Monday, June 29, 2020

David Sancious Opens Our Eyes to Good Trouble

by Gregg Chadwick

“A time comes when silence is betrayal”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
  April 4, 1967

"So you have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate, to speak up, speak out, and get in good trouble. You can do it. You must do it. Not just for yourselves but for generations yet unborn."
- John Lewis 
  Lawrence University, June 2015 

David Sancious’ new album Eyes Wide Open evokes Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Gil Scott Heron's Winter in America, Herbie Hancock's The Prisoner, Steely Dan's Kid Charlemagne, and Terence Blanchard's music for Spike Lee's films. Sancious describes the album as “a movie for your ears.” Sancious' vocals, keyboards, and guitar are combined with spoken word passages, chants from protest marches, and news clips that form a cinematic soundscape which ventures into the urgent concerns of our time. Racial injustice, police violence against black folks, and the environmental destruction of our burning planet all come into view as we traverse Sancious' musical journey. Four powerful lyrical explorations open the album. 

Marvin Gaye's What's Going On begins with the sounds of a party for a Vietnam veteran who has returned home. Underneath the celebration though is existential dread. In a similar fashion David Sancious' Eyes Wide Open opens with the muffled voices of a crowd marching.  We hear the voices of protesters calling for change. Then Sancious sings "Hey it's not OK!" 

Sancious critiques the Trumpian disdain for reason and science while at the same time grooving with the message of the streets. "Keep your eyes wide open, so you can really see", Sancious sings before warning us that "Shoot you in the back is the name of the town, somewhere in America." 

Adriano Molinari's drumming propels us forward. Is there hope somewhere in America? Sancious' soundscape compels us to feel and see what's going on. 

Gregg Chadwick
22"x30" gouache on paper 2020

The album's second song, In the Middle of the Night describes the mental cost of systemic racism and a presidency gone crazy. A gentle Sakamoto-like piano opens the song. 
Sancious speaks hushed lines of woe: 

"Five o'clock in the morning man ... Can't sleep, Can't believe I'm in this situation
These mathematics ... can't make it work
Brother needs a job!"

Then with a hint of David Bowie's Black Star voice Sancious sings:
"Oh ... Woe is We 
 Such a strange society 
I bow my head and bend my knee 
In the middle of the night, I don't sleep so well"

The recent Medium post by Emily Joyner and Caroline Joyner comes to mind. 
They write:
"Like so many Black people in this country, we struggled to sleep, eat, or function in any way.
White people, consider this moment your call to action. This is your violence, your history, and your responsibility. Racism is not a “cause” to consider donating to or learning about — it is the original sin of this nation, and your safety is predicated on its strength....Your white inaction is violence...The scars of these environments are deep and long-lasting for Black people. It is not our responsibility to educate you. You must realize your complicit behavior and do something about it, right now. Your indifference to a system you actively participate in is appalling. Your silence not only disgusts us — it endangers our lives."

Eyes Wide Open's third song Urban Psalm #3 opens with news bytes and a clip of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech1
"The basic thing about a man is not his specificity, but his fundamentals, not the texture of his hair or the color of his skin, but his eternal dignity and worth."

"May I walk the streets alone, free from suspicion?" Sancious sings. 
"When you look at me is it me that you see? Not something that you saw last night on TV. Because that's not me." 

 Personal injury lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey threaten to commit personal injury against peaceful, unarmed Black Lives Matter protesters walking on the street in St. Louis, Missouri on June 28, 2020

Listening to the song brought to mind the absurdly frightened, wealthy couple in St Louis, Missouri brandishing weapons at a group of peaceful protesters marching by their home on the way to a protest in front of the mayor's house. The protesters chant:

“We are here, we’ve been here, we ain’t leaving. We are love.” 

The fourth song If confronts disasters due to climate change, environmental unrest, and racial strife. 
Sancious asks us:
"Can you see this world? So bright and shiny." 
The piano, drums, sax lines, and guitar are bright and open - imploring us to see the beauty in our world. And to do something to preserve our endangered earth.

 “If the tears won’t leave your eyes 
If the sun fell from the sky 
If you could choose the color of your skin.”

Four instrumental pieces create the second half of Sancious' auditory film.

Flip It combines Sancious propulsive Gary Clark Jr.- like guitar lines with keyboard arranged horn parts which echo Herbie Hancock's civil rights movement inspired album The Prisoner. Hancock used instrumental jazz to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Sancious also acknowledges the vision of MLK in his jazz inflected Eyes Wide Open. 

The Treehouse, the second instrumental track on Eyes Wide Open, brings to mind Bruce Hornsby's The Way It Is and 2Pac's riff on that song in his masterpiece Changes

December mixes Spanish guitar with Terence Blanchard-like keyboards. We are in a Spanish movie that director Almodovar would relish.  The soundscape is broad and healing. We are globally connected in a pandemic and a shared future. 

The album's final song War in Heaven harkens back to Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock with its swirl of sax parts and hushed vocals. A love supreme indeed! 
As Terence Blanchard wrote recently on NPR:
"We need a song with a melody that allows us all to say our piece, and lyrics that urge us to be our best selves. We need a future where we can rely on our own beliefs and not depend on those who have none. It's a precious moment in time when many hearts, ears, and minds are now open to listening, so let's take advantage of it and make our mark on the world. Let's all listen to each other, and write a song to sing together that will give us some peace. We are well overdue." 
David Sancious gives us the music to see with eyes wide open which implores us not to remain silent about the systemic racism in America, but instead to embrace John Lewis' "good trouble" as we create a more equitable society.  

Sancious describes Eyes Wide Open as, “The best work I've ever done.” I have to agree. 
Buy David Sancious' Eyes Wide Open here

Track Listing
Eyes Wide Open; In The Middle Of The Night; Urban Psalm #3; If; Flip It; The Tree House; December; War In Heaven.

David Sancious: piano; Will Calhoun: drums; Michael Bland: drums; Vinnie Colaiuta: drums; Joe Bonadio: drums.

David Sancious: synth, guitar, vocals, organ.

*All Images from David Sancious Eyes Wide Open Lyric Video by John McCracken unless otherwise noted.

1. "Some Things We Must Do," Address Delivered at the Second Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change at Holt Street Baptist Church
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
December 5, 1957
Montgomery, Ala.

More on David Sancious:

David joined Bruce Springsteen’s band at 17 as one of the founding members of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band whose name came from the street that David’s mom lived on in Belmar, New Jersey. It can be said that without David Sancious, there would be no E Street Band.

In 1974, David left the E Street Band and formed his own jazz-fusion ensemble Tone with drummer Boom Carter.

“I felt at the time I wanted to give my songwriting the same kind of focus and attention that Bruce was giving his”, said David. 

David Sancious has created 7 gold albums and toured with Sting, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Santana, and Seal among others. 


Herbie Hancock The Prisoner

So timeless, yet so timely. An ode to Martin Luther King Jr. and the continual struggle. Say it with me - Black Lives Matter!

Eyes Wide Open

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Putin paid a bounty to kill American soldiers. @realDonaldTrump knew about it but did nothing.

Cocktails with a Curator: Stubbs's 'Portrait of Warren Hastings'

Mentioned in the episode is William Dalrymple's The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire


NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal and NPR

Link at:

Panel Discussion: 'Who's Not in the Picture?'

Friday, June 26, 2020

June 26, 2015 - Equality Shines on the White House

On June 26, 2015 Marriage Equality became the law of the land and with hundreds of others we celebrated on the Supreme Court steps. Later on that glorious day, I chatted with President Obama's photographer Pete Souza in front of the White House which was lit up in rainbow colors in celebration of the LGBTQ community.
While we watched, the Presidential Marine Corps air unit returned with President Obama from his moving speech at the memorial service for the church folks who were gunned down by a young white supremacist in South Carolina. President Obama sang "Amazing Grace" that day.
In her current Netflix film Becoming, Michelle Obama reflects upon that day as well. Michelle Obama describes how she and her daughter Malia sneaked outside that night, needing to share in the crowd's joy after all the terrible grief in Charleston. They let the jubilation soften their anguish. Arrivals and departures. The struggle for equality for all continues.

#art #artandsocialjustice #equality #marriageequality #humanrights #charlestonsc @petesouza #theotherartfairla #theotherartfair

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Stand Together!

Christopher Knight: The Critic Whose Love for LA Uplifted Its Arts Community


In his current position as art critic at the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Knight has been speaking truth to power for almost four decades. He charted the contemporary art waters in a city that has since become one of the world’s art hubs before most people ever noticed. He doesn’t shy away from controversy, as his recent columns about the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s renovations suggest. This year he was awarded two special honors: the Rabkin Lifetime Achievement Award for Art Journalism and the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.
In this episode, he shares stories about his years in LA, his work as a newspaper art critic, and even a very curious letter he received from actor Charleton Heston about artist Andrew Wyeth.
The music featured in this episode is the track “Zuma" by Austin David.
Subscribe to Hyperallergic’s Podcast on iTunes, or anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

Nils Lofgren "All God's Children"

As quoted by American Songwriter, Nils writes of his contribution:
I've been listening to Willie’s edgy, soulful rock 'n' roll for decades. Willie's always delivered. When asked to sing a track for this wonderful compilation I was sure my first song choice had to have been taken. I was thrilled the brilliant, "All God’s Children" was still available for me to record. A song of hope for the ages, more poignant now then ever as our entire human race strives for equality and peace, through a startling and collective insanity of hellish greed and moral corruption. I'm joined by a joyous choir to revel in this universal cry of hope for all. So raise your voices! We’re All God's Children! Believe, Nils

Saturday, June 20, 2020


Mass Poor People’s Assembly &
National Moral March on Washington, DC:
A Digital Gathering
June 20, 2020
Broadcast on 6/20 at 10 AM EST
& 6 PM EST; 6/21 at 6 PM EST
Text MORAL to 90975 or Visit to Take Action!*


Friday, June 19, 2020

Juneteenth 2020

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Thoughts on Rooting Out Systemic Racism

"Systemic racism pervades every part of our society, including law enforcement — and we have to do the hard work to root it out. In January, I sat down with Jake, a field organizer on our campaign, to listen to what he had to say and discuss how we can move forward:" Joe Biden

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

House Judiciary Hearing - Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability

Watch @HouseJudiciary Committee Hearing Now - "Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability" #JusticeInPolicing Act
Tune in to hear from
@vanitaguptaCR @Sifill_LDF and others:

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Michelle Obama's 2020 Commencement Address | Dear Class Of 2020

"So much has changed so quickly. And if any of you are confused or scared or angry—or just plain overwhelmed—I just want you to know that you aren’t alone. I am feeling all that, too. And I have a few things I want to say about it." - Michelle Obama

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Bye Ivanka: A Public Disservice Announcement

Welcome to Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC


Senator Kamala Harris at Black Lives Matter Plaza
June 5, 2020
photo by Douglas Emhoff

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

(Pt 10) Under the Blacklight: The Fire This Time

Build The Future | Joe Biden For President

General Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution

James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution
In an extraordinary condemnation in the Atlantic, the former defense secretary backs protesters and says the president is trying to turn Americans against one other. Full Statement Below:


I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.
When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.
We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.
James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.
Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.
We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Park. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.
Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.
James Mattis

A conversation with President Obama: Reimagining Policing in the Wake of...

Black Lives Matter!

Springsteen Tells It Like It Is!