Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martin Luther King toasted by Walter Mosley and the Persuasions

Billing itself as the biggest MLK celebration in New York City, Brooklyn Academy of Music's annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the best way I can think of celebrate the man (rather than just sleeping late and being thankful for the day off from work).

For their 25th celebration (which happened yesterday), BAM had a parade of local politicians, including Michael Bloomberg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Anthony Weiner, Chuck Schumer and Marty Markowitz (who had the most stirring speech among the pols, many of whom talked about gun control in the wake of the Arizona massacre and Dr. King's own murder).

But for the celebration/tribute, the most stirring voices came from elsewhere. Author Walter Mosley (best known for his Easy Rawlins detective series) was the keynote speaker and he took the time to address (appropriate for the day), the question of race in America, which is one that was often on MLK's mind and which we keep trying to run away from today. Mosley attacked the question with precision, using not just anger but also cold, hard analysis and challenges. I videoed as much as I could of his speech (in three parts below) but wish I could have tapped more.

Along with the Reverend Timothy Wright Memorial Choir, the other musical guest for the day was acappella legends Persuasions (who happened to start out in Brooklyn). Though leader Jerry Lawson left the group about seven years ago, three original members remain. The several numbers they did for the BAM show were very moving indeed, including Lennon's "Imagine" which they turned into a moving sing-a-long towards the end. They did take issues with JL's line about 'no religion' and did want to prove that they (and we) needed some later. Several clips of their performance are below too.



Monday, January 10, 2011

LA-33: Bogota-style salsa

Every year, some fine records come out that I don't find out about until the following year (I'm sure that happens to you too). For me right now, one of the best ones was from a Colombian salsa band called LA-33.

At the always-entertaining Globalfest in New York this past weekend, they were the highlight. No other band I saw there got the crowd dancing as much or put on such a lively stage show. As with any band like that, it's hard to capture that excitement on disc (hint: see 'em live) but their latest Ten Cuidado (available from their website) is a good souvenir to savor. Live, bandleader/bassist Sergio Mejia (top right in the photo) leads the band melodically but on record, you're more likely to hear out the horn section, especially sax-man Juan F. Cardenas, and the three percussionists. Live, you also get to see the dynamics of the three singers and a stage show that climaxes with the whole band freezing in dramatic poses except for Cardenas, who blows solo like a wildman until the rest of the band comes roaring back in.

With Ten Cuidado, you have a fine danceable record, featuring songs from Mejia and Cardenas alongside the Police's "Roxanne" (which is much more bearable here than hearing Sting sing it). Also on this third album, they supposedly lean heavier on political commentary and boogaloo music (combo of R&B and Cuban music) but what you might notice is the "Sympathy For the Devil" intro on Cardenas' "Salsa Resucito" (granted that the Stones themselves took their cue from salsa) or the exciting "Me Quedo" where the singers and horns try to outdo each other (it's a draw, but an exciting one) or the killer finale "Mambo Con Boogaloo" which almost captures the heat of their shows. True, you don't get their hilarious take on the "Pink Panther Theme" here but it's not an album that you wanna sit down to listen to nevertheless.