Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Bronx Welcome Willie Colon to Lehman Center

By Deardra Shuler

Latin Salsa icon, Willie Colon, is well known throughout the world.  A renowned singer, composer, humanitarian, political activist, trombonist and liaison for the Latin American community to the Mayor’s Office, Willie will be appearing at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx on Saturday, June 8th at 8:00 p.m.  The concert is being produced by Lehman Center and Jose Raposo as part of the 2013 Blue Note Jazz Festival and the theme of the show will be in dedication to the Nuyorican community, a term referring to the Puerto Rican Diaspora located in New York State and City.

Born in the Bronx, Willie Colon has been playing music since age 14.  “I’ve been making music since a kid.  I grew up in the South Bronx on 139th Street.  I listened to all the musicians on the streets.  My grandmother bought me a trumpet when I was 11 years old and I learned to play it, eventually switching to the trombone.  This is why I want to dedicate my concert at Lehman to a Nuyorican theme.  There have been Puerto Ricans in NY since the 1900s.  The migration started right after the Jones Act when the US made Puerto Rico US territory.  There was a mass migration in the early 1900s, when my family came over.  Once the Nuyoricans came to America they also faced the Jim Crow era along with the Blacks.  In fact, many of us learned to speak English from our Black brothers.  There is a link between the Latinos and our African American brothers.  Much of our music is from Africa.  Bomba is African, and Meringue is African.  As a matter of fact, back in the 1960s, about 50% of the crowd listening to our music was African American.  We were playing boogaloo in English and a lot of instrumental stuff back then,” said Colon.

 Willie Colon has recorded over 40 albums and sold 30 million records worldwide.  He has been nominated for 11 Grammys and received a Lifetime Achievement Latin Grammy Award.  An accomplished artist, he has worked with the best, folks likes Ruben Blades, David Bryne, Hector LaVoe and Celia Cruz, and even appeared with the Fania All-Stars.  In 2010, he produced “Estar lejos,” a duet recording with Colombian musical star Fonseca.  “Fonseca is kind of a balladeer.  He sent me an email asking me to listen to the song that eventually became Estar lejos.  I did an arrangement and sent it back to him. It was then he asked that we record the song together.  Fonseca came to NY and brought some folks who used these little cameras which we used to record in the studio and then in the streets.  The video came out excellent.  Before we knew it, the song took off and was nominated for a Grammy.  I never expected it to turn out so well.  Currently, I have a few projects in mind.  I would really like to put together a group of guys with a sketch and just play.  As soon as the opportunity presents itself, that is what I plan to do,” remarked the trombonist.

 Mr. Colon has served as a member of several boards of directors. He chaired the Association of Hispanic Arts. He was on the board of the United Nations Immigrant Foundation.  He was the first minority to serve on the ASCAP National Board of Trustees.  In 1991, Willie was awarded Yale University's CHUBB Fellowship.  He was a spokesperson for CARE and he campaigned to end U.S. military occupation and the practice of bombing the Island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, which earned him the EPA’s Environmental Quality Award.  “I have been involved in a few political interests.  I was involved in the elections in Venezuela trying to help the opposition candidate against the socialist dictatorship.  I produced a theme song for the campaign of Henrique Capriles Radonski and sent it to him.  It was just a campaign jiggle but it became a big hit.  It went to countries like Puerto Rico and Columbia, places that had nothing to do with the campaign.  It went viral and got millions of hits.  It’s kind of cool to see stuff like that happen.  I plan to play the song during my Lehman concert,” remarked Colon. 
 “I also directed my attention toward a resolution concerning immigration.  As you know, immigration is an important issue affecting the Latin American Community right now.  In Latin America, there is huge debt and mismanagement caused via governmental leaders.  I personally believe it’s the result of presidents and Dictators spending and borrowing monies for their own resources which has put their various countries in debt. Quincy Jones, Bono and me, brought a petition to Pope John Paul asking him to sign on to help forgive Third World debt for all the Latin American countries in debt to the World Bank. The Pope did sign and we took the petition at that time to President Clinton.  I was also involved with Care.  I went up into the Andes and helped the indigenous people there make micro-banks, explaining how the people could pool their monies together to buy livestock and help construct water tanks, etc.” said Colon of his political and humanitarian efforts. 

 Colon is proud of his Latin roots and hopes to participate in the Puerto Rican Day Parade which occurs the day after his June 8th concert.  He is most proud of his Latin folkloric  albums because it was the music his grandmother loved.  He hopes to play some of his most heart rendering music at Lehman and looks forward to greeting his fans and Latin music enthusiast on Saturday, June 8th.

Interested parties can buy tickets to the Willie Colon concert by calling the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833 or on line
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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Patti Labelle Bringing a New Attitude to Lehman Center

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By Deardra Shuler

It’s not the first time that Patti Labelle has appeared at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts but whenever she does, she’s loved. Patti will regale the audience as only she can on Saturday, May 11th, for an 8:00 p.m. performance and she is anxious to do it again. Lehman Center is located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx, so if you want to catch her, best to call the box office at 718-960-8833 before tickets disappear.

Eva Bornstein, the Executive Director of Lehman College is also sponsoring a Spring Gala and Benefit for Lehman Center in cooperation with The Montefiore Children’s Hospital. The benefit reception will take place in the Lehman Center lobby from 4:30-7:00 pm. “We will be serving wine and hors d’oeuvres and Patti will attend. So if people want to say hi and snap photos, they can. I cannot guarantee that they can get close to her, but they can share the same space. I am also proud to help young artists. Patti loves to do that as well. So, Lehman will be featuring Xavier Lewis, who was a contestant on America’s Got Talent, as Patti’s opening act. He is a very talented young man whose song, “Georgia Clay,” was featured on the Steve Harvey show. Also, Xavier was the Grand Prize Winner of the Georgia Lottery All Access Music Search for Pop/R&B, and his single was featured throughout the State of Georgia. So, we encourage people to attend the Gala. For information about the Gala, call 718-960-8835 or go on line at For tickets call Patti Labelle’s May 11th concert at 8:00 pm, 718-960-8833,” said Eva.

Who doesn’t know Patti Labelle? Many recall when she first appeared on the music scene with The Bluebelles. Patti spent 16 years as lead singer of Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles, who eventually changed their name to Labelle in the early 1970s. We recall songs like “On My Own,” “Lady Marmalade,” “New Attitude,” “If Only You Knew,” “You are My Friend” and "Love, Need and Want You,” et al. Some, she will sing at Lehman Center on May 11th. Labelle was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apollo Hall of Fame, the Songwriters' Hall of Fame as well as into the World Music Awards. She has appeared in “A Soldier’s Story,” “A Different World,” “Mama, I Want to Sing!,” “Cosby,” “Living It Up with Patti Labelle,” “Top Chef” and “Preaching to the Choir.”

Labelle has sold over 50 million records worldwide and authored and co-authored books like “Don’t Block the Blessings,” which was on the NYT’s bestseller list for weeks, “Patti Labelle’s Lite Cuisine” (recipes suited for people living with diabetes), “Recipes for the Good Life,” “Patti’s Pearls,” and “Labelle’s Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About.” Reflecting on her life, Patti remarked, “I would say that I am pretty, pretty blessed. You never know what is going to happen in life. I am happy about all the things I’ve done and all the people I’ve met. God is good. I feel very fortunate.”

Known for her love of cooking, Patti recalled performing with Alton John in London, back in the day. “Sometimes you can get pretty hungry preparing to go onstage, so after the shows, I often fed the folks. We would sit around playing cards and I would win all of Alton and his bands money. I had a place in London and I would cook and we would play cards and eat. Sometimes, backstage I had nothing at my disposal but aluminum foil and an iron so would cook with that. I made pretty good grilled cheese sandwiches and even heated up chicken with that foil and an iron. You have to become creative with what you have to work with,” reminisced Labelle.

Suffering with diabetes, Patti has written several books on eating healthy. One book she wrote to help diabetics. “It’s the diabetic’s job to leave the bad foods alone. Diabetics need to prepare food without butter. Bake, broil and boil instead of frying. You can do vegetables with smoked turkey to avoid fats when cooking greens. Diabetes was a life changing experience for me. I’ve spent 15 years living with the disease. I steam much of my food and use pink salt, sea salt and hot peppers to spice food up, so I don’t miss the fats. I had a restaurant in Philadelphia for a hot minute called Chez Labelle. It’s difficult to run a restaurant. It’s hard to find a chef who cooks like Patti Labelle, so I did not keep the restaurant long,” recalls Patti.

Patti talked about her family. “I have one natural son, my deceased sister’s two children, and I have two brothers. They are all wonderful. I am the godmother of Cyndi Lauper’s son and Laura Nero’s son. I am also the godmother of Mariah Carey. Laura’s son is a rapper now. We try to stay in touch with one another as much as we can.”

“I am presently in the studio working on a new CD. I’ve chosen songs that belong to the greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. Some songs people never heard before. I have been working on the CD 6 months now and should be finished by the end of the year,” said Patti who is delighted to have Xavier Lewis open the show for her. “I haven’t met him yet, but I intend to meet him and I know we will have a good time on May 11th. I hope everyone will come out and support me. I am going to do my very best to give my fans a great show.”