Tag: jazz

 

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.

 

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Throwback: John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout its eight year history, you’d know that it’s an annual tradition to post John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme on September 11th. Personally, it’s an annual tradition in my home that goes back to 2005: On that particular September 11th, I had returned home from a day job at a small Midtown Manhattan-based publisher to my father cooking and playing A Love Supreme on the living room stereo loudly — so loudly that it almost felt and sounded as though the each of the legendary musicians of those sessions were playing right in our living room. My father wasn’t exactly the most thoughtful or even mindful person but in light of such terrifying and awful events, it seemed to be one of the most thoughtful things he’s done in many years; after all, the album is not just a reminder of the profound beauty we are sometimes capable of, as well an album that humbly contemplates the nature of God and of God’s love. And while I’ve long been an atheist, needing to contemplate our beauty and goodness in light of such terrible events seemed necessary and life affirming. 

As a native New Yorker, September 11th has a much different meaning than for other Americans. Back on September 11, 2011, I was finishing my final semester at NYU and there are a handful of things I’ll always remember: I had met my friend Jill later that day, and as we were walking down 71st Street/Continental Avenue towards the TGI Friday’s on Austin Street and 70th Street, we saw a number of our fellow New Yorkers covered in concrete dust — and everyone walking around in a daze, not knowing what happened or what to do; the utterly unfamiliar silence of three days without airplanes or much traffic; and the missing posters the tweet from ceiling to floor, east to west across Sixth Avenue at the West 4th Street, A,B,C,D,E,F and M subway station. (Editor’s Note: The M train didn’t stop there at the time; the long discontinued V train did though.) Each of those posters included a picture that captured their loved one in the fullness of their lives, smiling awkwardly, as everyone would do in extremely posed photos or doing something they loved. Written on the poster, the family, the friends, the coworkers wrote “My friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/brother/sister, etc. was last seen on the 103rd floor/the 98th floor/the 93rd floor . . . “And from the posters, there was this unshakeable sense that most of those poor souls would never be found again — and that the family would be left to try to piece together their lives without someone they loved and cherished. The funny thing is that we talk so much about closure but in life there really is no closure; things are incomplete and frustratingly unresolved, and we have to accept that — perhaps even more so when your loved one dies in such a senseless and inexplicable fashion. 

I’ll leave you with this: life sometimes can be so overwhelmingly difficult — to the point that it can be difficult to figure out how to keep pushing forward. And perhaps even more so when everything seems to suggest that humanity is inching its way closer to its own annihilation. But in light of such terrible events today, cherish the small things and hold on to them dearly. They’re all we have. 

Born in Washington, DC and currently based in Austin, TX, Zapot Mgwana never knew his father, but his mother, who worked for the Ethiopian Embassy always told him that Herman Poole Blount (a.k.a. Sun Ra) was his father. When Mgwana was nine, he and his mother moved to Nigeria, where he spent most of his formative years. Recently Mgwana returned to the States and formed his musical project The Golden Dawn Arkestra — and much like the work of Sun Ra, Mgwana’s Arkestra focuses on intergalactic travel, transcendence, and time travel but while sonically pairing deep grooves and cinematic quality with a world spanning expansiveness.

Children of the Sun, The Golden Dawn Arkestra’s finds the band further cementing their growing reputation for an expansive, globe spanning sound with album’s material inspired by the sounds of Berlin, Brazil, psych rock, disco, soul and world music. In fact, Children of the Sun‘s latest single “Lovely Day” sounds as though the band were drawing from Bossa Nova, Afrobeat and the work of Ennio Morricone — it’s an expansive, global and forward looking take on the large band format that manages to be mischievously retro-futuristic and with a kaleidoscopic vibe. 

Currently comprised of founding duo Soulive‘s Alan Evans (drums) and The New Mastersounds’ Eddie Roberts (guitar), along with Chris Spies (keys), Kevin Scott (bass), who’s a member of Jimmy Herring‘s backing band, Adyron de Leon (vocals) and Pimps of Joytime’s Kimberly Dawson, Matador! Soul Sounds can trace their origins to when Evans and Roberts were touring together with their respective main gigs, and as Roberts explains in press notes, “The idea came about one night while we were drinking wine in a bar in DC, when I turned to Alan and asked ‘can we start a band together?’ Alan obviously shared the same sentiment, as we are here today launching the debut album!”

Interestingly, the band is loosely centered around the concept of Spanish bullfighting. A common American misconception of bullfighting is that it’s the feat off one man versus one bull; but rather, bullfighting is largely a team effort in which the matter is backed by his cuadrilla, his team, his corner — and its actually much more like boxing. Additionally, the band’s name is partially a nod at Grant Green’Matador, which both Evans and Roberts had liked immensely. Sonically, Matador! Soul Sounds approach draws from its founders shared musical passions including jazz, funk and soul, but in a subtly different fashion than the individual band leader’s previous work.

The act’s latest single  “Theme for a Private Investigator” finds the act drawing from crispy, Southern fried funk, soul and blues in a way that may remind some listeners of Matthew Stubbs and the Antiguas, as Matador! Soul Sounds nods at the work of Booker T and the MG’s, as well as Muscle Shoals and The Meters while possessing an incredibly cinematic, 70s TV theme song like quality; in fact, you can probably picture the show’s protagonist and his wise-cracking sidekick strutting to their badass car, fighting bad guys, saving the girl and what not to the song, and it makes perfect sense.

The All-Star act’s full-length debut Get Ready is slated for release next week — both digitally and on vinyl, and they’ll be embarking on a national tour to support the album, which will include a March 17, 2018 stop at Brooklyn Bowl. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Tour Dates
3/15 @ Rex Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA – tix
3/16 @ Union Stage – Washington, DC – tix
3/17 @ [Pacifico Presents] Brooklyn Bowl – Brooklyn, NY – tix
3/18 @ Fairfield Theatre Company – Fairfield, CT – tix
3/19 @ Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA – tix
3/21 @ The Ardmore Music Hall – Ardmore, PA – tix
3/22 @ Martyr’s – Chicago, IL – tix – tix
3/23 @ Cervantes’ Other Side – Denver, CO – tix
3/24 @ Fox Theatre – Boulder, CO – tix
3/26 @ Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – tix
3/28 @ Jack London Revue – Portland, OR – tix
3/29 @ Nectar Lounge – Seattle, WA – tix

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. 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the last year or so, you’ve likely come across a reference to Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, a highly acclaimed, Chicago, IL-born, Brooklyn-based classically trained trumpeter, who has been mentored by Wynton Marsalis and Ramsey Lewis, and has collaborated with an incredibly diverse array of renowned artists including Santigold, Ski Beatz, John Legend, Talib Kweli, Cee-Lo Green, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Musiq Soulchild, Tedeschi Trucks Band (with whom he won a Grammy in 2012 for Best Blues Album), Wyclef Jean, Santana and a growing list of other equally impressive artists. And although he may be classically trained, as a solo artist and bandleader, Brown’s work draws from contemporary hip-hop, funk, neo-soul while nodding at jazz’s classical tradition — namely the work of Louis Armstong, as Brown will freely rhyme and sing during his compositions, essentially pushing the sound of contemporary jazz towards new directions without forgetting its origins.

The Mood is Brown’s latest album of original compositions and the album’s second and latest single, album title track “The Mood” is a swaggering composition that manages to draw from contemporary soul, smooth jazz, Miles Davis’ famous modal compositions — in particular, Kind of Blue, Davis’ jazz fusion period and hip-hop in a seamless and funky composition that allows enough room for each musician to strut, show their stuff and expand upon the composition’s smooth flowing melody. And if the one that that’s certain, Brown will cement himself as arguably one of contemporary jazz’s most exciting and ambitious composers and artists with an imitable sound and approach.