Sting, Carlos Santana, and Jeanie Tracy to appear on livestream event celebrating new Narada Michael Walden album…

On Saturday, September 19 at 7PM PT/10PM ET, three generations of legendary artists will unite to celebrate the release of Narada Michael Walden’s 18th solo album, ‘Immortality’ on Quarto Valley Records (QVR). Presented by Laudable Productions, the livestream event features a lineup of conversations with Sting, Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana, Jeanie Tracy, Billy Amendola, Larry Batiste, and others who reflect on their long-standing relationships with Narada.

Narada Michael Walden has produced music royalty like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Patti, Labelle, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Barbra Streisand, and worked with world-class musicians like Sting, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock and Lenny Kravitz.

Producing hits for artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin (including the platinum ‘Freeway of Love’), Ray Charles, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand, Patti Austin, Lionel Ritchie, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Gladys Knight, George Benson, Angela Bofill, Al Jarreau, Nathalie Cole, Regina Belle, Stacy Lattisaw, Steve Winwood, Wynonna Judd, Tom Jones, Clarence Clemons, Kenny G., Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge and The Temptations, the Emmy and multi-Grammy winner (Producer, Album and Song of The Year) has been at the helm of hit music that spans decades. His music flows freely from soul, pop, and rock, to the rarified realms of jazz, fusion and world music. Walden was an integral part of introducing Whitney Houston (producing six of her seven #1 hits to break Michael Jackson’s record) and mega-star Mariah Carey to millions of fans worldwide, producing and writing the breakthrough hits that first brought these divas to the spotlight. Billboard Magazine honored him as one of the Top Ten Producers of all time.

Before he became a mega-successful producer with hits constantly dominating the R&B and pop charts, Walden burst on the music scene as a virtuoso drummer with the groundbreaking jazz-rock fusion band Mahavishnu Orchestra. Soon after, his impeccable rhythmic chops and inveterate creativity made him a first-call drummer and collaborator for other instrumental heavyweights such as Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, Joe Zawinul, and Weather Report.

On August 7, 2020, the multiple award winner released his dynamic new solo album, ‘Immortality’, via Quarto Valley Records. The album represents a change of direction for Narada, one that brings him back to his roots in Dance and Club Music, Funk and Soul. The superb musicianship and masterful production of ‘Immortality’ are fueled at every beat by Narada’s abundance of amazing energy. He is a true artist, in a class by himself

“‘Immortality’ is an album for that part of my fan base”, Walden explains. “I love pop music, but I come from a world in which we mix it all up together – jazz, rock, pop, funk, soul and R&B. That’s what fusion is all about. A lot of my early fans still want to hear me stretch out and fly, so this record is me drumming and singing and putting my heart out to them. People can hear the love that’s inside of me when they listen to this record”.

Walden, who plays both drums and keyboards on ‘Immortality’, produced and recorded the album at his own Tarpan Studios in San Rafael, California, with his longtime engineer, Jim Reitzel, and his astonishingly gifted band Thunder (keyboardist Frank Martin, bassist Angeline Saris and guitarist Matthew Charles Heulitt).

‘Immortality’ makes good on Walden’s goal of making ‘a killer jazz-fusion/progressive-rock record’, but it’s also an album that was made to be performed live.

I was always thinking, ‘We’re going to take this music out to the people. I’m looking forward to playing with the band in the spring. It’s going to be a love fest. My thing has always been to shake, rattle and roll with good spirits and electricity. I can’t wait to get out there, play my drums and bring good times to all of my fans.

Narada Michael Walden

“This is one of the best bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with”, Walden says. “The joy they bring to music is remarkable, and there’s literally nothing they can’t play”. Guesting on the record is guitarist Jackson Allen, whom Walden calls “a sensation. He played on a session with me, and I really enjoyed the sounds he got. Bringing him in on the album felt natural to me”.

Unfortunately due to the Corona virus it is not possible to celebrate the launch of the album as Walden is used to, with family, friends, and everyone who has worked on the album. Then you have to come up with something else to celebrate the launch….

Artists set to take part in a virtual event this Saturday, September 19, celebrating the recent release of ‘Immortality’. The livestream gathering, which will be viewable on YouTube and Facebook starting at 10 p.m. ET, will feature conversations with Sting, Carlos Santana, Carlos’ wife Cindy Blackman Santana, good friend and singer Jeanie Tracy, and a number of other musicians chatting about their relationship with Narada.

The virtual retrospective will give viewers a behind the scenes look at his expansive career as a drummer and producer. The livestreaming event also incorporates the premiere of a new music video ‘We Can Live Forever’, the lead-off track from ‘Immortality’, and a screening of the recent video for new COVID-themed tune ‘The Quarantine Blues’ that Narada recorded remotely with Carlos and Cindy Santana and jazz-fusion legend John McLaughlin.

‘The Quarantine Blues’ was written by John McLaughlin with Cindy Santana Blackman and Narada Michael Walden. The song was socially distance recorded and filmed in Monaco, Hawaii, Detroit and San Rafael in a collaboration to raise money for Musicares Coronavirus Relief Fund to help struggling musicians who have been hit hard by the shutdown of all live music. ‘The Quarantine Blues’ features John McLaughlin, Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos Santana, Narada Michael Walden and Ralphe Armstrong and Narada’s dancing kids, Kelly, Kayla and Michael with mom Katie.

Narada, who plays drums and keyboards on Immortality, notes that the album is geared more toward jazz fusion and progressive rock than pop music.

I love pop music, but I come from a world in which we mix it all up together – jazz, rock, pop, funk, soul and R&B. That’s what fusion is all about. A lot of my early fans still want to hear me stretch out and fly, so this record is me drumming and singing and putting my heart out to them.

Narada Michael Walden

As previously reported, Walden also recently produced several tracks for Cindy Blackman Santana’s upcoming solo album, ‘Give the Drummer Some’, which will be released this Friday, September 18. Among the songs is the cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, on which Cindy collaborated with Carlos.

Come into the beautiful world of Narada Michael Walden.

Narada Michael Walden Unveils New Album Immortality in August

One of the most kind people in the business, and with a musical resume a mile-long, Narada Michael Walden is one of the most prolific and popular musicians, composers and producers working in the worlds of jazz, soul and world music.

Narada Michael Walden has produced music royalty like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Patti, Labelle, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Barbra Streisand, and worked with world-class musicians like Sting, Carlos Santana and Lenny Kravitz.

Best known for producing platinum-selling songs for iconic singers like Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey, Walden is also an accomplished drummer who just recently joined legendary rock band Journey and he produces and records his own original music at his Tarpan Studios in San Rafael, where he created his latest solo album, ‘Immortality’.

On August 8, Walden will release ‘Immortality’ via Ouarto Valley Records. The eight-track LP boasts a killer blend jazz-fusion and progressive-rock.

Immortality is an album for that part of my fan base. I love pop music, but I come from a world in which we mix it all up together; jazz, rock, pop, funk, soul and R&B. That’s what fusion is all about. A lot of my early fans still want to hear me stretch out and fly, so this record is me drumming and singing and putting my heart out to them. People can hear the love that’s inside of me when they listen to this record.

Narada Michael Walden

Walden and longtime engineer Jim Reitzel collaborated on producing the album, which features Walden singing and playing drums and keyboards along with his band Thunder, made up of keyboardist Frank Martin, bassist Angeline Saris and guitarist Matthew Charles Heulitt.

‘Immortality’ begins with the spiritual rock ballad ‘Aretha Dances in Heaven’, dedicated to the late Queen of Soul. Walden produced several hits for Franklin, including her chart-topping single ‘Freeway of Love’, and he wanted to celebrate the music legend in an exuberant and jubilant way.

There’s a bell pattern in the song that, to me, sounds like Aretha being welcomed into heaven. I want people to experience that feeling when they hear the song.

Narada Michael Walden

Other inspirations found on the album include Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, jazz piano great Horace Silver, multi-instrumentalist Charley Drayton and drummers Chick Webb and Cindy Blackman Santana.

Throughout ‘Immortality’, Walden takes listeners through a visceral and emotional odyssey that includes highlights like the ballad ‘Michael Anthony Kadillac Walden’, named after Walden’s four-month old son, as well as tracks like the thrilling orchestral prog-rock epic ‘The Real Baptism’ and album-closer, ‘Immortality, Part 2’, which offers a veritable master class in percussion when Walden lets loose with precision and passion.

The title Immortality is significant to me on a couple of levels. I have a family whom I love deeply, so I’m inspired to take care of my body, mind, soul and energy so that I can live as long as I can. The second part of the meaning is from a musical standpoint. Music comes from our soul, and we need to acknowledge and love that spirit inside of us. It’s something we get from our creator, and it’s everlasting.

Narada Michael Walden

In addition to making music, Walden is also known for his nonprofit organization the Narada Michael Walden Foundation, which is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of young people through music.

The foundation’s projects include the Music Grant Program, which is available to Marin County students in grades K to 12. The program assists students in pursuing music by helping them to purchase musical instruments, obtain tuition for music camps and coordinate private lessons.

We are honored to include the multi-talented Narada in our Quarto Valley Records family of artists. Immortality is filled with the spiritual and soulful energy that makes his music so transportive and unique, yet universally appealing.

Bruce Quarto, Founder and CEO Quarto Valley Records

‘Immortality’ is available on August 8 on vinyl, CD and online. Pre-orders can be placed at Amazon.com. Come into the beautiful world of Narada Michael Walden.

Michael Alago, Who the F**k Is That Guy?

Michael-Alago-Who-the-Fk-Is-That-Guy-Visual

Record label executive, photographer, and author, Michael Alago takes readers through this amazing journey that is his life.

‘Who the Fuck is That Guy’? The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago tells the astonishing story of a gay Puerto Rican kid growing up in a Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood, who got on the subway one day and began a musical odyssey that helped shape the musical landscape across N.Y.C. and around the world.

Alago grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a large, spirited, and devoted Puerto Rican family. Through his early passion for music, art, theater, and photography, he soon found himself rubbing elbows with many downtown NYC scene makers, from Stiv Bators to Jean Michel Basquiat, Cherry Vanilla and Wayne County to Deborah Harry and Robert Mapplethorpe. As an underage teenager going to Max’s Kansas City, CBGB, and various art galleries, Alago also began running The Dead Boys fan club.

A few years later, he became the assistant music director for legendary nightclubs the Ritz and the Red Parrot. At age twenty-four, he began a storied career as an A&R executive at Elektra Records that started with signing Metallica in the summer of 1984, changing the entire landscape of rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal. Alago continued to work in A&R for both Palm Pictures and Geffen Records. He was thrilled to executive-produce albums by Cyndi Lauper, Public Image Ltd, White Zombie, and Nina Simone.

“Recording with the incomparable Nina was my finest hour”, says Michael, who worked with Simone on her final album, the critically acclaimed ‘A Single Woman’. 2010 saw Alago team up with Cyndi Lauper on her Grammy-nominated album ‘Memphis Blues’, for which he acted as A&R executive.

In the late 1980s, he was diagnosed with HIV, which manifested into full-blown AIDS ten years later. He survived to continue his music career, but in 2005, he left music to pursue his other love: photography. Alago went on to publish three bestselling books: Rough Gods, Brutal Truth, and Beautiful Imperfections with German-based publisher Bruno Gmünder. He has since overcome his longtime addiction to drugs and alcohol.

In his clean and sober life, he has reconnected with his family, continues to be a working photographer as well as record producer, and only through the grace of his 12-Step program is he able to live this big, beautiful life.

In 2017, a documentary directed by Drew Stone and produced by Michael Alex on Alago’s wildly successful career in music was released in theaters and on Netflix, entitled ‘Who the F**k Is That Guy?’ The Fabulous Journey of Michael Alago.

 

 

 

 

MasterClass Follows the Beat with Legendary Drummer Sheila E.

MasterClass, the streaming platform that makes it possible for anyone to learn from the best, today announced that Emmy and Grammy nominated Queen of Percussion, Sheila E. will teach its first class on drumming and percussion.  Through a series of dynamic lessons, Sheila E. will help members find their rhythm, explore the fundamentals of percussion and drumming and share intimate stories and career advice for aspiring musicians.

Sheila E. is a musical pioneer. Her MasterClass is a rare opportunity for members to learn drumming and percussion from a legend—and you don’t even need a drum set to get started. Sheila E. is nothing short of inspiring and magical.

David Rogier, co-founder and CEO of MasterClass

Sheila Escovedo, best known to music fans as Sheila E., first picked up drumsticks and started making music at the age of three. Inspired by her percussionist father, she delivered her first solo performance to a live audience only two years later and has since established herself as one of the most talented percussionists in the world.

By the age of 20, Sheila E. was already a top session and touring musician, performing with some of the industry’s biggest names such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, and Stevie Nicks. In the 1980s, her undeniable talent and hits like ‘The Glamorous Life’ and ‘A Love Bizarre’ led to her international fame. Sheila E.’s producing, arranging and performance talents have been showcased in the music industry through numerous Grammy nominations and performances with the likes of Beyoncé, Hans Zimmer, Jennifer Lopez and Pharrell Williams.

Away from the spotlight, she co-founded the Elevate Hope Foundation, which helps young people heal from trauma or neglect through music and art. Sheila E. continues to produce and perform music across the globe and her most recent album, ‘Iconic: Message 4 America’, pays tribute to songs that have defined movements fighting for justice and peace.

I am honored to be the first-ever drummer for MasterClass. When you know what your passion is and what your purpose is, no one and nothing can stand in your way. In my MasterClass, I will share my passion and teach members the fundamentals of percussion, drumming and hopefully, inspire them to make their own music.

Sheila E.

Sheila E.’s MasterClass will take members on a musical journey through her dynamic world of rhythm, percussion, and drumming. Rooted in the belief that anyone can learn to drum, she will demonstrate how to find rhythm by moving, clapping, and using household items like pots and pans. Not only will Sheila E. bring the foundational techniques of drumming to life, but she’ll also teach you how to play some of her most beloved instruments, including the congas and timbales, with help from her father, renowned percussionist Pete Escovedo, and her brothers, Peter Michael and Juan.

Sheila E. will share intimate stories and insight from her experiences capturing the spotlight on stage alongside some of the world’s greatest talents, to rising to fame as a solo artist and becoming one of the world’s most famous Latin percussionists. Members will begin by learning the principles of rhythm and basic rudiments on the American drum set, in addition to music theory. The class will also cover intermediate concepts, such as leading a band, training tips, performance techniques and career advice.

MasterClass members at all experience levels will master basic drumming techniques and develop a language for drumming that will inspire them to make music and play with others. 

Sheila E.’s class joins the 85+ classes taught by world-renowned instructors on culinary arts, photography, writing, performance and much more. Each MasterClass has digestible video lessons sized to fit into any part of your day and cinematic visuals with close-up, hands-on demonstrations that make you feel one-on-one with the instructor. The All-Access Pass gives you access to every MasterClass and new ones as they launch. Learn on the go with mobile apps or in the comfort of your home with Apple TV®,  Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Roku® devices. Subscribe to greatness at MasterClass.com.

The Shapeshifters Featuring Billy Porter – ‘Finally Ready’

The-Shapeshifters-feat-Billy-Porter-Finally Ready-02

Billy Porter debuts on Glitterbox with this empowering anthem, produced by The Shapeshifters. A label debut for the Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-winning singer, actor, director, composer and playwright, ‘Finally Ready’ will be released digitally during Pride month, on Friday 26 June.

As a gay man coming out in 1985 in the middle of a plague, love was not an option, love was transient, love was what other people had. Because if you allowed yourself to be vulnerable enough to be in love that person could be dead in a matter of weeks. So we cut ourselves off from that unconsciously ….. I’m ready. I’m finally ready. To experience what real love is.

Billy Porter

The message behind the music is that no matter where you come from, on the dancefloor there’s acceptance and hope. Co-written by Billy, ‘Finally Ready’ is a declaration of Pride, of breaking free from past traumas to take a chance on love. Motivated by his personal journey through the AIDs crisis and the emotional scars that left him with

‘Finally Ready’ hits on so many levels for me. First, being ‘finally ready’ to experience what real love is. And thankfully, I have somebody who loves me enough to love me through trauma, to be present, and allow me to grow, into this. I’m also ‘finally ready’ to be who I am, who I’ve always been. It has been a rough road, I’ve been through so many changes, but I always kept the faith and now I’m here. And lastly, I’ve made a lot of different kinds of music – R&B, show tunes, ballads. But it should come as no surprise to anyone at all that disco is in my blood! I love to feel sparkly and have that light shine back into the audience. So, yes, I am ‘finally ready’ to make a classic disco record. And I am so very lucky and blessed to be working with the best in the business, Defected, Glitterbox, and The Shapeshifters. Now, let’s dance!”

Billy Porter

The Shapeshifters’ Simon’s dedication to his craft has resulted in singles that could stand up alongside golden era disco records as much as they sound fresh on dancefloors today. His relationship with Glitterbox has previously yielded tracks like ‘Try My Love’ and ‘Life Is A Dancefloor’, tracks that lyrically and musically epitomise the label’s ethos, preserving disco’s mission to uplift and empower.

The Shapeshifters’ cinematic strings and live horns give a suitably theatrical backdrop to Billy’s voice. Crafted and brimming with emotion, the joyful message of ‘Finally Ready’ rings true through Billy’s lyrics, aiming to create dancefloor moments for years to come.

The Shapeshifters & Billy Porter deliver a future classic…  ‘Finally Ready’ is out now on Glitterbox Recordings.

 

 

 

 

Love Me Like You Should

Disco icon Sylvester may best be known for the international hit singles ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’, ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’, ‘Do You Wanna Funk’ and ‘Menergy’, but the recording artist’s groundbreaking career also furthered queer visibility in popular culture. Leaving a legacy that continues to influence today’s pop music.

Through the compelling new documentary ‘Love Me Like You Should: The Brave and Bold Sylvester’, produced for Pride 2020 by Amazon Music in collaboration with filmmaker Lauren Tabak and writer/consulting producer Barry Walters. The short documentary details the life and times of Sylvester James Jr., known mononymously as Sylvester.

When I saw Sylvester, my life was altered, my life was changed for the better. As a Black queer gay man, any glimmer of seeing oneself reflected back at them, through our culture, changes lives.

Billy Porter

The legacy of a musician who set new precedent for genderqueer, gay and black entertainers has been revisited the new mini-documentary. Sylvester’s story comes to life once more and the true extent of his impact – inside and out of the music industry – is explored.

It is a compilation of archival footage, as well as rare performance clips, charting Sylvester’s rise from Los Angeles choir boy to glam 1970s hit-maker. Starting with his birth in South Central Los Angeles, it charts the course of his move to San Fransisco’s Castro District and later breakthrough as a singer/songwriter.

He crossed over, he was a genderfluid Black man in mainstream music. That hasn’t happened since. There’s been a lot of us who have tried – and I’ve been trying for 30 years – nobody did it like Sylvester.

Billy Porter

While the significant influence of black culture on mainstream music extends back at least a century, James was among the first non-binary artists to achieve superstardom. As pointed out in the documentary, he championed gender fluidity years before it would be called that through his unapologetic style and demeanor.

The filmmakers also incorporate interviews with Sylvester’s sister Bernadette Baldwin, singer, actor and activist Billy Porter as well as collaborators like musician Peter Mintun, producer/songwriter James ‘Tip’ Wirrick, former background singer Martha Wash (Two Tons of Fun/Weather Girls), and Sylvester biographer Josh Gamson.

Sylvester was always ahead of us. He did things like talk about being married to a man before gay marriage was a thought. He responded to Joan Rivers saying that he was this drag queen by saying, ‘But I’m not a drag queen, I’m Sylvester.’ He wasn’t saying there’s something wrong with being a drag queen, he was saying that’s not how gender works. It was gender fluidity and nonbinary gender before we were really there.

Josh Gamson

In addition to interviews, and with his version of ‘God Bless The Child’ on the bacjground, – its is musical treasure! The kind of music he loved more then disco! – the 15-minute doc shows rare archival footage of Sylvester, including performances at The Stud, the historic San Francisco gay bar that recently shuttered. It also depicts how a 1979 show at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House was a healing, joyous moment for the city in the wake of the assassination of gay politician Harvey Milk.

Sylvester died at the age of 41 on December 16th, 1988 after a long battle of an AIDS-related illness. He had attended the San Francisco Pride parade in a wheelchair shortly before passing on to show solidarity even in his final years. His legacy, however, continues to live on…..

Watch the 15-minute documentary:

Amazon has also curated a playlist called Pride History on which ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ is an entry.

Want to read the whole story of Sylvester? Use the ‘Sylvester’ tag….

Lord Finesse Remixes And Reimagines Classic Motown Songs For Inspired New Album, ‘Motown State of Mind’

Lord Finesse - Motown State Of Mind Artwork

Legendary rapper, hip-hop producer, and founding member of the influential collective Diggin’ In The Crates Crew (D.I.T.C.), Lord Finesse is back with his most ambitious project to date: ‘Motown State of Mind’, a set of handpicked Motown classics remixed and reimagined.

Legendary hip-hop producern and rapper reinterprets songs by Debarge, Eddie Kendricks, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson Sister’s Love and Switch.

The inspired new remix album will be available to stream on June 26 via Motown/UMe and the remix of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’ is available to stream now (available here). In true DJ style, the remixes will also be released as a 45 RPM box set on July 24 containing seven 7-inch records on black vinyl featuring the remixed version on Side A and the classic original on Side B. In support of the release, there will be digital activations throughout June including livestreams and IG live takeovers from Motown’s various handles.

Curated and arranged for the new generation, going back to the original masters/sources, the remixes include chart toppers such as Michael Jackson’s ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’ and DeBarge’s ‘I Like It’ alongside deep cuts from Motown’s catalog like Sisters Love’s ‘Now Is The Time’.

‘Now Is The Time’ is a unique track as it was originally recorded in 1970 and in 1973 the group recorded a version of the song which was produced by Willie Hutch and appeared in the movie The Mack, but was never officially released. As an ode to the 1973 version, Lord Finesse and J Zone (producer, drummer, multi-instrumentalist, rapper, and writer) recreate the song as if it was released that year. The instrumental version of the track will be included as the B-side in the 45 box set.

The reimagined versions also feature collaborations from the likes of Dinky Bingham (the CEO of production/publishing company Dinky B. Music and a producer of gold and platinum hits for artists such as Changing Faces, New Edition, Kylie Minogue and Jaheim) as well as producer Tall Black Guy (who’s worked with artists such as Gilles Peterson, Lefto, Anthony Valadez, Jazzy Jeff, Questlove, amongst others).

I’m my own worst critic. If I like it, I don’t think no one can really tell me anything.

Lord Finesse

Lord Finesse classifies the remixes to be his ‘best project to date’. “I’m my own worst critic. If I like it, I don’t think no one can really tell me anything”, he explains. With that in mind, Finesse closes out the album with a mastermind remix of the critically acclaimed Jackson 5 medley ‘I Want You Back/ABC/The Love You Save’. The standalone singles of those three original aforementioned tracks, alongside the release of their fourth single ‘I’ll Be There’, made the group the first to debut with four consecutive number one hits on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Lord Finesse (born Robert Hall, Jr., in February 19, 1970) is a hip-hop artist and producer, hailing from The Bronx, N.Y. and best known as the leader of the D.I.T.C. rap crew. In 1989, Finesse and his former partner DJ Mike Smooth signed to Wild Pitch Records, and the next year, the duo released their debut album Funky Technician (which featured production from future star beat-makers DJ Premier, Diamond D and Showbiz). Shortly thereafter, Finesse along with Showbiz & AG and Diamond D formed the popular New York underground crew ‘Diggin In The Crates’ (aka D.I.T.C.), future members would include Fat Joe, O.C., Buckwild and the late Big L.

Finesse’s second solo album Return of the Funky Man was released in 1991 and featured guest appearances from Percee P and AG as well as some songs produced by Finesse himself. The title track, ‘Return of the Funky Man’, peaked at #13 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. Return of the Funky Man started his career as a much respected hip-hop producer, most notably for The Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, his fellow D.I.T.C. members, as well as for his third album, The Awakening.

Finesse has also been notably recognized for having provided the vocal sample on the hook to ‘The Rockafeller Skank’, the 1998 hit single by British musician Fatboy Slim as well as having produced ‘The Message’ on 2001 by Dr. Dre. He was also featured on Handsome Boy Modeling School’s 2004 track ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll (Could Never Hip-Hop Like This) pt. 2′, collaborating with famous DJ’s as QBert, Grand Wizard Theodore and Jazzy Jay. Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park make appearances, as well as Rahzel formerly of The Roots.

 

 

 

Matt Zarley teams up with Jeb Havens to honor the educators and students of the class of 2020

Matt_JebPressPic2-min

Award winning Broadway veteran, Billboard dance sensation and People Magazine’s first-ever gay ‘Hottest Bachelor’ Matt Zarley (L) has received critical acclaim as an LGBT artist for over a decade since his debut on the music scene.

Fresh off his single with Emmy, Grammy, and Tony winner, Billy Porter (Pose), Matt has now joined forces with acclaimed indie artist and frequent collaborator, Jeb Havens (R), to release their reimagined, anthemic rendition of the Kelly Clarkson self-empowerment pop classic, ‘Stronger’.

In addition to producing the track, Zarley produced, directed, and edited the music video; which features a cast of 50+ students and parents from Canoga Park High School. The video was shot on location at the school two weeks before the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

If we had to delay shooting a week, we probably wouldn’t have been able to complete this. I can’t imagine being a high school senior and not getting to experience those special end of school year moments that you’ve been looking forward to for the past 4 years. I feel so bad for these kids. This entire situation is just awful.

Matt Zarley

To honor all of the incredible educators and awesome students, Zarley & Havens decided to dedicate the video to the class of 2020.

In addition to the single and music video, an extensive set of remixes will be released over the summer. Some of the biggest names in dance music are on board and contributing to the set.

 

 

‘Front and Center’ to Feature Country Star Dustin Lynch in Upcoming 10th Anniversary Television Episode

The critically acclaimed television music concert series Front and Center is pleased to announce that Country superstar Dustin Lynch will appear on an upcoming episode of season ten airing in 2020. Lynch will be filmed on February 18th at Analog, a state-of-the-art 5,000-square foot music venue, situated in Nashville’s Four-Star Hutton Hotel, located in the city’s lively West End neighborhood and steps from the heart of Music Row.

We’ve had the opportunity to play some of the biggest stages around the globe, but there’s something special about the up close and personal connection that happens in an intimate venue such as Analog. This is a special stage, and to film an episode of Front and Center there feels like the perfect combination for an unforgettable performance.

Dustin Lynch

“We are excited to be filming a performer of Dustin’s caliber for our 10th anniversary season at such a fantastic venue like Analog”, stated Don Maggi, Executive Producer of Front and Center. “It is going to be a special performance in an exceptional setting”.

Since his debut with Platinum single ‘Cowboys and Angels’, Lynch has held a steady presence on the Country music charts earning seven #1 hits and four Top 5 albums to date while touring with the genre’s biggest names (Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley). Lynch’s brand-new album ‘Tullahoma’ (Broken Bow Records) features back-to-back chart-topping singles ‘Ridin’ Roads’ and ‘Good Girl’, both of which he co-wrote. Early raves for the project are piling up with Entertainment Tonight proclaiming, ‘Lynch finds himself reconnecting with his roots and digging deeper into the artist he’s become’, while People praises his ‘sunny, sexy vibe, giving the entire project a feel-good sound’. The Tennessean calls it ‘some of Lynch’s most personal work’, as Billboard asserts Lynch ‘finds his lane’.

The Tennessee native is bringing these new songs to the stage on his headline ‘Stay Country Tour 2020’ through March, and then will join Old Dominion’s ‘We Are Old Dominion Tour’ this spring. Scoring over 1.7 billion total career streams, the Grand Ole Opry member continues to affirm his place as one of Country’s elite stars.

Lynch has earned industry recognition with Billboard Music Awards, iHeartRadio Music Awards, and CMT Music Awards nominations, and has made high–profile appearances at the ACM Awards, CMA Awards, CMA Fest, and on Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Lip Sync Battle, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, TODAY and more.

He joins an eclectic mix of top Grammy, Country Music Association, American Music and Academy of Country Music Award winners, rock icons and multi-platinum acts to appear on Front and Center. Musical artists have included Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Shawn Mendes, Train, Steven Tyler, Lady Antebellum, lovelytheband, Carlos Santana, The Head and the Heart, Dua Lipa, as well as Darius Rucker, Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls, Cyndi Lauper, Dierks Bentley, Jack Johnson, Counting Crows, and many more… Come into the world of  Front and Center.

Diahann Carroll, groundbreaking television and broadway star, dead at 84

Diahann-Carrol-08

Legendary Diahann Carroll, the captivating singer and actress who came from the Bronx to win a Tony Award, receive an Oscar nomination and make television history with her turns on Julia and Dynasty, has died Friday. She was 84. Carroll died at her home in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer.

I like to think that I opened doors for other women, although that wasn’t my original intention.

Diahann Carroll

Carroll was born Carol Diann Johnson in the Bronx, New York, in 1935. When Carroll was an infant, the family moved to Harlem, where she grew up. She took piano lessons regularly as a child and first began singing around age 6, as a member of the Tiny Tots choir in Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. At 10 years old, the musically-gifted Carroll received a scholarship from the Metropolitan Opera to study at New York’s High School of Music and Art, and was a classmate of Billy Dee Williams. In many interviews about her childhood, Diahann Carroll recalls her parents’ support, enrolling her in dance, singing, and modeling classes.

Diahann-Carrol-02.jpg

As a teenager she became interested in fashion and at age 14, she sent a picture of herself to the fashion editor at Ebony. She later was one of four teenage girls to win a modeling assignment for Johnson Publishing, Ebony’s parent company. She also began entering television contests, including ‘Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts’, under the name Diahann Carroll. A spot she won – which also allowed her to perform on the daily radio show.

After graduating from high school, she attended New York University, majoring in sociology, but she left before graduating to pursue a show-business career, promising her family that if the career did not materialize after two years, she would return to college. Diahann Carroll’s big break came at 18, when she appeared as a contestant on the DuMont Television Network program, Chance of a Lifetime, hosted by Dennis James. On the show, which aired January 8, 1954, she took the $1,000 top prize for a rendition of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein song, ‘Why Was I Born?’ She went on to win the following four weeks. Engagements at Manhattan’s Café Society and Latin Quarter nightclubs soon followed.

Diahann Carroll’s film debut was a supporting role in Carmen Jones (1954) as a friend to the sultry lead character played by Dorothy Dandridge. That same year, her big break came when Truman Capote chose her for a leading part in the Broadway musical ‘House of Flowers’, based on his short story and for which he wrote the book and lyrics. Carroll, who played a young sex worker in a Caribbean island bordello, had the best numbers, ‘A Sleepin’ Bee’ and ‘I Never Has Seen Snow’. In 1959 she played the role of Clara in a film adaptation of George Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’, starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge, but her character’s singing parts were dubbed by opera singer Loulie Jean Norman.

Diahann-Carrol-03.jpg

But in her early days at NBC, the Harlem native encountered a stark reminder of her groundbreaking status. In a 2014 episode of PBS’s ‘Pioneers of Television’, Carroll recalled that NBC’s makeup department did not have makeup for an actress of her complexion. “The studio had only dealt with the little American girls or European girls”, Carroll said. “How could you have a makeup department and you don’t have makeup for every skin in the United States of America?”

She made a guest appearance in the series Peter Gunn, in the 1960 episode ‘Sing a Song of Murder’, and starred with Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, and good friend Joanne Woodward in the 1961 film Paris Blues.

Not shy when it came to confronting racial barriers, Carroll won her Tony portraying Barbara Woodruff, a high-fashion American model in Paris, who has a love affair with a white American author in the 1959 Samuel A. Taylor and Richard Rodgers Braodway musical ‘No Strings’ about civil rights, marking the first time a African American woman had ever won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. Critic Walter Kerr described her as “a girl with a sweet smile, brilliant dark eyes and a profile regal enough to belong on a coin”.

 

Diahann-Carrol-04.jpg

Again for Preminger, in ‘Hurry Sundown’ (1967), set in rural 1940s Georgia, she played an elegant local schoolteacher who had gone north and been corrupted. Despite a terrible script, Carroll came off slightly better than her co-stars, Michael Caine and Jane Fonda, in this condescending melodrama on race relations.

Carroll was then nominated for a lead actress Oscar for the titular role in 1974’s ‘Claudine’, starring alongside James Earl Jones. The role of Claudine had been written specifically for actress Diana Sands, (who had made guest appearances on Julia as Carroll’s cousin Sara) but shortly before filming was to begin, Sands found out that she was terminally ill with cancer. Sands attempted to carry on with the role, but as filming began, she became too ill to continue, and recommended her friend Carroll take over the role. Sadly, Sands would not live to see Claudine. She died in September 1973; Claudine, starring Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones, was released in April 1974.

On top of her critical feature film and stage success, Carroll achieved critical acclaim on the small screen and groundbreaking notoriety for playing the titular role in the NBC sitcom ‘Julia’. The series, which aired from 1968 to 1971, saw Carroll play Julia Baker, a nurse whose Army pilot husband had been shot down in Vietnam. This role saw the first time a African-American woman had ever starred in a non-servant role on television. That role won – as the first African American – her the Golden Globe Award for ‘Best Actress In A Television Series’ in 1968, and the first African American woman to receive an Emmy nomination in 1969.

Diahann-Carroll-and-Frank-Sinatra

Diahann Carroll and Frank Sinatra

But the show was controversial amid the racial unrest that followed the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. An Ebony article that year noted that ‘for all its merits as a television ‘first’ ‘, the sitcom had drawn criticism ‘for not projecting a male head-of-the-family image’ and “for showing Julia and [her] son leading a happily integrated life among middle class whites”. In a 2008 interview with NPR’s News & Notes, Carroll said she was ‘very proud’ of that role, “I look back with great pride”, Carroll told host Farai Chideya. And in 2011, she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

The Diahann Carroll Show is a series of four musical variety television specials, that aired on CBS in 1976. The show was a summer replacement for The Carol Burnett Show.  The series’ four episodes were taped over a period of five days.

Guests on the premiere episode included Johnny Mathis (with whom Carroll sang You Are So Beautiful) and with Telly Savalas and Sammy Davis Jr. (with whom she sang a medley of songs from Porgy and Bess). Other guests during the brief season included composer Marvin Hamlisch, Betty White, and Phyllis Diller. Carroll’s costumes were designed by famous fashion designer Bob Mackie.

Diahann Carroll & Johnny Mathis duet the song ‘You Are So Beautiful’ on her show, July 1976

Some of her earlier work also included appearances on shows hosted by Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson, Judy Garland, and Ed Sullivan, and on The Hollywood Palace variety show. In 1984, Carroll joined the primetime soap opera ‘Dynasty’ as the mixed-race jet-set diva Dominique Deveraux, half-sister of Blake Carrington. Her high-profile role on ‘Dynasty’ also reunited her with schoolmate Billy Dee Williams, who briefly played her onscreen husband Brady Lloyd.

Her character, Dominique Deveraux, was shrouded in mystery when she joined ‘Dynasty’ in its fourth season. Carroll had sought out the role after falling in love with the soap. “I thought, ‘If this isn’t the biggest hoot I’ve ever seen, and the world is loving it,’ ” she said in a 1998 interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “Everyone was elegant, everyone was rich, everyone was traveling all over the world, and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do. That’s what I need to do”.

Carroll reached out to Aaron Spelling and suggested to one of the producer’s colleagues that ‘Dynasty’ – which had dealt, however controversially, with homosexuality and other hot-button issues – had tackled just about everything except racial integration. To do that, they first had to integrate the cast.

Diahann-Carrol-07.jpg

But nothing happened until Barbra Streisand invited Carroll to sing a song from ‘Yentl’ at the 1983 Golden Globe Awards. Knowing Aaron Spelling would be there, she dressed the part. After the ceremony, Carroll went to the private Los Angeles nightclub where Spelling and his colleagues were celebrating. Spelling later told People that after seeing Carroll, he and ‘Dynasty’ co-creator Esther Shapiro looked at each other and said, “My God, she is ‘Dynasty”.

Dominique Deveraux turned out to be the surprise half-sister of oil baron Blake Carrington. The role led to epic showdown with Blake’s vindictive ex-wife, Alexis (Joan Collins).

As the character owned a music company and was a successful singer, the soap also gave Carroll the chance to display her vocal talents, already apparent from her several albums and club appearances. Carroll, always a very classy lady, ‘Dynasty’ made her a true fashion icon, especially for the African American. She remained on the show until 1987, simultaneously making several appearances on its short-lived spin-off, The Colbys. She received her third Emmy nomination in 1989 for her recurring role as Marion Gilbert in ‘A Different World’.

Diahann-Carrol-07a

In 1991, Carroll played the role of Eleanor Potter, the wife of Jimmy Potter, portrayed by Chuck Patterson, in ‘The Five Heartbeats’, a musical drama film in which Jimmy manages a vocal group. In this role, Carroll was a doting, concerned, and protective wife alongside actor and musician Robert Townsend, Michael Wright, and others. In a 1995 reunion with Billy Dee Williams in ‘Lonesome Dove: The Series’, she played Mrs. Greyson, the wife of Williams’ character. In 1996, Carroll starred as the self-loving and deluded silent movie star Norma Desmond in the Canadian production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of the classic film ‘Sunset Boulevard’. In 2001, Carroll made her animation début in ‘The Legend of Tarzan’, in which she voiced Queen La, an evil sorceress and ruler of the ancient city of Opar.

On stage, Carroll broke barriers by playing roles traditionally considered for white actresses, such as ‘Same Time, Next Year’, ‘Agnes of God’, and ‘Sunset Boulevard’. In 2002, Carroll said of these roles, “I like to think that I opened doors for other women, although that wasn’t my original intention”.

Carroll continued to somewhat consistently work in film, television, stage – and even made a return to the nightclub world in 2006, at Feinstein’s at the Regency. In 2006, she appeared in the television medical drama ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ as Jane Burke, the demanding mother of Dr. Preston Burke. In December 2008, Carroll was cast in USA Network’s series ‘White Collar’ as June, the savvy widow who rents out her guest room to Neal Caffrey. In 2010, Carroll was featured in UniGlobe Entertainment’s breast cancer docudrama titled, ‘1 a Minute’, and she appeared as Nana in two Lifetime movies: ‘At Risk’ and ‘The Front’, movie adaptations of two Patricia Cornwell novels. In addition to being honored at Oprah’s 2006 Legends Ball, Carroll appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1987 and 2006, and led an Oprah’s Master Class in 2013. During her appearance on Master Class, she spoke about her initial 1997 breast cancer diagnosis, and reaching the decision to eventually share it with the world.

Diahann-Carrol-13

Diahann Carroll was present on stage for the 2013 Emmy Awards, to briefly speak about being the first African American nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. She was quoted as saying: “Talented Kerry Washington better win!” Kerry Washington erroneously stated that Carroll was the first African American performer ever to be nominated for an Emmy. Actually, at least three performers were nominated before Carroll, who was first nominated in 1963. These performers include: Ethel Waters for a guest appearance on Route 66, in 1962; Harry Belafonte, nominated in 1956 and 1961 and winning in 1960; and Sammy Davis Jr., who was nominated in 1956 with Belafonte.

Carroll was married four times, first to record producer Monte Kay in 1956. Her father boycotted the wedding ceremony which was presided over by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. The marriage ended in 1962. The union produced a daughter, Suzanne Kay Bamford (born September 9, 1960), who became a freelance media journalist. In 1959, Carroll began a nine-year affair with married actor Sidney Poitier. She claimed that Poitier persuaded her to divorce her husband and he would leave his wife to be with her.

When Carroll got her divorce, Poitier did not keep up his end of the bargain, yet the relationship continued until 1968. Carroll dated and was engaged to British television host and producer David Frost from 1970 until 1973. In 1973, Carroll surprised the press by marrying Las Vegas boutique owner Fred Glusman. Several weeks later, she filed for divorce, charging Glusman with physical abuse. In 1975, Carroll married Robert DeLeon, a managing editor of Jet. She was widowed two years later when DeLeon was killed in a car crash. Carroll’s fourth marriage was to singer Vic Damone in 1987. The union, which Carroll admitted was turbulent, had a legal separation in 1991, reconciliation, and divorce in 1996.

Diahann-Carrol-12

A year later, Carroll was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. She said the diagnosis ‘stunned’ her because there was no family history of breast cancer and she had always had a healthy lifestyle. She underwent nine weeks of radiation therapy, and had been clear since. Carroll frequently spoke out about the importance of early cancer detection, and prevention, free screening for those who couldn’t afford mammograms, and the need for more money to be invested in research.

Diahann Carroll was a transformative force for freedom. She identified with Dr King in the civil rights movement with a simple kiss. She brought down ancient barriers & built bridges. She left the world better than she found it.

Rev Jesse Jackson Sr.

She walked this earth for 84 years and broke ground with every footstep. An icon. One of the all-time greats. She blazed trails through dense forests and elegantly left diamonds along the path for the rest of us to follow. Thank you, Ms. Carroll.

Diahann Carroll died of cancer on October 4, 2019, in Los Angeles. Carroll is survived by her daughter Suzanne, and grandchildren August and Sydney. Our thoughts are with Carroll’s family and friends.