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.

 

High-Rises to High-Fashion

Exceptional physical condition, extreme weather tolerance and the ability to lift a significant amount of weight, is just the tip of the iceberg, regarding what it takes to be an Ornamental Iron Worker.  Now, couple that with beauty, grace, elegance and high-fashion, the end result is “True New Yorker” Porcha Gordon.

Originally from Houston, Texas, currently living in the Bronx, Porcha is an Ornamental Ironworker going on eight years, with an additional career in the industry of high-fashion modeling as well.  According to Porcha, the uniqueness of her profession and the impeccable views, are what she loves the most about being an Ornamental Ironworker.  What she loves the most about being a model, is being able to dress up and showcase beautiful designs.

One of the challenges of this dual career, was the constant transformation from Ornamental Ironworker to model.  Gordon remembers when she first started to model, she was not graceful at all.  Her walk made people cringe.  She had to learn how to walk all over again.  Balancing both professions takes a lot of physical energy out of her, especially, when a show runs late and she gets very little sleep for work the next day.  Additionally, she tends to get nicks, cuts and bruises, which can be impose an issue in front of the camera.

Porcha Gordon You Me NYC

When asked if she faced any animosity in such a male dominated industry, Porcha replied, “Not really but occasionally, I get a guy who thinks that he can bully me because I’m a girl”.  According to Porcha, due to her size and her looks, she would get a few interesting stares when seen in her hard-hat and construction gear when she first started. Now, those stares have turned in to admiration and people being impressed.

One of her most interesting experiences in her daytime profession, was working on the new Tappan Zee Bridge and in the world of modeling, discovering a whole new universe and being a part of it, which is the opportunity of a lifetime.  However,  where there is interesting there is also embarrassment.  Porcha recalls, a time when she was working over someone not realizing there was a can of “Redbull” in her back pocket.  Somehow she crushed the can and it got all over her and her construction pants.  She had to continue the rest of the day working in her leggings.  Another awkward moment for Porcha was when she was modeling.  She was wearing patterned “granny panties” which happened to faintly show through her outfit.

Porcha’s busy schedule between careers does actually allow for some downtime.  During the few moments she does have for herself, Porcha cherishes the time she spends with her friends, as well as playing in all things makeup.  She also likes to participate in beauty classes and catch up on sleep, which according to Gordon, sleep is boring but it’s the best thing ever.

Once finished with her journey of self discovery, Porcha eventually wants to travel the world with her best friend.  For now she will continue to maintain two careers and continue the path she has been following which makes her great grandmother proud.  Although her great grandmother is no longer with us, she is still Porcha’s greatest influence in life.

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)

Adding the Finishing Touch

“Wrapped by Nellz” a Brooklyn based hair wrap line is making quite a stir in the local community and New York City as well.  Jamaican born, moved to Brooklyn from Florida where she was raised,  had a lot to do with why Nellz got into the custom hair wrap industry.  She loves the diversity and the fashion the city has to offer.  Nellz has always worn hair wraps and  has received a ton of compliments.  She would use scarves and shirts, however it would just not look right, the threads would be showing, amongst other effects, which was another factor that prompted her to get into the business of making custom hair wraps.

After praying and consulting with the pastor of her church, and aligning her vision with her church, Nellz stepped into the world of being an entrepreneur.  Owning her own business plays a huge part in maintaining the ministry and the church of which she is a part of.  Taking that bold step, has really jump-started a passion and ignited her creativity side.  Nellz started to wash, cut, iron and sew her own wraps and created many various sizes for all to enjoy.

Wrapped By Nellz

Her design style is focused mainly on a lot of African prints and patterns with a collection of calm textiles and materials as well.  She gets most of her fabrics from Africa, California, Florida, Texas and New York City.  She likes to obtain from these different areas based on their distinct vibe as opposed to what is already the standard in New York City.  With that being said, one of Nellz’s favorite designers is Betsey Johnson and the way she boldly expresses her love for the “out of normal style”.  Nellz follows suit by not always matching her wraps with her outfits, creating her own “out of normal style”.

One of her biggest challenges of owning her line is finding the medium and looking for repetition.  Being fairly new to the industry, Nellz experiences little day to day achievements and struggles as she tries to pinpoint the trend and avoid the norm.  Once she has defined the mean, she will know what to expect at that point going forward.

Whatever little downtime Nellz has, she focuses on her family and her heavy involvement with her church.  She also has been evaluating as to whether she will be adding earrings as an additional accessory to her line as well.  She has been receiving a lot of positive feedback from her customers regarding her wraps and when she will be adding earrings as well.  Should Nellz decide to add earrings to her line, I am already positive it will add an additional “finishing touch” along with one of her wraps, to any wardrobe that is missing that eye-catching accent and completing the look with a touch of exceptional brillance.

 

 

 

 

Fashion Trap

Fashion TrapHaitian born and Brooklyn raised since the age of 8 years old, founder and head designer of the urban clothing line “Fashion Trap” Carl M, is a true believer that one really can control his or her own destiny in life, by taking nothing for granted and seizing every opportunity that comes along.  The confirmation of starting his line is based on his ability to create, his desire to connect with people and that he just wants to influence the industry by speaking a language that everyone can understand. He defines fashion as an art, a dialect of expressing himself and the way he cultivates relationships with others.

Fashion Trap

Fashion design is not a career to Carl, it is a passion and a purpose to create a vision, turning that vision into reality and sharing it with everyone around him.  Everyday,  just by walking the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, Carl is influenced by all the people he sees, their personalities and their style.  SOHO, Meatpacking, Tribeca, 7th ave along with the internet and social media, is where Carl frequents the most, for his inspiration and to keep up to date with the current trends, only to work on his own interpretation of those trends as well.Fashion Trap

When asked about his personal style, Carl equated his style to the equivalent of the “Boy Band”.  He has many styles and doesn’t like to be labeled under any particular type of genre.  Depending on his mood for that day, his style could be that of a rock-star, urban, and or preppy look.

Carl’s hard work, and dedication to his craft and his line is very impressive.  I, along with the rest of our readers are looking forward to seeing what else he is going to bring in this fast-paced ever-changing industry of ours.

Fashion TrapFashion TrapFashion Trap

 

 

 

Breakfast

I was driving a friend of mine to work a couple of days ago and I was dropping her off at the usual spot which is this little cafe she likes to to sit at before she goes to work. I asked her “What is so good about this spot” and she replies to me “They have great breakfast there”. I said “Oh yeah, what do you have” and she said “I don’t have breakfast”. I am literally puzzled and then I asked her, “So what do you do in there” and she says “I just have coffee and a bagel”. REALLY!!?