I’m happy to announce that I’m a featured poet during Nation Poetry Month 2023 on author Dee Lawrence’s blog Vocal Expressions. The feature includes an interview and two poems, “The Words We Used To Say” and “BLACK NATION.”
Much gratitude and appreciation to Dee Lawrence for providing this opportunity, along with a platform for highlighting poets during one of our favorite months of the year. To learn more about Dee Lawrence, go to Vocal Expressions or check her out on IG.
Tell me/Who’ll pay reparations on my soul?/Who’ll pay reparations/‘Cause I don’t dig segregation/but Ican’t get integration/I got to take it to the United Nations/Someone tohelp me away from this nation/Tell me/Who’ll pay reparations on my soul? ~ Gil Scott-Heron, “Who‘ll Pay Reparations For My Soul?,” Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970)
Gil Scott-Heron, famed author, poet, and musician, would’ve turned 64 on April 1, 2013. I discovered his works when I was a teenager. Scott-Heron opened my eyes (and ears) to new ways of combiningpowerful, revolutionary words with jazz, blues, and soul music. A self-described “Blues-ologist,” Scott-Heron’s artistry carried on in theAfrican American literary and musical traditions that preceded him.
Scott-Heron’s legacy is often reduced to him being the Godfather of Hip-Hop/Rap, but there is so much more to him and his literary and musical contributions than that. His work, ever culturally, socially, and politically conscious, served as honest, thought-provoking reflections of the times. In one of the most astute profiles of Gil Scott-Heron,”The Devil and Gil Scott-Heron,” Mark Anthony Neal says,
For all of our memories of Scott-Heron’s political impact, his music covered a full gamut of experiences. A track like “Lady Day and Coltrane” paid tribute to Black musical traditions, while songs like “A Very Precious Time” and “Your Daddy Loves You” found Scott-Heron thinking about issues of intimacy. Well before proto-Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer would be recovered by scholar and critics, Scott-Heron set Toomer’s Cane to music. Even as young activists make the connection between Black life and environmental racism, Scott-Heron offered his take on the plaintive “We Almost Lost Detroit.”
His work represented for his/our people. It evoked the sentiments and oft-underrepresented (or unheard) perspectives of his/our people. And like Stevie Wonder (one of his idols), Marvin Gaye, and Donny Hathaway, Scott-Heron’s work proved that you could still reach the people the with music of substance and contemporary relevance. So here’s to you Gil Scott-Heron! The revolution goes on!
Discography (studio albums): Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970), Pieces of a Man (1971), Free Will (1972), Winter in America (1974), The First Minute of a New Day (1975), From South Africa to South Carolina (1976), It’s Your World (1976), Bridges (1977), Secrets (1978), 1980 (1980), Real Eyes (1980), Reflections (1981), Moving Target (1982), Spirits (1994), I’m New Here (2010) Bibliography: The Vulture (1970), Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970), The Nigger Factory (1972), So Far, So Good (1990), Now and Then: The Poems of Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Holiday (2012)
Always in a jazzy mood, I thought I’d share a jazz performance I did at Twins Jazz in DC about two years ago. This was part of the finale performance for a Jazz Vocal Workshop, led by the extraordinary Chris Grasso, I participated in for 8 weeks. Backed by The Chris Grasso Trio, I sang “When Your Lover Is Gone,” “Lush Life,” and “Sometimes I’m Happy.”
I had a blast participating in the workshop and performing (always). I look forward to participating in the workshop again some time in the future. If you’re in the DC Metro Area, I highly recommend it.
For the last day of Black Music Month, I’ve decided to be a little selfish. It’s all about me! Jazz is one of my favorites genres of music to sing. Anytime I have the opportunity to exercise and enhance my chops, I’m taking it! Here’s a throwback performance from the RIT days of “Georgia On My Mind” featuring Jamil Khan on the keys. Hope you enjoy it! 😀
Cassandra Wilson is a jazz vocalist, musician, arranger, and producer. She’s arguably the best jazz vocalist today. For nearly 30 years, this two-time Grammy winner has mesmerized audiences with her moving, sultry, rich, resonant voice. She inhabits songs. With the slightest nuance or phrase, she can take you places others can only dream of taking you. During her illustrious career, Wilson has expounded upon the jazz songbook with her ingenious interpretations of classic folk, pop, country, soul, and blues tunes. Like the greats before her, she has a distinctive style and can make any song her own. Wilson is a trailblazer that continues to transform and push the boundaries of her talent and jazz music. Her most recent album is the critically acclaimed “Another Country” (2012).
Robert Glasper is a multitalented jazz pianist, composer, producer, and musical director. Though he may immediately be identified as a jazz artist, it’s hard to deny the heavy influence of Hip-Hop and R&B/Soul on his music. He has an ingenious style that has reinvigorated jazz music in ways that very of his contemporaries have been able to. His most recent album, with his band The Robert Glasper Experiment, is entitled “Black Radio” (2012). On this release, Glasper more than proves he’s an artists without limits. The album features smooth, eclectic collaborations with Lalah Hathaway, Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele, Bilal, Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu, Ledisi, Shafiq Husayn (Sa-Ra), KING, Meshell Ndegeocello, Stokley Williams (of Mint Condition) and yasiin bey (Mos Def) to name a few. As described on Glasper’s website, Black Radio “boldly stakes out new musical territory and transcends any notion of genre, drawing from jazz, hip-hop, R&B and rock, but refusing to be pinned down by any one tag.” Black Radio is a groundbreaking album that may serve as the blueprint for other artists who want to make great music that challenges the notion of genres and categorization yet resonates deeply with the audience.