Natalie Cole’s greatest hits

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Natalie Cole (Facebook)

On Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, “Sophisticated Lady” Natalie Cole died of congestive heart failure. She was 65.

“Natalie fought a fierce, courageous battle, dying how she lived … with dignity, strength and honor. Our beloved Mother and sister will be greatly missed and remain UNFORGETTABLE in our hearts forever,” said son Robert Yancy and twin sisters Timolin and Casey Cole in a statement.

As the death of Cole slowly begins to sit with fans, people across the globe are remembering the songbird for her incredible talent on-and-off stage. Much like her father, late jazz singer Nat King Cole, the vocal powerhouse leaves behind a rich body of work providing fans, old and new, with a point of reference to her artistry, mastery of the craft and showmanship.

For a look back at some of the Grammy Award winner’s greatest hits including “Pink Cadillac,” “This Will Be,” a rendition of “Say a Little Prayer” and many more, click here: a look back.


Richer and wiser, Dr. Dre's 'Compton' music review

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Hip-hop’s short attention span has been well-documented. A popular rapper typically can’t afford to take a couple of years away from the spotlight at the risk of returning to a completely shifted cultural and musical landscape. So the idea that a hip-hop artist — even an immensely popular and influential one — could not release an album for more than 15 years and still generate a tremendous amount of interest and buzz is quite confounding. But that’s exactly the case with West Coast kingpin Dr. Dre, who’s just released his long-awaited (understatement of the year) third solo album. It’s not the mythic Detox project that had been teased for more than a decade, though. Dre’s new project is Compton: A Soundtrack, a new album that serves as his third proper solo release, an unofficial soundtrack to the upcoming biopic about his legendary former group N.W.A. and a celebration of both Dre’s legacy and the hip-hop lineage that runs throughout Southern California in general and Los Angeles’ most notorious suburb, in particular.

Compton finds Dr. Dre relishing his elder statesman status, his notorious reputation, his business acumen and the streets of the CPT. Opening with archival news audio describing the urban blight that saw Compton shift from a bustling hub of middle-class Black upward mobility to a ‘burb overrun with crime and poverty, the album immediately showcases two of Dre’s newer proteges, King Mez and Justus on the opening “Intro,” before Dre swoops in with “guess who’s back” bravado, bragging that he still has “Eminem checks I ain’t cashed yet.”

Read more of this review by clicking here.


PJ Morton performs from new album,


On July 29 at the Highline Ballroom, PJ Morton performed cuts from Live Show Killer which was recorded at the historic Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles in early May 2015. Morton also performed fan favorites, surprise covers, and some hand-picked selections, including songs from his 2013 album New Orleans, which earned him a Grammy nomination for collaboration with Stevie Wonder on “Only One.” The 18-track live-in-studio album includes special guests Tweet and Mali Music.


Goapele talks album, strength of Black women, and relevancy of ‘Closer’ 15 years later

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 10:  Goapele performs at  the Highline Ballroom in New York City on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Raymond Hagans/Steed Media
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 10: Goapele performs at the Highline Ballroom in New York City on Friday, July 10, 2015. Photo by Raymond Hagans/Steed Media

Goapele never compromised her artistry for the sake of an ever changing industry. Her music gives a voice to those seeking to understand the complexities of everyday life.

With the release of a new album, Strong As Glass, Goapele seeks to touch more souls with her sultry voice and vivid wordplay.

While on tour she recently stopped by rolling out’s offices to discuss her new album, the strength of Black women, and the relevancy of “Close”‘ 15 years later.

Your new album is called Strong as Glass. What is the overall meaning?

I think glass has so many different forms, sometimes it comes off as something so breakable and fragile, but it’s amazingly strong. It starts as sand and it takes on different lives, but it is breakable. As strong as I feel on some days, I’m not doing this by myself and I am sensitive. Actually, Estelle wrote that song and when I heard that song I just got chills and was like, “I can relate to this I want to sing this.” It was unusual for me to get to connect to someone else’s lyrics that much.

 

“Closer” continues to resonate with people today and touch different generations. Why has the song been so influential for so long?

Well, I wrote “Closer” almost 15 years ago. It’s that sense of I’m getting closer and I feel myself rising, but I’m not there yet and these are still all the struggles I’m going through, is still as relevant now as it was then. Each step I take there’s another place I’m trying to get and more that I’m trying to accomplish. Just being in the music industry, it is a journey and it’s always like this. So whenever I get on the stage, I can still relate to the song. It’s been wonderful to be able to connect with so many other people like folks that are just in the audience, fans, athletes, musicians, lawyers trying to pass the bar exam or doctors. I’ve gotten so many stories about how people feel the same way and how this helped motivate them. I love that. I never expected that at all from that song almost like an interlude mantra kind of thing. It’s a blessing that it keeps coming back around.

What is your advice to anyone who is looking to reach their dreams?

My advice is to really set goals short term and long term so that you have something to hold on to when everything else is coming your way. For me, it’s been important to keep building my craft and expand my vocal range and songwriting is really important to me. It’s also important to surround yourself with people you can trust so you’re not walking into rooms that you don’t need to by yourself but that someone and folks always have your back. Patience and persistence.

For more of this story.


Marvin Sapp's basking in success of his 4th No. 1 album, 'You Shall Live'

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Gospel music sensation Marvin Sapp delivers a smashing debut with the release of his latest album, You Shall Live, entering at No. 1 on the Gospel and Christian Sales Chart. Garnering his fourth No. 1 album debut, the 10th solo album from the GRAMMY® nominated, 22-time Stellar Award-winning singer-songwriter, author and pastor was released on June 2 to critical acclaim—praising the album’s uplifting declarations, powerhouse vocals and sound.

“I am humble that so many still believe in the practical musical message that my team and I have shared over the years,” Marvin Sapp says in a statement. “It’s been four years since my last album and the response has been great.  Words can't express the appreciation that I feel!”

Sapp recently visited Steed Media Group headquarters to talk about his new album and the Black church.

What are some good and bad things about the Black church community today?

One thing I love about the Black church is the people. One thing I wish I could change about the Black church is the people. That’s the answer. If people study their Bibles, the same stuff that we’re dealing with now is no different than the stuff that they’ve dealt with in biblical times. All these folks say, ‘I can’t believe this is going on in the church.’ Where have y’all been? It’s the same junk that’s been going on since the days of Jesus. What we need to do is understand that there’s going to be wheat and tears, and they’re going to grow together and just let God do the separating. If we let God do the separating, we won’t be plucking up wheat accidentally thinking that they’re tears. I just preach in season and out and let God separate man. They’re his people. I’m just called the pastor who he sends. I’m not called to say you’re saved and you’re not.

What do you want the impact of your latest album to be?

Musically, it will be an extremely successful record. People will go out and get it and it’ll do what it’s supposed to do. It’ll sell the types of units because it’s a business. I’m not crazy, I’ve been here long enough to know that this is business. But you want to make music that has a life that lives beyond its specific date of release. That means that it’s message is still relevant. That’s what really makes “Never Would Have Made It” such a great song. Not because of it’s in depth lyrical content, it’s not a deep song, it’s just a song that resonates with so many people because so many people have had those moments. So I’m hoping that We Shall Live has a song on it that really resonates with people just as “Never Would Have Made It” did.

For more, visit rollingout.com.


Good Vibrations: George Benson's "Breezin'" on Steel Drums



Ahh! The beautiful sounds of Jazz music echo from what once was an oil barrel. The steel drum, aka steel pan, playing these beautiful notes endured a process of stretching to give its concave, dish shape, i.e. sinking the pan, which is the most physically demanding stage in the evolution; and tempering to make it stronger. The pan is heated with a fire torch until the metal glows red-hot and is immersed in cold water. Lastly, hammering to mark the placement of each note on the sunken head of the drum and  "grooved" using a nail punch and a hammer to make each note distinctive, vibrates precisely and has a perfect pitch with every tap of the sticks.


Marsha Ambrosius dishes on new album, 'Friends and Lovers'


It’s that slippery slope that many have attempted to climb, only to get tripped up causing one to tumble down a hill of mixed emotions. It’s just one of those things that tend to happen when negotiating matters of the heart. The hot-button topic is one that is approached with care by Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Marsha Ambrosius on her latest album of the same name. The talented London beauty sat down with HobNob Drive's publisher Munson Steed to discuss the nuances of the album, as well as her take on life, love and inspiration.

Tell us about Friends & Lovers and how the two met.
The two met because of my album previous to this one, which was Late Nights and Early Mornings, which resulted in me meeting some friends … and lovers. So on one album, I decided to talk about all of those relationships; all of those situations that I’d been in and already had with a late night and an early morning.

The best of those experiences would be on an early morning?
Not the best of, but the ones that you’re cautiously aware of. In the morning, up comes the sun and you have to acknowledge where you are. At night, it could’ve been a wild night. It’s dark, I don’t know where I am, where are my shoes? Then you wake up the next day, you could be anywhere, but thankfully for me, I woke up next to him and that was that song.

Hmmm …
I have many of those situations that go from beginning to end on a whole album about scenarios that you could possibly get yourself into with some friends and lovers.

What can women take away from this story? What will they learn from how to wake up?
Not necessarily learn, but acknowledge that you’re not alone in your journey. I feel as women, we shy away from the embarrassing moments — the ones where you will not look at yourself in the mirror the same. I feel that [women] don’t share with one another that we’ve all been in that place. I feel like with my music, I speak to everyone from the kids to the grandmothers. You know I have people that have open hearts that are listening to the things that I say because I give you realistic scenarios with no-holds-barred, no inhibitions, just completely honest, brutal sensuality.

Beautiful. What affirmation could someone glean from listening to your album?
You’re not alone. No one ever is. As alone as you felt in your moment, you are never alone.


LeToya Luckett opens up, talks life after Destiny's Child and insecurities

 

Story by Stereo Williams
Photographer: DeWayne Rogers
Makeup: AJ Crimson
Hair: Maisha Oliver
Stylist: Seth Brundle

LeToya Luckett has been a star for quite a while now. After rising to fame as an original member of the famed girl group Destiny’s Child in the late 1990s, then stepping out on her own as a solo singer in the mid-2000s, the beauty from Houston has spent almost half of her life in the international spotlight. As she embarks on even more new professional beginnings — she’s set to release her new film, From the Rough and is working hard on her upcoming third solo album, Until Then …, the 33-year-old star who spent much of her adolescence sharing a stage with the likes of Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland admits that it took a while for her to feel comfortable in her own skin. She had to learn to truly love herself.

“I had things about myself that I [didn’t] like,” say Luckett. “I [would always say] ‘I wish I had this, I wish I had that.’ I used to have this thing about my legs. If you look at all of the Destiny’s Child albums from when I was a part of the group, you never saw me in a skirt. I was always the one who wore the pants, because I felt like my legs were too skinny.”

Luckett has quietly developed a strong acting résumé, generating buzz with her appearances on “Single Ladies,” (which was recently canceled by VH1 and picked up by Centric); HBO’s “Treme,” and a host of other TV shows and films — the newest being the drama From the Rough (opens nationwide April 25.) The film tells the true story of the first African American woman, Catana Starks, to coach a PGA national collegiate team. Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson plays Starks in the film.

“She did this on her own, by herself without a lot to work with, and she did some amazing things with these boys,” says Luckett. “Not only in helping them to grow in their craft, but also to grow them up as young men. Taraji did an amazing job with this. She taught me a lot, I learned a lot from just watching her on set. It’s one of the first films [I’ve done.] And the story of [Stark's] life … is just crazy. I was blessed to meet her.

“I think it’s very important, especially in our community, to celebrate the hard work of people who sacrifice themselves and their time to try and better people. And regardless of — especially with Catana — [who] was dealing with things on her own but was so selfless. She opened the doors for so many women. And as a matter of fact, one of the guys she coached ended up being Tiger Woods’ golf coach,” she adds.

Read this story in its entirety on rollingout.com.


The Library of Congress celebrates jazz legend Max Roach with exclusive collection

(Top left) Max Roach with Count von Count, "The Count", Sesame Street. Photographer Unknown. (bottom right) Billy Taylor, Harold Nicholas, Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Fayard Nicholas, Max Roach. Photographer Unknown. (right) Portrait of Max Roach. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz in New York City on July 24th, 2001. From the Max Roach Collection, The Library of Congress.

The life and music of jazz great Max Roach, one of the founding fathers of the modernist style known as bebop, will be forever memorialized for future generations in the nation’s library. The Library of Congress recently celebrated the acquisition of Roach’s vast personal collection of papers, music, photos, and audio and video recordings. Over his decades-long career, Roach communicated and collaborated with some of the greatest names in jazz history.

Held at the Library’s majestic Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., the celebratory event included a conversation with the people who best knew Roach’s life, work and advocacy—his children Daryl Roach, Maxine Roach, Ayo Roach, Dara Roach and Raoul Roach. “Our family is thrilled that our father's rich legacy has found a home at the Library of Congress,” said his daughter Maxine, who is also founder of the Uptown String Quartet. “Our father had a sense of his place in the history of America’s original music and for decades he collected testaments to his mastery in the form of recorded sounds, video, photos, papers, letters, awards, collaborations, gifts, honors, struggles and friendships. All will be on display at this very great and prestigious institution. And though he is no longer here, his artistry and humanity will live on in this magnificent building. We thank the Library of Congress for this high honor for our father. We know he is pleased.”

“As a drummer, composer, bandleader, educator and activist, Max Roach had a profound impact on American music,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “His collection will have high research value not just for musicians and jazz scholars, but for anyone exploring the rise of political consciousness among African-Americans in the post-World War II period. His collection will now be preserved in the nation’s library so that his legacy and works might inspire generations to come.”

“I attended the University of the streets in the ‘Harlems’ of the USA,” Roach wrote on a hotel stationery notepad, which can be found in this multifaceted collection. “My professors were Duke Ellington, Sonny Greer, Baby Dodds, Louis Armstrong … My classmates were Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charlie Mingus, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis …”

Born on Jan. 14, 1924 in New Land, North Carolina, Roach grew up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant and attended the Manhattan School of Music. He played with Ellington and Parker as a teenager and, over a 60-year career, became one of the leading innovators in jazz. Roach was a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and became the first jazz musician to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” He was posthumously honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

Roach’s personal archive features musical scores, manuscripts, business papers, correspondence, lesson plans, photographs, prints and drawings, and rare audiovisual recordings. Materials from Roach’s musical, theatrical, dance and multimedia collaborations are meticulously detailed in the collection, including ongoing exchanges with Parker, Gillespie, Monk, Mingus, Nina Simone, Alvin Ailey, and playwrights Sam Shepard and Amiri Baraka.

Roach gave voice to his black consciousness and the African-American experience through his music as well as his activism. There is revealing correspondence about his work with such civil rights organizations as the NAACP and SNCC, as well as with writer Maya Angelou and various associates of Malcolm X.

This extraordinary rich collection totals more than 100,000 items, comprising about 80,000 manuscripts and papers; 7,500 photographic materials; 1,000 music manuscripts; and hundreds of sound and video recordings. Highlights from the collection include:

• An unpublished draft of his autobiography, written with the late Amiri Baraka;

• A holograph score from “We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite”;

• An unpublished recording—dated Nov. 14, 1964—of legendary pianist Hassan Ibn Ali;

• A “Solo on the Drums” rehearsal for the television program
“With Ossie & Ruby,” featuring Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Billy Taylor and Max Roach;

• An unpublished 1969 recording of Max Roach with former wife Abbey Lincoln in Iran;

• An unpublished Cecil Taylor and Max Roach duet in Italy in 2000;

• The “An Evening with Max Roach” broadcast, Sept. 8, 1964;

• Interviews and performances with Max Roach, Gary Bartz, Woody Shaw, Stanley Cowell and Reggie Workman for Tokyo radio in 1977.

• Rarely seen photos of Roach with Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Clarke, Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins, Abbey Lincoln and many more.

The Max Roach Collection will be available in the Library’s Performing Arts Reading Room on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The collection will complement the Library’s existing collections of Charles Mingus, Billy Taylor, Gerry Mulligan, Alvin Ailey, Dexter Gordon, Louis Bellson and Shelly Manne.

The Library’s unparalleled music holdings include manuscripts, scores, sound recordings, books, libretti, music-related periodicals and microforms, copyright deposits and musical instruments. Manuscripts of note include those of European masters such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms and those of American masters such as Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Charles Mingus. The Alan Lomax collection of field recordings of American roots music, Woody Guthrie’s original recordings and manuscripts, and one-of-a-kind recordings of bluesman Robert Johnson from the 1930s are also among the Library’s musical treasures. For more information about the division’s holdings of music, theater and dance, visit www.loc.gov/rr/perform/.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.