Ranee Lee presents “Deep Song: A Tribute to Billie Holiday” via remastered CD

Ranee Lee is a true Renaissance woman. In addition to a career as a jazz singer that has taken her to stages in front of her fans around the globe, Lee is also a songwriter, award-winning actress, children’s book author, and jazz educator. Despite that resume, Lee actually got her start as a dancer. In an interview with Peter Kerr of The Montrealer, she said, “I was dancing with an Afro-Cuban touring dance troupe. We were in a small town in Ontario, and had to extend the length of our performance to fill the time allotted for the show. I was chosen to sing some songs with the band to fill that time, and the audience loved it!”
In the ’60’s Lee worked as a singer in Toronto while also taking up the drums and saxophone to make herself more marketable. She eventually moved to Montreal and got her on-stage big-break portraying Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. Lee won a Dora Mavo Moore Award for her portrayal of the jazz legend, and thus the recording of Deep Song soon followed; “the mystique that is Billie Holiday is akin to the free spirit of a summer breeze blowing in many directions, sometimes disturbing, often refreshing, always beguiling. 

The allure of her music washes over you and touches your soul,” reflects Lee in a news release.
Deep Song is Ranee Lee’s tour de force-bringing the singer to the attention of jazz fans and concert producers worldwide for the first time. Originally released in 1989, the album has been beautifully re-mastered, and is now re-issued with two bonus tracks, “Fine and Mellow” and “Ill Wind”. Lee is celebrating 40 years in Montreal, where she has become one of Canada’s most popular jazz vocalists.
An extraordinary and captivating performer whether on the stage or on the bandstand, Lee’s sensuous melodic interpretations are complemented by her notable musician friends, including: pianist Oliver Jones, guitarist Richard Ring, drummer Archie Alleyne, and saxophonist/flautist Richard Beaudet. In addition, Lee is joined by Milt Hinton, Billie Holiday’s own bassist. Hinton writes in the liner notes, “ardent fans of Billie and listeners of all generations will enjoy the unique talent of Ranee Lee on Deep Song. It is a radiant listening experience.” The album confirms Ranee Lee as truly among the elite in jazz today.
Deep Song is comprised of jazz standards made famous by Lady Day, such as: “Easy Living” and “Strange Fruit”, (the latter, a Holiday signature protest song against racism), as well as songs Holiday had a hand in writing and have since become classics, including: “God Bless the Child”, “Don’t Explain”, and “Fine and Mellow”. The album opens with Buddy Johnson’s melancholy “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone” before transitioning to the jaunty step of “When a Woman Loves a Man” and continuing to cover the breadth of Holiday’s landmark career. Throughout, the power and sensuality of Ranee Lee’s perfectly articulated melody lines deftly honor her predecessor.
Preserving Lady Day’s essence while delivering an experience unique to Lee, All Music Guide’s Scott Yanow said of Deep Song that, “Lee manages to recapture Holiday’s spirit without resorting to mimicry. This tasteful effort has among its highlights ‘When a Woman Loves a Man,’ ‘Crazy He Calls Me,’ ‘Easy Living,’ and ‘Them There Eyes.’ Recommended.” Notable Washington City Paper writer Joel E. Siegel, who also won a shared 1993 GRAMMY® Award for “Best Album Notes” on a Billie Holiday box set, has an ear for Lee’s sound-“Brooklyn-born, Montréal based Ranee Lee retains traditional virtues that most contemporary, jazz-oriented singers, have abandoned: professionalism, humor, discipline, unpretentiousness.”
In addition to the accolades of Deep Song, Lee has made strides in all of her endeavors in the subsequent decades. She wrote, produced, and performed in Dark Divas, a musical and double CD release that celebrates several of the most prominent black female singers of the century, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan; has acted alongside Billy Dee Williams in “Giant Steps”; hosted the television show “The Performers” on BET in the U.S. and BRAVO in Canada; and wrote and illustrated the children’s book Nana What Do You Say? Inspired by her song of the same name off of the 1994 album, I Thought About You. That album was also the first to be nominated for a Juno Award in the Best Mainstream Jazz Category.
In recognition of her unparalleled musical talent, Lee won the prestigious Juno Award forBest Jazz Vocal Album of the Year, for 2010’s Lives Upstairs, and continues to accumulate well-revered awards and declarations. She was inducted into The Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, and was given the ACTRA Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement. In 2010, Lee received a MECCA nomination for her performance in the Black Theatre Workshop production of “Swan Song for Maria.”
As an educator, Lee has been on the faculty of The Schulich School of Music of McGill University for nearly 40 years, and has also contributed her expertise and talents at The University of Laval in Quebec City for nearly a decade. McGill honored Lee’s contribution to the development of their jazz program with a prestigious award of appreciation in 2007; she also won the International Association of Jazz Education award in 2004.
Ranee Lee has released 10 albums on Justin Time Records, and throughout her career has performed alongside the likes of: Clark Terry, Terry Clarke, Bill Mayes, Herbie Ellis, and Red Mitchell. Lee and her quartet will be performing Deep Song: A Tribute to Billie Holiday at festivals and various venues beginning in mid June.

Berklee School of Music announces Rock History course

Berkleemusic.com, the online school of Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music, is launching Rock History, an online course that chronicles the evolution of one of the greatest periods of music. Rock History takes an in-depth look at the highs and lows of rock over the past 60 years; the key heroes and villains, the movers and shakers from the studio and the concert stage, and a behind-the-scenes look at the managers, industry executives, promoters, and cultural trends that shaped it.  The course launches April 2, 2012.

Berkleemusic has tapped Steve Morse to author and teach Rock History.  Morse brings a lifetime of real-world experience to the material. Steve was the senior rock writer at the Boston Globe for over three decades, and has contributed to other top-tier press outlets such as Billboard and Rolling Stone. He has also served on the nominating committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Steve has a rich background in rock history, having interviewed and developed strong, decades-long ties with dozens of the most important artists and bands in rock, including the Rolling Stones (first seeing them in 1966), U2, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Metallica, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay, Tom Petty, and others. 

“The new Rock History online course from Berklee is a comprehensive, interactive, and immersive way to experience the most important and interesting time ever in the music industry,” says Dave Kusek, CEO at Berkleemusic.com in a news release.  “Steve Morse has such a wealth of knowledge and insight into what actually happened behind the scenes and the way the course is crafted, it is simply the most unique and exciting way to learn about this incredible time in the history of music.  You will not find a better way to learn about and appreciate the classic albums and live shows that were created by the true legends of rock and roll, as the music industry ignited.”

Throughout the course, students will view exclusive, never-before-seen Berkleemusic video interviews with rock luminaries including: Joe Perry of Aerosmith; Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead; Mike Mills of R.E.M.; Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers; George Clinton of P-Funk; producer Jack Douglas (who has worked with Aerosmith, Patti Smith, and John Lennon); promoter Don Law; Amanda Palmer; Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four; Duke Levine (who has played with the J. Geils Band and Aimee Mann); and English super-session drummer Dave Mattacks. Berkleemusic has also partnered with Wolfgang’s Vault to provide additional rare audio, video, and other forms of historical rock media presented in an educational context for the very first time. 

“I have known Steve Morse for over twenty years,” concludes Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. “Steve is a musicologist and his love of music makes him a very enthusiastic teacher. Steve has an undying love of music and a proven ability to be one of music’s finest critics and writers.”

Berkleemusic will host a free live Rock History event in Berkleemusic’s studio Thursday, March 8 at 4 p.m. EST: an exclusive conversation between Rock History’s Morse, and Boston DJ John Laurenti. Laurenti joins Morse in the Pantheon of the Boston music scene. John is a DJ at Boston’s #1 classic rock station in Boston, WZLX is the music director at University of Massachusetts’ radio station, WUMB. Laurenti has also hosted a number of historical music documentaries shown on WGBH in Boston. To register, sign up at https://www.berkleemusic.com/openhouse-signup/.
To learn more about the Rock History online course, visit:  www.berkleemusic.com/rockhistory 

BLAC Inc. launches Douglass High School musical instrument campaign in Oklahoma City

At a recent concert, Anita Arnold, executive director of Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC) Inc. in Oklahoma City, appealed to the audience to donate instruments that were not being used to the marching band at Frederick A. Douglass High School.  

In a recent news release, Arnold said BLAC Inc. had purchased nine used instruments and another 10 or more had been donated by the public. She said the goal is to provide instruments to build the marching band to 100 members and provide instruments to five elementary feeder schools for a music program at the elementary school level.

“Zelia N. Page Breaux, an iconic music teacher and daughter of Inman Page, Langston University’s first President, had a similar strategy as she put in place a system that produced great musicians such as Charlie Christian, Jimmy Rushing, C. E. Pittman and so many more masters of music,” Arnold said.  “I am honored to assist Charles Moore, band director in reaching his goals.  We are both determined to bring Douglass back to its former greatness that produced merit scholars and legends.”

Indicating the seriousness of the project, Arnold said that every day of the school week, Moore loads up Douglass’ music instruments and goes to a different elementary school to teach music.

“He works hard at this daily routine and returns to Douglass to teach his students there.  Mr. Moore is to be commended,” Arnold said.  “In fact, Douglass’ band was the only Oklahoma band selected to participate in the Battle of the Bands competition in Houston last month.  Douglass placed third in the small band competition.  It shows that there is great potential for becoming nationally known again.  Remember the music improves critical thinking skills and that is good for employers looking for employees.  These contributions (money or instruments) are tax-deductible.”

Anyone interested in participating in the project may call Arnold at (405) 524-3800 or Moore at (405) 587-4200.  Financial donations may be mailed to BLAC Inc., P.O. Box 11014, Oklahoma City, OK 73136.

Vocalpoint presents “Game of Your Life” sweepstakes

Team up with everyone you know for a chance to win* $5,000 for your favorite grade school or high school. All you have to do is register and watch the trailer for “Game of Your Life.” It’s a humorous and heartfelt video gaming drama about a promising young video game designer who has to make a choice that will affect his future and the lives of everyone around him. Then ask all your friends, family, teachers, fellow parents and PTO members – everyone you know – to watch it so they can vote for your school once a day, too. Because if any one of the people you tell wins, your school wins $5,000.

Video synopsis: Zach, a high school gamer who lands a scholarship to an elite video game design program, has a bright future as long as he can survive the intense freshman year project that eliminates half the class in the first three months. But when Zach learns that his father is in financial trouble, he has to make a choice that will affect his future and the lives of everyone around him. This humorous and heartfelt drama is a great reminder to kids – and all of us – that the choices they make impact the people around them. “Game of Your Life” airs Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, 8/7c on NBC.

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 or older as of the last day of the month prior to the date of entry. Ends 12/2/11. To enter and for Official Rules, including odds, and prize description, visithttp://tremor.promo.eprize.com/gameofyourlife/. Void where prohibited.

Beans-n-Frank creators elevate academic enrichment through catchy hip-hop beats

Teaching with hip-hop isn’t a new idea, but it has never been done as cool as Beans-N-Frank. They are the cartoon kids who rap lessons over hard-hitting hip-hop beats. The lyrics are as catchy and memorable as Sesame Street songs, but the music sounds like tracks from your favorite radio jam. We make music that the entire family can enjoy.
Our creators, Mark Davis and David Washington are veteran teachers with over 22 years of classroom experience between them, and even more experience as hip-hop artists. Davis and Washington are the hosts who join the mascot characters on stage for live performances that involve a lot of rapping, dancing, fact reviews, and “edutainment” at its finest. The combination makes for products and performances that are much more relevant and exciting than what can usually be found amongst children’s entertainers, yet the content reinforces skills that are critical for academic enrichment.
We offer the following services: 
– Live Performances 
– Curriculum Supplements 
– Remediation (for Groups of All Sizes) 
– Song Personalization 
– Gang/Bully Prevention Training 
– Birthday Parties/Special Events 
– Fundraisers
Our recorded music and live presentations reinforce the skills that align with the following Common Core State Standards recognized and adopted by most educational systems in the U.S.:
(Elementary Grades)
•Print concepts 
•Phonological awareness 
•Know number names and the count sequence 
•Count to tell number of objects 
•Compare numbers 
•Understand addition as putting together and adding to, and understand subtraction as taking apart and taking from. 
•Identify and describe shapes 
•Phonics and word recognition 
•Add and subtract within 20 
•Tell and write time 
•Work with time and money 
•Comprehension and collaboration

For more information on Beans-n-Frank, go to  http://www.reverbnation.com/beansnfrank.

2011 Charlie Christian International Music Festival features new talent, events in Oklahoma City

Brother Enoch
In a recent news release, Anita G. Arnold, executive director of Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC), Inc., said that the 2011 Charlie Christian International Music Festival will feature fresh, new talent in the almost week-long event along with some familiar faces.  The outdoor festival that runs June 3-4, 2011, at Bi-Centennial Park in Oklahoma City will showcase the musical talents of 10 bands playing continuous music throughout the weekend.

NIKKI & DA MIXX and Brother Enoch are first timers at the festival.  NIKKI & DA MIXX, a hip, swinging group from Broken Arrow,OK, promises to “light your fire” with the sultry vocals of Nikki Washington Givens.  Brother Enoch, whose founding members are Timothy Haverkamp, John Carter, and Boris Connally, met and formed their musical trio at the University of Central Oklahoma in the spring of 2010.  Timothy is an accomplished pianist and composer who completed a Masters Degree in Jazz Studies.  John is an established and experienced percussionist and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.  Brother Boris is a saxophonist, clarinetist, and flutist with a Masters Degree in Jazz Studies.  Their eclectic style is a combination of jazz, R&B, soul, classical, hip-hop, gospel and blues.

Familiar faces at the festival include Taylor Made Jazz, Kelvin Drake (Mr. Guitar), James Slaw & Friends, Jeremy Thomas Band, Cara Black Band, 411 Band, and the two headliners, Lao Tizer on Friday Night and All Funk Radio Show on Saturday Night.

The Charlie Christian International Music Festival adds a new family friendly performance piece, “Amazing Children” on Saturday, June 4.  From 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., the festival attendees will have a rare opportunity to see gifted children from Oklahoma City perform amazing feats during friendly student competition in solving rubrics cube puzzles in approximately one minute from the Dove Science Academy Elementary School, martial arts performed by championship students from Martin Luther King Jr. school as well as ballroom dancing.  Wilson Arts Integration School students will showcase their excellent talents in instrumental and vocal music. “Too often the public has a negative perception of students today and they never get to see the amazing things that students can do,” Arnold said. “We are delighted to put the spotlight on such talent.”

Wristbands for the two-day event may be purchased for $10 per day or both days for $17 at the following locations: BLAC Inc., Capitol Square Station, Charlie’s Jazz, Rhythm & Blues Store, City Cuts and Design Group, Hopkins Haircare, KM66 and Learning Tree Toy Store.  For more information, call (405) 524-3800.

Sponsors for the festival include BancFirst, Friends of the Oklahoma Historical Society Archives, and The Oklahoma City Chapter of the Links, EMSA, The City of Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Kenny Garrett joins other Honorary Doctorate of Music degree recipients at Berklee College of Music

Kenny Garrett/Credit: Jimmy Katz

According to a recent news release, Mack Avenue Records recording artist Kenny Garrett will be presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Music degree from Berklee College of Music. The presentation will be made at the college’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7, 2011, at the 7,000-seat Agganis Arena at Boston University. 
Additionally, Garrett will serve as the commencement speaker, addressing more than 900 Berklee graduates, their parents, and invited guests. Other renowned musicians to receive an honorary degree with Garrett include: Chucho Valdés, Bebo Valdés, Mavis Staples, and Michael McDonald.
“I was totally elated when I was advised that I’d be receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the world’s largest college of contemporary music!” Garrett said. “This is a dream come true, and I’m deeply appreciative and honored to be a member of this illustrious group of recipients.”   
For over 30 years, Garrett has garnered critical recognition for his versatility in jazz, blues, and R&B. The Detroit native began his career performing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Mel Lewis Orchestra. In the early 1980s, Garrett began working with Miles Davis, becoming a member of Davis’ working group —  a collaboration that lasted for five years. These days, he is working on his sophomore Mack Avenue release, due to be released during the first quarter of 2012.

Three groups form strategic alliance with JAZZ ROOTS: A Larry Rosen Jazz Series

JAZZ ROOTS: A Larry Rosen Jazz Series, one of America’s leading performing arts and education programs announces the formation of a new alliance with three strategic partners: IMG Artists, Sony Masterworks and The Quincy Jones Musiq Consortium.

The alliance was made official when JAZZ ROOTS signed an exclusive worldwide representation agreement with IMG Artists, one of the world’s premier talent management and presenting organizations.
“The JAZZ ROOTS brand and unique presentations provides an opportunity to bring this powerful music genre to fans across all demographic and territorial boundaries,” said IMG Artists’ President, Jeff Fuhrman in a recent news release. “We are extremely excited to offer our global resources to help take JAZZ ROOTS to audiences around the world.”
The six-part JAZZ ROOTS series offers a complete 360° experience from concerts and educational programs at performing arts centers across America, to touring theme based shows at concert halls and festivals around the world, to CD packages, television, video and radio productions (including an award-winning National Public Radio program) and iPad Apps.
Launched in 2008 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami- Dade County, JAZZ ROOTS, has the distinction of selling out every one of its concerts in the 2000 seat James L. Knight concert hall from inception to date and is now also being presented at the Winspear Opera House, located in the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, TX, and the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Ind.
Joining forces is Sony Masterworks, who announced an agreement to produce JAZZ ROOTS products, starting with a branded two disc compilation package (targeted for April 2011 release) tracing the story of the “Drums from Africa” and their effect on the musical DNA of the America.
“JAZZ ROOTS presents the music of the Americas in a most compelling fashion,” said Alex Miller, President, Sony Masterworks. “Larry Rosen’s long career in the music business from musician to producer to entrepreneur has a track record of very successful enterprises, and we are honored to play a role to celebrate JAZZ ROOTS and the amazing musical legacy of the music of the Americas.”
Legendary artist/producer Quincy Jones joins the alliance with a plan to implement his Quincy Jones American Popular Music Curriculum, which will be presented in schools across the country in collaboration with the JAZZ ROOTS education program. The JAZZ ROOTS education and outreach components are designed to reinforce audience development, targeting area middle and high schools as well as adults within respective communities. The series provides an opportunity for schools to bring their students to sound checks and performances, with artist conversation (pre and post show), as well as pre-concert workshops for adults. These initiatives organically connect to local community groups, art centers, and the local board of education.
“Larry Rosen’s JAZZ ROOTS is the most important new concert and educational Jazz series in America,” Jones said. “It’s so important that Americans and particularly our children learn about their culture. This series is simply imperative. You can’t know we’re you’re going unless you know where you’ve come from.”

Monthly jazz program series begins at Oklahoma City’s Douglass High School

Left to right, Earl Day, Keyboards, Delmar Burge, Drums and Kirbie Greene, Congas.

According to a recent news release, Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC) Inc. is sponsoring a monthly jazz program as a reward for students at Frederick A. Douglass High School in Oklahoma City. The program is a new initiative that starts this month at the request of Douglass High School Principal Brian Staples as part of the comprehensive program funded by the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association (NBMOA). 
“The 2010–11 school year begins a long term commitment for NBMOA to work with students and faculties of Frederick A. Douglass High School and its feeder schools to provide services through BLAC, Inc. to get student state performance scores up to meet state and national standards,” NBMOA President Darryl Umphries said.  “We have adopted this project to ensure the success of Douglass and its associated schools.  In doing so, we will have contributed significantly to improving the entire community.  It is a strong collaboration of partners that will demonstrate that positive change will result when people work together.  We are happy to be a part of an exciting future for our community and our schools.” 
The Earl Day Trio kicked-off the jazz series on Sept. 10, 2010, and will be followed by the Moe Williams Band on Oct. 8, 2010, and Kelvin Drake Band on Nov. 5, 2010. The free performances are open to the public.
“Other bands will be scheduled for the rest of the school year,” said Anita Arnold, BLAC Inc. executive director. “These bands will perform from 1:15 p.m. until 2:40 p.m. on each date.” 

Oklahoma City’s Black Liberated Arts Center Inc. announces headliners for 2010-11 season

African Children’s Choir

Ailey II Dance Company of New York

Black Liberated Arts Center (BLAC) Inc. of  Oklahoma City, OK recently announced headliners for the upcoming 2010-11 season of performing arts and a new venue for ongoing performances. 
 “Beginning this year, most of BLAC Inc.’s performances will be held at Frederick A. Douglass High School auditorium, said Anita Arnold, BLAC Inc. executive director.  “However, the Soul Food Dinner Theater performances will continue to be held at the downtown Petroleum Club. The beautiful 1,200-seat auditorium fits our needs, as well as any other venue in the city, and it is conveniently located. In our 40th anniversary year, it is appropriate that we celebrate it by launching our 2010-11 season at Douglass.” 
The African Children’s Choir will open the season at Fredrick A. Douglass High School auditorium on Nov. 7, 2010, and Ailey II Dance Company of New York will perform at the auditorium on March 26, 2011.  
Grammy Award -winning jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum will headline the Soul Food Dinner series in a show, “Kirk Whalum Plays Donnie Hathaway” on Jan. 15, 2010, at the Petroleum Club in Oklahoma City. 

Kirk Whalum

“We are excited about our partnership at Douglass High School that includes professional development programs, performances and so much more,” Arnold said. “This is part of how we intend to continue our service to the community. BLAC, Inc. is offering a special Early Bird subscription to the 2010-11 season.  It is our way of offering savings on advanced ticket purchases.” 
The performances are partially funded through the Oklahoma Arts Council.  For more information, call BLAC Inc. at (405) 524-3800.