free website hit counter Spiced Tea & Letters: November 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Jazz Throwback

Oh, so handsome. Photography by FireFish

In the meatime, as we wait for Mr. Hargrove's new record, due out in February, I offer you a throwback review of Hard Groove. Peace.

Roy Hargrove Presents The RH Factor: Hard Groove

By: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Vibe Online
July 25, 2003

There’s something steely about Hard Groove. It’s not the usual high brow, hard-bop offering. No, this is “the funk” as filtered through Roy Anthony Hargrove’s jazz mind. Backtrack to when Miles Davis dropped the very funky and electronic In A Silent Way. It was a wrap for his acoustic sound and style. Jazz fundamentalists be forewarned, this could be déja vu looming.

Recorded at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios in New York, Hard Groove was mixed down in analog to simulate the live show ambiance of a juke joint, tavern, or even a South African shebeen-right in your home. The album opens up with "Hardgroove," a bass-driven, midtempo song that actually lays down the mood trajectory of the album's overall soundscape, and that is definitely "the funk."

To paraphrase jazz master Duke Ellington, the jazz musician is the freest person in the world, with freedom being the very essence of jazz. Roy Hargrove exemplifies that free spirit to the fullest. Although this trumpet and flugelhorn player is a former protege of Wynton Marsalis, and by extension an aesthetic grandson of Ralph Ellison, chronologically Hargrove is one of us - a straight-up hip hop head. The 33-year-old Dallas native, rocking locks and dirty denims has created a hub for jazz, R&B, hip hop, and funk on Hard Groove, representing an expanded musical sensibility of a much-underestimated generation.

Head here to finish reading this review.

Monday, November 28, 2005


People say: Laylah, I love you. And I think to myself: Really?

If you did love me, then I wouldn't be so suprised to hear you say the words.

Your love would have been something I knew already. I would have felt it from miles away.

Love transcends the means we can manipulate and it has no shame and fear.

You don't love me.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Jazz Soul

Oh yeah. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. George Benson. With the 1976 release Breezin’ GB sought to catch folks off guard, so he slipped a vocal on the remake of ‘This Masquerade’ and permanently tilted the trajectory of his already well-groovin’ jazz career. Breezin’ went multiple times platinum. Jazz fans enjoyed the sparkle of pride in there eyes for his mainstream success but also became possessive because their jazz guitarist had acquired admirers other than listeners who appreciated the fundamentals of swing.

I hate to imagine if he decided to keep his deliciously homegrown voice to himself. By now we’d still have a legendary guitarist, which is fine. But, how fly is it to vocalize alongside your guitar chords? His way of paralleling the two has decidedly become his tradmark– this is what we expect from George Benson, this is how we know it’s a GB track. (Although it took me a minute to realize that the song 'Inside Love/So personal' was George Benson – I didn’t know, I had it on a mix tape for years! Plus, I was like 6 years-old when it dropped.)

And, even though the 80s pulled George Benson further into the R&B world (with production work by Kashif) his singing voice, chocked full of over-enunciations, could still be identified as jazz vocal styling. Even uber-producer Qunicy Jones was caught up in the R&B rapture. From Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, to his own dance machine record The Dude, you weren’t sure if Qunicy and partner in crime, songwriter Rod Temperton, gave jazz a rest permanently. 'Give Me The Night', a QJ production, is one of those tracks DJs slip into the gettin’ down medley of Chaka Khan’s 'I Know You, I Live You'; Frankie Beverly and Maze’s 'Before I Let You Go'; James D-Train Williams 'You’re The One For Me', etcetera.

If George Benson ever comes to BB Kings, I will be there a day early. I’ve never seen him perform. Sad, sad, sad. And, on top of that, he was at all the major jazz festivals this year (which I missed. Not trying to be a junketeering additct like ole boy from John Henry Days). And, anyway, I might hurt myself at his show, cause I’d be up there in the front row going bananas. They might have to put me on stage alongside the vocal accompaniment, for real. Believe it or not, this is on my to-do list for 2006. Okay, I have a separate to-do list, one for serious life decisions and the other is for live shows. Some folks who are scratched off: Roy Ayers, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, seen ‘em. Folks who still remain: Al Jareaux, Santana, Patti Labelle and GB.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

And I heard Them Say

I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. ~Booker T. Washington

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. ~James Baldwin

Giving up doesn't always mean you are weak; sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go. ~Author Unknown

When love is lost, do not bow your head in sadness; instead keep your head up high and gaze into heaven for that is where your broken heart has been sent to heal. ~Author Unknown

I never knew until that moment how bad it could hurt to lose something you never really had. ~From the television show The Wonder Years

Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ~Malachy McCourt

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~Lewis B. Smedes

He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass. ~George Herbert

Optimists are nostalgic about the future. ~Chicago Tribune

You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them. ~Michael Jordan

When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you. ~African Proverb

It's pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness. Poverty and wealth have both failed. ~Frank McKinney "Kin" Hubbard

Many people are extremely happy, but are absolutely worthless to society. ~Charles Gow

just some general quotes from folks...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Feel No Pain

I am crying. I hate this.

New Orleans cultural ambassador and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's father, missing until two days ago:

On behalf of my family and my company, I wish to send our condolences to Irvin Mayfield and his family. Irvin Mayfield, Sr. (Irvin's father) was identified this past weekend at the morgue and he appears to have drowned. A private ceremony will be held after Thanksgiving. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at The money will be spent on youth education."

It makes no sense.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Candid Jazz

Wynton Marsalis talking with his younger brother, jazz drummer Jason Marsalis at their parents' home in New Orleans. By Nubar Alexanian

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cashmere Scarf

I've been obsessed with buying a cashmere scarf. Not because Cashmere is luxurious but because I'm freezing! I will have in my arsenal all the elements used to kick the winters azz: leather, cotton, wool, long johns, suede, down/feathers and I missing anything?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Holy Grails of Jazz

Photo credit: William Gottlieb, photographer.
"Portrait of Dizzy Gillespie, New York, N.Y., ca. May 1947 (playing his horn)," 1947.
William P. Gottlieb - Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz, Library of Congress.

NEGRITUDE 2.0: The Holy Grails of Jazz

By Mark Reynolds
(taken from

It's been my experience that when they go, they don't come back. People depart this mortal coil, we cry and mourn their departure, and we try to laugh and console ourselves with the memories and reminders of what they left behind. That is the pattern, irrevocable and unwavering. So it is when relatives pass, when friends move on, and when cultural icons die as well.

The difference is that what our icons leave behind is often for public consumption, not a private experience or a personal anecdote. Our icons leave bodies of work, historic achievements, and lessons in textbooks. We tell ourselves that they are gone but their example remains, and as long as we continue to use the example of their lives for inspiration in ours, those beloved icons will never really be away from us completely. And as we've done this year with the passing of Ossie Davis, John H. Johnson, August Wilson, and Rosa Parks, we also say that someone else must now pick up where they left off.

But every now and then, we're afforded a chance to learn something new about those who've passed, something that may not have been part of the remembrance when they passed. A new piece of scholarship, some sort of buried treasure, or a crucial link in the life's chain emerges, and our knowledge and appreciation broadens just a bit more. There's no better place to observe that phenomenon than the world of jazz, and the jazz record business in particular, a field where the past is not only prologue: it's also a profit center.

To continue reading The Holy Grails of Jazz, click here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bathing in Luxury

Four Seasons, Langkawi, Malaysia

For a week of my life, I bathed in this tub and took a shower outside in a garden of flowers. That was the life.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dreaming of Jazz

Someone please tell me why this man was in my dreams? I shouldn't share my dreams with you, but this one was plesantly unexpected. I dreamed that I married Jason Marsalis. Random dude, right? I'm probably listening to much to Los Hombres Calientes Vol I.

Usually my dreams are remnants of recent experiences. Well, I haven't seen Jason since January when we were in Barbados, he was touring with his father. So in the dream, all of which I don't remember, I believe we are in a theater, he's says lets get married and I'm like no, man. Then he gives me this serious look, the one he always has, and brings me close to him like he's going to kiss me. Jason is very, very tall (and handsome) in real life but in the dream he's a bit shorter. He asks me again and I say okay. So we get married and I am strangely happy with him, a drummer. (
Percussionists are fly, don't get me wrong; I'm just really a woodwind/brass woman, maybe even a keyplayer's girl) So, when I wake up this morning, I look around for Jason and he's not there. I sigh with disappointment.

Maybe I should pick up his record today.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Truth

As much as the truth may hurt some people, I find it liberating as a mug; especially when it's what you've been searching for. I'm always striving to stand on the side of truth even if it's against myself. Sometimes that is difficult, but it is necessary because truth will always be the victor.

So, if you are passing through, please post something that is true.

That's all I have to say for now.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Cooling Tea

Cooling Tea (c) Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Le Marché Sandaga, Ville Dakar, Senegal. 2000

I want to jump into this picture and drink the tea she is cooling.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Jazz Contest for HBCU Students

Let folks know about this contest! Copy and Paste, forward, post, spread the word!

'Jazz Up Your Campus' contest

What: Jazz Alliance International, Inc. (JAI) launches and the "Jazz Up Your Campus" contest for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)

Contest Deadline - November 30, 2005

Who: Jazz Alliance International, Inc. (JAI)

Enter to Win!!

Jazz up your campus and WIN a trip to New York City to take part in the largest annual gathering of the global jazz community.

Mos Def, John Coltrane, Outkast, Miles jazz? Jazz is a culture of freedom, expression, and innovation. It is the source influencing today's contemporary sound and lifestyle. JAI is looking for creative, culturally aware students to contribute to a nationwide music promotion... bringing jazz music and culture to HBCU's.

Submit an original proposal connecting jazz to HBCU campuses for review by JAI panelists. Selected submissions will receive round-trip airfare plus hotel accommodations in New York City, to participate in the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) 33rd Annual International Jazz Conference January 11-14, 2006. The grand prize includes a one year paid internship with JAI to implement the winner's proposal.

Visit www. for contest information and to discover more about jazz culture. is a program of Jazz Alliance International (JAI) and is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB), the Urban League and Howard University's Jazz and Theatre Departments.

Jazz Alliance International, Inc. is a subsidiary of the International Association for Jazz Education, (IAJE) and is dedicated to expanding the audience and visibility of jazz and, through education, leadership and advocacy, seeks to raise the profile of the jazz art form and foster better working relationships within the global jazz community.

For more information about JAI go to

For more information about IAJE go to

For more information: http://www.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Jazz @ Lincoln Center

The Allen Room, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC

I am enchanted by this new space built specifically to hear acoustic jazz. It is so wonderfully constructed, with three venues in JALC: Dizzy's Club, Rose Hall and The Allen Room. I am at once happy to see such a elegant jazz space in such an important hub for media and communications, Time Warners world headquarters at 59th street Columbus Circle, but then again it seems so removed from the people - unless you go looking for it and once you find it, do you have the money to get in?

Jazz Cafe on Lewis Avenue in Bed-Stuy is a store front venue but is just as elegant and aptly placed. I doubt that Jazz @ Lincoln Center will replace my love for Iridium and Jazz Standard. There are some places that have my love forever: SOBs, Knitting Factory, BB Kings, etc. So, on top of my love for jazz and now JALC, is my decade long love with Wynton Marsalis, who is creative director. I know, don't bother to message me or email me - or direct me to a Buckshot LeFonque link/CD, the love ain't shifting anytime soon.

I remember my former boss asking me of my preference: Mr. Wynton or Mr. Brandford. Wynton. I just know more about him, I know his stee. Back in high school, I saw him on the regular playing ball or just chilling around Lincoln Center. Then I began to learn about his philosophy on life and jazz. Plus his full grown artistry is just so attractive as well as his confidence. I like Wynton, leave me alone...

(For the record: folks always try to hip me to the jazz pantheon: Miles, Jordan, Duke, Carter, Torme, Armstrong, Roach, 'Trane, Johnson, Vaughn, et, al...I know and love them. I just like talking about the contemporary musicians also. They deserve the energy, too, ya know.)

Anyway, back to Jazz at Lincoln Center. I paid a little visit to Dizzy's Club on Sunday night, on a (semi) date, no less, with Mr. CelebrityJazzDude. I know I said I would keep my distance, but he's an artist as his apex, with tons of confidence to match; I like the company, plus I should draw my inspiration from many sources nowadays. It was an interesting evening, indeed. Try walking in the door of a jazz venue on the arm of a well known jazz musician, people automatically want to know who you are - this, however, is another story.

Randy Weston and his African Spirits were playing, this time with a 5-piece band as opposed to just the three I saw last time at TriBeCa performing Arts Center. Mr. Weston, who has worked with the Gnawa of Morocco for many years, is an excellent pianist and bandleader. He gives his personnel such creative room to solo and they take full advantage of the gesture; I can't see how or what his bandmembers are incited by exactly, maybe it's internal among their collective, or Mr. Westons' genius in general, but they play at their zenith it seems. And this is what jazz/artistry is about: going all the way till you cant go any further; establishing your comfort zone then getting the hell out of it, quick. Mr. Westons drummer and bassist are lively players, I love them.

I'd tell you more but I gotta get my day on. I have to assemble yet another photo portfolio. I ain't mad at that, lol!