When Greg Lewis (aka Organ Monk) plays the Hammond B-3 electric organ, it takes on the lively colors of soul, R&B and jazz with the accompaniment of electric guitar and drums. He has been swinging with this hip hypnotic style for more than half a century.
April 20 (tonight) and April 27 Organ Monk, with Blue Ray, will blaze Harlem’s American Legion Post 398, at 248 W. 132nd St. His interpretation of Thelonious Monk tunes such as “Lulu’s Back in Town” is a creative romping joy.
Lewis is excited about his latest CD project, “The Breathe Suite” (self-produced), which he will be performing during his engagement at the legion. The CD is set for an early May release date. “I can’t protest, because if I protest I go to jail,” said Lewis. “And if I go to jail, I can’t feed my kids. So what I can do is write music. I want to get this record to each of the people. Even if it brings joy for just a minute to these families, that’s what I can do.”
Each of Lewis’ compositions (five tracks) are dedicated to Blacks who have been killed during confrontations with police officers. Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others, and the horrific episodes that led to their deaths, have been permanently etched into the public’s conscience. Trayvon Martin, though not killed by police, is also included.
“This music, though at times dirge-like and appropriately angry, is ultimately resilient and celebratory,” said Lewis. “It allows us not only to mourn their deaths but to remember their lives.”
The first track (First Movement) “Chronicles of Michael Brown” features Nasheet Waits on drums, Marc Ribot on guitar, Reggie Woods on tenor Sax, Riley Mullins on trumpet and Lewis on the Hammond B3 Organ. The (Second Movement) “Trayvon” (3:22) is a trio with guitarist Ron Jackson and drummer
Jeremy “Bean” Clemons.
For the CD, visit www.greglewismusic.com. To see Lewis and his Hammond B3 performing live, the American Legion is the place.
In the midst of Brooklyn’s hustle and bustle there is an oasis called Sistas’ Place that is protected from the piercing sounds of the city. It is a hip sanctuary where jazz is the order of the evening and the sounds being heard are from the best jazz musicians on the A-list.
The veteran political strategist, educator and businesswoman Viola Plummer established Sistas’ Place 22 years ago in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. It has since become an irreplaceable cultural institution in the heart of the borough and influential far beyond its local boarders.
April 22, this writer will present Plummer with the Jazz Journalists Association’s 2017 Heroes Award, as a tribute to her on-going efforts to keep jazz alive and well-nourished in the community and her continued activism to enlarge the jazz family.
This special presentation will take place where the music started, Sistas’ Place (456 Nostrand Ave.), at a 7:30 p.m. The regular music weekend schedule will continue after the presentation. The composer, arranger and trombonist Craig S. Harris will be leading one of his outstanding groups known for musical expeditions that take one beyond mere listening.
The Jazz Journalists Association announced more than two dozen “Jazz Heroes,” people exerting unusual positive musical influence on their communities, whether they’re musicians or not. They will be celebrated in 20 U.S. locales throughout April, Jazz Appreciation Month.
The complete list of Jazz Heroes, with their portraits, detailed bios and awards celebration information, is at the JJA Jazz Heroes webpage.
Sistas’ Place was granted honorary landmark status by the New York State Legislature in 2015 for its extraordinary contribution to the people of Bed-Stuy. “Years ago, in the wake of needing to have somewhere musicians could play, we started a series in Harlem called ‘Jazz Comes to Fight Back,’” Plummer said of an earlier venture. “And the first person we presented, at the old Music & Art High School, was Wynton Marsalis, when he had first come on the scene. We understood even then that jazz expressed who we were, and talked about our humanity and our values. It was in the music, it was in the rhythms, it was in the melodies and the riffs.”
Music like that is featured at Sistas’ Place. The signature slogan there is “Culture is a weapon!” Viola Plummer, Jazz Hero, wields her weapon with precision and love! For reservations, call 718-398-1766.
The City College Center for the Arts presents “Truth to Power,” featuring Onaje Allan Gumbs and Trio Plus, at Aaron Davis Hall Friday, April 28. Special guests will include spoken word artist and educator Nana Camille Yarbrough and the performance artist and vocalist Mem Nahadr. The vocalist Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch will also be featured.
Gumbs was the 2006 NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Jazz Artist for his album “Remember Their Innocence.” The producer, arranger, composer and pianist has worked with Billy Cobham, Kevin Eubanks, Will Downing, Angela Bofill and Cassandra Wilson. He composed and performed the original score for the Showtime film “Override,” directed by actor and producer Danny Glover.
“Truth to Power is an expression of our Blackness and a defiant assertion of our humanity,” said Gumbs. “We are thrilled to bring our music and our message to new audiences and new generations, and to be able to have so many talented artists join us.”
The concert’s line-up will include musicians V. Jeffrey Smith, Marcus McLaurine, Vince Ector and Gary Fritz. Poetry will be performed by Yarbrough, Whitney Asoul Pulliam and Luquan Graham (Luquantumleap), who will recite a new poem entitled “Truth to Power.” It was written by Abiodun Oyewole, a founding member of the spoken-word pioneers and music group The Last Poets.
As part of the evening celebration The Jazz Foundation of America will present Gumbs with the first Bob Cranshaw Community Award (named in honor of the renowned bassist who died in 2016).
The concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for reserved seating and $10 for seniors and students. Purchase online at www.citycollegecenterforthearts.org or call 212-650-6900. Aaron Davis Hall is located on the campus of the City College of New York, at West 135th Street and Convent Avenue (129 Convent Ave.).
On view now through April 30 is the “Black Is Beautiful: Tribute to Elombe Brath” at the Bronx Music Heritage Center Lab, 1303 Louis Nine Blvd. Viewing hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Before James Brown (the Godfather of Soul) came up with his Black anthem “I’m Black and Proud,” Brath, the Pan-African activist, artist and jazz advocate had already in 1961 launched his “Black Is Beautiful” campaign with a series of Afrocentric fashion shows featuring Black models wearing super Afros, known as the Grandassa models.
This multimedia exhibit curated by Bob Gumbs and Cinque Brathwaite pays tribute to Brath, who was one of the forces behind the Black Is Beautiful cultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Brath, who died May 19, 2014, at the age of 77, was born in Brooklyn but was a popular mainstay in Harlem, and to many he was the neighborhood professor ready to share his wealth of knowledge at any given moment.
The influential activist was recognized by Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) as the “Dean of Harlem Nationalists.” He was the founder of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition in 1975, which supported the self-determination of Angolans, South Africans and other African liberation movements.
The exhibit is free and open to the public.