Archives Reveal Family History

Archives Reveal Family History
Paternal Geat-grand Parents, Mittie and Jacob Smith

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why Do I Do This Thing Called Jazz?

As I awoke yesterday morning to the news of an earthquake in the Maryland and Washington DC area, I reflected on the new morning, which was my birthday, and on the meaning of what’s called the Grace of God – God’s unmerited favor. On Thursday morning I had driven from NYC to Hyattsville, MD near DC to rehearse with a new band. Later in the afternoon, I drove home, only hours ahead of the quake, which registered 3.6 in the Richter scale. Thank God for safe travel mercies. I returned safely to the comforts of home and a loving significant other. Finally, I was able to casually “chill-ax” with a glass of merlot after a grueling rehearsal and ten hours of driving through DC/ Baltimore rush-hour traffic. I reflected on why I do this music. The answer is simple – because I love music and I especially love performing jazz. When I think about how fortunate I have been to have a measure of good health and strength sufficient to move freely about performing, sharing life, music, art and being blessed by love, friendships, and colleagues – and as the elders say “having a reasonable portion of my right mind” – I better understand God’s grace. So as I celebrated yet another milestone anniversary and survey how simply and graciously I’ve been blessed, I counted each blessing and gave thanks to God for having brought me this far. Were it not for the unmerited favor He has extended to me, none of my activities would be possible. At this stage in my life I know from whence cometh my real strength and joy; it cometh from the Lord God. And I thank you, Heavenly Father for allowing me to approach another year on the planet earth. Amen. Now with your Good Grace, I'm ready to go out sing my A_ off! Oops!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Benny Powell Left A Great Legacy

I was saddened to learn of trombonist Benny Powell's transition. Benny was a friend and a consummate artist, who fought the "good fight," astute, well-rounded, Benny was a proud native of New Orleans and comfortable on the world stage whether as a much sought after side-man or leader. He executed his craft skillfully, always comporting himself as a man of great dignity, class and grace.
I met Benny in the 80s through our joint work with the American Federation of Musicians union Local 802’s Justice for Jazz Committee's efforts to change New York City’s archaic cabaret laws, which limited musicians in their ability to earn full wages and benefits they deserve. Benny was among the early wave of musician activists leaders who pressed for needed changes in the City’s restrictive cabaret laws. His and the efforts of his comrades opened new opportunities for jazz musicians in NYC and the work continues.
A highly trained world-class musician in the classical sense of it's best meaning, Benny Powell remained committed to his music; always growing, learning, expanding his knowledge by teaching, mentoring, composing and collaborating. We last spoke in late 2009 about my wish to record a great song he had composed that I love. Benny made a difference with his life through sharing his music and his irrepressible gift of inspiration with countless musicians and music lovers throughout the world, Benny Powell will surely be missed. Well-done Benny! RIP.