Tag Archives: soul

Ayana Contreras of Reclaimed Soul talks with Emily J. Lordi, author of Donny Hathaway Live

Soul singer/Songwriter Donny Hathaway’s life and untimely death are both shrouded in mystery.
Though artists like Stevie Wonder, Amy Winehouse, and Aretha Franklin have called him an influence, there is very little biographical work about him. I sat down with Emily Lordi, author of “Donny Hathaway Live”. Lordi’s recent book uses the album of the same name as a jumping off point for uncovering Hathaway’s legacy and his unique contributions to 20th century popular music.

Listen to Part Two of this conversation here: https://soundcloud.com/vocalo/ayana-contreras-of-reclaimed-soul-talks-with-emily-lordi-author-of-donny-hathaway-live-part-2


In Rotation: Ayana Contreras of Vocalo’s Reclaimed Soul on a softly stratospheric Andrew Hill LP


The music that is currently in rotation (in my head), as excerpted from

Ayana Contreras, DJ and host of Vocalo’s Reclaimed Soul, blogger at darkjive.com

The Natural Four, Natural Four This was released here in Chicago on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label in 1974. The Natural Four was a group that came here from San Francisco to record because Chicago was a soul-music center. Unfortunately, aside from scoring a Top 40 hit with this album’s classic lead track, “Can This Be Real,” the group was unable to break through. Natural Four brims with loping strings, aggressive horns, and slinky harmonies.

Andrew Hill, Lift Every Voice I collect old Blue Note albums, and I’m often initially attracted to their covers. This 1970 release features Hill’s face superimposed over stars and violet nebulas, and the record itself is softly stratospheric in its energy. Hill leads a crowd of vocalists and an instrumental quintet that includes Richard Davis on bass and Carlos Garnett on tenor sax. With song titles such as “Love Chant,” “Ghetto Lights,” and “Hey Hey,” the record gently envelops you with a sense of perpetual motion—sometimes it feels like you’re swinging in a hammock, and sometimes it’s like you’re running electrically in the streets.

Sunday Williams, “Where Did He Come From Sunday Williams recorded this single in Chicago around 1969 for Bill Meeks’s Alteen label, based on Stony Island Avenue. It did OK locally, mainly thanks to the cheery flip side, “Ain’t Got No Problems” (which features the hook “Know what to do with my man, yeah!”). Really, both songs are stellar. But “Where Did He Come From” has a hauntingly beautiful staccato horn intro, coupled with dreamy vibes and a rock-solid bass line.

Proof positive that I do listen to stuff that’s not from Chicago, sometimes. For the rest of the article, click here.

Darkjive’s May 2011 Dance Card

Calendar of Events that Darkjive’s Ayana Contreras will be featured at. All are free and open to the public.

Brown Sugar Marketplace @ Brown Sugar Bakery

Friday May 6th, 5-8pm

328 East 75th Street, Chicago

Featuring deep old school cuts by Ayana Contreras, The Marketplace has handmade jewelry, leatherwares, clothes, and more.  Come for the caramel cake… stay for the soul.

Dance Party @ the Dorchester Projects

Sunday May 8th, 5:00pm-8:00pm  UPDATE: Sunday May 15th, 3-6pm

6918 South Dorchester, Chicago

Enjoy Music spun by DJ Ayana Contreras as a prelude to a series of talks about the history of Chicago Soul.

Groove Conspiracy, 2nd Thursdays @ Morseland

1218 West Morse, Chicago

DJ Ayana and Simeon Viltz (of the Primeridian) spin old school gold, gritty gems, and silvery stepper madness. Their weapon of choice: vinyl

Dorchester Sessions I @ Dorchester Projects

Sunday, May 29th (location and time above)

Exploring Quintessential Gospel, Soul, Blues, Jazz, Rock,
and Pop sounds that were born in Chicago, and the people who created them.

Essentially, the live version of Darkjive.  Come for the talk, stay to get down.

Monk Higgins: The Look of Love

An early Charles Stepney arrangement (who later worked with The Dells, Rotary Connection, and Earth, Wind, & Fire, among others), this record rumbles and slinks along with soul.

I love how the chunky electric keys interplay with the swirling strings, and Monk’s swinging saxophone.

Monk Higgins was born Milton Bland in Arkansas. He was already a staple on the Chicago Scene when he released this cut on Chess in 1968 (just before he went to LA, bringing fellow Chicago Scenesters Freddie Robinson and Mamie Galore for the ride).

UPDATE: For more Lovely versions of this classic composition (and a touch of drama), check the comments of this post.

Black Music Getting Intellectually Involved.


Recently, I found an interesting article in the August 22, 1970 issue of Billboard.  Written by Jerry Butler, the piece (entitled “Black Music is Getting Intellectually Involved”) asserts that soul artists were on the road to creating music with greater artistic freedom (i.e. Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye).  This is something Jerry used his star power to foster here in Chicago with his “Workshop” for up-and-coming artists).  He touched on the idea that soul music was evolving past the earthy physicality that bore it, and into a more socially conscious realm (without letting go of its nature).  I love his insight.   He went on to say,

“I’ve found that sometimes while out on the street and I see a beautiful woman I get butterflies in the stomach and that kind of thing.  Well, all of that to me is soulful, that is what soul is.  The thing that you can’t see, but that you can feel, the thing that you can’t touch, but you can feel.”

the get down.

The get down is about to go down again.  Old Soul 45’s spun with love at the Morseland.  Selections by me (DJ Ayana) and Gaucho.  Join us this Thursday December 10 starting at 9:30pm.  No Cover.  The Morseland is located at  1218 West Morse in Chicago (just blocks from Sheridan). Here’s a sample of some of the proudly local grooves we’ll feature….”Get Down” by Curtis Mayfield.

Summertime and Billy Stewart: Fruitful and Fleeting

summertimeSummer has left our once-warm grasp.  In memorium, Darkjive presents Chess Records’ Billy Stewart with a 1966 version of the classic song “Summertime” (from Porgy and Bess).  I love how Billy Stewart’s scats interplay with insistent horns and halting guitar licks.  The drummer on the cut is a very young Maurice White (of Earth, Wind, and Fire). 

Originally from Washington, D.C., Stewart scored a string of hits in the mid sixties with Chicago record label Chess, including “I Do Love You”, “Fat Boy”, and “Sitting in the Park”.  He died just shy of his 33rd birthday when his car plunged into a North Carolina river, alongside three of his bandmates.  Billy Stewart’s “Summertime”: Fruitful, fleeting talent singing the praises of a fruitful, fleeting season.

31st street beach

(above, 31st Street Beach, Chicago)

Stay in My Corner…for a long, long time

dellsThe Mighty Mighty Dells are by far the most enduring music group to ever come out of Chicago (Harvey, to be precise), performing with their original line-up since 1952.  “Stay in My Corner”, their 1968 pop and R&B smash, was one the longest singles ever released at the time, breaking the 3 1/2 minute barrier established by the 45rpm single.  In fact, it was the first RIAA certified million seller single to clock in at over six minutes (the 45rpm version clocks in at around 5 minutes).  The track is loping, larger than life, and beautiful.  Here’s a 1975 live version of the track (check the collars).

Garland Green “Jealous kind of fella” 1969

A beast of a Chicago Stepper cut by Chicago’s own Garland Green.  Oh, and he says, he’s not Jealous nor Violent in real life… he even released a song called “Don’t Think I’m a Violent Guy”.  Good to know.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Someone who could “never lose” at the South Side Talent Shows that local record execs scoured for fresh talent, Chicago’s own Garland Green made a name for himself in the late sixties as a growling soul star to be reckoned with.  Ironically, he wasn’t discovered at a Talent Show, but playing pool.  Legend has it that a local Barbecue Magnate named Argia B. Collins heard him while walking down the street and ultimately funded Garland’s turn at the Chicago Conservatory of Music.   Here’s a clip from my interview with Mr. Green.

garland green talks talent shows.

Studies on Soul from Johnny Spencer

Johnny Spencer is a British visual artist who has turned the sleeves of his 45rpm records (most of them American Soul from the 1960s) into hand-drawn studies (in ink, watercolor, pencil, and collage, et al).  Amazing stuff.  I wonder if he works on commission…


a few more STUDIES ON SOUL after the jump