April 1st Celebrations

Happy Birthday to our two great nephews Ethan and Blake who turn two years old today!


Two of my favorite activist musicians celebrate April 1st, (April Fools Day) in two unique ways.

1. Patti Smith, “April Fool” from Banga

April Fool was inspired by the life and work of Russian writer Nikolai Gogol who was born on April 1, 1809. The music was written by Tony Shanahan.

The song is dedicated to my friend Milos who not only had a rusted bike but introduced me to the writings of Bulgakov and Gogol. Both of these great writers influenced lyrics on the album Banga.

“And St. Petersburg was left without Akakiy Akakievitch, as though he had never lived there. A being disappeared who was protected by none, dear to none, interesting to none, and who never even attracted to himself the
attention of those students of human nature who omit no opportunity of thrusting a pin through a common fly, and examining it under the microscope. A being who bore meekly the jibes of the department, and went
to his grave without having done one unusual deed, but to whom,
nevertheless, at the close of his life appeared a bright visitant in the
form of an overcoat, which momentarily cheered his poor life, and upon
whom, thereafter, an intolerable misfortune descended, just as it descends
upon the mighty of this world!”

—Nikolai Gogol, “The Overcoat” {Read the text}


Come be my April Fool
Come you’re the only one
Come on your rusted bike
Come we’ll break all the rules

We’ll ride like writers ride
Neither rich nor broke
We’ll race through alleyways
In our tattered cloaks so

Come be my April Fool
Come we’ll break all the rules

We’ll burn all of our poems
Add to God’s debris
We’ll pray to all of our saints
Icons of mystery
We’ll tramp through the mire
When our souls feel dead
With laughter we’ll inspire
Then back to life again

Come you’re the only one
Come be my April Fool
Come come
Be my April Fool
We’ll break all the rules

© 2012 Patti Smith


2. The late, great Gil Scott-Heron was born on April 1st. He would have been 66  today.

“Because the pardon you gave was not yours to give.”


Gil Scott-Heron – Nothing New

It was during the I’m New Here (2008) recording sessions at New York’s Looking Glass studios that Gil Scott-Heron recorded stripped-down new versions of some of his greatest (but not necessarily best-known) songs.

Accompanying himself on piano and with no overdubs, the result three years after his death brings us Nothing New: a rare musical insight into one of our most profound recording artists of our time.

The collectible Nothing New will be released only on 12″ vinyl, limited to 3000 copies, and available exclusively on Record Store Day, 19th April 2014.

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The Last Song on CBS’s Elementary TV Show

I find myself listening intently to the last song played at the end of each Elementary CBS television show. I really enjoy Elementary, it is my favorite evening television show in many decades of television viewing. If I don’t recognize the song that is played I will reach for my iPhone and touch to Shazam Music that track.

Tonight’s episode, “No Lack of Void” (Season 2, Episode #20) featured last song was “Antidote (Studio 82 Remix)” by Mike Koglin. I had to Shazam the track as I never heard the song before tonight’s episode aired. I liked the tongue in cheek of the song title in relationship to the major storyline about the ever-present threat of Anthrax.

The  song that clued me in to how Elementary uses the last song so effectively was Gil Scott-Heron‘s “Me and the Devil” in “M.” (Season 1, Episode 12). There was no doubt that Moriarty was Sherlock’s deeper addiction that he had to defeat.




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Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron

“Our greatest enemy is our own political ignorance” – M1

Gil Scott-Heron was an effective communicator who spoke to the restless soul in the music of our hearts. I love that visionary producer Kentyah Fraser has collaborated with original Midnight Band keyboardist, composer Brian Jackson (plus others) to build on that foundation and further the legacy of Gil Scott-Heron, forefather of socially-conscious rap.

A vital recording that captures our American struggle succinctly is  Evolutionary Minded (Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron) Kentyah, M1 & Brian Jackson & The New Midnight Band. These core musicians joined on various tracks by Dead Prez, Chuck D, Gregory Porter, Martin Luther, Killah Priest, plus poets Abiodun Oyewole (The Last Poets) and Bobby Seale (The Black Panthers and Chicago 8).

The more I listen to the tracks on this recording, the better reacquainted I become with the cause of objection and protest. My favorite track thus far is “Occupy Planet Earth” which features that raw, commanding energy of Chuck D with M1.

This video explains the structure, method and purpose of why Evolutionary Minded (Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron)  was released. It commands my total respect as a person of conscience as it should yours and those you love.

The élite GOP party that has shut down our government should heed this message well. For we are no longer complacent about such hostage taking measures. Fight back we will and must.

Music Review – Highest Wish By Bill Ortiz


Bill Ortiz

Highest Wish

Left Angle Records

Highest Wish cover art

Music is the form of expression which resides deep within our soul. Like John Lee Hooker always said, “The blues in you and its gotta come out”. Bill Ortiz’s latest recording, Highest Wish  unearths our soul of musical expression through his unique spiritual healing voice.

Carlos Santana recently stated before a live audience, “Our highest wish is to touch your heart and remind you that you are significant.”

Tommy Anthony, Carlos Santana, Bill Ortiz and Jeff Cressman

Bill Ortiz responds to that wish by creating spiritual voices through his gift, the trumpet, which resonates inside the music of our heart.

Highest Wish begins this welcome dialogue with the song, “Ha-Ya (Means Life)”. “Ha-Ya” is a spirited romp with vocals by Luqman Frank and Omega Rae who coax out just the right positive accenture from Bill Ortiz’s trumpet.

The song, “We Are What We Are” starts as a rap by Casual then effortlessly evolves into skin-deep jazzy, r&b  rhythms. The interplay between Casual and Bill’s horn keeps us focused on the relevance of the lyrics. The message is we are the same affected by the agony and pain of social injustice.  Luqman Frank and Femi Andredes lend vocal help to push that message along.

The track, “Highest Wish (Phoenix Black Mix)” featuring Zumbi of Zion I is a plaintive melody with the recognized wisps of a Carlos Santana guitar-lke ending.

“Since You’ve Been Gone” is a testament to a Mother’s memory. Lugman Frank invokes his best vocal groove on this number. He and Bill Ortiz become locked in a strong harmony. Together they ask her return to fill the void inside a son’s respectful heart.

“Winter In America” smartly acknowledges the Godfather of Hip-Hop, Gil Scott-Heron with lead vocalist Tony Lindsay (Santana) trading off lyrics with “The Grouch” on vocals and rap. The track  is an ingenious remix that commences with Bill Ortiz’s horn compelling us to take heed and listen. The track is gutsy and edgy. It crystallizes our attention on what is really going on in the streets across America.

Rest in Peace, Gil-Scott

Without you the revolution would not

“I Still Believe” is another Phoenix Black remix of an inspirational track which features Linda Tillery invoking a charismatic spoken word rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from Oslo, Norway (1964). Zumbi of  Zion I complements and embellishes the spoken word with rap as the truth rings out a poetic wisdom that encircles every heart that listens with historic humility.

“Do Your Thing” is an Issac Hayes song originally found on the Shaft Soundtrack (1978) as a 19:24 minute opus. Bill Ortiz’s R&B cover flows smoothly through the co-operation of Santana veterans  Tony Lindsay on vocals, Andy Vargas (samples/drums programming), Chester Thompson (C.T.) on organ and Bill Ortiz (trumpet, flugelhorn).  I can visualize the camaraderie in the studio when this track was laid down. Listen as Tony excitedly sings, “C.T. play for me, C’mon” and does he ever 😉

This is my favorite track on Highest Wish due to the sizzle and infectious groove it achieves. Santana fans will gravitate to this track and it will help attract a new base of fans for Bill Ortiz. This is a good choice for radio play if singles are still a viable option in promoting an artist’s music.

“Don’t Make Me Wait” is a danceable soul ditty that will have you moving your shoulders and tapping your feet. Cait La Dee is the featured vocalist who livens it up and in turn is joined by K-Maxx with a soulful rap interplay. Bill plays his horn enthusiastically like a salt and pepper shaker seasoning the song which just the right flavah.

“Full Circle” the Andy Vargas remix takes us out. It is the perfect instrumental to end the recording as we sail into the night, more at peace than we began this sonic journey.


Gil Scott-Heron Collaboration

I love the collaboration that is taking place for the spirit and consciousness for Gil Scott-Heron. I wrote about Bill Ortiz’s CD Winter in America on Friday 1/13/12 (see Related Articles). I have discovered more information from special collaborators I wish to share with you.

Gil Scott-Heron will be honored at the 2012 Grammy Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award. You can learn more here at this micro-site established by his son, Rumal Rackley, his family and the Gil Scott-Heron estate.

I am energized to connect once with the spirit of  urban poet Gil Scott-Heron through the online Web site and the vibrant pages of  his new book, The Last Holiday: A Memoir

I applaud the efforts of Tim Mohr in his editorial capacity for this volume. The book lives and breathes Gil Scott-Heron. Thank you Tim for the collaborative respect you evidence throughout the book.

The book cover displayed below is the edition published in Great Britain by Canongate Books Ltd. Canongate has a long history in earnest with Gil Scott-Heron. I encourage you to visit the Gil Scott-Heron Canongate TV Book Channel to view a video interview and gain more insight into the artist’s spirit.

Oscar Wilson’s dust jacket illustration art is richly compelling. Oscar’s vivid portfolio is published on Debut Art here.

Illustration by Oscar Wilson - Debut Art

Bill Ortiz, Winter In America, A Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Gil Scott-Heron is our greatest urban poet. His words take us beneath the veneer of society where subsistence  merges to form a greater understanding. It is Winter in America, 2012.

Bill Ortiz‘s EP recording Winter In America is a heroic attempt that helps us to avoid despair. The music and the message push us safely back from the precipice of the winter of our discontent.

The opening track  is an ingenious remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter In America”. It commences with Bill Ortiz’s horn compelling us to take heed and listen. The track is gutsy and edgy. It crystallizes our attention on what is really going on in the streets across America.

“Winter In America” smartly acknowledges the Godfather of Hip-Hop, Gil Scott-Heron with lead vocalist Tony Lindsay (Santana) trading off lyrics with “The Grouch” on vocals and rap.

Well they say it’s a cold world

But we got a cold play my man

Rest in Peace, Gil Scott

Without you the revolution would not

What makes this EP even more full circle is the track, “I Still Believe”, a Phoenix Black remix with the eloquent spoken word voice of Linda Tillery and “Zumbi” from Zion I accenting with spoken word/rap. “I Still Believe” contains excerpts from Rev. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo.

The co-operation of Gil Scott-Heron’s revolutionary spirit lives on in his recently published posthumous memoir, “A Last Holiday“. There is a chapter in the book which details the tour that Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron were on to together where they lobbied for a national holiday for the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gil Scott-Heron draws the correlation between the assassination of John Lennon and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. two great men of peace struck down by violence. As I write this review we are on the edge of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  birthday and U.S. federal holiday. It just so happens that the Winter in America EP drops on Martin Luther King Day, January 16th, 2012 direct to fans.

Bill Ortiz states the purpose of this recording best when he says, “I try to bring all these elements of who I am musically into one voice.” You’ve done all that and more Bill with your fine achievement, Winter In America.

Winter In America
Bill Ortiz
Released: January 16, 2012
Label: Left Angle Records

Produced By Ali Zandinejad aka Phoenix Black, Bill Ortiz and Steve Heithecker

Track Listing:

1. Winter In America
2. I Still Believe (Remix)
3. Word Play (Remix)
4. I Still Believe (Instrumental)
5. Winter In America (Radio Edit)

Gil Scott-Heron, Winter in America

Mourning the late, great Gil Scott-Heron this morning, adding my Sunday prayers to the blessing of the ascension of his soul.

Gil Scott-Heron was insightful and visionary. He saw the world through a very introspective lens he admirably shared with us through the vision of his poetry and music. I especially loved his collaborative efforts with Brian Jackson. They were very in tune with the ecology. When I was a weekend disk jockey at Fairfield University on WVOF-FM 1974-1975 I played the Gil Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson recording Winter In America often on my show. I leaned heavily on “H²Ogate Blues”, as I was very anti-Nixon as a liberal Democrat who worked on the McGovern campaign.


When Gil Scott-Heron re-released Winter In Americain 1998  it contained four bonus tracks, three of which were live recordings. Posted out of deep respect for our environmental poet is “Winter In America“, recorded live at the Wax Museum in 1982.

It has been a season collectively of frozen aspirations, frozen hopes – Gil Scott Heron, Winter in America

Peace Go With You, Brother.

Related articles

Gil Scott-Heron, Bluesologist Joins the Light

Small Talk at 125th and Lenox
Image via Wikipedia

I awoke this morning to learn that Gil Scott-Heron, one of my heroes died yesterday afternoon. I am stunned and feel this incredible sense of loss. His poetry and voice spoke to me on such deep, profound levels.

Chuck D said it best in his tribute Tweet, “RIP GSH..and we do what we do and how we do because of you. And to those that don’t know tip your hat with a hand over your heart & recognize.”

No one told it like it was like Gil Scott-Heron. He expressed much of what we knew to be true. I was 18 in 1970 when Small Talk at 125th and Lennox  was playing on WBAI-FM. I was growing up in a city housing project. Gil Scott-Heron spoke to my soul with accuracy and depth. Gil Scott-Heron epitomized my existence with stark honesty through powerful poems as “Whitey on the Moon”, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, “The Bottle” and “We Beg Your Pardon”.

My favorite line by Gil Scott-Heron is, “We Beg Your Pardon America, Because the Pardon You Gave This Time Was Not Yours to Give.”

God rest your poetic soul Gil Scott-Heron, your legacy lives on in all of us, until we meet you in the light.