Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kenny Burrell - Jazz & Blues Guitarist

Kenny Burrell, a calm jazz oasis, during the most dangerous decade of the Twentieth Century--the '60s!

Kenny Burrell's Man At Work on Vinyl
man at work LP

Kenny Burrell Still Playing Strong

Oh, please let there be a birthday bash and concert on PBS this year! My memories of Kenny Burrell go back to 1966. What a year.

In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King questioned race relations in Chicago; the Vietnam War was cranking up; hippies became a movement with flowers as a mascot; hard rock and Motown fought for the airwaves; James Brown must have just discovered Colonics when he danced his way across the stage of the Ed Sullivan Show with I Feel Good!; and Kenny Burrell came out with Man At Work, 47 years ago. And, yes, Kenny Burrell's Man At Work was vinyl. That's what we had back then. And I hear, these days, that vinyl is making a comeback because digital can't match the warm sound of vinyl.

James Brown's Live at the Apollo
James Brown Live 
At The Apollo, 1962
I was there as the mini skirt got shorter and shorter; drugs got easier and easier to get; and the pill caused a sexual revolution.  My parents were there, too, wishing they were raising me in a different generation. They weren't. This was my time as I entered one of the most dangerous professions—the music industry--in a most dangerous time, a perfect storm, if you will, or at least it could have been for me, as it was for so many unfortunate others I met along the way and some I never met. 

Some aspiring musicians I knew when I first started out in the music business didn't have the talent to  make it big in the music industry, me included, or have the guts to stay in the music industry if they possessed the talent. They could feel their lack of talent and guts and still they did everything they could to stay in the music business, including getting high or worse with anyone they thought could give them a hand up the ladder. The hand never came disappeared and many were used up by age 21. The mid-level musicians, which I became part of, could hang on for a little longer because we worked harder at the music craft than those who thought they were too gifted to have to work hard.

In 1966, at the time of the release of Kenny Burrell's Man At Work, 45 years ago, I was 16 and starting her own music career in Houston, Texas, singing at jazz venues around the city such as the El Dorado Ballroom on Elgin Street with notables such as the 21-piece Conrad Johnson Orchestra, performing live on radio on Saturday nights, booked by Groovy George Nelson of KYOK. Yes, that's right. I picked up where my mother left off.

Musicians and vocalists, including me, loved Kenny Burrell's style and tried to copy and incorporate it into their own styling in some way, regardless of their instrument. Over the noise of the outside world, I listened to Kenny Burrell and tried my best to copy his phrasing with my voice. That’s how much his music moved me. Listening to this incredible musician, now, I still love his luscious sounds, 45 years later, with a special appreciation for the man who was then only 35 years old with so much of his life and career still to be explored. Kenny Burrell’s sound on his album, Man At Work, in 1966 was so rich, so mellow, so smooth, it was intoxicating.

I think I would have missed out on that music had it not been for my mother, who loved both jazz and classical music--the mellower, the better. She also loved Dave Brubeck, especially Take FiveSome of my friends thought my mother was being a bit pretentious, but her love for this music was real. And that's what we listened to at home when I was child, while my friends listened to this new thing, called Rock-and-Roll, in their homes, either on radio if they could receive a signal from Houston's black stations, KYOK or KCOH, or a record player if they had one.

We had a beat-up second-hand record player my mother picked up at a used furniture store. She placed the contraption in a corner of our living room beside her reading chair in front of the bookcase. No 
one--not me, my father or my grandmother--was allowed to touch my mother's records or her record player. She was very careful not to let the needle that touched the records become damaged. Once when I dropped the needle arm by accident on one of her records, I thought I would be banished from the house.

"A damaged needle," she said, "will scratch the records and they will become fuzzy with loosened vinyl and look something like a woolen sweater and I don't want you trying to play a woolen sweater on my record player." The end of her patience with me came when she caught me playing a borrowed scratched Chuck Berry record on her record player. The condition of the record dulled her needle. That's when she found another used record player for me to play my collection. I didn't get to play my records much because she was always playing hers. I finally lost interest in anything but jazz, especially jazz guitarist, Kenny Burrell, and jazz vocalist and organist, Jimmy Smith.

Kenny Burrell recorded Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You for his Midnight Blue album, recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on April 6-7, 1963. Every singer who was a singer or was trying to be a singer covered that song. Some were good and some were, well let's say, were not so good. Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to Youfirst recorded by Don Redman on November 5, 1929, in New York, was written by Redman and Andy Razat and later covered by Nat King Cole and Nancy Wilson. Those were the great versions of the song. 

I learned my version of Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You by listening to Nancy Wilson and then embellishing in a way that did not please my mother. She said she didn't think I was old enough or mature enough to sing that kind of song when I was 13 years old. "What do you know about that kind of feeling?" She asked. "Your heart has never been out of your chest." What was she talking about? Well, not too many years later I found out.

Kenny Burrell is a UCLA professor and Director of Jazz Studies, where he teaches jazz performance, jazz history, improvisation, composition, jazz combos, contemporary jazz ensemble, and ethnomusicology.

Kenny Burrell, jazz guitarist and ethnomusicology instructor at UCLA

Kenny Burrell, Classroom, UCLA 
Kenny Burrell MP3 Download Page
In 1978, Burrell developed a course on Duke Ellington, the first university course on Ellington in the United States. Burrell recorded a tribute, Ellington Is Forever, in 1975, one year after Ellington’s death in 1974. Known as Ellington’s favorite guitarist, although he never played with him, Burrell played banjo on Hot and Bothered by Ellington’s son, Mercer, in 1984.

African American National Biography

African American National Biography:
 12-Volume Set (African American
History Reference)

Sunny Nash was among 1,700 scholars 
to contribute to the 12-volume publication
Founder of the Jazz Heritage Foundation and the Friends of Jazz at UCLA, Kenny Burrell was named 2004 DownBeat Magazine Jazz Educator of the Year. Harvard and Oxford commissioned me to write Burrell's biography for their joint project, African American National Biography, published in 2008. Categories include performing arts, business, education, medicine, government, literature, law, music, religion, science and many others. 

In my category, Rhythm & Blues (R&B) and Jazz, I used my performing and studio experience, journalism education and understanding of the history of race relations in America, my biographies included jazz guitarist, Kenny Burrell; jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player, Clark Terry; and pioneer R&B singer-songwriter, Ben E. King. R&B or soul music as it became known and the Civil Rights Movement were closely related during the 1960s. 

Gates and Higginbotham hope the books will be used by scholars and will have a place in schools, libraries, and in African American homes. Higginbotham says, “What better way to understand the richness, complexity, and depth of African American history than through biography, because people’s lives are so complex.” The African American National Biography is a compilation of more than 4,000 articles on the contributions of African Americans to the history of the United States and the world. Also on the link, see other related titles on this subject.

Custom Search Kenny Burrell, Jazz, Guitar or other Topics.


Sunny Nash – Race Relations in America

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jim Crow & Small Work Spaces

How much space do you need to change the world?

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Montgomery Improvement Association Meeting
Rosa Parks (center front) 
Montgomery Improvement Association Meeting
Led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Freedom Walkers: 
The Story of the 
Montgomery Bus Boycott 

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King used organizational skills to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

"Do you think Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King had grand offices with marble floors and beveled glass windows and doors to conduct Montgomery Bus Boycott business and the Civil Rights Movement?" My mother asked. "Of course they didn't! And without any luxuries, they went about the business of civil rights to kick open some doors for you! Do you think Jim Crow cared about the size of their office or if they hold meetings sitting on folding chairs? You think they needed a big office or even chairs to do what they were doing? No!"

My mother took no nonsense when it came to entitlements and me begging for a larger share of our small house to spread out my things. She was strict in her belief that one had to take what one had and do the most they could with it before even daring to think they would get some bigger or better. As she was preaching to me, I realized I would not get a shelf in another room for my stuff. And she made me feel so bad about my little problem that I stopped begging for better accommodations and decided to do more with my space. Looking at those streamlined corners made me want to go on and do something important, like devoting time on a regular basis to cleaning my room.

It was 10 years after all that fussing, my mother's words were still with me as they are still with me today and I see her point. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the rest of them made something really important happen to in the nation and the world in their Montgomery Bus Boycott meeting rooms, that were small and temporary, moving from place to place because of finances and politics. Although the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted more than a year 1955-56, they led communities all over the nation to use nonviolence and morality to gain racial change in the United States, leading eventually--ten years later--to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Right Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. 

Lyndon Johnson signs 1964 Civil Rights Act

Paying for College without Going Broke, College Admissions Guide
Paying for College
Without Going Broke
 2014 Edition
(College Admissions Guides)
"You think a president can become president without organizational skills or a plan? Do you think Miss Rosetta can keep her beauty shop running without organizational skills or a plan? You think I can keep this house running without organizational skills or a plan?" 

Oh, that's where she's going--organizational skills. "Why do I need a college education?" I asked her. 

"So when things change," she said, "You will be ready. And if they don't change, don't you know want to know how to do things anyway? Oh, yes! You are going to college! And you will get a scholarship! I can't go broke sending you to college. I'm already broke!"

I never thought I was listening to my mother, but I must have been paying closer attention than I thought. I owe my organizational skills and abilities to plan to my mother. She was as orderly in her professional and domestic habits as she was in her beauty habits. With little money, she taught me to live large in a small space and manage the space as meticulously as I would a mansion. 

"Everything depends on your plan and organizational skills; messy room, messy mind," my mother said.

I hated those talks about how small my study space had to be and that I had to make the best of it anyway because my little room was not going to grow any bigger in our tiny house. "If you're not organized, you can't get a college education, let alone get a scholarship to help pay for a college education." I never had anything to contribute to those discussions and I never understood where my mother was leading me. No one I knew needed or used their college education. We weren't allowed to do anything meaningful when I was growing up--janitor, cleaning lady, cook, driver, preacher, shoe shiner, barber, beautician or teacher in black schools. But I listened to her anyway. I knew there was a lesson in all her talk, somewhere.

We lived in a very small cottage with no built-in closets, just shallow alcoves where my mother devised ingenious ways of storage and called it her style, ship living

How much worse could living on a ship have been, I thought. Dolls and dogs had more room in their houses than we did. My room was like a small box and even my mother had to be inventive to make it work, especially with an array of relatives always on hand needing a place to sleep for a few days and sometimes much longer.

"Everything has a place," she said. "So, let's make sure we put everything back in its place. You don't need much to organize a place to work or study," she said, helping me arrange the little office. "Some boards, nails, a curtain and paint will do it."

My mother arranged file storage in shoe boxes under her bed and had a tiny make-shift office with a desk and shelves in the corner. To save space, she later ordered a corner desk from a mail order company and relocated her tiny make-shift office into my room. It fit nicely into a portable closet my father had made when he was learning cabinetmaking in Veteran's School after World War II. 

My mother believed in using every inch of space to maximum efficiency and she made me feel guilty by comparing me with great people like Rosa Parks. 

Google Custom Search

Clutter made my mother physically ill. She organized everything! And I will not even mention her kitchen. All spoons of the same size were kept together; pots with their lids stayed together. Dishcloths were folded in a drawer and stacked by color. My grandmother, who lived with us, was the only person allowed to touch my mother's kitchen. My father and I didn't mind. It kept us from having to wash the dishes.

All of these events influenced my mother's rearing techniques. She could see the changes and wanted me to be ready. A thing as seemingly benign as keeping my room clean and clutter free went a long way in preparing me for the coming changes and the competition those changes would bring. I am astonished by my mother's vision. She had no way of knowing the full impact technology would have on me. Although, I admit, she loved electronics and science. Each time new gadgets came on the market that she could afford, she got them. We had color television set when I was growing up and pretty sophisticated stereo systems. 

I can only imagine her enthusiasm with laptop computers and cellphones. By the time, the world became digitized, my mother had checked her interest in electronic gadgetry at the door. In her later years, she was only mildly interested in such things, although she was very curious about social media and how it would probably ruin the world. But I know she would have been delighted in the compact file storage of a flash drive. 

I'm not affected as severely by disorganization as my mother was, but disorganization causes me to feel vulnerable about my work and my life. When I am disorganized and surrounded by papers and business cards I have collected, some of which I no longer recognize, I lose concentration, start browsing the web, watching television, snacking or calling a friend. Avoid the dangers of disorganization and clutter by any means necessary! In the wake of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1954-55), black families used every means to raise the future of their children and my mother was no exception. 

Sunny Nash
Sunny Nash
Bigmama Didn't Shop  At Woolworth's by Sunny Nash
Bigmama Didn't Shop
At Woolworth's

by Sunny Nash

Hard Cover
Bigmama Didn't Shop 
at Woolworth's

Amazon Kindle
Bigmama Didn't Shop 
at Woolworth's
Sunny Nash is the author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press), about life in the with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement. Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations; listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida for Native American collections.

Nash is also a producer, photographer, blogger and a leading writer on race relations in America--writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking, using her book, Bigmama Didn't Shop at Woolworth's, chosen by the Association of American University Presses for its value to understanding of U.S. race relations, to relate experiences about life with her part-Comanche grandmother.  

© 2014 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
~Thank You~