After Yoshi’s celebrates St. Paddy’s Day with the unlikely Gil-Scott Heron on Mar 16th & 17th, another unique event comes to town the next night. Master Percussionist Babatunde Lea brings an all-star jazz virtuoso quintet feat. vocalist Dwight Trible, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist/vocalist Patrice Rushen & bassist Gary Brown to town.
The night of March 18th promises to be a musical meeting of the minds @ SF’s Yoshi’s when these 5 veterans hit the stage to celebrate their new CD release ‘Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas’. The album was recorded right here in the Bay Area live at Yoshi’s in 2008 and is a 2 disc tribute to the late ‘spiritual bop’ vocalist Leon Thomas who passed in 1999.
A master balladeer is in town Tues Feb 23rd & Weds Feb 24th, and although he is well past his prime at age 85, and only 4 ft 11” tall, he’s a true giant, and just being in the room with him is well worth the pittance Yoshi’s is charging this week at the door. He is known for infusing songs with so much pathos, pain and beautiful angst it’s hard to take it all in… and if you’ve never heard of him…sadly, you are not alone.
Fortunately, you still have time familiarize yerselves with his saga, and a musical legacy that was obscured by bad business breaks, pride, and deep prejudice, the kind that was not only racial, but sexual & medical …
Almost strangled to death by the umbilical cord at birth in 1925, Jimmy Scott was soon orphaned by a car crash, along with his 9 other siblings in depression era Cleveland. If the odds against him were not bad enough, they were further stacked by a strange genetic pituitary hormonal defect known as “Kallman’s Syndrome”. This medical disorder accounts for his somewhat effeminate looks & unnaturally high singing voice. Basically Scott’s pubescent development was stunted, causing his arms to appear longer than the rest of his torso while the diminutive singer never developed facial hair.
Finding solace away from the bleak foster homes on stages, he sang in combos of the post war R&B era, notably as a featured singer with band leader Lionel Hampton, with whom he made his recorded debut in 1950 (although his name did not appear on the label). After the chart making & touring stint with Hampton ended, Scott began dividing his time between night spots in Cleveland, New York and Newark, New Jersey.
Unable to secure proper record deals, or even respect on the road from fellow musicians due to his androgynous appearance, Jimmy Scott’s show biz career was a hard road. That road hit a brick wall by the late 1960′s when tight fisted Herman Lubinsky of the Savoy label refused to release Scott from a long dormant contract, and legally prevented comeback albums for Atlantic & Ray Charles’ Tangerine label from being released purely out of spite.
Jimmy’s numerous shots at stardom had been so hampered by fiscal mismanagement & bad business dealings, it lead to failed relationships, drinking and drugging, and a career ending downward spiral that took him away from the limelight for decades, until a break finally occurred when he was well into his 60′s.
Strangely enough, it appears death is something he won’t take sitting still, and is actually the catalyst that has brought Jimmy Scott’s career back to life…
It was recently brought to my attention that tonight diminutive Jamaican based musician Half Pint is appearing @ tiny lil’ Pier 23 as part of Club Dread.
Unlike many of the popular dancehall scene faves currently, he’s one of the few successful artists I know of in the genre who eschews the worst cliches & prejudices espoused in rap lyrics these days. He’s out promoting a new release called “No Stress Express” in which he shares the spotlight with guests including Miki Howard, Sizzla. The new single “Unity” recorded with Jack Maness formerly of Sublime offshoots Long Beach Dub All Stars is a call for harmony within the family of man.
Half Pint is a relatively humble artist active since the 80′s who’s been covered/copied by some pretty big white acts including the Rolling Stones (his song Winsome under their 1986 title “Too Rude”), and the aforementioned Sublime hit the big time in 1996 with Half Pint’s “Loving”, that you know better as the multi-platinum “(Love is) What I Got”. Half Pint is one of the few dancehall artists that consistently refrains from profanity, misogyny and negativity. The lyric book of his new CD even has section on stress relief that includes soaking one’s feet in epsom salts…
His other radical viewpoints include the horribly unhip and seemingly forgotten concepts like interpersonal respect , individuality, and (gasp!) family stability. Half Pint has even complained about the lyrics of other contemporary acts.
“There’s just raging and rebelling and they’re not realizing it’s not getting them anywhere. It’s better to be cool, calm and collective and do your homework and deal with one situation at a time. A lot of rap is still disrespectful to women, also. They’re saying things like, ‘Alright, Mama, do your thing. Keep selling your body.’ And I’m like, ‘Whoaaaah. No, mama don’t sell your body. Stick to me and let’s try to work things out without resorting to that.”
if you want to give Big Ups to the Half Pint, he’ll been making Pier 23 sweat after 10 pm til late tonight…
I’m on my way out the door to catch Sugar Pie DeSanto at Yoshi’s on Fillmore. I’ll be the guy with the front row table on the right hand side of the stage hootin & hollerin’…
For those unfamiliar with Sugar Pie, she’s a local treasure who was raised on Buchanan street, as well as Etta James cousin and an R&B recording artist since 1955 when she got her start on Federal Records courtesy Mr. Johnny Otis.
Back in the day she recorded tracks with her cousin Etta and Willie Dixon that were hits on the Chess & Checker labels, and she’s still going strong today with her latest CD “Refined Sugar” (found on iTunes).
I caught her last year at the San Francisco Blues Festival where she stole the set she shared with the aged Jimmy McCracklin’. I was impressed with this diminutive lady’s feisty persona, with her seasoned & saucy sense of fun and frivolity.
While I can hear the bagpipes & marching bands from the St. Patty’s Parade in the background, I know that fans of down n’ dirty white trash rock n roll should be heading over to the Alcoholocaust showcase at Thee Parkside tonight to catch a bad batch of musical acts yer momma woulda warned ya about if she’d ever heard of ‘em.
Appearing at this sordid soiree at Thee Parkside is Mark Curry’s group based outta the Sacto area called Hell’s House Band. Curry, a tall grizzled tatooed biker/model lookin’ dude, spent a few years on Virgin being pimped alongside labelmates like Janet Jackson & Lenny Kravitz, yet was found less on radio playlists, and more likely hanging out in bars at dawn with his pals in punk bands like NOFX.
I’ve thrown in an mp3 below for you to familiarize yourself with his latest musical direction…
Appearing after Curry’s band is a headlining set from Bay Area locals Sorrow Town Choir who are out supporting their second CD “Espinas de la Vida”. Their heathen blend of raw rootsy mid tempo tunes takes it’s cues from the garage rock greats & stadium seasoned sinners alike. If you don’t mind hearing a lil’ whiskey burned Skynyrd riff & a Nick Cave influence or two blended into your indie dirges, this could be a fine show to sit in the shadows & enjoy tonight.