Look Alive

23 December 2010

Elevation: ___ Feet

.: 'God's gonna show you higher ground!' :.

This is track #5 on the Verve album, "Motor City Moments", by critically acclaimed violinist Regina Carter. Carter has been a personal favorite since her days as a member of the jazz quintet, Straight Ahead. (New listeners, check her out on "Hallucinations", "Last Night Marion Had A Real Good Dream" and the lush favorite, "You Touch Me" from their 1991 debut, Look Straight Ahead.)

Here, she lends her immense talent to a sparse yet percussive rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic, "Higher Ground", from his 1973 Innervisions album. Enjoy, look within and reach up! The original's lyrics are below :)
"Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder

People keep on learnin'
Soldiers keep on warrin'
World keep on turnin'
Cause it won't be too long
Powers keep on lyin'
While your people keep on dyin'
World keep on turnin'
Cause it won't be too long
I'm so darn glad He let me try it again
Cause my last time on Earth I lived a whole world of sin
I'm so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin'
Till I reach the highest ground
Teachers keep on teachin'
Preachers keep on preachin'
World keep on turnin'
Cause it won't be too long
Oh no
Lovers keep on lovin'
Believers keep on believin'
Sleepers just stop sleepin'
Cause it won't be too long
Oh no
I'm so glad that He let me try it again
Cause my last time on Earth I lived a whole world of sin
I'm so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin'
Till I reach my highest ground...Whew!
Till I reach my highest ground
No one's gonna bring me down
Oh no
Till I reach my highest ground
Don't you let nobody bring you down (they'll sho 'nuff try)
God is gonna show you higher ground
He's the only friend you have around

21 December 2010

KNEWS :: Sighs, Matters

(c) Trevor Riggen

Changes of season take place in much of North America four times a year, but the coincidence of December 20/21's Winter solstice and total lunar eclipse is a reported rarity. The phenomenon occurs when the Earth essentially stands between the light play of the Sun and Moon, hiding and slightly reddening the lesser body against what was a dark sky in my neck of the woods then. I believe such an alignment of three planets is also known as a "syzygy", which I perceive as having an odd kinship to the word "sizing" only asking 'why, why, why' within its unique appearance.

During the early phases of the heavenly movement, my main website's server and a few other sites I accessed in the surf had undergone system maintenance that presented minor setbacks and underscored the event's suggestion to pause 'business as usual'. That downtime's late night or otherwise lunar news of positive relief efforts found its place among negative reports of disease and death. Similarly, the First Lady's health promotion efforts met with the frosty reception of a "food fight". Even NYC's poetic commuter pick-me-ups are taking a back seat to more structured service info for straphangers. No good news or even positive approaches to solving the bad news is at the popular fore. For the moment, contrast is the headline.

Obscure, almost frustrating answers may arise when questioning these humbling and equalizing accounts. This is to be expected  as the blockage of light can make it very hard to discern, or size things up, if relying only on the natural senses. Thankfully, peace and perspective are available beyond mundane reason. Let's stay tuned to these stories as they develop.

20 December 2010

LEVI(RO)TATION :: Spice Up Your Life!

Recent Resonant(s)
  •  50 Cent - "Amusement Park" [instrumental]
  • Blue Magic - "Sideshow"
  • Fertile Ground - "June"
  • John Legend - "Show Me" and "Shine"
  • Sounds of Blackness - "I Believe"
  • Stevie Wonder - "If It's Magic"
  • Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers - "Brotherly Sisterly Love
  • 9th Wonder - "Do The Right Thing" [instrumental]
  • Al Jarreau - "Never Explain Love"
  • And So I Watch You From Afar (ASIWYFA) - "A Little Bit of Solidarity Goes A Long Way"
  • Daryl Coley - "It Shall Be Done"
  • Fertile Ground - "Broken Branches"
  • Kevin Davidson & the Voices - "Arise and Be Healed"
  • Marvin Gaye - "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)"

ON... Catching Up, E-Clips Edition

Season's greetings!

I hope this post finds you well. I am looking forward to the rare and cherished pleasure of squeezing many miles into a few moments and hugging loved ones from all over! With the typical priority of work at temporary rest, a pajama brunch, silly songs and dances, laughter in Love, movies galore and talks until daybreak will have come to life. No tricks or expensive tickets are required; people, temperatures and environments conducive to 'just right' chemistry will do! Even with spell-check and any usual faculties to prevent issues here, such dynamic joy can still affect the presentation to a certain degree. Please accept my apology if your experience with me is negatively compromised in the holiday balance. Few really know where exactly into cyberspace some transmissions go and who will truly see, enjoy or benefit harmlessly from the honest work once "send" is pressed. I am learning not to worry about anything I pray and work within God's Will for, however.

In the Spirit of offering good aural spice for this holiday season (see above), I believe some 'condiments' may also be in order. That is, I just need a mustard seed of faith to also 'catch up' on some once and future writing! With 'what ifs', waste and other misuses of natural resources being a global problem, I am inspired to echo the early sustainability efforts of indigenous peoples with a special nod to my love of music. The following pieces were salvaged and are respectively shared from August 15 (in memoriam of singer/activist Abbey Lincoln), September 21 (for a 'musicians on music'-type pilot) and October 14 (a XXL Guest Blog contest submission that is, in part, an offshoot of the former). If nothing else, may they foster the growth of our 'edutainment' overall while building upon my house of work.



for Abbey 
After [learning of her passing] yesterday, I took an edutaining look back at the legacy -- even the very face -- of the writer, artist and lioness that continues to BE Abbey Lincoln. Through the eyes of music, the soul of a woman once dubbed Aminata appeared to me as a study of contrasts comfortable in one lovely vessel: gamine, full-grown, jazz, prose... . Whether referencing 1966's "Who Will Revere The Black Woman" written piece or any facet of Max Roach's perpetually relevant "Freedom Now Suite", Ms. Lincoln's secure stance along the tightrope between those contrasts and the other chambers her career and former marriage courted is an inspiration -- for natural beauty; for endurance; for a commanding presence and voice; for abundant, chrysanthemum-like creativity across artistic disciplines; for freedom of spirit!

In 2004, a dream compelled me to write and record a song entitled "Aminata", which was intended to honor the fierce, feminine spirit admittedly as embodied by Mali's "female circumcision" activist-in-exile Ms. Diop. My own dynamic journey within womanhood since then has contributed to the temporary loss of the piece and changes in the frequency of my musical voice's expression, but Ms. Lincoln's return to the essence is a reviving albeit bittersweet deposit into the hearts of any daughter or son who will acknowledge and receive the wealth of her experience. 'It whispered, we listened and wondered if it could really be', but I celebrate the Almighty Creator's deliverance from her earthly pain and "it's freedom day" for Abbey.

for pilot
I was actually being filled with a Nas/Damian Marley track on repeat and just linked the instrumental to Facebook when asked what I was listening to.

P A T I E N C E, is what it is. The concept and need for patient and prudent uses of 'our time' is both timeless and universally applied. Although the Distant Relatives album's been out for some months now, I'd heard the song for the first time and nearly drowned in the sweet e-motion that YouTube granted my insomnia. At the very least, it deserves a high five. I'll explain each of my fingers with no offense -- I promise! In no particular order, I Love:
* the soothing flutes
* the men's decision to form an international, musical alliance this generation can appreciate when the next gives birth
* seeing a Marley building good catalog in light of the legend and his estate's recent copyright loss to UMG
* their message of the way we overlook the trees we spend/rest or write on/read/breathe with and so on for forests of fantasy that often exploit them
* a tempo that doesn't put me straight to bed (for any reason) but still takes the time to share an active truth

From the opening "here we are" to the closing dedication to global "wisdom and knowledge seekers", there was p(e)ace: contentment as well as a sense that perfect timing brought me to that moment. Not much more to say about the song than that. It simply proved worth the weight.


from the XXL entry
Welcome to the terradome, where maintaining and uplifting the Earth to Heaven's purpose stays well on my (and hopefully your) mind. About the powerful energy we call hip-hop, knowledge and blossoming understanding of self dictates that I not only used to, but all-ways love H.E.R. After all, when my gospel, soul and jazz roots went pop and started playing the hard rock until I got sampled, scratched, remixed, chopped, screwed and eventually vindicated from the heart of the cities across the world, she is me. The following musical memories help comprise the 'everything NYCe' ingredients to my tried-and-true recipe. Allow me to reintroduce myself and offer you a few of many favorites.

1) "White Lines" [Sugar Hill...]
Picture it. Bronx, 1983. An inquisitive me tried to finesse a tiny portion of the Betty Crocker Cherry cake mix into my EasyBake while the older girls talked (not-so-)secretly about boys just under a blasting bassline that grabbed me from across the apartment. Two contradictory phrases, "don't do it" and "get higher, baby", were all I could discern from my post during that radio moment but some form of the contrast lingers on even now. Experiencing hip-hop is such a good teacher. She first taught me that extremes in human nature with good intentions are "something like a [timeless] phenomenon." Let's proceed.

2) "Be A Father to Your Child" [Mercury, 1991]
Lemme guess... the Roy Ayers "Searchin'" sample comes to mind first, right? I feel you. The man whose talent I respect to the point of nearly hanging up on him in disbelief that he would see fit to call me about my re-arrangement and recording of one of his classics deserves positive recognition. Before Teairra Mari or any post-millennial variation of TMI spoke on having no daddy, however, nuff yute like myself felt the brunt of the "next man lack". From the home of New Edition, Ed O.G. & da Bulldogs put a smooth beat to my three-month telephone relationship with my own estranged father and made it bearable.

3) "Check the Technique" [Chrysalis/EMI, 1991]
Oh, Gangstarr... Let me go'n start this choice's explanation. OK, so I was a semi-nerd in high school. Our dearly departed GURU's monotone cut through the way that Primo had with Marlena Shaw's "California Soul" starting with "you puny protozoa / you so minute you didn't know the / Gang has been watchin' you". Quiet as it's kept, THAT line and, of course, the boss beat served as great internal motivation from the observer's end of the microscope during HS biology lab. True story! Lessons in what it meant to be "Lovesick" came later; glad I graduated.

4, 5) "Shakiyla" [Profile, 1990] and "Renee" [Uptown/UMG, 1995]
These two 'other sides of the game' made the roots of my inner Amina that much stronger by adding an unforgettable sense of pride with a touch of sadness. The fact that Miami bass or the folly of some men's base natures seemed to be the only place I stayed showing my a** and I really was a "wise, Black queen" who avoided the blunts of "silly stunts" was such an honor. These particular sista figures were cherished and contended for to Wise Intelligent and Mr. Cheeks' boys, or should I say mens an' 'em. Standing up for yours, even when a brother doesn't have to take a leak, is gangsta. Still, hood love didn't really get to thrive in the mainstream until Mary came, because tragedy (not Khadafi) struck at least one girl dead. "Day by day, I wonder why my shorty had to die?" *smh* I'm sayin' -- can I live?!

6) "Not Your Average Girl" [Def Jam, 2009]
I admit it. With no disrespect to GZA, I think RZA is a genius. GFK, however, is my favorite Wu. Appreciation for the Abbott's triumphant sound is a given, but something about my Ironman's ultra-confident, often culinary flow has stayed close to my heart for years. This duet with Shareefa in his Ghostdini incarnation coincided with my own (book) lovin' Jersey girl moments (only minus the couch ~ don't ask...) and provided the perfect, all-season beat to bump for the whole block when making moves in a serious, if not sentimental, mood.

7) "Accordion" [Stones Throw, 2004]
Leave it to Doom and Madlib's two-unit Voltron, but who knew polka's primary instrument could knock so hard?! When this cut was originally released, I was part of a bootleg-but-more-beautiful "Real World" living arrangement in Brooklyn. Needless to say, one of my roommates was a DJ -- and every day was an eclectic listening party. At first, I could honestly "testify from in the spirit" to that track's beauty as uncontrollable joy tears welled up in me. Yeah, it was like that, but don't play yourself thinking I'm too soft! I'm just unafraid of expressing what I feel to be real.

Won Love!