On Stage: Celebrating 80 years of Blue Note Records

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Kandace Springs

Area jazz fans are in for a triple treat on November 8 when The Grand Opera House (818 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577,www.thegrandwilmington.org) hosts “The Blue Note 80th Anniversary Tour” featuring Kandace Springs (Vocalist and keyboards / Trio), James Francies (Piano / Trio) & James Carter (Saxophone / Trio).

Blue Note Records is an American jazz record label that was established in 1939. It derives its name from the characteristic “blue notes” of jazz and the blues. Originally dedicated to recording traditional jazz and small group swing, from 1947 the label began to switch its attention to modern jazz including Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Fats Navarro and Bud Powell.

Springs’ refined mix of R&B, jazz, and pop has been displayed on her Blue Note albums “Soul Eyes” (2016) and “Indigo” (2018).

Springs, who was born in Nashville, Tennessee, began piano lessons when she was still in elementary school. Her father Scat Springs was a session singer in Nashville, and she grew up listening to jazz and soul singers like Nina Simone.

“I started taking piano lessons when I was 10,” said Springs, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from her home in Nashville.  “I didn’t start singing until I was 13. I never really sang at home.”

In 2014, Springs released her self-titled debut EP on Blue Note Records. The EP was produced by Pop & Oak. “Love Got in the Way” was her first music video. She collaborated with Ghostface Killah on his 2014 single “Love Don’t Live Here No More.”

Another major event happened in 2014 when Prince flew her to Minneapolis to perform at Paisley Park.

“Prince reached out to me,” said Springs. “I got to close his 30th anniversary party at Paisley Park.”

Prince became a mentor to the young singer and once described her as having “a voice that could melt snow.”

“My EP came out a little before I met Prince. It was a different side of me. I was trying to experiment more with hip hop. Prince and my dad told me that I needed to go back to jazz.”

After she made featured appearances on tracks by Ghostface Killah, Aqualung, and Black Violin, Springs completed her first full-length, “Soul Eyes.” Released in June 2016 with production from Larry Klein, the album mixed originals and covers and favored lean instrumentation.

For her comparatively layered follow-up, Springs worked extensively with Karriem Riggins and maintained her connection with Rogers and Sturken as two of her primary co-writers. Issued in September 2018, “Indigo” also featured interpretations of classic and contemporary songs, from Thom Bell and Linda Creed‘s “People Make the World Go Round” (popularized by the Stylistics) to Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s “6 8.”

“My favorite stuff is my acoustic stuff. You can hear it on my ‘Soul Eyes’ album.”

That album served notice that there was a new torch bearer in the great tradition of jazz singers who draw upon the roots of blues, gospel and soul. Springs performed live on several TV shows, including the Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Later… with Jools Holland.

Springs will release her third Blue Note album “The Women Who Raised Me” in early 2020.

“My new album will come out on March 6,” said Springs. “It’s about singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Roberta Flack.

“I’m just kind of giving back. They’re the ones who influenced me. Thinking back, my first influence might have been Norah Jones…or Nina Simone.”

Video link for Kandace Springs — https://youtu.be/gwEontUNkZY.

The show at the Grand, which features Kandace Springs, James Francies and James Carter, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.

Other upcoming shows at the Grand are Gilberto Santa Rosa on November 7 and “The Rock Orchestra: INXS” on November 9.

The New Pornographers

Formed in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1997, The New Pornographers have continued to make interesting music, release critically acclaimed albums and build a constantly growing fan base.

In September, the band released its eighth studio album, “In the Morse Code of Brake Lights,” via Collected Works Records, the band’s own imprint on Concord Records.

The New Pornographers are now on tour in support of their new disc and will bring the tour to Philly on November 8 for a stop at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com)..

The nucleus of the band is Neko Case (vocals), John Collins (bass), Carl Newman (vocals, guitar), and Blaine Thurier (keyboards, synthesizer.

“The touring band has eight members,” said Newman, during a phone interview last week from his home near Woodstock, New York. “There are four of us who go back to the very beginning – Neko, Blaine, John and me.

“The key to our longevity is that we’re friends and we love what we’re doing. This is what I do, and I want to keep on doing it. It’s essentially my brand but I try not to be controlling. The band is amorphous. And, we don’t tour a lot. We don’t have a 365 days-a-year obsession.”

The New Pornographers have always valued quality over quantity.

“I just want to keep writing,” said Newman. “I try to write all the time. Finishing doesn’t come easy to me. To get the finished idea takes a lot of work.

“Even today, I went in the studio and listened to a song I wrote yesterday. It’s always an ongoing thing. I’ll work on a song and it’ll be good. Then, I’ll start changing it and get back eventually to the original version. If I decide I want a record in eight months, setting a deadline helps immensely.

“On this record, we were nearly done at the end of January. I knew I’d be tinkering on it for at least three months. Eventually, it wasn’t done until the end of May.”

Newman finally got all the ducks in a row for “In the Morse Code of Brake Lights.” Now, the album and the band are motoring ahead nicely.

According to Newman, “Sometimes unintentional influences come in, and then after you start to notice them, you start consciously doing it.

“I was about two-thirds of the way through the record when I began to notice that lyrically so much of it was pointing toward car songs. The opening track is ‘You’ll Need a Backseat Driver,’ and that was a metaphor that seemed to be running through other songs, too.

“Next to the love song, I feel like the car song is one of the most iconic kinds of songs in pop music, from Chuck Berry to the present. There was so much of that throughout it that I started thinking: ‘Oh, no, there’s too many references to cars on this record!’ And then I thought, ‘No, that’s good—people might think it’s a concept album.’”

“In the Morse Code of Brake Lights” is one more example of Newman’s distinctive writing style.

According to Newman, “The longer I play music, I realize how much just defiance there is in all the music I’ve always made. Not just against some societal injustice, but also just defying sadness, or defying your lot in life.

“I want to use music to get to a better place, which is what I’ve always done, I realize. It’s a way to reach out of yourself.” The album may not offer an escape from these sometimes-terrifying modern times, but it’s a hell of a revivifying rest stop.”

Video link for New Pornographers – https://youtu.be/RyHg2kPY5xA/

The show at Union Transfer, which has Lady lamb as the opening act, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Other upcoming shows at Union Transfer are Clairo on November 7, Big Thief and Palehound on November 9, Jeremy Zucker on November 10, Gus Dapperton on November 12, and MisterWives on November 13.

Almost a year ago, Mayday Parade visited Philadelphia for a show. Last year on November 14, the band from Tallahassee, Florida headlined a show at the Fillmore. This year, Mayday Parade is back for a mid-November show. The band will put on a special show at the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011,http://www.lnphilly.com).

Mayday Parade

Mayday Parade — vocalist Derek Sanders, guitarists Brooks Betts and Alex Garcia, bassist Jeremy Lenzo and drummer Jake Bundrick — is on the road with another non-traditional unique tour this fall – “Forever Emo Tour 2019.” Along with some original music, the band will bring a set of cover songs of their favorite pop punk and emo tunes for fans to sing along with.

“It’s a really interesting tour,” said Sanders, during a phone interview last week from his home in Tallahassee. “It’s a lot different.

“It’s the 10-year anniversary of our second album, ‘Anywhere But Here,’ so we’re doing five anniversary shows. The rest of the shows are the ‘Forever Emo’ shows.

“The set list will have a handful of Mayday Parade songs – maybe four or five with one new one and a few old ones. The rest of the set list has 12-13 covers.”

At a recent show at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia, Mayday Parade sang several of their own gems such as “Jamie All Over,” “Oh Well, Oh Well” and “Piece of Your Heart.” The majority of the show features pop and emo classics such as The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” and My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise).”

“For many years, we’d do after parties and take a play list from Spotify,” said Sanders. “They’ve always been so much fun.”

These impromptu sessions have been fun for the band and a lot of fun for the audiences.

According to Sanders, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had fun singing Jimmy Eat World songs with friends and strangers alike at after parties/emo nights/whatever you want to call them. We’ve done many of them in many different places around the world.

“Sometimes they make me feel like there was a part of me that was supposed to change but never did. ‘Forever Emo’ this fall will be a concert featuring Mayday Parade performing songs live — mostly covers with a few originals as well.

“We’ve also partnered with local emo night DJs to add to the event in each city. There has been a lot of effort put into learning how to perform these songs well, and we’re going play them loud, with heart and passion. Come sing along.” 

The tour kicked off on November 1 with ‘Forever Emo’ shows in some cities and “10 Year Celebration of Anywhere’ shows in others. The concert at TLA will be the “Forever Emo” show.

“We’ve got 12-13 covers we can play, and we might learn a few more,” said sanders. “It’s definitely been a lot of effort by everyone to learn these songs.

“Some of the covers we do are songs by Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Eat Word, New Found Glory, Sum 41 and Dashboard Confessional. We do one song from each band. For the most part, they are big hits by these bands.

In June 2018, Mayday Parade released its sixth album, “Sunnyland,” on Rise Records. The album got its name from an abandoned hospital where they used to sneak in to explore as teenagers.

Mayday Parade’s first five albums were released with amazing regularity – “A Lesson in Romantics” (2007), “Anywhere But Here” (2009), “Mayday Parade” (2011), “Monsters in the Closet” (2013), and “Black Lines” (2015). The two-year routine was broken when the band waited until 2018 to drop “Sunnyland.”

“We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up,” said Sanders. “We’ve been in the studio and new songs are coming along.”

Video link for Mayday Parade — https://youtu.be/GqM3Dr7agjY.

The show at the TLA on November 8 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.

Comethazine on November 7, The Legwarmers on November 9, Jay Critch on November 10, Danny Brown on November 11, The Devil Wears Prada on November 12 and The Hu on November 13.

Now through November 24, the Azuka Theatre is presenting the highly acclaimed drama “Sunset Baby” at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake (302 South Hicks Street, Philadelphia, http://www.azukatheatre.org/sunset-baby).
“Sunset Baby” is a play by Dominique Morriseau that revolves around the reunion of a former Black revolutionary and political prisoner with his estranged daughter. The production is directed by Amina Robinson.

In this play, Morisseau looks at the world of a well-known activist whose days of relevance and being in the headlines are things of the past. Decades past his time when he was an important voice in the quest for social justice, Kenyatta still is somewhat of a revered figure.

But there is no love or respect for him from his daughter Nina, who is all that is left of his family. Kenyatta abandoned Nina when she was a baby and left her mother, Ashanti X, to die of drug addiction – and a broken heart.

In this production, Nina is played by Victoria Aaliyah Goins. Kenyatta is played by Steven Wight and Nina’s boyfriend Damon is played by Eric Carter.

“I didn’t know anything about this show before becoming a part of this production, but I was aware of Dominique Morriseau,” said Goins, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her home in South Philadelphia.

“Amina Robinson asked me to audition for it. Immediately when I read the script, I knew it was a gig I needed to book. It’s more than meets the eye.”

Nina is a drug dealer who supplements her income with the occasional robbery.

“The play tells us that she sells drugs and is a robber,” said Goins. “She is a pretend hooker who robs people.”

Nina has no time for the father she never knew. When Kenyatta shows up at her apartment, all hell breaks loose.

“To Nina’s knowledge, she had never met her father when she was a child,” said Goins. “He went to prison when she was very young.

“You find out in the play what Kenyatta did to land in prison and where things went awry. He was a leader in a black liberation movement.

“When he gets out of prison, he finds Nina by asking around the neighborhood. She was easy to find – especially with the line of work she’s in.”

At the heart of the broken relationship between father and daughter are the now historically significant and valuable letters Nina’s mother wrote to her father while he was in jail. Involved in a tug-of-war over these letters, Nina and Kenyatta have to confront their shared past.

The story hinges on a pile of never-mailed love letters, written by Ashanti to Kenyatta, that are worth tens of thousands of dollars. They are also the sole link from Ashanti to Nina, who treasures them as a tangible connection to her late mother. They are also important to Nina for the potential financial windfall that could allow her to quit dealing and start anew.

“I like Nina because of the similarities between her and me,” said Goins, a Houston native who grew up in Burbank, California.

“I get to play outside myself and that’s a lot of fun. And, I get to explore Nina’s humanity. They are the main reasons I really like this role.”

Goins has starred in several national commercials and has appeared as a singer/performer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, America’s Got Talent, and The Voice. After moving to Philadelphia, she graduated with her B.A. in Strategic Communication from Temple University.

Goins has been part of the Philadelphia theater community ever since she was an undergrad at Temple University. Previous roles include Squeak in “The Color Purple,” Maria in “Maria Marten, or, The Murder in the Red Barn,” Zenna in “Lydie Breeze Trilogy,” Lady in Yellow in “For Colored Girls,” and Miss. Pat in “The Colored Museum.”

She also works as a child and family educator for the Health Federation of Philadelphia’s Early Head Start program.

Eric Gales

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Sonny Landreth with Cindy Cashdollar on November 8, and Eric Gales on November 12.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present Paul Dake Band and Harry Walther Band on November 8 and Speak the Secret, Pulling Daisies and Dizzy Daisies on November 9.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will have Cris Jacobs Band and Midnight North on November 7, Soulive on November 8 and 9, and Last in Line on November 10.

Living Room (35 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, https://thelivingroomat35east.com) will present Songwriters Night with Joy Ike, Michael G. Ronstadt, Katie Dahl and Aaron Nathans on November 7, Jim Boggia on November 8, and Deb Callahan Band on November 9.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host Pete Donnelly (of the Figgs and NRBQ) on November 7,

Superunknown (Chris Cornell tribute) + White Limo (Foo Fighters tribute) on November 8, and Larry McKenna’s New Voices Cabaret on November 12.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will present Steven Dayvid McKellar of Civil Twilight on November 7, Amythyst Kiah with special guest Alexa Rose on November 9, The Merry Kinksters featuring Kinky Friedman along with Cleve Hattersley on November 10.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Nate Bargatze on November 8 and Justin Willman on November 9.

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