- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

Honky tonks, juke joints or even bueno social clubs may not come to mind when discussing D.C. music venues, but the performers coming to town this week know how to claim a space and make it their own.
Singer, musician, actor, activist, and occasional political candidate, Ruben Blades performs songs from his 30-year-plus musical career Tuesday night at the 9:30 Club. The songs on his 17th and newest CD, "Mundo," wear almost as many different hats as he does.
The 14-track CD, described as his attempt to reflect the absurdity of racism, draws on the sounds of Latin, Celtic, Middle Eastern, African, Afro-Cuban, jazz and flamenco music. It's a complex and engaging feat, best taken as a whole, though standouts such as "Parao" and "Consideracion" will flutter in your head.
Given his acting and other commitments, Mr. Blades tours infrequently; however, his popular live shows show no signs of rust.

Country legend Loretta Lynn, still playing nearly 100 gigs a year at age 68, will show the crowd at the 9:30 Club tomorrow night what real country is all about. One of a handful of serious country artists to "cross over" without compromise (she was the first country entertainer to appear on the cover of Newsweek), Mrs. Lynn continues to keep her boots firmly rooted in the rich soil of personal narrative and solid musicianship that is country music.
The best thing to ever come out of Butcher Holler, Ky., Mrs. Lynn's story is well-known thanks to her first autobiography, "Coal Miner's Daughter," which was made into an Oscar-winning movie starring Sissy Spacek.
Mrs. Lynn was married at 13 to Oliver "Mooney" "Doo" Lynn, had four children by age 17, released the first record of her 70 album career in 1960, endured a hard but loving marriage, toured endlessly, earned an avalanche of awards and did it all without ever flashing anything more provocative than her smile.
Earlier this year, she released "Still Woman Enough," the follow-up to her best-selling memoir, in which she chronicles the good times and bad during her 48-year long marriage to "Doo." Despite his womanizing, alcoholism, physical abuse and general cantankerousness, Mrs. Lynn says she has forgiven her husband and describes their relationship as "one of the hardest love stories in the world." She is currently working on her next studio album, also titled "Still Woman Enough."
You can hear the love and the tears even on her last recording, "Still Country," which is dedicated to her husband, who died 1996 after a prolonged illness. Always one to bare her heart and speak her mind through her songwriting, Mrs. Lynn's lyrics are as poignant and personal today as they were 30 years ago.
"Country fits me good," she sings over a sprightly bed of banjos, steel guitars and fiddles on "Country in My Genes." "I've got country in my genes, country in my blood…. What you get is what you see. I'm just an old hillbilly with a country song to sing." Lucky for us, Mrs. Lynn is still singing and we hear her loud and clear.

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis moves his career forward by looking back with his newly released CD, "Footsteps of Our Fathers." Paying tribute to jazz legends such as Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, "Footsteps…" is the first release through his new Marsalis Music label.
The disc features Mr. Marsalis' quartet pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts for the disc as well as his four-night set that starts Saturday night at Blues Alley. His previous recording with this group, "Contemporary Jazz," netted Mr. Marsalis a 2000 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Album.
"We get better every time," Mr. Marsalis said of his musical group. "It's unbelievable the way the band has grown. We're all serious about playing, not like when we were younger and more interested in having fun." He also said that he doesn't foresee any more "elegant diversions" that earned him more fame than respect, such as gigging with Sting or leading "The Tonight Show" band, in his future. He said that while he doesn't regret the experience, he realized that it is more important to him to be able to develop and play music on his own terms.
Mr. Marsalis, like the other prominent musical members of his family, including brother Wynton and father Ellis, is a charismatic and intelligent performer. His experiences as a teacher, most recently at San Francisco State, help him connect and communicate with his audiences while his genuine love for and comfort with the music means his concerts are light on starch and heavy on sizzle.
It's a big deal when any artist takes on the likes of Coltrane's opus "A Love Supreme" and Mr. Marsalis has done it twice, first on the 1991 anthology "Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool" and now on "Footsteps…." Though he admitted he wasn't really ready to play the four-part suite the first time, he said that he and his band members are at a point where they have the emotional intelligence and maturity to get to the heart of the piece. If you've never seen "A Love Supreme" performed live by someone as talented and capable as Mr. Marsalis, you've got four nights to do so.


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