Tag: jazz fusion

 

Throughout the course of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, bassist and JOVM mainstay Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, and as you may recall Thundercat has developed a reputation as a highly-desired collaborator and a critically applauded solo artist; in fact, he has collaborated with Kendrick Lamar  on Lamar’s Grammy Award-winning album, To Pimp A Butterfly and  Brainfeeder Records labelmate, Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, which he promptly followed up with one of my favorite releases of 2015, the mini-album The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. 2017’s Drunk, Bruner’s critically applauded third full-length album was written as an epic journey into the bizarre, hilarious and sometimes dark mind of the singer/songwriter and bassist, and it featured an All-Star list of collaborators including some of his go-to collaborators Kamasi Washington, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa and Pharrell Williams, along with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins.

Currently comprised of founding members Matthew Tavares (keys), Chester Hansen (bass), and Alexander Sowinski (drums) with newest member Leland Whitty (saxophone), the Toronto, Ontario, Canada instrumental act BADBADNOTGOOD derive their name from an abandoned comedy TV project that Tavares was working on before the band formed – and whether as trio or a quartet, the band has developed a reputation for a sound and compositional approach that draws from hip-hop, electronica, jazz, prog rock; but they’re perhaps best known for their jazz-based interpretation of hip-hop tracks, which have allowed them to collaborate with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Denzel Curry, Danny Brown, Mick Jenkins, Ghostface Killah and others. Interestingly, the band can trace its origins to when the band’s founding trio bonding over a mutual love of hip-hop – in particular MF Doom and Odd Future.

As the story goes, the then-trio played a piece based on Odd Future’s music for a panel of their jazz performance instructors, who didn’t believe it had much musical value – but interestingly enough, after they released the track as “The Odd Future Sessions, Part 1,” the track caught the attention of Tyler The Creator, who helped the video go viral. The Canadian act followed that up with the 2011 release of their full-length debut BBNG, which featured interpretations of A Tribe Called Quest, Waka Flocka Flame and Odd Future. Building upon a growing profile, the members of BADBADNOTGOOD recorded a live jam session with Tyler The Creator in Sowinski’s basement, with videos from the session amassing more than a million views each.

2012’s sophomore effort BBNG2 was recorded over the course of a ten-hour studio session and featured Leland Whitty (saxophone) and Luan Phung (electric guitar) and featured their own original material, as well as renditions of songs by Kanye West, My Bloody Valentine, James Blake, Earl Sweatshirt and Feist. That year, the band was the official Coachella Festival house band, backing Frank Ocean and Odd Future over the course of its two weekends.

2013 saw the release of III, which featured “Hedron,” a track that was also featured on the compilation album Late Night Tales: Bonobo; “CS60” and “Can’t Leave the Night,” which was released with the B-side “Sustain,” and they were involved on the soundtrack for The Man with the Iron Fists, assisting with the production and composition.

2015’s fourth, full-length album Sour Soul, found them collaborating with Ghostface Killah – and interestingly, the album is more of a hip-hop album that nods at (and is largely influenced by) jazz. They ended the year with covers of a handful of holiday standards, including “Christmas Time Is Here” with Choir! Choir! Choir!

Leland Whitty joined the band as a full-time member in early 2016, and they followed that up with producing “Hoarse” off Earl Sweatshirt’s full-length debut Doris and “GUV’NOR,” a remix, which appeared on JJ DOOM’s Keys to the Kuffs (Butter Edition). By the middle of that year, BADBADNOTGOOD released their fifth full-length album IV, an album that featured guest spots from Future Islands’ Sam Herring, Colin Stetson, Kaytranada,Mick Jenkins and Charlotte Day Wilson, and was named BBC Radio 6’s #1 album of the year.

Interestingly, Thundercat and BADBADNOTGOOD have collaborated on what may arguably be one of the most hotly-anticipated collaborations in recent memory, “King of the Hill,” a track that’s a seamless meshing of Bruner’s soulful and dreamy falsetto with his dexterous bass work, a swaggering, boom-bap like backbeat from BADBADNOTGOOD and an atmospheric and shimmering production from Flying Lotus — and as a result, the track manages to be a soulful yet psychedelic take on jazz fusion that’s retro-futuristic yet incredibly contemporary.

Look for the track to be featured on Brainfeeder Records’ forthcoming 36 track Brainfeeder X compilation, and the compilation which is is slated for a November 16, 2018 release will celebrate the label’s decade of releasing the work of fearless and uncompromisingly forward-looking artists that will be split into volumes — a retrospective of their critically applauded releases and the other featuring even more forward-thinking work and collaborations.

 

New Video: The Trippy Visuals for Trummor & Orgel’s Trippy “Metropolis”

Since their formation, the Uppsala, Sweden-based sibling duo Trummor & Orgel, comprised of Anders Ljunggren (organ) and Staffan Ljunggreen (drums) have developed a reputation for being one of their homeland’s in-demand instrumental duos, as they’ve collaborated with The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ Ebbot Lundberg, Weeping Willows’ Magnus Carlson and Peter, Bjorn, and John’s Peter Moren among others. Adding to a growing profile, the duo have played hundreds of gigs across the European Union, and they’ve had their music featured on a number of TV shows and movies.

“Metropolis,” the first single off duo’s forthcoming album Indivisibility finds the duo driven by the desire to create something completely original within the limitations of their instrumental setup of drums and organ. In press notes, the duo acknowledge that creatively speaking, freedom and limitation are “two sides of the same coin; music can become incomprehensible without a frame, but without freedom, it becomes fixed. Or if you want to, Yin needs Yang for unity. This has been the leading principle when working with the new album, to find the balance between the organic and the electronic, the dynamic and predictable, now and then; the balance between man and machine.”

Sonically, “Metropolis” finds the duo taking on a cinematic and retro-futuristic sound while nodding at jazz, jazz fusion and funk — but within an arrangement that has the duo walking a tightrope between the immediacy and looseness of two guys jamming in the studio and the deliberate nature of playing a written composition without betraying either. And interestingly enough, the composition also manages to evoke the movements of crowds of humanity rushing to and fro in a busy city. 

The recently released video features this duo performing the song underneath a heavily graffitied up highway underpass, as well as footage of ghostly figures suddenly appearing across the screen and footage of everyday pedestrians walking about a decidedly European city — all of which emphasizes the duo’s trippy sound.

 

Despite going through a number of lineup changes throughout the years, the New York-based jazz outfit New York Electric Piano, currently comprised of founding members Pat Daughtery (piano) and Aaron Commes (drums), who’s best known for his work in the Spin Doctors, along with newest member Richard Hammond (bass), initially formed in 2003 as a piano jazz trio, based around the Fender Rhodes electric piano sound featuring founding members Daughtery, Comess and Tim Givens (bass). Interestingly, that collaboration can trace its origins back to when the founding trio met, playing in various bands in the NYC music scene during the 90s.

Their eponymous 2004 debut effort was critically applauded and was a commercial success, as it cracked the Top 20 of the CMJ Jazz Charts. 2005’s Citizen Zen and 2006’s Blues in Full Moon were also released to critical praise. And adding to a growing profile, the band began a long residency at the Cutting Room, which featured their tradition of inviting dancers on stage with them. However, by 2008, the band expanded into a sextet as they added Deanna Kirk (vocals), Till Behler (sax) and Leon Gruenbaum (keys), who’s best known as a member of Vernon Reid’s backing band — and as a sextet, they released the critically applauded King Mystery, which found the members of the then-sextet expanding upon their sound and approach with material that shifted between dance rock, jazz and wild freak outs.

By 2010, the band expanded once again as they added Teddy Kumpel (guitar), known as a member of Joe Jackson’s backing band and Erik Lawrence (sax), known as a member of the legendary Levon Helm‘s backing band. And as a nonet, New York Electric Piano began a long and very successful run at Zinc Bar, which they followed with arguably their most commercially successful effort to date, 2011’s double album Keys to the City, which spent a month in the Top 10 of CMJ’s Jazz Charts and received critical praise from the likes of PopMatters, Sea of TranquilityJazz Times, Drumhead and All About Jazz among others.

And although the band received quite a bit of commercial and critical success as a large ensemble, they reverted to the original format a trio — recruiting the aforementioned Hammond with whom they released Black Hole In One, an album which featured alternating instrumental compositions and vocal tracks. Unexpectedly, for the members of New York Electric Piano, the album received international attention, thanks in part to album single “Party On.” As the story goes, “Party On” was pushed by an Australian DJ, and eventually the New Zealand National Rugby Team, the All Blacks adopted the song as their theme song during their Rugby World Cup Championship run. Along with that, Lollapalooza artist Norton Wisdom did a live action painting to the song, and the video and song became the subject of a climate change conference at Penn State University. Adding to the unexpected attention on the album, album single “Who Wants to Know” features a verse about Crazy Horse. One of his descendants heard the song and sent it to family members, who were protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline — with the song becoming something of a rallying cry.

Recently, the members of the band have been playing monthly gigs at Rockwood Music Hall, and their extended, free-flowing jams were met with such tremendous audience approval that Aaron Comess immediately suggesting that they needed to try to capture the energy and vibe of their Rockwood shows on their next album — State of the Art, which is slated for a January 12, 2018 release through Fervor Records.

State of the Art‘s latest single “Road to Joy” is a loose and free-flowing jam that displays the trio’s uncanny simpatico, in which they all push and pull upon the other, teasing out ideas from one another, and much like the incredible Xylouris White, there’s a sense that the trio, musically speaking are dancing — with each member knowing exactly when to lead, follow. And although the composition begins with some stuttering discordance, the trio quickly finds a sustained, funky groove reminiscent of 70s era jazz fusion but with a contemporary touch.

 

 

 

 

Comprised of four long-time friends James Donald, Adam Halliwell, Kevin McDowell and
Tom Shanahan, the Melbourne, Australia-based quartet Mildlife, largely inspired by the likes of Can and Herbie Hancock, bonded over the desire to push musical boundaries as far as possible. And interestingly enough the quartet developed a reputation locally for completely live improvised live sets based around am incredibly unique retro-futuristic sound that draws from, prog rock free jazz, jazz fusion, 70s and 80s synth funk, house music, dream pop and krautrock, while also nodding at contemporaries like Floating Points, Caribou, Drakkar Nowhere and others.

Although the members of the band will openly say that they’re not they’re not a studio band, they did spend 2014-2015 off from live shows so they could figure out how to accurately replicate their live sound within the studio — without losing its complexity and nuance. “It makes the performance, the composition, more malleable,” says guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Adam Halliwell. Bassist Tom Shanahan adds “It feels more authentic. The energy can be in the song rather than sitting on top of it. We wanted to leave a lot of room for improvisation.”

The Melbourne-based quartet’s full-length debut Phase is slated for release sometime early next year through Research Records and the album’s first official single “The Magnificent Moon” is rooted around a expansive and kaleidoscopic composition featuring layers of tight, arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line and a propulsive backbeat that’s roomy enough for some funky jazz-like guitar soloing and a cosmic ray-like synth solo, a trippy bridge and razor sharp hooks — and while being decidedly retro-futuristic, the song reveals the members of the Melbourne-based quartet to be among some of their homeland’s most adept and finest musicians, as they manage to walk the difficult tightrope between a deliberately crafted composition and free-flowing improvisation in a way that’s intriguing.

 

 

 

Live Footage: Israeli Trio Tatran Performing “The Elephant” at TEDER.FM

Tatran is a Tel Aviv, Israel-based instrumental trio, comprised of  Offir Benjaminov (bass), Tamuz Dekel (guitar) and Dan Mayo (drums), that has developed a reputation in their homeland for a sound that draws from jazz fusion, classical music, avant-garde compositions, post-rock, electronic music, post-punk and a rather eclectic array of genres — and for a live show, rooted in improvisation. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the summer, you may recall that the Tel Aviv-based trio’s recently released effort No Sides revealed that the members of the band decided upon a complete and radical shift with their songwriting approach. For years, they had a long-held practice of deliberately composing and painstakingly revising their compositions; however, No Sides was a live recording of a show with the members of the band hitting the stage without anything prepared or mapped out with the hopes that they could grab an hold on to “the frequency of inspiration, allowing the music to present and unfold itself in real-time through our unmediated communication, with the energy and presence of the people in the room.” 

And as the members of the band explained in press notes, everything about the project from its concept, through the performance and its eventual release revolved around trust — trust in the power of immediate expression, in the moment, in each other and in the communication with the audience. 

“The Elephant,” the Israeli trio’s latest composition will further cement the band’s growing reputation for seamless genre-mashing as the song features a swaggering and strutting bass line paired with dexterous and lysergic-fueled, jazz fusion-inspired guitar and stomping boom-bap drums work within a loose, twisting and turning jam-based composition — and interestingly enough, while being incredibly funky, the composition clearly nods at prog rock and jazz fusion in a way that should remind some listeners of King Crimson — or of Return to Forever. 

The band released some recently recorded live footage shot during a performance at TEDER.FM, and it should give you an intimate sense of what their live set is like. 

Live Footage: Thundercat feat. Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins Performing “Show You The Way” on “The Tonight Show”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you’d recall that the past two years or so have been both incredibly productive and prolific for the critically applauded  bassist, vocalist and JOVM mainstay Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner. He made guest appearances contributing bass and/or vocals to Kendrick Lamar‘s Grammy Award-winning To Pimp A Butterfly and  Brainfeeder Records labelmate, Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, and he followed that up by releasing what arguably may have been one of 2015’s best albums The Beyond/Where Giants Roam, an effort that I think further cemented his reputation as a dexterous bassist, who carefully walks a tightrope between jazz fusion, contemporary jazz and funk in a way that’s reminiscent of the late and great Jaco Pastorius — but while nodding at Stevie Wonder’s 70s and early 80s output, as it possessed a retro-futuristic sound. 

Last year, I wrote about “Bus In These Streets,” the first bit of music from the renowned bassist and vocalist in over a year, and the single was a comedic and playful ode to our reliance and dependence on technology in which Thundercat’s dexterous and sinuous bass lines with Louis Cole (keys, drums and programming) contributing shimmering and twinkling keys and propulsive drum programming and frequent collaborator Flying Lotus contributing more programming and editing in a song that evokes a dreamy, distracted self-absorption as the song’s narrator spends their time staring at their smartphone, not noticing the world pass him by — or the inherent danger he might be walking into as he stupidly stares into his phone.

Bruner’s third, full-length effort Drunk was released earlier this year and the album is reportedly an epic journey into the bizarre, hilarious and sometimes very dark mind of the singer/songwriter and bassist, and the effort find Bruner collaborating with an All-Star list of guests and friends including Kamasi Washington,  Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell Williams, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. While the album will feature fan favorites “Bus In These Streets” and “Them Changes,”  Drunk‘s first official single “Show You The Way” is a sleek and soulfully jazzy track in which shimmering arpeggio cascades of synths, stuttering drums, and Bruner’s imitable bass lines are paired in an incredible collaboration that features Bruner’s sultry falsetto with the imitable vocals of Kenny Loggins and Micheal McDonald. Sonically speaking the song is an uncanny synthesis of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” and Bruner’s signature funky, retro-futuristic jazz fusion.

So how did such a high-powered collaboration come about? Thundercat has publicly mentioned his love of Loggins and his work during interviews to promote both The Beyond and the tour for the album — and it lead to his keyboardist Dennis Hamm introducing Bruner to Loggins. According to both Bruner and Hamm, Loggins then suggested bringing in Michael McDonald on the track. And as Bruner adds in press notes “I think one of the most beautiful moments of it was realizing how amazing Michael McDonald was. He would go through so many ideas and have so much to offer.” As for the song, Bruner says “That song to me is about going down the rabbit hole, taking you to another place . . . On the edge of dark, there’s the brightest light. It means a lot to me in the sense of . . .the experience that I’ve had growing up with friends and people that I’ve been around where it’s inventing them into where I come from emotionally. Sometimes it’s a pretty intense thing. The point is how weird things can get. ”

 

Since appearing on DJ Shadow‘s 2006 album The Outsider, the critically applauded, mostly instrumental London, UK-based act The Heliocentrics, comprised of Malcolm Catto (drums, production), Jake Ferguson (bass), Adrian Owusu (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Jack Yglesias, have cemented a reputation for a compositional approach based on the band’s four musicians’  live improvisation in the studio as a way to avoid typical songwriting and compositional processes and generic song structures, and for a boldly genre-defying aesthetic as their sound possesses elements of jazz, hip-hop, trip-hop, psych rock, acid jazz, krautrock and musique concrete. Unsurprisingly, as a result of being uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole, the members of The Heliocenters have collaborated with an impressive array of artists including Muluta Astake, The Gaslamp Killer, Lloyd Miller, Orlando Julius, the legendary and iconoclastic Melvin Van Peebles and others.

Spending well over a decade together, the members of the band refer to their songwriting and recording process as “almost a form of telepathy” with “musical changes that otherwise would be near impossible to write .. . ” Interestingly, the band’s fourth full-length effort, A World of Masks, which is slated for a June 9, 2017 release through  will further cement their reputation for being difficult to pigeonhole; but it also marks several new directions for a band that constantly pushes themselves in new directions sonically and thematically. First, the London-based band’s fourth album is the first official release through their new label home Soundway Records after several years on Los Angeles-based Now Again Records — and secondly, the album finds the band collaborating with Barbora Patkova, a young Slovakian vocalist, who the members of the band discovered through a mutual friend. According to the band, Patkova’s sound and vocal stylings “instantly worked with us,” and they quickly discovered an artist, who like them was intimately familiar with an improvisational approach and had lyrics at the ready to sing, frequently in her native Slovakian over any music thrown at her.  Lastly, A World of Masks is the first release of rather prolific year or so period for the band: they recently wrote the score to the critically acclaimed documentary about LCD, The Sunshine Makers and have plans to collaborate with the legendary Marshall Allen and the Sun Ra Arekstra, and to continue their collaboration with Gaslamp Killer with a new album as well, ensuring that The Heliocentrics will be a go-to band to collaborate with on genre-stretching and genre-defying works.

The London-based act’s latest single “Oh Brother” is the second official single off A World of Masks and the single is an awe-inspiring, heady and cinematic mix of psych rock, acid jazz, jazz fusion, 60s blue eyed soul and a subtle hint of psychedelic Bollywood in a song that possesses an explosive and feral immediacy paired with Patkova’s sultry and soulful Nancy Sinatra-like vocals.