Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cafe Mocha Radio and Toyota To Honor Women

Café Mocha, the #1 nationally-syndicated radio show for women of color, will continue its 2016 Salute Her series: Beauty of Diversity Awards presented by Toyota this summer and fall, and will make stops in Washington D.C., New York, and Chicago. 

Café Mocha launched the annual Salute Her Awards series in 2011 to recognize dynamic Black and Latino women who have made contributions to their communities, and have successfully broken down barriers with their businesses. 

The 2016 Salute Her: Beauty of Diversity Awards series kicked off this year in Atlanta, and honored actress Kim Fields, music executive Shanti Das and blogger/philanthropist Jasmine Crowe, among others.

Toyota, committed to green living and bettering the environment, will present a special Café Mocha Salute Her Award to outstanding women at the remaining stops on the tour who exemplify the goal of the company's sustainability campaign, the Toyota Green Initiative. The initiative promotes sustainability awareness and education in African-American communities across the country. The first to receive the Toyota Green Initiative award will be Washington, D.C. businesswoman Jerri Evans, founder of Turning Natural, a juice bar created to help people live holistic, healthy lives. 

Partnering with Café Mocha Radio provides a unique opportunity for the Toyota Green Initiative to expand the reach of its message to women across the nation who can become sustainability champions in their own communities and homes.

"From the DIY sister to the hybrid cruising fashionista, Toyota salutes every woman who is making smart choices not only for herself, but also for the environment," said Alva Adams-Mason, Director of African American Business Strategy, Toyota USA.

"I am pleased to have Toyota and its sustainability campaign, Toyota Green Initiative, join Café Mocha as we educate and engage women on the importance of sustainable living," says executive producer Sheila Eldridge. "Sustainable living is a topic rarely touched on in our communities, yet it is important that we as a community begin to have conversations about ways to protect our Earth and ensure future generations have the resources needed to live healthy lives."

Past honorees for Salute Her include talk show host Wendy Williams, activist Sybrina Fulton, R&B star Angie Stone, model/reality TV star Cynthia Bailey, media veteran Jamie Foster Brown, soul superstar Syleena Johnson, cultural arts pioneer Vy Higginsen, actress/humanitarian Sheryl Lee Ralph, civil rights activist Dr. Bernice King, actress/producer Terri J. Vaughn, and CNN anchors Michaela Pereira and Fredricka Whitfield, among others.  Most recently the Salute Her Awards were featured on a recent episode of the BET reality series, "It's a Mann's World" with honoree gospel music megastar Tamela Mann and her husband, comedian David Mann.

Affectionately known as 'radio from a woman's perspective" Café Mocha reaches 1.2 million listeners in nearly 30 markets, including cities like New York (WBLS-107.5 FM); Washington, DC (WHUR-96.3 FM); Chicago (WSRB-106.3 FM); and Atlanta (WAMJ-107.5 FM); to name a few. Café Mocha Radio can also be heard on SiriusXM's HUR Voices Channel 141.


Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world's top automaker and creator of the Prius and the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through our Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Over the past 50 years, we've built more than 30 million cars and trucks in North America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and directly employ more than 42,000 people (more than 33,000 in the U.S.). In 2014, our 1,800 North American dealerships (1,500 in the U.S.) sold more than 2.67 million cars and trucks (more than 2.35 million in the U.S.) - and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today.    Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country, with a focus on education, safety, and the environment.  As part of this commitment, we share the company's extensive know-how garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good. For more information about Toyota, visit


Known as 'radio from a woman's perspective' Café Mocha is built on the concept of women helping other women to grow through shared experiences and information. Syndicated by Westwood One in more than 30 markets and on SiriusXM channel 141, the show airs weekends with comedienne and host of TV's "The Real," Loni Love; broadcast veteran, Angelique Perrin; and its newest addition, female rap icon YoYo. The two-hour girlfriend's guide to radio features the latest in urban music, compelling hot topics and advice from an unabashedly women's perspective.  Café Mocha also includes exclusive interviews with top recording artists, celebrities, politicians and those making headlines. To learn more about the show, visit

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

New Beverage, Try My T, A Festival Circuit Hit

Try My T, a ready to serve ice tea with a unique blend, has been causing quite a stir at local festivals.

The lightly sweetened with agave, mint-infused gourmet tea has amassed an impressive following ever since the product launched in 2014.

Owned by Dawn Patton and her family, Try My T was initially a family drink served occasionally to friends. It was such a hit that the friends encouraged the family to put the tea on the market. It got its name because the family kept asking friends to “try my tea.”

While it is currently not available in pre-packaged form, Try My T is available at several upcoming festivals including the Palo Alto Festival of Arts (Aug. 27-28), Fiesta Hermosa (Sept 5-6) and the Richmond Street Fair (Sept. 24).  It was also popular with attendees at last weekend’s Long Beach BBQ Festival.

A festival favorite, Try My T, which tastes best when  served ice cold, is not a sweet tea. It’s been described as an “experience tea.”

According to Patton, whose family was given the recipe by a friend, people can’t get enough of the brew.

“We refer to it as an ‘experience tea’ because that’s what people tell us they are having when they drink it,” said Patton, a former broadcast journalist and investigative reporter. “It’s a secret recipe. It doesn’t taste like anything they’ve ever tasted before. That’s what makes it unique.”

Proving it’s a winner - in a letter of recognition from The North American Ice Tea Championship, Try My T received an 80 out of 100 – coming in fourth in the Ready-To-Drink – Flavored category.

Outside of her career as a tea maven, Patton has also created a niche business called, “Take it Down,” a complete mobile salon that specializes in the professional removal of hair extensions, promoting healthy hair care for women.  She has been featured as an expert on the Discovery Health Channel and America’s Next Top Model, as well as in numerous local and international magazines including, In Style, the Los Angeles Times and Black Hair Care.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Halle Berry Stars In Upcoming Thriller 'Kidnap'

Director: Luis Prieto

Writer: Knate Gwaltney

Cast: Halle Berry, Sage Correa, Chris McGinn, Lew Temple

Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Erik Howsam, Joey Tufaro, Gregory Chou, Halle Berry, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas

Executive Producers: Bill Johnson, Jim Seibel, Ara Keshishian, D.J. Gugenheim, Tucker Tooley, Ryan Kavanaugh, Doris Pfardrescher, Mike Drake, Todd Trosclair, Knate Gwaltney, Colin Bates
The film is a heart-stopping action thriller following a mother (Berry) who will stop at nothing to rescue her kidnapped son.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Usher Throws His Acting Hat Into The Ring

Usher Raymond IV as Sugar Ray Leonard

By Darlene Donloe

Usher Raymond, known to his fans simply as Usher, has already made a name for himself as one of the most popular singers in the industry. 

It’s been 20 years since Usher came on the scene - wowing fans with not only his luscious vocals, but his incredible dance moves.

The performer, who, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America has sold more than 65 million albums worldwide, has amassed an impressive list of hits.

There isn’t much more Usher needs to prove. The eight-time Grammy winner has attained nine Hot 100 #1 hits (all as a lead artist) and 18 Hot 100 top-10 singles.

All of that is notable, but Usher, who recently completed a stint as a coach on The Voice, isn’t interested in resting on previous accomplishments.

He has literally thrown his hat into the ring, taking on the role of Sugar Ray Leonard in the drama, Hands of Stone, set for nationwide release Aug. 26.

The film, written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, follows the life of Panamanian fighter Roberto Durán (Edgar Ramirez), who made his professional debut in 1968 as a 16 year-old and retired in 2002 at the age of 50. In June 1980, he defeated Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond IV) to capture the WBC welterweight title, but shocked the boxing world by returning to his corner in their November rematch, famously saying the words "no mas" (no more).

At age 72, legendary trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement to coach Durán. Arcel convinces the middleweight boxer that winning ultimately comes down to strategy. Duran prepares for a bout against Sugar Ray Leonard, the undefeated lightweight champion. Five months later, on Nov. 25, 1980, the two meet again for an infamous rematch that makes boxing history.

Hands of Stone stars Raymond, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Ana de Armas, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ellen Barkin, Ruben Blades and John Turturro. 
Usher Raymond IV

I recently caught with the handsome singer (U) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to talk about his career and why he decided to spread his wings as a performer.

Q: Is it daunting playing a cultural legend?

U: Normally, you don’t have the benefit of having to prepare someone to pay homage to you and what you’ve done in your life. Normally you pass and then someone does a tribute. I was fortunate to represent an icon to a lot of African American people.  Rather, we knew what his value was and what he represented – not just as a boxer, but as a staple of what we could become. That message hadn’t necessarily been as relevant until the last 10 or 15 years. There are some things we’ve been able to accomplish, but now having these benchmarks  - one, having an African American who was an Olympic medalist who was sought after for endorsements. That was a major accomplishment for African American people. As a kid I didn’t know that. Isn’t it great that in this time we have icons who didn’t have short lives.

Q: What was your hope in playing the part? Did you get Sugar’s (Ray Leonard) permission to play him?

U: I hoped that I would only represent the greatest parts of who he was. The movie isn’t necessarily about Sugar (Ray Leonard). It’s Duran’s movie. But Sugar has a big part in the story of what Roberto (Duran’s) legacy represents. I was mindful. I did want to get his blessings before I took it on. I wanted to be prepared before asking.

(l-r) Usher Raymond IV as Sugar Ray Leonard and 
Edgar Ramirez as Roberto Duran

Q: How did you approach the role?

U: I wanted to be able to tell his story from a different angle. I wanted to show his masculinity. I want to show him defending his woman. What happened earlier between Duran and Sugar’s wife did lead to him losing, but he stood up.  Duran was smart. He got to Sugar in his mind. Roberto was macho in his approach. Sugar we didn’t know to be that kind of guy. I wanted to show the masculine side of Sugar Ray Leonard. I didn’t ask him for permission until I read the book. That’s when I asked if he was alright with me playing him.

Sugar said, “Man my wife loves you more than she loves me.” So I asked him if I could sit with him and ask questions. He said yes.

Q: What was your regime in preparing for the role?

U:  Well, for that I have to give you the backstory of this film. We started with a different cast. We had an incredible script. We had thought from the beginning that we wer going to shoot in Panama. One of the actors had a conflict. We had to hold. We then were going to shoot in Puerto Rico. Deniro (Robert), the director and myself had the idea to reach out to Panama. They were with it. They put a substantial amount of money toward it happening. It was a year from that date. I had other obligations to meet. But I still wanted to do the film. I had turned down tours, The Voice, the album and touring internationally. That preparation, that year of preparation was a lot. I reaped the benefits of it, though.

Q: You had an afro in the movie.

U: I grew my hair out, which was fun. Sugar asked me if I was going to have an afro. I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Cool, pick it all the way out.”   I had thin, fine hair. I loved every aspect of preparation, including getting to know the character. I was standing toe to toe with amateur boxers. I wanted to know the pressure that real boxers go through. I would do three rounds with them. I had pads on. I loved it. I was in the best physical shape of my life.

Q: So, do you have the acting bug? Do you want to do more acting?

U: I have now begun to understand why Larenz Tate is so particular about what he chooses to do. I now understand, right? You only have so many shots to tell the story of who you are as a person.

Q: Talk about how you prepare for a scene and what it was like working with this director.

U: I’m a collaborative person. Everything I’ve done has been a collaborative effort. We had focused on being actors and athletes. We were in a transformed preparation. We didn’t’ have to get out of it, we were prepared. You look in the mirror. It was about his style. I liked how he (Jakubowicz) wrote the story. I read the script twice, then I had someone else read it. That way I can hear things I didn’t hear or see myself. It began to make me understand how I’m going to approach the character.  One thing I will say that I liked from Jonathan (Jakubowicz) is the idea of spirituality and method.

Usher Raymond IV and Jurnee Smollett-Bell

Q: Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays Sugar’s wife, Juanita.  Talk about working with her.

U: Jonathan brought me Jurnee. He made us lay on this ottoman and lay next to each other and look up at the ceiling and then he through words out to her. He said we had to spiritually connect with this to understand the relationship.  He (Jakubowicz) wrote with a 360 perspective. People connect to an emotional part of the character. You’ll find yourself crying. You’ll wonder, “Why am I crying?” That was a great experience for me. There was a psychological effect to him losing the first fight.

(l-r) Edgar Ramirez, Robert DeNiro and Ruben Blades

Q: Did you learn anything about Sugar that we didn’t see in the film?

U: I learned that Sugar Ray is a modest person. It has everything to do with where he started and
I’ll say it for him. When he I think that was the first time he had to sit in his arrogance and confidence. And, I don’t mean that in a bad way. My whole focus is to show how they focus. The whole move was arrogant. You never saw him do that. But his spirit was like, “this is my show. I’m going to give you a show. I have Ray Charles getting read to sing, this is my house.”

Q: Was there a struggle to make this kind of movie?

U: Yes, there is risk and it takes discipline. If everybody didn’t look at it as a labor of love, it wouldn’t have happened. Everybody had to make the commitment. As investors we decided to do what we had to. It was a great story. It’s important to preserve the essence of our icons.

Hands of Stone (The Weinstein Company) opens nationwide Aug. 26.

MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity), Running time: 105 min.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Hands of Stone gets an O (oh, yeah).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ellis Hall, 'The Ambassador Of Soul'

Ellis Hall
Peter Kind/Peter Arthur Photos

Ellis Hall is known as ‘The Ambassador of Soul” for many reasons.  Hall is a prolific singer, songwriter, and musician that plays every instrument, has a strong 5 octave vocal range and was the lead vocalist/keyboardist for soul-funk band Tower of Power. He performs with most elite symphony orchestras worldwide including: His first being the Hollywood Bowl under the direction of his mentor Ray Charles. Since then he has performed with prestigious 81-piece orchestras including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Marvin Hamlisch conducting to playing with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Symphony Orchestra, and most recently the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

Ellis’ first orchestra concept show was “Ray, Motown and Beyond” featuring such hits as Motown’s Heard It Through the Grapevine and Tower of Power’s Some Days Were Meant for Rain. With the second half of the show paying tribute to Ray Charles featuring hit songs like, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Unchain My Heart, Hit the Road Jack, and Georgia on My Mind. In September 2016, he will debut his second show, “Soul Unlimited” (conducted by Jeff Tyzik) where he “Ellis-izes” songs from David Bowie’s Let’s Dance to Something by George Harrison (which Ellis recorded on his CD Straight Ahead featuring Billy Preston on organ).

Born in Savannah, Georgia and raised partly in Claxton, GA. Ellis has been blind since he was 18 years old, but that doesn’t stop him from is mission in life.  In fact, it has been the driving force behind the creation of a 3,800 songs catalog full of Soul, Gospel, Blues and Pop compositions. Among these works is the official song for his hometown of Claxton Georgia. He has worked along side other greats such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle, Toby Keith, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Bobby Womack, George Duke, Sheila E., Kenny G and many more. In addition, he was one of the lead vocalists of the California Raisins.

Ellis has also successfully had his hand at Hollywood, recording and performing songs for live action and animated films such as The Lion King 2,” “Shrek 2,” “Chicken Run,” “Invincible” and Bruce Almighty". The Ambassador has even taken acting roles in Big Momma’s House”(Martin Lawrence) and the crime drama Catch Me If You Can” (Leonardo DiCaprio). Along with all of these amazing films that he was a part of, Mr. Hall was nominated for an Ovation Theater Award for his first stage role in The Gospel At Colonus" where he not only sang and acted but also walked the stage and stair props with nearly no assistance.

Hall has a sense of humor which is uncanny, When people ask me about my blindness, I tell them, ‘I didn’t pay the electric bill on they cut the lights out on me!’” Says Hall as he make fun of himself.
For more detailed information on the legendary Ellis Hall explore his website @ 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Band Leader Gordon Goodwin Is 'An Elusive Man'

With 20 Grammy nominations, four statues and three Emmy wins, Gordon Goodwin is the most decorated big band leader in the 21st century. After all six of his Big Phat Band albums have garnered Grammy nominations or wins, he’s not elusive about why he trimmed his large 18-piece ensemble for an outing as the 8-member  Little Phat Band, which will release their debut album, “An Elusive Man,” on September 9, via the Music of Content  label.    

“It represents another side of my interest in jazz with more emphasis on improvisation and letting the musicians explore things in a way that they can’t do in a larger ensemble. The music I write for this band covers a wide range of styles, from swing to Latin to funk and more. The seven musicians who join me in making up the Little Phat Band are all members of the Big Phat Band and are, to a man, the most accomplished and versatile musicians that I know,” said Goodwin, who produced and arranged the date while composing eight new songs for the ten-tune set.

Goodwin’s Little Phat Band – Goodwin (piano and tenor sax), Wayne Bergeron (trumpet), Eric Marienthal (alto and tenor sax), Andy Martin (trombone), Andrew Synowiec (electric and acoustic guitar), Rick Shaw (electric and acoustic bass), Bernie Dresel (drums) and Joey De Leon (percussion) – fills the diverse “An Elusive Man” with regal swing, elegant be-bop and effulgent Latin jazz rhythms along with soulful jazz funk jams. Throughout the collection adeptly balancing serious and somber with playful fun and quirk, astute musicianship is on full display with the players granted more room to bob and weave spontaneously than in the tightly-scripted big band settings to which they are typically confined. Goodwin’s communicative piano ruminations and probing tenor sax explorations carve space to solo as do Marienthal’s roaring tenor and penetrating alto sax, Bergeron’s commanding and eloquent trumpet, Martin’s character-rich trombone, Shaw’s rock-steady bass and Synowiec’s adaptable electric guitar that pierces tunes with expansive straight-ahead and contemporary jazz riffs as well as country licks.     

As for the album’s title, Goodwin reveals, “It is a reference to people we all know who go through life in fear and hide behind their jobs, their sense of humor or even their skill sets, but never really reveal much about themselves. They present a public persona, often a well-crafted one, but we never get to see who they are inside.” 

Breaking into the industry while still a student at California State University Northridge, Goodwin, a native of Wichita, Kansas, began by writing music for various aspects of the Disneyland park, which eventually led to composing and orchestration gigs in such films as “The Incredibles,” “Remember The Titans,” “Armageddon,” “Get Smart,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “National Treasure” and “Gone in 60 Seconds.” His inventive scoring and orchestrations for television garnered three Emmys while his resume boasts crafting music for Quincy Jones, Christina Aguilera, Johnny Mathis, John Williams, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme. Longing to forge his own legacy, he formed the Big Phat Band, which debuted in 2000 with “Swingin’ for the Fences,” nabbing a pair of Grammy nominations. Each release that followed cemented the unit’s place as the preeminent big band with Grammy nominations and wins for albums featuring contributions from Eddie Daniels, Arturo Sandoval, David Sanborn, Brian McKnight, Dianne Reeves, Take 6, Lee Ritenour, Patti Austin, Chick Corea, Dave Grusin, Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Marcus Miller. The group’s most recent offering, 2014’s “Life in the Bubble,” snared four nods along with the Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Goodwin shares his ardor for the big band sound that first captured his imagination on “Phat Tracks with Gordon Goodwin,” a radio show airing weekends on KJAZZ, America’s jazz and blues station. For more information, please visit

“An Elusive Man” contains the following songs:

“The LP Shuffle”
“Cot in the Act”
“Behind You”
“An Elusive Man”
“Samba Cya”
“Garaje Gato”
“I Know You”
“In a Sentimental Mood”
“Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

Monday, August 15, 2016

29th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival In Pix

By Darlene Donloe

The 29th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival took place last weekend (Aug. 12-14) at Rainbow Lagoon Park. This year’s theme was “A Healthy Taste of Jazz.”

The megastar lineup included: Jeffrey Osborne, Everette Harp, BWB (Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum and Rick Braun), Jonathan Butler, Gerald Albright, Major, Althea Rene, Elan Trotman, Euge Groove, Peter White, Paul Taylor, Richard "88 Fingers" Turner Jr., Stanley Jordan, The Al Williams Jazz Society with special guests Najee and Barbara Morrison, The Sax Pack (Kim Waters, Steve Cole and Jeff Kashiwa), Michael Lington, Kenny Lattimore, Dave Koz, David Sanborn, The Rippingtons,  Paul Jackson Jr. and Mindless Groove.

Kirk Whalum

                        Paul Jackson Jr.

                                                                                   Rick Braun

Althea Rene

                Norman Brown


Tonya Banks (Little Women: LA) and Paul Jackson Jr.

      Everette Harp
Jonathan Butler

                                                                        Gerald  Albright 

Euge Groove, Peter White and Paul Taylor

Jeffrey Osborne