From DJ’s Friend Beverly

Sending you much love, DJ.  And, I will pray for you (in fact, I have been for the past 2 weeks, without knowing the situation.)  You are – as you know — an inspiration to me, re love, and living your life, and giving back. 

I love you.

Beverly

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From DJ’s friend Larry

DJ,

“I LOVE YOU” !!!. Far more than you can imagine. I’ve never met a more Loving, Caring,Human than you in all of my travels, and experiences.You demonstrate the utmost in “BALLS” in facing up to,and circumventing the roadblocks,and trials put before you,while focusing on other peoples problems,rather than dwelling on your own.

 I only wish that I was strong enough to exhibit a small percentage of the Love and devotion to others that you unwaveringly exude.You are a constant inspiration to me,and other in our crew,as we move around the world making music. We think,and talk about you a lot,even if we don’t always take the time to stay in touch as often as we would like.

GOD BLESS YOU.

LOVE,

Ragman,Roberta,Roy,Marsh,Justin,Sullivan,Quincy etal.  

“Trying times” means “keep on trying – don’t give up”

I’m troubled by the recent decision by the grand jury in Cleveland, OH, where the group of policemen were not indicted or substantially reprimanded for the killing of an unarmed African American, contributing to the further devaluation of African American and other minority lives.  Also alarming were the cases in Baltimore and Ferguson, MO, which erupted into public disobedience due to frustration stemming from the incident.  We’re still waiting for the verdict of the grand jury and investigation in the case of a 12 year old African American boy in Cleveland.

I’m turning 57 years old next month and have seen much police brutality throughout most of my life.  One of the earliest encounters I had was when my godbrother, Steven Russell, was killed by a police officer while in high school, unarmed and on route to the arcade from an after-school job.  His killer was not indicted and the whole process of investigation was heavily weighted toward accusing the victim, not much unlike the recent Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

All of this victimization and racial abuse seems even more sad in the times of an African American president.  The kind of disrespect and false accusations that have been hurled at him for the past six and a half years create the kind of climate where diminishing the value of African American lives is acceptable.  If the person holding the highest office in the U.S. can be disrespected, ridiculed, and made less of by his political peers and the common man, what chance do regular “John Q. Public” African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and homeless have to be treated with respect and common decency from police officers and the military establishment?  What kind of message does this send to all of our young people?  What type of stability does this establish for the foundation of households and domestic relationships?  It’s a disheartening time.  It seems like Eric Holder was just beginning to scratch the surface on developing policy that could lead to fundamental change in how the political and punitive systems deal with lesser enfranchised people.  I can only hope that Loretta Lynch can continue his investigations and add to the development of more positive and fair treatment of my brothers and sisters.

Social media, cell phone cameras, and other technologies are going to help eliminate the problem.  Eventually, the right type of evidence from the wrong kind of victims is going to be made available and ignite even further social unrest.  I’m hoping and praying that better policy and more egalitarian treatment take place before things get any worse.

I love you all.  Thanks for reading.  Let’s make it better!

Mothers mean so much!

Our mothers have taught us how to love ourselves and others.  They’ve been there for us and they’ve taught us how to be there for others we care about.  They’ve been examples and shown us how to live with the best and the worst of times.  We’ve also seen them endure hardships of their own and those of the people they care about.  One of the first and most consistent lessons that I learned from the man I admire most in my life, my father, was to always care for, support, and revere my mother (“you only get one” he would say).  He not only told me that but he showed me how by the way he loved and supported my grandmother.

All of you that read my messages, check out my Facebook, or view my webpage know how much my mother and grandmothers mean to me.  My mother has been a great source of support, love, strength, and kindness my entire life.  Despite the challenges that come from growing older, retirement, and helping her children through their different difficulties, my mom continues to set a stellar example of grace, dignity, intelligence, and kindness for me, my brother, and her grandchildren.  Even though it’s time for her to focus on herself and her needs, my mother continues to call me twice a day and interact with my friends and caregivers, making sure that I’m being taken care of.  She’s also in constant touch with my brother to make sure that he, his wife, and their children are OK, happy, and well taken care of.

My mom’s been having a particularly difficult time with her health these last couple of years.  We’ve all been supporting and praying for her as she continues to fight head on these challenges to reach a healthier and happier place in her life.  Nothing makes me more proud of my father and my brother than the way they are supporting my mom.  I’d appreciate all of you that read this to think a blessed thought of healing and contentment for my mom at this time, as I do for all of you.

Those unable to have a good relationship with their mother spend much of their life trying to fill that void.  Those who have lost their mothers realize how difficult it is to cope, especially without faith.  I have a friend who recently lost her mother, who was supportive and dedicated to her and her children throughout their lives.  I have another friend who recently lost his wife, the mother of his children.  He continues to represent her memory by being the kind of father and grandfather to their children and grandchildren that we would all cherish.

What I’m trying to say is, no matter what, a good mother, like a faithful God, is the gift that keeps giving.  Although we should do it more often, I think we should take this time to extend our appreciation, love, affection, and gratitude to that person that we mean so much to.

I love you guys!  Thanks for reading.

Wynton Marsalis on DJ

Quote

For about one and a half hours after the gig in San Diego on Saturday night, I stood on the sidewalk outside the backstage area with about sixty high school age students, their band directors and chaperones, signing autographs, taking pictures and fielding questions about everything from, “Should I whip my younger brother’s behind for x, y and z?” to “How many hours did you practice when you were my age?”

As the group wound down and I got into the car to leave, there were three sixteen year-old kids (they looked about that age) that asked for a picture. There was one who was very deeply engaged and he asked, “What does it take to be a really good musician?” I thought for a little while before answering, giving him the impression that I would provide some unknown and highly valuable key and said “You have to WANT to be.”

He searched my eyes for a second as if to say, “Man, are you messing with me?” Sensing his skepticism I said “No, lil’ brother. If you really want to be that good, you will figure out whatever you have to, to be what you want to be.” In the moment I tried to think of some analogy or story to help make the point more simply, but I couldn’t find a good one.

Little did I know that the next day as we pulled into the hotel in Northridge we would be greeted in the lobby by DJ Riley.

DJ is an intellectual of the first order. He is a connoisseur of culture, has been a good friend of JALC from the very beginning and is a purveyor of deep-rooted soul. He suffers from Morquio Syndrome, and has been in a wheelchair with very little limb movement since childhood. You wouldn’t know it by how much smack he talks, but I know it was a challenge for DJ to be here today. He lives in LA, and it takes a lot of planning for him to get around.

He is a broad and long-term thinker, who gives unerring and aggressively positive advice. Any opportunity to hang with him is to be cherished. So far, he has outlived his life expectancy by about 25 years.

I start out by saying to him, “Man, I wish you would have told me you were coming.” And he asks “Why? So you could convince me not to come?”

We talk about everything from the hood to Putin to education reform. He is a true blues man: “Yes, stuff is messed up out here but: Everything gon’ be alright this mornin’. Everything gon’ be alright.”

I’m reminded of a dance the LCJO played in the late 90’s out here in California. It was well attended and well under way, but still the people were just standing around being too shy to get out on the floor. Suddenly, DJ breaks out there scooting around with his electric wheelchair, doing his thing. It was the damnedest sight. Truly poetic. He actually got people out on the floor from a wheelchair.

After the gig as we all laughed and teased him about his dancing style, we asked him, “Why did you do it?” He said, “Man, I came here to dance. That’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I did. Y’all was swingin’. Herlin man! He was playing those drums.”

Yeah, DJ and I laughed thinking back on it. And I remembered that teenager from the night before who was looking for more out of my answer. I should have told him about DJ.

It’s now 4:00 pm and time for DJ to leave and for us to go to sound check. He only speaks in a whisper, so he signals for me to get close enough to hear. “When y’all come around Los Angeles, just assume I’m coming.”

That’s what I should have told the youngster.
~Wynton

DJ-27

Recognition of Effort is Important

DJ Riley

Wynton  and jazz have been important to me since the mid 1970s.  Whether it’s because of my tenaciousness and help from friends or my radio connections at the schools I went to, I’ve been able to get backstage for years and stay in touch with musicians, particularly jazz musicians.  It’s music that’s older than me.  But ever since George Benson’s “Masquerade” and “Breezin” and Grover Washington’s “Mr. Magic,” I’ve been hooked on it and connected with it, like I have with Motown and the R&B classics from the 1960s to the 21st century.  Getting a chance to meet the “young lions,” the practitioners of jazz and soul music (a term Wynton uses), has given me a particular love, energy, and connection.  A lot of these young guys that have connected with this timeless music have inspired and motivated me to keep active and involved, just like the Civil Rights movement that I was born into.

Wynton is a very busy, intelligent, and participant individual that I’m proud to know and blessed to be able to make the effort to go and see.  It makes me particularly proud to know that he still thinks of me and is pleased with the relationship that we’ve cultivated and what I’ve been able to bring to his life and the music.  I’m particularly happy to get this message today, since I’m embarking on a weekend long vigil to support the Roy Hargrove quintet, who are in town at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood.  Roy Hargrove is my second favorite jazz musician, whose dedication, creativity, and enthusiasm I’ve enjoyed since I’ve seen him when he was 17 at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland some years ago.  He’s as talented in every facet of the music as Wynton and Branford Marsalis and just as dedicated.  I’m pleased to have watched his career evolve and I look forward to sharing it with my jazz comrades in L.A. this weekend.

I love all these guys for the respect and dedication and commitment that they’ve made to our musical culture and the respect and warmth they’ve shared with me this past 30 something years.

Much love always,
DJ

Valentine’s Greeting

Happy Valentine’s to all of you that I love and who love and keep positive thoughts for me. I didn’t get a chance to send you all my usual New Year’s message. Things change and I haven’t been able to coordinate it. Me and my boy Brian are working on a different schedule these days. But he still keeps me in touch.

I’m so thankful to be here in 2015! My mom’s back is not where she would like it to be yet. She’s planning on visiting later this month, and I’m so happy. I’m looking forward to seeing her and my dad. It’s a big year for my family. My brother’s boys are both graduating, Tommy from high school, and Jordan from middle school. We’re so proud of both of them. I’m looking forward to being a part of that celebration, if everything works out. They know I love them so much.

Valentine’s Day is a special day for me. It’s a day of love. My life has been blessed and graced with love from so many people in so many places. My love for music, especially jazz and old school R & B, keeps me invigorated. I’m hoping we get some more from both this year in L.A. and I get a chance to get out and see it and be part of helping to keep those great traditions alive.

I’ll be 57 this July and I’m thankful! I’m looking forward to it. It’s the power of love and prayer that’s keeping me here. I can feel it! Keep thinking good thoughts for me. Write me, call me, and come and visit when you have a chance. I’m making every effort to stay as vital as I can, so I can be contributory and helpful to you when we make our connection. I love you very much. Thanks for everything! Stay in touch!

Again, Happy Valentine’s. I hope you were able to share it with people you love!

Always,
DJ