Category Archives: the Goodness

Reggie Torian of The Impressions gives his impressions of Curtom, Curtis Mayfield, and more.

The-Impressions-Finally-Got-Myself-Together-LP-Back

In this installment of Reclaimed Soul (sort of the radio version of this blog), check out host Ayana Contreras’ interview with Reggie Torian of The Impressions (that’s him sitting on the bumper of that antique Rolls Royce). He’s been a part of Chicago’s own Impressions (“Keep on Pushin”, “Gypsy Woman”, etc.) for 40 years. And he’s got a lot to say. He talks about the group, Curtom Records, and more. We also hear some of the music he helped to create.

The Impressions counted Curtis Mayfield as both member and principle songwriter during the 1960s and early 1970s before he went solo. Curtom Records was Curtis Mayfield’s Chicago-based record label that was home to the Impressions for nearly a decade. It was also the one-time label of The Five Stairsteps, The Natural Four, Leroy Hutson, The Jones Girls, Linda Clifford, Rasputin’s Stash, Baby Huey and the Babysitters, The Staple Singers, and more.

Catch Reclaimed Soul Thursdays at 8pm (CST) on vocalo.org or over the air on 89.5fm (NWI) and 90.7fm (CHI)

 


Ready. Set. Spin: DJ Ayana out and about.

off the record -july 2013Here in Chicago, summer is wrapping up. But, before it ends, come to one of the FREE-fifty events I’ll be spinning at (many of which are outside). Click here for more info….

 


The Early Editions: Swinging Soul and Afro-Pop from the Windy City.

early editions

“People Try” b/w “What is Wrong With Grovin'” is  a hip little record from about 1968 by the Early Editions. It’s a Chicago record, crafted by James Mack on the Aries label, but not much else is known about the group itself. My best educated guess is that the group consisted of a lounge act and/or some studio session vocalists. 

UPDATE: I found out from Theresa Davis (a one-time member of The Emotions, and an amazing session and solo  vocalist, as well) that the group consisted of three of her sisters and one of her cousins. Below is an image of the group.

early editions 2

Anyway, both sides of this record are pretty great. give a listen to snippets from both sides below. “People Try” is a peppy-yet-hip bossa nova romp, while “What is Wrong With Grovin'” is a cover of an afro-pop record by Hugh “Grazin in the Grass” Masekela.

Chicago was testing the waters as a “world city” via music, apparently.

Jive on.


Growing Home: reclaiming the earth beneath the concrete.

rooftop garden atop the Gary Comer Youth Center, 71st and South Chicago

I’m itching for spring. Here in Chicago, the weather has been mercifully mild… Visions of a vegetable and herb garden in my backyard dance in my head. I am swooning over Kale and Basil!

But dreams of building up my South Side neighborhood (through green jobs, better food, and economic empowerment) dance, too. I’m a big supporter of localism and building up every community in Chicago with all the resources needed to support a healthy lifestyle. More importantly, though, I think that living a so-called green life shouldn’t be reserved for the rich. I also think we should all be able to access fresh spinach as readily as a flaming hot cheese puff. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

Growing Home Wood St. Farm, Aug. 2010. Photo by Andrew Collings

Check out this video featuring local Green Activist Orrin Williams of Growing Home and the Center for Urban Transformation; just two of many Urban Agriculture initiatives here in Chicago. Their goals are varied and yet unified: providing green jobs and supplying wholesome food for the community.  Orrin is a friend of Darkjive (and a friend of the South Side). Jive on!


Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation Approved to Develop at 70th and Dante

Artist, Urban Planner, and Friend of Darkjive Theaster Gates is at it again. His plan (through the Rebuild Foundation) is to rebuild a CHA residence into a Collaborative Artists/Mixed Income community of 32 units. The preexisting structure is located at 70th Street between Dante and Harper on the South Side of Chicago. That plan the rehab the structure has recently been approved by the CHA, and groundbreaking begins in 2012. Righteous.

According to a recent interview for WBEZ’s Natalie Moore:

“The creative class that Richard Florida talks about [he says their role is to revitalize cities], I don’t think he’s actually talking about some of the folk that we have identified as creative or that live in this space,” Gates said. “It’s true that creatives and people who are interested in creativity and design and architecture have substantial impacts on neighborhoods. But I don’t think they’d necessarily be attracted to living on Dorchester”.

“…Part of what I’m excited about is that there’s a whole segment of the creative class that’s not been asked to be players in city. I’m talking about black artists, artists of color”.

He touches on some issues of inclusion and expansion of what the so-called Creative Class looks and feels like (as well how to harness creative energy for the greater good). Let’s crack the art world wide open… and build up our communities in the process. Word up and jive on!

UPDATE: for more details on the plan, click here.


Tom Tom 84 goes Hollywood.

Tom Tom Washington (pictured at left) is basically my hero. He’s also a very humble and cool individual to be around.

As a Chicagoan and a music lover, his distinctive Horn and String Arrangements are like home to me.

Tom Tom came up in Chicago’s Ida B. Wells Projects and studied music under the tutelage of James Mack (an awe-inspiring arranger in his own right). He wound up arranging dozens of records for Chicago Music Heavyweights such as Earth, Wind, & Fire, The Emotions, Tyrone Davis, Deniece Williams (who is from Gary, IN), The Staple Singers, Ramsey Lewis, Leroy Hutson, The Chi-Lites, Otis Leavill, Betty Everett, Jerry Butler, Loleatta Holloway, and many, many, more.

In my cratedigging, I actually look for his name on a record as a mark of excellence.  I call it looking for a “Tom Tom”. I have at least a couple of hundred cuts he’s had a hand in (under the names Tom Tom, Tom Tom 74, Tom Tom 75, Tom Tom 84, Tom Tom Washington, and a few other aliases).

Tom Tom Washington also branched out and worked with artists from all over the world, including Phil Collins and The Whispers. The Whispers are a Los Angeles-based group, and in 1978, he did arrangements for an album called “Headlights”. I know this because I recently found a 45rpm single taken from the album. I’m not usually a fan of the Whispers, but it’s a beast, featuring the top cut, called “Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)” (which is about exactly what you think it’s about), and the B-Side called “Try and Make it Better”,  which is bangin’. The tunes’ arrangements capture the distinctive sound that Tom Tom made classic on hits by Earth, Wind, & Fire and The Emotions. It’s amazing. But why wouldn’t it be? It’s a “Tom Tom”.


The Ones: SDYL

I catch Khari Lemuel (pictured below) and Yaw (top, right) all over the place (the Library, 75th street, Red Kiva), and recently, I heard them performing at the Brown Sugar Bakery to celebrate owner Stephanie Hart’s birthday.  I dug them both separately, but as a duo (calling themselves “The Ones”), they are beyond belief. Both pour their souls into performances, but in their own way. While Yaw is supremely charismatic, Khari is stunningly intense. The collaboration is not their first: Yaw covered Khari Lemuel’s composition “Where Will You Be” a few years back.

About a year ago, The Ones posted “SDYL” (below) on Youtube. It’s a musical S.O.S., and the video contains images of moments in our time when the world seemed to be swirling out of control. Khari told me recently that the recording is, in fact, a rough cut, and they are in the process of getting “SDYL” (along with the makings of a new album mixed down and mastered). Can’t wait. This is just the type of music that carries on the legacy of great music born in Chicago. Jive on.

NOTE: photos shown were taken for darkjive.com during the 2010 “Taking to the Streets” Festival in Marquette Park. The performance ranks with one of my favorites I’ve seen of them, and featured a great backing band, including Junius Paul on Bass Guitar, Corey Wilkes on Trumpet, and Agustin Alvarez on Guitar.

UPDATE: Khari just sent me a link to the video below, behind the scenes one-camera video of Khari and Yaw performing “By and By”: from their upcoming album. I’ve really loved hearing this song’s arrangement evolve over the course of many performances. It’s smouldering, spiritual, rock-infused vibe is the business… I’m curious to see how it winds up sounding in the final cut.


Building sm/art cities: portoluz potluck and talk at the chicago honey co-op

Building sm/art cities:
Spaces for progressive
culture and sustainable cities
Sunday August 7th 3-5pm
The Honey Co-op 3740 West Fulton

This open air, potluck conversation at the Honey Co-op will be anchored by successful entrepreneurs, land stewards,
and other forward looking urbanists– gathering together to share their experiences building catalytic enterprises, and visionary spaces. Bring your lawn chair and a dish to share and let’s talk how to build an inclusive, robust, creative Chicago for the 21st century.

With Marguerite Horberg, founder of HotHouse and portoluz;
Sherry Williams, founder of the Bronzeville Historical Society; Naomi Davis, founder of Blacks in Green; Michael Thompson, founder of the Honey Co-op; and Michelle Uting, outreach coordinator with Chicago Wilderness.

The Honey Co-op is an urban beekeeping cooperative
practicing sustainable agriculture,
job training, and education.


Celebrity……with Record

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from waxenvy


Army and Lou’s: obituary of an icon.

(above, Common pictured at Army and Lou’s)

How does a person write an obituary for a restaurant? Not just a restaurant, but a place with historical significance. The Sun-Times did a pretty good job:

It was the late Mayor Harold Washington’s favorite restaurant — the booth where he always sat still bears his name. And its storied history goes beyond feeding the grass-roots political movement that elected the city’s first black mayor.

At its original Black Metropolis location, it fed the leader of another movement: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the ’60s.

But South Side soul-food legend Army & Lou’s, 422 E. 75th St., thought to be the oldest black-owned restaurant in the Midwest, closed its doors for the last time Sunday.

For 65 years, Army & Lou’s has fed celebrities, politicians, business moguls and others who slid into its red linen-tableclothed booths for greens and ham hocks, catfish, chitterlings and peach cobbler. Celebs ranged from Cab Calloway to Muhammad Ali to former U.S. Sen. Charles Percy.

Washington, a bachelor, would eat there up to three times a week, and was partial to just about everything, longtime staff like waitress Betty Martin recall….

…“It was a fine dining establishment, and the first place that a lot of middle-class African-American families back then were taking their children where there were linen tablecloths and napkins, and there was live music,” McDuffie recounted.

Yes, I can vouch for the cobbler, and lots of other dishes, too.  But, I also know that Army & Lou’s suffered through multiple changings of hands (the last of which occurred in late summer/early autumn of last year). Chicagoans know that when businesses change hands too often, it can spell disaster (can we say Marshall Field’s?).

It’s really unfortunate, and I’ve even heard vegans send up condolences.  But the issue that caused Army and Lou’s to close was not a lack of warm and fuzzy feelings, it was lack of support from the community in the form of dollars and cents.

Another issue was that since Army and Lou’s had relocated from Bronzeville to the Chatham neighborhood in the 1970s, very little had been done in terms of updating the aesthetics.  Since the highest concentration of folks who eat out are 20-45 years old, and they tend to look for ambience when paying over $20 a plate, an overhaul of the dining room area would have been wise.

My vote, and I’m totally not kidding about this, is let’s call Chef Gordon Ramsay (from FOXs Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares) and get him to help them bounce back. He has a pretty good record of revamping restaurants on the brink.  It would be great press, and would breathe new life into a local icon.  Click here for a sample of Kitchen Nightmares’ brand of tough love.


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