January 27, 2009

Ornette Coleman, Virgin Beauty (1988)

Album of the Day, Month, Year: Ornette Coleman's Virgin Beauty

I bought this album probably not too long after it came out in 1988, didn’t like it and put it away. Don’t think I’ve heard it since. First of all, Jerry Garcia on guitar struck me as a cop out. Unlike most of my generation I was never a Dead Head. Born and raised on John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Archie Sheep, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Monk and Miles, Charles Lloyd, John Handy (and James Brown) -- the Dead always bored me my to tears. I went to one concert and feel asleep. (I did like the Dead’s first album a lot – haven’t heard that for years either. Still have the LP but never play vinyl anymore.)

Anyway, in the fashion of Ornette’s early, great double quartets, Bernie Nix and Charles Ellerbee also play guitar on Virgin Beauty. Al McDowell and Chris Walker contribute dizzying, syncopated, snappy, cracking, trebly bass lines. Denardo Coleman and Calvin Weston fire up the drums. The only voice not doubled is Ornette’s horn.

Listening to it my studio yesterday, I was transfixed, knocked out, in love, amazed, captivated. I danced all by myself for nearly an hour. This is a great band swinging, funking, rocking and bluesing with that crazy, piercing alto totally in command over all the commotion. And then, there’s a magnificent, soulful Ornette solo at the end. What was I thinking? Ornette’s always ahead of the curve, but how could it take me so long to catch up with this one?

January 22, 2009

Dolores Huerta and Barbara Carrasco Visit Chicano Art & Experience at the AFL-CIO

Legendary labor organizer Dolores Huerta visited our show yesterday with distinguished artist Barbara Carrasco. Barbara’s portrait of Dolores is in the show. In fact, the print we have is signed by both Barbara and Dolores.

Dolores, along with Cesar Chávez, is a co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association which evolved into the United Farm Workers of America. She was instrumental in the grape boycotts that brought the farm workers’ struggle to international attention. At 78, she is still very active in progressive politics and social change in her work as an individual and through her foundation, the Dolores Huerta Foundation. (pictured at right: Barbara Carrasco, Rex Weil and Dolores Huerta with Carrasco's Dolores. You can also see, behind Barbara, Sun Mad by Ester Hernández)

p.s. the show is featured on WETA-TV's Around Town. See the Janis Goodman review here (scroll down to 'art reviews.')

January 14, 2009

Big Al Carter (1947-2008)


photo by David Peterson
The Washington Post Magazine