Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sinbad Is Hilarious At The Rose in Pasadena

photo by Cynthia Perello

By Darlene Donloe

It was standing room only Friday night, at The Rose in Pasadena, as veteran funnyman Sinbad took the stage to deliver his classic brand of comedy. 

Before an appreciative and diverse, sold out crowd that included fans young and old, Sinbad, 59, who has been in the comedy game since he was 26, made it look easy. 

From the time he took the stage, until he left nearly two hours later, he held the audience in the palm of his hands. A socially conscious comic, who knows how to add a comedic twist to real issues – Sinbad, who is applauded for not having to use expletives to make his shows funny, spoke about everything from raising children, marriage, health care, his health, his battle with ADHD, parenting, getting old and yes, even Donald Trump.

Donned in white tennis shoes, blue jeans, black and blue peace sign on his t-shirt, a gold cross around his neck, earrings in his ears and sporty, dark glasses and a black t-shirt, Sinbad, a Michigan native who hilariously thinks of himself as not being black or light skinned but ‘dark white,’ readies himself for a night of fun.  

So do his long time fans, Cynthia and Ibarionex Perello, who were in the audience and excited about the prospect of seeing one of their favorite comics perform.

“Sinbad is the cleanest and funniest comedian out there, hands down,” said Cynthia Perello. “His show was so much fun. Sinbad didn't skip a beat after all these years. We've been fans for as long as we can remember.  He resonated with his audience well without using any references of filth, vile references or cursing.  He was just pure comedy. His material was sincere, natural and timely.”

Before his show, I sat down with Sinbad in the green room to talk about his career. In the midst of a nationwide tour, traveling about seven or eight months off and on, Sinbad, whose favorite comic vets include Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Jonathan Winters, Redd foxx and Robins Willias,  was in rare form.


DD: You’ve been in the game for a while, how has comedy changed and how has your show changed?

S:  My approach hasn’t changed. You adapt. The deal is to stay relevant. When my world changed, I didn’t go off and be a hermit. I changed just like technology changed. I changed like everybody else changed. If you didn’t, you got left behind. It’s hardest for younger comics to get into the game today. No big comedy clubs and they don’t pay them. They can’t make money. Now you’ve go to go viral and trend.  Now you’re competing with people who aren’t even comedians. I saw where Nene Leakes working in a comedy club. NeNe Leakes is a comic now. She is headlining.  NeNe Leakes. You know why? Because reality shows got so big. She’s loud. People think when you’re loud, you’re funny. Although that’s how comics become comics. There has to be some likability. I’m not saying she’s not likeable. She became likeable by the way she talks to people. But, I’m not saying she’s not funny. That’s just me talking. More power to you. 

DD:  Describe what happens the day you’re scheduled to perform. Walk me through it.  How do you prepare. 

S: Each day is different. I just flew in from Phoenix. Before that I was on the road. My son got married. I had five shows in Florida. Came here. Did a benefit in Phoenix. I landed here today in Burbank. Today I started taking bass lessons.  Trying to learn a song. Did that for a while. I leave tomorrow. Going to Seattle, then I go to Nashville. I’m 60. I’m going to have heart attacks with all these 7a.m. flights. I’m doing more comedy clubs than I’ve ever done. I’m trying not to have back to back a.m. flights, though. I’m tired now. It’s combining family and job and everything. 

DD: What is your life like during the year? How many shows a year? 

S: I do about 150-200 shows a year. That’s what I do. When movies aren’t happening and TV is not happening, there is always comedy. Comedy is always number one. I have a job. Bill Cosby used to say, ‘ I’m a comedian – slash – everything else.’ That’s what sets us apart from other people. 

DD: Do you write ALL of your own jokes?  Describe that process. 

S:  No, I don’t write my jokes, it just comes. It’s like jazz. I know the keys, I know the notes. I just hear what I want to do. Every night I do something new. If I do two shows a night, I do two different shows. But, that’s not new. That’s what I’ve always done. 

DD: You must have gotten some great material from this election year?

S: They just made it to easy. The hits just keep on coming. Everybody is jumping on stage. You can be president, especially if you talk dumb enough. Americans love dumb talk. We love dumbness. We love loudness. We love rudeness. We love hoes. Now we love everything we used to say no to. 

DD:  How do you know when something is funny?

S: It’s like music. You know what works. You trust it. You get older and you just trust it. 

DD: Are you encouraged or discouraged by your industry, and why?

S: It has never embraced me. Me and my brother, Mark, we busted our butts. We did our own shows. We did our own stuff. We did it ourselves. They thought because I was clean, I wasn’t funny. It was almost like I was non-black. I’m the most militant brother I know. To them - cursing is blackness. When we’re not cursing we’re not being funny. When we’re cussing, we’re black. So I guess Robin Williams is black. Lenny Bruce is black. Everybody is black now. They put you in a box in Hollywood. There was a time at first when you think you’re killin it. You think they are about to grab me up. Then, it doesn’t happen. They pass you up for someone else. You get a chip on your shoulder. When you think you’ve earned something – that’s when you’ve taken your eyes off the prize. You can suck and work. It gives me hope. You can suck….and work.  Well, just wait until you see me. 

DD: Who is killin it in the comedy game right now, – besides you, of course? Who makes you laugh and why?

S: Most of the same cats who have been killin it forever, are the ones that make me laugh. Kevin Hart is killin it career wise. Trevor Noah is very funny. Y’all need to pay attention to him. People keep asking for Jon Stewart to come back. But, Trevor is killing it. He’s funny and intelligent.

DD: Lets talk about the personal side of Sinbad.  Describe yourself.

S: I love music.  I’m a nerd, particularly a tech nerd. It changes. I have ADHD. I’m not going to stay in it– I’m going to change the game. When I get tired, I move on. When the game changes it does bother me, but we have to change with the game.  Our success from the 70s used to be called creativity. 

DD: What issues are dear to you?

S: Education, equality. Health care. Racism. This country is still dealing with racism. Donald Trump has showed us he can act a straight up fool and people will still believe in him.  He said once that he could shoot someone they would still follow him. He was right, people would still follow him. It got to the point that David Dukes , an open Klan member can run for president. He says, ‘looks like people are ok with it.’ It’s now safe for Klan members.  A lot of people are thinking, ‘I can put my robe back on, yep, I can put my robe back on.’

DD: What really angers you?

S: Ignorance. People who believe in that entitlement. Believing you’re entitled to something. Believing this is your country. Believing the military belongs to you, God belongs to you.  They believe they are the only ones who care about America.

DD: You have a serious side. Do people always expect you to be on?

S: Some people do. People who know you adjust to you. Young comics are always on. After you’ve been out there a while you understand that you don’t have to prove it.  

DD: Tell me something that your fans don’t know – and might surprise them.

S: I tell everything. When I’m on stage, I tell everything. If you haven’t see me you might be shocked to know that I cuss. They don’t think I cuss.  I mean I really cuss. 

DD: Do you remember your first professional laugh. If so, tell me about it.

S: I don’t know. I guess it was when I was in the Air Force talent show.  It was a joke a dude gave me. I didn’t know how to tell jokes. I said something about a base commander. First time I knew I could get a laugh I was in the eighth grade. I tried to make people laugh. Some of it backfired. I got punched in the face. 

DD: What is there left to do? Maybe to do the White House correspondent’s dinner. 

S: I did that. I did it for the first President Bush. 
 I was the comedian for the correspondent’s dinner. They begged me to do it. The year I did it Mayor Pratt was in trouble in D.C. because she said she spaned her kids. When I was on stage I turned around and asked Mrs. Bush is she spanks her kids. She said, ‘yes.’ I said, ‘uh-huh.’ That was it. The trouble was over for Mayor Pratt. Someone said I ended the controversy right then.  It wasn’t televised.  She was in trouble.   I’m that dude. I’m the bull in the china shop.

DD: I get the feeling people think you’re just nice all the time. 

S: Oh, yeah.  Sometimes white executives will say something disrespectful. I just look at them and say, ‘You must can fight.’  I’m respecting you. You respect me. Sometimes you have to ask for respect . And when you do that, now I’m the one who is hard to work with. Now I’m hard to deal with. I’m still a nerd. I’m that guy that teaches his children that if it’s in a book, it can be learned. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Casting Announced For 'The Fantasticks'

PASADENA, CA (July 29, 2016) – The Pasadena Playhouse (Artistic Director Sheldon Epps) announced today full casting for THE FANTASTICKS by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. The production will be directed by Seema Sueko, who directed The Pasadena Playhouse’s critically acclaimed production of Real Women Have Curves last season.

The cast of eight features Philip Anthony-Rodriguez as El Gallo (Broadway’s Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, NBC’s Grimm); Regi Davis as Bellomy (Nickelodeon’s Game Shakers); Conor Guzmán as Matt (The Cabrillo Music Theatre’s The Little Mermaid); Ashley Park as Luisa (Broadway’s The King and I); contemporary dance artist Alyse Rockett as The Mute, Amir Talai as Mortimer (Nickelodeon’s Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awsomeness); Gedde Watanabe as Hucklebee (Broadway’s Pacific Overtures, John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles); and Hal Linden as Henry, whose extensive credits include ABC’s Barney Miller, and a Best Actor Tony Award for his portrayal of Mayer Rothschild in the Broadway musical The Rothschilds.

Director Seema Sueko says, “I can't wait to dive into rehearsals with this incredibly talented group of artists. Beyond their beautiful voices and great acting, these eight individuals bring a unique artistry and life experience to what we hope will be a timely and resonant production."

Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse says, "Seema and her creative team have brought together a wonderfully diverse, talented, charming, and persuasive cast for our production of this much loved musical.  I have no doubt that the entire company will bring both freshness and immediacy to this great classic that will have audiences not just rediscovering the show, but in fact seeing it as if for the first time.  I very much look forward to their contributions to this true gem of a musical."

Tom Jones, lyricist and book writer of THE FANTASTICKS, says, "I have been a fan of The Pasadena Playhouse for a long time. I have been a fan of Seema Sueko for a much shorter time, as we met online just a few months ago when she wrote me describing her ideas for a new way to approach THE FANTASTICKS.  I was so impressed by what she wrote that we began a series of emails, tossing ideas and possibilities back and forth like two jugglers in a vaudeville show.  When she was finally able to come visit me at my home we began to pin down our ideas to specifics, and I began, after nearly sixty years, to rewrite a few sections of THE FANTASTICKS.”

The creative team for THE FANTASTICKS includes Music Director David O, choreographer Kitty McNamee, scenic designer David F. Weiner; costume designer Shirley Pierson; lighting designer Josh Epstein; sound designer Joe Huppert; and fight choreographer Tim Weske.

Preview performances begin at The Pasadena Playhouse (39 S. El Molino Avenue in Pasadena) Sept. 6, 2016 with the official press opening on Sept. 11, 2016. THE FANTASTICKS will play through Oct. 2, 2016.

THE FANTASTICKS opened on May 3, 1960, and played off-Broadway for 17,162 performances before closing on Jan. 13, 2002, making it the longest running musical in history. Winner of a Tony Honor for Excellence in Theatre, THE FANTASTICKS is a lyrical and romantic musical that tells an allegorical love story about a boy, a girl, two fathers and a wall. This beloved musical has been seen in over 67 countries and performed in locations ranging from The Peking Opera to The White House.

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.  The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets, priced from $25 to $135, are available online at; by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529; or visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, Tuesday – Sunday from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. during non-performance dates.  On performance dates the Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Sunday.  For more information, visit

'xXx: The Return of Xander Cage' Trailer Gets More Than 100 Million Views In Its First Week

HOLLYWOOD, CA (July 29, 2016) – The new trailer for Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios’ “xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE” generated more than 100 million views across Facebook and YouTube in its first week of release, the fastest to reach that number for any Paramount Pictures film. The trailer, which offers fans a sneak peek at Vin Diesel reprising his iconic role as an extreme athlete-turned-superspy, debuted online July 19. “xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE” opens in theaters January 20, 2017. 

The third explosive chapter of the blockbuster franchise that redefined the spy thriller finds extreme athlete turned government operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) coming out of self-imposed exile and on a collision course with deadly alpha warrior Xiang and his team in a race to recover a sinister and seemingly unstoppable weapon known as Pandora’s Box. Recruiting an all-new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself enmeshed in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of world governments. Packed with the series’ signature deadpan wit and bad-ass attitude, “xXx: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE” will raise the bar on extreme action with some of the most mind-blowing stunts to ever be caught on film.

The film is directed by D.J. Caruso and produced by Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum, Vin Diesel and Samantha Vincent.

View the trailer here

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Long Beach Jazz Fest Set For August 12-14

The 29th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival is set to take place Aug.12-14, at Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach.  The festival will feature artists whose performances are rooted in jazz.

Under the direction of Kimberly Benoit, president of Rainbow Promotions, LLC, this annual event is "all about jazz."

For three days, Rainbow Promotions, LLC will again transform Rainbow Lagoon Park into a unique environment energized with music, food, health awareness and a jazz fest ambience.

For more than 29 years, the #LBJazzFest has been a trailblazer consistently defining and transcending the essence of all that a jazz festival can be.  More than music, mingling, munching and marveling at merchandise, attendees will enjoy a beautiful lagoon and coastal surroundings. Specialty vendors, health & wellness specialists, and guest speakers are available to share the latest information, products and services to enhance overall well-being of body, mind and spirit. 

The lineup is as follows:

Fri., August 12, 2016 – 
Michael Franks; Peter White / Paul Taylor / Euge Groove; Elan Trotman / Althea René; and MAJOR.

Sat., August 13, 2016-
Jeffrey Osborne; BWB featuring Norman Brown / Kirk Whalum / Rick Braun; The Rippingtons; Everette Harp; Paul Jackson Jr.; and Mindless Groove

Sun., August 14, 2016
Dave Koz and David Sanborn: Side by Side; Michael Lington / Kenny Lattimore; Sax Pack featuring Jeff Kashiwa / Steve Cole / Kim Waters; Stanley Jordan; Al Williams Jazz Society (with special guest); and Richard “88 Fingers” Turner, Jr.

Guests will also experience “A Healthy Taste of Jazz” at the Health & Wellness Pavilion where the focus is on nourishing mind, body, and soul. The event features renowned musical artists, wellness speakers and leaders, treatment centers, vendors and healthy food options. Festival attendees are offered tools for creating a healthier lifestyle. Information and experiences are available to help festival goers feel more energized, focused and de-stressed.

For that special festival experience, VIP attendees are provided premiere services: a three-course dinner service with linens, a personal waiter, wine, and access to VIP amenities.   

In addition, luxurious, private cabanas have become increasingly popular with jazz patrons. They are furnished, can accommodate up to six people, and come with a personal bar-service attendant.  Each cabana guest receives a complimentary souvenir program and access to VIP amenities.   To purchase a cabana, call 562.424.0013. 

Matt Damon Returns To Play 'Jason Bourne'

By Darlene Donloe

Matt Damon is back!  Jason Bourne is back!  Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne!  Life is good!

Hip Hip Hooray!

The last Bourne film was four years ago and starred Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy.  There’s nothing wrong with Renner. It’s just that Damon owns the Jason Bourne character.

It’s that stoic, stern look, that I-gotta-get-there stride, that deadly fighting style and that undeniable likeability and charisma. And, more importantly, there’s Bourne – the man of very few words!  Very few words!

On July 29, the iconic Jason Bourne, the CIA’s most lethal former operative, returns with lots of action and intrigue.

First there was 2002’s The Bourne Identity, then came 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy and then 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum.  There was also 2012’s The Bourne Legacy (which did NOT star Damon). Now we have Jason Bourne.

With any Bourne film you know exactly what you’re going to get. They are going to come close to cornering him – but to no avail.   There are enormous and exciting fight scenes and heart-pounding car chases.  

This movie doesn’t disappoint!  It’s the perfect summer flick – full of fireworks.

This time around Bourne finds out who killed his father and why!  It’s an eye-opening scenario that puts Bourne on his heels.

Who can he trust?  Should he go back in?

If you know Jason Bourne, you know he trust no one – and for good reason.

Although it’s been 14 years since the character first became a fan favorite, Jason Bourne hasn’t missed a stride – and neither has Matt Damon.

It's been 10 years since Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) walked away from the agency that trained him to become a deadly weapon. And he is still as badass as ever.

In an effort to draw Bourne into the open, CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) assigns hacker and counterinsurgency expert Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) to find him. Lee suspects that former operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is also looking for him. Lee uses the scariest cyber tactics in which to find Bourne. It proves that Big Brother is watching and knows a bit too much about your daily moves. And, she’s right. Nicky has some important information for Bourne that will give him the answers he’s been looking for. Bourne and Nicky learn that Dewey is secretly developing his own shadow government with the help of tech guru. The results, of which, could be catastrophic. As Lee begins tracking the duo, Bourne finds himself back in action battling some of the very people that made him who he is today.

In his attempt to save the world, Bourne, once again, makes his way around the world as he systematically tries to figure out what is going on. There’s Athens, Berlin, London and, of course, ending up in the states, notably Vegas where he has a spectacular car chase on the strip. While Bourne is in the midst of doing his part for humanity, he is being targeted by an assassin known only as the Asset, played aptly by Vincent Cassel. 

To be honest, there isn’t anything new in the film. There isn’t anything we haven’t seen in the previous efforts.  This is classic Bourne. He’s back and ready to safeguard the brand.

Jason Bourne stars Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel and Tommy Lee Jones. It is directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Series, Captain Philips) and produced by Matt Damon, Gregory Goodman (X-Men: First Class, Captain Phillips, 8 Mile), Paul Greengrass, Frank Marshall (Back to the Future, The Sixth Sense, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). It’s written by Matt Damon, Paul Greengrass, Robert Ludlum (The Bourne Identity), Christopher Rouse (The Bourne Series, The Italian Job).

JASON BOURNE: RATED PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (need work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah), E (excellent), JASON BOURNE gets an O (oh, yeah)


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Disney's 'Moana' Set To Open November 23

BURBANK, Calif. (July 27, 2016) – Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Moana,” which opens in theaters nationwide on Nov. 23, 2016, features a dynamic roster of characters brought to life by a talented group of actors. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who were behind “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin,” “Moana” showcases the life-changing journey of a tenacious 16-year-old who teams up with the mighty demigod Maui to fulfill an ancient quest.
The newly revealed characters and voice talent join the already announced duo that includes newcomer Auli‘i Cravalho, who lends her voice to the title character, Moana, a teenager who dreams of becoming a master wayfinder, and Dwayne Johnson (HBO’s “Ballers,” “Central Intelligence”), who voices Maui—half god, half mortal, all awesome.
“Our assembled voice cast for this film is beyond our wildest dreams,” said Musker. “We are so fortunate to have this group of talented actors, many from Oceania, breathing life into their characters.”
Added Clements, “We are so thankful to have found such extraordinary people who not only capture the voices of these characters, they elevate them in every way.”

Joining Cravalho and Johnson are the following performers. 
·         JEMAINE CLEMENT (“The BFG,” “Despicable Me,” “Rio,” “Rio 2,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” Flight of the Conchords) provides the voice of TAMATOA, a self-absorbed, 50-foot crab who lives in Lalotai, the realm of monsters. The conceited crustacean wants to be more than a “bottom feeder” and overcompensates for this perceived shortcoming by covering himself in all things shiny.

·         RACHEL HOUSE (“Whale Rider,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”) lends her voice to GRAMMA TALA, Moana’s confidante and best friend, who shares her granddaughter’s special connection to the ocean. Although her son Tui, the chief of Motunui, is a no-nonsense leader, Gramma Tala most definitely dances to the beat of her own drum.

·         TEMUERA MORRISON (“Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones,” “Once Were Warriors,” “Six Days, Seven Nights”) voices Moana’s father, CHIEF TUI, the gregarious and well-respected leader of the people of Motunui Island. Chief Tui wants Moana to follow in his footsteps as leader of their people, but fears his daughter’s draw to the ocean and the world that lies beyond their reef.

·         NICOLE SCHERZINGER (Grammy®-nominated singer, West End's "Cats") voices Moana’s mother, SINA, who always has her daughter’s back. Playful, sharp and strong-willed, Sina appreciates Moana’s longing to be on the water, but also wants to protect her daughter from the fabled dangers beyond the reef. 

·         ALAN TUDYK, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ lucky charm (“Zootopia,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Big Hero 6”), is behind the voice of HEIHEI. Heihei is one dumb rooster—the village idiot, in fact. When the clueless chicken accidently stows away on Moana’s canoe, he lands a front-row seat for her epic journey.
The roster of characters also includes the KAKAMORA, an intense team of crazy, coconut-armored pirates who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and PUA, Moana’s loyal pet pig with puppy energy and an innocent puppy brain. 

Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why.  From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auliʻi Cravalho) meets the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess & the Frog”) and produced by Osnat Shurer (“Lifted,” “One Man Band”), “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016. 

Robin Barnes Is The Songbird of New Orleans

Robin Barnes

Having conquered hearts locally and captured media acclaim as “The Songbird of New Orleans,” award-winning jazz singer Robin Barnes is preparing to spread her soulful song beyond The Big Easy. On August 26, the powerfully-voiced siren who was named the Favorite New Orleans Musician earlier this year by New Orleans Magazine will issue her second EP, “Songbird Sessions,” on the Rhythm Elevation Records label. Barnes and bassist Pat Casey produced the intimate five-song acoustic jazz date of standards and gems made famous by her seminal influences such as New Orleans icons Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas. The first track being serviced to radio is Barnes’s smoldering and sultry rendition of Thomas’s “Ruler of My Heart.” 
Backed by Casey, drummers and percussionists Herlin Riley and Shannon Powell, and guitarists Steve Masakowski and Danny Abel, Barnes soars mightily on “Songbird Sessions.” Confident and assured, the twenty-something chanteuse unveils unadulterated passion with poise and in complete command on the rousing spiritual “Great Day” and the gentle jazz lullaby “Little Jazz Bird.” Barnes’s arresting take of Van Morrison’s “The Way Young Lovers Do” haunts. On the classic “My Funny Valentine,” her aching, delicate croon depicts an intrepid artist confronting her fragility head on.             

“’Songbird Sessions’ is about spreading my wings and singing with my soul. This little jazz bird is taking a leap and following a dream. The EP is made up of songs that I've been passionate about while growing up in New Orleans. This music helped me express my heart though song. I wanted to do something more intimate for this record with just vocals, bass, guitar and drums. Sometimes it was scary because it's just me and my vocals. There’s no big band or sounds to help cover my vulnerability or distract the listener. The tracks are open and powerful, but it's just me. As a young artist, I'm finding my voice and my self. Jazz has impact and power. I want to remind the world how amazing jazz music is,” said Barnes, who begins a six-week residency at the House of Blues in New Orleans on July 28 and will celebrate the EP at a hometown record release concert at Peaches Records on August 27.  

Barnes has come a long way since she started singing in church as a six-year-old and going on to performing in her family’s jazz band. Two years ago, she won Offbeat magazine’s Outstanding Millennial in Music Award. Her weekly gigs in New Orleans have not only endeared her to the city, but have brought national fanfare including a performance on “NCIS: New Orleans” as well as an abundance of press coverage in the pages of ESPNForbesEbonySouthern Living , Travel + Leisure and Southwest Magazine. Having become synonymous with the distinctive sounds of New Orleans by being featured in various media and marketing campaigns promoting the Crescent City, Barnes has adorned the cover of area newspapers and magazines and maintains a regular presence on local television. Her leadership role includes her running club, “Move Ya Brass,” which counts over 200 runners in the fitness program she created to help motivate her to get fit after recovering from a near fatal kidney ailment four years ago. Barnes’s first EP, “Me,” was a soul-pop effort released in 2013. For more information, please visit          

“Songbird Sessions” contains the following songs:

“Great Day”
“Little Jazz Bird”
“My Funny Valentine”
“Ruler of My Heart”
“The Way Young Lovers Do”

'Olympic Pride, American Prejudice' Documentary Set For Theatrical Release, Opens August 5

July, 1936 on the SS Manhattan. L-R: James LuValle, 400m Bronze Medalist; Archie Williams, 400m Gold Medalist; John Woodruff, 800m Gold Medalist; Cornelius Johnson, High Jump Gold Medalist; Mack Robinson, 200m Silver Medalist. The photo was taken on July, 1936 on the SS Manhattan. Photo credit: Olympic Pride, American Prejudice LLC.

LOS ANGELES & NEW YORK  (July 25, 2016) – Coffee Bluff Pictures  announces the theatrical release of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, a film directed by Deborah Riley Draper (Versailles “73:  American Runway Revolution) and narrated by Blair Underwood on August 5 at Cinema Village in New York and in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Monica Film Center.  The director will be in attendance for Q&As at select shows.  The film enjoyed a sold-out world premiere as an official selection in the documentary category at the Los Angeles Film Festival and is also an official selection at the 2016 Traverse City Film Festival. The film will open in 10 additional cities in September.

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice follows 18 African Americans, 16 men and 2 women, who defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler to win hearts and medals at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games.  While the world is familiar with Jesse Owens' story, this film tells the largely unknown story of the 17 other black Olympians. Though their untold stories faded into obscurity, their presence on the world stage in 1936 remains a seminal precursor to the modern American Civil Rights Movement and the struggle for equality in sports.

"Olympic Pride, American Prejudice is a deeply inspiring and emotional film that examines race, sports and implicit bias during the 1930s through the eyes and voices of 18 young Black Olympians, who laid the groundwork for so many movements,” said Deborah Riley Draper, Writer/Director. “Their experiences are as relevant today as they were 80 years ago.”

The film weaves rarely seen archival footage and photos with interviews of Carl Lewis, Isiah Thomas, Anita DeFrantz, Ambassador Andrew Young and Lonnie Bunch, III among others, including the families of the 1936 Black Olympians, German 1936 Olympics spectators and sports historians.

“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice is a film for all ages and for the ages,” says Blair Underwood, the film’s Narrator and Executive Producer. “Generations to come will be inspired by the perseverance, courage and patriotism of these 18 African American Athletes that faced Jim Crow America AND Nazi Germany during Berlin's 1936 Olympics. I am honored and proud to play but a small role in singing their praises!”
View the Trailer for the film at:

79 minutes * unrated * USA/Germany* 2016 *

Stars of 'Suicide Squad' Host Miami Block Party

Will Smith

In celebration of the highly anticipated release of SUICIDE SQUAD, stars of the film hosted a Miami block party at the infamous Wynwood Art District in MiamiThe urban influencers in attendance included: Bryant McKinnie, University of Miami & Super Bowl Champion;  Ace Hood, South Florida's very own acclaimed Hip Hop artist; Richard Way, founder of The Urban Miami and Alexis Brown, founder of Social Xchange, among other AA influencers such as Watch Jazzy and Shelah Marie. As a special surprise actor Will Smith was introduced to the crowd and started rapping the fan-favorite song, “Summer Time”, in which rapper Ace Hood didn't hesitate to join him by singing along. 


From director David Ayer (“Fury,” “End of Watch”) comes “Suicide Squad,” starring Oscar nominee Will Smith (“Ali,” “The Pursuit of Happyness”), Oscar winner Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Margot Robbie (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Focus”), Joel Kinnaman (Netflix’s “House of Cards”) and Oscar nominee Viola Davis (“The Help,” “Doubt”).

It feels good to be bad… Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous, incarcerated Super Villains, provide them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them off on a mission to defeat an enigmatic, insuperable entity.  U.S. intelligence officer Amanda Waller has determined only a secretly convened group of disparate, despicable individuals with next to nothing to lose will do.  However, once they realize they weren’t picked to succeed but chosen for their patent culpability when they inevitably fail, will the Suicide Squad resolve to die trying, or decide it’s every man for himself?
Written and directed by Ayer based on the characters from DC Comics, the film also stars Jai Courtney (“Insurgent”), Jay Hernandez (“Takers”), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“Thor: The Dark World”), Ike Barinholtz (“Neighbors”), Scott Eastwood (“Fury”), Cara Delevingne (“Paper Towns”), Adam Beach (“Cowboys & Aliens”), and Karen Fukuhara in her feature film debut. It is produced by Charles Roven and Richard Suckle, with Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Colin Wilson and Geoff Johns serving as executive producers.

Official Trailer:
In Theaters: August 5th

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thousands Flock To First L.A. Soul Music Festival

Melanie Fiona

By Darlene Donloe

The sun beamed a blazing 102 degrees at the Autry Museum, last Friday night, but it was nothing compared to the heat emanating from the talent on stage at the first L.A. Soul Music Festival, presented by Airborne Tickets.

The brainchild of Mark Douglas, this inaugural event, the first music festival to be held on the grounds of the Autry, was a hit as thousands of R&B enthusiasts came to hear some of the hottest acts in music.

The three day event (July 22-24) highlights national and internationally known artists and new artists who are making an impact in soul music.

Friday night, the festival featured Rahsaan Patterson, Eric Roberson, Melanie Fiona, Lalah Hathaway and Eric Benet.

Saturday’s lineup included Goapele, Loose Ends, Vivian Green, Angie Stone and Joe.  Sunday, the closing night of the festival, features Conya Doss, Avery Sunshine, Lyfe Jennings, Marsha Ambrosius and Jazmine Sullivan.

That’s 15 artists, over three days on one stage!

Rahsaan Patterson

Rahsaan Patterson kicked off the festival singing his hit, Crazy Baby, followed by Pop Life, Spend The Night Stop Breaking My Heart, Don’t You Know That and Where You Are.

Backstage he expressed how happy he was to open the festival.

“First let me say that anytime there is an opportunity to perform in front of people who are familiar with your work, it’s an honor, said Patterson.

A seasoned artist, Patterson, who said all of his CDs begin where his previous one left off, expressed his concern about the state of music.

“I try to stay focused on what inspires me,” said Patterson. “I have respect for all sounds, but I’m indifferent mainly because I’m from a different era. I began my career at a different time when music was different than it is today.  I will say, though, that some of what is popular today does influence me.”

Eric Roberson

Eric Roberson, dapper in a brown hat, turquoise blazer, brown pants and brown and turquoise shoes, kicked off his set with Picture Perfect.  He also sang his hits Mark on Me and Just Walk Away.

Melanie Fiona, who recently gave birth, looked fantastic in a flowing, black dress.  Her set included Give It To Me Right, Fool For You, Wrong Side of A Love Song and It Kills Me.

Fiona got the crowd on its feet as she called the evening a “night of love.”

Melanie Fiona

She injected a bit of activism into the evening when she asked the crowd if they believe that Black Lives Matter.

“If you do, then put your fist in the air,” said Fiona as she sang Break Down These Walls.

The crowd, fists high in the air, enthusiastically obliged.

Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway, who jokingly kept telling the crowd about her new CD called, Lalah Hathaway Live, kept the crowd swinging and swaying with her songs as well as covers. Her set included Baby, Baby Don’t Cry, Angel, Would You Mind, Yearning For Your Love, Somethin’ and Forever, For Always, For Love.

As she sang her late father, Donny Hathaway’s Little Ghetto Boy, photos of blacks who’ve been killed by the police were projected on the screen. A handful of the photos flashed included Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling and more.

At the end of her performance, Los Angeles Board of Public Works Commissioner Mike Davis, on behalf of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, presented Hathaway with an award for outstanding career and community achievements.

Eric Benet

Eric Benet closed out the night singing Chocolate Legs and his megahit Spend My Life With You.

Comedian Ron G kept the night flowing in between acts, with hilarious sets that kept the sweaty, but appreciative, crowd in stitches.

The L.A. Soul Music Festival continues through Sunday.

L.A. Soul Music Festival, The Autry Museum, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles. For tickets and information:; gates open at 4:30 
p.m., show is at 6:30 p.m.  #lasoulfest

**All pix are by Miki Turner