Category Archives: the Goodness

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”.

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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.


Minnie Riperton: she was the black gold of the sun.

Minnie Riperton was, of course, so much more than her 1976 smash “Loving You”.  I won’t even attempt to jam her legacy into a blog post.  She was a mother (to SNL alum Maya Rudolph), a lover, (to Dick Rudolph) and a righteous songbird.  Riperton (pictured above, 1968 [photo courtesy jeff lockard]) and her soaring soprano were featured in the Rock-Soul outfit Rotary Connection.  Rotary Connection was the jazzy soulful dirty hippie baby of genius producer Charles Stepney and Marshall Chess (son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess, and a visionary in his own right).

Certainly their most anthologized track is “I am the Black Gold of the Sun” (above), but each of their albums produced its crop of nuggets (my favorites are “Songs”, “Hey Love”, and “Aladdin”).  The sound was a cross-section of Rock, Gospel, Soul, and Jazz nearly as big as the City of Big Shoulders that spawned it.  Featuring Minnie Riperton on lead vocals for a number of their cuts, her other-worldly wails are the sound that almost never was.

Below, my short audio interview with Sidney Barnes of Rotary Connection (pictured far right), on how Minnie Riperton got the strength to embrace her own voice in the days when sopranos weren’t considered soulful.

Love Thyself: Sidney Barnes Talks Minnie Riperton


The Makings of Groove

Xraydio 2 Disc Table [2009]
Diesel for Moroso

This coffee table is almost as cute as my boombox throw pillow…  It’s made by printing the X-ray of a dj console on glass.  The glass is still transparent, which adds dimension.  I’m thinking it’ll look fresh in my record room. 


ReMake Estate: Brand New Day.

ReMake Estate is a really cool project going on in Gary (Indiana) in which an abandoned house on 24th and Massachutsetts will be reborn as a meeting space and a community garden.  The project is being organized in conjunction with interested local community groups and Australian-based artists Keg de Souza and Zanny Begg.  The artists (from an Australian Collective called You Are Here) are heavily influenced by the aesthetics of The Wiz (yessssss!), in honor of Gary’s most famous son, Michael Jackson.

In other MJ related news, according to the Gary Post-Tribune, the City of Gary is moving forward with plans to build a Memorial/Museum dedicated to Michael Jackson. Rudy Clay, the Mayor of Gary, was quoted at saying the only thing that could come between the City and the Memorial is “it’s people”.

 

images from the project….


Lyricist Loft: Kids Today Can Read… and Write.

Wednesday nights this Summer, an Open mic for Open minds:
hosted by dimi d. & Fatimah
DJ talent & DJ Such N Such
Bring your poems, songs, videos, chants, interpretive dancing…etc.
JUST COME and bring your Positive Energy
FEATURED POETS= Kuumba Lynx

Date:
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Time:
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location:
400 South State

The Return of Captain EO: This was it.

 

Hot off the presses.. Captain EO will be reopen at the Epcot Center (at Walt Disney World) this July. The ride/film short directed by Francis Ford Coppola and featuring Michael Jackson was originally opened in 1986 and closed in 1994 amidst allegations of abuse.  The film was definitely a highlight of my family’s trip to Orlando back in the day.  I am sad that Michael had to leave us for this gem of 80s cinematic opulence to return to the world!  Jive on.