Norah Jones fans who came to the uptown New York club Makor Wednesday to see her guitarist Adam Levy play with his band got a very pleasant surprise when the singer herself stepped up to the mike. Looking much more at home on the stage where she got her start than she did sweeping up Grammy Awards, the "anti-diva" performed a sultry, country-jazz groove rendition of "Love Me Tender." In addition to Jones, soul greats The Holmes Brothers and Otis Clay also sang with Levy's organ trio. Long before she was a gleam in Blue Note Records' eye and began climbing the charts, Jones honed her signature sound at Makor with a series of Wednesday "Lounge Night" gigs between December 2000 and January 2002.
ROY HARGROVE TAKES ON THE FUNK
Trumpeter Roy Hargrove has completed a hip-hop/rhythm and blues-influenced project, "Roy Hargrove Presents The RH Factor: Hard Groove," featuring D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Common, and others. The album is scheduled for release May 20 on Verve. "This is not the kind of thing you can just go do," Hargrove said. "You gotta have some people backing you." A star in the acoustic jazz world with 12 albums as a band leader and scores as a guest performer, Hargrove had long dreamed of making a record that mixed jazz with gritty funk, R&B and hip-hop. In 2000, Hargrove played on records by his friends D'Angelo ("Voodoo"), Erykah Badu ("Mama's Gun") and Common ("Like Water for Chocolate"), and the seeds of "Hard Groove" had been planted. Those three performers were among the first to join Hargrove's band The RH Factor, completing the collective of musicians who made the record. As Hargrove put it, "Things came together quickly... It seemed like it was the right moment. It was a whirlwind of creativity. We had a great time, and I think that good energy comes through on the record. In the end, the album came out exactly the way I hoped it would be and then some."
The grand opening of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music will take place in Memphis April 28-May 1. A screening of the new edition of the 1973 documentary feature "Wattstax" is being scheduled as part of the opening festivities. "Wattstax" also will be shown in limited theatrical release through Columbia Pictures Repertory beginning June 6 in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. The film will play in additional markets in late June and July. Fantasy Records has released three new Stax CDs: "At Wattstax," which contains the entire hour-long performance given by Isaac Hayes at the 1972 Wattstax concert, all but one of the tracks are previously unissued; "Stax Instrumentals," the first U.S. release of 25 tracks by Booker T. and the MGs and the Mar-Keys, with detailed booklet notes by Alec Palao; and "Soul Men," the first U.S. release of a Booker T. and the MGs compilation on which the combo reworks 25 hits of the 1960s.
AUSTIN ON BLIND PIG
Award-wining vocalist Rene Austin has signed a recording agreement with prominent roots music label Blind Pig Records. With her powerful, near-five octave voice, Austin is gaining recognition across the country, as news of her electrifying performances is exciting audiences everywhere. Last year the singer won three Minnesota Music Awards -- Best Female Vocalist, Best Blues Artist and Best Blues Recording -- for her debut release "Dancin' With Mr. Blue". Her first album was a favorite with radio DJs all across the country. David Fusco of the nationally syndicated program Blues Deluxe said, "One listen to Rene Austin is to hear the soul of Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin and a host of others that have molded the blues. When this lady is dancin,' let her lead!" Austin has shared the stage with Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd and The Monsters, Keb' Mo, Vonda Sheperd -- of Ally McBeal -- and Robert Cray. After she opened last month for Delbert McClinton, he told Rene: "Girl, you ring my bell!" and invited her to perform on his celebrated Blues Cruise next year.
AARON NEVILLE IN HALL OF FAME
Legendary New Orleans singer Aaron Neville will be inducted into the Delta Music Museum and Hall of Fame in Ferriday, La., Saturday. Neville will have an exhibit of photographs and memorabilia in place within the museum, and will be presented with a star on the Walk of Fame outside. Neville is on tour with his quintet in support of his gospel album "Believe" (Tell It/EMI Gospel). The museum, which is run by the State of Louisiana, opened in Ferriday in 2002 and inducted four people from its hometown in its first Hall of Fame class -- Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, Jimmy Swaggart and jazz musician Pee Wee Whittaker. Neville will be the first New Orleanian invited into the Hall of Fame, and others inducted will be country music legend Conway Twitty and former Louisiana governor and entertainer Jimmie Davis. The first induction festival drew an audience of 15,000, and an even larger audience is expected this year.
INSTRUMENTS A COMIN'
Tipitina's Uptown, at 501 Napoleon Ave., will host the 2nd annual "Instruments A Comin'" Monday, April 28, to benefit the Carter G. Woodson Learning Academy and the McMain Secondary School in New Orleans. The all-star benefit concert will include a multi-media outdoor festival on Napoleon Avenue with the Lil Stooges and Hot 8 brass bands, Big Chief Peppy and the Golden Arrows Mardi Gras Indians, artist S.J. Gray, a painting demonstration by J. Pierre, photography exhibitions by Michael P. Smith, Bob Compton, Earl Perry, Jenny Bagert, Zack Smith, food by Dunbar's Creole Cooking and a performance by the recipients of last year's "Instruments A Comin'" benefit, the Joseph S. Clark and Booker T. Washington high school bands. Original Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli, and R&B legend Walter "Wolfman" Washington will be inducted into the Tipitina's Walk of Fame.
MADONNA PULLS VIDEO
Madonna has pulled the plug on her controversial "American Life" video, with its ambiguously anti-war message. Though Madonna has for several weeks defended the video, which was scheduled to start airing this weekend on VH1, claiming she was not "anti-Bush," she apparently decided to pre-empt any chance of being what industry insiders are now calling "Dixie Chick-ed." "Due to the volatile state of the world and out of sensitivity and respect to the armed forces, who I support and pray for, I do not want to risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video," Madonna said in a statement posted Monday on her Web site. The single had an inauspicious debut last week, opening at No. 90 on the Billboard Hot 100.
CHER DROPS JACKSON
Cher took a couple of full swings at the beleaguered Michael Jackson in the latest innings of the sport of Jacko-bashing during an interview with "Entertainment Tonight." "I don't have a nice thing to say about him," Cher understated. "He and I were friends when he was little. I watched him grow up and all that, but, you know, you dangle a baby over a balcony, that's it for me. If it was up to me, he wouldn't have those babies now."
George Yepes and Courtney Reid's vision of the San Antonio-based Art Dacha as a "six month Woodstock for artists" is materializing this Friday with a full lineup of bands from San Antonio, South Texas and Los Angeles playing in the giant grain warehouses of the Big Tex Grain Mills, surrounded by painting, sculpture and welding workshops. The party dovetails with the live music and art exhibits at San Antonio's monthly "First Friday" celebration located at the bottom of the King William historic district in the Blue Star arts complex. The show features Yepes and Reid's emotional, powerful paintings -- his detailed and symbolist and hers psychologically haunting -- on opposite walls of the cavernous main warehouse.
NOTHINGFACE EXITS MINISTRY TOUR
Nothingface left Ministry's "Fornica" tour following Saturday's show in Phoenix and will start a headlining tour with dates to be announced. "The band wanted to be able to play a full set in front of its fans in the weeks coming up to the release of the new album," said press representative Jason Consoli. Nothingface's fourth album, "Skeletons," hits stores on April 22. The band will follow the headline tour with a slot on OzzFest 2003 beginning June 28 in Selma, Texas.
PAPA GROWS FUNK
New Orleans hottest touring band, Papa Grows Funk, has just released its second album, "Shakin," a record destined to become a New Orleans classic. "It shows the evolution of the band," said keyboardist/vocalist John Gros. "Everybody contributed to the songwriting and arrangements, which highlight the strengths of the band." "Shakin'" ranks with the classic funk recordings in the New Orleans canon by the group's parent bands -- the Meters, Galactic and the Wild Magnolias. Everybody contributed. Drummer Russell Batiste sets the tone with the churning "Mutha Funk Y'All," with its tart turnaround and catchy, chanted chorus. Batiste's compositional groove extends to "Say B'uh (I Jus' Playin')" and the pumping march "Soul Second Line." Saxophoinist Jason Mingledorff collaborated with Batiste on the album closer, "Big Wind," and brought the solid instrumental "Yakiniku" and "Sit On This" to the mix. Guitarist June Yamagishi wrote "Slinky Snake" and bassist Marc Pero wrote "Fish-Eyed Fool." Gros contributed several originals to the album, which features his vocals prominently. The inspirational "If I..." and "House of Love" feature lyrics by his older brother Ward Gros, who currently is seeing action in Iraq. "He has a collection of lyrics and poetry that he writes and I just go through 'em," said John, who wrote both music and lyrics for "Rat a Tang Tang," the song on the album that most quickly imprints itself on the listener. The stinging lyric with its sing-along chorus sounds like hit material. "Rat a tang tang gonna make me scream," sings Gros, "I'm done with Y.O.U."
It's 1987, and the Beatles are gathering in Liverpool for a reunion. It has been 25 years since John Lennon walked out of Parlaphone studios, taking George and Ringo with him. Paul, American-speaking and acting, has become the world famous entertainer Paul Montana, and he's visiting Liverpool for the first time since 1962, hoping to reunite with his boyhood chums, the once "hottest little quartet -- in Liverpool." Father George, now a Jesuit priest, is recovering from a nervous breakdown; John is embittered, alcoholic, unemployed, and on the dole. His wife has left him, and young Julian has joined the fascist National Front. Ringo lives on the earnings of his entrepreneurial hairdresser wife while he and John sit in on weekends with old rivals Gerry and the Pacemakers. It is Lennon's curse that he can imagine what might have been. That's the story line of a truly entertaining book, "Liverpool Fantasy," by Larry Kirwan. Kirwan, a playwright and leader of the Irish-American rock band Black 47, is the author of "Mad Angels," a collection of plays.
THE 50 CENT DIET
Hip hop superstar 50 Cent is the subject of a cover story in the May issue of Vibe. The article attributes his success to having survived being shot nine times. In the article he describes what he calls his "hollow-tip diet." "Before being shot, I was kinda fat," he said. "My eating habits are wrong. After I got shot, I was on liquids for six weeks. My stomach had shriveled up so small that, even when I was able to eat, I was eating so little. The attention feels good though. Especially since this wasn't my intention."
EL GRAN SILENCIO
El Gran Silencio, a band on the forefront of the exploding Monterrey, Mexico, music scene since its inception, has just released a potential blockbuster album, "Super Riddim Internacional Vol. 1" on EMI Latin. The group brings its fusion of rock, hiphop, norteño, cumbia, pagode, ragamuffin, rumba flamenco and raga to Los Angeles April l5 at the Henry Fonda Theatre and to Miami for the Zeta FM's Bonzai Fest April 25. El Gran Silencio was founded in the summer of 1992 after Tony and Cano Hernandez wanted to find a way to combine their love for hiphop and norteño music. In the early '80s they had been exposed to early hiphop by Afrika Bambaata and Soul Sonic Force and even obscure electrofunk artists like Egyptian Lover. However, the momentum of a renaissance of Mexican rock began to sweep the country in the late '80s through groups like Caifanes, Maldita Vecindad and Maná. The brothers Hernández (on vocals and guitars), along with Isaac Valdez on accordion and Ezequiel Alvarado on drums formed EGS in the middle of a new Monterrey wave that included bands like Control Machete and Plastilina Mosh, and more recently Kinky, Jumbo, and Zurdok.
SARS SACK STONES
The long-awaited China debut of the Rolling Stones has been postponed indefinitely because of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome -- SARS -- in Asia. The Stones canceled the band's first two scheduled appearances in China after dropping out of two Hong Kong shows because of the threat of the highly contagious disease. "The Rolling Stones announced today that their concert performances in Shanghai on April 1 and Beijing on April 4 have been canceled due to World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control travel warnings regarding SARS, and continued concerns expressed by local Chinese government officials, communities and individuals over large public gatherings," reported the band's Web site.
ROSCOE HOLCOMB -- 'UNTAMED SENSE OF CONTROL'
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released "Roscoe Holcomb: An Untamed Sense of Control," a collection of intensely genuine performances by a man who, for many, embodies the quintessential Appalachian musician. Bob Dylan once said, "Roscoe Holcomb has a certain untamed sense of control, which makes him one of the best." Holcomb's aching voice and passionate instrumental style was the inspiration for the term "high, lonesome sound," a widely used description of this uniquely American music. "The High, Lonesome Sound," is in fact the title of the last collection of Roscoe Holcomb recordings released on Smithsonian Folkways. The album sparked new interest in Holcomb's inimitable style after its 1998 release. The later recordings on "An Untamed Sense of Control" are released here for the first time on CD. The album was made under the supervision of noted folklorist and New Lost City Rambler John Cohen, who first met Holcomb in 1959 at Holcomb's home in Daisy, Ky. The collection is culled from Holcomb's later career in the 1960s and early 1970s, compiling studio performances, live concerts and field recordings made on his front porch in Kentucky. Holcomb's version of the old-time staple "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" appears on the record, in potent contrast to the more commercial recording made by Ralph Stanley in the 1950s.