Soulful Water: The First Coming of Gregory Porter

There are only barely a handful of male jazz vocalists that have made a dent in the music industry in a heavily inundated field of female vocalists. With the exception of Jose James and Kurt Ellling, vocalist Gregory Porter came out at a time where there hasn’t been a crooner that’s dominated jazz. The Bakersfield, California native was raised in the church as well as the popular music that he grew up listening to. His debut Motema Music release “Water” is proof that music continues to evolve and that his voice is needed when singing standards is economically losing to the “American Idol Syndrome” or lack of new and fresh talent.

I recently caught Gregory at both of his sold-out performances at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola and must say he’s about to blow-up. Saxophonist James Spaulding(Max Roach, Freddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson)  was Porter’s special guest. He and has band lit the bandstand with a serious horn section that added to his powerful down-home and soul-stirring vocals.

Porter cites Nat King Cole as one of his heros and idols. As a child, his mother used to encourage him to listen to her Cole records as well as host of other vocalists from other musical genres. He wrote and recorded his first song at the age of five. Although his mother was a minister, she didn’t let their deep religious background deter him from auditioning and allowing him to perform in secular musicals and plays while as a teenager.

Gregory made the transition of moving to New York City where he’s become an accomplished actor and jazz vocalist. He’s performed in major Broadway and off Broadway productions like “The Civil War,” “It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues,” “Nat King Cole and Me,” and “Low Down Dirty Blues.” Also, he’s appeared many television shows such as “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “The Today Show,” and “Late Night with David Letterman.”

His debut CD “Water” features classic covers of such “Skylark,” Wayne Shorter’s “Blue Nile,” “But Beautiful” and the politically charged “1960 What?” One of the standout tracks on the CD is “Wisdom” featuring the legendary James Spaulding on alto sax (also on “Black Nile).

Currently, you can see Porter every week at Smoke in New York City. For upcoming tour dates or to order his latest disc “Water,” visit him on the web at

The First Coming of Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter



Amiri Baraka’s Blue Ark

Writer, author, poet and activist Amiri Baraka’s group Blue Ark is a spoken word unit set to jazz music. Baraka, a critically acclaimed writer of noted works like “Blues People: Negro Music in White America” and plays such as “Dutchman” and “Slave Ship,” has been one of the most important social and political critics for well over 60 years. His prose and activism for civil and social rights have made him icon to many readers throughout the years.

I caught up with literary and civil rights icon Amiri Baraka recently at this year’s 2010 Poetic Heritage Festival at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. At age 75 he’s just as active and outspoken now than he was during the 1960’s when he was a successful playwright, critic, novelist, and activist. Baraka was been credited as the “Father of the Black Arts Movement,” a period when Harlem, during the 1960’s through mid-70’s, produced an energy of music, arts, and social awareness through religion and philosophy. His latest book, “Home,” is a series of past published social essays.

Baraka believes even though the country has elected the first African-American President, the country still has a way to go, both economically and socially.

Amiri Baraka was born LeRoi Jones on October 7th, 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. After he served in the army, Baraka moved to New York where founded Totem Press, where legendary literary icons like Jack Kerouac, Frank O’Hara, and Allen Ginsberg were published and introduced to the world. He was also the co-editor of Yugen Magazine with his former wife Hettie Cohen.

In 1965, Baraka formed the Black Arts Repertory Theater and School. The program only lasted for the year, but changed the way blacks followed and performed the arts.

His many books include: “The Music,” “Confirmation: An Anthology of African-American Women,” “The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka,” and “Blues People: Negro Music in White America.”

Make sure you check out Amiri Baraka’s latest book “Home” at a bookstore near you.

Blue Ark features his wife Amina Baraka, Rene’ McLean on reeds, Rudy Walker on drums, Alan Palmer on piano, Calvin Jones on bass, and Dwight West on vocals. To Find out upcoming dates or to read Amiri’s work, visit him on the web at

This is one of the most important shows you want to see. As Amiri told me during our interview, “poetry was I believe, always supposed to be read to music, so I formed Blue Ark.” Him reading his prose adds a sense of depth and honesty to his work. Watching Blue Ark is both a resurrection of this icon’s work and activism through words. This year’s Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s 2010 Poetic Heritage Festival was on the mark for kicking off this year’s festivities with Baraka’s work. Amina also did a fantastic job of her vocal tribute to the late Abby Lincoln during the set.

Mark my words, Amiri Baraka’s Blue Ark is time well spent as well as an entertaining history class and a walk down memory lane. Support this project.


The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report


“Baracka Flacka Flames” The 2010 Coon Caricature

“We didn’t come all the way up here to compromise for no more than we’d gotten here. We didn’t come all this way for no two seats, cause all of us is tired.”      -Fannie Lou Hamer


It saddens me to write or even conceive constructive dialogue on the latest music video that has both the African-American Community and some civil rights organizations on edge over the last week. The hip-hop parody “Head of State” by comedian James Davis and director Martin Usher, is one of the highest viewed videos on You Tube and asks the question: why do our own people continue to kill ourselves with foolishness and ignorance?” The video has received over a million hits since last Thursday. In the video, Davis, who looks and acts just like President Barak Obama, is the black “Weird Al” who on screen is Baracka Flacka Flames. The song is a parody of rapper Waka Flocka Flame’s hit single “Hard in Da Paint.” To give you an overview of the video, Davis is dressed as the President with actors portraying secret serviceman, along with the First Lady (played by Jefandi Cato) and Oprah Winfrey, are at a street party in South Central Los Angeles. Davis is seen smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol, petting pit-bulls, and showing both the First Lady and Oprah gyrating like video hoochies in a music video. To add insult to injury, Davis uses both racial epithets and candid language to demean both Waka and President Obama. The two also included real life gang members of the Bloods and Crips that live in the neighborhood. In a recent New York Times article from last week “Prez N the Hood: A Hip-Hop Parody Stirs Up Issues,” Davis acknowledged that “we somewhat got a hood pass, we talked to some O.G.’s.” He later added, “that was some of the most exciting things about this, sitting around with people I know gangbang, American Gangster’-looking dudes.”

Last week rapper Waka Flocka Flame posted this statement on his Twitter page: “that they used it to be so sarcastic, it was almost a form of disrespect.”

I’m not taking much away from Waka’s talent, but this is the lowest of low. I don’t want to sound like a prude or act like I’m a bit conservative; but what James Davis and Martin Usher have done has set blacks back another 20 years.For the very first time in history, an African-American has set foot in the oval office. Not as an Attorney General, not Secretary of State, not as a chef; but the President of the United States. Although I’m a fan of satire and parodies, comedians like Dave Chappelle, Richard Pryor, Dennis Miller, and shows like Saturday Night Live and In Living Color have made social statements with comedy. The “Head of State” video continues to show how these negative stereotypes are reflective of “the Coon Caricature.”

I bring up “the Coon Caricature” because apparently James nor Martin remember that brothers and sisters of the struggle died and gave their lives so brothers like President Barak Obama could step in and serve in the White House. Sister Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, and endless freedom fighters that were bombed, shot, spat on, and lost their lives would turn over in their graves to witness a video as vile and ignorant as this. This video took us back to the “the Coon Caricature” days of Stepin Fetchit, Amos and Andy, and even when the pimps like “Superfly,” “The Mack,” and “Willie Dynamite”  that dominated the screens during the 1970’s. Its enough that BET and other video networks continue to show these images and today’s youth think this is ok.

I’m saddened that James Davis took a cheap shot and made a damaging video just to get his name out there as a comedian. This video is about as bad as my brothers still selling dope to our own people. Davis didn’t think about how hard both the President and the First Lady worked to sit the country’s highest office. For these guys to take a cheap shot at a man who represents a family man, one of intelligence and dignity, and helping a younger generation aspire to be someone who can run a country who is of color; this is a devastating blow to our race.James Davis and Martin Usher took us way back to “the Coon Caricature” days where racists that controlled and dominated the airwaves with images that were derogatory as well as stereotypical.

I’m a firm believer of Karma and these guys will reap what they sow. If not now, later. You guys have a lot of growing up to do!


The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report