Category Archives: Birthdays

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Happy birthday
March 24,  1940

Luis Gasca played in Janis Jopin’s Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock. That’s why I’m doing this blog piece, but like so many other times in my life, I’ve discovered that that momentous performance is simply one small piece in Gasca’s nearly lifetime of performances.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Houston

Luis Gasca grew up poor in Houston. His parents made and sold tamales.  Earning a living was first for them. Performing music was not part of the picture, but one day Luis saw two men playing trumpets and he felt something.

By the time he was 15 he was playing gigs and by 16 getting paid to play.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Berklee

By 18 he had a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston and traveled on weekends to New York City and absorbed the music of Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

He was drafted but afterwards lived in Japan awhile–playing trumpet, of course. Then to Oahu.

When asked about his love of the trumpet, he answered, “”It’s a very demanding instrument…. And I’ll never quit learning it. I got that at an early age: Never let anything slide. I have a hunger and a thirst for music. That love for something, that is the impetus to make you never never quit, to make you give it your all. That love cannot be taught. One has to love the music and the knowledge. I’m 100 % joyous playing music with other masters.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Count Basie and more

One of his greatest achievements was being a part of the Count Basie Band.

In 1969, he released  “The Little Giant” album. on Atlantic. Interestingly, one of the album’s cuts is “Motherless Child” made famous as part of Richie Haven‘s famous Woodstock improvisation of Motherless Child/Freedom as well as the very next song played at Woodstock, Sweetwater’s cover of the same song.

Gasco’s cover is like no Motherless Child you’ve ever heard:

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Solo artist

Gasca released three other albums: For Those Who Chant (1972), Luis Gasca (1972), and Collage (1976).  And though that discography may seem short, have a Snickers nearby if you’re going to look at his extensive credit list at AllMusic.

Among the names listed are Santana, Van Morrison, and Mike Bloomfield.

As sadly happened to many of his generation’s fellow musicians, the lifestyle overwhelmed him and he left music until the 90s.

Here he is in 2012 leading an all-star Latin Jazz Big Band – The Mambo Kings on the second night of a three-day Latin Jazz Festival.

Thank you, Luis, for everything your given our ears.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca
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Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

January 2, 1884 – March 25, 1951

Oscar Micheaux, the son of former slaves, was born in Illinois and grew up in Kansas . When he was 17 he became a porter on the railway, but within a few years left the railroad and homesteaded in South Dakota.

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

Homesteader to Author

He wrote about his farm life and  self-published The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer in  1913.  In 1915 he lost the farm.

In 1917 he again self-published a book, The Homesteader.  After a film deal fell through for the story, Micheaux decided to expand his publishing company. It became Micheaux Film and Book Company in 1919.

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

Author and Filmmaker

The Homesteader film was the first film made by an African-American. It starred Evelyn Preer.

Unlike the white-controlled film industry which portrayed blacks with stereotypes, Micheaux’s films had black characters in mysteries, gangster films and westerns. His films were written, directed, produced and portrayed by predominately all black cast and crew.

In 1924 he introduced the movie-going world to Paul Robeson in the film, Body and Soul.

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

Real characters

Given the times, his accomplishments in publishing and film are extraordinary, including being the first African-American to produce a film to be shown in “white” movie theaters. In his motion pictures, he moved away from the “Negro” stereotypes being portrayed in film at the time. Additionally, in his film Within Our Gates, Micheaux attacked the racism depicted in D.W. Griffith’s film, The Birth of a Nation.

The Producers Guild of America called him “The most prolific black – if not most prolific independent – filmmaker in American cinema.”

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

Filmography

1919

* The Homesteader
* Within Our Gates

1920

* The Brute
* Symbol of the Unconquered

1922

* Gunaslaus Mystery
* Deceit
* The Dungeon
* The Virgin of the Seminole
* Son of Satan

1923

* Jasper Landry’s Will

1924

* Body and Soul

1926

* The Spider’s Web

1927

* Millionaire

1928

* When Men Betray
* Easy Street

1929

* Wages of Sin

1930

* Darktown Revue

 

1931

* The Exile

1932

* Veiled Aristocrat
* Black Magic
* Ten Minutes to Live

1933

* The Girl From Chicago
* Ten Minutes to Kill

1934

* Harlem After Midnight

1935

* Lem Hawkin’s Confession

1936

* Temptation
* Underworld

1937

* God’s Stepchildren

1938

* Swing

1939

* Birthright
* Lying Lips

1940

* The Notorious Elinor Lee

1948

* Betrayal

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

Biography

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

In 2008, Patrick McGilligan published Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker.  McGilligan refers to Micheaux as, “…the Jackie Robinson of American film … a Muhammad Ali decades before his time” who “deserves to be considered in the same breath as the sainted D. W. Griffith.”

In his review of the book, Phillip Lopate is critical of McGilligan’s high praise for Micheaux’s work.  He wrote, “…we do a disservice to the achievements of truly superb black auteurs, like Charles Burnett, Spike Lee and Ousmane Sembène, by pretending Micheaux was a great filmmaker. The man had his own validity, as a pathfinder and as the creator of an intriguing, curious body of work, which reveals much about America’s past social and racial contradictions, and its melodramatic conventions.”

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

Within Our Gates

Here is his “Within Our Gates” from 1919. It is the earliest known surviving feature film directed by an African American. The Library of Congress preserved it in 1993 from a single print found in Spain.

The story line is that a man abandons his fiance, an educated black woman.  She dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished negro youths.

Within Our Gates was created in response to The Birth of a Nation which depicted southern whites in need of the Ku Klux Klan to protect them from blood thirsty blacks.

Micheaux showed the reality of racism, where a black man could be lynched for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux

Death

Micheaux died in Charlotte, North Carolina while on a business trip. His body was returned to Great Bend, Kansas, where he was interred in the Great Bend cemetery with other members of his family.

Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux
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Drummer Maury Baker

Drummer Maury Baker

Happy birthday
December 25
Drummer Maury Baker
Janis and Maury on the Dick Cavett Show

Broken wrist

Many are the paths that lead to becoming a musician. Maury Baker’s family was filled with musicians and that certainly set up his entrance, but falling and breaking his left wrist was the catalyst.

His father, Herbert (an Emmy Award winning writer with the Flip Wilson Show and the Danny Kaye Show) suggested to his son that the best way to recover his wrist’s strength was to drum.

Before he knew it, “I had my union card” is how Maury jokes.

Drummer Maury Baker

Ars Nova

In 1967, while attending the Mannes Conservatory in New York,  Electra Records signed Ars Nova, a band he played percussion as well as organ. Elektra producer Paul A. Rothchild called them “the most exciting thing since the Doors.”

Ars Nova were promoted by Life Magazine with a profile, but ironically by the time of the article, the band had broken up.

Drummer Maury Baker

Janis

He became part of Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band in 1969. He had been playing with Judy Collins and her road manager suggested the audition to Baker. He wasn’t a part of the whole album being recorded (I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!), but was part of the single Try from the album.

One of his fondest memories of playing with Janis was performing Try with her on the Dick Cavett Show in July 1969

He went on the road and that road led to Bethel, NY and the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. His biggest memory of the event is flying in a Sikorsky helicopter over the field. He said that the size of the crowd worried Janis, but he reassured her that it would not matter. That once she got up on the stage,  she’d just do her thing.

Drummer Maury Baker

Others

Being part of Janis’s inner circle gave Maury the opportunity to play with other names of those times, perhaps the most famous being Jimi Hendrix, who stopped by one night to jam with Zoot Money’s band.

Of course there are a “few” others listed at his site: Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana, George Duke, Ron Carter, David Benoit, Jimmy Haslip, Bunny Bunel, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Tom Jones, Jackson Browne, Steve Stills, Van Morrison, Seals & Croft, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Bobbie Gentry, Trini Lopez, R. B. Greaves, Albert Lee, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Robert E. Luna, Booker T. Jones, Tom Paxton, Bobbie Gentry, Theodore Bikel, Zoot Money, Dr. John, Scott LaFaro, Pepper Adams, David Amram, Lee Michaels, Miroslav Vitous, Henry Franklin, Theo Saunders, Nick Mancini, Michael Saucier, Otmaro Ruiz, Leslie King, Barbara Morrison, Leddie Garcia, Austin Peralta, Zane Musa, and many others.

He also composed music for film, TV, video games, and the Internet.

Drummer Maury Baker

Nowadays

Recently, Baker has worked with Opera NEO. It’s Facebook page states that, “Opera NEO strives to unlock the full potential of young singers while nurturing each individual’s artistic qualities and personality to help them develop into independent artists. We encourage individual thinking and creative decision making that will lead to professional and personal fulfillment.”

There are pictures of him working with NEO at his own Facebook page.

Drummer Maury Baker
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