Tag: Mavis Staples

New Audio: Combo Chimbita’s Propulsive and Psychedelic New Single

Throughout JOVM’s eight-plus year history, I’ve covered Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP)’s annual conference in some fashion or another. As a national service, advocacy and membership organization for those within the performing arts — particularly within dance and theater, APAP over the years has developed a reputation for their role in assisting musicians and groups, who specialize in “world music.” Along with the annual conference, which features discussion panels, lectures, networking sessions and the like for artists producing, recording and creating artwork in our extremely complicated and confusing political landscape, there are a number of carefully curated showcases hosted and/or sponsored by this city’s best known “world music” venues.  Now, as you may recall, the Lower East Side world music venue DROM hosts Barbes’ and Electric Cowbell’s annual Secret Planet APAP showcase — and earlier this year, their wildly eclectic showcase featured the New York-based Colombian folk collective Bulla en el Barrio; the Brooklyn-based act Drunken Foreigner, which specializes in a sprawling, psych rock-like iteration of the Akha and Lam Lao musics of Thailand and Laos; the Cleveland, OH-based Afro-futuristic soul act Mourning [A] BLKSTAR; the New York-based Afro-futuristic-inspired, psychedelic cumbia act Combo Chimbita; the New York-based Ethiopian funk and jazz-inspired septet Anabessa Orchestra; and the New York-based act Hearing Things which specializes in a sound that draws from Middle Eastern music, surf rock, and 60s soul and R&B.

Featuring Bulla en el Barrio’s Carolina Oliveros (vocals) along with Prince of Queens (synths and bass), Niño Lento (guitar) and Dilemastronauta (drums), Combo Chimbita began experimenting with different traditional music styles during their late night residencies at Barbes — much of this experimentation included explorations between visual identity and improvisational long-form trips that eventually lead to their thunderous 2016 self-recorded debut, El Corridor del Jaguar. Interestingly, much like Mourning [A] BLKSTR, the New York-based act is deeply inspired by Sun Ra’s Afro-futurism — while championing their own take on it, which they’ve dubbed Tropical Futurism. As the band says “the idea that the future doesn’t necessarily have to be this super white Western high-tech Star Wars stuff; that the indigenous ideas and culture of people of color, people of Latin America, can also represent a magical and substantial future. It’s a vision that maybe a lot of people don’t necessarily think about often. The old and deep knowledge that indigenous people have of the land has been neglected for many years as part of capitalism and colonization.”

Their Lily Wen-produced sophomore full-length album Abya Yala was released through Figure & Ground Records was released back in 2016, and the album further established the band’s unique futuristic take on cumbia. And along with an incredible live show, led by Oliveros powerhouse vocals and commanding stage presence, the New York-based act has begun to receive quite a bit of buzz. In fact, renowned Los Angeles-based label ANTI- Records, a label known for having a roster of wildly eclectic array of artists that includes the legendary Mavis Staples, recently signed the band. As the band’s Prince of Queens says in press notes, “ANTI- is a special label. It is crazy to be part of such a diverse pool of artists, feels extra special being an immigrant band singing in Spanish. I grew up in Bogota listening to a lot of bands on Epitaph and not understanding a word they were singing but it made me want to be in a band and learn music. It feels like full circle working with [Epitaph’s sister label] ANTI-.”

The members of Combo Chimbita will be closing out a big year with a series of live shows the include sets at Lincoln Center and Philadelphia’s PhilaMOCA before joining Parquet Courts for the Midwestern leg of the indie rock’s current tour. You can check out the tour dates below. But before that, the band has released a trippy new single “Testigo,” a track centered by a looping Afro pop-like guitar line, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, rolling and propulsive percussion, a sinuous bass line and Oliveros’ powerhouse vocals. Sonically speaking, their sound serves as a power reminder of how much contemporary music — particularly Latin American music — draws from Africa, as much as it does from their own native traditions, and they do so in a wildly anachronistic yet dance floor friendly fashion. 

Comprised of founding member, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mathew Ajarapu, Khayle Hagood (bass), Khori Wilson (drums) and Cam Cunningham (guitar), the Chicago, IL-based soul outfit The Devonns (pronounced De-Vaughns) can trace their origins to when  Ajarapu dropped out of med school, and found himself unemployed and aimlessly drifting through his life. As the story goes, at the time, Ajarapu was listening to music constantly and found himself drawn to the classic soul sounds of the late 1960s-early 1970s, best known for steady grooves, carefully crafted songwriting, impeccable production and gorgeous arrangements.

While sonically and aesthetically drawing influence from the work of The Impressions, Leroy Hutson, The Bar-Kays, Carole King, Raphael Saddiq and Jamie Lidell, the band’s primary focus was on exploring the elements of songwriting, arrangement and production made popular from about 1965-1973 or so. The act’s debut single “Come Back” was released earlier this year through Italian soul label Record Kicks Records — the label home of Hannah WIlliams and the Affirmations, Marta Ren and the Groovelets an others, and was reportedly written in 10 minutes on a $300 Danelectro singlecut guitar. Recorded at Chicago’s Kingsize Sound Labs, the track features arrangements by Paul Von Martens, who has worked with Mavis Staples, Paul McCartney, and Elton John, and the guitar work and percussion of multi-instrumentalist Ken Stringfellow, who has worked with R.E.M. “Come Back” received attention across soul music circles, and building upon a growing profile, the Chicago-based soul act’s latest single “Think I’m Falling in Love,” is breezy and up beat track centered around a gorgeous string arrangement, a bluesy guitar line and a classic horn line, and while the song and its arrangement is heavily y indebted to Smokey Robinson, The Impressions and Leroy Hutson, the song also will remind some listeners of Mayer Hawthrone. According to the band’s Mathew Ajjarapu, “The song actually came to me pretty quickly; I was driving to work one day and suddenly the entire guitar lead riff popped into my head, along with the bass line and chords. I instantly knew it was kind of special.”

Currently, the band is in the studio with Paul Von Martens working on their highly anticipated full-length album, which will also be released through Record Kicks next winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: The Legendary Mavis Staples Teams Up With Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on the Politically Charged “If All I Was Was Black”

Throughout the legendary Mavis Staples’ eight decades-long music career, both as a member of The Staple Singers and as a solo artist, Staples has seen quite bit of American history — including the bitter prejudice, racism, ugliness and violence of the Jim Crow-era South, the hypocrisy and wishy washines of White liberals, the Civil Rights era, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, The Black Panthers, the hypocrisy and wishy washiness of White moderates and liberals, the election and presidency of Barack Obama, the Black Life Matters movement. And yet, as the old adage says, “the more things change, the more things remain the same — and the same racial, gender and class-based animus has forced itself back to the forefront of national consciousness.  

Staples latest effort, If All I Was Was Black was released late last year through Anti- Records, and the album continues Staples’ ongoing and critically applauded collaboration with renowned singer/songwriter and producer Jeff Tweedy; however, the album manages to mark the first time that Tweedy has composed an entire album worth of music for the legendary vocalist. And unsurprisingly, as Tweedy and Staples reconvened to write the album, the duo found themselves completely in sync in wanting (and needing) to say something about the current state of the country and the various fissures that had been re-exposed. “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” the legendary vocalist says in press notes. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.” Tweedy adds, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself — that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”

Lyrically, a portion of the album’s material expresses anger and frustration but overall, the material finds the legendary soul artist balancing her renowned optimism with a realistic sensibility; the sort of realism that says “there’s hard work, sacrifice and love that’s needed to make the world truly just and right.” Interestingly album title track “If All I Was Was Black” reminded me a bit of Syl Johnson‘s “Is It Because I’m Black” as both songs are earnest pleas to the listener, imploring the listener to look into the heart and soul of every individual they may come across, and to see them for their unique and innate talents; while hoping that one day, one’s skin color can be rendered as relatively unimportant as the color of their eyes. Perhaps by doing so, one’s perspective of the people they see as “other” and don’t understand will be shifted towards seeing and celebrating both difference and universality. 

Directed and edited by Zac Manuel, the recently released video for “If All I Was Was Black” features a deeply pensive Staples sitting in a local diner, drinking tea or coffee but just outside the window Confederate statues have been torn down — and a local man replaces one with a thoughtful and honest representation of a lovely sister. That sequence suggests a new reality that accepts and celebrates diversity with everyone’s story adding to the larger American zeitgeist. 

Live Footage: Mavis Staples Performs “Build A Bridge” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

More than enough ink has been spilled throughout Mavis Staples‘ eight decades in music, both as a member of the legendary The Staple Singers and as a solo artist, so I won’t delve into her biography or what other journalists have written about her and her work, because for this post, it’s largely unnecessary; however, whether as a member of The Staple Singers or as a solo artist, Ms. Staples has released some of the most important, influential and beloved songs of the 60s and 70s — and in my book, the woman is a revered, national treasure. 

Unsurprisingly, Staples has seen quite a bit of the past century of American history — including the embittering and dehumanizing prejudice, racism, injustice and violence of the Jim Crow-era South, the Civil Rights era, the hypocrisy and wishy washiness of White moderates, liberals and the Far Left, the elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and yet . . . as the old adage says,  the more things change, the more things remain the same. And while the same hate has always remained, rooted around race, gender, gender expression, sexuality, class, ethnicity and nationality, for the first time in a couple of generations, the discussion of whether or not this country has lived up to its ideals, how we get there — hell, if we’re even willing to sacrifice to get there, have all been forced back into the national consciousness on a insistent basis.  

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for a while, you’d know that Staples’ latest effort If All I Was Was Black, which was released last November continued her ongoing and critically applauded collaboration with renowned singer/songwriter and producer Jeff Tweedy. And interestingly, the album marked the first time that Tweedy has composed an entire album worth of music specifically for Staples. As the story goes, when Tweedy and Staples convened to write new material, the duo recognized that they were in the middle of a critical, historical moment — and that they felt it necessary to address the current sociopolitical state of things both here in the States and elsewhere. “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” the legendary vocalist says in press notes. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.” Tweedy adds, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself — that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”

Of course, some of the album’s material expresses anger and frustration — after all, how could it not? In some way, Donald Trump’s election back in 2016 felt like the major gains made by Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Asians and the LGBQT communities were going to be completely wiped away. And yet, while rooted around Staples’ legendary and lifelong optimism that optimism is balanced by a healthy pragmatism in which the soul legend seems to say “well shit, there’s quite a bit of hard work, love and empathy that’s needed to get things right.” 

Interestingly, when I heard album title track  “If All I Was Was Black,” I was immediately reminded of Syl Johnson‘s aching and bitter lament “Is It Because I’m Black.” in the sense that Staples’ latest single is an earnest and hopeful plea to the listener, imploring them to look into the heart and souls of every individual they come across, and to see them for their unique abilities; to render one’s skin color as relatively unimportant as the color of one’s eyes. The album’s latest single “Build A Bridge” focuses on the growing sense of alienation, loneliness and misunderstanding of modern life — with Ms. Staples boldly suggesting that many of the world’s problems could be solved if people could allow themselves to be vulnerable and empathetic to the plight of others, so that they can see both the glorious differences in others and the universality of all.  For Ms. Staples sake, I hope we can all try before it’s too late.

Mavis and her backing band have been doing the talk show circuit to promote If All I Was Was Black and it included a Martin Luther King Day appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! where they appropriately performed “Build a Bridge.

Live Footage: The Legendary Mavis Staples Performs “Build A Bridge” on “Colbert”

Now, more than enough ink has been spilled throughout Mavis Staples‘ eight decades in music, both as a member of the legendary The Staple Singers and as a solo artist, so I won’t delve into her biography or what other journalists have written about her because I think that for the sake of this post, it’s largely unnecessary; however, whether as a member of The Staple Singers or as a solo artist, Ms. Staples has released some of the most important, influential and beloved songs of the 60s and 70s — and in my book, the woman is a revered, national treasure. Of course, unsurprisingly, Staples has seen quite a bit of American history — including the bitter and shameful prejudice, racism, ugliness, injustice and violence of the Jim Crow-era South, the Civil Rights era, the hypocrisy and wishy washiness of White moderates and liberals, the election of Barack Obama — and yet . . . as the old adage says — the more things change, the more things remain the same. And while the same hate has always remained, rooted around race, gender, class, ethnicity and nationally, for the first time in a couple of  generations, the discussion of whether or not this country has lived up to is ideals have forced itself back into the national consciousness. 

Staples’ soon-to-be released album If All I Was Was Black continues her ongoing and critically applauded collaboration with singer/songwriter and producer Jeff Tweedy — and interestingly, the album marks the first time that Tweedy has composed an entire album worth of music for Staples. And as the story goes, when Tweedy and Staples convened to write the album’s material, the duo found themselves recognizing that this was a critical historical moment, in which they wanted and needed to say something about the current state of things here in the US and about the various fissures along race, politics, gender, gender identity and so on.  “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” the legendary vocalist says in press notes. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.” Tweedy adds, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself — that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”

Naturally, some of the album’s material reportedly expresses anger and frustration — after all, how it could it not? In some way, Election Day last year felt like major gains made by dear friends in the Black, Latino, LGBQT and Muslim communities were wiped away. And yet, the material while still rooted around Staples’ legendary optimism, the material is balanced with a grounded realism that essentially says “well shit, there’s quite a bit of hard work, love and empathy that’s needed to make things right. Interestingly, when I heard album title track  “If All I Was Was Black,” I was immediately reminded of Syl Johnson‘s aching and bitter lament “Is It Because I’m Black.” in the sense that Staples’ latest single is an earnest and hopeful plea to the listener, imploring them to look into the heart and souls of every individual they come across, and to see them for their unique abilities; to render one’s skin color as relatively unimportant as the color of one’s eyes.

The album’s latest single “Build A Bridge” focuses on the growing sense of alienation, loneliness and misunderstanding of modern life — with Ms. Staples boldly suggesting that many of the world’s problems could be solved if people could allow themselves to be vulnerable and empathetic to the plight of others, so that they can see both the glorious differences in others and the universality of all.  For Ms. Staples sake, I hope we can all try before it’s too late. 

Recently Ms. Staples, Tweedy, their backing band and members of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert band performed the song on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. 

More than enough ink has been spilled through Mavis Staples‘ eight decades music, both as a member of The Staple Singers and with her solo career, and a result, it would make it delving into her biography or relating what countless other journalists have written and said about her a bit unnecessary; however, with a music career that long, Staples has seen quite of bit of American history — including the bitter prejudice, racism, ugliness and violence of the Jim Crow-era South, the hypocrisy an wishy washines of White liberals, the Civil Rights era, the election of this country’s first Black president, Barack Obama — and yet . . . as the old adage says — the more things change, the more things remain the same, and the same racial and class-based animus has sadly (but unsurprisingly) has returned to the forefront of national consciousness.

Staples’ latest effort If All I Was Was Black is slated for an November 17, 2017 release through Anti- Records, and the effort continues her ongoing and critically applauded collaboration with singer/songwriter and producer Jeff Tweedy; however, the album manages to mark the first time that Tweedy has composed an entire album worth of music for the legendary vocalist. Unsurprisingly, as Tweedy and Staples reconvened to write the material, which would eventually comprise If All I Was Was Black, the duo found themselves completely in sync in wanting (and needing) to say something about the current state of the country and about the various fissures that have been re-exposed. “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” the legendary vocalist says in press notes. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.” Tweedy adds, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself — that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”

And while lyrically, some portion of the album’s material reportedly expresses anger and frustration — after all, how it could not? But overall, the material also reportedly finds the legendary vocalist balancing her prototypical optimism with a realistic sensibility — that there’s quite of hard work and love that’s needed to truly make things right. Interestingly, when I heard album title track  “If All I Was Was Black,” I was immediately reminded of Syl Johnson‘s aching and bitter lament “Is It Because I’m Black.” in the sense that Staples’ latest single is an earnest and hopeful plea to the listener, imploring them to look into the heart and souls of every individual they come across, and to see them for their unique abilities; to render one’s skin color as relatively unimportant as the color of one’s eyes. And by doing so, perhaps every one’s perspective of people they don’t understand will be shifted, as they may actually see the universality of the individual. For Ms. Staples sake, I hope we can all try before it’s too late.

 

 

New Video: Gorillaz Collaborates with Peven Everett on Their Most House Music-Inspired Track in Years

Created by Blur frontman and founding member Damon Albarn and renowned comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz is a virtual band, featuring animated characters 2D (vocals), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar) and Russel Hobbs (guitar) that exploded into with the international scene with the 2001 release of their eponymous debut. The BRIT and Grammy Award-winnng act has since released three critically applauded and commercially successful albums — 2005’s Demon Days, 2010’s Plastic Beach and 2011’s The Fall and with each of their four previously released albums the act has topped charts around the world, receiving millions of streams, selling millions of copies and playing arenas, clubs and festivals from San Diego to Syria. Along with that the act has won the Jim Henson Creativity Honor and have been recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s Most Successful Virtual Act. 

Humanz, the virtual act’s fifth and latest album was released to critical applause last month and the album has continued the band’s incredible run of commercial successes with the album landing at number 1 and number 2 on the US and UK charts respectively, as well as topping the iTunes chart in over 60 different countries. Produced by Gorillaz, The Twilite Tone of D /\ P and Remi Kabaka, the album was recorded in studios in London, Paris, New York, Chicago and Jamaica and has the members of the virtual band — er, Damon Albarn and company — collaborating with an eclectic and accomplished array of contemporary artists including Savages’ Jehnny Beth, Danny Brown, Benjamin Clementine, De La Soul, D.R.A.M., Anthony Hamilton, Grace Jones (!!!), Zebra Katz, Mavis Staples (!!!), Vince Staples, Popcaan, Pusha T., Peven Everett and others. 

Humanz’s latest single “Strobelite” features the members of Gorillaz collaborating with Harvey, IL-born, Chicago, IL-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Peven Everett, an artist whose work has spanned across R&B, jazz, hip-hop and house music.  The Harvey, IL-born, Chicago-based artist received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music when he was 17 before leaving to collaborate with the likes of Betty Carter, Branford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis. Since then Everett has contributed trumpet on a handful of jazz recordings, including Curtis Lundy’s Against All Odds while becoming a leading figure in Chicago’s house, soul and R&B communities, releasing seven solo albums. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Gorillaz collaboration with Everett is the most dance floor-friendly track they’ve released in several years — since, perhaps “Dare” off Demon Days, as the album’s  latest single features Everett’s soulful crooning singing uplifting lyrics over a club banging, Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles-era house music production featuring cosmic ray-like synths, twinkling keys and dance floor-friendly beats; it’s frankly the sort of song that’s so uplifting that you’d have to dance and smile — and if you didn’t there was something deeply wrong about you. 

Directed by Stoke, UK-native Raoul Skinbeck, the recently released video for “Strobelite” features Peven Everett with the members of Gorillaz and a multicultural cast of clubgoers tearing up a London nightclub and if there’s one thing that the video confirms in an increasingly unsettled and frightening world that it’s the things that remind us of our humanity that unite us — that music has the power to let us escape for a little bit, to have us fall in love, and to remind us of who and what we are; and that there’s freedom on the dance floor.