Greetings from Goree Island Dakar Senegal

Greetings from Goree Island Dakar Senegal at the ancient slave fortress outside the door of no return playing my flute for the spirit of my ancestors we are strong we survived and we return to Mother Africa to claim our heritage God Bless

–T.K.Blue Talib Kibwe

Happy New Year 2017 to everyone. I pray you all had a wonderful holiday season and I wish you a blessed new year. I was very fortunate to spend my holiday 2016 in Dakar, Senegal West Africa from Christmas Day until Tuesday January 10th. Africa is a very magical and mystical place where one can witness the origins of mankind and world culture. Africa is full of love, generosity, and sharing beyond measure. Often we only hear about negativity, disease, famine, terrorism, and war. However there are many, many positive aspects of life in African society that one can experience while visiting this incredible continent of aesthetic beauty.

Upon arrival I went to visit NEA Jazz Master Pianist Dr Randy Weston and his lovely Senegalese wife Fatou. They have a beautiful home in Mbao near the ocean about 30 minutes from downtown Dakar. I played on Friday night December 30th with a fantastic vocalist from the USA: Electra Weston–no relation to Randy. She performed at Hotel Keur Gainde’ Route du CVD Hann Marinas and was accompanied by a Senegalese trio. After I went to a very hip club called Just For You. They had a wonderful fashion show in progress and I must comment on how beautiful the African sisters were who participated. They all walked with an air of royalty and respect that echoed the aura of an African princess or queen from an ancient African Kingdom. After the fashion show I was honored to be invited on stage to perform with the legendary Senegalese musician/vocalist/drummer Cheikh Lo. I met Cheikh Lo last April 2016 in NYC when I performed with his band at NYU. I was very elated to play with him again.

I spent New Year’s Eve with the Weston family and later that evening I connected with my friends from the group Xalam, who were performing at a club called Surf Paradise. I met Xalam while I resided in Paris in the early 1980’s. We went on to perform and record together until the leader Abdoulaye (Propere) Niang suddenly passed from a rare form of cancer. I wrote a song dedicated to Prospere on my new CD Amour.

On January 1st new year’s day I joined the Weston family at the Sorano Theater in downtown Dakar for a stunning tribute to the Senegalese master musician and drummer Doudou Ndiaye Rose, who passed away earlier in 2016 at the age of 80. Doudou is a legend in Senegal and I was extremely fortunate to see him in performance over the years. Often he would perform with close to 100 drummers, most playing the sabar drum. His choreography and arrangements are superb and reign supreme in the pantheon of African drumming. I last saw Doudou at the 2010 Black Arts Festival in Dakar. My band performed at the Place De La Renaissance and Doudou was in attendance. The tribute honoring his legacy at the Sorano Theater echoed a grand celebration reminiscent of carnival or mardi gras. The brothers and sisters on stage and in the audience were dressed magnificently, adorned in a myriad of colors and African print fabrics. The elder women wore head wraps that would rival the lovely hats worn by African-American women on Easter Sunday! The saber drummers stole the show with their impeccable rhythms and precise arrangements. This show also featured a “griot” or African storyteller who pranced across the stage emitting words of praise and wisdom regarding our dear departed elder Doudou Ndiaye Rose. Often throughout the show, women from the audience would approach the stage to dance with the drummers or offer money to the performers, which is the custom in traditional African society. In essence it was truly a joyous tribute to a master musician!!!

While in Dakar I received word that my dear friend Abiodun Ayewole from the Last Poets was also in Dakar doing a video shoot for a new recording of poetry. I was hoping to connect with him despite not having any of his contact information. Sunday January 8th I visited the slave fortress on Goree Island. I arrived at the ferry terminal in Dakar to catch a 10am boat to Goree Island. To my wonderful surprise Abiodun was on the same ferry!! We connected and hung out on the island. I participated in his video shoot as I had my flute with me and it was a fantastic experience. Also featured on his new recording are a group of Senegalese brothers called Bideew Bou Bess–New Star In The Sky. They are three brothers who are incredible vocalists and musicians. They are certainly destined for stardom!

Before the video shoot on Goree, I visited the slave fortress. This was perhaps my fifth time here and I was thinking of what my ancestors had to endure being enslaved and treated like property. The elder curator for the fortress died about ten years ago. His replacement spoke very profoundly about the times of slavery and in particular this fortress with its “door of no return”. It’s quite sad to imagine that over the period of four centuries involving the transatlantic slave trade, close to 100 million Africans lives were lost. In fact for every one African that made it to America, The Caribbean, or South America, seven perished during the journey!!! I played a dedication to the spirit of my ancestors who made it to the Caribbean and those who lost their lives enduring a hardship that is unimaginable. I am alive today because of their ultimate sacrifice.

As mentioned Africa is a very beautiful place with a rich history and legacy of world culture. Quite often I hear traditional music that reminds me of the Blues, Samba, Bossa Nova, Reggae, Zouk, Calypso, Funk, and Afro-Cuban music with all its derivatives. Everywhere in Senegal I was greeted by strangers with “Na nga def”–How are you? Ana waa ker ga–How is your family? Jamm ak jamm—peace with peace….In addition I was invited constantly to the homes of folks to have food. Most share everything they have with you without waiting for a thank you. Everywhere I walked people greeted me with love and respect. They treated me as their brother and part of their family. When you thank your host for the wonderful hospitality the response is always “nee or ga buk”—you are welcome–please don’t thank me for this food as it comes from God and it’s for everyone!

I look forward to my next voyage “home” God Bless
–T.K. Blue

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Brownsville Heritage House

I had the extreme pleasure to perform at the Brownsville Heritage House on Mother Gaston Boulevard and Dumont Ave in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn on Saturday November 19, 2016, from 3pm to 6pm. The Brownsville Heritage House is located above a public library and together they form a cultural and academic oasis in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The Heritage House hosts an ongoing series of jazz concerts every third Saturday of each month. Every month this jazz performance is led by the extremely talented and fluid pianist Roy Meriweather and features several outstanding jazz performers. I was substituting for the iconic saxophonist and bandleader Bill “Big Daddy” Saxton. It is worth acknowledging that the Jazz Foundation of America sponsors this series. They pay the artist’s salaries and a free meal is also provided to the public. There is no admission charge and folks in the community are encouraged to attend.

Jazz performance initially had a very long and rich history of being an integral part of the African-American community from its inception. However jazz venues in their community have disappeared in recent times and there is certainly a shortage of places that promote jazz. The African-American audience is often obliged to travel outside of their community to hear a music that was created by their ancestors. In addition most venues that host jazz charge exorbitant prices, and as a result exclude many African-Americans because of the economic situation. It’s one reason why African-Americans do not make up a large percentage of the jazz listening audience.

It is quite refreshing to perform in the African-American community for folks who are truly so grateful and appreciative to hear great music, which is part of their cultural legacy. I have performed at this venue a few times and the response from the audience is quite overwhelming. As an artist I walk away from these performances feeling so revitalized and rejuvenated. I applaud the Jazz Foundation for their sincere efforts in keeping the flame of jazz alive in the African-American community and I wish there were more opportunities for jazz performance in the places that nurtured its birth. It is worthwhile to note the great work that additional venues in Brooklyn are doing to promote jazz in their community: Sistas’ Place, Sankofa Brownstone Jazz, and 966 all have a rich legacy of hosting jazz in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn.

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From Harlem to Harvard

On Sunday November 6th 2016 a special tribute was held to honor the late John Watusi Branch in Harlem at the National Black Theater on 5th Ave and 125th Street. It was a very moving dedication to the work and legacy of brother Branch, who had the foresight to establish the African Poetry Theater in Jamaica, Queens N.Y. Mr Branch also sponsored several excursions to West Africa where he took folks on tour and exposed them to the culture and greatness of African society.

I was truly blessed to partake on one of his trips to Senegal many years ago. The tribute for John was historical and profound. There were many famous guest speakers in attendance as well as performances by several musical groups. There was also an incredible dance presentation to honor the original Last Poets, who also performed two poems. Closing out the evening festivities was a duo performance dedicated to the memory of John by pianist Dr Randy Weston and myself on flute and saxophone. We performed two of Dr Weston’s original compositions The Healers and The Seventh Queen.

Last Wednesday November 9th 2016, I had the absolute pleasure, honor, and privilege to be part of a unique tribute honoring NEA Jazz Master Dr Randy Weston. Harvard University recently acquired Dr Weston’s complete achieves consisting of personal papers, letters, posters, photographs, manuscripts, film, video, audio and printed music, and an assortment of memorabilia chronicling the life of a such a legendary and iconic artist of the highest calibre. Harvard University invited Dr Weston to partake in a live onstage interview followed by a performance with his African Rhythms Quintet featuring: myself as the musical director, saxophone and flute; bassist Alex Blake; percussionist Neil Clarke; trombonist Robert Trowers; and of course the Maestro on piano.

The evening festivities began in the Agassiz Theater at Harvard with an onstage conversation between Dr Weston, moderated by the extraordinary writer and musical historian Robin D.G.Kelly, as well as Harvard’s Professor Ingrid Monson. The questions asked of Dr Weston were quite poignant, pertinent, and relevant, not only in conjunction with his musical upbringing, but also regarding the history of jazz and its protagonists. Dr Weston shed light on some of his seminal recordings which manifest the beauty and greatness of the African aesthetic, as well as proclaiming the liberation of African consciousness from colonial domination. His detailed explanation of the recording Uhuru Africa from 1960 is a prime example. Dr Weston also expounded on his many travels throughout the continent of Africa and the connections between people of the African Diaspora. He ended by explaining the impetus behind his latest recording project, which is a double CD entitled The African Nubian Suite. His explanation conveys this project as a myriad of musical vignettes featuring many great artists and it depicts the historical significance of African culture throughout the world. The emphasis here is on the world’s first great empire originating in Nubia, which later gave birth to the great Egyptian Dynasties. The African Nubia Suite features percussionist Candido Camera and poet Jayne Cortez and it is dedicated to the memory of Jayne, Senegalese historian Dr Cheikh Anta Diop, and Senegalese percussionist Doudou Ndiaye Rose. It is produced by Dr Weston, co-produced by Fatoumata Weston, and associate producer T.K.Blue.

The second half of the evening was a performance by Dr Weston’s African Rhythms Quintet. The songs performed were Blue Moses, The Shrine, African Sunrise, Berkshire Blues, The African Family (arranged by T.K.Blue), and Love, The Mystery Of. In attendance were many notable musicians and very important individuals: Dr Rudy Crew, President of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn; Dr Henry Louis Gates, historian, documentary film maker, and professor of African-American Studies at Harvard University; Grammy-Award winners and professors of jazz at Berklee–Danilo Perez and Terri Lyne Carrington; Eric Gould–professor and chair of jazz composition at Berklee; Donal Fox–professional jazz pianist and recording artist; Hankus Netsky – Professor of Music at New England Conservatory; Isaiah Johnson – my former student at LIU-Post and currently enrolled in New England Conservatory; Eric Jackson–jazz DJ host; Ron Scott–jazz critic and writer for the Amsterdam News; Pierre Thiam–famous Senegalese Chef; Thurston Brisco; and an assortment of incredible folks and family paying their respect to “Baba” Dr Randy Weston.

From Harlem to Harvard: you can’t experience anything better than that!!!! God Bless
–T.K.Blue

Photo courtesy: <a href=”@johnwestbigelow”>https://twitter.com/johnwestbigelow</a>

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Welcome to the NEW T.K. Blue website

Peace, Love, and blessings to all of you. I trust everyone is in great health going into the fall season, which is filled with a lot of incredible tributes, concerts, and new recordings. The last few weeks have found me in the final stages of preparing a new website (www.tkblue.com) as well as a new CD release entitled Amour.

My current website is over 15 years old and it is being renovated to fit into today’s mobile climate. I am very excited to have Christopher Mack reconstruct my new website and it will be up and running very soon, complete with new music, photos, updated biography, and schedule page.

Amour is my 11th recording as a leader and my most ambitious project to date. This recording features many great artists who are on the cutting edge in jazz performance and it features some new original music composed specifically for this date, as well as my original arrangements of choice jazz standards. This project reflects the wonderful years I lived in Paris, France and it’s dedicated to the memory of my dear departed mom Lois Marie Rhynie. My goal is for a March 2017 release promoted with various concert performances.

Speaking of recordings, I am extremely proud to be part of a new project led by NEA Jazz Master Pianist and Composer Dr. Randy Weston. Dr. Weston’s new double CD recording is entitled The African Nubian Suite, and I am truly blessed to be an associate producer for this masterpiece. It is slated for release on January 20, 2017. This suite intertwines music and poetry with narration, and takes us on a journey involving the history of African people and its Diaspora, from antiquity to the present. It is dedicated to three giants of the African and African-American community who have transitioned to become ancestors: historian Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, musician Doudou Ndiaye Rose, and poet Jayne Cortez.

I am equally proud to perform with vocalist Joan Belgrave, the widow of jazz master trumpeter/composer Marcus Belgrave. We have two concerts coming up on November 6th and December 9th at the Metropolitan Room 34 west 22nd St in NYC. We will perform one of Marcus’s most iconic compositions called All My Love.

Sunday November 6th is also the date for a tribute to Baba John Watusi Branch, the founder of the African Poetry Theater in Queens, N.Y. Many incredible musicians, renowned speakers, and famous poets will come out to pay their respect to brother Branch who made his transition to become an ancestor last year. All will take place at the National Black Theater 2031 5th Ave and 125th Street Sunday Nov 6th from 6pm to 10pm. I will perform in duo with Dr. Randy Weston.

Lastly Dr. Weston announced sometime ago that his complete personal achieves has been donated to Harvard University. To commemorate this outstanding acquisition, Harvard will honor Randy and his African Rhythms Quintet in concert on Wednesday Nov 9th at 7pm in the Horner Room, Agassiz House, 5 James Street in Cambridge, Mass. I am looking forward to being part of this joyous celebration, which is taking place during Dr. Weston 90th birthday year!

We will keep the spirit of paying tribute to Dr. Weston and his music at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in Jazz At Lincoln Center Columbus Circle in NYC on December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th

Stayed tuned to my website www.tkblue.com for more news on upcoming events. May this fall be filled with positive energy and happiness for all of you!

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