Posted by: darienonline | December 19, 2012

On This Holiday……

Continuing on our quest to add new songs to your holiday playlists and thus reinvent the holiday (cheese)wheel, I would like to share a song that has become a classic (of  mine) If for no other reason than I recorded it so long ago.  :)

The message is simple and warm enough that even Scrooge and the Grinch rock it on their playlists.

No coal in your stocking this year… it’s also free to download.

Posted by: darienonline | December 17, 2012

Holiday Love aka Subliminal ft. Az Yet & Darien Dean

You’ve hung all the mistletoe and burnt the chestnuts.  Isn’t it time for some new classics? :)

Here is a stocking stuffer for the romantic consumer in you.  If ever there was foreshadowing in a movie, peep the cast of this flic and look forward to many sequels in the New Year.

Big shout out to aka Sub “Zero for the Ice Cold verse, and Herb”Heat Miser” Middleton for bringing the consistent  fire on the tracks (and for bringing me in for some added sprinkles).  Also shouts to Az Yet, who I have not met As Yet.

Posted by: darienonline | December 14, 2012

The End is near……. according to Google.

I just installed Google’s new voice assistant on my phone and I was amped.  This is like the new Magic 8 Ball…… but with more than 8 responses.

So….ummm………. Google is usually on point.  Should  we be worried? :)

Seriously though, if these were the end days, what would you do?  Don’t be surprised if I flood the internet with close to 100 songs in various levels of completion. lol.   I need folks to be familiar with my joints in the AfterLife! :)

- Enjoy your weekend….. it could be your last :P

Posted by: darienonline | December 13, 2012

Where the Lights Meet the Music

One Skype call and I could tell iconic producer Joey Negro and I were all vibe.   I’ve been a fan of his music over the years so I was definitely grateful to have the opportunity to work with him.   “Where the Lights Meet the Music,” is the results of that vibe. The record has been really well received and has spawned some great remixes.  Enjoy and check out the full album Joey Negro and The Sunburst Band – The Secret Life of Us”

One of the highlights from the new Sunburst Band album is the collaboration with US nu soul singer Darien on ‘Where The Lights Meet The Music”.

-Big ups to Angela Johnson for making the connection! (BTW She has a killer cut on the album!  - “In the Thick of It“)

Posted by: darienonline | December 7, 2012

Pt.2 .. a “SURE” shot in the arm from Mark de Clive-Lowe

I have been blessed with a lot of success in working with my UK brothers Reel People…. positive vibes and messages from people all over the world digging our collaborations.  Their music inspires me to write, and I love how they take the time to re-imagine our previously released songs by pairing them with 5-star producers.  The latest pairing is a super remix of “Sure,” the lead single from the “Golden Lady” album, by the one and only Mark de Clive-Lowe.

Soooooo straight from Jarrard Anthony’s show at Mist, I made my way to DROM(which is quickly becoming my second home) to link up with the missing member of the “All Around the World Ensemble” - Nate Smith and to meet Mark de Clive-Lowe personally at his Church NYC 1-Year Anniversary.

For those that don’t know, Church is a monthly live Jam/DJ set/Electronic performance/special guest infused extravaganza.  You never know what or who you are gonna get, but you know it’s gonna be great.

Mark de Clive-Lowe mans a set-up of synths, drum machines, fx, and laptop, all perched around a good old fashioned acoustic piano.  It’s an impressive show of lights alone, but watching him twist and turn portions of sound to create textures and accompanying them truly has to be seen/heard to be believed.   If that weren’t enough, he is accompanied by some serious A-list musicians.

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Left to Right: Mark de Clive-Lowe, Mark Kelley, Casey Benjamin, Nate Smith

It’s such a great feeling to see my peoples doing their thing.  I hadn’t seen Nate Smith play live other than in studio while recording “All Around the World,” but his name precedes him…. now I know why.  Far from the subtlety of  “All Around the World” Nate was thundering down on the drums in a dizzing array of skill… literally shaking each piece where they stood – he’s a bad boy.  The last time I saw, Mark Kelley we were in Japan at a noodle shop in Shibuya after a gig with Angela Johnson.  Now you can see him regularly on the Jimmy Fallen show throwing down on bass for the Roots.  I met Casey Benjamin (multi-instrumentalist on the Robert Glasper Experiment) really early in my career.  He was playing keys with a talkbox, and now, years later I am jamming to his version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the “Black Radio” album.  Rounding out the collective, was Nia Andrews, who I hadn’t heard before but I encourage you all to check out.  It is not easy to sing amidst all that’s on offer at Church, but she maneuvered masterfully through the soundscape, cutting through and filling the hall.

-other guests included John Robinson, Amma Whatt, Tivon Pennicott, Jaleel Shaw, Marcus Strickland, Ben Williams.

Oh did I forget to mention, DJ Questlove was on the 1′s and 2′s!

As I work on my new project and prepare for my show at DROM on Dec 29th, this was just the shot in the arm I needed!

- shout out to Cori Robinson, Amma Whatt (who hit the stage and knocked it down as per normal), and Miles Anthony for pushing me to go even though I was dead tired. lol.

Posted by: darienonline | December 6, 2012

“All Around the World”…. and NYC Pt.1

I just had an amazing night of music.  It started with another  opportunity to rock with my Soul Brother Jarrard Anthony performing our song “All Around the World.”   It truly was a historic occasion as Jarard christened the walls of Mist Harlem with songs from his Ready to Live” CD.  It was also special because this is the first time we’ve had the pleasure of having Onaje Allan Gumbs (keys/string arrangement) play the song live with us since the studio session.

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A little back story…. Jarrard is a man of his word.  He told me he wanted to work on something after the recording of  the Damn Sista Remix (featuring an all star cast: WildMann, Jon Bibbs, Eric Roberson, Jarrard, and myself).

My phone rings and Jarrard is in NY sitting with drummer/super producer Nate Smith, and invites me to swing thru.  After some serious deep building and lessons from Onaje, we began recording what would become “All Around the World.”  The results?… well you can check them out below.

If you want to support positive people and positive music purchase Ready to Live.  It’s an incredible album that I am honored to be part of.

newL-R: Mic El, Les Cleveland, Tai Allen, Jarrard Anthony, Fiona Bloom, Amer Amen, Onaje Gumbs, George Littlejohn, Darien

- shouts to Mic El (who dropped a dope impromptu verse), Amer Amen holding down JA to the fullest (who I hope is working on her own project), Monet who is featured on the album version (flute), and the incredible band with my boy and Drummer/MD Les Cleveland.

…… and the night didn’t end there.

Posted by: darienonline | December 6, 2012

“Nowhere” is Everywhere!

I am very proud to have “Nowhere” from my debut album “If These Walls Could Talk,” featured in this film!

Featuring an all star cast, “The Last Fall” is an incredible film that tells a far less romantic side of  the game, wherein an NFL journeyman struggles to deal with life’s complexities after his professional career is over.   In a world where we idolize the perceived glamorous life of others, it’s important to be reminded of the harsh realities that exist for many.

- Big ups to Matthew Cherry for making this film and selecting my music.

Check “Nowhere” and other songs from the album out on iTunes.

Posted by: darienonline | April 30, 2012

98.7 Kiss….. It Goodbye

How do you celebrate an anniversary and a funeral at the same time?

For the punchline to this bad joke you will have to look to 98.7 Kiss FM WRKS, who simultaneously celebrated 30 years of broadcast as a NY monument in radio while at the same time closing it’s doors…… (maybe more accurately leaving the building, since ESPN had no problem taking over the FM position)

As I listened to their final Swan Song/s, I couldn’t help but get a bit…. PISSED!! There seems to be no limit to the outlets for mind-numbing entertainment in our culture, but anything that has higher aspirations is clipped at the root.

I remember when BETJ closed it’s doors and rebranded itself as Centric.
With the name change went original programs like BET J List, Lyric Cafe, and Lens on Talent to name a few. These shows had one thing in common. They showcased NEW talent. The artists featured usually went a bit deeper than surface as well. (I actually had a chance to perform on the J List with fellow Indie Artist Anu-Sun).

At the time, BET J’s tagline was:

“When our audience wants a sophisticated look at the music and entertainment that’s important to them, they turn to BET J.”

So I suppose we no longer need a sophisticated outlook on anything and we will be satisfied with sitcom reruns?

OK… ok…. I digress… but there is more to all of this than just a conspiracy plot.

You can usually tell when an artist passes away because the airwaves suddenly have an appreciation for their lost art….. Well had you tuned in, you would have thought all urban music had passed through the pearly gates….

For the first time in years, I was hearing diversity in artists and styles throughout the day, as the station paid homage to decades of great music and it’s creators. They also dusted off some of the “mastermixes” that made listening to the radio a unique experience.  Once upon a time, DJs used to be tastemakers, helping to shape and expand the diet of its listeners – breaking new songs and artists – and creating new content.  This caused us to tune in to feed that appetite (Politics seemed to have largely killed that – but that is another story).

Look at it like this…. If you tune into a news program and they never break any new stories…. and then they just repeat a few old stories ALL DAY, you will eventually tune in elsewhere. That is what many listeners have been forced to do. It is obvious from this final weekend of programming that there is a plethora of great music to choose from and a lengthy 24 hour day in which to do so…. It just wasn’t done.

During the broadcast, I didn’t appreciate the new tagline of “One Family, One Station, OUR Voice,” and the talent trying to assure me that this was a positive loss. When has someone lost a parent and been consoled with the fact that the remaining parent will be even better than the combined unit? 

Every artist dreams of having their songs on the radio. Right before CD 101.9 FM went off the air we were able to get my song “Sail Thru” played. As an independent artist and NY native it was a great moment for me… like that scene in the “Five Heartbeats” – They’re playing our song on the radio!”… now that station is no more.

(Scenes from the Five Heartbeats)

I suppose the only way I will be on 98.7 FM in NY at this point is if I happen to sing the national anthem at a sporting event. 

So luckily today we have the new tastemakers like College Radio, music blogs like Soulbounce.com, Soultracks.com, Singers Room.com, X2TheL.com, and the many DJs who report and spread the word with the same passion as the artists they discuss. But I predict if urban radio doesn’t change it’s ways it will end up as a 2 hour segment on some other format – like “Urban Hour” on the Country Station (that has a disturbing ring to it).

So I bid adieu and offer my condolences to all of you who will have to remember the radio station that once was an institution in NYC.



P.S.
I don’t want to blame it all on the station and it’s programming as that is definitely oversimplifying the situation. There are many other things that would make this blog entirely too long – from a questionable Arbitron rating system (P.P.M.), station politics, backdoor deals, to silencing certain messages and voices (obvious from the shows that were not brought over such as  Tom Joyner Morning Show, The Michael Baisden Show, Open Line and Week in Review)

BUT…..

Economics are economics and the truth of the matter is…. He who owns the channels controls the flow…. and that is across the board from money to music.

 

Update! Open Line and Rev. Al Sharpton have survived the transition to WBLS!!  There was a public outcry and it was heard!

Posted by: darienonline | March 15, 2012

Jazzystan: Nights over Kazakhstan

I didn’t know anything  about Kazakhstan other than I would need my passport to get there, but when an unexpected opportunity came up to do a festival called Jazzystan, I jumped at it.   This musical Journey is about sharing a message with people and when you are blessed enough to actually travel and meet those people….?  You just can’t say no.  First thing -I went straight to Google and Wikipedia to study up, but there are some things  you just have to experience first hand……….

Jazzystan is a music Festival, which despite it’s name is not solely for jazz music.  It could easily just be called Goodmusicstan, having featured acts from Tourtured Soul to Omar, to my Reel People family. The Jazzystan team (Rustam (founder), Balu, Serik, Kalty) are very  proud and knowledgable about their country.   They are doing something really unique in a place that notably just gained independence with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.  It’s evident that a change is in the air, and Jazzystan is a part of that change.

(The guys are more like a family –and they treated us like family as well– unbelievable hospitality… a new bar has been set.) 

You can feel it …… it’s Electric  

Soon after my arrival, I met the guys from Electirc Empire.  I was already a big fan….  these guys combine all the things I love about music.  They play, write, sing, and they do each WELL (as in Church WELLLL).  They have also crafted a classic album.

It’s funny, we didn’t even really discuss music as much as we hung out and were wowed by all Kazakhstan had to offer.

In direct contrast to our fast food lifestyle in NY, we sat down to 5 hour dinners – eat, drink, and be merry fests.  Lots of laughs and great food, with flavor no doubt improved by the company…  Such a welcome change of pace.

25 minute trip in the lift: At one point the cables seemed to be suspended only by the clouds.

Beautiful view at the Shymbulak Ski Resort

An unlikely star.... Of the hit single (freestyle) "Last Night" -courtesy of Serik

Music’s magic is practice.  Chemistry developed while hanging out manifests on stage in an unrehearsed jam session.

Literally floating on air rocking with Electric Empire

This is called the show….

Truth moment….. I was a bit nervous at the press conference before the show.  The only English spoken was that of Electric Empire, Balu (who was translating questions from what I imagine was primarily Kazakh and Russian), and yours truly.  Having traveled without my band, I structured my show heavily around storytelling and crowd participation to transition between songs.  –I was beginning to think I may have under estimated the language barrier……….

Press conference before the show.

See… the great thing about rocking with a band is, if nothing else, you can feed off the energy of the other 5-8 people on stage.  Well luckily for me, I had 1000+ people’s energy to feed off!   The people were engaged, participating,….. they were great! 

Music truly is a universal language.

Nothing like having a thousand people sing Love Revolution, Love’s in Need and Sure!

I never quite got over my jet lag, literally sleeping an hour or two a day, but the 1000+ crowd gave off an infectious energy.. I was super charged!

Band from another land: Rustham on the tables and my man Arsen sprinkling some keys for me during this International Woman's Day Extravaganza!!

Say something like cheese: View from my cell phone as I asked the crowd to pose for a flick.

Getting a helping hand in closing the show with "Sure"

After my set I got to switch back to fan mode and join the crowd in watching Electric Empire throw down!  And that they did!  Being in the crowd, it was even more evident that people came to have a good time -  singing, dancing and enjoying music the way it’s meant to be.

Dennis, Jason, Aaron, and Simon

I am so thankful to Kazakhstan and her people for an unbelievably warm welcome.  I can’t wait to go back.  It looks like summer holds even more beauty.  I am blessed to do what I do and I have grown that much more because of it.

Much love to my new brothers from down under and my new fam from Kazakhstan!

Left to Right: Balu, Darien, Simon, Rustham, Dennis, Jason, Aaron, Jake, Zack, Serik.

Do yourself a HUGE favor and check out Electric Empire’s music.  Better yet — buy their album.  http://electricempiremusic.com

Then expand your horizons and check out Kazakhstan & Jazzystan  www.jazzystan.com

Amazing photography by www.ipostnikov.com and Daulet Sadvakassov…and some lesser images from my cell phone. lol  (Click images to zoom in).

Posted by: darienonline | November 14, 2011

What Happens on the Cruise Ship………


There are moments in an artist’s career that are life changing. If you read nothing else… know that while on the Capital Jazz Cruise I had quite a few of those moments. 

How can I best describe the cruise?  … it’s like the first day of classes on a …. um….Performing Arts-Traveling-Vacation-College-Boat?!  :) 

Imagine if you will…. Attendees, armed with schedules in hand, trying to navigate their way around a 1000 ft. floating luxury campus to classes before they fill……  The comforts of well-known courses and professors, as well as the joys of being exposed to new subject matter that reaches deep and leaves one talking…CD’s in lieu of textbooks, trips to the cafeteria, and of course, the obligatory parties to get loose and better acquainted. Oh and throw in some sunshine and exotic locations for good measure.

What makes this analogy particularly apropos for me was feeling the nervous energy of being a freshman while at the same time the regard of being a starting player. :)

OK so hopefully I have painted the backdrop well enough for you.  The details would turn this into a thesis; so instead allow me to run my highlighter through the Cliff Notes:

First Night: On stage with Patti Austin, Rachelle Farrell, Chante Moore, Eric Roberson, Cheryl “Pepsi” Riley, Kindred, Vinx….. with George Duke on Keys – A freestyle not for the faint of heart and your boy actually closed it out…….. (talk about peer pressure lol)!

My Set:  Performing “Sail Thru” on a Big Ass Boat” just about summarizes the grand nature of this experience.  Looking into the front row and seeing so many of my soul contemporaries was such an honor and at the same time a humbling experience.  Everyone in attendance received a “Love Revolution” button and, with fists raised, I knew we had started a Revolution across land, and now, sea. :)  

Conversations:  Sometimes I get a bit discouraged with the music scene… not the making of it, but the business of it.  I realize the radio doesn’t reflect my craft or my taste, and wonder if people still buy music etc…. But these conversations were like a shot of adrenalin. It reminded me that there are people who LOVE music and really appreciate what we do.  I am so grateful because it has really energized me for the Journey ahead.

Community:  This was one area I hadn’t prepared myself for.  The level of comradery among the artists was really amazing – with every one balancing their schedules so they could support and enjoy each other’s sets.  I had an opportunity to develop my relationships with so many as well as ask questions and see how similar our roads are.

You have to understand…. I am a FAN, so to have personal conversations as well as stand on the stage with these Musical Innovators was an arrival moment.  I really feel like a contributing member in this soul music tapestry. 

(Kid Capri, Darien, Doug E. Fresh)

Whether it was, late night lessons in life from Patti Austin, cutting up with Aja(Kindred), Jennea and Ursula Rucker @ 5am, lunch with Carol Riddick before interviewing her and  Deborah Bond for Frances Jaye and the Neo Soul Cafe, freestyling with Conya Doss, impromptu building with Sinbad, trading licks with Angela Johnson…. it goes on.

These are some of those “moments”:

(Special thanks to Eric Roberson for his sage advice).

Indie Artist Panel: My “Storytellers” moment. Where “These Walls  Could Talk” about the album and the process to a receptive audience.

Piano Bar: Freestyling with one of my favorite singer/songwriter/pianists Frank McComb. One evening in particular I combined vocalizing and a calisthenics workout…… (sorry you had to be there). Shout to D-Mo for the Soul Tom-Fool-Er-EEE. :)

This was also the birthplace of Eric Roberson as “The Robe”.

Teamwork: If you have been following me, you know of the 2 guys that wear many hats -my manager Miles Anthony and myself.  It is a lot of work and it was definitely cool to be able to kick it and have a moment to enjoy the fruits of a lot of labor.

House Call: Spending a few hours in my home away from home in Jamaica: Check out that view.


70′s night: Watching the ship transform into a period piece for one of my favorite eras in music as well as being able to personify my Love Revolution alter ego Cool Calvin Clay.

(Angela “Davis” Johnson, Cool Calvin Clay, Marilyn from MD)

I get’s deep: You know it’s serious when Scuba Diving in Grand Turk is not even one of your greatest highlights….. but the site of huge sea turtles still bears mention. :)

(trying to keep the hair in check, I may be the first scuba diver to don a doo-rag).

In closing (and because I love beating a good analogy to death)……by weeks end I recognized fellow class/shipmates, made new friends and colleagues, knew my way around campus, signed a few yearbooks and learned priceless lessons that I am sure will help me in the advanced classes.

Class dismissed.  (Jazz Hands Ya’ll!)


———————

Special thanks: to Aileen the “graphics queen” and Kevin Cross for helping me get the buttons and shirts done.  Stacey Jordan for helping to style a brother. Taty “sorry I forgot” Mott for ….. too much to mention, and a great show.

The amazing band for inspiring me…… with my own music! DeAndre Shafer (keys, MD), Dennis Turner (bass), Bisquit Bynam (drums), Robbie McDonald (guitar), Aaron Harding(keys), Alyson Carney & Kenny Wesley (vocals).

Big thanks to the staff that made a boat feel like a home. Such a family vibe from lovers of music.  They also made sure that us freshmen got some serious burn. :) Tynisha, Selina, Dwayne, Darrell, Mitra, Shani, Ray, Lori, Chellee, MJ, Big Dave, and to Cliff for the opportunity.

I want to thank the passengers for supporting music, being open and adventurous enough to try some new flavors, and heading to their respective homes and sharing.

Side note: Must have been a rockin’ good time b/c I didn’t get my lands legs back for nearly a week!

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