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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

“John Coltrane Tribute Attests to the Healing Powers of Music"

Kenny Garrett Quintet, Ruth Naomi Floyd Quartet

Right Tyme Players & PACE Youth Band Bless the Stage
Kenny Garrett headlines John Coltrane Tribute

Music nourishes
my spirit,  feeds my soul, heals
me, and sets me free.

It was the first Sunday. The worshipers danced, shouted, testified, witnessed. Confessions were made. Sins were forgiven. Souls were saved. Bodies were healed and Communion was served. However the elixir the congregation drank was not poured from a vessel, nor was the service held inside.  The pulpit was actually a stage set up right in middle of the 1800 block of Diamond Street in North Philadelphia. Stirring “sermons” emanated from the musicians who blessed the gatherers at the “Jazz Tribute Celebrating the Life of John Coltrane,” held outside of the Historic Episcopal Church of the Advocate. Presented by "Art Sanctuary" on September 6, 2014, the musical celebration featured the Kenny Garrett Quintet, the Ruth Naomi Floyd Quartet, the Right Tyme Players and the PACE Youth Jazz Band from Camden, New Jersey. All the performers preached up a storm on that memorable day.

The festival opened with an immensely heartwarming and highly skilled set by a group of  teenagers who proudly wore “Made in Camden” graphic tee-shirts. The “PACE” acronym stands for “Preparing Artists for College Entrance Youth Band.”   Their collective spirit, combined with their technical prowess, maturity and yes - downright grit – spoke volumes about the efficacy of implementing arts in education as a model for excellence and achievement on platforms that resonate from far beyond the performance stage or art studio. I was especially impressed with the enchanting young woman who doubled on trumpet and vocals. She played along and sang a convincing rendition of Herbie Hancock and Bennie Maupin’s lilting “Butterfly.” It came as no surprise that by the time the PACE band's set was over, an orange, rust, black and gold butterfly actually alighted about a foot away from the stage. The fluttering beauty was the perfect omen to introduce the next act, the Ruth Naomi Floyd Quartet.

The captivating and poised trumpeter doubled on vocals

With their neatly bound charts in tow, the Ruth Naomi Floyd Quartet displayed a caliber of musical scholarship and virtuosity that is all too rare in this day and age. I loved watching the way musical director and pianist Aaron Graves commanded the musicians, while the very capable and confident mezzo soprano projected her deeply profound lyrics upwards toward the fluffy white clouds floating in the cerulean blue sky.

Ruth Naomi Floyd's Set was Spiritual & Ethereal

Mixed in with spirituals and jazz standards, Ms. Floyd featured original tunes she composed about “Responsibility” and “Freedom,” transforming her "pulpit" into a classroom lesson in activism and social consciousness.  “I’m a huge Ruth Naomi Floyd fan. I think her music is so relevant, especially here on Diamond Street. So to have Kenny Garrett and Ruth Naomi Floyd on Diamond Street, it doesn't get much better than that. Congratulations to Art Sanctuary,” said J. Michael Harrison - host of “The Bridge” which airs on WRTI-FM. It was just amazing how Ms. Floyd's vocals were powerful enough to be juxtaposed against the pulsating rhythms of G. Calvin Weston’s drums. Believe me, that cat can really play! I was delighted that he had the chance to be featured on an extended solo. His energy was totally infectious. Honestly, I felt that Ms. Floyd chose all of her sidemen wisely.

It was a real treat to see and hear Lee Smith holding it down on the bass. Another treat was experiencing a live performance by the multi-talented Will Smith. He demonstrated verve and authority as he flawlessly alternated between the tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and hip-hop infused spoken words. In direct contrast to the ethereal loveliness of Ruth Naomi Floyd, the “Right Tyme Players” brought on the funk. And they did so in a major way.  Crowd pleasers for sure, the band – all residents of North Philadelphia -  turned the place upside down. All of a sudden we were at a block party, reminiscent of a bygone era.

The Right Tyme Players brought on the funk

They got everybody up dancing - literally had folks dancing in the street, doing the Cha-Cha and the Bop. The “Right Tyme Players” consisted of a female vocalist, male vocalist, alto saxophonist, organist, guitarist, bassist, percussionist and drummer. They saturated popular rhythm and blues songs with their own unique originality. I mean, they just made you feel good all over. After a while, the "Players" slowed down the pace. The female vocalist poured her heart out on Phyllis Hyman’s “Somewhere In My Lifetime.” She did an excellent job of making it all her own.

Dancing in the Street

Closing out the festival was headliner Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, joined by his venerable sidemen - Vernell Brown on piano, Corcoran Holt on bass, McClenty Hunter on drums and Rudy Bird on percussion. Despite having to follow such a tremendous amalgam of locally-based talent, Kenny Garrett -  master saxophonist that he is  -  did not disappoint. Before it was all said and done, his Quintet had the people out of their seats, testifying, singing, dancing, moving and grooving. Yeah baby!  Truly, the Kenny Garrett Quintet was possessed. They were on fire!

Don Gardner, Managing Director of The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & the Performing Arts, said the event was “Beautiful…..just beautiful.” The weather was sunny and hot on that picture perfect day.  Stephanie Renee, (Program Director of 900 AM WURD)  and Cherri Gregg, (Community Affairs Reporter for KYW News Radio) served as MC's.  During her remarks, Art Sanctuary Executive Director Valerie Gay noted that the festival was made possible by the largesse of a generous anonymous donor. Other supporters included the Church of the Advocate, WURD, WRTI-FM and Temple University.

MCs Cherri Gregg & Stef Renee

Dr. Diane Turner, Curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro American Collection, which is housed at Temple University, said she was blessed to witness the spectacle. “This music is very spiritual. And whenever there’s an opportunity for people to come together and show unity, especially African Americans, it’s a beautiful thing.” All praises to the Creator. All praises to the Ancestors. This sacred block on Diamond Street was a particularly appropriate venue to host a festival celebrating the musical genius of John Coltrane. During his fertile developmental years, Mr. Coltrane walked these very same streets. He lived a little more than ten blocks away at 33rd and Oxford.   

Right in the shadows of the performances stood the Church of the Advocate  - where, for many decades - the late Father Paul Washington served at the helm; it’s where the historic first Black Panther Conference was convened; it is the repository where the stunning murals occupy the sanctuary’s walls – murals created in the early 1970’s – which are still poignant, still revolutionary and still prophetic to this day. Even though the music was enthralling, I did not forget to step inside the Church to view the artwork, say a silent prayer and pay my respects to the Ancestors. As soon as I walked in, I noticed that Richard Watson, one of the Advocate's famous muralists from back in the day, was there as well – apparently with the same reverent notion in mind.

Picture Perfect Clouds Evoked the Spirits of our Ancestors. Ashe!

I attended the John Coltrane Tribute with my friend, Dr. Debra V. Irvin, who also happens to be my dentist as well as my classmate from Germantown High School. We couldn’t have picked a better opportunity to get together and catch up. Indeed, the entire afternoon felt like a reunion, as I greeted a plethora of friends and acquaintances  - many of them representatives of Philadelphia’s vibrant artistic community. One such artist was bassist Warren Oree, the impresario who leads the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble. During one of the breaks he brilliantly summed up the atmosphere:  “This music is medicine!” 

Medicine indeed. The “Jazz Tribute Celebrating the Life of John Coltrane” was definitely a powerful healing force. Not only did it give everyone in attendance a chance to soak up a strong dose of vitamin D from the beaming sun rays, the experience also inspired yours truly to write this review, share these photos and pen a Haiku:

Music nourishes
my spirit, feeds my soul, heals
me, and sets me free.

Asante Sana. Peace & Blessings Always.

Monday, September 1, 2014

“Beauty Right Here In Our Midst”

"Sunny Blooms" photo by Pheralyn Dove
Look around. There is
so much beauty on this earth
to appreciate.

Writing poetry is a soothing, soulful part of my day, a time when I meditate and reflect – sometimes on the status quo but more often, a time to reflect on beauty. I pause, grasp my pen, clear my mind and think about something beautiful, positive and inspirational to write about. Sure, there are enough heavy realities any conscious Black poet feels a responsibility to expose, and believe me, I address these issues with all due respect. But in the mornings, when I’m starting my day, I feel this tremendous need to reflect on the positive and seek out beauty. These sojourns have worked themselves into a practice I refer to as my “Daily Haiku.”

Another daily ritual is taking a long walk (often as a warm up before my jog.) I always carry my camera along during these moving meditations and take nature photos, which I combine with my Haiku and post to my blog.   I also spend some time each day working on my personal development. This may take the form of reading, repeating affirmations, listening to a podcast, tapping on the meridian points on my body or concentrating on my thought patterns. Peace and calm result from these rituals. So even if I experience moments of angst and frustration as I go about the business of my day, I can bring myself back to a place of solace by simply going over these rituals in my mind, reminding myself that there is an immense well of gratitude that always resides in my heart. Asante Sana. Peace and Blessings Always.

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Wings For John Blake"

John Blake, Jr.
July 3, 1947 - August 15, 2014

Master Musician and Educator - John Blake, Jr.
Passion strings pierce the
air. John Blake's violin is
soaring in Heaven.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sacred Soul Sister - Part II: Tribute to Trudy Pitts

"The Essential Trudy Pitts"
August 10, 1932 - December 19, 2010
The Fabulous Trudy Pitts!!!
So significant
was her life, it inspires

She was my friend. She was my mentor. She was my confidant. She was my Sacred Soul Sister. She was Trudy Pitts. Organist and pianist extraordinaire, yes, but Trudy Pitts was an extraordinary human being as well. I have this huge desire to keep her legacy alive. Divine inspiration is leading me to create a multi-media show about her life, “Sacred Soul Sister:  A Tribute to Trudy Pitts.” The production is in its infancy. However I am so honored and blessed to share with you that “Sacred Soul Sister” received a generous grant for manuscript development from the Philadelphia Jazz Project. Many, many thanks to Homer Jackson and his team! Here, I am re-posting an essay titled "Today I Cried" about my life with Trudy Pitts. It’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “No Time for Tears,” that originally appeared in “AllAbout Jazz.”  So here goes…..

Trudy Pitts & Pheralyn Dove in performance at Ethical Society, Philadelphia
The Students Meets the Master

Talking to Trudy Pitts is like going on an adventure. It's the type of escapade where wanderlust, laughter and discovery are all intertwined. Whether on the telephone or in person, the discourse is utterly unpredictable, always exciting. I remember one night we were on the phone, reminiscing about when we met back in 1985. It was during my first month on the job as the arts and entertainment reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune.

Trudy's husband, a drummer and impresario known as "Mr. C," bypassed the receptionist and came straight over to my desk in the newsroom. He was accompanied by Jewel Mann, the tall, tan, attractive owner of Jewel's" They introduce themselves, say they want me to do an article on Gloria Lynn, a singer who was coming to Jewel's North Broad Street supper club.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sacred Soul Sister Part I

In Loving Memory of Trudy Pitts
August 10, 1932 - December 19, 2010
Hannan Saleh Photos of Trudy Pitts

Sacred, Sacred Soul
My Sacred soul sister passed
Around the full moon

Trudy Pitts was our
Truly Gifted Pianist
May God Rest Her Soul

She always aspired
For excellence in music,
And the best in life

Twenty Eight Thousand
Five Hundred Ninety-Nine Days
And Still Not Enough

She graced us on Earth
From  Nineteen Thirty Two ‘til
Two Thousand and Ten

The incomparable
Trudy Pitts, our beloved
Musical Genius

Defied all genres
Classical, Gospel, Blues, Jazz
She played them all well

On her piano
Or on her Hammond B-3
“Buckets Full of Soul”

We can never get
Enough of her magical
Musical presence

We can’t forget her
Beautiful legacy of
Love, Laughter, Kindness

Twenty Eight Thousand
Five Hundred Ninety-Nine Days
And Still Not Enough

Twenty Eight Thousand
Five Hundred Ninety-Nine Days
Days! Days! Days! Days! Days! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

"The Aesthetics of Black Hair - Beauty or Burden"

iPhone Selfie by Pheralyn Dove
God did not make a

Mistake when She created

My thick, wooly hair!

Please Join Me Today!   
Friday, August 8, 2014 is my broadcast on the topic of "The Aesthetics of Black Hair - Beauty or Burden"  on WURD 900 Radio, online at
-->The show runs 4 pm to 7 pm. WURD is based in Philadelphia and has a significant global Internet presence. The station’s focus is "Black Talk Radio," an all-talk format, with listeners calling in.
The discussion about Black Hair will range from the Natural Hair Movement, to the politics of Black Hair, the divide in the community regarding Natural Hair vs. weaved/permed Black Hair, Black Hair Care and more. Special guests joining me on the air include Syretta Scott, celebrity hair stylist and the brainchild of Duafe Natural Hair Care Salon and Aziza Kente, a “locs diva,” poet, activist, and City Council Woman in Sharon Hill, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. WURD attracts a well-informed, conscious, intellectual, culturally aware audience.

Please Spread the Word!

We would love to have you join in the discussion.  Listeners can call in on 866-361-0900 or 215-634-8065. Please include @900amWURD and the hashtag #onWURD in any of your posts to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  Asante Sana. Peace & Blessings Always.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spread the Word!

Gordon Parks - Master Photographer & Film Maker
(Photo courtesy of The Diverse Arts Project)
Education is
our most powerful weapon
for Liberation.

Join me as I guest host on WURD-900 a.m., “Black Talk Radio,” Friday, August 1st, 4 pm – 7 pm.
We’ll be broadcasting live from the Black Star Film Festival in Philadelphia. Our topic of discussion is “Independent film making and the impact of telling our own stories.” Call in to offer your point of view: 866-361-0900 or 215-634-8065.

Education is key for the liberation of our minds and ultimate triumph over oppression. However education reaches far beyond the classroom, with its traditional books and methods. Mass communication plays a major role in enlightenment. Formats span a variety of mediums, including broadcast, print, and of course the Internet. The impressive array of talent represented in the Black Star Film Festival hearkens back to a great tradition in Black film making and photography that includes innovators such as Oscar Micheaux, Gordon Parks, and Melvin Van Peebles. So listen up!