Shirlette Ammons pays tribute to ‘bulldagger’ Gladys Bentley: ‘Twilight for Gladys Bentley’
By Sound Check
February 5, 2014
Hailing from Durham, NC – the fierce poet pays homage to a blues legend in her ballsy new debut album, Twilight for Gladys Bentley. Gladys Bentley was a famed, openly gay blues singer from Harlem Renaissance back in the 1920’s. The Renaissance (also known as the New Negro Movement) was an upsurge of African American culture and arts in Harlem immediately following the end of World War I. Black artists and creative’s from the south, migrated to the East Coast neighborhood to find solace and like minded individuals such as themselves. Artist Jacob Lawrence and writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston were part of the Renaissance.
By Ayara Pommells, AFROPUNK Contributor *
Twilight For Gladys Bentley “re-imagines” the trials and tribulations of the Gladys Bentley valiant escapades-. From proudly and purposefully donning men’s attire in “Get Dressed”, the rockier “Dandelion (Eatin’Out)” right down to the tremendously erotic “Late Night Slow Dance” whereas “Twilight” is embedded within the realms of romance and intrigue. “Purple Neon Pink Champagne” features the husky vocals of Little Hollow and for me, is one of the most outstanding.
Shirlette does not use the medium of jazz for her laudable tribute. She sticks firmly within her element and spins her whimsical tales from her preferred vehicle of hip hop. The similarities between Bentley and Ammons are evident. At times, they are completely one in this project which is essentially, a blending of both musicians. It is also worth noting that Shirlette Ammons does not beat around the bush. Her references are very graphic and even jaw dropping at times. Do not fret… A little naughty never hurt anybody.
Shirlette has this to say:
“I was wondering what Bentley would be like as a ‘bulldagger’ artist, present-day.” I concluded that she would create hip hop music as it is the music of posturing and prowess of our day, no different than blues was during Bentley’s era.”
The project features Sy Smith, W. Ellington Felton, Little Hollow, Jocelyn Ellis, Max Bedroom and more.