ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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If you can’t handle the things around you, if you don’t know how to adjust to your

surroundings and understanding what happiness is not . . . when you understand

what happiness is not, then you arrive at what happiness is.

 

 

Andy Bey CDs

 

American Song / Ballads, Blues & Bey / Shades of Bey Tuesdays in Chinatown / Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters  / Experience and Judgment

 

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Andy Bey Steady Burning Black Light

Breath of Life Music Commentary by  Kalamu ya Salaam

 

Andy Bey is gay.

It was important to come out for my own sanity so I wouldn’t feel like I was hiding. I think it’s important for anyone to eventually come out and deal with it. If you’re holding onto something, a secret, you have to deal with the possibility of being caught. I think when everybody knows you can separate the real from the unreal and go on with your life. —Andy Bey

Andy Bey is HIV-positive.

I think sometimes suffering can transform your life into something nobly. It makes you stronger. You use it to grow, rather than to be defeated. Some people can become very bitter by pain. Everyone has to deal with pain at some point in their life. But the main thing is to grow from that and use it to transform our lives into something better.

Sometimes it takes some devastating pain to transform you. I knew that I had to survive and I wasn’t just going to lay down and die. I had something to live for. I didn’t plan to come out. Someone was interviewing me and we were talking like we’re talking now, and it just sort of happened. Certain people in the business knew anyway. So it wasn’t like this big secret. But when I became positive, it became even more important for me to liberate myself if I was going to try and stay focused on other things, like my music.—Andy Bey

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Andy Bey was born October 28, 1939 in Newark, New Jersey. He was a child prodigy. By six he was performing “Caldonia.” By eight he was performing professionally; by 12 he was onstage at the Apollo; and while a young teenager, he was on television’s “Startime” with Connie Francis. Circa 1958, Bey formed a trio with his older sisters Salome and Geraldine and they immediately embarked for Europe where they lived and worked based in Paris until returning to the United States in the mid-sixties and disbanding in 1966.

For two decades afterwards, Andy worked primarily as a jazz vocalist. He worked in the bands of and recorded with jazz luminaries such as Max Roach, McCoy Tyner, Lonnie Liston Smith, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Eddie Harris and Horace Silver. His most notable success was with Gary Bartz and the Ntu Troop with whom Andy recorded the classic Harlem Bush Music albums.

In 1991, Andy Bey returned to Europe, this time going to Austria where he taught vocal studies at the university level for two years before returning to America in 1993.

In 1996 his “comeback” (return to commercial recording) album Ballads, Blues & Bey was released. His latest album, American Song was nominated for a 2004 Grammy.

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Last week, Mtume chose Gary Bartz as the classic feature. This week it’s Andy Bey, the other half of the Ntu Troop heartbeat. Andy Bey is the greatest living male jazz vocalist. His recordings since Ballads, Blues & Bey are unparalleled.

Check his track record. “Smooth Sailin’” is a 1959 Andy & The Bey Sisters recording (two tracks on a Jazz in Paris series compilation) from their Paris days. Sure they had natural talent but there was also a great deal of intelligence at work. In under two and a half minutes they summarize post-bop jazz by quoting famous jazz songs and riffs. Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Eddie Jefferson, Ella Fitzgerald, Babs Gonzalez, Jon Hendricks, and more, it’s all compressed into a swinging compendium of jazz from “Pretty Baby” to bebop.

“Members, Don’t Get Weary” is the first recording of Andy working with Gary Bartz. This is the title cut of an out-of-print 1968 Max Roach album that was pointing the way forward not only for so-called “spiritual jazz” in general but what was shortly to become the Ntu Troop in particular.

“Black Maybe” is one of the strongest of the Ntu Troop tracks (available on Juju Street Songs). Using electronic enhancement on his saxophone, it’s easy to hear why Miles Davis scooped up Gary Bartz. The interaction between Bey’s voice and Bartz’s saxophone is absolutely superb. The Ntu Troop was the most versatile and successful “Black Power” era jazz bands. Certainly Pharaoh Sanders was the leading post-Coltrane voice but not even Pharaoh covered jazz, funk, pop, gospel and blues the way the Ntu Troop was able to do.

The next three cuts are from Andy Bey’s 1970 solo release Experience and Judgment which, even though it was more pop than jazz oriented, is nevertheless a great example of Bey socially conscious, spiritually-oriented lyrics. “A Place Where Love Is” is one of the more poignant laments/longings that has ever been sung. Obviously, Bey is a deep thinker who has seriously contemplated our collective condition.

Of all the collaborations as a sideman, I remain partial to Andy’s work on bassist Stanley Clarke’s 1973 Children of Forever album. The title track features vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater joining Andy for some stellar blowing with Dee Dee singing off into the stratosphere. The song is technically demanding but Andy and Dee Dee respond with gusto. Butterfly Dreams” is another one of those philosophical takes on daily life that Andy does so well.

Unfortunately for us there are no eighties-era recordings from Mr. Bey.

“Paper Moon” is from American Song (2006), Mr. Bey’s most recent album. It’s a song made famous by Nat King Cole, who influenced Bey.

In 1996 Andy Bey was featured on Passion Flower, pianist Fred Hersch’s tribute to Billy Strayhorn. This beautiful rendition of “Something To Live For” is from that session.

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AAJ: Would you describe yourself more as a spiritual person or a religious person?

Andy Bey: I think I’m a more spiritual person. You can be religious and not be spiritual. You can be spiritual and not be religious at all. It’s not about a judgmental thing; everybody’s at a different level, which is not to say that they’re bad or worse or good or whatever. It’s just what you react to. And I find that, with myself, it’s dealing with everyday challenges. That to me is more important than dealing with anything else. If you can’t handle the things around you, if you don’t know how to adjust to your surroundings and understanding what happiness is not . . . when you understand what happiness is not, then you arrive at what happiness is. You can’t change things, you sort of replace things other than change them. You can’t change certain animal species into others. You can’t change a dog into a cat, or a snake into a dove. But you can replace them.

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I admire Andy Bey. Admire his tenacity. His forthright way of dealing with his own life. Admire, of course, his talent, a talent he has never given up on or prostituted. Admire that he is a survivor. Admire that now that he is in his sixties he is singing stronger than he sang back in the sixties. In a minute, he will have been recording over a fifty-year period. There is no hint of bitterness in his work. There is no pandering for the pennies of commercial success. Andy Bey is a steady burning black light. An inspiration to any one and every one who wants to live a meaningful life. Much respect, my brother. Mucho, mucho respect!

posted 6 August 2007

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson, III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.Publishers Weekly

 

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 29 December 2011

 

 

 

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Related files: Gary Bartz Ntu Troop “People Dance”