Tag: El Michels Affair

New Video: Soulive Returns With Soulful and Psychedelic Genre-Defying Composition from Forthcoming Film Soundtrack-Inspired EP

Consisting of Eric Krasno (guitar) and siblings Alan Evans (drums) and Neal Evans (Hammond B3 organ, bass keys, clavinet), the renowned genre-defying funk/jazz New York-based trio Soulive can trace their origins back to when the Evans Brothers began performing in a number of regionally known acts including the jam band Moon Boot Lover and a brief stint with rap act The Elements, which featured Edreys, a.k.a. Billy Drease Williams before they began looking to start a traditional jazz organ trio. And as the story goes, in March 1999, the Evans Brothers invited their high school pay Eric Krasno to jam and record some tracks with them at their home studio in Woodstock, NY, and those sessions wound up comprising their debut EP Get Down! 

Shortly after the release of Get Down! the newly formed band hit the road touring to support it. During that first tour, the trio recorded their full-length debut Turn It Out and the effort, which was released in 2000 through Velour Recordings featured and impressive array of guest musicians including renowned jazz guitarist John Scofield, multi-instrumentalist Oteil Burnbridge, best known for a lengthy stint in the Allman Brothers Band, and saxophonist Sam Kininger, who has collaborated with Lettuce, Dave Matthews Band and others. For an independent act, their full-length debut went on to sell over 65,000 copies, which quickly established the members of Soulive as one of contemporary jazz and funk’s most exciting, new acts. By the fall of 2000, Soulive had signed a record deal with Blue Note Records, with whom they released their sophomore effort Doin’ Something, which featured horn arrangements by the legendary Fred Wesley; their third, full-length album Next, which featured guest spots from Dave Matthews, Amel Larrieux, Talib Kweli and Black Thought. They also collaborated with singer/songwriter Goapele Mohlabane.
Building upon a growing profile, Soulive went on five national tours over the next three years, opening for The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, The Roots, Common, John Mayer and others, while making appearances at Monterey Jazz Festival and Bonaroo, as well as tours across Japan and the European Union; in fact, one of their Japanese tours wound up becoming their eponymous and highly acclaimed, self-titled live album, released in 2003. And before leaving Blue Note Records, the members of Soulive released the Turn It Out Remixed album, which featured Jurassic 5, DJ Spinna, DJ Krush, J-Live, Wordsworth and The Beatnuts.

2005’s Break Out, the New York-based jazz/funk act’s first album with new label Concord Music Group found the band experimenting with their sound and approach, as they eschewed extended and free-flowing jams for beat-driven instrumentals; but along with that, they collaborated with the legendary Chaka Khan, Ivan Neville, Living Colour’s Corey Glover, Robert Randolph and comedian and multi-instrumentalist Reggie Watts. 2006’s Stewart Lerman-produced No Place Like Soul featured Boston, MA-based reggae/soul artist Toussaint as their lead vocalist; however, after that tour the band decided to return to being a trio. In fact, 2009’s Up Here was something of a return to form for the band with the material mainly being instrumentals with the members of Soulive collaborated with The Shady Horns — the aforementioned Sam Kininger (alto sax) and Rashawn Ross (trumpet) — and Nigel Hall.

Now, I personally became familiar with Soulive with 2010’s Rubber Soulive, an effort that comprised of jazz and funk-inspired renditions of the Beatles catalog — and their annual multi-week residency Bowlive, which featured the band collaborating with an incredibly diverse and dynamic array of artists. Interestingly, the members of the band have been busy with their respective projects — in particular Soulive’s Eric Krasno has been with Lettuce, an increasing production load and his own solo work; however, the members of the band reconvened at Alan Evans’ Iron Wax Studios in late 2017 with a few loosely-sketched ideas and no overarching concept in mind, and began fleshing out ideas as a band. “We trust each other to bring our voices to each other’s ideas,” says Alan Evans, while Krasno adds, “I think Soulive creates our best material using that method.”

The end result is the trio’s long-awaited Cinematics, Vol. 1 EP, which the band will be releasing through their own label Soulive Music on February 23, 2018. Although it’s the first new material from the renowned act in over six years, as you’ll hear on the EP’s first single “Kings March,” Soulive further cements their reputation for a genre-defying sound — in this particular case, the composition draws from 60s funk, psych pop, psych rock, hip-hop and jazz and it finds the band doing so in a fashion reminiscent of El Michels Affair and Wu Tang Clan; but with an incredibly cinematic fashion, as though it could have been part of the soundtrack of a rainy, spy thriller set in Eastern Europe and Miami.

Reportedly, the cinematic quality of the music arose from the trio’s collective instincts writing and recording together. “We didn’t have to talk about anything,” Alan says. “It all unfolded as we were working on it; one song influences the direction of the next, and soon you find yourself going down this path. We want this music to take people on a little journey.” Adds, Eric Krasno, “A cinematic piece of music creates a mood. Film composers like Jerry Goldsmith, David Axelrod, Ennio Morricone and Melvin Van Peebles were all influential in the concept for Cinematics. The idea is to use soundscape and melodic interplay to enhance the feeling and sentiment of a visual and to amplify the emotion that it’s relating.”

The recently released video features rather black and white intimate footage of the band, along with some appropriately psychedelic imagery. 

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Live Footage: Chicano Batman Perform “Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)” on Conan

Comprised of Eduardo Arenas (bass, vocals), Carlos Arévalo (guitar), Bardo Martinez (vocals, organ, guitar) and Gabriel Villa (drums, percussion), the Los Angeles, CA-based quartet Chicano Batman have developed a reputation for specializing in a sound that draws from Brazilian tropicalia, psychedelia and classic soul — and for a growing national profile, as they’ve opened for Jack White, Alabama Shakes, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Gogol Bordello and others. Adding to that, the band has played at several of the country’s biggest music festivals, including Coachella and Bonnaroo among others.

Interestingly, the band’s latest album Freedom Is Free finds the band leaning heavily towards a classic soul and classic R&B-leaning sound. And in order to achieve that goal, the band enlisted the assistance of Leon Michels, who is best known for specializing in that classic soul sound with his work with El Michels Affair, The Arcs, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, The Black Keys and The Menahan Street Band. Additionally, Michels has had his work sampled in songs by Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah.

“Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)” is the latest single off Freedom Is Free and as you’ll hear the song draws from slow-burning, classic soul and R&B while nodding at the sound of The Who Sings My Generation and A Quick One-era The Who and The Kinks — but if they added an organist and a handful of backing vocalist. And as a result, the song consists of a soulful, old-school, shuffling two step and a deceptively simple nature, as the song lyrically and thematically speaks of the complex and complicated nature of friendship. Throughout the song, the narrator openly recognizes that while human relationships are absolutely pleasurable and necessary if they forge a deep understanding and companionship; but they can also be frequently fraught with misunderstanding, bitterness, heartache and betrayal.

Recently, the members of Chicano Batman made their national television debut with an appearance on Conan, where they played a loose and fiery version of “Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm) off their latest full-length effort.

New Video: El Michels Affair’s Soulful and Cinematic Take on the Wu-Tang

Comprised of founding member, bandleader and primary arranger Leon Michels (saxophone), Homer Steinweiss (drums), Nick Movshon (bass), Thomas Brenneck (guitar), Sean Solomon (guitar), Tobias Pazner (keyboards), Michael Leonhart (trumpet) and Todd Simon (trumpet), the El Michels Affair is a Brooklyn-based All-Star, instrumental soul act featuring members from several renowned, locally-based acts including The Arcs, Menahan Street Band, The Shacks, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Lee Fields and the Expressions. After the release of their 2005 debut Sounding Out the City, the band was paired with Raekwon for a concert organized by Scion and it eventually led to a tour that featured several members of the Wu-Tang Clan. And interestingly enough, touring with the members of the Wu inspired the El Michels Affair’s sophomore effort Enter the 37th Chamber, soul-based, instrumental interpretations of the material off Wu-Tang’s seminal debut Enter the 36 Chambers.

Unsurprisingly, Enter the 37th Chamber has proven to be the band’s most commercially successful album to date, introducing the band to a much wider audience. It’s been several years since the band has released new material, as the members of the band have been extremely busy with their primary gigs, they had some time to reconvene to write and record Return to the 37th Chamber, their breakthrough sophomore effort’s long-awaited follow up. And much like its predecessor, the material will further cement the band’s reputation for soul music interpretations of the Wu Tang’s material for a live band, while paying homage to RZA’s imitable, hazy production; in fact, Michels in his role as producer, recorded the album straight to analog tape, sometimes hitting six generations of tape before it was ready for mixing. Adding to the album’s overall sound, the material possesses the occasional psychedelic flourish, John Carpenter-like synths, power chord-friendly guitar work, the enormous horn sections and traditional Chinese instrumentation in place of most of the vocals and guest spots from Lee Fields and The Shacks’ Shannon Wise. Essentially, while being a tribute to one of hip-hop’s most interesting, challenging producers and artists and his sound, the album finds the members of El Michels Affair picking up on and expanding the cinematic aspects of RZA’s production.

Of course, while Enter the 37th Chamber paid tribute to Enter the 36 Chambers, the El Michels Affair tackles some of the Wu’s beloved classics such as “4th Chamber” and “Wu Tang Ain’t Nuthin ta Fuck Wit,” as well as deeper cuts like Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s “Snakes,” Raekwon’s “Verbal Intercourse,” and Wu-Tang’s contribution to St. Ide’s legendary early 90s ad campaign, “Shaolin Brew.” Now, as you may remember earlier this month, I wrote about Return to the 37th Chamber’s first single “Tearz.” And that single, which featured guest spots from the aforementioned Lee Fields and Shannon Wise managed to sound as though it paid equal respect to the Wendy Rene original song from which the song’s backing sample came from as it did to the Wu Tang’s own use of the sample — but with subtly psychedelic flourishes.

Return to the 37th Chamber’s latest single “Iron Man” is a cinematic reworking of “Iron’s Theme (Interlude)” off Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele, that expands upon the original’s groove to make it a full-length song — but with martial arts and psychedelic film sound effects.

Directed by artist El Oms, who met Leon Michels though The Arcs and has become a fan of the El Michels Affair, the animated video is a fittingly a martial arts, revenge saga, complete with a couple of trippy flashbacks and a shit ton of bloody mayhem — and I bet it would be make Quentin Tarantino proud. As El Oms explains in press notes “Making this video really brought me back to my younger days. I grew up watching martial art movies and listening to Wu-Tang and when I heard El Michels Affair’s Enter The 37th Chamber I was blown away by the way the album captured those elements and still sounded original. So being able to work on Return To The 37th Chamber was truly amazing. I try to capture those same elements on the ‘Iron Man’ video and give it this originality but still have the old traditional martial arts movie feel to it.”

Comprised of founding member, bandleader and primary arranger Leon Michels (saxophone), Homer Steinweiss (drums), Nick Movshon (bass), Thomas Brenneck (guitar), Sean Solomon (guitar), Tobias Pazner (keyboards), Michael Leonhart (trumpet) and Todd Simon (trumpet), the El Michels AffairT is a Brooklyn-based All-Star, instrumental soul act featuring members from several renowned acts including The Arcs, Menahan Street Band, The Shacks, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Lee Fields and the Expressions. After the release of their 2005 debut Sounding Out the City, the band was paired with Raekwon for a concert organized by Scion  and it eventually led to a tour that featured several members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Interestingly, touring with the members of the Wu-Tang led to the band’s sophomore effort Enter the 37th Chamber, an effort that consisted of soul-based, instrumental interpretations of the Wu-Tang Clan’s influential debut Enter the 36 Chambers. 

Unsurprisingly, Enter the 37th Chamber has introduced the band and its members to a much wider audience, while being their most commercially successful effort to date. Although the members of El Michels Affair had been busy with their primary gigs, they reconvened to record Return To The 37th Chamber, the highly-anticipated follow- up to Enter the 37th Chamber — and reportedly while reinterpreting and arranging Wu-Tang songs for a live band, Return to the 37th Chamber also pays homage to RZA‘s imitable, hazy production; in fact, Michels in his role as producer, recorded the album straight to analog tape, sometimes hitting six generations of tape before it was ready for mixing. Adding to the album’s overall sound, the material possesses the occasional psychedelic flourish, John Carpenter-like synths, power chord-friendly guitar work, the enormous horn sections and traditional Chinese instrumentation in place of most of the vocals — or in other words, the material balances RZA’s imitable and influential aesthetic with El Michels Affair’s burgeoning reputation for cinematic and swaggering soul.

As far as the material on the new album, the renowned instrumental soul act tackles some of the Wu’s beloved classics such as “4th Chamber” and “Wu Tang Ain’t Nuthin ta Fuck Wit,” as well as deeper cuts like Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s “Snakes,” Raekwon’s “Verbal Intercourse,” and Wu-Tang’s contribution to St. Ide’s legendary early 90s ad campaign, “Shaolin Brew.” And unlike the previous album, the band invites some of their Big Crown Records labelmates to contribute guest spots; in fact, the first single off the “Tearz”/”Verbal Intercourse” 7 inch — and first single off the forthcoming album features Lee Fields and The Shacks’ Shannon Wise contributing vocals for the El Michels Affair rendition of “Tearz,” a rendition that pays as much homage to the Wendy Rene sample as it does to the Wu Tang while being subtly psychedelic.

 

 

 

New Video: Chicano Batman Covers the Strange and Conflicting Feelings that Friendship Inspires in Their Most Soul-Leaning Song to Date

Comprised of Eduardo Arenas (bass, vocals), Carlos Arévalo (guitar), Bardo Martinez (vocals, organ, guitar) and Gabriel Villa (drums, percussion), the Los Angeles, CA-based quartet Chicano Batman have developed a reputation for specializing in a sound that draws from Brazilian tropicalia, psychedelia and classic soul and for a growing national profile, as they’ve played a number of this country’s major music festivals including Coachella and Bonnaroo, as well as opening for a number of renowned acts such as Jack White, Alabama Shakes, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Gogol Bordello and others. However, with the band’s forthcoming album Freedom Is Free — slated for a March 3, 2017 through ATO Records — the band reportedly decided to lean heavily towards a classic soul and R&B leaning sound. And in order to achieve that goal, the band enlisted the help of Leon Michels, best known for El Michels Affair, The Arcs, has played with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, The Black Keys and The Menahan Street Band and has had his work sampled by Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah.

Freedom Is Free’s latest single “Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)” clearly draws from slow-burning, classic soul and R&B but has a subtle bit of rock ‘n’ roll at its heart as it dimly nods at early The Who and The Kinks — if they had employed the use of soaring organ chords and backing vocalist. And as a result, the song possesses an old school, shuffling two step. Interestingly, the song lyrically and thematically speaks to the complex and complicated nature of friendship, with its narrator recognizing that human relationships while pleasurable and necessary, can frequently be fraught with bitterness and betrayal. As the band’s Bardo Martinez explains in press notes “This is a song of betrayal in the most mundane sense. It’s about the trials and tribulations of friendship but a personal reflection on the painful realities of human relationships.”

Directed by Alan Del Rio Ortiz, the recently released music video follows a series of relationships that highlight how quickly a relationship can go from being the best thing that could ever happen to you, to quickly souring and leading to some sort of betrayal — sometimes minor but quite frequently deeply heartbreaking.

Led by its founding member Toby Pazner, a member of Lee Fields and The Expressions and El Michels Affair; and featuring Dave Guy, a member of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Band and The Dap-Kings; Leon Michels, a member of The Arcs, Lee Fields and The Expressions and El Michels Affair; Nicholas Movshon, a member of The Arcs, Lee Fields and The Expressions and El Michels Affair; Homer Steinweiss, a member of The Dap-Kings and The Arcs; Michael Leonheart, Steely Dan‘s musical director and a member of David Byrne‘s backing band; Neal Sugarman, a member of The Dap-Kings and The Sugarman 3; Aaron Johnson, a member of Antibalas and El Michels Affair; Evan Pazner, a member of Lee Fields and The Expressions, The Olympians are a Daptone Records All-Star band who can trace their origins to when founding member Toby Pazner recruited a bunch of New York’s finest soul musicians during the 2008 Summer Olympics to record material that would comprise the collective’s first 45, which was released through Truth and Soul Records.

However, as the story goes, it wasn’t until a few years later, when Pazner was touring Greece and the Greek Islands when his true vision for the project materialized. After playing the Acropolis and swimming in the Aegean Sea, Pazner had a series of recurring dreams in which he was visited by an ancient, toga-clad, curly-haired Greek man, who told him to return home and build a “Temple of Sound.” And in that temple, Pazner was to retell the tales of Ancient Greece through music. Of course, considering the strangeness of those dreams, Pazner initially ignored them but since they were recurring and so vividly forceful, Pazner began to feel a decided urgency. When Pazner finished the tour, he returned to New York with a singular focus on completing The Olympians’ full-length debut and he immediately went to work acquiring the best studio equipment he could get his hands on. He then promptly followed that up by recruiting his Daptone Records friends  to help him flesh out the material that would comprise the collective’s self-titled album, slated for an October 28, 2016 release.

The self-titled album’s latest single “Apollo’s Mood” is a smooth, old-school soul inspired composition featuring the Daptone horn players, some of the best, contemporary horn players in the entire world paired with a twinkling, twisting and turning organ chords, a slow-burning and sinuous bass line, and a steady back beat. And although contemporary — in the sense that the musicians who composed and recorded the song are contemporary — the song sounds and feels as though it could have been recorded in 1963.