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July 2, 2003

Herbie Mann, RIP

Herbie Mann, Jazz Musician, Is Dead at 73

erbie Mann, who helped to popularize the flute as a jazz instrument and to introduce the music of other cultures into the mainstream of American jazz, died late Monday at his cabin in Pecos, N.M., near Santa Fe, where he lived. He was 73. .

The cause was prostate cancer, his family announced.

Mr. Mann's first instrument was clarinet, and when he began his career he was primarily a tenor saxophonist. But by the late 1950's he was concentrating on flute, a choice almost unheard of for a jazz musician at the time.

Within a decade, the flute had become far more common in jazz, although then as now it was usually a second or third instrument for saxophonists. Much of the credit for its higher profile belonged to Mr. Mann, who by then had achieved a degree of popularity extending well beyond the confines of the jazz world, largely because of his willingness to look beyond that world for inspiration.

In 1962, he became one of the first American jazz artists to embrace Brazilian music and work with Brazilian musicians, recording an album in Brazil with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendes and others. He later incorporated elements of African, Japanese and Middle Eastern music into his repertory.

American blues and soul were also part of the mix. His live recording of "Comin' Home Baby," an up-tempo blues with an infectious dance beat, was a hit in 1962. Later in the decade he expanded his audience with albums like "Memphis Underground," on which his working group was supplemented by Southern session musicians and the repertory had a contemporary rhythm-and-blues flavor.

The critics, for the most part, were not impressed. "To most jazz critics I was basically Kenny G," he said in an interview with United Press International last year. "I was too successful. I made too much money. Alternate fringe audiences liked me too much, so obviously that can't be important."

In the 1970's Mr. Mann put even more distance between himself and the jazz purists with albums whose titles — "Reggae," "Discothèque," "London Underground" — were often self-explanatory. He had two singles in Billboard magazine's Top 40, "Hijack" in 1975 and "Superman" in 1979.

Mr. Mann had recently been devoting more time to playing the Brazilian jazz and bebop that formed the core of his repertory early in his career. But while he acknowledged that he had sometimes been guilty of "accommodating the market," he never entirely disavowed his more commercial work. "I made disco records," he said. "Some of them I liked, some of them I hated."

Born Herbert Jay Solomon on April 16, 1930, in Brooklyn, Mr. Mann had his first clarinet lesson at 9, soon mastered saxophone and flute, and began performing while stationed in Italy with the United States Army in the early 50's. After being discharged in 1953, he worked with the Dutch jazz accordionist Matt Mathews and the arranger Pete Rugolo before going out on his own, first as a freelance soloist and then, in 1959, as the leader of his own group, the Afro-Jazz Sextet.

Mr. Mann toured extensively in the 60's, traveling to Africa under the auspices of the State Department as well as to Japan, Europe and Latin America.

After recording for Savoy, Verve and other labels, he began a long association with Atlantic Records in 1960, and a decade later he undertook a second career as a record producer and executive for the short-lived Atlantic subsidiary Embryo. In the early 1980's, after leaving Atlantic, he started his own label, Herbie Mann Music. He later briefly ran another label, Kokopelli.

Mr. Mann was an astute talent scout. Over the years he hired a number of young musicians who later became stars, among them the pianist Chick Corea and the vibraphonist Roy Ayers.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Janeal Arison; a son, Geoffrey, who played drums in his band, Sona Terra; another son, Paul; two daughters, Claudia Mann-Basler and Laura Mann; his mother, Ruth Solomon; and his sister, Judy Bernstein.

After four decades of multicultural exploration, Mr. Mann finally got around to the music of his own people in 2000 when he recorded "Eastern European Roots," an album of traditional songs and new compositions evoking his Jewish heritage.

"I wanted this to be my musical statement above all the rest," he said last year. "I love `Memphis Underground.' I loved the Brazilian music I played. But this is finally me. For the first time I think it's really me."

July 4, 2003

Barry White R.I.P.

I hope I won't have to post too many of these in a row.

R&B Legend Barry White Dies

Barry White, the legendary R&B singer whose smooth, deep baritone set the standard for romantic crooners for years to come, died Friday after a lengthy battle with numerous health problems. He was 58.

White passed away at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Friday morning, according to a spokesperson for the late singer. White suffered kidney failure last fall and had a stroke in May. He had been waiting for his health to improve in hopes of undergoing a kidney transplant.

"His generous nature, courtly manners and timeless music made him the most giving and sought-after human being I’ve ever known," White's longtime manager, Ned Shankman, said.

White's voice — at once booming and tender — seemed an extension of his imposing presence. The singer's large frame seemed matched only by his charisma and his talent. His career spanned more than three decades, but he is perhaps best known as the velvet voice behind such classics as "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" and "You're the First, the Last, My Everything."

White's first foray into music came at age 16 when he recorded the song "Little Girl" with the group the Upfronts. He later worked as an A&R rep (with the 5th Dimension and the Bobby Fuller Four) and as a producer (putting together Love Unlimited). Soon White began working on demos of his own, which eventually yielded his first album, 1973's I've Got So Much to Give.

White then joined forces with Love Unlimited, rechristened it the Love Unlimited Orchestra, and began to churn out a string of hits that made him one of the most successful R&B artists of the '70s. Songs like "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me," "You See the Trouble With Me," "I'll Do for You Anything You Want Me To" and "Love Serenade" established White and Love Unlimited as the music of choice for many a romantic evening through the disco era.

The '80s brought a handful of less successful albums and eventually a hiatus for White. However, he re-emerged in the '90s with the albums The Man Is Back, The Right Night & Barry White and Put Me in Your Mix. Despite his early success, White would not win his first Grammy Award until 2000, for his album Staying Power.

White was preparing a "duets" album for release on Def Soul later this year.

White is survived by eight children: La nece, Deniece, Nina, Shehera, Barriana , Barry Jr., Darrell, and his stepson, McKevin. He is also survived by his companion (and the mother of Barriana), Catherine Denton.

July 7, 2003

Getting Schooled on Pop Music Scholarship

One of the reasons it's hard for me to keep this blog updated everyday is that there's very little published music criticism I find worth reading. Nine times out of ten, when someone gets paid to intellectualize about music, it's very hard for me to make it past the first paragraph without my eyes glazing over.

Like this Rolling Stone piece about Eminem by Kelefa Sanneh, I'm sure it's interesting enough but I just can't bring myself to trudge through it, there doesn't seem to be any point.

So I'm always delighted to find a piece like this one from the New Yorker, which was truly a pleasure to read, and never lost me as it jumped through a wide variety of topics. Coincidentally this guy's main focus is pop music scholarship itself, and he captures pretty well why I find most of it irrelevant, while proving by example that all of it need not be so:

ROCK 101: Academia tunes in

Duke Ellington once had to field a barrage of questions from an Icelandic music student who was determined to penetrate to the heart of the genius of jazz. At one point, Ellington was asked whether he ever felt an affinity for the music of Bach, and, before answering, he made a show of unwrapping a pork chop that he had stowed in his pocket. “Bach and myself,” he said, taking a bite from the chop, “both write with individual performers in mind.” Richard O. Boyer captured the moment in a Profile entitled “The Hot Bach,” which appeared in this magazine in 1944. You can sense in that exquisitely timed pork-chop maneuver Ellington’s bemused response to the European notions of genius that were constantly being foisted on him. He said on another occasion, “To attempt to elevate the status of the jazz musician by forcing the level of his best work into comparisons with classical music is to deny him his rightful share of originality.” Jazz was a new language, and the critic would have to respond to it with a new poetry of praise.

Now Ellington is himself a classic, the subject of painstaking analytical studies. He occupies a Bachian position in an emergent popular pantheon, which is certain to look different from the marble-faced, bewigged classical pantheons that preceded it. The very idea of a canon of geniuses may be falling by the wayside; it makes more sense to talk about the flickering brilliance of a group, a place, or a people. In the future, it seems, everyone will be a genius for fifteen minutes. The past decade has seen the rise of pop-music studies, which is dedicated to the idea that Ellington, Hank Williams, and the Velvet Underground were created equal and deserve the same sort of scholarly scrutiny that used to be bestowed only on Bach and sons. Pop-music courses draw crowds of students on college campuses, and academic presses are putting out such portentous titles as “Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience,” “Rock Over the Edge: Transformations in Popular Music Culture,” and “Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music.”

Pop-music professors, especially those who specialize in rock, are caught in an obvious paradox, which their students probably point out to them on the first day of class. Namely, it’s not very rock and roll to intellectualize rock and roll. When Pink Floyd sang, “We don’t need no education,” they could not have foreseen the advent of research projects with titles like “Another Book in the Wall?: A Cultural History of Pink Floyd’s Stage Performance and the Rise of Audiovisual Gesamtkunstwerk, 1965-1994.” (That comes from Finland.) Ever since Ellington, Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton struck up the soundtrack to the bawdy, boozy twenties, popular music has been the high-speed vehicle for youth rebellion, sexual liberation, and chemical experimentation, none of which yield willingly to the academic mind. The pop scholar is forever doomed to sounding like the square kid at the cool kids’ party, killing their buzz with sentences like this: “From the start, hip-hop’s samples ran the gamut of genres, defying anyone who would delimit hip-hop’s palette.”

Then again, maybe it’s not a problem that so much pop-music scholarship sounds conspicuously uncool. For decades, jazz rhapsodists and rock poets were so intent on projecting attitude that they never got around to saying much about the music itself. The pioneering rock critics of the sixties, such as Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus, wanted to mimic the music in their prose, and they had enough style to pull it off. Bangs, whose writings have been collected in a new anthology from Anchor Books, lived the life of a rock star, or at least died the death of one. But his writings are a better guide to the mentality of smart people who went to rock shows in the sixties and seventies than they are a reliable record of music and musicians. Discussing the Rolling Stones in 1974, Bangs wrote, “If you think I’m going to review the new ‘It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll’ album right now, you are crazy. But I am going to swim in it.” Between prose poetry and academic cant there has to be a middle ground, and pop-music studies is searching it out...

July 9, 2003

And What the F*&^ is the 'Internet'??

At some point in the next week, this man will turn to his family and ask "So you mean it's 2003? And people are still listening to that 'rap music??'"

Man wakes after 19 years in coma

Accident victim stuck in 1984; believes Reagan still president

The words began tumbling out — at first just a few nouns and eventually a torrent of phrases. Terry Wallis, who had been in a coma since a 1984 car accident, regained consciousness last month to the surprise of doctors and the delight of his family, including his mother, who heard his first word in 19 years...

July 10, 2003

OED: "Bling" is not official, just yet

In another sign that American journalistic standards are plummeting, the LA Times yesterday cited our site, hiphopmusic.com, as a credible source of hip-hop opinion:

'Bling-bling' in the Oxford dictionary? That's phat

Imagine the lofty air of expectation for the next edition of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary — an unprecedented revision is underway that, finally, authoritatively, is expected to nail down those vexing questions of lexicology. To wit: What is the etymology of "bling-bling"?

The editors are drafting a possible entry for the hip-hop slang, which usually refers to diamonds or other flashy jewelry that clinks together, said Jesse Sheidlower, principal North American editor of the dictionary.

Sheidlower is exasperated these days by news reports that have jumped the gun, such as MTV.com's headline saying that "bling-bling" had already made it into the Oxford dictionary, the definitive chronicler of the English language. "I expect that 'bling-bling' will be entered at some point," Sheidlower said...

...In hip-hop circles, such a mainstream nod can be a turnoff. On hiphopmusic.com's online forum, one fan complained that the Oxford English Dictionary would be co-opting "bling-bling" as "... yet another black colloquialism is blanched and neutered to make the white establishment seem 'more relevant, smarter and cooler.' "

Proper credit should go to Nakachi, whose reply to my post was the source of their quote.

Finding Primo

You've gotta love anyone who can find common threads in Gangstarr, Harry Potter and Finding Nemo, and then bundle them all together as ammunition against Bush.

Rapper's tip: World's scary, so teach your children hell

For 14 years, Guru has been one of hip-hop's most respected ''conscious'' rappers, and in the spoken introduction to The Ownerz, the new CD by his group Gang Starr, he expresses the anxieties of many parents -- particularly those caught up in the oh-so-ironic post-9/11 baby boom. He speaks for those of us who had the brilliant idea, ''The world's going to hell in a hand-basket; hey, let's bring some more innocent lives into it!'' and now smack our heads and wonder, ``My God, what have we done?''

How do you raise kids in a world where death and destruction continually preempt their favorite pastime? Where schools value testing over teaching? Where neighbors are not to be trusted and, in fact, should be reported to the nearest FBI hotline? Where in family after family, attention deficit disorder trumps unconditional love?

Easy: Teach your children hell...

July 11, 2003


Over the last year I've become good friends with Liz Barry and Bill Wetzel, AKA the Talk To Me People. Our friendship is based entirely on randomly bumping into them on the streets of NY, because for the last year they have devoted their lives to randomly bumping into people on the streets of New York.

I always loved getting the chance to hang out with them, any time I saw them I would stay for hours and watch all the people come by and talk, it never failed to be fascinating. Sometimes one of them would run off for a while and I'd take their place behind their "Talk To Me" sign as a pinch-talker. I love these guys and find their project so inspiring, I'm really sad they are winding it up now.

But at least they'll be going out in style, on Saturday they're having a big party in Bryant Park where everyone they have met over the last year gets to come and meet each other. Any of y'all who are in NY should definitely come down, it's your last chance to be a part of something that was truly special.

July 14, 2003

Suge Knight: from Feared to Forgotten

Oh, this is excellent. I'll never pass up an opportunity to revel in Suge Knight's defeat. Few in this industry are more deserving of failure than Suge. And he's been slouching toward irrelevance for a few years now, I'm surprised it took people this long to notice.

Suge's rebuilding hampered by arrests - Mogul having trouble returning Death Row to glory

California (AP) -- When rap pioneer Marion "Suge" Knight was released from prison two years ago, he vowed to return Death Row Records to the top of the charts.

At the time, he told The Associated Press that it was "time for great records."

It hasn't happened. Aside from two albums of old Tupac Shakur material, Death Row has produced next to nothing. And for the second time this year Knight was behind bars, awaiting a hearing on a suspected parole violation.

Some wonder if Knight -- who helped muscle rap into the mainstream a decade ago with superstars such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and later Shakur -- is still a force in the music industry.

"He has to prove himself all over again," said Erik Parker, music editor of Vibe magazine. "As time slips by, people care less. There's no production, no real hits..."

July 15, 2003

Street Incredulity

An interesting take on sports writers' attempts to judge the "street credibility" of NBA stars:

Learning the nuances of street cred takes time

Whenever a tide of hip-hop terminology begins to flow from the mouths of people who have no connection with the culture, it can either be a blessing or a curse - a blessing in that a certain level of acceptance has been reached and a curse in that the term is now subject to be used out of context.

All of which brings me to the case of the term, "street cred" (credibility).

Personally, I can count the number of times I've ever used this term on one hand, yet for the past two weeks it's been all over the sports media.

I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's beginning to get its fair share of overuse...

July 16, 2003

Rakim Finally Gives Up on Aftermath

And thus Rakim joins the club of high profile Dr. Dre signings (Eve, Last Emperor, King T, who else?) who wound up languishing on the shelf for years, and finally dropped with nothing whatsoever to show for their time.

Disappointing but not surprising, after seeing the project drag on for so long. At least he and Dre actually spent time in the studio and made an attempt, which is more than can be said for some previous casualties. When I went to Gangstarr's listening party at the now defunct D&D studios, Premier mentioned that Rakim was asking him to come over to Cali and help with the album, because Aftermath didn't know how provide the proper sound for him.

Rakim Leaves Aftermath Entertainment

Legendary rapper Rakim has split with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment record label, due to what Rakim's management deemed "creative differences."

"Rakim and Aftermath have mutually decided to part ways," Rakim's manager Zach Katz told AllHipHop.com. "Rakim is presently in talks with three powerhouse record companies."

Recently at the BET Awards, Rakim presented with Baby from Cash Money Records and boasted that his album would be in stores by the end of the summer on Aftermath.

MTV reported last week that Dre and Rakim had finished 16 songs and were working to finish seven more, before picking a single to release.

"He can bring the best out of me, and I want to make sure that I bring the best out of him," Rakim told MTV of Dre. "He goes in the studio from 3 [p.m. and] goes home 6, 7, 8 in the morning, so to me, that's all right. My man wants to work, so let's get it poppin'."

The legendary rapper had been signed to Aftermath for almost three years and fans have been anticipating the release of Oh My God, despite the constant delays.

Ok, now somebody hurry up and get these outtakes on MP3.

July 27, 2003

"B-Boy" is a Verb

pictures from the rock steady crew anniversary

July 28, 2003

The F Word Has Its Day in Court

Today thesmokinggun.com posted a marvelous legal document that goes on for seven pages in defense of the F word, arguing passionately why it should be protected as free speech.

A Legal Defense of "f**k"

...f**k possesses incredible versatility. It can be a noun (you f**k), a verb (everything Billy touches, he f**ks up), an adjective (I'm really f**king broke), an adverb (I've been f**king drinking too much), an exclamation (holy f**k, Batman!), or question (what the f**k?)...

July 29, 2003

It's Like Ten Thousand Spoons

I'm sure most of you saw this already, but it is just too delicious not to savor.. cops offering a formal apology to the author of "f**k Tha Police":

Police sorry after rapper alert

Chicago's police department has apologised to rapper Ice Cube after it said a man suspected of a number of sexual assaults bore a resemblance to the hip-hop star.

Police issued a warning to the public on Sunday as they searched for a man who allegedly attacked three women in the Wicker Park area of the city.

Local television station WBBM-TV then broadcast one of the rapper's videos alongside a report of the story during an evening news programme.

The police alert said the man they were searching for "resembles the popular rap artist Ice Cube".

Cast members working alongside the performer on the film Barbershop 2 saw the news story and video on the channel.

"This is an unfortunate and hurtful situation for Ice Cube," said his spokesman, Matt Labov.

"That his good name ever came up in association with the events currently taking place in Chicago's Wicker Park area is damaging to Ice Cube as a father, husband and artist," he added.

Mr Labov said the TV station had also apologised to the rapper.

A spokeswoman for the channel admitted they had used the video, based on the police alert.

"Our information was taken directly from the Chicago Police Department community alert," said Elizabeth Shapiro.

The warning was later reissued by police with no reference to Ice Cube.

"We took immediate corrective action," said police spokesman David Bayless.

"We apologise to Ice Cube for what was an honest mistake and came with no ill-intent," he said.

NEW AUDIO: C Rayz Walz on the Railroad, 7-26-03

Last week we had a star studded affair on the radio show, with dozens of luminaries passing through, in town for the Rocksteady Crew anniversary festivities.

The All Natural/Family Tree crew dropped some verses and schooled us on the hip-hop scenes in Chicago and Gary Indiana. Then towards the end of the show, a man walked in looking very intense, marched into the studio, ripped his shirt off and started dong pushups in front of the microphones.

I was almost afraid to see what would happen when we turned the mics on, but this mysterious strnager, who turned out to be C Rayz Walz, then delivered one of the sharpest interviews and tightest freestyles we've had on the show this year. Here are some excerpts (the other voice on there is G Man):

C Rayz Interview
C Rayz Freestyle
Photo of C Rayz on the mic

Those of you in NY can catch C Rayz at the Union Square Virgin Megastore tonight at 6PM, and everybody else should seek out his new album, released on Def Jux this week.

Note: when I saw "seek" I don't mean soulseek!

About July 2003

This page contains all entries posted to hiphopmusic.com: in July 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2003 is the previous archive.

August 2003 is the next archive.

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