Arkansas’ Best Drummers Highlighted at the @RevRoomLR #TheDrummerIsInTheHouse

Bands, Concert Reviews, Concerts, Drum Solos, Drummers, Drums, entertainment, events, Funk, Gospel, Gospel Music, jazz, music, musicology, Night Clubs, soul, videos

001 The Drummer Is In The House002 The Drummer Is In The House003 Revolution Roon004 Revolution Room005 Rod Pleasants006 The Drummer Is In The House007 The Drummer Is In The House009 The DJ011 The Drummer Is In The House012 Revolution Room013 The Drummer Is In The House015 Yvette Preyer and Band016 Yvette Preyer017 Yvette Preyer's Band018 Yvette Preyer's Band019 Yvette Preyer020 Yvette Preyer Band022 Yvette Preyer024 The Drummer Is In The House025 The Drummer Is In The House026 The Drummer Is In The House027 Yvette Preyer028 The Drummer Is In The House029 Yvette Preyer and her student030 Yvette Preyer031 Rod Pleasants032 Rod Pleasants034 Rod Pleasants035 Rod Pleasants036 Rod Pleasants' Bass Player037 Rod Pleasants038 Steve Bailey039 Steve Bailey040 Steve Bailey042 Jamaal Lee's Bass Player043 Jamaal Lee's Guitar Player046 Jonathan JJ Burks047 Jonathan JJ Burks048 Jonathan Burks049 Jonathan Burks051 Jonathan JJ Burks052 Jonathan JJ Burks053 Jonathan JJ Burks054 Jonathan JJ Burks055 Jonathan JJ Burks056 Revolution Room057 Jonathan JJ Burks058 Jonathan JJ Burks059 Jonathan JJ Burks060 Jonathan JJ Burks063 Charles Anthony Thompson064 Charles Anthony Thompson065 Charles Anthony Thompson's Bassist066 Charles Anthony Thompson's Guitarist067 Charles Anthony Thompson068 Charles Anthony Thompson069 Revolution Room070 The Roundabout073 The Roundabout074 Aerion Jamaal Lee076 Jamaal Lee & JJ Burks077 JJ Burks and Steve Bailey078 Jamaal Lee & JJ Burks079 JJ Burks & Steve Bailey080 The Roundabout081 JJ Burks082 Steve Bailey083 Jamaal Lee084 Jonathan JJ Burks & Steve Bailey085 Drummer Is In The House086 Jonathan JJ Burks & Steve Bailey087 Jamaal Lee & JJ Burks088 Jonathan JJ Burks089 Jamaal Lee & JJ Burks090 Steve Bailey091 Steve Bailey092 Jonathan JJ Burks093 Jamaal Lee094 Jamaal Lee & Band095 Jonathan JJ Burks & Steve Bailey096 Jamaal Lee & A Singer097 Jonathan JJ Burks & Steve Bailey098 RevRoom Sculpture100 Downtown Little Rock101 Revolution Room102 The Rev Room103 Cache
In the field of Black music worldwide, no other musical instrument is as important as the drums. Not only is percussion the musical foundation for much Black music and dance, but the instrument looms large in the cultural memory of people throughout the African diaspora. So it was only fitting for Arkansas’ best drummers to be honored at an event called The Drummer Is In The House, which was held at the Revolution Room on President Clinton Avenue in the River Market area of Little Rock on Thursday July 10. The event, sponsored by Clifford Drummaboy Aaron, featured performances by current and former Little Rock drummers Yvette Preyer, Rod Pleasants, Steve Bailey, Aerion Jamaal Lee, Jonathan “JJ” Burks and Charles Anthony Thompson. Rather than just a lot of extended solos, most of the drummers played with their individual bands, and even some singers, performing songs from the neo-soul, jazz and gospel traditions. But there were great solos too, including one from Jamaal Lee full of afro-caribbean rhythms and patterns, and one from Charles Anthony Thompson exhibiting extended sticking and tone techniques including pitch bends, and plenty of jazz influence. The final highlight of the evening was an event called the Roundabout, at which drummers moved across the stage from the first drum set, to the second, to the third, while Yvette Preyer kept a basic conga pattern for them on an octapad. As one drummer would exit the stage, another would come on from the left, enabling all the drummers to have an opportunity to shed three at a time, and to play each of the three drum sets. The Drummer Is In The House was truly a major event that highlighted some really great drummers, and a lot of other great horn players, guitarists, bassists, keyboardists and singers. I am told that future events will be held at the Revolution Room to highlight the other instrument families, and I am looking forward to it.

A Summer Band Battle at Memphis’ Oakhaven Park

Bands, Drummers, Drums, entertainment, events, music, musicology, videos

080 Memphis Mass Band082 Memphis Mass Band083 Memphis HBCU Alumni Weekend084 Memphis Mass Band085 HBCU Alumni Weekend086 Memphis Mass Band087 Memphis Mass Band088 Memphis Mass Band090 Memphis Mass Band091 Magic City All-Stars092 Magic City All-Stars093 Memphis Mass Band094 Memphis Mass Band Drumline095 Memphis Mass Band096 Memphis Mass Band Percussion097 Memphis Mass band099 Memphis Mass Band Drumline100 Memphis Mass Band Drumline101 Memphis Mass Band Quints102 Memphis Mass Band103 Magic City All-Stars104 Magic City All-Stars105 Memphis Mass Band106 Magic City All-Stars107 HBCU Alumni Weekend109 Magic City All-Stars110 Magic City All-Stars111 Magic City All-Stars112 Memphis Mass Band113 HBCU Alumni Weekend114 Memphis Mass Band116 Memphis Mass Band Drumline117 Memphis Mass Band118 Memphis Mass Band119 Memphis Mass Band Snares126 Magic City All-Stars127 Memphis Mass Band Percussion128 Memphis Mass Band Drumline129 Memphis Mass Band Tenors132 Magic City All-Stars133 Magic City All-Stars134 Memphis Mass Band Snares135 Memphis Mass Band Tenors136 Magic City All-Stars141 Memphis Mass Band Percussion142 Memphis Mass Band
There is a Black marching band tradition which is distinct from its white equivalent, despite points of similarity, and, not surprisingly, that tradition is deeply loved in Memphis. In fact, the city has had some legendary band directors, including Jimmie Lunceford, the internationally-known big band star who was Manassas High School’s first band director, or Emerson Able, also at Manassas, or W. T. McDaniel at Booker T. Washington or Tuff Green at Melrose High School. Memphis musicians routinely enrich the Black college marching bands at Pine Bluff or Jackson State or Tennessee State. But the band culture doesn’t end during the summer, either, as there are alumni bands like the Memphis Mass Band, comprised of former HBCU band members, as well as current musicians home from college for the break, and perhaps a few high school students as well, and these summer aggregations battle each other during the summer months. This past weekend, the Memphis Mass Band battled its Birmingham equivalent, the Magic City All-Stars Band at Oakhaven Stadium during what was billed as the HBCU Alumni Weekend. About a hundred or more people turned out to see these two all-star bands battle, and I was impressed with the quality of both bands. The Memphis Mass Band was the larger of the two, but both groups had great arrangements, and a tightness and togetherness that I don’t always hear in established college bands. And the arrangements were largely unfamiliar to me and fresh. The Memphis band’s unexpected reading of Johnnie Taylor’s “Running Out of Lies” was definitely the high point in my opinion. I might add that despite a lot of trash talk between the bands, there was not one untoward incident. Just good fun and great music.

Black Indians in New Orleans

entertainment, events, music, musicology, videos

Although many writers and scholars refer to the African-American tribes of “Indians” in New Orleans as “Mardi Gras Indians”, I have chosen not to, due to the inaccuracy of the term. For one thing, the men do not refer to themselves in that way. They simply call themselves “Indians” and their organizations “tribes” or more often “gangs”. For another, “Mardi Gras Indians” suggests that these organizations are functional one day a year, when in reality their activity is nearly year-round in scope, involving sewing of costumes and weekly rehearsals. The Indian gangs are visible to the public on Mardi Gras Day, St. Joseph’s Day, and since the early 1970’s, also on the Uptown and Downtown Super Sundays. They have also become a fixture at each year’s Jazz Fest, and are more visible on stage at other times of year. So, for the lack of a better term, I have chosen the designation “Black Indians”, the name given to similar groups in Trinidad as the most descriptively accurate term possible, and so as to avoid confusion with Native Americans or with people from India.

New Orleans’ Black Indians Chanting At A Second-Line Stop

Black History, entertainment, events, music, musicology

Usually, the stops along a second-line are a moment of rest. The band stops playing, and the marching club members go inside the headquarters of another club to get refreshments and cool off before starting the next leg of the parade. But on this particular stop on this particular Sunday, all attention focused on a group of older second-liners that were reciting chants to the beat of a tambourine. These men, although not in costume, were Black Indians, members of various “gangs” or “tribes” that are often incorrectly referred to as “Mardi Gras Indians.” The practice of African-American men “masking Indian” on Mardi Gras Day and St. Joseph’s Night dates to at least the late 19th century, and has points in common with Haitian rara bands, Trinidadian Indian maskers, jamettes and calendas, Brazilian samba schools and the Cuban cabildos and nanigos. The chants of Black Indians in New Orleans contain fragments of an “Indian language” that has been much discussed amongst scholars, but about which there is no agreement as to origin or meaning, with some finding elements of French, Creole, Spanish or various African languages in it. “Iko Iko”, “Jockamo Fin-a Ne” and “Two Way Pocky Way” are all examples of this language that have been preserved in song. Influence of the Black Indians is now evident in the brass band culture, where songs from the Indian tradition like “Let’s Go Get Em” can be heard, and in the social aid and pleasure clubs, where the current trend is toward colorful outfits decorated with feathers, a clear reference to the elaborate and colorful suits of the Indians.

The Wildman

Art, Artists, Dance, musicology, Photography

176 Wildman
This painting of a Black Indian Wildman was on the door of a house along the parade route for the Money Wasters second-line. In the Black Indian gangs of New Orleans, the “Wildman” is one of the “offices” of the tribe, along with the “flag boy”, “spy boy”, “trail chief” and “big chief.” On Mardi Gras Day and St. Joseph’s Night, these men perform certain functions related to the ways in which tribes encounter each other and how they ritually battle through chanting and dance.

Celebrating the Lower 9th Ward at the House of Dance and Feathers

Dance, Museums, music, musicology, Travel

A few years ago, when I visited the Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme, I was unaware of the existence of another museum dedicated to the African-American cultural practices of the Lower Ninth Ward. Indeed, Ronald Lewis’ amazing House of Dance and Feathers, located in the back yard of his residence, was nearly destroyed by the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina, and many priceless artifacts were lost, but volunteers and donors helped rebuild the museum and restock it with photographs and objects that preserve a record of the neighborhood’s unique culture, a culture that at times seems more Caribbean than American. When the Neighborhood Story Project published a beautiful book about the museum, many people around the world (including myself)became more aware of the great work that Lewis has done to preserve a record of the Lower Ninth Ward and its significance to New Orleans as a whole. The museum contains artifacts of Black Indian culture, of social aid and pleasure clubs, and of brass bands and musicians. It also contains articles and books that deal with the history of New Orleans and related Afro-Caribbean cultural practices which resemble those of New Orleans, such as those of the Garifuna people of Central America. Mr. Lewis was very gracious in opening up the facility for me, his only visitor on the afternoon I was there, and explaining many things to me. A visit to the House of Dance and Feathers (as well as the Backstreet Cultural Museum) is a good place to begin to get an understanding of the culture which produced jazz, brass band music, R & B and even bounce music.

Mason, Tennessee: Twilight for the Lower End?

entertainment, events, History, music, musicology, Night Clubs

I have often wondered why West Tennessee has less of a blues culture than North Mississippi. Aside from bluesmen associated with Memphis like Gus Cannon or Furry Lewis, Brownsville’s Sleepy John Estes, or Humboldt’s Cary Tate, there’s just not that much blues in West Tennessee, and although one would expect to find bluesmen from towns like Covington, Somerville or Jackson, Tennessee, I can’t name any off the top of my head. The one town that always appeared to have a blues culture was the little town of Mason, Tennessee in Tipton County, whose row of “cafes” along Front Street was known collectively as “The Lower End.” But time hasn’t been kind to Mason either. The venerable blues club called Club Tay-May burned in the 1990’s and was never rebuilt. The oldest buildings on the Lower End are also gone, their location marked only with steps and a raised sidewalk. The three or so cafes that remain did not seem to even be open on a late Friday afternoon, and if there ever is live music in any of them, I could find no evidence of it. I decided to grab a late afternoon dinner at Bozo’s Bar B Que and head back to Memphis.