August 29, 2008

Jazz Vocalists Vol. 2 "KAREN FRANCIS"

Karen Francis, one of the many straight-ahead jazz vocalists who emerged in the '90s, grew up in the Deep South; the singer went to high school in Augusta, GA (home of Soul Godfather James Brown) before attending Tuskegee University in Alabama. But she ended up moving to the Northeastern part of the United States and spent most of the '90s in that region. Francis now lives in Newark, NJ, just outside of New York City.

Karen got a lucky break when she met veteran hard bop/post-bop pianist Stanley Cowell during the summer of 1994. The two of them met at a party in the Washington, DC suburb of Silver Springs, MD, where they were introduced by one of Cowell's students. After hearing Francis sing, Cowell (who was 53 at the time) felt that she had a great deal of potential -- and he was surprised to learn that she had only been singing jazz for two years. Francis had been studying jazz singing since 1992, although she had been playing several instruments since high school. Cowell had enough faith in Francis to feature her extensively on his 1995 release Mandara Blossoms, which came out on the independent SteeleChase Records (a well-known Danish jazz label that is based in Copenhagen, and was named after a famous Charlie Parker standard). In fact, the acoustic pianist featured Francis on six of his own compositions, as well as on the classic Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn standard "Daydream."

And Mandara Blossoms wasn't the end of Francis' relationship with SteeleChase, which released her first album as a leader, Where Is Love?, in 1996, and her sophomore disc,

Little Sunflower, in 1998. The latter includes some arrangements by pianist Larry Willis, who Francis studied with extensively in the late '90s. Francis' influences have included, among others, Sarah Vaughan, Dianne Reeves, Carmen Lundy, Dinah Washington, and Billie Holiday -- and even though she is jazz-oriented, Francis doesn't consider herself a jazz snob. In fact, she has cited Oleta Adams and Barbra Streisand as two of her favorite singers; Francis has also expressed admiration for R&B singers Chaka Khan and Jill Scott. In 2003, Francis' third album, Better Days (which employs the ubiquitous Christian McBride on acoustic bass) was released independently on Virgo Rising Records

August 18, 2008


ALPHONSE MOUZON (who is an African American mixed with French and Blackfoot Indian) was born November 21, 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended Bonds-Wilson High School where he received his early musical training under the direction of saxophonist Lonnie Hamilton III, and some drum lessons from Charles Garner. Following graduation from high school, he moved to New York to study music and drama at New York City College and medicine at Manhattan Medical School. MOUZON took drum lessons from jazz pianist Billy Taylor's drummer Bobby Thomas. Whileattending college, Alphonse played in the pit band of the broadway show "PROMISES, PROMISES" after being recommended by Bobby Thomas. MOUZON also worked as a medical technologist at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital after graduating from Manhattan Medical School. However his medical career was short lived.

By 1969 his reputation as a player had spread to such an extent that a medical career was no longer attractive. By the early seventies, he had embarked upon a musical journey that would take him to almost every corner of the world and would establish his reputation as one the most creative musician of the era. In 1975 MOUZON studied acting at The Lee Strausberg Institute for Actors in Hollywood, California. In 1997 he studied acting with Susan Ricketts and in 1998 MOUZON studied advance voice-overs with Don Pitts at California State University of Northridge.

MOUZON's musical associations read like a veritable Who's Who of Modern Jazz and Pop Music. His talents cover a broad range of musical disciplines and philosophies. He was the rhythmic foundation for the far reaching musical explorations of pianist McCoy Tyner. He was a charter member along with keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, of the group Weather Report. Along with guitarist Larry Coryell, MOUZON was co-founder of The Eleventh House, the seminal fusion band of the seventies. The Larry Coryell's Eleventh House reunited after 25 years in July 1998 and toured all over the world featuring Mouzon until December 12, 1999.

MOUZON has also played and/or recorded with Gil Evans, Roy Ayers, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola, Les McCann, Ronnie Laws, Klaus Doldinger's Passport, Jaco Pastorius, Ron Carter, Nathan East, Cecil McBee, Albert Mangelsdorff, Joachim Kuhn, Jasper van't Hof, Michel Legrand, Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Donald Bird, Chet Baker, Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, Ernie Watts, Sonny Rollins, Wallace Roney, Arturo Sandoval, Christian McBride, Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton, George Coleman, John Klemmer, Billy Harper, Dave Grusin, Russ Freeman, George Howard, Kirk Whalum, Jeff Lorber, Kenny G., Joanne Brackeen, Horace Parlan, Robin Kenyatta, Ross Carnegie Orchestra, Roberta Flack, Gloria Lynn, Gloria Coleman, Denise Williams, Freda Payne, Shirley Scott, Anita O'Day, Betty Davis, and in 1991, he performed with Miles Davis on the movie soundtrack album entitled "Dingo". MILES DAVIS even spoke highly of MOUZON in his book entitled"Miles - The Autobiography".

MOUZON has also played with and helped the early careers of Lee Ritenour, David Beniot, Gerald Albright, Sam Riney, Brandon Fields, Greg Karukas, Dave Koz, and Richard Elliot.MOUZON's rock/pop credentials include gigs with no less respectable a crew than Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Patrick Moraz, Tommy Bolin and Chubby Checker. ROBERT PLANT, lead singer for the legendary rock group LED ZEPPELIN, named MOUZON, during his acceptance speech for induction into the 1995 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, one of the band's major influences .

Besides radio, MOUZON's music has been aired on CBS, NBC and ABC's Daytime Television Soap Operas - "ALL MY CHILDREN", "ANOTHER WORLD", "AS THE WORLD TURNS", "DAYS OF OUR LIVES", "ONE LIFE TO LIVE", "LOVING", "GENERAL HOSPITAL", "GENERATIONS", "SANTA BARABARA", "THE GUIDING LIGHT", "SUNSET BEACH", "PASSIONS", and CBS SPORTS, "LIFE STYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS", "RUNAWAY WITH THE RICH AND FAMOUS", "LEEZA", "HARD COPY", "ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT", and many more!MOUZON's name can be found in just about every Jazz Encyclopedia/ Dictionary, and is listed the 2nd edition of Marquis Who's Who In Entertainment and Who's Who In The World.

MOUZON was voted the #2 BEST MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST in the 1995 Jazziz Magazine Annual Readers Poll.

At present, MOUZON performs in Europe and in the U.S. with his trio, quartet, or quintet and as a featured guest artist with other groups. Please check your local listings. He is currently producing music for his next five CDs, entitled "SMOOTH AS SILK" "ANGEL FACE", "LIVE AT THE BAKED POTATO", "HIGH NOON", "LIVE IN BEL AIR" on Tenacious Records MOUZON'S trumpet, flute and alto sax playing will be featured on some of these upcoming studio releases. See MOUZON along with actor TOM HANKS in the film "THAT THING YOU DO". ALPHONSE is acting an playing drums. He also composed the music score for the Blue Spot jazz club scene, in which he plays a smoking drums solo. The acoustic piano melody and solo on "Blue Spot" were also performed (off camera) by Alphonse Mouzon.

MOUZON is a born again Christian and his motto is "Veracity and Integrity are Virtues". Keep the faith!

August 16, 2008



In 1961, four fellows from Houston transplanted themselves to Los Angeles and added more distinctly bluesy elements to the soul jazz style with an ear-grabbing album called “The Freedom Sound,” on the Pacific Jazz label. Its four co-leaders were trombonist Wayne Henderson, tenor saxophonist (and occasional bassist) Wilton Felder, pianist Joe Sample, and drummer Nesbert “Stix” Hooper.

They first joined together in Houston in the fifties with the formation of The Swingsters, the group’s embracing of many different musical styles starts where it normally does, at the beginning. “Because we came up on the streets and not in the studios,” says Felder, “our music was live. The Texas streets were rich with the blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins. We grew up on all the deep country sounds. At the same time, we had ears for modern jazz like”Miles and Monk,”and never saw a contradiction between the old and new.” It’s no surprise, then, that once in senior high, The Swingsters became The Modern Jazz Sextet, a group that continued through their college years at Texas Southern University. Before graduation, though, the call of the road was irresistible, and they were off to L.A.

Two years later, in 1960, the group was signed to Pacific Jazz Records and re-christened The Jazz Crusaders. Their trombone/sax frontline sound was unique, their bop chops impeccable. In a series of superlative albums, The Jazz Crusaders built a national reputation, surviving a decade in which the popularity of jazz was in extreme decline. On one hand, the British Invasion and Motown dominated the youth market; on the other, the jazz avant-garde alienated scores of fans.

The Jazz Crusaders sound caught on big time, and their subsequent Pacific Jazz albums rewarded them with a good deal of exposure. The band performed regularly and got plenty of airplay. But as times changed, so did the Jazz Crusaders. In the late Sixties, they placed popular songs in their repertoire, and firm back beats began to bolster many a selection. By 1971, they decided that the word “jazz” kept them from attracting a wider listener base, and so they emerged anew with “The Crusaders, Vol. 1,” (Chisa), an album that openly infused jazz with pop, soul, and R&B elements.

If the Jazz Crusaders had achieved some degree of popularity, it was nothing like the crossover success that greeted the Crusaders. Such albums as “Scratch,” “Southern Comfort,” “Chain Reaction,” “Those Southern Knights,” “Free as the Wind,” “Images, Street Life,” and “Royal Jam” (recorded variously for the Chisa, ABC Blue Thumb, and MCA labels) sold well and brought in a deluge of new fans. Street Life’s title track, with Randy Crawford on vocals, provided the Crusaders with a major crossover hit in 1979.

The Crusaders’ popularity started to fade in the early Eighties, prompted by Henderson’s departure. Hooper then left as well, and by the early ‘90’s, Sample and Felder had disbanded the group.

A few years later, Henderson and Felder began performing together, first as the New Crusaders and then, as the Jazz Crusaders. Henderson was able to hold on to the name Jazz Crusaders and is still touring under that name. They reunited after a 20-year absence, and in 2003, Verve Records released “Rural Renewal.” This record featured the heart of the original Crusaders lineup;Joe Sample on keys, Wilton Felder on saxophone, and Stix Hooper on drums, along with trombonist Steve Baxter, in Wayne Henderson’s former spot. Also on board was Stewart Levine, the producer credited for The Crusaders’ major successes in the 1960s and 1970s.

Henderson and Felder both went on to have solid solo careers both as performers and producers. Hooper likewise remained active though not as visible as the others.Joe Sample of course has gone on to become a first call pianist and has produced a score of fine albums as leader as well. Even during the days of commercial success, the Crusaders had at their core a note of integrity. Though many will judge them for their latter more popular period, they are recognized by jazz aficionados for their work in the early ‘60’s as the Jazz Crusaders.

The young musicians performed their own mix of the sounds that came out of their culture and their experiences. It was only when they were signed to Pacific Jazz that they adopted the name that would remain unchanged for a decade.

From their first recordings, The Jazz Crusaders proved they sounded like no one else. They took as their foundation what Sample called the three pillars of African American music: jazz, blues and gospel. In fact, part of what makes The Jazz Crusaders' music through the decade of the 1960s so appealing is that their background and musical influences seemed to put them on a course of musical discovery, seeking ways to apply the art of self expression and improvisation to their own compositions and to a wide repertoire from the jazz and pop worlds.


Every once in a while, an artist comes along who redefines and manipulates the boundaries of his craft. Using a various array of soul stirring lyrics and a thought process that is borderline alien, MizloonaR is well on his way to doing just that.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, MizloonaR who is a poet-lyricist-singer uses the labyrinth of his life experience to paint vivid depictions of the world through his eyes. Since birth, MizloonaR and music have been
connected at the hip, and it seems like the marriage of the two has finally come full circle. As a child of the ghetto, loonaR had a smorgasboard of inspiration to draw from, and with his innate ability to absorb and translate his surroundings, he sketches portraits of where he's been and where he plans on going. He draws from the struggles of his inner city brethren, using the remnants of their pain and the monuments of their joy to tell the story of a world that is seldom documented accurately. Using the lessons of life as the paint for his canvas, loonaR touches on every aspect of life, from distant dreams to a jagged reality.

Knowing that life is a great teacher, loonaR uses his lessons learned to articulate the black male experience. mizloonaR draws from the memories of his innopportune incarceration in his early
twenties, and he expresses the pain and long road back to self suffiency after being a gunshot victim in the badlands of North Philadelphia. If u had seen or experienced some of the events that mizloonaR has been through and witnessed, you would indeed consider it amazing that he has lived this long to tell about it. But through the blessing of The Most High, and with the constant support and motivation from his family, mizloonaR has survived to tell the world the story of his many successes and failures.

Using the fragments of an education gained at Florida Community College of Jacksonville as well as the Community College of Philadelphia, mizloonar uses his brilliance with the English language to go outside the boundaries of self expression, choosing to go against the grain and show the endless possibilities that exists within the human imagination. A loving father and a
strong advocate of family, mizloonaR is a perfect example of what we are all capable of if we remain focused and uncompromised.

With the constant increase in brutality and racism that arise in the bowels of the ghetto, loonaR is relentless in his fight for the upliftment and educating of his community. Using music and poetry as vehicles to promote positivity and hope, mizloonaR is currently in the process of completing his double album. Celebrated for his ability to hopscotch from genre to genre, mizloonaR intends to pull from his full arsenal of gifts and abilities to leave his imprint on the world. Join him as he takes that long walk to forever. uno (loonaR)

August 07, 2008


Oni Lasana "desired poet of the people" was born and raised in North Philadelphia during the height of the Civil Rights era in America. She was deeply affected and involved in the Black Consciousness Movement. An avid traveler, she pursued a life course to bring positive awareness of African American and Caribbean culture to communities worldwide. She spent a successful career in the music industry as a publisher and promoter of Black music in the 70's, 80's and 90's.

A cultural conduit and creative muse to many, Oni established Oni Lasana Productions, in 1994. It allows her to serve the community as a cultural enrichment teaching artist, poet, storyteller, musician, producer, publisher, songwriter, historical interpreter (Harriet Tubman), playwright, (The Soul of Kwanzaa), among many other artistic ventures.

Oni Lasana is known internationally for her one woman theatrical production and audio CD on the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. She brings to life the poetry of Dunbar, from backyards to reputable theaters. Oni's programs are embraced internationally, from Germany to Trinidad and Tobago. Renowned Poet and Professor, Nikki Giovanni announced on several occasions that Oni is the "Voice of Dunbar!” Oni Lasana is featured in Sourcebooks, “Hip Hop Speaks To Children“, a audio and book of poetry slated for release in October 2008. Lasana’s "spirit driven" original poetry can be heard on her sophomore CD "Sister Wings, Spoken Word Songs, Bass & Beats“ a blend of soul, reggae and hip hop grooves, also, “Doin’ Dunbar as ‘Lias’ Mother” which features the dialect poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, both CD's are available at

Past-president, and presently the PR Chair of Keepers Of The Culture, Inc., Philadelphia's Afrocentric Storytelling Group she is also a life member of the National Association of Black Storytelling, Inc. Oni Lasana Productions are welcomed at countless cultural, social, educational and corporate events.