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Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy," died on Jan. 9. He was 76. His death was confirmed by his publicist, Angelo Ellerbee.

Mtume recorded with pianist and future NEA Jazz Master McCoy Tyner in 1970, but his big break came the following year, when he started playing congas with Davis's electric group. Filling the void left by Airto Moreira, Mtume stayed on for four years, appearing on landmark LPs like 1972's On the Corner and 1974's Big Fun. "Ife," from that latter album, had a title near to Mtume's heart — it was the name of his daughter.

In his 1989 autobiography, Miles, Davis noted Mtume's impact on the heartbeat of his band: "With Mtume Heath and Pete Cosey joining us, most of the European sensibilities were gone from the band. Now the band settled down into a deep African thing, a deep African-American groove, with a lot of emphasis on drums and rhythm, and not on individual solos."

In 1978, three years after his departure from Davis, the percussionist traded the rougher edges of "electric Miles" for the smoother zones of funk, and started leading a New York-based group known simply as Mtume. But on its third album, 1983's Juicy Fruit, the band channeled something deeper. Featuring an icy, snaking bass and a hypnotic line from a Linn drum machine, the flirty, laidback title track etched itself into music history, grabbing the No. 1 spot on the Billboard R&B chart and placing Mtume's prowess as a solo artist straight into the spotlight.


"On 'Juicy Fruit,' what I got to ultimately was what I called neo-minimalism," explained Mtume in a 2014 interview with Red Bull Music Academy. "I was experimenting with how to take less and make it sound more. If you listen to something like 'Juicy Fruit' there's only four or five instruments played. And that was a whole new thing. Also, there was no reverb on nothing. So it sounded like you could have played it in your basement."

In 1994, the sounds of "Juicy Fruit" were once again in the air, this time as a sample in the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy." Boasting perhaps the most famous opening lines in hip-hop — "It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up! magazine / Salt-N-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine" — "Juicy" cracked the Top 40 alongside other Biggie hits like "Hypnotize" and "Mo Money Mo Problems."

"Oh, I dug it," remembered Mtume about "Juicy." "They actually wanted me to be in [the music video]. I was asked and I said, 'No, you ain't doing that man. What? You want me to jump around the corner in some high shoes and plaid pants?' They fell out laughing. 'It's your generation, you all do what you do.' "

James Mtume was born on Jan. 3, 1946, in Philadelphia, Penn. He was born into one of the great jazz families — his father was the saxophonist Jimmy Heath, his uncles were bassist Percy Heath and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath – and raised by James Forman, a pianist. In the '60s, after becoming a Black nationalist, he took the Swahili name "Mtume," or "messenger."

Mtume could be influential even when he wasn't a part of the music. In 1970, he stopped by a Herbie Hancock soundcheck in Los Angeles; Tootie Heath was on drums. In front of the other band members, Mtume announced that he would be giving Heath a Swahili name. Hancock and company requested names as well. Mtume dubbed Hancock "Mwandishi" — Swahili for "composer" — and the pianist's avant-funk group began going by that name as well. Things started to change for Hancock.

"We called each other by our Swahili names, and over time we started embracing other visible symbols of the black diaspora," recalled Hancock in Possibilities, his autobiography from 2014. "I had never spent much time thinking about my African roots, but all of us became increasingly influenced by African culture, religion and music."

Mtume had a similar experience with Davis. The trumpeter never took a new name, but he was happy to learn from his younger bandmate.

"Mtume was a freak for history, and I knew him from his father, so we used to talk a lot," wrote Davis. "I'd tell him old stories and he'd tell me about things that had happened in African history, because he was really into that. Plus, he was an insomniac like me. So I could call him up at four in the morning because I knew he was going to be awake."


Following his group's final album, 1986's Theater of the Mind, Mtume changed direction. He continued to work in music — the '90s found him producing for D'Angelo (a cover of Eddie Kendricks's "Girl You Need a Change of Mind") and Mary J. Blige ("Our Love") — but he also turned his attention to The Open Line, the long-running talk radio show he co-hosted on New York's 98.7 Kiss FM. When asked if he would like the next generation to use their music for political purposes, Mtume told the Red Bull Music Academy that that's actually the opposite of how things happen.

"There will have to be an event. The political environment is what brings about the music. Society is a thermostat, your music is the thermometer. It tells you what the temperature is, it doesn't set it. Right now, the thermostat for social change and seriousness is at a low level. Something will happen to make it heat up, and then the artists who will be the thermometers can tell you what the temperature is."

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fullerThroughout the week, we play short segments about what birds are out in Sonoma County and what they sound like, from Harry Fuller. Here's what we've aired so far. Harry spent his working career as a TV and Internet newsman in the Bay Area.  He’s been leading bird trips and writing about birds for thirty years.  He has written three natural history books: Freeway Birding, I-5 San Francisco to Seattle; San Francisco’s Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars; Great Gray Owl in California, Oregon & Washington. He blogs regularly about birds:  And he frequently leads birding trips on the Pacific Coast. Check him out at

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8ff1 Asset 6 p 500Our podcast "Living Downstream" has been named by the Global Center for Climate Justice as one of "Five Climate Justice Podcasts You Need to Follow." Wow:

Listen to some recent episodes! Generations in Houston's Fifth Ward Contend with Contamination, Cancer Clusters will break your heart, and perhaps solidify your resolve to make change. The Sea Next Door is told in true partnership with the community living near California's Salton Sea, an environmental powder keg, where the state has no idea how to avoid a coming health disaster.

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Postcards from Sonoma County...
        ... What people are talking about, direct from the locals.
Each week, our correspondents from all over Sonoma County check in with a weekly "postcard" of what people are talking about in their area. Not always "news," but still worthy of a mention. It's our way to give voice to communities that may not make it into the standard news cycle.
We play these in a random rotation throughout the week. Generally, each postcard airs from Sunday morning at midnight thru Saturday at 11:59:59 pm.
We archive all our postcards here. Have a listen!

Week of Sunday, January 23rd, 2022:
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
Greetings from Windsor
Greetings from Petaluma
Greetings from Healdsburg
Greetings from Rohnert Park
Greetings from Sebastopol

Week of Sunday, January 16, 2022:
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
Greetings from Rohnert Park
Greetings from Sebastopol
Greetings from Petaluma
Greetings from Windsor
Greetings from Healdsburg

 Week of Sunday, January 9th, 2022:
Greetings from Healdsburg
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
Greetings from Petaluma
Greetings from Rohnert Park
Greetings from Sebastopol
Greetings from Windsor

Week of Sunday, January 2nd, 2022:
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
Greetings from Petaluma
Greetings from Rohnert Park
Greetings from Windsor

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Savoring Sonoma with Clark Wolf
Clark Wolf publicityClark Wolf is a nationally recognized, James Beard Award-winning food and restaurant consultant, author, and columnist who now lives in what he calls “the Eden of All the Earth," in a 100-year-old logger’s cabin in the Redwoods of Sonoma County.
Savoring Sonoma is a weekly 60-second snapshot of what's importantly delicious in Sonoma County.
Each week, you'll hear two new episodes.
Episodes are archived here.
Sonoma County cheeses
Joys of fermentation
Winter squash
Dungeness crab 2
Olive oil
Local Sonoma County meats
Bodega Red potatoes
Local eggs
Dungeness crab
Should healthy food cost more?
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The Sonoma County ArtBeat
                                      With Satri Pencak
Satri picSatri Pencak is an independent art curator with an M.A. in Art History. She writes about the visual arts for her website,, her Facebook Blog, and other publications.
Satri loves knowing what’s going on in the art world and sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with others.
All episodes are archived here:
Week of December 19, 2021
Week or January 2, 2022
Week of January 9, 2022
Week of January 16, 2022
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