JOVM celebrates LL Cool J’s 53rd birthday — belatedly.
Born Gabriella Wilson, the Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as H.E.R. (an acronym for Having Everything Revealed). Wilson first gained attention when she participated in Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing contest in 2009. By 2014, she had signed with RCA Records and released her debut single “Something to Prove” under her birth name.
Back in 2016, Wilson re-emerged with her current solo project, H.E.R., releasing her debut EP H.E.R. Volume 1, a seven song collection of slow-burning, post-breakup material, which managed to sound both vulnerable and self-assured. RCA Records initially released the effort that September to limited promotion — but the album effort eventually landed at #28 on Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop charts thanks in part to social media co-signs from Alicia Keys and Bryson Tiller, as well as an attention grabbing cover of Drake’s “Jungle.” Wilson followed-up with 2017’s similarly styled H.E.R. Volume 2, which debuted at #22 on Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop charts.
Continuing the rapidly growing buzz surrounding her, the EPs were soon combined and released as H.E.R. with six additional tracks, including “Best Part,” a #32 R&B/hip-hop hit, previously heard on Daniel Caesar’s Freudian.
Last year H.E.R. teamed up with pop superstar Khalid for “This Way,” which appeared on the Superfly Soundtrack. That August, Wilson released her third EP, I Used to Know Her: The Prelude, which landed at the top of R&B/hip-hop charts, thanks to the success of “Could’ve Been,” a duet with Bryson Tiller. By the end of the year, Wilson received five Grammy nominations — Album of the year and Best R&B album for H.E.R., Best R&B Performance for “Best Part,” Best R&B Song for “Focus,” and Best New Artist, winning Grammies for Best R&B Album and Performance.
Since the Grammy Awards, she has collaborated with a diverse and eclectic array of artists including Chris Brown on “Come Together,” Jess Glynne on “Thursday,” Ed Sheehan on “I Don’t Want Your Money” and YBN Cordae on “Racks,” “21” and “Slide.” Some of that material was released on the compilation album I Used to Know Her while others were released as stand-alone singles or the albums of her collaborators. She’s also been nominated for five more Grammy Awards at the forthcoming 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, including Best Album and and Record with I Used to Know Her and Song of the Year for “Hard Place.”
Recently Vevo invited the Grammy Award singer/songwriter and guitarist for a live session that included the two-step inducing “Slide” Featuring a shimmering and strutting neo-soul/classic soul arrangement and an infectious hook, the song is a perfect vehicle for Wilson’s sultry and self-assured vocals and some ambitious yet accessible songwriting.
Raymond James Mason is a Long Island, NY-born, Brooklyn-born trombonist and singer/songwriter. As the story goes, Mason picked up the trombone at a very young age, and as a teenager, he studied classical performance and jazz studies at my alma mater NYU, where he studied with Brian Lynch, Lenny Pickett, Alan Ferber and Elliot Mason. Upon graduating, Mason quickly became an in-demand musician, playing across a wide variety of genres; but he’s best known for being a member of renowned local Afrobeat act Antibalas, which eventually led to him becoming a member of the Daptone Records/Dunham Records in-house band, playing with the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields and the The Expressions and many others. Additionally, Mason has performed and or recorded with the likes of Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Randy Newman, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monae, Lukas Graham, Nile Rodgers, Tame Impala, Maren Morris, Earth Wind and Fire, Mark Ronson and and more. Unsurprisingly, he very busy Mason learned from these artists while honing his own compositional and vocal skills, patiently waiting for his moment to step out in the spotlight.
Back in October 2016, Mason reached out to Daptone Records house band member, longtime friend and Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik to set up at a casual recording session. At the time, Aukstik was recording out of an old East Village brownstone basement, equipped with only a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder and a few old ribbon microphones. Aukstik and Mason assembled an all-star squad of local soul musicians, including Alex Chakour, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Freddy DeBoe, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Joe Harrison, who has played with Nick Hakim and Charles Bradley; and Morgan Price, who has played with Antibalas to record a couple of Mason’s compositions — two of which wound up becoming the A and B sides of Mason’s solo debut, “Back When”/”No Clue.”
A side single “Back When” is a strutting and swaggering bit of a soul pop centered around an arrangement of Arp Omni bass synth, fuzzy guitar lines and a steady backbeat — and while thematically the song is a universal tale of lost opportunity and what could have beens, it’s a decidedly contemporary take on the Dala Records sound, as it nods at contemporary soul, hip-hop and psych pop in a way that brings Tame Impala, Nick Hakim and others to mind. “No Clue,” the B side single is centered around fuzzy power chords and a garage rock vibe, while thematically the song focuses on a dysfunctional and confusing relationship. Both singles reveal an an up-and-coming artist, who’s actively and earnestly pushing the sonic boundaries of soul.
Founded by some of the originators of CMJ and its long-running CMJ Marathon, Mondo.NYC is a music, technology and innovation-based festival that within its first couple years has quietly taken the place of both the CMJ Marathon and New Music Seminar’s New Music Nights Festival. Now, as you may recall, the third edition of Mondo.NYC took place last week and it found the global, emerging music, technology and innovation conference moving a few miles east across the East River to Williamsburg, Brooklyn with The Williamsburg Hotel,Rough Trade and Brooklyn Bowl hosting daytime conference-related events hosted by The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Guild of Music Supervisors,Record Store Day, and others meant to connect fans, artists, music industry professionals, business pioneers and leading names in tech and music to network, trade ideas and learn in a rapidly changing industry landscape. Additionally, the panels, talks and other events were meant to inspire young people to take control of their careers — whether they were heading towards a technological-based career, behind the scenes in A&R, marketing, promotion, management and publicity or up in front as an artist.
Live music showcases took place across a handful of venues in the New York metropolitan area, including the aforementioned Brooklyn Bowl, Piano’s, Berlin, Arlene’s Grocery, Coney Island Baby, The Delancey, DROM, Hank’s Saloon, Niagara, N.O.R.D. and Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall that featured artists from the US, Switzerland, Sweden, Hungary, Canada, France and elsewhere performing music across a wide array of genres and styles.
One of the artists who played during the music festival portion was the Swedish adult contemporary pop artist ELINDA, the collaborative music project of the Ekerö, Sweden-born, Stockholm, Sweden-based singer/songwriter and dancer Linda Östergren Frithiof and her husband, multi-instrumentalist and producer Mikael Frihiof. Linda Östergren Frithiof can trace the origins of her performing career as a trained dancer, studying at the Lasse Kühler Dansskola School and the Ballet Academy, one of Scandinavia’s leading dance schools. While training as a dancer, it was discovered that Östergren Frithiof had a commanding voice and once she graduated dance school, she began performing at nightclubs, cabarets, vacation resorts, cruise ships and corporate events before landing gigs as a backup singer for a number of major Scandinavian artists including Magnus Uggla, Markoolio and E-Type, Shirley Clamp, Martin Stenmarck and Charlotte Perrelli, as well as Lutricia McNeal. She’s also sang vocal demos for Celine Dion, and collaborated with the likes of Leif Larsson and Anders Borgius for Swedish artists like Björn Skifs and David Hasselhoff. (Yes, David Hasselhoff.)
Adding to a rather diverse and eclectic career path, Östergren Frithiof has played Sally Bowles in the Stockholm-based production of Cabaret and Joanne in the Stockholm-based production of RENT before joining The Original Band — The Abba Tribute, which features a number of musicians who have played with ABBA either on their records or tours. Additionally, Östergren Frithiof, was involved in the casting, choreography and scripting for the show, which has toured across Sweden and has performed in China several times, including a televised audience of more than 100 million viewers for the Chinese New Year broadcast.
Östergren Frithof, has been building up a profile as a solo artist largely inspired by the sounds, vocal styles and stage shows of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Prince, Justin Timberlake,Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Ariana Grande and Bruno Mars. With her husband and collaborator Mikael, they formed a label Breaking Records and began writing and recording original material that draws from her own life, centered around her struggles and victories as an artist and mother of five. Interestingly, her MONDO.NYC set at Piano’s was her Stateside debut and I spoke to the up-and-coming Swedish adult contemporary pop artist and her husband at P.J. Clarke’s Lincoln Center location about her career to date, the MONDO.NYC Festival, her dance floor friendly, feminist anthem “Superwoman” and a lot more. Check it out.
Donna Missal is a New Jersey-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, who initially won the attention of the blogosphere with her sultry and bluesy debut single “Keep Lying” which pairs Missal’s soulful, belting vocals with 12 blues power chords, a propulsive section and enormous, anthemic hooks — and while sonically, the single finds Missal and her backing band effortlessly meshing the blues, old school soul, hip hop, and rock in a way that recalls Amy Winehouse, Hannah Williams and the Affirmations, Alicia Keys and others, the song is an urgent and passionate plea to a lover, who may be unfaithful, deceitful or no damn good. Unsurprisingly, once the original demo version of “Keep Lying” was played on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio show, the single has climbed up the charts — 18 Alternative radio stations have added the track to their playlists, with the song shooting to the top of Spotify Viral and Hype Machine charts; in fact, “Keep Lying” along with several other tracks have amassed over 11 million streams across streaming services.
Missal’s much-anticipated Nate Mercereau-produced full-length debut This Time was released the other day, and the album will further cement the New Jersey-born Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s growing reputation for soulful and unabashed honest pop, centered on living entirely on one’s own terms. I’ve spent most of my life being hyper-focused on time, which I think is something that a lot of women obsess over,” Missal says in press notes. “We’re in such a rush to make things happen, when really we should take the time to figure out what we actually want out of life. And even though it’s so fucking hard to have that kind of patience, I think it’s so important to believe in yourself enough to let things develop in a way that feels right to you.” Missal continues, “This isn’t a record about love and loss and relationships. It’s about taking chances for yourself, figuring out who you are and really standing behind that. I made a point of putting myself out there as a real person navigating this life at this moment in time, because I want to do whatever I can as an artist to help people feel more confident in navigating their own lives. I’d love for the listener to receive the message that you can take your time to learn and love yourself. That’s been the most important discovery that I want to share with this album.”
Interestingly, Missal and her backing band recorded live to tape with some of the material being sampled to imbue it with a fresh yet timeless energy — and to set her apart from a busy and competitive slate of contemporary pop singers. “I really wanted this album to reference my history of playing in bands,” Missal explains in press notes. “It’s all these very pure, talented musicians playing together in a room, but then we took that and sampled it and altered in a way that creates something totally new.” Of course, Missal is touring to support her new album and it includes a sold out show tonight at Rough Trade. (You can check out the tour dates below.)
Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s emerging artist platform that curates the best up-and-coming artists — acts that the site believes will have a significant impact on the future — to perform their best material. Vevo has a lengthy history of promoting emerging artists and helping them break through to new and wider audiences; in fact, past alumni of the Vevo DSCVR series has included Jack Garratt, James Bay, Years & Years, Wolf Alice, Sam Smith, Jorja Smith, Maggie Rogers, Alessia Cara and Ella Eyre among others. Now, as you may recall Vevo DSCVR has invited up-and-coming pop artists Billie Eilish and Bülow to perform material off their newest efforts, and they recently invited Missal to perform her impressive standout track “Keep Lying” and from the footage, Missal performs with a rock ‘n’ roll-like energy, bouncing around like a young Anthony Kedis.
Comprised of founding members, Washington, DC-born, New York-based sibling duo Rashaan Carter (bass) and Russell Carter (drums), German-born, New York-based electronic music artist Emmanuel Ruffler, Georgia-born, New York-based Tivon Pennicott (saxophone) and Duane Eubanks (trumpet), the New York-based jazz quintet A Tree Grows features some of the city’s most accomplished and renowned jazz musicians — and arguably some of the city’s most accomplished musicians across any genre.
The quintet’s founding members, the sibling duo Rashaan Carter and Russell Carter were born in a very musical home as their father was a saxophonist and their mother, a radio programmer. Growing up, the Carters cut their teeth in the Washington, DC scene where they played with a number of locally and nationally renowned artists including the likes of Gary Thomas. Rashaan relocated to New York to attend New School University, where he began collaborating with a number of the school’s faculty members, including percussionist and composer Joe Chambers — and where he met future bandmate Emanuel Ruffler. Ruffler, a German-born, New York-based electronic music artist once won the grand prize in the Thelonious Monk Competition, has a songwriting credit on Meshell Ndegeocello’s “Aquarium” and has collaborated with world-famous designer Emanuel Ungaro, which led to Ruffler crafting the soundtrack for an ad campaign for an Ungaro-produced perfume. Georgia-born, New York-based Tivon Pennicott is a two-time Grammy winner and Thelonious Monk Competition runner-up, who is perhaps best known as a member of renowned, jazz-soul vocalist Gregory Porter’s backing band. Additionally while in college, Pennicott began playing with renowned guitarist Kenny Burrell, and as a result the Georgia-born, New York-based saxophonist has played in backing bands for Stevie Wonder and Wynton Marsalis among others. The Georgia-born, New York-based saxophonist has also collaborated with Esperanza Spalding on Radio Music Society and has toured as part of Al Foster‘s band. Finalizing the band’s lineup, Duane Eubanks is best known as a member of Dave Holland‘s two-time Grammy Award winning big band and as a member Mulgrew Miller’s band Wingspan. And as a result he’s played in some of the world’s most renowned and well-regarded music venues including Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall and The Kennedy Center, as well as countless tours across Europe and Japan. Eubanks has crossed over into other genres as he recorded and toured with an incredibly diverse array of artists including The Temptations, Alicia Keys, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Wu-Tang Clan, Freedom Williams, Kirk Franklin and DeFunkt.
The jazz quintet’s self-titled EP was released earlier this year and while serving as a teaser for their forthcoming full-length effort, and if you had been following this site earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about the band’s coolly atmospheric and funky first single “Wau Wau Water,” a composition that managed to evoke seething, bubbling and frothing water. Interestingly, as the members of the band explained each composition that appears on both the EP and their forthcoming LP is based around a different concept, describing and evoking a distinct state in the evolution of life on Earth as we know it. “The images are snapshots, extending from the beginning of life, to the emergence of emotions, to aspects of modern human life. The cycle closes with possibilities for future development: self-perpetuating intelligence. The composition ‘Wau Wau Water’ is based on the following concept: ‘Enzymes are forming in a prehistoric ocean — evolving into bacteria. A stew of life is brewing, the cycle starts and intensifies in this patch of fertile Wau Wau Water.” As the band’s Emanuel Ruffler added “Defining and discussing these concepts during the rehearsal and recording process created a sense of purpose among the musicians and a deeper engagement with the compositions. This has transformed our creative process.”
“Future Calculations” the EP’s latest single is a coolly swaggering strut of a composition that much like its preceding single owes a debt to bop-era jazz and jazz fusion as a propulsive yet wobbling and retro-futuristic bass line, played through copious wah wah pedal is paired with shuffling and deceptively complex syncopation and a boldly expressive melody from the band’s brass players. Clocking in at a little over 2:30, the composition is roomy enough to allow room for the brass players — primarily saxophone — to solo in a composition that rapidly shifts gears in a prog rock-like fashion, and while evoking the wonders of minute mysteries of nature, even in a large city.
The recently released video for the song follows a young girl, with an expressive and highly intelligent face wandering around New York with a small container of dirt and seeds, who stops by Central Park’s Strawberry Fields to let a jazz musician she encounters to take a look at the suddenly growing seedling, before she plants it in the park nearby to replace a fallen tree.
The New York-based jazz quintet’s self-titled EP (which will serve as a teaser for their forthcoming full-length album) was released earlier this month and the band’s sound which is clearly jazz/jazz fusion based, also possesses elements of funk, bop jazz, jazz fusion shines through on the coolly atmospheric and funky first single “Wau Wau Water,” a composition that manages to evoke seething, bubbling and frothing water. And that shouldn’t be surprising as the band explains that each composition on both the EP and the LP is based around on a different concept, describing a distinct state in the evolution of life on Earth as we know it. “The images are snapshots, extending from the beginning of life, to the emergence of emotions, to aspects of modern human life. The cycle closes with possibilities for future development: self-perpetuating intelligence. The composition ‘Wau Wau Water’ is based on the following concept: ‘Enzymes are forming in a prehistoric ocean — evolving into bacteria. A stew of life is brewing, the cycle starts and intensifies in this patch of fertile Wau Wau Water.” As the band’s Emanuel Ruffler added “Defining and discussing these concepts during the rehearsal and recording process created a sense of purpose among the musicians and a deeper engagement with the compositions. This has transformed our creative process.”
Created by acclaimed videographer Hideki Shiota, who won Best Cinematography Award at the Asian American International Film Festival, the video employs a simple concept as you see the members of the band performing the song in the studio; however, the video is shot in a way so that you don’t see the musicians faces.
Lower East Side-born and based singer/songwriter Emily King is a Grammy-nominated artist, who has received a growing national and international profile for a sound that’s deeply indebted to pop, soul and electro pop; in fact, King has toured and opened for the likes of Maroon 5, John Legend, Emeli Sande, Alicia Keys, Aloe Blacc, Sara Bareilles and others.
“Focus,” the latest single off her recently released The Switch, Deluxe Edition pairs King’s effortlessly soulful vocals and achingly honest lyrics, based around a troubled relationship with a stuttering guitar line and bass line, atmospheric electronics, layered harmonies and an incredibly infectious hook to craft a breezy and radio friendly tune that reminds me quite a bit of Roisin Muphy‘s incredibly dexterous and earnest pop.
King is in the middle of an American tour that includes two dates with the acclaimed Alabama Shakes. Check out tour dates below.