Friday, December 11, 2015

MUSIC REVIEW: "Countdown To Revolution" by Synnika Lofton

TITLE: "Countdown To Revolution" (E.P.)
ARTIST: Synnika Lofton
LABEL: Guerrilla Ignition Recordings
FORM: Download & CD

The late 1990's and early 2000s saw the rise of the return to coffeehouse culture along with a generation of socially conscious spoken-word and indie soul artists come of age as the keepers of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70's. The members of this urban expressionist movement were able to succeed where other failed by cultivating and nurturing the younger generations of artists, furthering a 'new world Griot' tradition.

Synnika Lofton, multi-award-winning poet, entrepreneur, educator and keeper of this tradition, offers a highly relevant collection of selections on his E.P. "Countdown To Revolution", smoothly offering a frank and insightful assessment of the need for the Black Lives Matter, I Can't Breath!, and Justice or Else! movements.

Well crafted verse, with excellent guitar and vocal accompaniment creates a mood and tone of true urban soul, with such selections as "American Outlaw", my personal favorite from the album, "If I Die Before I Wake", "Leave a Light on For Me" and "Ready For A Solution".

My only criticisms of the project: Producer should have paid a little more attention to the mixing and mastering of the recording. While it's an excellent production, a little more attention to the dynamics of the instrumentation and hook singing against the voice. Also, I wish the project had more material on it. Just as you begin to get into it, it's over.

4 out of 5 Points: Recommended

Link: to Purchase Download:


VIDEO: "American Outlaw"

Monday, November 30, 2015

Animals Activism In Boston: DOEs BEFORE BROs!!! There's Meat In Them Thar Hills!!! Venison Recipes

DOES BEFORE BROs: Jill Hallisey of Jamaica Plain joins a
protest against deer hunting in Blue Hills Reservation yesterday.
The controlled hunt was organized to lower the overcrowded
deer population in the forest.
BLUE HILLS - Let me start with this: I'm absolutely opposed to people hunting for sport. Killing for the sake of killing is an absolute waste, to me the signs of some very, very mentally deranged people, and I can't help but notice the amazing sports hunting and white supremacist thinking. Apparently, Governor Baker, other administrators and state officials called for a culling of the herd in the Blue Hills reserve as they are over populated and a danger to plants and road hazards. Apparently, they're using a lottery system, however, aboriginal hunting rights means that state and federally recognized native hunters can also get in on the action. 

Groups of animal rights activists traveled from Brookline and Jamaica Plains, through Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan (with their doors locked I'm sure) to protest the "senseless" killing of deer without even a hint of irony. Gov. Baker spokeswoman Elizabeth Guyton said in a statement to the Herald, “The administration places a high value on the health of the Commonwealth’s forests and this controlled hunt, which was initiated with bipartisan support from area leaders after extensive public input, remains absolutely necessary to control the overpopulation of deer within the Blue Hills State Reservation in order to 
revitalize the forest’s ecosystem for both wildlife and visitors to benefit from for years to come.”

DCR Deputy Commissioner Matthew Sisk said the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife estimates there are 85 deer to 
every square mile of forest, when 7 to 14 is considered “healthy.” Sisk said they are devouring the vegetation and pose a traffic hazard.

Up to 200 hunters chosen by lottery will be able to bag up to two bucks and four does.
“They’re here to do a job. This is not a trophy hunt. These people are here to cull a herd that has become unmanageable and a danger to the public,” Sisk said. “All eyes will be on them over these four days.” 

Again, I am totally against hunting for sport and any lottery hunter who does not plan to eat what they shoot should probably consider hunting each other and make it a real sportsman event. On the other hand, for the rest please allow me to share a few of my favorite venison recipes. Enjoy and Eat Hearty!!!

Black people living in the Boston area should consider dressing like deer. 


3 pounds venison
3 cups water as needed
5 cups of beef or venison stock
1 large, minced onion
3 cloves of garlic minced1/3 cup all-purpose wheat flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 1/2 cups red potatoes, (I prefer rutabaga and yams)
2 Cups of Green Peas
1/4 cup corn starch
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Mix with onions and garlic, and toss mixture with 1/3 cup wheat flour. Heat oil in a large saucepan, and cook over medium low heat until browned.

Place browned meat, celery, garlic and onions in crockpot. Add stock and water until meat is covered with 1 inch liquid. Add carrots, potatoes and/or rutabaga, salt and pepper. Cover. Slow cook on high for about 5 hours. This should be long enough to make meat very tender.

To thicken up the gravy, mix 1/4 cup cornstarch with liquid from the pot until starch is dissolved. Pour into crock pot, and stir. Repeat if not thick enough. Add peas and allow to cook until tender.


6 pounds venison (ground)
2 tablespoons of Tender Quick Meat Curing
2 teaspoons mustard seed
2 1/2 teaspoons of sage
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons of thyme
2 teaspoons of seasoned salt
2 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar
1/8 Cup of clear vinegar

 Grind the venison using a hamburger blade or setting on the grinder.

Mix dry seasonings (except sugar and sage) and set aside.

Dissolve sugar and sage in vinegar and set aside.

Place venison in large mixing bowl and add seasoning mixture. 

Using your hands, mix the seasonings into the meat, slowly adding the vinegar mixture. Blend well.
Place in storage bowl or gallon storage bags and let sit in fridge for 72 hours. Take out each day and keep mixing.

Take mixture out, shape into patties and either fry in a skillet, with a little oil, or shape into half-pound cylinders and bake in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally until brown. Center of meat (use a thermometer) should be 160 - 170 degrees.

Monday, October 19, 2015


National Congress of Black American Indians and Muhammad’s Mosque No. 11 to host community healing ritual in Grove Hall on November 14th.

GROVE HALL – In an effort to raise awareness of the historic atrocities committed against Native people in the city if Boston, Brother Mwalim (Morgan James Peters), New England Regional Director of the National Congress of Black American Indians, has called for a community healing ritual, to take place on November 14th at 1PM with the assistance of members of Muhammad’s Mosque No. 11 in Grove Hall. “We, along with other members of the community, will gather in front of the mosque with bundles of sage and sweet grass, and proceed to ‘smudge’ the streets of the neighborhood in an effort to bring spiritual healing to the area.” Brother Mwalim first announced at a forum at the mosque in late September.

Historically and presently, Grove Hall is an area that is quite familiar with violence and bloodshed over the course of several decades, especially in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. “One fact that many people are unaware of is that the area was the site of mass slaughter and burial of thousands of Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Massachusett, and Ponkapoag men, women and children in the Roxbury/ Dorchester area in the late 1600’s, the height of the conflict between colonists and native people during Mettacomet’s (King Phillip) War.” Explains, Brother Mwalim, an enrolled Mashpee Wampanoag, and keeper of the Ahanaeenunmedicine tradition.  During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, these graves were excavated and built over without the remains receiving proper acknowledgement or internment; a practice that wouldn’t be legislatively corrected until the 1970’s, initiated by former Commission of Indian Affairs Director and Supreme Medicine Man of the Wampanoag Nation, the late John “Slow Turtle” Peters, who was Brother Mwalim’s uncle. It is believed by many First Nation (Native) spiritualists, familiar with the history of the region, that these activities have left a blight of bad medicine throughout the Grove Hall area.

Community people are being asked to obtain their own bundles and come join in the ritual.
Burnable sage can be purchased on-line from as well as any number of Botanicas and aromatherapy shops around Boston. 

The National Congress of Black American Indians (NCBAI) is a non-profit spiritual community, and the central sacred circle of people of mixed African and Native American ancestry, and our relations, maintaining the spiritual and social traditions of our ancestors. The organization is based in Washington DC and New England is the first region to have a Branch, which was established during this past summer, when Brother Mwalim was appointed the Regional Director. For more information, visit or email

NCBAI Mission Statement
The mission of the NCBAI is to satisfy the Great Spirit and the souls of our ancestors by working together to:
  • Serve as a voice for Native American people with African ancestry and Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people of the western hemisphere as a political entity and active body for the rights of Native people throughout the Americas.
  • Recognize that there are Native people with African ancestry and Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people of the western hemisphere and that they still continue to exist as a strong people.
  • Define for ourselves who the Native with African ancestry and Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people are.
  • Honor all Native people with African ancestry and Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people and their respective singular and or multi indigenous nation relationships.
  • Maintain an understanding of the inherent responsibilities of Native people of African ancestry and the Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people of the western hemisphere within the larger nations of Native people regarding their traditions and spiritual practices.
  • Uphold the rights of all Native people with African ancestry, the Spanish and Portuguese speaking people of the western hemisphere, American Indians and Alaska Native people.

Founding Principles
  • To recognize and celebrate the histories and experiences of Native people of shared African and American Indian ancestry, Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people as a part of the greater Native American experience.
  • To promote healing between Native people of African ancestry, Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people, American Indian and Alaska Native recognized and not recognized within the context of larger Native communities.
  • To acknowledge that Native people of African ancestry, Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people as part of and not separate from their Native communities.
  • To educate the larger public on the presence of Native people of African ancestry, Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people throughout the Americas.
  • To help secure rights under treaties, agreements, and laws for Native people of African ancestry, Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people.
  • To contribute to the general welfare of Native people of African ancestry, Spanish and Portuguese speaking Indigenous people through programs, services and outreach.
  • To create a liaison between all Indigenous people of the western hemisphere

Thursday, August 27, 2015

REMIND The Senate That Native American and Black Lives Matter

It is high time that these four Senators hear from the concerned citizens that they claim to represent!!! While they quickly proposed a bill to protect lions based on the hype around the tragic killing of Cecil the Lion, to date they have done NOTHING to address the hundreds of murders of private citizens by law enforcement. 

They obviously need to be reminded that people who believe that Native American and Black Lives Matter vote. Their candidacy needs to be based on more than kissing the police union's behind.

BOMBARD the phone and fax lines of Senator Bob Menendez (New Jersey - D); Cory Booker (New Jersey - D); Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut - D); and Ben Cardin (Maryland - D) demanding that they do the right thing for the predominantly Native American and Black citizens, tax payers and families being victimized by law enforcement.


One Gateway Center, Suite 1100
Newark, New Jersey 07102
973.645.0502 (fax)
208 White Horse Pike, Suite 18
Barrington, New Jersey 08007
856.546.1526 (fax)

Washington, DC

528 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
202.228.2197 (fax)

One Gateway Center
23rd Floor 
Newark, NJ 07102 
Phone: (973) 639-8700 
Fax: (973) 639-8723

One Port Center 
2 Riverside Drive, Suite 505 
Camden, NJ 08101 
Phone: (856) 338-8922
Fax: (856) 338-8936

359 Dirksen Senate Office Building 
Washington, DC 20510 
Phone: (202) 224-3224
Fax: (202) 224-8378


  • Hartford

    90 State House Square 10th Floor
    tel (860) 258-6940
    fax (860) 258-6958

  • Bridgeport

    915 Lafayette Blvd., Rm 230
    (203) 330-0598
    (203) 330-0608
  • Washington D.C.

    706 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
    tel (202) 224-2823
    fax (202) 224-9673



  • 509 Hart Senate Office Building
  • WashingtonDC20510
  • Tel: (202) 224-4524
    Fax: (202) 224-1651

  • 100 S. Charles Street
    Tower 1, Suite 1710
  • Tel: (410) 962-4436


  • 451 Hungerford Drive
    Suite 230
  • Tel: (301) 762-2974
    Fax: (301) 762-2976

  • Sunday, August 23, 2015

    Citizen Trump: The Re-Birth of A Nation

    It became apparent to many people in 2011 that the GOP had become a parody of itself. For many years, it had been regarded as a political party comprised of two types of people: millionaires and suckers. With each presidential election, the accuracy of this assessment becomes more and more apparent. The GOP debates have taken on the feel of a game show like "Hollywood Squares" or "Family Feud". Taken directly from the corporate merger playbook, the party has made numerous efforts to co-opt and consolidate a myriad of special interest, right-wing and white supremacist groups into the fold; many of whom have rejected the party for selling out. If this were the 1970's and the GOP were a building in the South Bronx, we could expect to see it go up in flames any day now.

    In line with the last analogy, here enters billionaire real estate player, author and televion personality, Donald Trump entering the GOP bid for president by spewing racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic sound-bites and commentary on an almost daily basis. For a few reasons, there is little to no surprise that he has emerged as the GOP front runner, much to the embarrassment of the party itself. The response to much of what Mr Trump has said or done during the last few weeks has been to question his intellect as well as his sanity. Here I would have to disagree. I question (or out and out doubt the existence of) his morals, narcissism, and apparent, insatiable greed; but what I see is a very shrewd and clever business man, bored with conquering corporations, now setting his sights on taking over the political party of commerce.

    When Australian media mogul, Rupert Murdock was asked why his focus with FOX News focuses on promoting a conservative agenda in a country where he isn't a citizen and has no vested interest in our politics, Mr Murdock's response was, "hate sells..." Consider the fact that Donald Trump is a master at the art of branding (aside from putting his name on every residential and commercial building that he owns) and media manipulation. In marketing, the saying is that seven impressions make the sale. Understand that these impressions don't have to be positive, as shock-jock radio personality, Howard Stern and hip-hop icon Luther Campbell proved years ago, you get more attention, and are talked about more by the people who hate you than the people who love you. The fact of the matter is that people are talking about you and that creates a brand. Mr Trump is a master salesman, which also makes him a master of psycho-analysis. He is able to tap into the heart, soul and thoughts of his potential client and say exactly what they are thinking or feeling. Adolph Hitler did this very effectively in the1930s; Mr Trump effectively tapped into the hearts and minds of the eugenicists and aforementioned suckers of the party, told them what they want to hear, and rose to the top.

    In true corporate take-over fashion, when Mr Trump recognized that the party leadership was not thrilled with him as their top contender, he threatened to run independent; knowing that he leaves the party this will guarantee that either Mr Sanders or Mrs Clinton will be taking to oath of office in January 2017. The leadership GOP is getting a taste (or in some cases, a second taste) of what Mr Trump has done at any number of major stockholder meetings of companies that he has taken controlling interest in: play along or perish. We must remember that he has filed for bankruptcy at least four times, which is an oft used tactic by large corporations to get out from under pesky investors. I wonder how that tactic would work in addressing the national debt.

    Oscar Wilde once said that the only thing worse than wanting something is getting it. In the true Prometheus tradition, the same people who cultivated the GOP into a party where a greedy narcissist moves from the shadows of supporting candidates to actually becoming one. Lets face it, the Koch brothers are not too far removed from Mr Trumps type of thinking,  they would rather be in the background. The same way that Marion Knight and Sean Combs failed to take a few more notes from the Berry Gordy playbook when it comes to running a high powered, boutique record label and appear to be classy and dignified in public, The GOP is quickly becoming the Death Row Records of political parties; notorious with members fleeing for greener pastures, which include militias, hate groups and break-off political parties.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong, Donald Trump could really just be a loud-mouthed idiot who lucked out in real estate and talking a cable station into giving him his own reality show. He might really believe the things he's saying and the following that he has amassed due to the luck of the draw. Whether it's a case of Mr Trump being the idiot's champion or a master salesman, the bottom line is this: the next few months are going to be quite interesting.

    Monday, July 20, 2015

    VOTE for Mwalim: 'Best Instrumental CD' 2015 Indigenous Music Awards

    2015 Nominee in the Indigenous Music Awards - Best Inst. CD
    WINNIPEG, CA - Public Voting for the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards is now open and Mwalim DaPhunkee Professor's award-winning jazz album, "Awakened By A Noon Day Sun" (LMMGM/Spirit Wind Records) is a top nominee for "Best Instrumental CD" (Category 11).

    "Awakened By A Noon Day Sun" is the winner of the 2014 New England Urban Music Awards 'Best Male Jazz' category as well as the 2015 Silver Arrow Award for 'Best Native Jazz' album.

    To register, sign in, and vote, the Indigenous Music Awards. 


    Wednesday, July 1, 2015

    POEM: Street Teaming , Impressions & A Dumb-Ass

    I'd like to thank the punk-ass who keeps ripping that poster down;
    We've replaced it 4 times already.
    You see, each time you rip it down and we hang it back up
    That's another 400+ people seeing it.
    It's called "impressions."
    We hang it
    A bunch of people see it
    it becomes part of the scenery
    You rip it down
    We wait a few days
    and replace it.
    Which means more people are seeing it, thinking it's a new post.
    If you rip it down three more times,
    You're helping us gain a full house!!!
    7 Impressions make the sale!!!
    Thank you!!!

    Imagine, if you can a venue...
    Say, 976 Main Street in Cotuit, MA
    Now I want you to imagine a 25 mile radius from the front door of the venue;
    use a map if you need to.
    Now I wan you to imagine 1,000 flyers
    Posted at various locations all over that 25 mile radius.
    Drive around and tear them all down!
    Our street team is anxious to replace them!
    You'll also have to tear down the
    Facebook posts
    Instagram posts
    Radio interviews
    Even had it on the news...
    It's been shot around twitter 3,000 times

    Now I want you to think about the one poster,
    hanging at the Country Store in Mashpee.
    The one you see as you go to buy your scratch tickets
    blunt wraps
    and Fire Ball Whiskey nips
    Whether you leave the poster alone
    or you throw it away
    That poster is kinda like you...
    It really doesn't matter

    Keep up the good work!
    We know who you are and
    We are very happy to give your life meaning

    COPYRIGHT 2015

    Saturday, June 27, 2015

    POEM: Progress?

    My feelings about the flag coming down in SC & Alabama are the same as my feelings about the legalization of gay marriage:
    I'm wondering why I'm not getting any comments from my right-wing friends about his past issues with the law and drug dealing?

    A nice gesture and distractions from the more pressing issues surrounding race relations and homophobia in America.

    We've been under the thumb so long, that the smallest victories are seen as huge. Kinda like the excitement my formerly incarcerated colleagues felt when they could buy Ramen Noodles and Slim Jims from the canteen.

    So, about Dylan Roof...
    I'm wondering why I'm not getting any comments from my right-wing friends about his past issues with the law and drug dealing?

    I'm not hearing how he deserves to die because he smoked weed and got in trouble in school.
    I'm not hearing outrage that he murdered innocent people engaged in bible study, from the Bible thumpers...

    However, I have heard that it was their own fault for not having guns of their own at the time of the shooting...

    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    a GEEKDOM Tribute To A Soul Singer: R.I.P. Mr Percy Sledge

    Percy Sledge in 2012 at the Houston House of Blues.
    Tuesday, we've lost one of the great, architectural voices of soul music. Mr Percy Sledge passed today at the age of 74.

    A No. 1 hit in 1966, “When a Man Loves a Woman” was Sledge’s debut single, an almost unbearably heartfelt ballad with a resonance he never approached again. Few singers could have. Its mood set by a mournful organ and dirge-like tempo, “When a Man Loves a Woman” was for many the definitive soul ballad, a testament of blinding, all-consuming love haunted by fear and graced by overwhelming emotion.

    “When a Man Loves a Woman” was a personal triumph for Sledge, who seemed on the verge of sobbing throughout the production, and a breakthrough for Southern soul. It was the first No. 1 hit from Alabama’s burgeoning Muscle Shoals music scene, where Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones among others would record, and the first gold record for Atlantic Records.

    Before he became famous, Sledge worked in the cotton fields around his hometown of Leighton in northwest Alabama and took a job in a hospital in nearby Sheffield. He also spent weekends playing with a rhythm-and-blues band called the Esquires. A patient at the hospital heard him singing while working and recommended him to record producer Quin Ivy.

    Sledge recalled recording the song: “When I came into the studio, I was shaking like a leaf. I was scared.” He added that it was the “same melody that I sang when I was out in the fields. I just wailed out in the woods and let the echo come back to me.”
    The composition of the song has long been a mystery. Some thought that Sledge wrote it himself. Sledge said he was inspired by a girlfriend who left him for a modeling career after he was laid off from a construction job in 1965, but he gave the songwriting credits to two Esquires bandmates, bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright, who helped him with the song.

    While identified with the Muscle Shoals music scene, Sledge spent most of his career living in Baton Rouge. He was inducted in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007.

    A Personal Memory

    In 1984, around the Christmas season, a bunch of us from Music & Art High School (Now LaGuardia) went down to Rockefeller Plaza for the lighting of the Christmas Tree. A choir and chamber ensemble began to perform Pachelbel's Canon. I'll never forget when one of my buddies nudged me and began to sing when a man loves a woman, which fit over the canon perfectly. A bunch of us joined in until we were chased away by plaza security.

    Not a true hoodlum memory by any stretch; but for a bunch of teenage music students, this was an ultimate act of defiance.

    Thank you, Mr Sledge, for a true masterpiece.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt. 6

    A little more flavor in the pot from Eddie
    An element in the novel MUMBO JUMBO, by Ishmael Reed is a virus called Jes Grew that causes white people to become obsessed with Black culture. According to the text, it's the cause of the roaring 20's and the jazz age. America, being a segregated nation at it's roots, has a curious habit of categorizing music to the extent that they segregate music from itself. Also having a cultural addiction to exploitation, musical forms can be co-opted from their originators and the history re-written. Much of American music is rooted in the African and Native American musical traditions and culture. The differences between blues, funk, jazz, gospel and subsequent soul/ r&b are more about stylistic nuance then actual differences. A lot of what was called Hillbilly music (modern term, Country) was a composite of Scottish folk music mixed with blues and termed "blue-grass" to disguise the forms Black roots, the same way that Alan Freedman would call R&B "Rock & Roll" to disguise it from white parents who didn't want their kids listening to Black music.

    A floor tom with a broken kick petal makes quite the boom
    When you produce a soul-funk record and start to pay attention to each element and track, the American imposed lines of delineation quickly disappear, especially when the only industry standard that you adhere to is production quality. The percussion tracks are like the ancestral voices blessing your song, the patterns and grooves of various African styles, with Caribbean interpretations opens you up to new musical possibilities in the song. This you can experience when creating House music, but working on an album like this definitely takes you on that path.

    As I listen to the playbacks on some of our cuts, like "The Storm" and "Make It Look Easy" I find the exploration here must be what Berry Gordy felt when he went to New York to hear Jackie Wilson record one of his songs, and the producer added some Afro-Caribbean back-beat percussion, and how it gave his song a whole new feel and groove. Likewise, when you have the basic trio rhythm section lay down one pocket, and the djembe and bongos come back with a counter groove; all tied together by 'the one', especially when we decided to lay in the western, big drum on the songs. Here, in the percussion tracks we have several examples of call and response between African (West and east) and 'Pan NDN' percussion.
    My Djembe brought some ancestors into the mix

    Building an album, to an extent, is like creating audio imagery, where the sound becomes a mood-based landscape if you will.  As music critic, Howard Dukes once observed of my work as a producer, I tend to be a fan of the classic 'concept album' approach to a project. With this project the concept is simple, a band of grown and funky musicians grooving through a set list at a concert. The final sound needs to be organic, ambient and exciting, while groovy, warm and funky... a dichotomy of sounds and textures... an audio rice and beans dish.

    In building these tracks, what I've done is taken the recipe of funk albums produced in the 1960's and 70's, combined it with elements found in 1980s and '90's hip-hop and creating an album of the raw, funky, boom and bap free of samples, drum machines, time correction, and left as a pure work of musicianship.

    bongos and cowbells... funky...
    The nature of funk The 'jes grew' of Ishmael Reed's classic novel is a virus of primal, and ancestral spirits, taking possession of all who it encounters.

    Missed any of the parts? Follow the Whole Producer Notes series here

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt 5

    When bass players rock the drums...
    With any favorite dish, it's the seasonings that make the flavors of the main ingredients stand out. Seasoning and spice is that fine detail in a recipe that can make it or break it. For a funk and soul recording, the percussion tracks are the seasoning. You can change the entire feel and mood of a song based on what percussion you use and how it's played. Something as simple as a tambourine, cowbell or conga drum can become the difference between a classic hit records and a dud.

    In these days of electronica, percussion tracks are usually samples and loops that can be cut and paste into the song. Percussion provides the framing and While not a soul records, but a definite homage to blues, "My Generation" by The Who would have been lost as a dance record completely if they had not used hand claps to frame the wild style drumming of Keith Moon, who characteristically played inside, outside, under, over and next to the pocket of the tune, as one would more so expect from a jazz drummer.

    Eddie getting funky on the bongos
    However, for me it was the rich funk and soul of the 1970's with Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Babatunde Olatunji, Fela Kuti, Earth Wind &Fire, and Hamilton Bohannon that are at influential play here. A lot of these artists you'll find in the loop of many classic hip-hop records, as the percussion that fattens out the drum machine base that they are building off of. In producing this album, I recognize a blend of the musicianship of the old school combined with the technology of the new school. For most of the classic albums, 8 and 16 track recording systems were the innovation and by the time the hip-hop producers were doing their thing we were up to 48 tracks and digital. Each item on a drum kit has it's own track as do the percussion tracks and loops as opposed to using four mics for a whole kit as they did back in the day. As a result, the old school records had a warmer, blended feeling while the new technology makes it rather stark and crisp.

    This is also where your engineer makes a big difference, as Bob Yen has old school training, sensibilities and know how from engineering, producing and mixing countless albums as well as being a sound man for numerous live shows for a myriad of rock bands like Journey, Areosmith and the like. Most of your r&b and hip-hop engineers now are lost if the instruments are not plugged directly into the boards or are not software patches. To produce a descent, human soul record outside of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, you need to find a good rock and roll engineer.

    These rich percussion tracks that the hip-hop producers loved sampling and looping in the late 1980's and 1990's also gave me an appreciation for the texture and dimension of layered percussion. The old school process of sampling and looping required a degree of skill in manipulating and placing the sample that has been largely replaced by the use of software like Pro tools and so forth. One of the most impressive examples in hip-hop history actually didn't use sampling, but pure DJing skills. On the album "Straight Out The Jungle" by The Jungle Brothers, for example, their DJ Sammy B actually mixed and cut from his turntables directly onto the recording, using a drum machine as the metronome/ percussion link. Likewise, Gangstarr alum, DJ Premiere used to use a 4-track and the pause button feature to build his loops, feeding in the breaks from his turn table every two or four bars.

    A djembe player that went to Goddard? Impossible...
    The hip-hop producers of the golden era also intuitively did what you would find more sophisticated musicians doing when it came to blending elements. For example, for a jazz player, the notion of three instruments in the same song playing three different time signatures against each other is what you might find in James Brown's recordings, or the drumming records of Babatunde Olatunji. The largely jazz trained session men of Motown also were known for doing this. For example, in the cut, "Donlt Sweat The Technique" by Eric B and Rakim, you find a heavy swing jazz bass and horn loop, over a straight 4/4  drum machine groove.

    Armed with bongos, djembe, tambourines, cow bells, a drum kit, broom shank, riser, four pairs of hands, and shaker, we went about building the percussion tracks of the album, giving each song it's own recipe. When we play out live, especially restaurant and jazz bar gigs, we often love to play with time signatures -super imposing 4/4 over 6/8, 5/4 and under 7/8 or 12/8- we found ourselves recising this habit with bongo and shaker patterns over the grooves of the song.

    Missed any of the parts? Follow the Whole Producer Notes series here

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Good Bye to A Gifted & Caring Educator: Dr Paul E Reisch

    Dr Reisch from the 1986 M&A Yearbook... they misspelled his name
    There is a subtle difference between a teacher and an educator. A teacher teaches, imparts knowledge and information about how do do something. An educator does the same except what they teach you are things that can carry over to other areas and aspects of your life. An educator elevates you and your consciousness by inspiring critical thought about a given topic or the world around you in general.

    Such can be said about Dr Paul Reisch, a former faculty member and alum of LaGuardia High School of the Arts in New York City, who transitioned last week. Whether you had him for English or Drama at Music & Arts or Performing Arts, you never saw the subject or the material the same way again once you studied it with Dr Reisch. Born in Germany and immigrating to the US as a child who spoke no English, he clearly overcame this issue by eventually earning his PhD in English. Likewise, he demanded such effort and excellence from his students and got it.

    As a high school student, I had a gift for creative writing, but my critical writing skills were lacking a bit of structure in my approach. Having the opportunity to have Dr Reisch in the first semester of my senior year became a crash course in effective critical writing; how to effectively delineate ideas and points when reflecting on a piece of literature or a related concept where part and parcel of the mechanics of writing that Dr Reisch helped me to develop.

    His passion for literature, drama and the intellectual development of his students was apparent and present in each moment that we spent with him in class; a passion that was infectious and definitely travelled with me well beyond my days as a student at Music & Art. He helped provide me with tools that carried me well through undergraduate and graduate school; to my professional work as a writer and educator. 

    The impact that the good Doctor had on all of his students is the type of impact that all true educators dream of. Here, almost 30 years after my last time in his classroom, When I lecture and find myself emphasizing the words "For Ex-Ample" I know where it came from... Peaceful Journey's...