May 28, 2008

Old School - Back Where We Started


Kenny Garrett,Low-keyed and soft-spoken, lets his music do the talking, and he communicates clearly through his post-bop saxophone styles, exuding easy listening from his alto horn. After years of apprenticeship with legendary jazz bands including the Jazz Messengers and the Woody Shaw Quintet, Garrett came to prominence during the 1980s as Miles Davis's sideman. After Davis died, Garrett moved into his own spotlight as the bandleader of the Kenny Garrett Quartet. In addition to his various album releases during the 1990s, he contributed to dozens of works by his fellow jazz musicians. He is an incessant philosopher, an innovator, a composer, and a musical arranger.

Garrett was born in Detroit, Michigan, on October 9, 1960. He was the second of four siblings. Musically, his parents were heterodyne; his mother enjoyed rhythm and blues, while his father listened to jazz. Garrett's father was a professional saxophone player, and as a result, Garrett developed an early interest in music. His father taught him the scales, and Garrett started to play his own saxophone at the age of nine or ten. He enjoyed the instrument and brought it with him to school, playing whenever he found the opportunity. Garrett got his original groove in his hometown of Detroit, where he worked with Marcus Belgrave. Belgrave, well known for his community spirit, mentored Garrett for a time.

In high school, Garrett played gigs around town on the weekends, and predictably each Monday morning he stumbled tardily into the classroom. Despite his youth, he had matured into an old-school jazzman by the time he graduated, maintaining a reserved and skeptical cynicism for academia. In 1978 he gained acceptance to the famous Berklee School of Music. Coincidentally, he received an invitation to join Mercer Ellington on tour. Garrett subsequently chose not to attend Berklee and elected instead to tour with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Garrett avowed repeatedly that he never regretted the decision to forego school because his experience with the orchestra proved invaluable and contributed to his development as a uniquely skilled musician. From the Ellington Orchestra, Garrett's career led him to stints with Freddie Hubbard's band and with Woody Shaw.

After many months on the road, Garrett moved to New York City in 1980. There he played with a band called Out of the Blue. He cut his debut album on the Criss Cross label as a bandleader with the Kenny Garrett Quintet. The album, released in 1984, was called Introducing Kenny Garrett. Around that same time, Garrett joined with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. In 1986, still with Blakey, Garrett earned a spot as sideman for Miles Davis. He worked with Davis for five years and developed a singular musical rapport with Davis. Additionally, Garrett continued as a bandleader, recording for the Atlantic Jazz label. He released Prisoner of Love in 1989 and African Exchange Student in 1990. When Davis passed away in 1981, Garrett stepped full speed into the bandleader's shoes, having apprenticed for nearly 20 years and having worked with the great jazz pjayers of history.

For the duration of the decade, Garrett settled into a quartet with Nat Reeves on bass, drummer Jeff 'Tain" Watts, and Kenny Kirkland on piano. Garrett recorded a handful of albums on the Warner Brothers label during the remainder of the 1990s, including Black Hope in 1992, Trilogy in 1995, and Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane in 1996. His next two albums—Songbook in 1997 and Simply Said in 1999—were written almost exclusively by Garrett himself. In July of 1997 he and his band spent three days in the Netherlands at the North Sea Jazz Festival at The Hague, and in June of 1998 they performed on the Symphony Space concert ticket at the JVC Jazz Festival along with jazz violinist Regina Carter. Following Kirkland's untimely death late in 1998, the Kenny Garrett Quartet regrouped to include former Toni Braxton drummer Christopher Dave, bassist Nat Reeves, and Shedrick Mitchell on piano. Pianists Nick Smith and Mulgrew Miller also contributed guest performances.
Garrett paid homage openly and often to his predecessors and heroes in American jazz. His 1996 remembrance of John Coltrane, called Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane, featured Pat Metheny on guitar, drummer Brian Blade, and Rodney Whitaker on bass. The recording earned recognition as the Jazz Album of the Year, according to a readers' poll from Down Beat. Garrett himself was named Alto Saxophone Player of the year in the same poll. His self-produced 1999 release, called Simply Said, reflects the influence of his half-decade stint with Miles Davis.

It is Garrett's philosophical attitude that rules his music. He is a paradoxical purist in the juxtaposed arena of jazz and subscribes to an idealistic school of thought and lets the truth resound from his horn. He is a "righteously devoted musician working toward a purpose somewhat higher than mere entertainment," Down Beat's Howard Mandel said of Garret. "His horn's cries are honest...." Despite his traditional, "hard-knocks" approach to performing jazz, Garrett refuses to discount the validity of other music styles and encourages musicians to experiment with popular music as well as jazz, in a quest for new and stimulating arrangements. "Young musicians shouldn't be afraid to take the opportunity to play popular music... It doesn't mean you have to stay there," he confided to Martin Johnson of Down Beat. Garrett's own compositions often surprise his listeners because his music adheres closely to rhythm and form, in apparent opposition to Garrett's impressive improvisational style and reputation. Billboard's Steve Graybow said that Garrett is "one of the music's most dynamic and adventurous players...." yet he has composed "songs that he hopes will nurture the next generation of jazz musicians." On Songbook, his 1997 Warner Brothers release, Garrett revealed what he called his "softer side," according to Mandel. "I'm trying to tell a story in a different way with the same jazz language my heroes employed.... That's why I try to mix my music up [and] play something for everybody," Garrett said.


Classifying herself as an “Artistic Poet”, NeoSouljah was born Unnita [Yah ‘KNEE Tah] Chambers in Cleveland Ohio April of 1962 and began singing almost as soon as she could talk. Having been a vocalist for 39 of her 45 years on Earth, her talents have been lent to nearly every style of music you can name: Jazz, Neo-Soul, Funk, R&B, Rock, Country & Western, Rap, Hip Hop, Gospel, Madrigal, Classical and Hymnal, as both lead and background vocalist, and vocal arrangement. As a Singer, this Diversity has afforded her the ability to work with some well known Ministries and Artists including HBO Def Poets Abyss and Georgia Me . As a performer, NeoSouljah has appeared in underground productions of The Wiz, A Brand New Me, a movie production "Water My Flowers", and is a member of the Christian Comedy Association.

But it was her craft of Songwriting that eventually led her to the love affair she now holds with Poetry. This gift was discovered during a showcase in an International music conference hosted by Multi Award winning Gospel artist Babbie Mason.

As a poet, NeoSouljah, or “Neo” as she is nicknamed, has not only held her own within the Open Mic circuit winning several slams, she has been found on the mic at local churches as well, given room to ‘tell it like it should be’. Sharing her years of knowledge as a stage performer with her poetic peers, she regularly holds poetry sessions in her home. Called “Confessions” these nights are filled with food, laughter, poetry, writing contests, information, and performance tips as she coaches those alongside and coming behind her. These sessions have also been visited by poets within the National Slam Poetry and HBO Def Poetry community of artists.

Outsane, as she describes herself, Neo boldly addresses the church and it’s biases, our constant decay of morals, and everyday life issues with pictorial prose that is intellectual, funny, educational, and sobering. A firm believer that you can't talk about what you don't know about, every rhyme crafted is from her experience as a Woman, Lover, Friend, Counselor, Minister, and Artist. But she is best known for her Erotiq poetry which addresses issues of the heart, mind, and body, and is Sensual without being vulgar. Her craftsmanship and knowledge of intimacy within a relationship has led The National Society of Black Engineers National Convention to called upon her several times to serve as a Clinician for a Standing Room Only workshop she has entitled: Sex And The City: Being Healed from E.T.D.’s. [Emotionally Transmitted Diseases]. designed through poetry and interactive exercises to help the participants heal from the scars of verbal abuse and develop healthy communication skills and relationships that branch from the home to the workplace, church, and neighborhood.

Currently NeoSouljah is working on a CD, as well as production of various projects both within her own company [One Love Ink], and alongside her business partner, Executive Talent Consultant for HBO Def Poetry Jam, Walter T. Mudu of Mudu Multimedia. Be sure to look out for her project “The Instrument – Me” this summer, as well as a Devotional Journal infused with Poetry later this year.

May 19, 2008



NORBERT KRAPF was born in 1943 in Jasper, Indiana, a German community. He graduated from Jasper High School and received a B.A. in English from St. Joseph's College, Rensselaer, IN. He received his M.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame and also his Ph.D. in English and American Literature, with a concentration in American Poetry. He taught at the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University 1970-2004, where he is now emeritus Professor of English, was Poet Laureate 2003-2007, and directed the C. W. Post Poetry Center. He twice served in Germany as a Senior Fulbright Professor of American Poetry, at the Universities of Freiburg and Erlangen-Nuremberg. He was also a U.S. Exchange Teacher at West Oxon Technical College, England.

Since 1976 Norbert Krapf has written or edited 20 books, two of which are his translations from the German. His most recent publication, a full-color hardcover coffee-table book, from Indiana University Press, is a collaboration with Darryl Jones, Invisible Presence: A Walk through Indiana in Photographs and Poems (2006). Fifteen of these books are collections of his own poetry, including Somewhere in Southern Indiana: Poems of Midwestern Origins (1993), Blue-Eyed Grass: Poems of Germany (1997), and Looking for God's Country (2005), all available from Time Being Books, and Bittersweet Along the Expressway: Poems of Long Island (2000) and The Country I Come From (2002), sixty poems set in Indiana. He is the editor/translator of Beneath the Cherry Sapling: Legends from Franconia (1988), a collection of folktales set in his ancestral region, and Shadows on the Sundial: Selected Early Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (1990). He is also the editor of a book of writings about the first important American nature poet, Under Open Sky: Poets on William Cullen Bryant (1986).

In December, 2007, Acme Records of Bloomington, IN released Norbert Krapf and jazz pianist-composer Monika Herzig’s CD Imagine - Indiana in Music and Words, which includes a 20-page booklet with texts of all 14 poems and performance photo collages in color. In April, 2008, The Indiana Historical Society Press will release his prose memoir, The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood (275 pp. hardcover, with ca. 70 black and white photographs, $15.95); and in October, 2008, under the Quarry Books imprint, Indiana University Press will release Bloodroot: Indiana Poems, a selection of 175 Norbert Krapf poems about Indiana written 1971-2007, with 60+ black and white photographs by David Pierini.

In April of 2005, Time Being Books released his collection Looking for God's Country, 85 poems set in Indiana and Germany. Included is a cycle of 26 poems inspired by the black-and-white photographs of Franconian photographer Andreas Riedel. Poet Helmut Haberkamm, who wrote the script for a 2001 Radio Bavaria feature on Norbert Krapf's search for his Franconian roots, has translated many of Krapf's poems into German.

The revised, expanded edition of Finding the Grain: Pioneer German Journals and Letters from Dubois County, Indiana, which includes the letters of Joseph Kundek, the Croatian missionary who colonized Dubois County with German Catholics, was published in 1996 by the Max Kade German-American Center, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. In 1998, Rain Crow Publications of Chicago published The Sunday Before Thanksgiving: Two Prose Memoirs, nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is working on a book of essays about poetry, place, and ethnic heritage, Where It All Began, and a young adult novel about an old German immigrant in southern Indiana, The Bells of St. Michael's.

In 1999 Norbert Krapf received the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America for the poem "Fire and Ice". He has received an honorary doctorate of letters from his alma mater, St. Joseph's College, the David Newton Award for Excellence in Teaching from Long Island University, and a Trustees Award for Scholarly Achievement from LIU. English artist Martin Donlin selected his poem "Back Home" to be part of a large stained-glass panel for the new Indianapolis Airport, scheduled to open in late 2008.

At the beginning of 2006, Norbert Krapf became a board member of Etheridge Knight, Inc., which promotes the arts for youth, youth at risk, adults, seniors, disabled and incarcerated individuals, and residents traditionally underserved by the arts community. EK Inc. pays tribute to the arts community and the legacy of the late African American Indianapolis poet Etheridge Knight by providing a diverse artistic environment in the interdisiplinary arts for people of all cultures. Guests at the annual Etheridge Knight Festival, begun in 1992 by the poet's sister Eunice Knight-Bowen, have included Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, Toi Derricotte, Kevin Young, Allison Joseph, Martmn Espada, and many others.

On Long Island, the C. W. Post Campus Bookstore (Barnes & Noble) has the best selection of his publications, but Barnes & Noble, Manhasset; Borders, Westbury; the Book Revue, Huntington; and Canio's Books, Sag Harbor also carry his books. In Jasper, IN., Flower Stall Hearth and Home (Southgate) and the Dubois County Museum have a generous selection of his titles. carries his books as do and, which lists reviews and includes an author interview. Individuals may order Somewhere in Southern Indiana, Blue-Eyed Grass and Looking for God's Country (2005) from Time Being Books (866-840-4344) at a discount. The Country I Come From is available at a discount price from Archer Books. Invisible Presence is available at most bookstores and is substantially discounted by

Norbert Krapf's papers, including his literary correspondence and manuscripts, are housed mainly in the Rush Rhees Library, Univ. of Rochester, but also in the special collections at IUPUI, Univ. of California San Diego, Stanford Univ., and the Univ. of New Hampshire. The Indiana Historical Society has a collection of audio- and videocassettes of his radio and TV and other readings and interviews that are being converted to CD, and the Dubois County Museum holds his collection of family history materials and documents, including memorabilia from grade school, Boy Scouts, high school, and college.


Monika Herzig, was Born: June 12, 1964
In 1987, the pedagogical institute in Weingarten, Germany awarded a scholarship for a one-year exchange program at the University of Alabama to one of their students, jazz pianist Monika Herzig. Together with her partner and guitarist Peter Kienle, she arrived in the States on a one-way ticket, with one suitcase of belongings and one guitar in August 1988.

Since then she has completed her Doctorate in Music Education and Jazz Studies at Indiana University, where she is now a faculty member. As a touring jazz artist, she has performed at many prestigious jazz clubs and festivals, such as the Indy Jazz Fest, Cleveland's Nighttown, Louisville's Jazz Factory, the W.C.Handy Festival, Jazz in July in Bloomington and Cincinnati, Columbus' Jazz & Rib Fest, to name just a few. Groups under her leadership have toured Germany, opened for acts such as Tower of Power, Sting, the Dixie Dregs, Yes, and more.

Recently she has received her third “Individual Artist Grant” from the Indiana Arts Commission in support of her newest CD project. Her previous release In Your Own Sweet Voice �” A Tribute to Women Composers has received much praise. Thomas Garner from writes, “I was totally awed by the fine musicianship throughout”. As a recipient of the 1994 Down Beat Magazine Award for her composition “Let's Fool One” and with several Big Band Arrangements published with the University of Northern Colorado Press, Herzig has also gathered international recognition for her writing skills.

The current repertoire of the Monika Herzig Acoustic Project includes originals and arrangements of standard repertoire, such as Carole King's “You've Got a Friend”, Kern/ Hammerstein's “The Song Is You”, and Charlie Parker's “Yardbird Suite”. The Monika Herzig Trio can be heard every Thursday and Saturday at Rick's Cafe Boatyard at Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis. For current tour listings and sound samples/ videos visit

PRESS QUOTES; "Distinctive originals and well-chosen standards reveal Herzig's warmhearted, reflective side and her cleverly playful nature." Nancy Ann Lee Jazz Times contributor and co-editor of MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide

“A lovely example of a thoroughly schooled, thoroughly modern jazz pianist.”
Cherilee Wadsworth Walker, Eastern Illinois University

"The lady can get down and play!"
John W. Patterson, AAJ Fusion/ Progressive Editor

Her Awards include; 1994 Down Beat Magazine “Best Original Composition” Winner for Let's Fool One 1994-1996 Two times finalist with BeebleBrox and winner with Oliver Nelson jr. in WTPI Winter Jazzfest Competition, Indianapolis 2000, 2003, 2005 Individual Artist Grant recipient, Indiana Arts Commission

It was such a pleasure to feature this fantastic pianist, composer, arranger, on Spotlight On Jazz And Poetry!

May 08, 2008



Mandika, born and raised in Knoxville, Tenn., has always been a poet even when it wasn’t an official title. She began writing poetry at a very young age and didn’t pick up a pen to write again until five years ago and she hasn’t looked back. She feels it’s liberating to write poetry, even more so to speak it. “To speak what rests on your mind and heart is one of the greatest gifts God gave us.” She says. “We were meant to be his vessel and share his message as an act of love for him.” This is what Mandika does with poetry and spoken word. She’s a vessel of his love.

Mandika Flow, is a jazz enthusiast, writes it, eats it and speaks it with every opportunity she has. her favorite artists are Miles Davis first, Jeff Bradshaw and Roy Hargrove. Favorite jazz vocalist, Al Jarreau, Maysa and Martine Girault but I have so many.

Mandika’s poetry has an affinity toward the spiritual realm. She feels that every one should learn and examine the higher being. In her case, a being Supreme over human beings She says, “It’s clear to me and the track record speak that we need guidance and don’t know what the heck we are doing.”

Mandika is warm and loving with people in general if they allow her, if not she’s all about hers and keeps it moving. The mortal heroes in her life are her Mother, her queen and her precious and beautiful, seventeen year old niece whom is beyond her years, intelligent and the sweetest young thing you could ever meet. She would be considered handicapped as she is sight impaired but if you met her you would see and understand differently.

"Being a poet is rewarding in that people gravitate toward you and feels your spirit, primarily because it appeals to a trait or quality in them." she says "I’ve received enough accolades in the manner of certificates, trophies, merits but the biggest reward is in being able to write in a way that makes anything translate into something special that everyone can relate to." Mandika has a collection of poetry books/short stories featured on:

As a spoken word artist she’s not especially fond of her tonal quality however, it bears a certain soulful, honesty and expressiveness that everyone who hears her would agree is truly special. Mandika is a member of the Poetic Voices family whom she credits with helping her to develop that voice. "Thank you Truth Theory, you really are the truth. Also, a special thanks to Ms. Safiyyah Amina Muhammad and Ms. Lovely Brown for being Sistah’s among Sisters. I got nothing but love for you."

May 07, 2008


Since the late '70s, the offshoot of Jazz known as "smooth jazz" has become increasingly popular with listeners. Because the style is somewhat "laid back", it is easy to fall into the old "groove into rut" routine; therefore, it is important for a band to know what it's doing in order not to bore the listener to death.

Aniya, on its' album In the Moment and their latest album "One Love", knows how to keep the listener engaged and entertained. These six musicians come from varying backgrounds--Jazz, R&B, Gospel--and they bring all that to the table to create sophisticated sounds for the head and heart.

This music is fronted by the nimble fret work of guitarist Delbert Boyer, and the sexy sax stylings of Mark Mitchell; while the rest of the boys lay down the solid, supple rhythms and keyboard colorings, Boyer and Mitchell weave in and out of the music with the skillful dynamics of old pros. "Up All Night" and "In the Moment" are typical of the latter approach, but each man gets some spotlight time--Boyer on "God's Blue Sky", Mitchell on "D's Groove"--in which to shine.

Late in the album, the groove merchants--Tyrone Blanford on bass, Glenn Williams and Tim Sessoms on keyboards, and Nate Jacobs on drums--get their moments to excell on the hip hop influenced "Check This Out" and the Jazz meets R&B of "Longevity". In lesser hands, both of these songs would have been just ordinary, but the rhythm crew give them the right amount of oomph to send them into exquisite orbit.

Make no mistake, Aniya is a force to be reckoned with, and In the Moment is one cool collection of early morning (or late nite) bliss.

May 01, 2008

An Evening With Omar Sosa by Celestial Dancer

On a quiet Friday night, the drive into San Francisco is eerily subdued and uneventful. It’s difficult to credit any importance to the other drivers or the sudden deep chill in the air. Nothing is as eventful as what awaits, an evening with Omar Sosa. This would be my first visit to a jazz set situated in a piano store, but what more befitting environment for Omar Sosa than a nest of beautiful and rare pianos…

The Piedmont Piano Company is an open loft of wood and glass that secures the circulating acoustic sound of the piano as Mr. Sosa begins to play. We the audience, are gently mesmerized as if strung together by the music on our potpourri bed of velvet and leather piano benches. Listening to Mr. Sosa’s music from a CD is a gift, but watching his performance live is an amazing experience that could never be encapsulated in an album. His fingers alight and dance on the keys of the Fazioli as if they were rhythmically charged raindrops tapping on a stage of welcoming glass, and infusing each ear with jazz euphoria. The Fazioli, referred to as the “Ferrari of pianos” by Mr. Sosa, was custom made by the Fazioli Company, named after founder and pianist, Paolo Fazioli, in the northeastern part of Italy. Some interesting characteristics of this grande grand piano are 18K gold fittings and hinges, and a soundboard of red spruce that is seasoned for two years before being assembled. With a price tag of about $200K, the Fazioli piano was brought to life in this evening’s spirited commune with Omar Sosa.

As we were drawn into Mr. Sosa’s purposeful and playful ballads and chorus, we were equally embraced by the strikingly crisp and alluring vocals of Mola Sylla, a gifted vocalist from Senegal, Childo Tomas, electric bass player from Mozambique, and the electronic drums genius of Marque Gilmore, from New York. After the set, Mr. Sosa and his fellow artists greeted and melded with the intimate sized audience as beautiful friends. Performing several concerts on six continents each year, Mr. Sosa performs with a variety of famous and local artists that bring a fresh and invigorating integration of talent that never disappoints. Having brought world renown and universal flavor back to a small piano store in downtown San Francisco without spilling a drop, Omar Sosa and his group planted a new seed of world jazz appreciation for some, and added new memories for others that will keep his name among the circle of jazz greats, and I was most fortunate to witness this one.