Monday, December 22, 2014

"My Music Den" - The Late George Howard

Who doesn't love the sound of a saxophone. I know I do and I love it even more when the music coming from it, is not only smooth and sexy but almost spiritual.  That is what I hear when I am listening to the sounds of the late great George Howard. His time on this earth was short, but he left such a profound impact on the music world, and more specifically jazz.

George Howard is from an Era when some of the best music was heard in nightclubs, house parties, and live concerts. From the 70's through the early 90's no matter where you ended up on a Friday or Saturday night, the food would be flowing, people mingling and most importantly great music.  I came to know George Howard's music at a house party.  I grew up with friends who almost every weekend, there was a get together at someones house and one particular friend always played a nice mix of Oldies, R&B and Jazz.  When I first heard "Love Will Follow" I fell in love with the sound and vibe of this song.

When my friend told me it was George Howard, his music has been a staple on my playlist ever since.  He, like myself, was a Philly native, where music was the cornerstone of our city.  Many artists got their start right here.  Unfortunately I never got to see George perform live, but I can only imagine that he was awesome.

Interestingly, not only could he play his saxophone well, he was a very good singer. When I first heard "Cross your Mind" I was in awe of his talent and even more so when I realized he was actually singing the lyrics. Not many jazz musicians will or can do that.

He died a young man, in his prime, and it sometimes saddens me that we will never know what else he had in store for us to hear. However, his short time here was not wasted.  Just maybe this is what he was sent here to do. Delight us with his gift of music. After all music is like food for the soul. Artists like George Howard are the chefs filling our plates with smooth sounds and funky rhythms.

Many artists of the 70's, 80's and 90's Era had a loyal following, waiting patiently for their new album to be released; It would be as many 5 or 6 songs if not more, on one album that were hits, compared to today, when millions of people will download a popular song by an artist, but lose interest when a knew kid is on the block with a hit song. But then you have artists who have fans with longevity and loyalty. 10, 20, 30 years from now, fans of George Howard will continue to enjoy and appreciate his music and I will be right there with them.

Rest In Peace George, Job well done.

One of my favorites by the Late George Howard
"Love Will Follow"

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My 2014 Year In Review!

Wow, where did the time go! This has certainly been a fast track year for us, and definitely more highs than lows.  You never know what each year will bring, but you pretty much just have to go with the flow of things. There have definitely been more highs than lows compared to previous years, losing both my parents, within 3 years of each other; and since that chapter of my life is closed with many great memories to cherish. I miss my parents every day but I am grateful and blessed to have had each of them in my life as long as I did. In the midst of losing my parents, I lost a girlfriend, 2 aunts and an uncle. From their deaths I take comfort in knowing they all had special meaning in my life, and now I look forward to new and exciting things to come

I decided to post this year in review not only to reflect on what is really important in life, but to maybe encourage you to re-evaluate what is important to you.  We all have our jobs and careers and bills to be paid, but how many of us are truly working hard to live and enjoy life.

We live in a world where many people value money and things over people.  There is nothing wrong with working hard, and making lots of money doing it, but at what cost?  How much joy can TV's, cars, clothes and jewerly bring to your life?

I was asked by a friend, if I could have a Jeanie in a bottle, what wishes would I want granted? I told her, round trip airline tickets to anywhere in the world, for LIFE! a Mac Pro, Louis Vuitton Luggage and my husband to carry it all Lol!  Hey that is all I would need for my dream job.  So many people want things, I want experiences.  Oh the places we would go. Savannah Georgia for its History, France for the culture, and New Orleans for the music and food. She then asked me why would I not ask to have my parents back, and I said to her, that would be like saying God made a mistake in taking them.  God doesn't make mistakes.  She then understood.

With that being said, I am looking forward to 2015 and all that it will bring. Sometimes the unexpected can be even more exciting. Stay tuned.  All the pics below are a nice reflection of family, friends, fun and enjoying life!  I am looking forward to sharing more of my life's adventures with you in the new year. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Favorite Jazzy Entertainer Of 2014

My hubby and I have covered a lot of jazz concerts in 2014, and we had a really great time being entertained by some of the best in the business. There is one particular artist that I am personally nominating as "entertainer of the year" and that is none other than, who I like to call, "Cool as a Cucumber" Mr. Nick Colionne.

He is well known for his badness with a guitar and his unique, smooth stylish wardrobe, but I admire him most for his ability to engage with his audience. If you have never been to a Nick Colionne concert, I suggest you treat yourself in 2015 and see him perform live.  Not only is he fun and entertaining, but he loves to take pictures and mingle with his fans.  Not only does he mingle after the show, but during the show, he comes into the audience and will literally get people out of their seats to party!

With so many artists in the music business along with their entourage and tight security, the chances of getting a picture taken with them or even having a conversation is pretty much impossible.  That is what sets jazz musicians apart from mainstream artists. Many of them will engage their fans, pictures and all.

At the 4 day Rehoboth Beach Jazz Fest this past October, Nick performed several times, including his after party at the Rusty Rudder, and the major event at the convention center, where after the show, he was out and about talking and mingling with his fans; With all the hustle and bustle going, I managed to sneak a selfie with him, and without hesitation he gave a friendly smile for my phone camera.  What a class act he is; He definitely did not miss his calling in life, and I look forward to seeing him perform again in 2015.

Check out Mr Colionne live in action! Smooth.

My Selfie with Nick at the 2014 Rehoboth Beach Jazz Fest!  My smooth jazz buddy!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

In My Listening Booth - Guitarist Marc Antoine

The sound of music with a latin vibe can really take your mind, body and soul to a whole other place than where you are at this moment.  A seaside villa in a small town in Italy, lounging on a beautiful beach in the Dominican Republic, or cruising on a yacht in the Mediterranean, that is where my mind goes when I am listening to the sounds of a guitar played by Marc Antoine.

I had the pleasure of seeing him live at the Rehoboth beach jazz festival. He just stole the show for me.  He was in some great company too; Boney James and Brian Simpson who both I adore, but Marc was simply fantastic.

Not only does he have a great personality and seems to be very humble when greeted by his audience, but his personality shines through his music.

He plays his guitar effortlessly and with such poise and constraint, but at the same time really makes you feel the music.

With another great addition to my music playlist, I am looking forward to hearing more from the smooth acoustic sounds of Marc Antoine.

Are you a fan of Marc Antoine's music? What are some of your favorite tunes by him?

One of my favorites

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jazzing It Up At The Rehoboth Beach Jazz Fest 2014

Words can't begin to describe our jazzy weekend in Rehoboth Beach Delaware, for their 25th Anniversary Jazz Festival.  It was busy, entertaining, relaxing, fun, exhausting and the weather was absolutely gorgeous!  There is nothing quite like spending a fall vacation at the beach, with beautiful weather, and not your typical summer beach crowd.

This particular crowd came to party, be entertained, wine and dine, shop and just have some old fashioned fun. Children of all age groups were also in the mix but when the street lights came on, the adults definitely came out to play.

I don't know what other beach towns do this at this time of year; I am sure many of them have their own festivities going on being in the midst of the fall season, and Halloween approaching, but I must say Rehoboth beach rolls out the red carpet for their annual jazz event.  Not only are there major shows at the convention center and the Cape Henlopen High School, but many of the local restaurants and bars are getting a piece of the action. The whole towns welcomes musicians and singers with a big hug.  Walk down Rehoboth avenue from the beach to the convention center and you are bound to hear music and singing coming from one of the many restaurants on the strip. Talk a little detour off the main strip down one of the side streets and you will discover the same.

We stayed at the Avenue Inn and Spa again this year, and with the addition of their new lounge, there was also live entertainment. They did not have this last year.  Smart move on their part. Not only was the music nice but it attracted a nice crowd as well.

Walk along busy Rehoboth avenue and the some of the side streets, and you see people flowing in and out of restaurants and lounges and you hear an abundance of music and singing.  From traditional, contemporary and smooth jazz, vocal jazz, to a mix of rock and roll and blues it was all there.  With a combination of music, dining and dancing, there was something for everyone.

Docktar D and his band at Nicola Pizza on the Avenue

Purple Parrot Bar and Grill with Duo Debra & Patrick

Boney James

This year we scaled back a little (if you can call it that) and attended 4 major shows instead of 5.  It was just too much last year and it did not give us a chance to really check out some of the local talent like we were fortunate enough to do this year.  Of the major shows we attended, my absolute favorite was seeing Boney James, Brian Simpson and Marc Antoine at the Cape Henlopen High School. This is a great venue for a concert.  Not only is their auditorium beautiful, but the acoustics were fantastic. This was my first time seeing Boney James in concert and I was pretty excited, but although he was great, I really enjoyed Marc Antoine. I love his Latin and Brazilian sound on the guitar, and Brian Simpson is always amazing. One stood out about this particular event, you got to hear the artist play their own music from their current and past CD's.

Brian Simpson

 Friday was a relaxing day of meeting some friends for Mimosas and conversation in the morning at the Purple Parrot, hanging around the hotel and anything else on a whim. We had no shows scheduled during the early part of the day, but we had a after party show featuring guitarist Nick Colionne and Marcus Anderson; Waiting around for this late night show to start gave us a chance to visit some of the local places for music.

Our jazzy friends - Debra and Rudy

Saturday was the busiest of days because we had two shows; Jazz Meets James Brown part II and the All Star Show.  Next year we will scale back again because 2 shows in one day is exhausting. Both events were great and we had fun, but we missed out "bar hopping" with our friends who said how good the music was at the local spots they were in. It's not always what you do but how you do it. They did it smart, we did it overkill but overall we all had a blast.

Last year in Rehoboth during the jazz fest, we meet 2 very nice couples both from Maryland and we met up with them again at this years event.  We really enjoyed their company. One of the couples who are frequent flyers of the weekend event, we met for Mimosas one morning as we did last year.  I told my husband I think this is going to become a yearly meet and greet.  Debra and Rudy also from Maryland, have been renting a beach house for the past few years and they invited us to their home for brunch one morning.  We had a great time with them all weekend as well, and look forward to hanging out with them again.

"Jazz Fest" Crew with Entertainment duo Debra & Patrick

Me and Drummer Third Richardson
Our Jazz Fest Crew - Rachel & Scottie

One of the best things about travel, the people you meet along the way.  Some you may never see again, and others you become life long friends with.  I have already named this group the "jazz fest" crew.  We also saw another couple, Rachel and Scottie, whom we met last year at the Berks Jazz Fest in Reading PA and they also attended this years event in Delaware.  It was great seeing them as well and I have adopted them as honorary members too!  My social media buddy Wendy was also in attendance at this years fest but unfortunately we did not get to meet up. Next year for sure.

Brian Culbertson

Sunday, the grand finale and the end of our long fun-filled weekend. Our final show of the weekend was the Jam Session which was filled with an all star cast of musicians and singers.  Nick Colionne, Marcus Anderson, Brian Culbertson, Maysa, Nicole Henry, Brian Simpson, Art Sherrod Jr, Kim Waters, Gerald Albright, Marc Antoine, Paul Taylor, Stanley Jordan and more.  What a grand way to end a weekend of festivities. The place was sold out and rightly so.

There was so much energy at this finale jam session, no matter what your favorite musical instrument is, it was here. Saxophone, Keyboards, Drums, Guitars (electric and bass).  Jam sessions are always great because you get to hear music of different genres to fit all tastes and style and you get to see and hear the artists master their instruments.

Rehoboth Beach is a great destination to host a jazz festival such as this. You can have the best of both worlds, between the major shows with an all star lineup, or wine and dine your way throughout the many local places who have local artists from jazz trios, solo artists, R&B and blues, rock and roll as well as other flavors of music, free outdoor entertainment (weather permitting), and of course shopping.  We are looking forward to 2015 and meeting up with the "Jazz Fest" crew again.


Marc Antoine
Matt Marshak
Stanley Jordan

Me and my selfie with guitarist Nick Colionne

All Star Jam - Grand Finale

Brunch at Debra and Rudys beach house

Walking past these quaint places, you never knew what live music you might discover

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Mother, Her Son and the next chapter of his Life....

It took me some to write this post, because I wasn't sure if I wanted to wait until my son and his new wife had their 1st child, but then I got to thinking why wait, and what better time to write this as his birthday approaches this weekend.

My son's wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life on this earth, because not only did I see my son marry a beautiful young lady, but I also got to see him begin a new chapter in his life as a married man.

The days of taking his first steps, pre-school, high school, prom, graduation have all come and gone, and now he begins a new chapter in his life.

I read a quote once that said, "mothers raise their daughters, and love their sons".  At first I thought that doesn't make much sense, but then after giving it some thought, I got it.   Although I don't have a daughter, I am a daughter, and this quote is so very true.  Although I know my Mom loved me, she did more molding me to be the woman that I am today, but her and my brothers relationship was on a different level. I didn't understand it then, but now having my own son, I do now.  The Bond between a mother and her son, is unlike any relationship to ever exist. It just is.

My Son has been married one year now, and I still tear up when I think about that special day, and how very happy he looked.  He was a bundle of joy on that sunny, warm day in June. While I am sitting in the hair salon getting myself ready for his big day, he must have called me 4 times in under 2 hrs.

Our Mother and Son dance at his wedding
I expected this if I had a daughter, but my son, that was hilarious, but warmed my heart at the same time.  He had all of his groomsmen with him the morning of the wedding including his best man, but who did he call, his Mother.  Most of the calls were just making sure everything would go smoothly, but I think he also just wanted to hear me say, "All will be just fine, its your wedding day".

I will always be his Mother, I gave him life and he brought joy into mine, but this new chapter in his life is not about our relationship as a mother and her child, that chapter is closed; This is about his new beginnings with his wife, friend, partner, and future mother of his children.

Exchanging of their Vows

We all want the best for our kids, and when they become adults we don't know what paths they will chose for themselves, but we hope for the best. I've always tried to be the type of parent who would let my son discover what it is that is best for his life, but I am always there if he needs to talk, or for me to just listen.  When he first told me he wanted to marry Morgan, I asked him, is this the woman that you want not only to spend your life with, but to be the mother of your future children?, and he answered Yes with a glow on his face.  He is and always will be the love of my life, but now I could not be more grateful in knowing he has found his queen.

I had a special talk with him before his big day, reminding him that Love doesn't hurt but its not a fairytale either.  As we grow, we change, we mature, we make mistakes, but most importantly, we must stay true to who we are no matter what.  Take nothing or no one for granted, and treat your wife like the queen that she is, and I have no doubt if she is a good woman, she will treat you equally the same.

Next up...The grand kids!  I could not have asked for two better people to be the parents of my future grandchildren.

"The mother is the first teacher of the child, the message she gives that child, that child gives to the world"....Malcolm X

Friday, September 5, 2014

Jazzy nights sizzled in Philly this summer 2014

The Great Plaza at Penns Landing

As the summer jazz night concerts in Philly came to a close with the legendary singer and songwriter Valerie Simpson, of the duo Ashford and Simpson, it officially marked the end of a great summer of music on the waterfront.  Marking its 17th year hosting these free events, people came from near and far to see some of their favorite musicians/singers perform, and some may have been seeing these artists for the first time ever! Whatever their reasons for being there, it was fun had by all.

Eric Darius

It is one of the few outdoor events hubby and I attend.  Neither of us are really big fans of outdoor concerts that draw hundreds and thousands of people, but if it's jazz or oldies we are there!. It's something about these events that draw a more mature crowd with a sprinkle of younger folks and sometimes small kids as well, but for the most part the crowd is definitely more laid back and just looking to have a good time.

Chris Standring

Everything from camping chairs, and small coolers filled with food and beverages, its like an adults only camping trip with a free concert, but even those without their own food and drinks, were only steps away from concession stands for a quick bite to eat. People come ready to sit, eat, and party all in the comfort of their seats, on the steps, or if your get there too late, you will stand; but they don't seem to mind, especially if the music is good, and this year it was fantastic!

Guitarist Chris Standring, Saxophonist Eric Darius, Singer/Songwriter Valerie Simpson all graced the stage at Penn's Landing Waterfront and wowed the crowd with their music and songs.  Each brought their own unique style.  We were very impressed with Chris and Eric; both mastered their instruments and had the crowds on their feet.  Valerie is in a league all her own. Although her late husband Nick, is no longer with us, we all felt his presence on the stage as she belted out some of their most popular songs.  She was on fire. Out of the 4 concerts scheduled in August, we missed the 2nd week because one of my favorite saxophonist Marion Meadows performed at a local restaurant "WarmDaddys" nearby, and I did not want to miss that.

Overall we had an awesome time, the weather for all 3 events we attended was fabulous, and we are looking forward to 2015 and more great shows on the waterfront.  The only thing missing was the fireworks after every show like last year, so we are hoping it will return next year. It was magical way to end the night.  If your ever in Philadelphia during the month of August, make sure to look up the events schedule and check it out for yourself, and don't forget to bring your chair or at least a seat cushion!

Valerie Simpson