Tag: John Coltrane

Throwback: Happy 95th Birthday, John Coltrane!

JOVM celebrates what would have been John Coltrane’s 95th birthday.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Death Valley Girls Release a Joyful Children’s TV-Inspired Visual for “Little Things”

Throughout this site’s almost 11-year history, I’ve spilled copious amounts of virtual ink covering Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock JOVM mainstays Death Valley Girls. Currently featuring the band’s founding duo Larry Schemel (guitar) and Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar) and a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make Up, The Shivas and Moaning, as well as The Flytraps’ Laura Kelsey, the band has gone through a series of lineup changes throughout their history — and yet throughout their history, the band’s overall aesthetic and sound has generally been indebted to The Manson Family, B movie theatrics and the occult.

Last year was a rather busy year for the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays: They started off the year with the two-song, 7 inch EP Breakthrough, an EP which featured a cover of  Atomic Rooster‘s “Breakthrough,” a song the band originally discovered through an even more obscure cover by Nigerian psych act The Funkees.  Continuing upon the momentum of Breakthrough EP, the JOVM mainstays’ longtime label home Suicide Squeeze Records released their fourth album Under the Spell of Joy late last year.

The album deriving its title from a the text on a t-shirt that the San Diego-based heavy psych rock act Joy gave to Death Valley Girls’ Bonnie Bloomgarden, who wrote the shirt like a talisman ov er the course of the next five years. “I read it as being about manifesting your biggest dreams and responding thoughtfully and mindfully to everything that comes in your path with joy and compassion first,” Bloomgarden explains in press notes. “There is a lot to be really angry about in the world but joy is just as powerful if used correctly!”

Interestingly, with their fourth album, the band sought to make a spiritual record — what Bloomgarden describes as a “space gospel” — with the intention of bringing people together and creating the kind of participatory musical experience people have in places of worship: Much of the album’s material is centered around chants, choirs and rousing choruses, written with the expressed purpose of encouraging people to sing and shout along. Unlike their previously released material, which found the band connecting to listeners in esoteric means, the album’s material sees the band attempting to tap into an age-old tradition fo connecting with people by inviting them to actively participate with them.

Although Bloomgarden and Schemel knew their intention for the album’s material before they had written a single note, the nature and direction of the music was initially inspired by the Ethiopian funk records they had been listening to while touring — but once they began playing and recording the material they had written, the music, which they claim came from tapping into their subconscious seemed to come from the future. 

Last year, I wrote about three album singles:

The Universe,” an expansive and mind-bending track which featured elements of shoegaze and  Pink Floyd-like psych rock.
“Hold My Hand,” a euphoric track that evokes the swooning sensation of new love — and the urge to improve oneself through deep, personal reflection.
“Under the Spell of Joy,” a hallucinogenic fever dream that’s a rock ‘n’ roll take on the good news, gospel stomp that sonically is a seamless synthesis of part Fun House-era The Stooges, acid-tinged psych rock, Giant Steps-era Coltrane.

“Little Things” Under the Spell of Joy’s fourth and latest single is an ebullient and upbeat take on jangle rock centered around a shout along worthy hook. And at its core, the song is a gently smiling reminder that when life turns shitty — which is more often than not — that you should focus on the little things: in fact, sometimes your dreams can be what keeps you sane. “We wrote ‘Little Things’ for a friend of ours, who has been fighting for his life in physical pain for years,” Death Valley Girls’ Bonnie Bloomgarden explains in press notes. “While we talked about how stinky his health and living situation was, he realized how much he still loved dreaming. We both realized that if he shifted his focus to the part of his life he loved — even if it was just when he was dreaming/daydreaming, that was perfectly ok! Focus on the little things!”

Directed by The Little Ghost/Kelsey Hart, the recently released video for “Little Things” is a psychedelic fever dream inspired by children’s TV shows — and it captures the song’s infectious, child-like joy.

“My aim for this video was to reflect the unbridled hope and joy of ‘Little Things,'” The Little Ghost explains. “Bonnie and I discuss our dreams daily, so I wanted to create a cartoonish psychedelic dreamscape that invited everyone to dance, sing, and revel in the optimism of daydreaming! In order to keep the production of this video maximally Covid-safe, I used special effects to bring Death Valley Girls together digitally. I was inspired by Teletubbies, public access TV, and Tony Oursler.”

Throwback: Happy 96th Birthday, Roy Haynes!

Yesterday was the legendary Roy Haynes’ 96th birthday. Over the course of his 77 year career — yes, 77! — Haynes has played swing, bop, fusion and avant garde jazz with a who’s who of jazz, including Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Oliver Nelson and a long list of others. And unsurprisingly because of such a lengthy and productive career, Haynes is one of the most recorded drummers in jazz history.

I had the pleasure and honor of photographing and watching the imitable legend play on a SummerStage bill that featured Ron Carter and McCoy Tyner. At the time, I believe that Haynes was around 91 and even in his advanced age, he was full of energy, charming and incredibly spry: during his set, he got up from his drum kit to tap dance and sing. I hope to have that kind of energy and joy if I get to that age! He’s also still regularly playing and touring. And if it wasn’t for the COVID pandemic, Haynes would have been playing his annual Blue Note residency to celebrate his birthday.

Happy birthday, Mr. Haynes! May there be many, many, many more!

Throwback: Black History Month: John Coltrane

Today is February 27, 2021. It’s the 27th day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

It’s February 27, 2021. The 27th day of Black History Month, which is rapidly coming to a close. I grew up in a music obsessed home — and to my father, John Coltrane was God. And so here’s God playing gorgeous music. That’s right John William Coltrane is God. The end.

Throwback: Black History Month/Happy 47th Birthday J. Dilla!

Today is the seventh day of Black History Month. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few days of this month, you’d see that I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards understanding the Black experience.

Through the month — and throughout the year, I hope that you’ll come to understand and appreciate the following:

Black culture is American culture
Black music is American music.
Black history is American history.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
You can’t love black art and black artists without loving black people.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

On the evening of September 11, 2005, I returned home from a day job working as an Editorial Assistant at a small, Midtown Manhattan-based, family-owned book publisher of bilingual dictionaries and phrasebooks and international cuisine cookbook to my father cooking and playing John Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme.

My father was a very troubled man with whom I had a uneasy and difficult relationship for a significant portion of my life. But for some reason, playing Coltrane’s gorgeous and meditative opus on a day of such horror and terror seems like a fitting response. And it’s quickly become an annual tradition for me.

As always cherish life — especially today.

Throwback: RIP Jimmy Cobb

Growing up, jazz was a formative part of my childhood. John Coltrane was God and Miles Davis was Jesus. Hallowed be thy names! Hallelujah and amen, forever and ever!  

Copious amounts of ink — both real and virtual — have been spilled writing about Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, the recording sessions that birthed it and the musicians, who recorded it, which included John Coltrane (tenor sax), Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Bill Evans (piano), Wynton Kelly(piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums) and of course, Miles Davis (trumpet). Personally, Kind of Blue is a quintessential New York album: if you ever get a chance, play the album while walking down a lengthy stretch of Fifth Avenue on a drizzly Spring afternoon. Trust me, it works. 

I was heartbroken to hear that Jimmy Cobb, the last living link to Kind of Blue died yesterday and I wanted to pay a tribute to Cobb and the rest of the legendary musicians, who recorded such a gorgeous and meaningful album. I stumbled across this rare bit of live footage of Miles and the crew performing Kind of Blue album track “So What?” live. Check it out.  And if you’re somehow unfamiliar with the album, go to Spotify and spend an afternoon with it.