|Black Academy of Arts and Letters
Dallas, TX – In October 2010, several renowned stars came to celebrate and help raise operating revenue for the Black Academy of Arts and Letters that was founded by Curtis King 34 years ago.
“In a bad economy the first thing that gets cut is arts funding,” says King, whose 250,000 square foot complex is adjacent to the Dallas City Hall, in a news release. “However, it’s the plays, concerts, poetry readings and other inspiring programming we offer that helps people get through rough times like these. So, we’re thrilled that these artists came together to make a CD that will raise money to help keep these programs going.”
The majority of the songs on the 13-track, Medicine – Live At The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (MCG Records/ $13.99 SRLP), were written or co-written by Sam “Shake” Anderson, a veteran bassist who has toured with the likes of Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield and Bruce Hornsby. It was recorded live at The Black Academy. Backed by the 80-voice Black Academy Choir, American Idol champion Ruben Studdard performed two of the album’s highlights. “Medicine For Someone Else” has a bluesy feel and shows off a raspier tone for Studdard, while the ballad “Teach Me to Love” boasts an unplugged groove.
The album is not a typical gospel set. On it, the songs range from a brash critique of parasite preachers on “PTYHOMP (Please Take Your Hands Out My Pocket)” to the bloody waters of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Jasmine Guy’s spoken-word recitation of Curtis King’s “My Language” poem. Ann Nesby (former lead singer for The Sounds of Blackness) wraps her big voice around the poignant anthem, “What Would You Have Me Do?” Yarbrough & Peoples, best known for their 1981 #1 R&B smash “Don’t Stop the Music,” deliver the funk on the percolating street jam, “Jump Til’ You Feel Something.” Tommie Young West, who recorded classic R&B sides for Louisiana’s Soul Power label in the early ’70s, rocks the house on the pulsating “Won’t Have to Worry” while Brenda Ellis’ full alto pulverizes the paean, “Bask (In the Presence of the Lord).”
“I look back on my days of the handling of such mega superstars as Phillip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire, Leon Patillo of Santana, Helen Baylor, Shirley Caesar, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Denise Williams, and the incredible Al Green,” says James Bullard, president and CEO of Majestic Communications Group (MCG). “This project, in my opinion, is comparable to those superstars. My blood is pumping like never before. This is going to be a big project and is destine to go all the way to the top. I am excited beyond words about this project.”
Although, The Black Academy has been a fixture on Dallas’ local arts scene for over three decades, the organization also has a national standing. Its 1987 fundraising CD by Eartha Kitt entitled, My Way: Musical Tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Caravan of Dreams) sold over 250,000 copies. The Academy later funded national touring productions of “Black Music and the Civil Rights Movement,” “Symphony with the Divas,” and the musical, “Blues Bar.” For more information, go to www.tbaal.org.