Jazz Spot­light

bookmarks, culture, reading

bookmarks, v5/i5

i want you album cover

musical debate: greatest album of all time

In my opin­ion, Mar­vin Gaye’s I Want You is the great­est — start-to-finish — album of all time.

Here is a link to Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Great­est Albums of all Time, pub­lished in 2012. There are some really good and well-known albums on the list. I was amazed by the num­ber of albums that I have never lis­tened to all the way through, if at all, but now I’m curi­ous. I think my ear has matured and broad­ened over the years, and I can appre­ci­ate a greater spec­trum of musi­cal genres.Thanks to ser­vices like Spo­tify, Rdio, Apple Music, Google Play Music, etc., I have greater access to these highly-regarded albums. For instance, Spo­tify has a playlist that is built from the 2003 Rolling Stone great­est list.

What say you? What do you believe is the great start-to-finish album of all time?

Before you answer in the com­ment sec­tion below, allow me to clar­ify nam­ing the great­est start-to-finish album of all time means that it had absolutely no clunk­ers. The album has to be one that you would never want to lift the nee­dle or hit skip to get to the next track. This is not about how big one, or more, of the songs were on the album. It’s not about how many times an album went plat­inum. (Michael Jackson’s Thriller for instance.) It’s also not about an album that you feel defines your youth, or some tremen­dous period in your life. If you know that album had skip­pable  tracks, it doesn’t qualify.

So. There it is. Fire away. I look for­ward to read­ing about your choice for the great­est start-to-finish album of all time.

business, career

i demoted myself

About eight months ago, I was pro­moted to a new job within my orga­ni­za­tion. Yes­ter­day, was my last day on that job. For all intents and pur­poses, I demoted myself.

The deci­sion to walk away from the new posi­tion — along with the bump in salary and increased vis­i­bil­ity — was not one that I reach with ease. I knew that leav­ing the posi­tion would be dis­ap­point­ing to the peo­ple who selected me for the role. It would dis­ap­point­ing to the group (or at least some of them) that I was brought in to direct. I also knew that some friends would be sur­prised, if not shocked that I would give up a pro­mo­tion and a salary bump.

In spite of all the exter­nal voices that said stay, I had to lis­ten to my inter­nal voice for once. I sim­ply was not will­ing to ignore the stress, anx­i­ety, and dis­com­fort. Far too often, I think that a lot us just accept, out of hand, that con­sid­er­able stress is part of a job. I under­stand that new jobs, par­tic­u­larly ones with increased respon­si­bil­ity and expo­sure, can be stress­ful. How­ever, I reached place where I real­ized that the stress and anx­i­ety I was expe­ri­enc­ing was not healthy nor sus­tain­able. I was on a short trip to a spa resort in Penn­syl­va­nia with Carla. I woke up about three in the morn­ing, my heart rac­ing and fully drenched in sweat. I sat and thought about what was the cause of this anx­i­ety. It was pretty obvious.

Even though I had an epiphany in my hotel room at that spa in Penn­syl­va­nia, it really took me a cou­ple of months to acknowl­edge that some­thing wasn’t right. I usu­ally, I did a lot of soul-searching and intro­spec­tion. I had to exam­ine why I was will­ing to forgo my hap­pi­ness to please oth­ers. I didn’t want to make waves or upturn the apple cart. At some point, I real­ized that what I was expe­ri­enc­ing was very anal­o­gous to what a lot of us go through with our par­ents. A num­ber of grew up try­ing to please our par­ents. We wanted them to notice us. We wanted them to approve and be proud of what we did, the grades we received, and the deci­sions we made. Unfor­tu­nately, a lot of us carry that need for approval well into adult life. The hard part is that the need for approval no longer rests solely with our par­ents. It now extends to friends, sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers, col­leagues, and bosses.

Hand­ing over the assess­ment of your value and hap­pi­ness to another per­son is not a good thing. I have been flat­tered at var­i­ous times in my career that peo­ple saw a lot in me, and tapped me to take on big­ger jobs with greater respon­si­bil­ity. I’ve had a pat­tern of fol­low­ing those expec­ta­tions, even when I wasn’t cer­tain whether those new oppor­tu­ni­ties were in my best inter­est. It was only work­ing through where I was with this new posi­tion that I real­ized I was let­ting what peo­ple thought I should be doing over­shadow what really mat­tered to me. When I went into to talk to my boss about my con­cerns, I felt like a lit­tle kid walk­ing try­ing to tell his dad that he got a bad grade. I was anx­ious and had a lump in my throat. What the hell? Inter­est­ingly, I found that bal­ance between want­ing my par­ents to be proud of me, but mak­ing moves that I felt were in my best inter­est, a num­ber of years ago. My rela­tion­ship with my par­ents has never been stronger since I accepted them as they are, and asked them to do the same with me. If I had reached this point with the peo­ple who made indeli­ble implants on my per­son­al­ity, why was I so wor­ried about my boss and colleagues?

I arrived early one day and asked to speak with my boss. One of the senior staff gave him a bit of a heads up about my con­cerns regard­ing the job, but I don’t think he was expect­ing what came next. For the first few min­utes, I was hav­ing an out-of-body expe­ri­ence as I sat talk­ing to my boss about my desire to leave the job. I was talk­ing around the real issue. I was rat­tling off some rather cliché, canned answers. As I was talk­ing, I could hear a voice in my head say­ing “What are you doing? Get in there Lyons! Say it! Tell him why you really want to leave!” I finally came clear.

“This job is just more than I want to do.”

Boom! There it was. Finally some hon­esty. For­get clichés like “I bit off more than I can chew.” I was pretty straight for­ward. The job required much more energy and men­tal space than I was will­ing exert or give up. Last sum­mer, I was con­vinced that I needed at least one more sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge in my career. I was cer­tain that I wanted to be busier and have more of (what I thought was) an impact. This came up in my con­ver­sa­tion with my boss. I acknowl­edged that this desire for change and a chal­lenge were men­tioned in my inter­view. I am not one for mak­ing a bunch of excuses, so I bluntly stated that I changed my mind. I real­ized that the pace and vol­ume of work in my pre­vi­ous job were just right for where I am in my life. I have a lot of things going on out­side of the office that I want to have time for, as well as emo­tional and men­tal head space. There was some dis­cus­sion about work-life bal­ance. My boss sug­gested that the idea of work-life bal­ance is a bit over­played because work is part of life. That may be the case for some peo­ple, but bal­ance — or even a lit­tle imbal­ance toward life over work — is really impor­tant to me. I thought of the Dave Barry quote, “You should not con­fuse your career with your life.”


I have a very good work ethic, but I’ve reached a point in my life where my ‘life’ is far more impor­tant than climb­ing a career lad­der. I don’t fault any­one for pur­su­ing more respon­si­bil­ity, com­pen­sa­tion, expo­sure, and acco­lades. I have some very high-performing friends. I admire their drive and am proud of them. I had to be hon­est with myself (first) and oth­ers that am just not will­ing to com­mit the amount of time, energy, and men­tal space to work at that level. Not when the con­se­quence is lost peace of mind, and time to pur­sue things that mat­ter to me with­out feel­ing guilty. I had to learn and accept that it’s ok to take a step back and breathe.

So there it is. I demoted myself and I am proud that I made the deci­sion. I have no regrets. I feel lib­er­ated emo­tion­ally, and proud that I was able to be true to what I believed was best. I am very appre­cia­tive to have the love and sup­port of my fam­ily and friends. Even when they don’t always under­stand where I am com­ing from, they take the time to lis­ten and know that I tend to think things through pretty well before mak­ing a deci­sion. In this case, I didn’t con­sult with as many before mak­ing a deci­sion; admit­tedly because I didn’t want any­one to talk me out of what I wanted. I did talk with my wife and son, because the deci­sion impacts them most directly. The finan­cial aspect of giv­ing up a pro­mo­tion was some­thing that Carla and I had to talk through. The focus of my con­ver­sa­tion with Noah was much more about telling him the “why” and my effort to pro­vide an exam­ple as his father to fol­low and be true to your heart.

I look for­ward to return­ing to my ‘old’ job on Mon­day, and reunit­ing with the staff I’ve worked with for the past six years. It feels like com­ing home — in a good way. Though I’m say­ing I demoted myself, I know the oppo­site is true. I actu­ally found the courage to give myself an emo­tional and men­tal promotion.

What about you? Have you ever reached a place where you could go up the career lad­der and you chose to stay in place or take a step back? I would love to hear how you faced the deci­sion, what were the personal/professional con­sid­er­a­tions, and how did you feel afterward?



culture, movies



Dope could have just as eas­ily been titled “Dare to be Dif­fer­ent.” The movie, a bit of a mash up of Boyz n the Hood and Super­bad, is clever and funny. In cliché movie review par­lance, it’s a com­ing of age story. In more every­day speak, Dope is a story that prob­a­bly mir­rors many of our lives and the ups and downs of being a teenager. It’s about a few kids that found joy in laugh­ter in spite of their chal­leng­ing envi­ron­ment, as well as not being the coolest or the tough­est. I par­tic­u­larly appre­ci­ated the end­ing that raises a bril­liant ques­tion about race with­out being preachy or heavy-handed.

Shameik Moore did a great job as the lead char­ac­ter, Mal­colm; and Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons were good as his part­ners in crime — lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively. The music and clothes were char­ac­ters in the film as well. The only act­ing low point of the movie was the per­for­mance turned in by Roger Guen­veur Smith. It was just too melo­dra­matic and syrupy.

The only heads up I would offer is to be pre­pared for the word “nig­gah” — excuse me, I mean the “N-word” — to be dropped early and often. I gave up using that word a while back, but I under­stand its use is still quite com­mon­place. Inter­est­ingly, there is a scene in the movie that tack­les use of the N-word by non-Blacks that was pretty funny.

I hope that Dope is not viewed sim­ply as a “Black” movie, because I think it will/should appeal to a very broad audi­ence. If you haven’t done so already, I encour­age you to check out Dope. Let me know what you think in the comments.






Jazz Spot­light

Song List

    01 “My Ship” (Ira Gersh­win, Kurt Weill) — 00:00
    02 “The More I See You” Mack Gor­don, Harry War­ren) — 03:10
    03 “These Fool­ish Things” (Harry Link, Holt Mar­vell, Jack Stra­chey) — 05:41
    04 “Waltz for Debby” (Bill Evans, Gene Lees) — 10:01
    05 “It Never Entered My Mind” (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers) — 13:31
    06 “The Day the World Stopped Turn­ing” (Buddy Kaye, Phillip Springer) — 17:11
    07 “A Slow Hot Wind” (Nor­man Gim­bel, Henry Mancini) — 19:41
    08 “Funny World” (Alan Brandt, Ennio Mor­ri­cone) — 23:05
    09 “Joey, Joey, Joey” (Frank Loesser) — 27:16
    10 “Let Me Love You” (Bart Howard) — 32:07
    11 “Sun­rise, Sun­set” (Jerry Bock, Shel­don Har­nick) — 33:56
bookmarks, culture, reading

bookmarks, v5/i4