Metro Manga

People draw inspiration from pretty much anything these days.  Whether you are walking around Central Park, strolling down Eastern Parkway, or staring out a window.  Manga artist Sophocles Plokamakis, founder of “Sophocles Art” and coiner of the term and genre “Metro Manga” finds his visions in the Subways of New York City.  Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:    What genre do you consider your art to be?
Sophocles:  I create comics in the subway which I call Metro Manga because they are inspired by Japanese comics and read from right to left. When I paint Metro Manga on canvas, I’d say that my work is a mixture of Manga and Pop Art. I used to paint in a photo-realistic style, but I much prefer impressionism painting and pop art.

Peter Frz:    Where are you originally from and where are you currently residing and how long?  
Sophocles:  I’m from Astoria, NY a very Greek city in Queens and I live here now for about 8 years but I’ve been in and out of Astoria my whole life. I love how it’s a great mixture of the city and the suburbs. 

Peter Frz:    What is your creative process like and what tools do you use to harness your creativity then transpose to the canvas?
Sophocles: 
 I use a portable clipboard as a drawing pad that holds all my paper and Japanese Kuretake Fude pens (calligraphy brush-pens), sharpies and Japanese animation red and blue color pencils. Sometimes I draw on black paper, usually black card stock. I make the majority of my art in the subway drawing real people on the spot. When I step into the subway, as I’m waiting for my train, I make a composition of Manga Panels starting from right to left. I record my journey from what stop and train I started with so that my readers can see where I was that day. Each panel in manga records a moment in time and I want my Metro Manga to be my daily visual ongoing comic strip, that people can look back on many years from now, like old newspapers as a moment in the history of art. 
Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Sometimes I color my paper manga with Copic sketch markers and more recently I’ve taken them to the next level by making large acrylic paintings of the comic pages that I made in the comic. For my paintings, I use Copic brush pens on top of acrylic paint on the canvas.

Peter Frz:   How has your style changed over the years? 
Sophocles: I started making art when I was 3. It started out very abstract, drawing comic, video game and cartoon characters with accurate colors and costumes but in an extremely simple style. The Heroes all had giant smiles and the villain’s big frowns. I’ve been told by art teachers my whole life that I had good observational skills so as time went on my fan art became more precise, subtle and detailed, but I’ve always been a fan of the more abstract simple design of characters in Japanese cartoons and comics. It was Shonen Jump, a Manga magazine translated into English from Japan that changed my life. At SVA I learned fundamental drawing, painting and sculpting skills and was exposed to different kinds of art I had never looked at before and was encouraged to experiment with different genres of art. I love that school and the effect it had on my journey through the art world.

Today my characters have detail that sets them all apart from one another but they are still simple. I use as few lines as possible to suggest the people of the Subways of the world like an Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodcut print) artist or a Sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) artist. I’m always open to my style constantly evolving and exploring new territory as an artist, which I think is vital if you are to keep growing and coming up with new pieces that have an impact.

Peter Frz:   What do you believe is a key element in creating a good work? 
Sophocles: The key element in making great work is to do what you love. I learned this from my favorite teacher Keith Mayerson in our Principles of Cartooning class in my sophomore year at SVA. Once you find a subject that inspires you the rest is easy because I get overwhelmed by the urge to create something new every time I travel on the Subway. The subway is my main studio so you need to find what moves you and gets you painting, drawing, sculpting, making collages, prints, or even in the other arts, which subject(s) inspire you to create a new song, dance, etc. 

Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   What lead you to make art a career and was there any adversity from family or friends regarding your decision?
Sophocles: It was my love for cartoons, Manga, comics, video games, museums, and galleries. There was a lot of adversity from family and friends regarding my decision to be a pro artist and art teacher especially those closest to me. You have to push through that, if you are serious about being a pro artist, you got to show your art to people in galleries, the subway, parks, shows and network with artists, curators, and collectors so you can attract more opportunities through other people. 

Peter Frz:   Who or what are your biggest influences?
Sophocles: My biggest influences are Akira Toriyama (Creator of Dragonball and Doctor Slump) and Osamu Tezuka (The God of Manga and creator of Astro Boy) Toriyama’s amazing draftsmanship in Doctor Slump and his action-packed storytelling in DBZ and Tezuka’s Genius level storytelling made me want to make comics, art, cartoons and animated tv series for my whole life. Another huge influence on my life was traveling to Japan twice and visiting all the best manga museums, galleries and shows like the world of Dragonball in Nagoya, and the Osamu Tezuka museum in Takarazuka. That trip changed my life and I began to focus all my energy toward making comics on the subway as opposed to just drawing sketches of the passengers before that. Also, the character Goku always inspired me to want to keep making art and to see just how skilled I could become.

Peter Frz:   What are some of the challenges you face while you are creating?
Sophocles: It’s easier for me to draw in public and make comics on the go than at home. At home sometimes I get distracted. When I’m on the subway there’s always someone who inspires me to make art every time I commute on the trains. A challenge I face when drawing in the subway is when someone gets up and leaves the train before I’m finished drawing them.  However, I solve the problem by playing a drawing game I call MR. Potato Head. I’ll piece together a character in my Metro Manga by drawing other people’s features or clothing onto the original person that I drew so that I am still drawing from life and not inventing things. I find that when I draw from life or quality photo references my drawings look more accurate and polished than when I draw from my head.

Peter Frz:   Is Sophocles Art your first venture and were there any other ventures before Sophocles Art?
Sophocles: 
My business name used to be Sopho Toons (short for Sophocles’ Cartoons) but I changed it to Sophocles Art so people would know the name behind the work. 

Sophocles Art You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   What’s been your greatest artistic success?
Sophocles: I’ve had lots of success in my journey as an artist but I have to say Decemberfest and the other shows I curated at ONE ART SPACE in Tribeca, NYC is my greatest accomplishment. Decemberfest was a 70-artist group show that I curated with my business partner and fellow curator Oriel Ceballos on December 1st 2018. We had 1000+ people come to see the show in only a 3-hour span. There were lines around the corner of the block to get into the show. I have never seen anything like that in all the shows I’ve been a featured artist in, as well as shows in the Chelsea galleries even for big-name artists from the past. I put my all into that show and the results were a testament to the power of GREAT ART and how it inspires a community and the world. 

Peter Frz:   What is next on the horizon for Sophocles Art?
Sophocles: I make a ritual of writing my top 10-20 goals for the year before the new year starts. For 2019 I have 5 more shows to curate at One Art Space. The next one is on April 5-6. Send me a DM if you’d like to learn more on Instagram @sophocles.art. I also want to self-publish 5 books this year featuring my subway art, a children’s book and a look book for my animated TV series that I’m working on.

Sophocles Art Nas You Me NYC

Peter Frz:   Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Sophocles: In the next five years I see myself earning the money selling my books, art and to travel to all the major cities in the world that have subways and making METRO MANGA a Global project sort of like how Brandon Stanton (HONY) has taken his camera to other parts of the world, however my stories are fictional to give me the freedom of what to write. I see myself exhibiting in NY Comic Con and San Diego Con as well as cons and galleries around the world. I plan to make volumes of books of my travels through the subway systems of the world and drawing on location in other countries as well as places in the U.S.  

Conclusion

Sophocles Art, an innovator in such a crowded, demanding, and high-pressure field, delivers exceptional results and shows that in a craft like this, there is always room for exciting new ideas.  As long as New York City has its subways and urban settings we look forward to seeing what else this dynamic artist brings to the imaginative table of art.

Sophocles Art You Me NYC

  

 

Let’s Keep Talking About R Kelly

Robert Kelly, known as R Kelly is one of our generations biggest musical legends.  With smashes like I Believe I can Fly, Step In The Name of Love, Ignition, he’s earned many, many accolades.  Big accolades like multiple BET awards and Soul Train awards. I mean in 1998, he won three grammy’s alone and all for the same song.

Literally, everyone knows this song.  And if you don’t, now you do because I mentioned it above.  I sang this song in my elementary graduation when I was just a little girl in the year None of Your Business.  I Believe I Can Fly has been etched in our culture for good.

Now, here’s what happens.  In 1994, he marries Aaliyah who was 15 at the time.  Aaliyah’s hit, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” sparked rumors that Aaliyah and the writer of that song, yes, R Kelly, were boyfriend and girlfriend.  These rumors were denied.  Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001 at the age of 22.  Kelly had nothing to do with the plane crash, he just married someone who was barely a teenager at the time.

 

 

 

 

 

Back in February 2002, a video surfaced.  We all know the video.  This video included Kelly allegedly engaging in sexual behaviors with an underage (14 years old) girl.  In this same video, the man allegedly identified as Kelly, is seen urinating in her mouth.

In 2008, he goes on trial for multiple counts child pornography.

Now, a lifetime series titled “Surviving R Kelly” comes out, which brings up the heat in the controversy all over again.  To me, it seems like the topic was hot for a couple of days, maybe a little bit over a week and now, nobody’s talking about it… again.

Now some, including myself, would call him a musical genius, a legend, even.  But since the docuseries, artists have publicized their opinions, labels have dropped him and musical platforms have muted him.

In the streets, the debate became, can we separate the monster from his music?  Everyone here, in my tiny NYC apartment, has jammed to R Kelly at one point, whether we were stepping in the name of love at a wedding, graduating to I Believe I Can Fly, or getting lit to Remix to Ignition.

Here’s my opinion.  I’m not going to take the mans music away from him.  But, I haven’t played R Kelly in ages.  What?  Ya’ll were too busy stepping in the name of love to realize that this man is not a decent one.

Let me know… I just want people to keep talking about it because it’s important.

 

 

The Other Side of the Story

The Other Side of the Story is an album full of head nodding songs with a Wayne Shorter feel, coupled with a spiritual and arcadian effect that only Matt Kane can deliver.  Kane’s influence is all over this album along with the undisputed truth that he can write songs and write them well.The Other Side of the Story You Me NYC
(Image courtesy of Matt Kane)

The team Kane put together for this album, comprised of vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, Pianist Klaus Mueller, guitar player Vic Juris and bass player Mark Peterson.  The Chromatic solos fo Schlamb and Muller work together perfectly on each track of the album.  Couple their playing together with the dynamic, sexy riffs and phrasing of Juris’ guitar playing is an added bonus.  Kane and Peterson back each soloist with solid rhythm.  Kane’s drumming technique drives the music forward, generating statements of his own, with tight snare whips in a march-like pace.

What I love about this album is that Kane explores a plethora of moods.  “Jump Rope Dance” is an exceptional example of funk, while “Eureka Springs” has an energetic feel of a road trip.  Then there is “Distance” which exhibits a rustic, rural feel, like being out in the wilderness camping.  “Drive” is all about a rock feel and is also Kane putting on a drum clinic.  He starts with a single tap to a full explosion of controlled drumming.

Conclusion:

The Other Side of the Story is a collective adventure that will take you on a ride through all the different moods Kane brings to the table.  Kane tells the other side of the story to us very well, not only as a bandleader but as a composer too.  This is the first album Kane composed and I am waiting with “Great Expectations” for his next work.  This album is a must-have for Jazz lovers and music enthusiasts of all genres as well.

Tell Me A Story Please

As a child, my fondest memories of learning came from the stories my teachers told. I loved fables the most, there was always a common sense lesson to be had. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat, listening to their stories. All these years later, I remember those stories. They stayed with me, but more importantly, the lessons stuck. To this day, I love to listen to a good story.

John Ferreira says, “storytelling is what connects us to our humanity. It is what links us to our past, and provides a glimpse into our future.”

I recently had the pleasure of attending an evening of storytelling hosted by Tracey Segarra. Tracey is a storyteller, a Speaker and a Consultant. After listening to the Moth podcast. Tracey became interested in storytelling. She entered the Moth storytelling slam in 2016 and won. She’s been telling stories ever since.Tell Me a Story Please You Me NYC
Photo: Jason Falchook

Tracey feels passionate that stories make us laugh, make us cry and move us. Tracey has brought storytelling to Long Island. Like the Bards and Grios of old, telling stories to the community in order to entertain, educate and remind us of how we are connected.

During the evening of stories, I was moved and engaged. It was a delight to unplug, sit amongst a diverse group and listen to the personal stories of others. The entire room was still, silent and enraptured by each storyteller at the mic. The audience was getting what we all crave, a high touch, intimate experience, shared amongst a group. These types of experiences are few and far between, especially as we allow technology to invade our personal space and relationships and define how we communicate with each other.

A few days later, I sat down with Tracey to understand her passion for storytelling.

How did you get introduced to storytelling?

Well, it was actually my husband, he had been listening to the Moth radio hour on NPR. He turned me on to it. The Moth has people telling true stories about their lives. Some are funny, some are tragic, but they are all compelling because they are about important moments in peoples lives. Moments that changed them somehow, and so once I started listening to it I was instantly hooked. I am a former reporter and writer. So I used to write personal essays. Plus when I was younger I was an actress. I had dreams about being an actress. So when I heard this on the radio it married two things that I love, getting up in front of people and personal stories. So I thought OMG, I have to do this and I love this!

The Moth has these story competitions called story slams in the city.
And so I went with my niece to one of them just to check it out. People put their names in a hat and they pick 10 names randomly. They have a theme, everybody tells one five minute story on that theme. I went to one just to listen. I was hooked. The next time one came up with a theme where I thought I had a story for it, I put my name in the hat, I got picked and I won that night. I was like ok, this is a message. I had no training, no nothing, I just told a story.

When they have ten people who have won story slams, they have a grand slam. In front of 500 people at the music hall in Brooklyn, the winners have to come up with a new story. You compete against nine other story slam winners. I told a story, I won that night. Now, I am like ok, ok, I am meant to do this. I can’t remember exactly how old I was at the time, 52 or 53, but I felt like I had finally found what I am meant to do with my life. This is it, this feels so right.

I am in marketing during the day. I put my marketing hat on and I thought, there is nothing like this on Long Island, why don’t I create this. That becomes my next thing. There is a huge storytelling scene in Manhattan. Any night of the week you can go to a storytelling. I knew we needed this on Long Island.

I have never heard of this.

I know its amazing how it’s such a well-kept secret, not that anyone wants to keep it a secret

I started my show out here at a small local bookstore in Rockville Centre and within a year, I outgrew the store. The store could only hold 50 people, and I outgrew the venue. I started booking bigger venues as more and more people started coming. Then Newsday did a story on me, The Long Island Business News and then the local Herald.
People then started asking me to teach storytelling. I started doing workshops and its grown from there.

Why do you think this is becoming popular, what is energizing this?

One thing, we have become a society of people constantly looking down at their phones every two seconds, however, as you saw last night when someone is telling a compelling, true story, they have your attention; and so as human beings, we crave the connections. It forms a real connection. This is not like stand up comedy, where we are like ok, make me laugh. You know this is like wow, let me in, let me feel what you are feeling. There is something very powerful in that. As society becomes more electronic and distant, we crave the connection. We are still human beings, we still need to connect with people. Storytelling fills that need.

As I was listening last night, I was thinking about how we used to pass on our history through storytelling

Exactly, that was the first thing we did to record history we told the stories to our children and told them to tell their children

And That was a community event

Right, yes, to come together as a community to hear each other stories, that’s why I love the live shows. The energy of the people in the room changes how the storyteller tells the story, we feed off each other

When you envision this, what is your vision for storytelling on Long Island

Well, I would love to book bigger venues and have more people tell stories. Two of the people in my show last night are not storytellers, they are just people with great stories and I want to magnify their voices. I worked with them on their stories to craft them into a narrative that works. They had something important to share, and it needed to be heard. I am so excited. I want to start a podcast. I am a former newspaper reporter, so I have a knack for finding good stories. I know that I will never run out of stories on Long Island. I want to start a podcast for LI stories. There are so many stories to be heard. I also want to consult with businesses on how to tell their Story. Storytelling for business especially non-profits is a power tool for messaging. Organizations realize that in order to cut through the clutter you have to have a compelling message and story. I am going to a conference in a few weeks. I will be working with people who work in communications for non-profits. I will be talking about the power of stories in business and especially with non-profits. To be successful you need a compelling story. People connect to stories and that in itself is a powerful tool.

As I think about last night, and the theme, Through the Eyes of A Child. We had these different people, from different walks of life, some diversity in the room, but the common thread was that we have all experienced a childhood, we have all experienced pain or trauma in our lives, growing pains, personal family angst, that’s what connects us. We are much more alike then we think we are, I was really fascinated by hearing the storytellers. Taking us on a journey back to their childhoods, this was my experience and this is who I am because of it. I am sharing this with you.

Exactly, there was also a vulnerability, that the storytellers showed last night which drew the audience in.

What is the impact that you want to have?

I am still trying to figure this out. I want to continue to teach storytelling and producing shows, helping others find their voices and helping them to be heard. I love finding the storytellers and helping them craft their message and having it touch people. I would love to do that for non-profit organizations

there is a quote by a poet I like, Sahib Naiah

“You can reject peoples politics, You can reject their religion but you cannot reject their stories”

That’s why I do not get political, this is about human to human connection and what we have in common, not what tears us apart. We hear enough about what tears us apart.

We have to focus on how we are connected. Every business can leverage storytelling.

There is neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zaks. He has studied the effects of storytelling on the brain. What he found is that when someone is telling a compelling true story, showing vulnerability and authenticity, keeping you on the edge of their seats, it activates a neurochemical in the brain, oxytocin. Once this chemical is released you start to feel what the storyteller is feeling and you are more apt to take the action the storyteller wants you to take, you start to develops trust. It is often called the love hormone, the trust hormone. Storytelling does that.

What impact has this had on you?

It has given me a voice, I was a drug addict and alcoholic in my youth. I am 56 now, Up to the age 25, I made a mess of my life. It took many years to repair that. For many years I was ashamed. They teach you in the program that you are not a bad person getting good, you are a sick person getting well. For a lot of years, I was ashamed and upset at what I had done. Once I got into storytelling, I was like Oh my God these are stories I can tell these. Once I had the advantage of time I can now see how these life events have shaped me today. It helped me get over the bad feelings and guilt.

Is it cathartic?

Very cathartic, also I am a performer, so when I feel that I have the audience in my hands, and I am bringing them on a journey through my life and they can relate, it is an incredible feeling. I feel that I can take them on a journey. That is a powerful experience.

Last night when you were telling your story, about summers at your grandmothers, with all of the characters, I was transported, I could see where you were, I could feel the way the air felt, I was there with you. For me it was a simple way to relax and enjoy, just listen. That in Itself was calming.

I think anytime I tell a story about something that affected me its always something that is universal. We all had fears and insecurities and issues with our mothers every one can relate to that and eventually finding a safe haven.

What I have I know, especially after attending the evening of storytelling, is that stories connect us, like a spun thread weaving between us all.

Tracey Segarra is a Storyteller, a Speaker and a Consultant. For information about Tracey’s upcoming storytelling events or seminars, go to traceysegarra.com.

Gorillaz Gone Ape In the Barclays

Closing in on the colossal stadium, in the now metropolitan, which is Fort Greene, lies the Barclay’s Center.  The Barclays Center is certainly a circus of lights, advertisement and a certain glint of “New York” spirit. Whether it is the most out of place Roc-A-Wear clothing store or extremely lit (with actual lights) subway entrance to guarantee that you’ve definitely made it to your destination the Brooklyn way. Making my way into the colosseum in the city there’s a brief halt to the glamour and glitter while being checked in through the short security section. The lobby area is nothing special, especially when comparing to the light show that’s going on outside. Once past all the meekness of entering the tunnel to get to your seat, lies vendor after vendor serving decadent meals and frosty cold beers. The homage train car near the exclusive “American Express” entryway isn’t lost on this New York however, it does serve as a cool separation for the haves and the people who are actually riding the train.

Gorillaz Gone Ape You Me NYC(Image Courtesy of New York City Theater)

The Internet was a sublime opener for those previously unaware of the group. With a cocktail mix of R&B, hip-hop, funk and electronic they served as the perfect amuse-bouche to the audience. Even though there were a number of seats still being filled in, the waiting crowd was vibing to the beats.

Anticipation wore heavy on me wondering with questions of what form the band would appear in for the show. Previously known for concealing their identity with some groovy animations or using their silhouettes, the band storms on stage with a wild energy. Their outfits matching the presence of their music, electrical and eclectic.  All except for the frontman of the band, David Albarn’s character 2-D, represents a similarly grungy, laid back, cigarette ashing on my washed out black T-Shirt vibe. The other members performing as the backup in some radical bright patterns and eye-catching colors, like the animated videos in the background showing the remaining animated members of the band.

Gorillaz Gone Ape You Me NYC(Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan)

The first song bringing the band on stage “M1 A1” screams out an ominous call for help, behind a building guitar riff which is reminiscent of early guitar hero strumming that breaks into an electrifying brit rock anthem. It was an excellent way to start and rile up the crowd after a comparatively calm band like The Internet.

Followed up by ‘Tranz’ a trancey toon with an animated video of the nonhuman portion performing, gives a feel of what some of the first songs put out by the band.  There is more of a rock influence backing the track.  ‘Last Living Souls’ was next up using a beat machine.  David Albarn introduces a tougher hip-hop beat while the song sings out questioning the humanity of people while alternating between beats and a country-like ballad.  This song shows how the band can seamlessly incorporate different genres.

The band coasts through “Rhinestone Eyes” a softer melody before getting into the far creepier “Saturn Barz” featuring Popcaan. The song is dark visually and linguistically.  Popcaan sings through some of the painful realities of his life growing up in Jamaica, to a contrastingly creepy electronic rhythm. The electronic presence of the group, likely wouldn’t have translated as well without the harmonious background cast of all black singers. There, a solo by a spectacular talent that was especially appreciated by the audience.

Other highlights of their epically extravagant set include a variety of guest stars including De La Soul, Peven Everett, Bootie Brown and a Brooklyn native Mos Def. The experience was a definite separation from a typical concert experience with well-choreographed animated videos, to bring clarity to the lyrics that are usually far more serious than their sometime’s pop-punky backtracks. Towards the end of the show, most of the sparsity in the crowd was filled with standing fans singing along. This being a more personable performance for the band, it only leaves us fans anticipating what the transformative group has ahead of them.

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!