Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Knick

The Leopard's current favorite show is Steven Soderbergh's The Knick. Set in 1900s New York, it’s a about a cutting edge hospital called The Knickerbocker which was one of the first to practice then – new surgical procedures. The story is loosely based on an actual place. Stars Clive Owen as the addicted and alcoholic head surgeon. Don’t want to give away anything else away, but the cast is excellent and the entire production – cinematography, costumes and the extraordinary electronic score by Cliff Martinez are all flawless - and it never ceases to surprise. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Years ago when my second cub turned 5, The Leopard arranged to have an actor friend surprise him at his birthday party in a New Jersey fast food place as his favorite superhero, Spider-man. Unfortunately, I got the call an hour before show time he couldn’t make it. So not wanting to disappoint, I put on the suit, and unceremoniously drove into the Burger King parking lot in an ill-fitting costume. I’ll never forget striding across the lot, entering the restaurant and the look on my little boy’s eyes,while doing my best Spider-man crawl-walk. I couldn’t talk of course because he’d guess it was his dear old dad. And maybe he guessed anyway. But it didn’t matter. Driving home in my 2001 Honda Civic, under the Spidey mask, I was smiling.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Gil Scott - Heron: Nothing New

Stumbled on a recording from last year released only in the U.K. of stripped down performances of old songs by Gil Scott-Heron called Nothing New. I found myself playing it over and over again until as well as some of his 70’s LP’S until  late into the night.  I saw one of Gil’s last performances, a few months before he died in late Spring of 2011 at the Blue Note Jazz Club. I ran into him on the stairs on the way to the bathroom. "I love your music", I said. "Been listening to you all my life." He  just stared at me blankly, but not impolitely, and waited until I stepped aside.

When I was a teenager and Gil was a huge influence. He connected blackness and intellectual and political curiosity.  I think I might be a slightly different person if I had not discovered him and his music.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fishbone: Mad Vibe

ONE COOL FALL EVENING back in the mid -80’s The Leopard was strolling on a downtown Washington D.C. street when I heard the most wonderful noise –blaring brass horns, played loud and rhythmically like roaring choo-choo. I peeked down a dark, black-bricked passageway following the sounds. Once inside, there was a dimly lit club, hot as a toaster oven, stuffed to the rafters with young men and women of all races and ethnic types in punk regalia – torn jeans and t-shirts, spiky hair of all colors and consistencies  - wildly slam dancing with an almost murderous abandon. Beer bottles were flying, and other identified liquids which made the floor shiny-slick. Kids had their heads thrown back in sheer ecstasy while others leapt on and off the stage, sometimes barging into the band’s space – and diving into a mosh of sweaty, writhing bodies.

Leading all this were five young black men, also drenched, dancing so wildly I feared the lead singer, (Angelo Moore, A.K.A. Dr. Madd Vibe), would somehow injure himself, what with his crazy twitching so near the mike stand, and his insistence on rolling around on the glass covered floor.
All 5 men were also simultaneously playing all manner of instruments sometimes switching from a saxophone to a keyboard, to a guitar or bass, while singing, rapping or simply screaming—all seemingly with righteous purpose. Before I realized it, I too joined the fray. By the end of the wet, dark, hot night I was, and forever more, a Fishbone fan.

Since, over the years, I’ve purchased nearly all their recordings and stuck by them through thick and thin, and gone to see them many times. They never disappoint. Now in their mid-to-late 50’s, only two of the original band members whom I saw that fateful night at the 9:30 Club remain. Lead singer/cofounder Angelo and bass player/high school pal & co-founder Norwood Fisher.

When I saw them recently at Brooklyn Bowl, It seemed nothing had changed. Before the show, Wearing a wrinkled Beetlejuice –like suit, Moore waded through the crowd, greeting fans and taking iphone selfies. I couldn’t resist. As I realized I never actually made an acquaintance with this man who’d gRown to mean so much to me. As I strode up to him, placing my hand on his shoulder to pose for a portrait, I whispered in his ear, “I love you man”.  He knowingly smiled.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cotton Pickin’

I used to spend my early summers in North Carolina. Every year was the same thing: I would look for a job in town the first few weeks, which were always pretty scarce. One year I took a position in the cotton fields.

It didn't seem too bad at first: the pay was pretty good for outdoor labor. I was to follow the massive machines that mechanically lifted the majority of the cotton crop and pick up remnants the great machines left behind. How hard could it be? And $6.00 an hour at 18 years of age seemed like a tidy sum at the time.

But it ended up being damn near unbearable. It was inhumanly hot. The sun bear down on us like napalm-smeared bayonets. I don’t think I’d ever sweat so much in my life.
My co-workers ran the gambit: students like me, older folks who had been let go from jobs at local factories who were struggling to make ends meet, and young, drug-addled burnouts.
The days dragged on like weeks.

We all had one thing in common though: we were all black. So you can imagine a long, linear crowd of us in the soul–burning sun, gathering cotton and dropping them into canvas bags, being watched over by the (for the most part) white supervisory staff.
My mind would drift and I felt like was like traveling back in time. Was it, all those years ago, like this? Am I experiencing retroactive déjà vu? Probably not, I concluded. But it still really, really sucks.

I think I lasted a week.
I ended up spending the rest of the summer making $3.35 at Burger King.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Big Joe Temperley

Years ago, from the day The leopard started work at Jazz At Lincoln Center, The great baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley, part of the seminal Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis - was incredibly nice and friendly to me at all times - a real gentleman. This is the year of his 85th birthday.True story: one of the official sponsors at JALC was Brooks Brothers, who would provide the suits to the band members. Each year new outfits were provided and sometimes the musician's used outfits were offered to staff. Joe and I wore the same shoe size, so I would get these beautiful Brooks Brothers black dress shoes that Joe had worn the year before.Years later, every time I'd see Joe on the street, I'd have to say, "remember me, Joe? I'm the guy who walked in your shoes!"