aka Kenny G.)  I’m familiar with some of Gorelick’s work, and maybe my favorite cut is “Hi! How Ya Doin, ” which was produced by Kashif.  If you check out the video, you can see Kenny G before he had the long curly hair and you can even see his dance moves.

What I didn’t know about Kenny G is that he has sold over 50 million albums, he started out playing with Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra and his wife is photographer Lyndie Benson.

Before Kenny G took the stage I had a wonderful conversation for the Jazz Fest’s piano tuner Kenneth Williams back stage. I know Williams from a previous job and we’ve had brief conversations about his vision (he’s legally blind) his hearing (he has what he calls “good relative pitch.”) and his love of music (he doesn’t own a piano but he is actually a trumpet player).

Kenneth Williams, piano tuner

Kenneth Williams, piano tuner

Williams is a jovial personality who does some of the best impressions I’ve heard outside of Hollywood. He does a great John Wayne, Pearl Bailey and Jimmy Stewart. I asked him how long would he continue to work (he’s been a piano technician and tuner for longer than I’ve been alive).  I’m never going to retire, he said. I’m having too much fun.