Tuesday, October 27, 2009

History Lesson: Hazel Scott, Nina Mae McKinney & Dorothy Dandridge

We go waaaaay back today to bring three classy female performers from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The above clip is of the late Hazel Scott from 1955, performing for a March of Dimes film short. Charlie Mingus is on bass! And Rudy Nichols is on the skins.

The below video from 1932 is fun as all get-out. The clip begins with singer/actress Nina Mae McKinney singing to the Nicholas Brothers in the kitchen. Then later, Eubie Blake turns up in a chef's outfit on piano, and the Nicholas Brothers get down. Later, Nina then sings promises that everything she's got--and baby, she's got a lot--belongs to you. And then a bunch of skeletons appear at the very end:

And cute Dorothy Dandridge in this 1942 clip...although the guy Paul White, while spitting some mean rhymes, kinda reminds me of Miss J on "America's Next Top Model":

Friday, October 23, 2009

Donny Hathaway

Let's end the week with some 1971 gold from the late Donny Hathaway. Note to the young'uns: This is live, baby. No autotune. No tricks and gimmicks. This is singing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Frank's Place

"Frank's Place" was a brilliant sitcom that aired for a season on CBS beginning in 1987. The show starred Tim Reid as Boston professor Frank Parish who moves to New Orleans after inheriting a Crescent City restaurant from a father he hadn't seen in decades.

The show was prematurely canceled by CBS for low-ratings, leaving behind 28 episodes of one of the most witty and sophisticated comedies on TV; a fine ensemble of actors in a production that, if made today, would be a stinging rebuke to the juvenile whoopin', hollerin,' neck rolling and assorted black sitcom coonery on TV right now.

The show's not on DVD, which is a shame. But the clips here provide a sense of the show's tone and direction.

Friday, October 16, 2009

(Neo) Soul Friday

We close out the week with a quick trip back to the 1990s (which seems like yesterday to us old folks) to take a look at some neo-Soul/acid jazz acts from the day. No better place to begin than with the Young Disciples in full groove with "Apparently Nothing"--and stone jam that never gets played anymore--from 1991. The formidable Carleen Anderson is on fire...

Brand New Heavies with N'Dea Davenport at the mic:

Leena Conquest's "Boundaries" from 1994:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In Praise of Chicago Soul

Chicago's 1960's soul scene isn't talked about nearly enough. Motown and Stax get all the glory while Chicago gets left behind. But the city turned out some great soul music in the 1960s and early 1970s, every bit as good Detroit's and Memphis's. Consider the The Chi-Lites. Gene Chandler. The Impressions. Not to mention the above track, the great singer/songwriter Barbara Acklin's groovy-as-hell "Loves Makes a Woman." Try not snapping your fingers to this one.

Chicago Soul was a little sweeter than its counterparts; a kind of soul that was chilled by the icy Lake Michigan breeze. Tight background singing. A lot more horns and a touch of pathos in the lyrics. For instance, listen to the absolutely beautifully-done "Find Another Girl" by The Impressions, with Jerry Butler at the mic. Let the lyrics soak in...Curtis' guitar winding through the song--and his falsetto sitting just behind Jerry's baritone during the chorus. This is the businesses, y'all:

Fontella Bass (what a great name) gets down with "Rescue Me."

Tony Clarke sings "The Entertainer":

Speaking of Gene Chandler, here he is, singing "Nothing Can Stop Me."

Tyrone Davis:

The Impressions, holding it down in 3-piece suits:

"I'm Gonna Miss You" by The Artistics...sweet!

Or "Right Track" a 1964 jam by Jerry Butler's brother Billy.

And we close out with this priceless 1972 Soul Train clip with the soulfully resplendent Major Lance singing "Since I Lost My Baby's Love." The good Major was better known for the 1960s hit, "Monkey Time".