Rich Kienzle

Rich Kienzle

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                                                                         Victoria Will/AP

 Harry Belafonte, singer, actor and political activist, turns 90 today.

Born March 1, 1927, the Harlem-born Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr. was the child of biracial parents. His mother had Jamaican and white roots; his father was of Jewish and Martinique ancestry. After World War II Navy service, he gravitated to the black theater and became friendly with unknown actor Sidney Portier, studying drama with Portier, Tony Curtis, Bea Arthur, Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando.

To fund his schooling, he sang in New York City clubs including the famous jazz club the Royal Roost, leading to the first phase of his musical career. We'll look at his music and activism and shed light into some obscure aspects of his musical career.

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coryell

When guitarist Larry Coryell first gained national media notice in the mid to late 60's, the term best describing his music was "jazz-rock," which preceded the now-common "fusion." Coryell was there at the start, before John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Lee Ritenour, Al DiMeola, Mike and Leni Stern or Bill Frisell. The 73 year old musician had been playing at Iridium in Manhattan when he died unexpectedly February 19 of heart problems.

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EMMANUEL

Tommy Emmanuel, who appears at the Byham Theatre Sunday at 7:30 is part of a long tradition of fingerstyle guitarists. The Australian-born musician is renowned for a level of virtuosity and versatility not unlike that of his first guitar hero, Chet Atkins (1924-2001). The guitarist-producer, known primarily as a country player, was known for his diverse repertoire, and later gave himself the tongue-in-cheek title "C. G. P." or "Certified Guitar Player." Emmanuel is one of the elite quintet of friends on whom Chet bestowed that title. The others are singer-guitarist Steve Wariner, John Knowles, the late country star Jerry Reed and Paul Yandell, Chet's guitar accompanist on his stage shows.

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My review of Alison Krauss's "Windy City," a collection of classic Nashville country (and pop-country) covers.

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 My review of "In The Ground," the just-released album by the award-winning traditional bluegrass duo The Gibson Brothers

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Al Jarreau -- The Comic Actor: 1981 (Repost)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017 07:50

 

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SCTV, the groundbreaking TV satire shot in Canada, was on  a creative roll in 1981. Built around TV spoofs (including the fictional SCTV network), the cast was built around late John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Pittsburgh native Joe Flaherty, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas and Catherine O'Hara (later joined by Martin Short). The show's writing team wanted to integrate musical guests into the comedy sketches. They did this with a number of luminaries, among them Dr. John, Natalie Cole, John Mellencamp, Roy Orbison, Tony Bennett, Levon Helm, Ian Thomas (Dave's younger brother), the Tubes--and Al Jarreau.  (Photo: Jarreau with Rick Moranis as Phil Silvers).

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I didn't make Grammy picks.  I rarely if ever do. I know a bit about the politics and intrigues that go with it.  I was a member of the Nashville Chapter of NARAS for about 15 years with voting privileges.   Besides, I judge records on the merits (or lack of same) of the music itself. I don't care--and never have--if an album is going Platinum or sales are anemic.   Six albums I reviewed on my 2016 "Believe Your Ears" podcasts ended up Grammy winners, either the entire album or an individual song.   Here's the six, with links to the original podcasts from last year.

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Jazz Vocal Master Al Jarreau: 1940-2017

Sunday, 12 February 2017 20:33

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Jarreau in 2012                                                             (Luca Bruno, AP)

 Singer Al Jarreau, who died in Los Angeles today at 76, just announced his retirement days earlier, having dealt with health issues going back to 2010. A genuine stylist, Jarreau, who worked in occupational therapy, didn't actively pursue a musical career until the late 60's and early 70's. While many jazz vocalists never manage to expand their appeal beyond their core audience, Jarreau took his distinctive, rhythmic approach to jazz vocalizing beyond jazz to the mainstream, finding acceptance in the R&B and the pop fields. Jarreau, who died the night of the annual Grammy Awards, won six Grammys of his own between 1978 and 2007.

You can find the information anywhere; these selected videos tell the story.

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My review of Roy Orbison's Black & White Night 30 (audio portion), his legendary 1987 concert, expanded and upgraded, out on CD/DVD February 24th.

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Marty Stuart's latest album, Way Out West, due out March 10, is an atmospheric effort taking the Grand Ole Opry stalwart, country historian and traditionalist him beyond his usual Southeast-Appalachian-Delta roots to offer his reflections on the Far West.

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