The Painted Lady Suite

The Painted Lady Suite is the debut album by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra (MLO).  Inspired by the incredible 9 thousand mile migration of the the “Painted Lady” butterfly. This suite is broken into two parts with seven movements.  Each part represents, two separate journeys of the “Painted Lady” butterfly. One journey is over North America to Canada.  The other from the Arctic Circle over Europe to North Africa.  Additionally, this compilation also contains three earlier pieces composed by Leonhart specifically for MLO. Michael Leonhart Orchestra The Painted Lady Suite You Me NYCFirst, is the additional track “In the Kingdom of MQ”.  A cool march , with a stimulating solo by tenor sax player Donny McCaslin. “In the Kingdom of MQ” is dedicated to Leonhart’s younger son Milo.  Portraying his son’s confident steps from toddler-hood to the joyful discoveries of being a young boy.   Next,” Music Your Grandparents Would Like” is what fusion is all about.  A “big band” swing with a rock feel, guitarist Nels Cline delivers a solo which Zappa would appreciate.  Thirdly the piece, “The Girl From Udaipur” depicts a family trip to India.  The baritone sax solos of Ian Hendrickson-Smith and Jay Leonhart bring this album to a chilling close.

First of all, I love this album because each song delivers a taste of the classical masters, such as Ravel and Stravinski.  If you are familiar with “Bolero” by Ravel, you can definitely recognize his influence in a lot of the music on this album.  Furthermore, you can also hear the influence of rock guitar legends Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix on this album as well.  Finally, the glue holding this album together is the style of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones.

Conclusion:

This is a definite “add” to your collection.  This album is perfect for any mood, therefore a must have for all Jazz aficionados.  Additionally, the progress and evolution of MLO parallels the journey of the “Painted Lady” butterfly.  Hence the creation of “The Painted Lady Suite”, which really hits home.  More importantly, this album is an illustration of a blend of genres that work well together.  “Painted Lady Suite” is solid, however the three additional tracks are what really make this album exceptional.

The DIVA Jazz Orchestra and Their 25th Anniversary Project

I Absolutely love this album.  The DIVA Jazz Orchestra is an ensemble of fifteen extremely talented and versatile female musicians, that swing, with a “Big Band” sound that will completely leave you thirsting for more.  The fact that this band is comprised entirely of women, makes it a melting pot for talented musicians who remain greatly under exposed to define and express themselves in such a male dominated industry. The Diva Jazz Orchestra You Me NYCThey are hard charging, powerful and their anniversary project album is all that and more.  Every song on this album swings with vibrant sound and stellar soloists that really take charge.  This twelve song collection contains all original compositions by its members.  The precision of each contribution to the project, highlights the alliance of skill by each musician, beyond their exceptional playing artistry.

The first track on the album is “East Coast Andy” which really sets the mood for the entire compilation.  The melody is performed with an excellent woodwind section surrounded by a strong brass section.   Each section of band hits, show how tight a band can be after playing together for twenty-five years.  Jami Dauber’s trumpet solo is marvelous and stirring.  The solo is full of blues tonality over the medium-tempo of solid swing.  Baritone sax player Leigh Pilzer’s is just buzzing with the full rich language of Jazz, which is the heart and soul of this song and all of the other pieces on this tremendous work.

A 25th anniversary is a rare milestone in the music world today.  Band leader Sherrie Maricle, is the driving force behind this Jazz machine of excellence.  The DIVA Jazz Orchestra goes above and beyond the label of an just another all-female band.  This is all about a combined sound and force of women who have worked hard for each of their accomplishments as players and game-changers in the industry today.

 

Wes Montgomery in Paris (Jazz Album)

Wes Montgomery, Jazz Guitarist/Musician/Legend, that’s what I think about this brilliant composer and instrumentalist.  Born in Indianapolis Indiana, the guitarist had one of the most successful careers in the world of Jazz.  Just recently I had a chance to hear a recording of Wes live in Paris which was produced on March 27, 1965 and had been re-released digitally in a two CD set by Resonance Records.  There are two reasons as to what makes this recording so unique.  This was Wes’ first and only performance in Paris, AKA the “City of Light” and it was recorded in “ORTF”.  Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “What the hell is ‘ORTF'”.  “ORTF” is a technique used to record  stereo sound.  Now I can go on and talk about recording techniques, however that’s not what this is about.

Wes Montgomery You Me NYC

Wes was joined on the stage, by Jazz legends, pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Arthur Harper, drummer Jimmy Lovelace, and special guest, tenor sax player Johnny Griffin, all solid at what they play in the Jazz world.  The arrangement are flawless and truly some of Wes’ best work along with his accompaniment.  Harold’s piano is full of the freewheeling spirit of “Bop”  and the tight rhythm section keeping the pace for the finger picking leads and the slash chord solos with the magnificence only Montgomery can deliver.

The mid-’60s was considered a time of “Pop Jazz” which is where Wes tended to drift towards, however, he still kept to his bebob and blues roots through the entire performance.  Song number four on CD number two is a perfect example of this combination of genre and style that is the antithesis of Wes Montgomery. The  entire album illustrates the long lasting impression his creativity left on the world of Jazz and all the genres of music today and days of the past.  We lost Wes 3 years after this iconic performance, June 15, 1968 at the age of 45 due to a massive heart attack.  A crushing blow to the Jazz and performing artist community.  This album is a must have for all Jazz enthusiasts.

Pure Samba

Making people happy and smile is what is most important to Lisa Ferreira, founder and director of “Pure Samba” a dance and entertainment company based out of the “Fort Greene” section of Brooklyn.  Originally from Long Island, Lisa currently resides in and is a proud resident of “Fort Greene” Brooklyn.  She considers herself the mayor of “Fort Greene”, as she is one of the last remaining cool “Fort Greene” residents from an era of Black Excellence, Black Renaissance, and Black culture of “Fort Greene”, Brooklyn.
Pure Samba Lisa FerreiraThe first time Lisa witnessed a Samba performance, she was enthralled and captivated as to how beautiful, strong, and confident the women were performing.  Her love for Brasil, its people, food, music, dance, culture, energy along with her “West Indian” Heritage,  are all factors that lead up to her decision in becoming a Samba performer.  Lisa’s father’s people are from Trinidad and as a child she and her siblings would hear their great aunt and uncle profess their love for Carnival when they would come back from their trips to Trinidad.  Lisa was fascinated by the costumes worn and the joy expressed by the people participating in Carnival, in the pictures her great aunt and uncle would share with her and her  siblings.  According to Lisa “It is a beautiful coincidence that as an adult I came to fall in love with Carnival from Brasil. It is in my roots, my blood, my heritage as well. My great aunt and uncle have since passed, but I know they are proud to see me living the Carnival tradition by way of the colorful stories they shared with me as a child”.

According to Ferreira, there are a few pop influences that have an impact on the way she dances, along with the beautiful dancers she has the pleasure to work with as well.  However, the most significant are the Passistas, the superstars of Samba dance of Brasil, it’s their joy and innovation that inspire Lisa’s dance technique.  According to Lisa, her main motivation behind the establishing of her company is her beautiful mother.  Her mother would encourage her to be the best that she can be and find bliss in doing her own thing.  Unfortunately both her beloved mother and father passed away in 2014.  “Pure Samba” is her tribute to her mother who is her eternal revelation for everything she does in life.  “I continue hearing her say ‘Go ahead do it, do it with all your might'”, Lisa says.  No matter how tired and exhausted she is, her mother’s influence keeps her going, as she puts her heart and soul into every performance.  According to Ferreira, she guesses she is always looking for her mother’s validation which keeps her striving to be the best.Pure Samba Llisa Ferreira

Being a performing artist and the owner of a dance company in New York City, the winter poses an issue with keeping her body warm prior to shows, which is one of the challenges Lisa deals with.  Other than that, there are very little challenges due to her love for dance.  Listening to the music makes her smile and wearing one of her beautiful costumes is like a fantasy.  Samba makes her happy, it’s magical she explains.  If Lisa’s having a bad day, the moment she starts to dance, it all melts away, without a care in the world.

Aside from the demanding world of dance and the countless hours that are spent by being a business owner, there is actually some downtime.  Being a SAG/AFTRA actress, she likes to spend time watching episodic television, dance alone at home enjoying the relationship between dance and music and spending time with friends over brunch.

When asked what advice she would give to up and coming dancers that want to make a career out of dance, her recommendation is to love what you do and be the best that you can be at the moment, along with not judging yourself if you are injured or having a bad day.  With that being said, Lisa has always had a vision to continue to empower the dancers of “Pure Samba”, by creating high profile opportunities for each of the performers, such as the co-creation of a commercial for Hershey’s Kisses “Say it with a Kiss” campaign and an appearance on on the “Nightly Show”, with Larry Whilmore about Cuba.  Lisa also co-stared in a comedy pilot for A&E as a Samba Dancer and she also choreographed a routine for a very well known men’s fashion designer, for New York Fashion Week Mens.

It’s a very full plate that Lisa has on her table and what’s amazing is that she still has time for a social life.  She will continue to create high profile opportunities for the members of her dance company and herself as well.  She is looking forward to continued success in her performing and one day also to be married.

Fishing for Compliments: Jazz Album

People ask me all the time if there is a particular Jazz album for a specific occasion or “What’s a good album to sit back and just chill to”?  I make a ton of recommendations because there is a lot of Jazz out there.  One album that really stands out to me is “Fishing for Compliments” a blend of Cool, Swing and Smooth Jazz all rolled up into one hell of an album created by tenor sax phenom Scott Kreitzer.  Kreitzer is accompanied on this album by one of the best rhythm sections in the business today, including: Kenny Washington, David Finck, Andy Ezrin and Kreitzor’s mentor, Ira Sullivan.  Each artist in this combination, compliment each other throughout the entire album the way only true Jazz masters can. This compilation is flavored with all of the various influences throughout Scott’s Career such as John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, and Ira Sullivan.

 

Scott Kreitzer Fishing for Compliments

 

Just a little about the man behind this album, a current New York City Resident, Scott is originally from South Florida and started his musical journey on the clarinet when he was twelve years old.  At the age of fifteen, Scott was introduced to the tenor sax and Jazz legend Ira Sullivan, who later became his  mentor.  When Scott turned nineteen he ventured off to New York City where he was able to study with Joe Lovano, Eddie Daniels, and Bob Mintzer, while he was still able to continue his education at William Paterson College.

“Fishing for Compliments” is on of those albums that can be played on any occasion for any type of mood.  Whether your throwing an exclusive dinner party or you need to come down after a stressful day, this album is the perfect answer for any situation.  Have a listen, swing and enjoy!

My Passion – My Therapy – My Life

From Hitsville USA (Detroit Michigan) to Bed-Stuy (Bedford Stuyvesant) Brooklyn, Kendra J. Ross, professional dancer, professional choreographer, teaching artist, arts administrator, and community organizer was able to set aside some time out of her extremely busy schedule for us so that we may get to know more about this “Detroit” native, now one of the most well-known performers in the Brooklyn and New York City dance community.  Growing up in Detroit has shaped Kendra into the proud black woman she is today.  One of the most segregated cities, Kendra was always surrounded by black people of all shades, colors and aptitudes.  According to Kendra, black has always been beautiful, she never experienced being a “token” until her adulthood.  Being from Detroit, has given Kendra a love for the flashy elements with a little bit of grit.

Kendra J Ross Teaching Artist

In her early years, growing up in Detroit, Kendra (pictured here courtesy of Longtower Photography) was always a performer.  Her career started with a performance of an assortment of MC Hammer and Michael Jackson interpretations, in a well-know venue to her, which was her living room in front of a very tough crowd, which happened to be her parents and grandparents.  Even though Kendra did not start taking formal dance lessons til she was twelve years old, she was always fascinated with dance.  Her eternal love for the art was conflicted with also wanting to go into the legal profession as an attorney and she would have, until her AP Chemistry teacher told her that aspiring to be a dancer is a “waste of her talent”.  “I do not take kindly to people telling me what I cannot do so I decided to prove her wrong” Ross says.

When asked what she loves and what are some of the challenges she faces in her field of expertise, we find that connecting with other people through movement is what Kendra loves about what she does in her chosen profession.  She can express so much more than words can signify through her choreography,  especially at that moment when she discovers a quality about herself through dance and when she is able to help someone else reveal an attribute about themselves through their progression as well.  With her love for contemporary dance and folkloric dance, specifically Afro Caribbean dance, which tends to be underfunded, coupled with the fact that people aren’t going to live shows as much, unless it’s Broadway or a very well known company, due to the growing popularity of the Internet,  Kendra has to take on the role of multiple jobs while creating and performing her masterpieces.  Fortunately she works in the realm she also creates in, Kendra is the “Director of Programs and Administration” for “Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance”.  According to Ross, the labor can be exhausting and not as financially rewarding as the amount of work she puts in, however, in her own words “art is my passion, my therapy and my life so I do it anyway”.

Kendra J Ross Teaching Artist

There is a large source of influence and inspiration Kendra pulls from, including, her family, ancestors, the Orishas,  Detroit and Bed-Stuy and her appreciation for music, all of which inspire her and the different moods it creates.  As far as individual influences, Kendra holds in high regard, both Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus for their movements and strict commitment to evolving tradition.  Adia Tamar Whitaker the “director” of the “Ase Dance Theater Collective” and the way she continues the legacy of being grounded in tradition along with creating new tradition also has quite an impact on Kendra, who is also a member of this company.  Efeya Sampson, a beautiful dancer, teaching artist, cancer survivor and Kendra’s best friend also inspires and influences her by reminding her to be strong, to walk the world with grace and power, while challenging her to be a better dancer because she doesn’t want to be out-shinned by her “bestie”. (photo courtesy of Erik Bandeiro)

With all that is going on in Kendra’s life there is actually a fraction of downtime.  Kendra has started a new Sunday morning self care ritual.  She starts off by playing her music, then she starts dancing in the mirror, followed by dancing over to the kitchen, to fix herself some “gluten free” pancakes.  On other days, she likes to talk to friends and family in person or over the phone or watch television, her new fix is a show called “This is Us”.  She loves to cook and on days where the weather is cooperating, she loves to walk around  the rapidly changing Bed-Stuy especially during the warm months or sometimes just sitting at home in silence contemplating in her peaceful surroundings.

Kendra J Ross Teaching Artist

Her current residence of Bed-Stuy surrounds her with diverse motivations, ideas and enthusiasm, all a part of community and legacy the two most important factors about what she does.  Since her work is rooted in the African Diaspora, she believes in upholding and carrying on these traditions that hold the ancient knowledge that the people of the African Diaspora have used for survival. Through her work, the companies she dances with and the art she administers, Kendra believes that she is creating community for people.  Hence her creation and founding of “STooPS” a conduit for community building and intentional artistic experimentation.  New York City is massive, it can feel over crowded and lonely at the same time, the community she creates along with other communities she is a part of, serve as a family support system for herself, for those she works with and the continuing of the “Kendra J. Ross Legacy”. (photo courtesy of Ivan Forte)

Kendra J. Ross Teaching Artist

(photo courtesy of Erik Bandeiro)

Elbow


Originally formed in Manchester, England in 1990, Elbow’s swirling, moody, and unmistakably British brand of ethereal rock is as cerebral as it is beautiful. An admitted musical snob who critiques and analyzes every note as it enters my ears, I have been hooked on this band since first hearing their debut full-length major label release back in 2001, entitled “Asleep In The Back”. This band’s music has pulled me to soaring new heights of unending, thought provoking, emotional dream-scapes that few others have. The kind of music you want to casually drive home listening to with only the night sky as your passenger. The kind of music that envelops your body, and your mind, in a warm, complete cloak.

With 6 other studio albums, and one B-side compilation, with their most recent release titled “Little Fictions” released in February of this year, Elbow continues to reinvent themselves and solidify their position as my undisputed favorite band.

Guy Garvey Elbow
A few weeks ago I was asked to start contributing to this magazine and of course, I said yes without hesitation. The only issue was to figure out what my first contribution would be. Then, a few days later on November 2, 2017, I went and saw Elbow live at Terminal 5 in Manhattan; and as the music took over that night before our eyes, my first article began to take shape.

The band took the stage to the thunderous appreciation of the crowd’s acknowledgement, with all of us fully aware of the beautiful journey we were about to embark on together. Singer Guy Garvey stepped into the spotlight donning his familiar black button down shirt with his sleeves rolled up and darkly colored jeans. A Burly man who’s kind, smiling face was draped in its ever-present brown scruffy beard. He greeted the crowd and waved with seemingly as much excitement as the rest of us had to begin the show. If you’ve ever seen Elbow before there is always one constant, the fact that this band never fails to present their music with the same amount of joy and gratitude every single time. It’s as if they are always playing their very first concert in a room filled with 5,000 of their closest friends, every time. As you watch them throughout the night you would swear that Garvey makes direct eye contact with every single person in the room at least once, including yourself.

As much as they may draw comparisons to fellow countryman Radiohead and Coldplay, there is no comparison in the eyes of your narrator. Nothing against Radiohead or Coldplay, but Elbow never seems to need the flash, nor the pomp and circumstance, either of those bands tend to bring along. It is the stunning simplicity, sincerity, and beauty of their music which sets them apart, not only from the two aforementioned bands, but from every other band. Garvey commands a room like few other front-men have and addresses the crowd with a level of respect that few others can. Often including the crowd as backup vocalists to the point where he relies on their voices to begin some songs, and carry others. The crowd never fails to graciously accept his offer, and just like that, we are all joined in song.

Their latest album, Little Fictions, explores a sense of rhythm not displayed on earlier recordings, but with the same level of melody which is ever present. They don’t overpower you with musicianship or thunderous percussion, instead you will find that most of the time they seem to simply sprinkle in the perfect amount of instrumentation while allowing Garvey’s soothing, and sometimes heartbreaking vocals and poetry to guide the way.

Elbow

No matter what your usual musical tastes may be, I implore you to give this band a listen. In a world which seems to artistically provide less and less honesty and emotion, Elbow’s versatile style offers a little something for even the most discriminating musical palette. Happy listening. Your friend – Vinny P.

Let the Rainbow Lead the Way

Not too long ago I was at a private art exhibit over on 10th ave in Chelsea for an amazing artist by the name of Alfrena Moosa.  She came up from South Florida with a few of her astonishing works and I have to say everyone was very impressed with what she had to offer, both as an artist and as a person as well.  “Let the rainbow lead the way” is what Alfrena titles her body of work.

Although she was extremely mobbed by collectors, critics, and reporters such as myself, she was able to answer a few of my questions before she was pulled in a different direction by someone else.  Alfrena doesn’t have a favorite artist, however she does appreciate the early artists that have paved the way for the up and coming artists in today’s society.  According to Alfrena, there is not one piece of artwork today that one cannot say mimics a previous artist’s technique, style or skill.

Art has affected Alfrena by influencing her sense of creativity and love for color.  It also has given her the self confidence, that she can be the best in all facets of her craft as long as she continues to work hard, stay true to herself and never be afraid to approach something others might be unsure of.  Looking at her creations and her hands is a constant reminder to her of the gift she has been blessed with.


Although Alfrena doesn’t have a favorite artist, her favorite genres of art are realism and abstract.  She loves to combine both and looking at her artwork, she does a extraordinary job at this difficult combination.  Her methods to start a project begins by asking herself, how she can express herself through the narrative of each picture or idea before her.  Her next step is to make sure that each proportion of her piece is correct.  Then she uses her imagination and music as a guide for the placement of lines, shapes and color.

In closing, I was only able to get a little bit more from this brilliant artist before she was pulled away by a few other journalists.  When asked about her future and where she envisions her art work,  Alfrena wants to start a foundation that encourages teens to use their gifts that they were blessed with as a pathway to a productive future. Alfrena also envisions her works in various public spaces such as hospitals, museums, galleries and of course on the cover of a book or magazine.  More importantly, she wants her artwork to be the motivation, inspiration and the reason to what makes a person smile or say “Wow”, just by one glimpse of her work.

(This First Piece of Artwork is Titled “Follow the Rainbow”)
(This Second Piece of Artwork is Titled “Emotionally Balanced”)

 

 

 

Beats By Keishh

Keishh

From playing around with “Fruity Loops” in her parent’s basement to producing tracks in New York City, where one landed on HBO’s “Insecure” due to features on “NPR”, blurbs on “Fader”, “Elle”, “The Cut”, and “The New York Times”, Keishh the founder of “Beats by Keishh” a fantastic music production company in the Brooklyn area, is on a mission to showcase her company’s talent through live performances and more visual projects.  When asked how she came about her name Keishh with an extra “h” she replied “I knew I wanted to always keep my real name in some way.  Funny story is I used to go by Killa Keish, and when I went to pick my twitter account it was unavailable.  So I threw on an extra “h” and it was available, so I went with it haha!  I saw myself making music forever so I dropped Killa but kept KEISHH with the extra “h” just because it was a part of me at this point.  keishh.com was available when I went to make my website which was cool, and it also makes it a bit easier to find me online.  So the internet kind of led me to this, but I like it”!

Keishh was born in Denver Colorado and raised in Central Maryland where she discovered her love of music at the age of six, while observing her uncle making and producing all kinds of beats.  Fast forward a few years, Keishh was listening to instrumentals on “You Tube”, where she saw some suggested video content on making beats.  With little to no formal music training outside of some basic classes,  she went ahead and downloaded “Fruity Loops” and began creating music patterns.  After that Keishh was hooked.

When asked who are her primary musical inspirations, her response was “Missy”, “Timbaland”, and ” Pharrell”.  Those three made most of her favorite music growing up.  Their versatility, signature sound, and how their production shaped the artist, is what she aspires most to do and emulate.  Whenever Keishh is feeling uninspired about music, she likes to listen to their instrumentals and get lost for a while and then found by a shot of ambition.

Amongst all of the projects she has worked on, her favorite one is an album she produced for an artist by the name of Miss Eaves, titled, “Feminasty” which also happens to be Keishh’s most successful thus far.  Keishh and Miss Eaves met via the “World Wide Web” and developed a wonderful relationship over time.  Keishh loved this project because at the time she was living in Maryland and Miss Eaves was living in Brooklyn.  The challenge was to communicate their visions to each other without being in the same physical space.  After the extraordinary production of “Feminasty”, both Keishh and Miss Eaves gained the confidence needed in each other to trust their ideas and execute them without any doubt, whether being in the same state or different countries.

Keishh is an amazing artist, producer and I can’t wait to see and hear what else comes out of her outstanding production company.  What really strikes me the most about her, aside from her amazing talent is how real she is.  When asked if there were any embarrassing moments during any of her production sessions she said “No”, however what embarrasses  her right now is when she listens to her early tracks and thought how she was creating fire back in the early times and then realized how far from fire it was.  Check out Keishh’s “SoundCloud” tracks below, you won’t be disappointed, I can assure you of that.