Archive for July, 2010

The Trove: Monte Croft
July 30, 2010

When I first met Monte Croft, Apartheid reigned in South Africa, and he had just written and recorded a musical homage to the still-jailed Nelson Mandela.

Mandela, Mandela, when you said ‘freedom now’ they disagreed. You have come to symbolize what it means for all men to be free…Mandela, Mandela, despite imprisoned minds ironically you have come to symbolize what it means for all men to be free.

Fort Greene, Brooklyn was buzzing with energy–an artists’ mecca, and Monte was dating my friend, a wonderful dancer/choreographer.  Our crew of young, optimistic creatives were all excited for him when A Higher Fire, his first of two recordings for Columbia Records (the second, Survival of the Spirit) dropped, his anti-Apartheid anthem the last track on the disc.

My multi-instrumentalist friend was born in Youngstown, Ohio to a steelworker and his schoolteacher wife. He has fond early memories of going to work with his mother at the start and culmination of each term — days on which he could “play” the school’s pianos whilst she got organized. Drums, however were his first instrument. “I dutifully attended my weekly lesson and gladly practiced everyday. I was ten when I started and that experience taught me a lot about discipline and investment. Invest your time well; you get a good return.” Introduced to vibes by his drum teacher, he “fell in line with that program,” and acquired his own 1975 Musser vibraphone as a child.

Playing on the Musser instrument he’s had since childhood, Monte demonstrates the 4-mallet technique on Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby.”

As he grew older, he frequently sang with and choreographed for vocal groups performing in talent contests and joined a “quasi-jazz group called the Arrie Mae Morton Trio as the singing drummer.” Though “all I was ever concerned with was music,” he excelled academically, graduating at the top of his high school class.  With the encouragement of his band director, James McIntyre, he attended the Berklee College of Music, “an accredited college where the focus was what I loved.”  The move to Boston left the midwestern naif in a bit of culture shock. The experience proved tricky.  “Although my talent was embraced, socially, the Berklee experience was nearly disastrous.  Somehow I survived, and set my sights on The Big Apple.”

He arrived in New York City in 1983, during what he sees, “in retrospect, was a jazz resurgence. I was very friendly with a lot of the key players in that resurgence, so I was confident that it was just a matter of time for me.” Things seemed really promising when he signed to Columbia, but he learned a few hard-won lessons.

 It was then I found out that when you sign with a major label, a lot of people try to get a piece of it. Producers who never produced jazz, writers who’ve never written liner notes, basically a lot of people who may or may not know you, trying to get some “light” and a paycheck. The trouble was, people at the label were already getting a paycheck, so they didn’t care what happened to me as long as the new pop artist– and chief’s girlfriend–was cool. My old friends who were now jazz stars became conspicuously absent during this period too.

“What is Love?” A personal favorite from “A Higher Fire.”

Monte has good taste in women. Dynamic, talented women.  When I met his spirited next love, she and I hit it off right away.   Fast forward to 1997 and I was thrilled when he married my fellow Essence alum, the accomplished cartoonist/writer, Barbara Brandon; her sunny vivacity balancing his mellow reserve.  On the inherited talents of their loving son, Chase, Monte says, “he’s definitely artistically and musically inclined, two skills he intentionally avoids at all costs.”  The whip-smart preteen is carving an individual identity amid creatively flourishing environs.

Monte with his loves: wife Barbara, son Chase and his mallets.

He was, for a time, the frontman of Innervisions, a Stevie Wonder tribute band and I looked forward to their annual May gig at B.B. King’s where they’d raise the roof in honor of Stevie’s birthday, “jammin’ until the break of dawn.”  Imagine Spinna’s Wonderfull party with live performance–that energy, that spirit.

Still writing, gigging and mastering even more instruments, (he’s added bass, guitar, keyboards and a stirring chromatic harmonica) he continues to create and share music.  To find out more, friend him on Facebook, where you’ll be privy to performance uploads and his musings, philosophical, musical and otherwise.

‘Til then check what this musical heir to Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson is vibing on…

1. Stevie Wonder. “Anybody that really knows me, knows I’ve been greatly influenced by Stevie, but I didn’t really get into him until I lent a friend an Al Green 8-track tape, it broke and he gave me Innervisions in exchange. It was then I started to realize what all the fuss was about. Stevie’s unique; the voice, the songs, his spirit.”

“All in Love is Fair,” side 2, track 3 from “Innervisions”


2. The Vibraphone. “It’s a beautiful instrument, and at the risk of sounding cocky, I know in my heart, I’m one of the best who ever played it… Musser is the industry standard for instruments although Deagan was a more than worthy competitor for many years. I’d like to see if I can find an old Deagan in good condition.”

A Deagan vibraphone.


3. City Crab.NYC restaurant with delicious food and an informal atmosphere. For Barbara and me, this has been ‘our place’ for well over a decade. I recommend the baked shrimp Imperial stuffed with blue crabmeat”

Photo: J. Huang.


4. Hats In The Belfry. No newbie to millinery, Monte knows he can find the porkpies and stingy brims he likes from the website. “Good inventory, cool styles, great and fast service.”

 

The Makins “John Henry” sisal stingy brim hat.


5. Jackson 5ive. “I loved a lot of Michael’s solo work, but for me, the Jackson Five was ‘it!’  The group was a big source of mockery in my house, much to my chagrin, so I didn’t get around to seeing them until the Get It Together era, just before Dancing Machine. The whole group was dynamic and today when I listen to the vocals Jermaine was doing when he was 17, I realize they were, as a group, really underrated. I identified with Michael and probably experienced my first feelings of inadequacy, not because of the singing and dancing so much as the fact I couldn’t look like that. It’s so ironic.

The J5 at a 1972 Save the Children benefit concert in Chicago. “This video  captures the energy and excitement I felt. I loved the ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’ arrangement then and I still love it!”


6. The Female Form. “I love those curves! It’s what really makes the world go ‘round. Regardless of gender, it seems everyone can appreciate a woman’s body.”

“Undressing Female Nude” 7″ x 5″ Charcoal on “Canson” Pastel paper. From artist Daniel Peci’s blog, A Painting a Day.


7. Ice Cream.Handel’s of Youngstown, Ohio deserves a special mention.” How could a Larry Graham fan (“I just saw him at BB King’s.”) not love a shop with a flavor called Graham Central Station?

Though he is partial to Ben & Jerry’s, he is “always open to suggestion.”


8. Kenneth Cole. “His designs reflect my fashion sensibility perfectly, right down to the fragrances.”

Monte can immerse himself in all things Kenneth Cole at the Rockefeller Center flagship store.


9. Facebook. The social network “has really changed my life and outlook. It’s the first time I’ve been able to access positive feedback on my work on a regular basis. It also warms my heart to see old, old friends.”

Monte ‘likes’ Facebook.


10.  Soul Train in the Seventies. “I’m so glad we get a chance to see these shows again on Centric. I only wish they would show more episodes.”

Over one hundred performances culled from select 70’s episodes round out the Best of Soul Train DVD collection, available from TimeLife.

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The Trove: Amy Linden
July 23, 2010

Over wildly tangential brunch conversation at Le Gamin, reminiscing about old Fort Greene with and enjoying the rapid-fire wit of Amy Linden, she remembered our introduction at the long-gone Albee Square Mall. “I met you at Toys ‘R’ Us, rest in peace. You were looking for a black Barbie.” Recalling too, a recent interview with a gospel singer, she says, “when she called herself a ‘prophetess,’ I was like is that with an f or a ph?” My crêpes finally delivered to the table she mockingly exclaimed, “Oh two perfect little Hot Pockets!” She can get a lot out without taking a breath, but it’s natural to her, she says “I’m a writer, I get paid by the word.” 

Born in Queens and raised on Long Island, Amy went to an alternative high school “which meant I did nothing but read a lot of feminist literature and smoke a lot of pot…In high school I wanted to be a rock star.” So how did she become a music journalist? “I lost a bet,” she says wryly. “I actually came to hip-hop through punk.” A post-high school stint in Jonestown massacre/Harvey Milk assassination-era San Francisco led to writing for a local punk fanzine. 

Back on the East Coast in the 80’s, she worked at infamous after hours spot, A7 in the East Village and toured the northeast corridor with bands, Dead Kennedys and DOA.  She got her first Spin Magazine piece when she and an editor friend took in her punk clips and pitched a “Celebs with Tattoos” story back when getting inked wasn’t so ubiquitous. “We really had to think about  it. Usually it was circus freaks and maybe Billy Idol.” She got hers “when it was still illegal in New York. I mean, that was the point.” When I commented on the lasting vibrancy of her turquoise tat (the first of three) she said, “Yea, those guys really knew what they were doing. I charged this one to a record label on the per diem.”

Her second piece for Spin was her first on hip-hop. “I felt like I didn’t deserve it, yes I was a fan, but I didn’t know it, live it. My scene was the Lower East Side punk scene and the artsy spillover, yeah I’d see Basquiat riding his bike around.” Nonetheless, a friend at BAM introduced her to Boogie Down Productions.  Off she went to the South Bronx to pickup a 12″ for a listen. “I thought I’m a white girl in skinny black pants and skips…I don’t have any cool sneakers.”

“Then I became the girl who wrote about the schlocky R&B, but I wasn’t doing it with irony.  I was sincere.  Miki Howard? Loved…Labels were really segregated then: the pop music over here and the black music waaaay over there.” The divorced mom appreciated the camaraderie. “You could go hang out all day and eat.  I’d have my kid, they’d order food…And back then, people in the industry loved music. Everyone listened to and talked about music, real music.”  She’s written her share of liner notes, including those for the late Keith Elam, Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 3: Streetsoul.

“I’ve spent a good portion of my career being the only white girl in the room.” People find it hard to ‘place’ her though. “I’ve escaped some Anti-Semitism because of how I look.  Are you Greek, Italian, Armenian?”  Try Hungarian-Polish.  Her father was “born at the kosher hospital in Canarsie back when it was still farmland.”  For all her non-observance, Amy found herself delivering her only child at the same hospital and though now called Brookdale and servicing a largely African-American population, still kosher. Fitting for a woman who says, “I learned how to be Jewish from Black people. Sorry I don’t fit the cultural stereotype.  I’m actually not good with money and I don’t know the slang.  I know a schmear, a schmuck and a putz, that’s about it.”  And seltzer.  When I mentioned I’d never had an egg cream, she said they were great, “my father made them at home, he had the seltzer bottle and the CO2 cartridge, I mean he’s a Brooklyn Jew.  If you ask for seltzer and they give you club soda, you know. Where there’s no seltzer, there’s no Jews.”

Amy Linden: “I’m a Stones person, rather than a Beatles person.”

A staff newswriter for VH1, Amy became on-air talent when she joined fellow music critics Anthony DeCurtis, Scott Poulson-Bryant and JD Considine for Four on the Floor (1994-1996)a roundtable talk show likened to The McLaughlin Group for rock criticism. “It was a blast! We would always have a celeb guest: Peter Frampton, fabulous! Cyndi Lauper, Robbie Robertson, Vernon Reid, the Blinded Me with Science guy, uh, Thomas Dolby.” 

She’s since covered everyone from James Brown (“It was like talking to the Tasmanian Devil. I couldn’t understand anything he was saying”) to the beleaguered Amy Winehouse to Q-Tip, whom she adores, for performing without fanfare at a benefit for her son’s school years ago. Lucian, now 21, used to call him “Uncle Ear Wax.” People magazine brought her aboard when it became clear that hip-hop couldn’t be “ignored anymore. It couldn’t be marginalized. The Fugees were #1 in the country.” The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vibe, People, Entertainment Weekly, The Source and the Village Voice, she’s written for them all. Just last week she interviewed Bobby Womack for SoulSummer.com, where she is a frequent contributor. 

On her own blog, Not for Nothin,’ she culls the music landscape, “making the world safe for bad music and pointless culture since 19**.”  In her “plan for world media domination,” she’s rolled out the Not for Nothin’ podcast, where she channels her inner DJ and kicks it with the likes of Pharoahe Monche and Corey Glover (with whom she kicked off Black History Month spinning Bryan Ferry, Wendy & Lisa, and the “blackish” Alison Moyet.)

We celebrated her recent graduation from the New School (3.8 G.P.A., thank you very much) over sticky toffee pudding and people watching. Though she loves Brooklyn, BK hipsters and their fedoras work her nerves. “It’s all too precious now,” referring to the nostalgia trend.  “Soon we’re going to have a restaurant where you can eat everything your Mommy said you can’t.  People will be drinking from large milk cartons.”

So we know that terminally hip hats and haunts get under her skin, but let’s check what the straight-shooting Lady Ames loves…

1. Bryan Ferry. She names, without “even a moment’s hesitation” the glam rock frontman of Roxy Music her absolute music crush. “In a just world, he would be mine…I’d blow up a building for him.” She met him, in passing, at VH1, “Thank God I was dressed like a human being that day.” Of a 1972 performance clip of Virginia Plain, the band’s first hit, she muses, “just sink into the dreaminess of Bryan’s glittery eyes… somewhere a young David Bryne is thinking hmmmmm…”

8 min doc on Bryan and the effect of Roxy Music.

2. The First Taste of a Great Dessert. There’s nothing like the first time. On a road trip with her best friend, Candice in Oregon a few years back, Amy noticed a sign for Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant in Albany.  “I had to stop…made me feel connected to my roots.” One bite of the poppy seed strudel, and it was love. “It tastes like sweet dirt, gritty,” and that’s a good thing.  Back home in Brooklyn, a current rave is the sticky toffee pudding, the only dessert offered at the Oz-inspired, Sheep Station on the fringe of the Slope. Two upended wedges in a delectable caramel sauce with dollop of vanilla ice cream to round it out, “heaven!”

 

Poppy seed strudel. 

3. Hanging with the Little Ones. “I love the energy I get being around little kids…that somebody is glad you’re there, you know, ‘Miss Amy, Miss Amy’… and kid logic is hilarious, they crack me up.”

Photo: Rachel Titiriga.

4. NY Basketball. “Back when the Knicks were good…I was obsessed during the Larry Bird-Patrick Ewing-Magic [NBA] era.”

Though the Celts prevailed, Ewing scored a career high of 51 points in this game.

5. Love Me in a Special Way. Rendering Boo-hoo Brown’s performance a simpering mess, El DeBarge’s redemptive comeback –“He looked great, he sounded great.”– on the 2010 BET Awards reminded her of just how much she enjoys his falsetto on the 1983 release.  Yet true to her exalted place in Ferry fandom, she dreamily queried, “Can you hear Bryan Ferry singing it?”

…and a Stevie harmonica cameo!

6. Loafing with the BFF. “We just lay in bed all day, watch TV–asinine, juvenile stuff– and eat crap.” And they’re always minimally dressed, “just t-shirts and underwear, with our hands in our pants like little old men.” She contemplates the visual then in true Lindenian self-deprecation says, “this is why I’m going to die alone with my cats. I’m not girly. I like being goofy. I’m always looking for material.”

“I lived in Cali, I know my Mexican.  It’s gotta be 3 steps from the health department.”  Photo: Molly Awwad.

7. Community.  Where everybody knows your name “I love walking down the street and being detained, being part of a real community.”

Amy was at an election night listening party with Q-Tip in Manhattan when the 2008 decision was called and she realized she wanted to be back home in the community.  Looking up on the TV screen, she sees the NY1 coverage of Ft. Greene and her son celebrating his first voting election…on a lamppost with a forty. Photo: Andy G. Hatch 

8. Foreign Product Packaging. Amy enjoys perusing the aisles of drugstores in other countries.  The riotous colors, the often indecipherable language…

 

 Japanese chocolates.

9. Richard Price.  Among her favorite authors, she’s read all of his books. She passed on seeing the film adaptation of Clockers after “Spike got his grubby little mitts on it.”  She laughs and adds dryly, “Who am I punishing?  Is Spike Lee like, ‘Oh no! Amy Linden didn’t see Clockers?”

Novelist and Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Richard Price. Photo: Sarah Krulwich/The New York Times.

10. GoodFellas. The 1990 Scorsese film, not the pizza.  She watches it every time it airs on television.  An early role for Ray Liotta, he “held his own with that cast.  There is not one thing wrong with it, not a bad scene, not a bad line… I love the scene where he’s driving, helicopter overhead.”

Amy’s favorite scene, when a helicopter hovers over Henry Hill in his Caddy, driving in utter coked-out paranoia.

 

Bringing Seattle to Brooklyn
July 15, 2010

I ran into soulful singer/songwriter/producer Gordon Chambers recently as he was heading to Kimberly Nichole’s late set at Joe’s Pub. “What are you doing now?” he asked.  “She is fabulous, you should come!” I’m so glad I did. (Thanks for the spontaneous “date,” Gordon.) She tore it up, a fierce girl in a vintage hat and a tutu. By the time she got to her rousing covers of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”  and MJ’s “Dirty Diana,” the entire club was on its feet. 

The Seattle native will be bringing the fierceness to Brooklyn on Saturday in a free performance at the wonderful Weeksville Heritage Center.  And if that weren’t enough, her fellow Seattleite, my “Digable” crush, Palaceer Lazaro bka Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler is rolling out his latest project, Shabazz Palaces.

In homage to Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep,” Shabazz Palaces’ video for “Belhaven Meridian.”

Gates open at 4pm, music begins at 6pm and films will be shown at sundown.  Though the show is free, donations are welcomed.

1698 Bergen Street, between Buffalo and Rochester Avenues, Brooklyn

The Trove: Gabriel Tolliver
July 14, 2010

Gabe in Brooklyn, on R&R.

Word in the ethers has it that Gabriel Tolliver and I broke bread in another incarnation, sharing the naan in India, but I have The Roots to thank for the re-meet in this realm.  Back in the nineties when Questlove was still B.R.O. the R.?, I checked him and his crew at Irving Plaza with my Baltimore bred, BK based girls-about-town, Julia and Elise, the Charm City Chances.

After a great show, Elise bumped into some Ft. Greene friends and we all piled into her car for the drive over the bridge.  Backseat passengers, Gabe and I chatted one another up and made plans to view each others work.  Soon after we agreed to meet near the Times Square offices of Essence and MTV where we were working respectively.  What was intended to be a quick lunch meeting morphed into a multi-hour convo about everything from the trickster resonance of Eshu Elegba to the I-Ching to a shared love of black cats — we each had two.  Water signs both, we had an easy flow and an astonishingly immediate “knowing” like we were picking up where we’d left off.  The restaurant, of course, was Indian.

A native of suburban Cleveland, Shaker Heights, to be exact, Gabe cut his production teeth at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (where 20-years-later, his unofficial logo remains on the film school’s paraphernalia.) The award-winning screenwriter (Spook City with Jake-ann Jones,) author (Bling: The Hip-Hop Jewelry Book with Reggie Osse and the forthcoming Embrace the Suck,) director (from Busta Rhymes to Sesame Street,) producer (MTV,)  subway party thrower (from NYC to the Paris Metro) and now broadcast journalist for the US Army, the quirky Cancerian brings esoteric sensitivity to his part prankster, part gangster sensibility.

Now and then: a soldier’s favorite quote; satin in suburbia.

On a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, Corporal Tolliver utilized social media to keep we who care abreast of his safety during the May 2010 Taliban attack on Kandahar. I was delighted to see him during his recent stateside visit for rest-and-relaxation; healthy, whole and impish grin intact. We checked out the stellar Fela! The Musical, and caught up on the stuff of a storytelling soldier’s and a storytelling blogger’s lives.

From his bio: “Gabriel aspires to create content/programming across media platforms and diverse worlds. No matter where he is in the world, Brooklyn is always considered home.”

Without further fanfare, a few of the things that hit G’s spots…

1. Fela. “Anything by the master of Afro-beat and James Brown’s ancient but familiar cousin.”

Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

2. Abistro Restaurant. The Fort Greene gem offers “food at its best-period.”

Blackened Snapper with bok choy, Yukon gold potatoes, grilled peach-pineapple salsa in a trio curry vinaigrette. Photo by Carl Hancock Rux.

3. James Brown’s Future Shock “Featuring some of the most insane dancing; this mid 70’s Soul Train alternative was produced and hosted by James Brown at what appears to be the height of his PCP days. A classic. If you find the DVD’s order them!”

4. Roger & Gallet cologne. “Keep yourself funky fresh,” in the epicurean aromas of green tea or ginger from the venerable Paris perfumer.

Thé Vert in the 200th anniversary flacon.

5. Prospect Park, Brooklyn. “A true vision of Olmsted and Vaux and what a park should be. If you’re feeling freaky deaky or voyeuristic, tread through the Vale of Cashmere. On horseback is best so you can jet if the woodland booty bandits come after you.”

The secluded Vale of Cashmere. Photo, Nostalgiepourlaboue.


6. Five Ice Cream. As all his facebook friends know, Gabe heartily indulged while on a recent break from his deployment in A-stan. “A couple of pints make good eats.” (Ginger, Passionfruit, Vanilla or Strawberry will do for him.) The latest product from Häagen-Dazs, a clean confection of 5 ingredients only: milk, cream, sugar, eggs and a single, all-natural flavor.


7. Trader Joe’s. Before the beloved healthful food emporium opened in NYC proper, he’d jump in his silver VW beetle and head up to the Westchester location as an economical alternative to pricey competitor, “Whole Check.”


8. Flying Lotus. “Sounding at times like a sublime movie soundtrack,” comes Flying Lotus, the Cali-based Steven Ellison (who counts the Coltranes among his kin) with his marvelous “mix of electronica, new wave and avant garde hip-hop.”

Fly Lo’s Galaxy in Janaki.

9. Vibram FiveFingers. “Getting back to the bare foot and basics.”

FiveFingers shoes protect the feet yet allow the experience of the same physical and visceral sensation as going barefoot.


10. The Tool Kit. “…as things get a bit uncertain out there.” Leatherman “is a great all-in-one tool for home, car or backpack,” and the Gerber combat knife, “Some folks and some food need to get cut sometimes…one of my best friends out here in Talibland.”

Tools of the trade when “shooting” has double meaning: The M-16 assault rifle, “Matilda,” and “an old school” Sony PD-170 DV camera.

Update September 2010:

Gabriel has completed his deployment and returned safely to the US, where he still serves in the US Army.  His book, Embrace the Suck, 366 Days of Strength, Courage, Inspiration, Wisdom and Hope, a year’s worth (accommodating leap year) of quotes from Gandhi to Zora Neale Hurston; George S. Patton to the Bible, is available on Amazon.

“Embrace the Suck” — soldier slang coined in the Iraq War.

The Trove: harriette cole
July 2, 2010

One of my favorite photos of harriette.

I met the multi-hyphenate harriette cole just weeks before her 1993 wedding to photographer, George Chinsee. Upon meeting, the first thing I noticed about her was an easy grace.  Gliding into the conference room of Essence magazine dressed in billowing layers (likely Flyte Ostell),  she interviewed me for the fashion position I’d soon accept, with an elegant ink pen in her long, well-manicured hands.  That ink pen would sign many handwritten notes and cards to colleagues in appreciation of work well done.  Those nimble fingers would crank out copy at miraculous speeds (an early stint as a secretary bolstered her typing skills) and with their tapering elegance, grace the cover of one of the author’s first (of many) books,  The Jumping the Broom Wedding Workbook.

The middle daughter and namesake of the late Honorable Harry A. Cole, the first black judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the Baltimore born and bred harriette, continuing a familial legacy of excellence holds a Phi Beta Kappa key as a Howard University alum.  A move to New York City soon after graduation precipitated what has become a long and illustrious career, which though divergent (publishing, television, motivational speaking, event production, media training) has always maintained the central tenet of helping people present their best selves. She continues this tradition now with the re-launch of her business, Harriette Cole Media, after having spent the past 3 1/2 years at Johnson Publishing Company.  Charged with freshening the profile of Ebony magazine, she helped to bring the revered relic into the 21st century, garnering exclusives with high-profile subjects such as the 44th President of the United States, the late Michael Jackson in his last interview and the famously elusive Prince.

I visited with the e.e. cummings-influenced harriette at the HCM office recently to catch up with my friend, dish on the old days and find out just what’s floating her boat these days.  Her current faves include:

1. Cashmere. “My absolute favorite fabric is cashmere. I live in cashmere all year-long,” from Banana Republic’s tissue weight in summer to Loro Piana’s “four-ply, even yummier” when the mercury drops.  “It’s the ultimate luxury.”

In harriette’s favorite shade of sunny yellow, this lightweight cashmere scarf from Banana Republic is a perfect summer wrap.

2. Molecule 02. While shooting Jada Pinkett Smith for one of the many covers she has produced for Ebony, harriette “smelled this entrancing fragrance and was dying to know what it was…I just couldn’t resist.” Jada bought the mysterious scent, Molecule 02, from London retailer Harvey Nichols, but after some internet sleuthing harriette discovered she could get it stateside at luckyscent.com.  From Berlin-based Escentric Molecules,“the fragrance is pretty androgynous. Slightly sweet but more woody. Sexy as all get out.”

Harriette’s signature scent.

3. Pampering. Well versed in the art of the spa, harriette has a few faves for indulging her love of pamper sessions: “I adore Sang Lee, the massage therapist at Salon Today (West 55th Street) where I typically go for a mani-pedi… When I need to luxuriate a little longer, I go for a two-hour massage, at Sphatika, across the street from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  And Deva Spa, downtown, has a couples room that is perfect for an indulgent date!”

The Deva Spa couples room.

4. Sag Harbor Hills. “Every summer for years my family and I have spent weekends in the Hamptons. We usually stay in The Springs but beach it in Sag Harbor Hills, the oldest African American beach community out there. It’s perfect when you have a child, because there are always kids to play with and we all just have fellowship and fun.”

Harriette and her “Georgie,” their 6-year-old angel, Carrie, and the neon glow of the Sag Harbor Cinema.

5. Clarins Sunscreen. The fact that their SPF 15, oil-free spray doesn’t stain clothing is a big plus, but the real draw is that the non-greasy formulation “goes on so smoothly.  It is luxurious and simple at once.”

Spray Solaire from Clarins ensures double UVA/UVB protection and is non-stinging to the eyes.

6. LeVain’s Fruit Tart. “My favorite dessert in the summer by far!  This fruit tart is so popular that you have to order it early in the morning to ensure that you will get one.  Tarts are made fresh each day, so it’s the perfect gift if you are visiting friends too. Yummy!”

Exclusive to LeVain Bakery’s Wainscott, LI location, the rustic fruit tart is a seasonal favorite.

7. FitFlops. “I just got a pair and I’m in heaven. I have just launched a new fitness regimen for myself so that I can fully reclaim me, and that includes a lot of exercise. I have discovered that I can do all kinds of yoga poses while wearing these shoes and I feel completely secure/anchored to the floor in them. Also, I am walking more. And walking in my various cute shoes is painful.  My bronze FitFlops get me to my destination in good stride and then I switch out.”

As Pisces is ruled by the feet, it’s no wonder Neptune child harriette would delight in the comfort of FitFlops.

8. Sake Bath from Fresh. “Susan Taylor introduced me to this product years ago. It makes the most amazing bath. Over the years I have tried many different bath oils. But I go right back to this one. It’s expensive so I only buy it occasionally, but let me tell you, it makes a bath that invites you to linger.”

This detoxifying bath additive from Fresh is composed of more than 50% pure sake and extractives of pine, ginger and peach absolute.

9. Elizabeth Catlett Lithograph. “Shortly after I moved to NYC, where I was employed as the lifestyle editor of Essence magazine, I worked on an article about Elizabeth Catlett.  She graciously invited me to her home in lower Manhattan and showed me many treasured pieces of her work. I completely fell in love with her and her art. She allowed me to make a payment plan to buy The Sharecropper, which she signed to me. That piece lives on my wall today.”

A special treasure is an edition of the iconic “The Sharecropper,” signed by revered artist Elizabeth Catlett Mora (now 95) to harriette.

10. Spiritual Texts. Having practiced Siddha Yoga Meditation for 20 years, harriette finds tremendous support in the books of her spiritual practice. Three that resonate for her now are, Enthusiasm and The Yoga of Discipline by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and I Have Become Alive by Swami Muktananda. “My faith and my spiritual work serve as both anchor and wing for me. Throughout everything that happens in my life, I continue to develop tools for navigating through the challenges and triumphs with clarity as a result.”

Siddha Yoga spiritual leader, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and her books.