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will downing

Will Downing Returns With Smooth New Set: Euphoria Featuring ‘Turn Off The Lights’ (Listen)

will downing

*If you know nothing about vocalist Will Downing then you know nothing about R&B music. Downing’s been a staple of contemporary R&B and jazz for 25 years and his smooth vocal styling has been among the best in the game in that span as well.

In the past he has teamed up with greats such as Rachelle Farrell on “Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This” (1994) and Gerald Albright on “Pleasure of the Night” (1998). Now, Downing speaks with EURweb’s Lee Bailey about his most recent offering and about creating grown and sexy music that all responsible listeners can get their groove on to.  The set of eight songs is appropriately titled Euphoria.

“I’m excited about this new project. It’s slightly different from what I’ve been doing over the years. It’s a little bit more musical. I think I’ve injected a little bit more of the jazz element into it. Quite a bit of it was live in studio,” said Downing. “I’m really proud of it. I’ve taken seven songs. Most of which the average fan wouldn’t know.”

Following a trend that many contemporary R&B greats such as Babyface have taken in recent years, Downing’s new album is comprised mostly of remakes. However, there’s nothing rehashed about these selections. Reimagined would be a better term.

“I’ve done a song by an artist name Ray LaMontagne It’s a song called ‘You Can Bring Me Flowers.’ I heard it one day, I was listening to the radio in L.A. The song came on and basically he ripped off the song All Blues. It’s got this great little hook to it. So I said ‘Well, I’m going to take it back’. So, I did an interpretation of this song ‘You Bring Me Flowers’,” said Downing. “I took that song and ‘Will Downing-ized it’ and I also did one by Lou Rawls. No one seemed to have heard this song. It’s a song called ‘If I Was a Magician.’ This song I heard at jazz station WBGL in New Jersey. It’s a fantastic song by Lou Rawls that I thought I could do something with.”

will downing - euphoria album cover

Recreating a song by Grammy Award-winning artist Ray LaMontagne, is only the tip of a very deep creative iceberg for Will.

“I did Teddy Pendergrass ‘Turn Out the Lights’, I do Stevie Wonder’s ‘Too High,’ Hall and Oates ‘She’s Gone’ and also I did one song in Portuguese, which I had never done. There’s eight songs altogether. Seven remakes and one original. The original is a song called ‘Heaven in Your Eyes’. It’s written by myself and a gentleman named Chris “Big Dog” Davis,” he continued. “I listen to a lot of radio and sometimes I just hear songs and they just hit me. If I sing it to myself for the majority of the day then I’m rearranging it in my mind and I’m hearing myself do it.  I feel like I can bring something new to the song. It’s not that I’m trying to beat them, it’s just my interpretation of the song.  When I hear something and it sticks with me I go with it.  The way I’m hearing it in my mind tells me who I’m going to call to work with.”

will downing

Throughout his illustrious career, Downing’s voice has been compared to that of the late crooner Luther Vandross. Will told EURweb that, while he does agree there are some similarities between the two, they are superficial at best.

“That’s been there for many years. I was a fan and I was a student. I think you’re always going to hear that. You’re always going to hear those sensibilities.  The people that I work with sometimes say ‘Hey man. Why don’t we do it like this? You know, like Luther would do?’ So, automatically, the music starts to take those twists and turns.  I have my own sound at this point.  The similarities tend to stop at slight vocal inflections and slight tone inflections.  Musically, he went more or less R&B pop. Me, I’m R&B and some form of jazz. That’s where the fork in the road kind of splits the two of us.”

Chances are, many reading this piece haven’t heard Will Downing on the radio recently. However, that absence from the airwaves isn’t because of a lack of quality, but of the politics inherent to being a veteran in the game.

“This is project number 17 and I have been doing the same thing, the same way for 25 years. People always say ‘Well, I don’t know whether to put you on this category or that category’ and that’s cool in one regard, but I think radio was starting to get to the point where they were saying ‘Well, we’re not going to play your type of R&B because that age demo is fading away.’ So, I can’t go backwards and chase what these kids are doing out there.  That’s not going to help. So, I said ‘Let’s just do a straight up adult record and make it musical. You know, do what we really enjoy doing.”

You can click on the link below to get a taste of a grown and sexy sound that is 25 years in the making. And, oh yes, Will Downing’s latest and greatest, Euphoria, will be will available for purchase at your favorite music store or online retailer (Amazon, iTunes, eBay and others) tomorrow, Tuesday, March 25.

kelly clarkson & will i am

EUR On The Scene: A Question of Homogeny and the American Music Awards (Watch)

Singer Kelly Clarkson and rapper Will.i.am

Singer Kelly Clarkson and rapper Will.i.am

A while back I was invited down to B.B. King’s in Time Square to cover the American Music Awards annual press conference held to announce the nominees.

The announcements were made by Kelly Clarkson, Will.i.am and Lance Bass. As I scanned the list I was immediately struck by the fact that this year’s rendition has two of the three noms for Favorite Album, Soul/R&B were taken by Caucasian Americans, Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake.

It struck me as odd for a myriad of reasons-the primary reason being this may have been the first time that ever occurred.  The duo can also be found in the Pop/Rock category as well.  I also noticed Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were  nominated for their album “The Heist.” Producer Larry Klein as well as Lance Bass-who will be broadcasting live from the carpet this year-and performer will.i.am were gracious enough to field my question as to what these noms have to say about cultural homegeny in modern music.

As you would expect, there were three different viewpoints. Spoiler alert: will.i.am completely jumps the proverbial shark on this question. Totally danced around it. Perhaps he thought it was a “Gotcha” question?

Watch the video below.

Watch the American Music Awards, hosted by Pitbull, Sunday (Nov. 24) at 8|7c on ABC

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

10 NBA Players With Next-Level Talent

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

*Scouting and evaluating NBA talent is a very difficult challenge to be certain, but it is one that many analysts, prognosticators and bloggers relish around this time of year.

We all know the players that are top shelf as far as the NBA brand is concerned, but every season there are a group of young players who sit just on the outside of NBA notoriety.

For now they are on the outside, peeking longingly through the portal of respectability. But a season will come in which their names will reign over the Sportcenter, Youtube and social media airwaves as one of the very best.

For some, that newfound fame will last for the rest of their careers, while others will only be flashes in the pan-fading from the All-Star limelight all too soon. For the 10 players on this list, I predict that day of recognition will be in the upcoming year. All posses tremendous talent and upside. Each is either a young player who may have differed to veterans in the past, or who was late acclimating themselves to the league. They each have the requisite talent to be among the league’s elite at their respective positions but have only scratched the surface of their potential.

With the new season comes the possibility for a shuffle of the deck of possibilities. I am not saying that every player on this list is of the same caliber, but they are all on the verge of taking their games to a level beyond what they are universally known to play. I must also acknowledge that there are far more than 10 of these types of players in the National Basketball Association. These are the ones that I believe will be the most successful this season.

Read more at http://www.rantsports.com/nba/2013/10/21/10-nba-players-with-next-level-talent/?OBADpIL6Kx5K7GsO.99

Ricardo A. Hazell is a freelance Sports Writer for RantSports based in New York City. You may follow him on Twitter at NikosMightyDad or add him to your network on Google Plus.

ricardo hazell

Ricardo Hazell

Director Eric Branco, actor Stephen Hill

EUR on the Scene: Ocktober Music and Film Festival

Star Davis of UCAN magazine, Emelyn Stuart of Stuart Films

Star Davis of UCAN magazine, Emelyn Stuart of Stuart Films

Saturday October 18th marked the closing of the 5th Annual Ocktober Music and Film Festival in New York City.

This year marked the first time the film component was added to the festival and it did not disappointed as many works from the most talented and as-yet unexposed creators in America were exposed to the masses at Harlem MIST Studios.

Crafted with the help of Emelyn Stuart of Stuart Films and  Celebrity A&R Anthony Jones, the Ocktober Music and Film Festival was a resounding hit as dignitaries like Dr. Ben Chavis, DJ Kool Herc and club music icon Colonel Abrams were all on hand to enjoy the quality content of some of the best and brightest creators of media you may never have heard of yet but whose notoriety is most certainly on the rise.  Mr. Jones also stepped in as master of ceremonies during the closing night festivities as some of the hottest new names in music showed their wares to music and film executives alike. The evening featured a Q&A panel featuring A&Rs and music industry executives Kalvin Stevens, J Hatch, Michline Medina, Lance Pope, Donavan McLeod, Lady Life and rapper/label owner Mikey Jay.

Ocktober Music and Film Festival award winners were: “Full Circle” for Best Feature Film, “A Saturday is a Terrible Thing to Waste” for Best Short Film, “For Colored Boys” won for Best Web Series. Best Music Video went to “New Coons” featuring Ohene Cornelius. The Audience Award went to “Stay Cold, Stay Hungry”.

Director Stacey Muhammad accepts award for Best Web Series

Director Stacey Muhammad accepts award for Best Web Series

I had the chance to speak with actor Stephen Hill and director Eric Branco regarding the creative process surrounding this award-winning offering.

“The premise behind it is two lost souls collide,” said Hill.  “It’s about two down and out people who get together and meet. It’s really about their relationship,” added Branco.

“They need each other from an emotional standpoint. They just need somebody who is going to be there for them.  It’s something we have been working on for a while and I’m glad we have finally gotten it together and it’s finally done and we’re able to show it. We’re getting positive reactions,” he continued.

“We’ve seen it on a bigger screen several times now,” said Stephen Hill. “Just three weeks ago we won Best Feature Award at the Coney Island Film Festival.  It was good to screen at MIST. Number one, because it’s in Harlem. It’s right around the corner from my house. It’s really nice to screen something in your neighborhood.  Their facilities were beautiful as well.  This particular film? Just for the record, a lot of people slept on us. So, we’re extremely grateful to the Ocktober Music and Film Festival for giving us the opportunity to screen right in my neighborhood.”

Director Eric Branco, actor Stephen Hill

Director Eric Branco, actor Stephen Hill

“Stay Cold, Stay Hungry” is still making rounds and is slated to show in other film festivals. I was unable to get any definitive word as to when this offering will be released nationally.

In addition, Thomas K. Phillips’ debut offering “The North Star”, which was the opening night offering, is based on the true story of Big Ben Jones and Moses Hopkins-two runaway slaves who escaped a Virginia plantation and made their way to Buckingham, Pennsylvania. It is not a typical slavery film in that, while the horrors of slavery cannot be sugar-coated, this film displays the fighting spirit of escaped Africans, as well as the lengths to which abolitionists of the day were willing to go to undermine the institution of slavery.

A full review on that film is come in the near future. If you missed it this year you may wish to keep the Ocktober Music and Film Festival in mind for your autumn entertainment slate next year.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the Final Roster of the San Antonio Spurs

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

*Normally, a team that has fallen just short of a championship will not dramatically alter its makeup, but will tweak it by adding to or enhancing it to eliminate weaknesses and fortify strengths.

The San Antonio Spurs are fresh off of a disappointing NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat and are, despite the constant media pointing to the contrary, wiping that proverbial dirt off their collective shoulders. They are coming into the 2013-14 NBA season more certain than ever as to their ability to reach the pinnacle of professional basketball with their current core.

Tim Duncan proved last year that he is, beyond speculative prattling, the very best power forward to ever play the game. He also showed that he is still one of the top 10 best players in the game and perhaps still the very best big man in the NBA as well. Head-to-head playoff matchups in which he dominated Dwight Howard and Zach Randolph attest to that.

Tony Parker, despite three titles and multiple All-Star appearances, seems to get looked over when the NBA props wagon is dishing out compliments. However, it was he who carried the brunt of the offensive load for San Antonio throughout the playoffs, and he almost single-handedly won Game 6 before running out of gas. History remembers the Spurs failing in their endeavors last season thanks to a timely corner 3-pointer from Jesus Shuttlesworth aka Ray Allen to send the series back to Miami.

Manu Ginoboli has clearly lost a step or two as his 37th birthday looms in the distant future. He was once the free radical molecule within the conservative and methodical offensive body that is the Spurs, and that seemingly unpredictable energy had long been the scourge of NBA defenders. But he was in large part a defensive liability throughout the playoffs last year, and an offensive liability versus Miami. His 11-point average is the second-lowest output of his entire NBA career as well.

The 2013 NBA Playoffs revealed the strengths and weaknesses of a Spurs team that, if some analysts were to tell it, was too old to make any kind of noise. Noticeably absent on the Spurs’ roster last season was another low post scoring threat to compliment Tim Duncan, although F/G Kawhi Leonard did start posting up later in the season. PF Tiago Spillter averaged 10 points per game last season, but he is a cleanup guy at best, and not a very rugged one as he averaged just six rebounds a game last season. Also, he has shown very little ability to score on clear outs. This is true even when he has a size advantage. Boris Diaw has some moves on the low block, but he cannot be relied on to score consistently there because of his age and relative small size.

First-round draft pick Livio Jean-Charles suffered a severe knee sprain during FIBA U-20 back in July, and there’s speculation he would not have joined the Spurs next year anyway. Second-year player Nando De Carlo isn’t particularly spectacular at point guard, and I don’t think he makes this roster, which is rich in point guards. He is good enough to be in the NBA all the same. Former Ohio State Buckeye Deshaun Thomas isn’t a shoo-in to make this roster either. The Spurs are deep at shooting guard and small forward. Here’s what I feel the final roster of the Spurs may look like.

Read more at http://www.rantsports.com/nba/2013/10/03/predicting-san-antonio-spurs-final-2013-14-roster/?ubDHLbuBrFeS4u7i.99

Ricardo Hazell is a freelance sports writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @NikosMightyDad or add him to your network on Google Plus.

ricardo hazell

Ricardo Hazell

Mary Lagenfield-USA TODAY Sports

5 Milwaukee Bucks Who Need To Step It Up This Season

Mary Lagenfield-USA TODAY Sports

Mary Lagenfield-USA TODAY Sports

People talk about various curses when it comes to professional sports championships, and they are usually the ramblings of a superstitious, championship-starved fan base. But there seems to be some validity to it in some instances.

The Chicago Cubs franchise, for example, has to be cursed. They last won a World Series over a century ago. Usually, a sports curse is traced back to a single moment in history. But when it comes to a franchise like the Milwaukee Bucks your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps we can call it the curse of Lew Alcindor?

There are teams that are great, there are teams that are horrible and then there are teams like the Bucks. Teams that wallow in mediocrity and whose various owners haven’t had a clue as to what is necessary to take the team to the next level. The last time the Milwaukee Bucks were within shouting distance of an NBA championship, Sam CassellRay Allen and Glen Robinson seemed more interested in who got more shots per minute than actually winning.

The Bucks have always had pretty good players and also have drafted well. So, I say again, your guess is as good as mine as to why it seems like they’re a lead pipe lock to be a .500 team year in and year out. This season’s rendition of the team features another group of really good athletes that might not necessarily mesh with one another well enough to win — and that, after all, is why they play. The goal is actually an NBA championship, is it not?

This slideshow contains a list of five players currently on the Bucks’ roster that will need to step it up in order for this team to at least contend in the Eastern Conference this season. Though he is not on this slideshow, I would like to give a special shout out to PG Brandon Knight. Him realizing his full potential would be a bonus of all bonuses. It’s not all about crossover dribbles and one-on-one clear outs, bro. Better decisions with the basketball are paramount to winning. 2.7 turnovers per game is just too much.

Read more at http://www.rantsports.com/nba/2013/10/04/5-milwaukee-bucks-who-need-to-step-up-this-season/?4RqRDgtxGHmAYO82.99

Ricardo Hazell is a freelance basketball and football writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter at NikosMightyDad or add him to your network on Google Plus.

ricardo hazell

Ricardo Hazell