Category Archives: Staged Affairs

Dance Chicago Dance.

dance-chicago-dance

Back in 1980, Chicago was still a national hub for music (like LA, Nashville, and New York are today). During that time, Producer/Promoter/Entrepreneur Eddie Thomas ran the influential Dogs of War DJ record association. Based out of Chicago, they were a record pool famous for breaking a number of seminal disco recordings.

Essentially, a record pool is a service that DJs either subscribe to or otherwise sign up for. New records from participating labels are distributed to the DJs as promotional copies. Dogs of War primarily worked with DJs that worked at black clubs on the South Side of Chicago. In the day, they were frequently mentioned in disco write ups in industry papers such as Billboard.

dance-chicago-dance-pic

picture courtesy / Bernie Howard’s Facebook Page

Together, Eddie & the Dogs of War Association produced a TV program pilot called “Dance Chicago Dance”. According to Director Bernie Howard Fryman:

“The year was 1980 and disco was the thing. This is the pilot of the Chicagoland dance show that I shot and directed in cooperation with executive producer Eddie Thomas and “The Dogs of War DJ Association”.

This show was created to feature new music and was to be shot from various discos in the Chicago area.

This show never aired and was dubbed from a Betamax demo of my show. We even cut in a few commercials for realism.”

captain-sky-1980

Featuring a theme song by Al Hudson and One Way, and hosted by radio personality LaDonna Tittle (then at WJPC) and Lisa Hunter (a member of the Dogs of War), the program was an all-star affair. This pilot also features two performances featuring Chicago’s own silver lame-clad disco artist Captain Sky. His extravagant costumes are worth the price of admission. The pilot was shot in suburban Naperville (!) at Valentino’s Disco. It features, notably, a racially mixed crew of dancers.

dance-chicago-dance-pic-2

picture courtesy / Bernie Howard’s Facebook page

The “Dance Chicago Dance” pilot was shot in 1980, well after Steve Dahl’s infamous “Disco Demolition Night” that occurred on July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park. The disco scene in Chicago was a well oiled machine in many ways because Chicago’s Black music scene had dwarfed the rock and pop scenes for much of the mid-20th Century in terms of record sales, record label prominence, and distribution. It was easy to get the music out there.

From the Electrified Delta Blues of Chess Records to the sweet soul of Brunswick Records and Curtom Records (and many labels in between), the baton was passed to disco, and eventually to house. It’s arguable that the prominence of disco music over rock music (often considered to be “white music”) in Chicago (mixed with some good old fashioned racism & homophobia) churned up the Disco Demolition. By 1979, disco had become a universal juggernaut; but its roots were in black and brown communities, as well as in the gay community (a fact that disco shares with house music).

About 50,000 people showed up to the event, during which radio shock jock Steve Dahl was to destroy audience supplied disco records in a massive explosion on the baseball field. But to illustrate the inherent racism, Vince Lawrence, who at the time worked at Comiskey Park as an usher, noted that many of the records were not disco at all. According to an NPR piece, there were:

 “Tyrone Davis records, friggin’ Curtis Mayfield records and Otis Clay records,” he recalls. “Records that were clearly not disco,” but that were by black artists [from Chicago].

Regardless, this video documents clearly that Disco Demolition Night did not, in fact, demolish disco in Chicago. In many ways, disco was just about to get started as something new: House. And that usher at Comiskey Park during the Disco Demolition Night wound up co-writing what is credited as the first truly House record (as opposed to a disco record played in house music clubs), 1984’s “On and On”.

He picked up a lot of good records that night, too. So Dance, Chicago, Dance. Jive on!

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Stretching out the Boundaries of Jazz: 10 years of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival.

maggie-brown

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival celebrates its 10th Anniversary with three dozen performances and programs on 11 stages across the neighborhood this weekend. Many of the performances, to their credit, lack easy categorization, and truly exemplify the spirit of Jazz from the South Side of Chicago (multi-layered, collaborative, and connected to the community). A few highlights:

The South Side of Chicago has a rich history of Jazz music, and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival’s schedule represents keepers of that flame, like Maggie Brown (pictured, who is a daughter of the iconic Oscar Brown, Jr. and an electrifying vocalist in her own right); as well as younger creators such as the Thaddeus Tukes / Isaiah Collier Duo.

Stretching out the boundaries of traditional Jazz programming are a restaging of Supreme Love (a live music and tap dance performance set to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme). In collaboration with dancers from M.A.D.D. Rhythms, musicians on the set include Isaiah Spencer on drums and Junius Paul on bass.

Also as part of the festival, Marvin Tate will present The Weight of Rage, which was initially presented at the Hyde Park Art Center earlier this year The visual component is an exhibition of work developed in classes in the Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project at Stateville Prison. The show brings together work from incarcerated artists and teaching artists and writers (including Marvin Tate) in the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project (PNAP) at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, IL to explore the question, “how does the state identify you?” There will be a music performance by a sextet as part of Saturday’s presentation of The Weight of Rage, as well.

The Festival also announced a new partnership with the Hyde Park Art Center that commissioned visual artists to install site-specific artwork on Midway Plaisance.

Three main projects have been selected for this inaugural year: Juan Angel Chavez, “Gramaphone”; Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford and Faheem Majeed, “Floating Museum”; and Sabina Ott, “Mountain Variation.”

And, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival Story Share Project continues this year, in which visitors are invited to share stories about their relationship to Jazz (particularly Jazz on the South Side of Chicago).  All stories are archived for the Hyde Park Jazz Society, and select stories will be made available via an dedicated web platform that is currently in production.

For more on the Hyde Park Jazz Festival (including a full calendar), click here.

Jive on!

 


Do you Remember how to do the Camel Walk?

camel walk

Do the Camel Walk! Last week on Reclaimed Soul, host Ayana Contreras played this rare local Chicago Blues/Soul record by Bobby Rush (not the former Black Panther turned Politician) from about 1968.

In case you were wondering how to do the then-popular dance, here’s a clip of James Brown asking Sammy Davis, Jr. if he “remembers” how to do it. And he does it. And it’s pretty great.

…But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. James Brown at the time was known for integrating the Camel Walk into his stage show. But the dance had its roots way back in the 1920s as a ragtime dance… So, it was retro even in the 1960s. Good things come back around. Or, so they say. Jive on.

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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….

 


Opera-Matic’s New Moon on the Lagoon

Opera-Matic's New Moon on the Lagoon


In this audio piece, I eavesdrop on rehearsals for Opera-matic’s very cool New Moon on the Lagoon, an “evening lullaby parade”, featuring a 15 foot tall giant moon that will be lit up from within by projections of facial expressions.

It’ll be happening Friday May 10th and 11th, 2013 at the Humboldt Park Lagoon in Chicago. For more info, visit: opera-matic.org/upcoming-events/

This piece originally aired on Reclaimed Soul on Vocalo. Reclaimed Soul features music spun on original vinyl records, and stories of people making our world better (artistically, economically, etc) with old materials.

You can tune in to Reclaimed Soul live at 8pm CST on vocalo.org, 89.5fm (NWI/CHI) and 90.7fm (CHI)


Opportunity Please Knock Chorus: oscar brown, jr.’s collaboration with the blackstone rangers

In 1967, members of the Blackstone Rangers, a notorious Gang in Chicago, collaborated with singer/composer/playwright/activist Oscar Brown Jr. to create a Musical Revue called “Opportunity Please Knock”. About eight thousand people went to the show during the first weeks of performance (at Chicago’s First Presbyterian Church). Photos in this post are from that first run. The show gave exposure to various teens that had ample talent, but little opportunity.

Oscar Brown Jr., said in a 1996 interview with Rick Wojcik:

I made contact with the Blackstone Rangers, and we began talkin’ to them about some alternative activity to what they were doin’, which was basically gang-bangin’ and terrorizing the neighborhood… The fact that there was this gang presence was bad for business and that’s one of the reasons that I contacted gangs- could we do something for them that would stop them from steppin’ on my hustle! I said we’d do a show for ’em, but they said, “well, we got some talent, can we be in the show?” We wound up doin’ a show called Opportunity, Please Knock, which really changed my life, basically, because it let me see that there was this enormous talent in the black community. This is where all the dances came from; this is where all the popular music comes from; so I began to really concentrate on that. Opportunity Please Knock ran for a little while, with those kids being on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

The gang’s involvement seems to counter the completely negative impact that most people assume gangs have on communities. The contradiction was  fleshed out in a 1969 article published in “The Alantic”:

Since the emergence of the Ranger Nation, individual members have been charged with murder, robbery, rape, knifings, extortion of South Side merchants, traffic in narcotics, extortion and intimidation of young children, forced gang membership, and a general history of outright violence, especially against the Disciples who never joined the Rangers. On the other hand, the Ranger Nation has been credited with keeping the South Side of Chicago “cool” during the summer of 1967 and the spring of 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. It has been said that they have kept drugs, alcoholics, prostitutes, and whites hunting for prostitutes out of their neighborhoods. They have also been credited with making genuine attempts to form lasting peace treaties between themselves and the Disciples in order to decrease the level of gang fighting on the South Side. They have been alternately praised and condemned by the national press, their community, the United States Senate, the local police, and Chicago youth organizations to such an extent that, if one depends on the news media for information, it is almost impossible to maintain a consistent opinion of the Blackstone Rangers.

James Alan McPherson, from “The Atlantic”, 1969

According to an August 1967 Ebony Magazine article about the Revue, Oscar Brown Jr. further stated:

These kids are angry because they’re being shot through the same grease their parents were shot through, and they understand that it’s impossible for a bootless man to pull himself up by his bootstraps. But they’re not too disillusioned to work hard-if they ever had and illusions at all. It is up to us to give them a better picture of reality.

Below is a record I found, released on Ramsey Lewis’ record label, called “All this Talk About Freedom” by the Opportunity Please Knock Chorus. It’s what led me to this story in the first place. It’s also the only audio documentation of this slice of Chicago History. It’s also pretty groovin’. Image below is of the Opportunity Please Knock Chorus.


Disco Nights at the Cabrini Green Summer Fest, 1979

Jamming  and juggling on a warm summer’s afternoon in the days when Jane Byrne was mayor… and Disco was king.  Two years later, Jane Byrne moved into Cabrini Green in part as a publicity stunt.

Below, a bit more footage: an unnamed local group can be heard (but not seen) performing a version of Teddy Pendergrass’ “Come Go With Me”. The bottom clip features an assortment of kids with their face painted getting in line for what looks like shaved ice; and at about 50 seconds in, another group singing a version of the Doobie Brothers cut “Minute by Minute”.  (NOTE: the video above is labeled as having occurred in 1977, but the song playing in the background came out in 1979, so I adjusted it here). This video was posted to youtube by John Boguta. Jive on!

Below, more jamming, more good times…


Yesterday and Tomorrow (it’s a chicago thing): David Boykin Trio at Danny’s featuring DJ Ayana

Below, one of the great Chicago recordings that I’ll feature.

check out a bit of David’s work below.


Louder Than a Bomb in Concert: english class heretics.

Featuring work by LTAB all-stars, alumni, and co-creator Kevin Coval
Friday, August 5 & 6, 2011   7:30pm
Zacek McVay Theater

TWO NIGHTS ONLY!

This will be one of the most exciting nights at the Victory Gardens this summer!

Don’t miss out on ENGLISH CLASS HERETICS: LOUDER THAN A BOMB IN CONCERT! The stage artists from the largest and most explosive youth poetry slam in the world, Chicago’s own Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) will take over Victory Gardens with an evening of great performances.

This exclusive concert presentation features the best LTAB performances from recent years as well as performances by LTAB staff, teaching artists and alumni (including poets from the critically acclaimed LTAB documentary.)

Tickets: $15
Buy Now
773.871.3000
TTY: 773.871.0682
tickets@victorygardens.org


Ladies Ring Shout: performance as a way to community

The Ladies Ring Shout as a Performance was born of a weekly workshop, dialoguing space, and “jam session” for women.

Participants talked, wrote and moved in the spirit of collaborative experimentation and explored what an urban feminine discourse looks and feels like. What are our notions of an Urban Feminine? What is her legacy to/for future women/humans? What defines the urban woman’s community?

LRS is comprised of three core members Felicia Holman, Abra Johnson and Meida McNeal, who proclaim:

Performance is our therapy, our catharsis, our way to community. Performance is the haven that welcomes us to rediscover our own value and worth.  Performance and expression bring our dormant, unsaid emotions to the surface and urge us to work them out within a community that not only bears witness, but also empathizes through experience.

Buy tickets here

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