1915: It Was a Very Good Year

Sinatra

By John Lawrence

1915 was a very good year because three giants of twentieth century music were born that year: Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday and Billy Strayhorn. This year is the hundredth anniversary of their births.

By far the best known is Frank Sinatra, born in Hoboken, NJ to a middle class Italian family. His mother, Dolly, was a real go getter who became a political force in Hoboken. She secured Frank his first real job as a singer with the Hoboken Four, and got her husband hired by the Fire Department. When they told her they didn’t have any openings, she told them, “Make one.” They did.

Frank’s stories of growing up poor were so much BS. The Sinatra family moved into a $13,400. house in Hoboken in the middle of the Depression, an astronomical sum in those days. She had befriended so many people in Hoboken that, when the Democratic machine needed votes, Dolly could deliver them. She also had a thriving business as a midwife and an abortionist. Unfortunately, she died in a plane crash, a plane that Frank had chartered to bring her from Palm Springs to Las Vegas for his opening at Caesar’s Palace.   [Read more…]

Natalie Cressman and Band a Hit at Dizzy’s Jazz Club

natalie 2

By John Lawrence

Singer-songwriter-trombonist Natalie Cressman brought her quintet to Dizzy’s Jazz Club Saturday, July 11. Natalie has been creating quite a stir lately with her 8th place finish in the trombone category of the Down Beat Critics poll, Rising Star division.. Her band has a very contemporary sound, sort of a jazz-rock groove. And groove they did.

Natalie wrote most of the songs. I’m assuming she did the arrangements too which were fantastic. She made the most out of two horns – trumpet and trombone – and a killer rhythm section consisting of Mike Bono on guitar, Michael Mitchell on drums and Adam Goldman on bass. I particularly enjoyed the drummer although he stayed in the background the whole time. There was an energy to this band especially when they cut loose on the last number.   [Read more…]

Film Review: ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’

What Happened, Miss Simone? Nina Simone

By Alex Demyanenko / Capital & Main

The first shot of What Happened, Miss Simone? shows a crowd applauding the appearance of a singer. After years of a self-imposed hiatus, Nina Simone walks onstage, and with one hand on a piano, bows. For a full 10 seconds. She then looks up and out at the rapturous audience. But she is not smiling. Her stare is intense. Some will see fear in her eyes. Others will see indifference. Others might even see loathing. Or all of it.

Once Simone sits at the piano and the applause ends, she does nothing for half a minute. The uncomfortable silence is finally broken by her softy saying “Hello” into the mic, only to be greeted by a fan shouting, “Hi. We are ready!” But is Simone? After seeing Liz Garbus’ documentary, an even better question is, “Was she ever?”

Not everyone who is thrust into stardom is ready for it or even desirous of it. There is no doubt that part of Simone loved being famous, but the juxtaposed moods in this opening scene are palpable and unnerving for a reason. The moment is not only a metaphor for Simone’s fascinating journey as the most compelling and provocative diva of her time, but also a harbinger of what is to come for the next 100 minutes, a document of a life full of contradiction that poses almost as many questions as it answers.   [Read more…]

Summer Chronicles #2: That Music You Are Hearing

Translucent

By Jim Miller

Gary Snyder is a courage teacher. His fine new book of poems, This Present Moment, is a meditation on wonder and impermanence. In it, for instance, we learn to value our laptops “Because whole worlds of writing can be boldly laid out and then highlighted/and vanish in the flash at ‘delete,’/so it teaches of impermanence and pain.”

And it’s true, the miracle of creation that comes out of “a formless face/which is our Original Face,” but as soon as the words are formed the self who made them is no longer there.

Still there is beauty, and moments of grace are there to be found and cherished in “the morning and night coming together,” the “glacier scrapes across the bedrock,” and “the deep dense woods.” You just need to follow “the shining way of the wild” and “hang in, work it out, watch for the moment.”   [Read more…]

The History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights: 1950s Social Clubs–Los Gallos

Los Gallos Dance Ticket - Neighborhood House

Social clubs have been a noteworthy part of Logan Height’s history. After WWII, Leonard Fierro, Frank Peñuelas, Mike Negrete and Armando Rodriguez were reunited and started a new Toltec Club based on Frank’s 1930s prototype at Neighborhood House. Girls participated in the Lucky 13 Club. The 1950s brought a revived interest in social clubs for the young people in Logan Heights. Los Gallos was one of the first of these clubs.
  [Read more…]

Lena Horne: A Great Lady Who Broke the Color Line

Lena Horne was the first black woman to get a contract with a major Hollywood Studio

By John Lawrence

Born into a black bourgeoisie family in 1917, Lena Horne was signed up in the NAACP by her grandmother, Cora Calhoun Horne, a college graduate, at the age of two. The Hornes owned a four-story residence in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn.

The distinguished Horne family included teachers, activists and a Harlem Renaissance poet. Lena’s uncle became dean of a black college. According to James Gavin’s biography of Lena, Stormy Weather, the black bourgeoisie were descendants of favored slaves “privileged blacks who, by virtue of their brains or their sexual allure to their masters, had worked in the house, not in the field. During the decade-long heyday of Reconstruction, they’d used their cachet to start businesses and gain social standing.”

Lena’s grandmother drilled into her respectability at all costs. She was to use proper diction, no dialect allowed, and always present herself as a lady. Cora was a determined fighter for black causes, and, despite her disdain for whites, she married a white man. According to Gavin, Cora’s cafe au lait skin, thin lips and delicate nose betrayed generations of intermingling with whites. Her maiden name, Calhoun, came from her father’s slavemaster in Georgia, Dr. Andrew Bonaparte Calhoun. His uncle was Senator John C Calhoun who championed slavery as God’s will.   [Read more…]

Celebrations of César E. Chávez Span Six Weeks Around San Diego

“The legacy of the United Farm Workers union in its first decade provides us with key lessons for the present and future. It reminds us that grass-roots power organized and deployed by ‘disposable’ workers, fearlessness in the face of corporate exploitation, and the political uses of music, theater, and ritual can change history. In 2015, in a society based on greed and personal ambition, we ignore these lessons at own peril.” –Jorge Mariscal, Professor, UC San Diego

While Monday, March 31st is the official César E. Chávez day, activities celebrating his legacy as a labor and civil rights leader will continue into May. The day is commemorated to promote service to the community in honor of his life and work. The ongoing activities are about continuing that legacy.

Thanks to the UCSD Blink, produced by the faculty and staff of that fine institution, for providing us with a list of activities over the next six weeks honoring the life and achievements of César E. Chávez.   [Read more…]

National City’s Mariachi Festival Set for March 14th

By Barbara Zaragoza / South Bay Compass

It’s time for the Third Annual Mariachi Festival! National City expects between 10-15,000 people to join in the fun. Last year they had 11,000 people, making it one of the largest mariachi events in San Diego County.

This year, National City has invited mariachi students from throughout the United States and Mexico. At least 10 groups will compete and professional judges will hand out awards based on their stiff rubric.

The festival — which is free to the public — will also include ballet folklorico, a live Latin Band, carnival game booths, a beer garden and food.   [Read more…]

Plastic Handgun: Experimental Dream Pop with a Rock Blasting Cap

By Layla Marino

Plastic Handgun is a solo project dreamed up by Toronto artist Mark Di Giovanni, with the emphasis on “dream.”

The impression most listeners will have upon first listen is of a heavy dream pop vibe, but there is much more going on in Plastic Handgun’s sonic world. Somewhat like Mogwai smashed into Ratatat but with a sound all its own, Plastic Handgun may be the new thing in 2015 that hipsters crave.

Involuntary Memories is the name of the most recent Plastic Handgun album, self-released by Di Giovanni in early January. Not much is known yet about this project, nor its creator but the music says quite a bit on its own.   [Read more…]

Chargers’ Point Man Calls Out Mayor’s Malarkey On Stadium Task Force

By Doug Porter 

Chargers’ special counsel Mark Fabiani has done San Diego a huge favor by pointing out the obvious. He’s single-handedly challenged the existing political narrative about the politics of the process being used in deciding on the advisability of building a new stadium.

You won’t find me among those pining away for the possibility of a new football stadium in America’s Finest City, even though I sometimes wonder if I’m addicted to watching games. 

First, there’s the silliness of taxpayers being expected to subsidize a rich man’s game in return for the possibility of an endorphin rush at some future time. And then there’s my sense that the long-term prospects for the sport aren’t very good, what with players’ health issues, spousal abuse scandals, and anything having to do with Patriots’ coach Bill Belechick.

(Malarkey was the best synonym I could come up with for “bullshit,” a word that’s too easy to use when describing the goings on at San Diego’s city hall.)    [Read more…]

Pop Artist Mark Maze is a One-Man Electronic Dance Music Scene

By Layla Marino

Collaborations rule the landscape nowadays in pop music. Since the cusp of the 21st century, there has been a growing emphasis on the producers and writers of pop songs as well as the performing singers. This trend began largely in hip hop with characters like Lil’ John and Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes, but quickly spread to include other genres.

Along a similar timeline, EDM grew out of the underground rave scene, where producers were the only stars. As EDM and pop combined, famous singers and famous producers joined forces to create tracks which have the wild beats and danceability of rave music, but the verse-chorus-verse song structure and iconic singers of the classic pop song.

Today it’s not at all unusual to see rave producers like Tiesto and Steve Aoki teaming up with the likes of Nelly Furtado and Iggy Azalea. In fact these collaborations may be more common than not in 2015. London singer/songwriter Mark Maze has become an exception in pop and EDM, as he both writes and performs all of his music and vocals.   [Read more…]

Singer Liz Graham Folks It Up On Her Upcoming Album

By Layla Marino

Liz Graham is a well-established folk singer and songwriter from Nyack, New York. With her operatic voice and the slightly unconventional key in which she normally writes her music, she found success with her self-titled album in 1998.

Her first album in 17 years, entitled Colorful and Piercing, releases on mp3 any day now, with the first single available on her Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages.

Graham began her folk career at a young age, starting in a band called Tracking Buddha in 1996, and even before that she was appearing on radio and in small clubs.   [Read more…]

The Torn Images’ ‘Reviver’ Aims to Revive 90s Grunge

By Layla Marino

With indie rock sounding more and more homogenous these days as it combines with pop to create an amorphous blob of musical pabulum, many bands are looking to the past for inspiration.

Folk and blues were the first genres to be mined for their creative spark, as exemplified by Jack White, Mumford and Sons and the Arctic Monkeys. The indie artists of today then began their sacking of vintage stores everywhere for old synthesizers to re-create the haunting new wave sounds of the 80s.

It only follows that the next genre to be pilfered would be grunge. Unlike some bands who only got the bright idea to appropriate the feedback-and-integrity-driven sounds of the early 90s, Fountain Valley’s The Torn Images have been drawing influence from grunge and early indie rock for a few years, since 2012.   [Read more…]

Jazz Pianist Josh Nelson at Croce’s Park West

By John Lawrence

A rare night out on the town took Judy and me to San Diego’s premier jazz supper club, Croce’s Park West, at 2760 5th Avenue, to hear Los Angeles pianist Josh Nelson and his trio for a tribute to the great American composers – Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and the Gershwins.

Arriving there we decided to use the valet parking since Judy is ambulatorily challenged. For $5 it was cheaper than a lot and within 10 steps of the door. What a deal! Croce’s has a music room separate from the noisiness of the bar area, full of comfortable seating, warm ambiance and great sight lines. The non-amplified music was gentle on our ears.

Josh was running a little late having had a harrowing day. His car carrying himself and drummer Dan Schnelle had broken down in Long Beach. Fortunately for him and for us, there was a rental agency nearby. It was a miracle that he made the gig at all.   [Read more…]

Echo Sparks: How Country Music is Supposed to Sound

By Layla Marino

The term “junkyard country” was coined by an artist called Ponyboy in 2013. It seems that re-naming country is necessary nowadays, as it’s been co-opted by the mainstream media to include pabulum such as Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and, of course, the ubiquitous princess of snooze-pop, Taylor Swift.

Even fans of the already overly evolved country of the 90s such as Billy Ray Cyrus or Garth Brooks would agree that country’s current state of affairs has very little to do with cowboys, spittoons and Americana.

Having grown up in a largely country-hating household, I was not exposed to much of it as a child, and I can distinctly remember my dad saying most of it sounded like “two cats fighting in a burlap sack.” However, some of the old country music isn’t completely unfortunate.   [Read more…]

Bay Area’s CommonUnion59 Captures the Essence of Folk with No Hipster Pretense [Video]

By Layla Marino

Many music fans nowadays are feeling the weight of ironic hipster folk and blues bands pressing down on them like a big, plaid, beardy lumberjack’s boot.

Though it seems folkster bands like Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes are sincere in their reverence for the mountain people music of days gone by, there is a definite hint of irony in most of the culture surrounding these folk throwback sounds. Just because one enjoys a full beard and dueling banjos, one should not feel obligated to begin whittling Adirondack chairs and the canning of one’s own pickles.

CommonUnion59, a duo from San Francisco, have found one way to combat these fervent folksters.   [Read more…]

Hold on to Freedom

By Bob Dorn

Freedom.  A word we don’t hear lately, cheated of life by politicians who told us that’s what wars are for.

After all those wars fought in its name, did we lose the concept, freedom?  What took its place? Hate?  Maybe that’s what’s left.

We’ve been suffocated by war; our culture is dying from it.  Road rage is normal. The military mails advanced war games to little boys whose memories of all those explosions can be tickled once they reach 18, all ready for the next “conflict.”  War is just a digital metaphor, a collection of remote buttons until they’re turned into launcher’s buttons.

Yipeee… they’re all gonna die, is that what Country Joe sang?  Nope, he said, we’re all gonna die.   [Read more…]

San Diego Community Speaks Out Against Police Brutality

Don’t Shoot: Show Love to Take Place in Barrio Logan  

By Nepantla Collective

In light of an ongoing epidemic of police brutality, both locally and around the globe, where targets are predominantly impoverished, marginalized and/or people of color, the Nepantla Collective will be hosting a one-day event in Barrio Logan, entitled “Don’t Shoot: Show Love”. This event will take place on Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 3pm to 10pm in in Barrio Logan’s Barrio Arts District.

Monica Hernandez of the Nepantla Collective breaks down why they decided to organize the events and why Barrio Logan was chosen as the venue:

A few years back, my best friend was severely brutalized and beaten by SDPD. Granted he had been rightfully stopped for a traffic violation & had drank a few beers that evening, but by no means did that warrant the excessive force that left his entire body severely bruised. He could barely walk for days, but what hurt me more than to see him in such physical pain, was the look in his eyes that reflected a loss of dignity, which had been brutally stripped from his soul that day.

It was the same look my brother had when he was released from incarceration after being arrested at a student protest. My brother had been charged with assault and battery of a police officer, when in fact it was them (about 3 – 4 officers) who had kicked and broken one of my brother’s ribs. Fortunately we had video footage of the incident and after over a year in court, the Superior Court of Alameda County not only dismissed all charges but also granted a factual finding of innocence.

  [Read more…]

Barrio Arts District Shines with Multiple Cultural Events in Barrio Logan

Barrio Art Jam, Barrio Art Crawl and Concerts in the Barrio Take Place this Weekend

By Brent E. Beltrán

Barrio Logan is becoming well known for its thriving, grassroots arts scene. This weekend’s activities are proof of that. From Friday through Sunday numerous cultural events will take place within San Diego’s most historic Chicano community.

The events include the 2nd annual Barrio Art Jam at La Bodega on Friday night, Barrio Art Crawl throughout the Barrio Arts District on Saturday afternoon/evening and the Barrio Logan Association’s Concerts in the Barrio at the Mercado del Barrio plaza on Sunday afternoon.   [Read more…]

Bay Area Poets and Musicians to Share Talents on Behalf of Refugee Children

Logan Heights Restaurateur to Host Flor y Canto and Future Community Events

By Brent E. Beltrán

Flor y canto. Flower and song. Poetry. Music. Love.

This Saturday afternoon Mark Lane of Poppas’s Fresh Fish in Logan Heights is going to help share some musical and literary love. The parking lot of his small restaurant will be the site of the 3rd annual Flor y Canto where poets and musicians will share their words on behalf of the border refugee children.

Mark Lane was thrust into the immigrant rights spotlight after calling for a boycott of Murrieta, California and taking in a refugee family from Guatemala. I interviewed him recently about the hate and threats he faced from those wanting to send refugee families back to their country of origin to face possible death.   [Read more…]

Video Pick: Which Side Are You On?

Wanted:  A Living Wage

By Anna Daniels

It is useful exercise to remind ourselves that the battle for an increased minimum wage/sick leave benefit in San Diego is not a new one. Peel back the right wing maker versus taker meme and you get Howard Zinn, placing today’s minimum wage struggle firmly in our collective history of bitter class conflict between the rich and the poor and working class.

In 1944, when Franklin Roosevelt was running for his third term, he emphasized the need for an economic bill of rights as a vehicle for addressing the limitations of the political Bill of Rights. This economic bill of rights would have constitutionally guaranteed that workers have a living wage, would not have to work more than a certain number of hours and that the people would be entitled to vacations and healthcare. An economic bill of rights never materialized. Today, here in San Diego, we are experiencing the results of this omission.   [Read more…]

Few Are Left Fighting For The Ché

By Kyle Trujillo, UCSD Undergrad

On Wednesday of finals week, June 11, I cut short a study session and hurried across campus to Scholar’s drive to the Ché Cafe Collective. I knew it as the Che. Besides, it had recently been stripped of its “collective” status. It was the first time I was going to a meeting and not a show.

As I approached the colorful building I slowed down to listen. The walls could talk. The faces of Rigoberta Menchu, Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Karl Marx, former student Angela Davis, and a prowling black panther. In red and black, the face of Ché Guevara stares fiercely from an outer wall and looks out proudly on the inner courtyard. The many murals are not just the work of students, but also local artist Mario Torero and the designer and activist Shepard Fairey.

On the cooperative’s Facebook event page, about 120 had clicked to attend. My heart sunk when I saw that only 20 were actually able to join in. My heart sunk further when I learned only three of us were students. I should have expected this. It was finals week – people who weren’t studying were already flying and driving home.   [Read more…]

Howard the Homeless

By Bob Dorn

About 50 feet away, at another bench, a metals guy with two giant white bags calls out, as I take a rest, “Can you play something.”

It’s not exactly a question, but it’s no insult either. It is an interruption, but then so is the trumpet played in the park.

I was doing exercises, at length, three of them: a sounding of all tones on the horn, from a wobbly low F that’s nearly false on up to high C; about 20 odd fingering combinations down in the lower range that are to the fingers what tongue twisters are to the tongue; and II-V-I chord progressions in all 12 keys.

They’re meant to defeat the sometime player. I know I’ll never be able to execute them flawlessly.   [Read more…]

Living Publicly with the Trumpet

By Bob Dorn

I started practicing the trumpet in the park near my home back in 2009, about the time I thought I’d acquired enough control over the horn to avoid embarrassing myself.

I’d been at it a total of about 11 years, not counting the month- or 2-month-long abandonments that flowed from extreme frustration with the difficulty of the instrument. Tom Harrell, one of its best contemporary players and a much admired composer, has said, “(T)he hardest part of playing the trumpet is the physical act of making the sound.”

It’s a six-foot-long metal tube about one-half an inch in circumference which is interrupted by three cylinders – valves – that can be opened and shut by the fingers in seven different combinations that alter the distance air travels through the tube in degrees precise enough to change the tones the tube produces. Lip tension can raise those tones but most – not all – the notes produced by altering the lip tension require a change in the fingering.

That’s all there is to it. Like teeth are all there is to a shark.   [Read more…]

Earth Day with Trumpet Player: Mr. F Doesn’t Race Jaguars, and Bret Knows The End is Near

By Bob Dorn

Separated from each other by temperament — and some 30 or 40 minutes — Mr. F and Bret find their ways to a place in the park I don’t normally choose for my practice sessions. The car was out of gas, and the benches out front of our condo were empty, so… The thing is, it’s Earth Day, and how long will I be left to myself?

Mr. F (not his name, by the way) is shy and awkward (despite the hearty urban male fist bump he’ll be offering once he’s comfortable) and it takes him three or four minutes to get within some 10 feet of me – clearly inside the inter-personal radius — and he can’t make eye contact as he circles.

He was wearing a showy stadium jacket, altogether appropriate for the chilly Earth Day morning, with Jaguar racing emblem and crew designation and other racing signs. I asked him if he raced Jaguars; he looked away and murmured something. The competition between his behavior and his strange camouflage is causing noticeable dissonance. He has approached and retreated.   [Read more…]