Live Concert Photography: BRIC JazzFest at BRIC House Night 3 10/20/18 feat. Kat Edmonson Brownout Presents Fear of a Brown Planet Deva Mahal and Freelance
Although it’s gone through a number of different names throughout its 40 year history, the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is one of the longest run, summer outdoor concert and performance series in New York. And from its first shows, the festival’s long-held mission has been to bring Brooklyn residents — and those who love and enjoy all things Brooklyn — together in a safe, harmonious setting to enjoy and celebrate the vibrant cultures that has made Brooklyn, one of the most most diverse places in the world; in fact, as the organizers have strongly emphasized, “We believe it is especially important to use artistic platforms to reaffirm the very basis of what Brooklyn and America is — a welcoming, supercollider of ideas and cultures, informing and enriching each other. ”
Now, as you may recall that throughout the Festival’s history, the Prospect Park Bandshell has hosted an eclectic list of established and emerging artists across a large and adventurous array of styles and genres, including Americana, African music, world music, classical music, jazz, pop, alt-rock, indie rock, hip-hop and a long list of others. Unsurprisingly, the Bandshell has had an impressive list of artists that have played on its stage, including Dr. John, Maceo Parker, They Might Be Giants, The Neville Brothers, Talib Kweli, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Beck, Hugh Maskela, Joan Armatrading, Willie Nelson, Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo, Seun Kuti, Mavis Staples, Marco Benevento, Bilal, Lisa Loeb, Poliça, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Alice Smith, Brooklyn Raga Massive, The Soul Rebels, Orkesta Mendoza, Musiq Soulchild, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Eric Krasno, Yossou N’Dour, Amadou and Mariam, and so many, many others.
Four years ago, BRIC Arts Media, the folks who have spent the past 40 years organizing BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival started their what may arguably be one of the area’s most progressive and eclectic jazz festivals, BRIC JazzFest. And its fourth year may have been the biggest of its relatively short history as it featured film, dance, conversation, poetry readings and a three-stage, three night, live music marathon that featured Antibalas, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Stefon Harris & Blackout feat. Casey Benjamin, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Lakecia Benjamin & SoulSquad, Madison McFerrin, JD Allen, Melanie Charles & Make Jazz Trill Again, the Yotam Ben-Or Quartet, Meshell Ndegeocello, Cyrus Chestnut Trio, Keyon Harrold, The Jazz Passengers, Xenia Rubinos, Camila Meza, Michael Sarian & The Chabones, Yasser Tejeda & Palotré — and for its final night, which I attended: Terence Blanchard and E-Collecitve, who I didn’t shoot but who were fucking amazing; Kat Edmonson, Brownout Presents Fear of a Brown Planet, Deva Mahal and Freelance. Check out some photos from an incredible night of live music, below.
Kat Edmonson is a Houston, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter. Edmonson’s mother adored the Great American Songbook and 40s’ and ’50s pop, and as a child, the Houston-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter grew up listening to it, as well. She wrote her first song when she was nine, while riding the school bus.
After spending a year attending the College of Charleston, Edmonson relocated to Austin, TX to pursue a music career. While in Austin, she auditions for the second season of American Idol was was one of the Top 48 contestants invited to Hollywood. After her appearance on American Idol, Edmonson returned to Austin, where she spent several years performing regularly in Austin’s club scene.
Edmonson’s 2009 full-length debut Take to the Sky landed in the Top 20 of the Billboard Jazz Charts. Building upon a growing profile, her 2012 sophomore effort Way Down Low received praise from The New York Times and NPR and reached #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. Edmonson’s third full-length album, 2014’s The Big Picture was released by Sony Masterworks and reached #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. Adding to a growing profile, Edmsonon was the headliner of the Taichung Jazz Festival in Taiwan and the New York City Jazz Festival. She has opened for Lyle Lovett, with whom she collaborated on a rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which appeared on Lovett’s 2012’s effort Release Me and again on “Long Way Home,” which appeared on Edmonson’s aforementioned sophomore album Way Down Low.
Additionally, in 2012 Edmonson appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series and Austin City Limits. In 2013 and 2014, she appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, playing the role of Cat Mandu for the show’s regular skit “Guy Noir, Private Eye.” Over the past few years, she’s toured both national and internationally with stops at Montreux Jazz Festival and opened for Jamie Cullum, touring France, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK.
Edmonson’s fourth album Old Fashioned Gal was released earlier this year, and the album’s material was conceived around an imaginary, classic Hollywood movie that took shape in her imagination — while being inspired by the Great American Songbook.“I was sick in bed for days watching old films on Turner Classic Movies and, eventually, I got inspired and began to write,” she says. “I would watch one movie and then stop to work on a song and then turn on another movie … I wrote the majority of the album this way. At some point in this process, I started imagining scenes for a film that corresponded with my music and I envisioned my songs being sung by these certain characters––a young man who was a songwriter, a young woman who was a singer, and an older gentleman who was a Broadway producer––and I ended up writing an entire outline for a musical.” Edmonson continues, “The main ingredients I used to make this record were piano, bass, guitar, and drums; however, there is a 13-piece string orchestra on the album as well as background vocals, horns, woodwind instruments, vibes and other percussion, organ, celesta, harp, ukulele…even a saw! I was trying to achieve the lushness of an MGM musical.” Interestingly, the heroine of the album’s story is “a young woman in showbiz struggling with her personal definition of success and what it means to be an artist.”
Currently comprised of Gilbert Elorreaga, Mark Gonzales, Greg Gonzalez, Josh Levy, Sweet Lou, Beto Martinez, Adrian Quesada, John Speice and Alex Marrero, the Austin, TX-based act Brownout was formed ten years as a side project featuring members of the Grammy Award-winning Latin funk act Grupo Fantasma, but interestingly enough, the project has evolved into its own as a unique effort, separate from the members’ primary gigs. Over the past few years, the act has garnered critical praise — they won their third Austin Music Award last year, while composing and arranging work that’s unflinchingly progressive while evoking the influences of WAR, Cymande and Funkadelic. Unsurprisingly, as a result the members of Brownout have been a highly-sought after backing band, who have collaborated with GZA, Prince, Daniel Johnston and Bernie Worrell, and adding to a growing profile, they’ve made appearances across the major festival circuit, including Bonnaroo, High Sierra Music Festival, Pickathon, Bear Creek Musical Festival, Utopia Festival, Pachanga Fest, and others. Throughout the course of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Austin-based act, and as you may know, the band has released five full-length albums: 2008’s Homenaje, 2009’s Aguilas and Cobras, 2012’s Oozy, 2015’s Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath and 2016’s Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath, Vol. II — with their last two albums Latin funk interpretations and re-imaginings of the legendary work of Black Sabbath. During their run together, Brownout has also released a handful of EPs, including 2017’s critically applauded Over the Covers, their first batch of original material in some time. As a child of the 80s, hip-hop was a Revelation to me and countless others. Every day after school, I would run home to catch Yo! MTV Raps with Ed Lover and Dr. Dre and BET’s Rap City and during the weekends I’d catch Yo! MTV Raps with the legendary Fab 5 Freddy — all to catch Run DMC, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Biz Markie, Das EFX, A Tribe Called Quest, X Clan and Public Enemy among an incredibly lengthy list. 28 years ago, Public Enemy released their seminal album Fear of a Black Planet, and unsurprisingly, the album wound up profoundly influencing the future founding members of Grupo Fantasma/Brownout. The band’s Greg Gonzalez (bass) remembers how a kid back in junior high school hipped him to the fact that Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” was built on James Brown samples. As a teenager, Beto Martinez (guitar) speaks fondly of alternating between hip-hop and metal tapes on his walkman (much like me). And Adrian Quesada remembers falling in love with Public Enemy and their sound at an early age. “When I got into hip-hop, I was looking for this aggressive outlet . . .,” Quesada says in press notes, “and I didn’t even understand what they were pissed off about, because I was twelve and lived in Laredo . . . but I loved it, and I felt angry along with them.” So as true children of the 80s and 90s, the members of Brownout, with the influence and encouragement of Fat Beats‘ Records Joseph Abajian have tackled Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet — with their own unique take on the legendary material and sound. And although they were eager to get back to work on new, original material, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay homage to one of their favorite acts. As Abajian says in press notes “I thought their sound would work covering Public Enemy songs.” He adds “it was good to know they were P.E. fans . . We came up with a track listing and they went to work.” Understandably, translating sample-based music to a live band turned out to be more challenging than everyone anticipated. Quesada tried to get into the heads of the legendary production team the Bomb Squad in order to reinterpret Public Enemy’s work. “Imagine the Bomb Squad going back in time and getting the J.B.’s in the studio and setting up a couple analog synths and then playing those songs.” And while some songs closely hew to the original, other songs use the breakbeats as a jumping-off point for Mark “Speedy” Gonzales’ horn arrangements, synth work by Peter Stopchinski and DJ Trackstar‘s turntablism. “Our approach is never in the tribute sense,” Adrian Quesada explains. “We’ve always taken it and made it our own, whether it’s the Brown Sabbath thing or this Public Enemy thing.” Fear of a Brown Planet comes on the heels of several Brown Sabbath tours, and while being an incredibly tight and funky band, the members of the band are incredibly psyched to bring revolutionary music to the people, especially in light of both the current social climate and that they’re not particularly known for having an overt political agenda. “If there’s any way that we can use the already political and protest nature [of P.E.’s music], we would like to try,” Beto says. “The album’s title, Fear of Brown Planet is definitely a relevant idea today and we’re not afraid to put it out there, because we want to speak out.” Brownout’s set was centered around their re-imagining of Fear of a Black Planet — and throughout their set, the Downtown Brooklyn crowd was live as hell.
Deva Mahal is a Hawaii-born, New York-born soul and R&B singer/songwriter and guitarist — and the daughter of blues legend Taj Mahal. The younger Mahal began writing and performing music as a small child, playing gigs when she was five. As a teenager, her family moved to New Zealand, where she lived briefly before relocating to New York. Interestingly, Mahal has collaborated with the likes of TV on the Radio, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Hollie Smith. Last year, saw the release of Deva’s debut self-titled debut, which followed two performances at Carnegie Hall: Michael Dorf’s Aretha Franklin tribute, in which she performed “Chain of Fools” with her legendary father; and Dorf’s follow-up tribute night, “The Music of Led Zeppelin,” which featured women singer/songwriters and artists performing Led Zeppelin songs — Mahal performed one of my favorite Zeppelin tunes, “Your Time Is Gonna Come” with The Dap Kings’ Binky Griptite. Building upon a growing profile, Mahal released her Scott Jacoby-produced full-length debut Run Deep earlier this year. From her live set, her sound draws from singer/songwriter pop, classic soul and neo-soul. In fact she publicly cites Tracy Chapman, Nina Simone and Lauryn Hill as her influences — although to me, her sound reminded me quite a bit of Jill Scott.
Opening the night was the local jazz fusion and soul act Freelance. Comprised of Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith (vocals); Chad “Asuar the Ambassador” Selph (keyboard); Craig Hill (sax), who has played in Takuya Kuroda’s band; Yasser Tejeda (guitar); Justin Tyson (drummer), who has played with R+R = Now, Robert Glasper Experiment and Esperanza Spalding; and David “DJ” Ginyard, who’s played with Solange, Terence Blanchard’s E-Collective.
The act’s latest full-length was released earlier this year, and it reveals a band whose sound draws from an eclectic array of influences including Earth, Wind and Fire, Fela Kuti, Radiohead and J. Dilla.