JOVM celebrates what would have been Miles Davis’ 94th birthday.
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.
Joan Pérez-Villeagas is a Mallorca, Spain-born, Bern, Switzerland-based percussionist, composer, bandleader and producer, who began studying percussion at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in Palma when he was eight. When he turned 19, he relocated to Barcelona, where he wound up earning a Bachelor’s in Classical and Contemporary Percussion at ESMUC — and while in Barcelona, he developed a deep interest in jazz and traditional music that led him to earn his Masters in Jazz Composition under the tutelage of Lluís Vidal.
So far, the Spanish-born, Swiss-based percussionist, composer, bandleader and producer’s career has led him to a diverse array of projects across an eclectic and diverse range of styles and genres including chamber music, classical symphonies, pop, traditional music, jazz and scores for dance, theater and film. And during that same period, he’s managed to be rather busy: he’s studied with the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, been a guest artist at Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival (SICMF) 2016 in South Africa and at Festival Cistermusica 2016 in Portugal with his percussion duo Face two Phase, with which he won first prize at the fourth annual International Chamber Music Competition Cidade Alcobaça (CIMCA) in Portugal.
Blau Salvatge, the Pérez-Villegas and Marc Urrutia co-produced album is the Spanish-born, Swiss-based artist’s full-length debut as a composer and bandleader. The album, which was recorded over the course of two days with Alberto Pérez at Barcelona’s Sol de Sants Studio and collection of friends and fellow students including Pau Lligadas (bass), Josep Cordobés (drums), Ariadna Rodríguez (violin), Pau Vidal (flute), Toni Pineño (clarinet), Joan Mar Sauqué (trumpet), Max Salgado (French horn), Leire Corpas (guitar) and of course, Pérez-Villegas (marimba and vibraphone) at Barcelona’s Sol de Sants Studio features six kaleidoscopic compositions that manage to be individually distinct and focused on a different compositional process while part of a larger, cohesive whole centered around some unconventional arrangements.
The album’s first single “Vaivè” sets up the overall tone and sound of the forthcoming album: Featuring a cinematic and mind-bending arrangement of French horn, baritone clarinet (a rarity for most contemporary jazz), trumpet, flute, bass, drums and vibraphone, the composition finds this remarkably soulful and thoughtful collection of young musicians darting, weaving, bopping and strutting through several different styles and tempos including Birth of the Cool and Kind of Blue-era Miles Davis, Horace Silver, breezy Brazilian jazz, Spanish folk music and film and TV scores — while evoking contemplation, awe, wonder and childlike whimsy.
Shot by Àngel Pérez, the recently released and intimately shot video captures the young Spanish-born, Swiss-based percussionist, composer, bandleader and producer with his cast of collaborators in the studio as they recorded the composition.
Over the better part of the past 12-15 months or so, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink writing about the acclaimed Los Angeles-based psych rock act and JOVM mainstays The Dream Syndicate. Tracing its origins back to the early 80s, the band which currently features founding members Steve Wynn (guitars, vocals), a critically applauded singer/songwriter and solo artist and Dennis Duck (drums), along with the band’s most recent members Mark Walton (bass) and Jason Victor (guitar), the members of the acclaimed psych rock act just released their third post-reunion and seventh full-length album The Universe Inside through Anti- Records.
Arguably one of the most forward-thinking, mind-bending efforts they’ve yet to release, the album marks the first time in their storied history in which every song on the album was conceived and written as a collective group. And the result is an album that sounds unlike anything they’ve done together or individually. Musically, the material draws from each individual member’s eclectic interests and passions: Dennis Duck’s love and knowledge of European avant garde music, Jason Victor’s love of 70s prog rock, Mark Walton’s experience in Southern-friend music collectives, Chris Cacavas’ interest in sound manipulation and Wynn’s love of 70s jazz fusion. Interestingly, the album’s material comes from one completely improvised session in which the band created 80 continuous minutes of soundscapes. “All we added was air,” Wynn explains in press notes. So, aside from vocals, horns and a touch of percussion here and there, every instrument is recorded live as it happened.
So far I’ve written about the album’s first two single. The album’s the sprawling, Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson-era Miles Davis meets prog rock and psych rock-like first single, “The Regulator,” which features The Long Ryders‘ Stephen McCarthy on sitar and Butcher Brown‘s Marcus Tenney on sax. Adding to the lysergic and hazy vibe, Wynn’s vocals were fed through vocoder and ghostly effects — and then buried within the mix. The album’s second single was the brooding and atmospheric “The Longing,” an eerily prescient meditation on mortality and the passage of time that evokes the creeping realization of one’s own morality; the awareness of unfinished business and the gnawing lack of closure or even meaning; and the uneasy feeling of being adrift and alone in a frightening and uncertain world.
The album’s third and latest single “Apropos of Nothing” continues the album’s lysergic vibes: The song opens with an expansive and trance-inducing introductory section centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars and a motorik-groove and surrealistic and impressionistic lyrics that slowly builds up into the sort of ecstatic catharsis reminiscent of the Sufi whirling dervishes.
“The only verbal cue that came during the entire 80 minutes of improvisation that led to The Universe Inside happened as we started the section that became ‘Apropos of Nothing,’” Wynn explains. “We had been messing around in the key of E on the bits that led to ‘The Regulator’ and ‘The Longing’ and then Stephen McCarthy said ‘Let’s try something in G.’ He started playing the figure that starts the section and off we went. We were so locked in with each other and our antennae were poised for any clues that anyone in the band had to offer.
When I went back to Richmond to finish the record I knew I wanted to sing something on this section. I went into the studio and quickly wrote the words—it took about 5 minutes—just so I’d have something to sing. I did one pass and said, ‘Give me another track so I can try out a harmony.’ I did that in one pass as well and that was that. It’s really a good sign—and definitely the pattern of things for this particular record—when things happen so easily and naturally.”
Directed by long-time visual collaborator David Dalglish, the recently released video is a cinematic meditation on the passage of time and our potential watery demise. And as the video suggests, what of our things and our world if we’re no longer here to give them meaning?
Over the past year or so, I’ve managed to write quite a bit about the acclaimed Los Angeles-based psych rock act The Dream Syndicate. Tracing its origins back to the 80s, the band which currently features founding members Steve Wynn (guitars, vocals), a critically applauded singer/songwriter and solo artist and Dennis Duck (drums), along with the band’s most recent members Mark Walton (bass) and Jason Victor (guitar), the members of the acclaimed psych rock act will be releasing their latest effort, The Universe Inside through Anti- Records on April 10, 2020.
Officially, their third reunion-era effort and their seventh overall, the forthcoming album will reportedly be one oft he most mind-bending and trippiest efforts they’ve released to date — and for the first time in their storied and lengthy history. every song on the album is a group songwriting effort. Musically, the material draws from each individual member’s eclectic interests and passions: Dennis Duck’s love and knowledge of European avant garde music, Jason Victor’s love of 70s prog rock, Mark Walton’s experience in Southern-friend music collectives, Chris Cacavas’ interest in sound manipulation and Wynn’s love of 70s jazz fusion. Recorded in one session, the band recorded 80 continuous minutes of soundscapes. “All we added was air,” Wynn explains in press notes. So, aside from vocals, horns and a touch of percussion here and there, every instrument is recorded live as it happened.
Last month, I wrote about the album’s sprawling and epic first single “The Regulator.” Now, as you may recall, the single clocked in at a little under 21 minutes and was sort of seamless synthesis of Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson-era Miles Davis, motorik groove-driven prog rock and 60s psych rock — thanks to droning electric sitar played by The Long Ryders‘ Stephen McCarthy, a sinuous bass line, soulful sax flourishes by Butcher Brown‘s Marcus Tenney. Adding to a lysergic vibes, Wynn’s vocals were fed through vocoder and ghostly effects and then buried within the trippy and funky mix.
“’The Regulator’ is a microcosm of the entire record,” Wynn explains in press notes. “It was just a formless, trippy mass as we all started playing together. There was an early 70’s drum machine—a Maestro Rhythm King, the same model used on There’s A Riot Goin’ On—with Dennis locking in and setting the pace. Stephen grabbed an electric sitar because it was the first thing he saw. Jason and I were kicking pedals on like lab monkeys in a laboratory and Mark was a lightning rod, uniting all of those elements into one tough groove. I collected a list of random, unconnected lyric ideas that I kept on my phone. I tried them all out in random order in my home studio just to see how they would feel and that one-take test run is the vocal you hear! There’s just so much lightning-in-a-jar, first take excitement on this record.”
The Universe Inside’s second and latest single is the brooding and atmospheric “The Longing.” Centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a propulsive bass line, jazz-like drumming and Steve Wynn’s imitable vocals, “The Longing” is an eerily prescient meditation on morality and the passage of time that manages to capture and evoke things I’ve personally felt over the past year or two — and that many of us have felt recently: the creeping realization of one’s mortality; the sense that there will be some degree of unfinished business — both professionally and personally; the mournful and uneasy feeling of being adrift, alone and frightened in an uncertain world.
“A friend of mine once said, ‘You ought to write a song about longing,’” the band’s Steve Wynn says of the song and its title. “This was a few years back but it stuck with me and when I was listening to minutes 20 through 28 of the improvisation that became The Universe Inside I knew that the suggestion had finally found its proper home. This section of music — that followed in real time the part that became “The Regulator” — felt so mournful and lost and adrift and confused, much like longing itself. You think you know where it’s at? The longing is stronger than that.”
Directed by the band’s longtime visual collaborator David Daglish, the recently released video for “The Longing” is a cryptic yet gorgeous meditation on yearning, memories and the inevitable (and unstoppable) passage of time. “Our resident visual interpreter David Dalglish picked up on that feeling for a video that connected hauntingly to that feeling of distance and memory. And now? Suddenly it all feels very much of the moment. A chasm, sleepless for day and days, rootless, unsettled and alone. All that’s left is the longing,” the band’s Steven Wynn explains in press notes.
Ben Williams is an acclaimed Washington DC-born and-based singer/songwriter, bassist, composer, bandleader and highly sought-after collaborator. Williams graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Michigan State University and The Juilliard School, winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition(now known as the Herbie Hancock International Jazz Competition) back in 2009 and a Grammy Award as a member of Pat Metheny‘s Unity Band. He has collaborated with an impressive and remarkably diverse array of artists including Wynton Marsalis, George Benson, Maxwell, Robert Glasper, Pharrell and a long list of others. (He also appeared in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead.)
As a bandleader and composer, Williams has released two albums through renowned jazz label Concord Records — 2011’s State of Art and 2015’s Coming of Age. Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Jose James‘, Talia Billig‘s and Brian Bender’s Rainbow Blonde Records, Williams third album I AM A MAN references Memphis‘ historic 1968 sanitation workers’ strike, during which African American men marched through the streets with picket signs that read “I Am A Man” in a boldface type. “The image of this long line of men, holding the picket signs, all saying the same thing — there’s something powerful about seeing this message over and over again,” Williams explains, before saying that the messaging reminded him of how we use hashtags today to help ignite and inspire activism today, such as the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements. But there’s multiple subtle meanings to the album’s title: as Williams said during his performance at the Rainbow Blonde Records NYC Winter Jazz Fest last week the album wasn’t a typical protest album; that it was thematically an exploration of the black male psyche.
Sonically, the album reportedly meshes past, present and future, as it seemingly draws from The Roots, Erykah Badu, Bilal, D’Angelo, Common, Roy Hargrove‘s RH Factor as well as Marvin Gaye‘s What’s Going On, Curtis Mayfield and others.
Williams plays both double bass and electric bass throughout the album’s material, singing lead vocals on almost every single song on the album. He’s joined by an accomplished backing band of collaborators that includes Kris Bowers (keys), David Rosenthal (guitar), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Bendji Allonce (percussion), Keyon Harrold (trumpet), Anne Drummond (flute), Jamire Williams (drums) and Justin Brown (drums). The album also features a handful of songs with string arrangements performed by a string quartet — Justina Sullivan (cello), Celia Hatton (viola), Maria Im (violin) and Chiara Fasi (violin), and vocals from Kendra Foster, Muhsimah, Wes Felton and Niles.
The album’s first single is the cinematic “If You Hear Me.” Centered around an spacious and cinematic arrangement featuring a shimmering and soaring string arrangement, African polyrhythm, Williams’ plaintive and soulful vocals, the track manages brings to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Landing on a Hundred-era Cody Chesnutt to mind. The album’s second single, fittingly released today is an atmospheric rendition of the civil rights-era classic “We Shall Overcome” that places the song’s timeless struggle and hope for a far better, more just world into a contemporary context: reminding the listener that the struggle of MLK, Malcolm X, The Black Panthers and others, is the same struggle as Black Lives Matter and other movements.
Williams will be embarking on a handful of live dates that includes a February 8, 2020 album release show at Nublu 151. Check out the live dates below.
2/8: New York, NY @ Nublu 151 (Album Release Show)
3/19: Washington, DC @ City Winery
Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Will Lowery grew up in a deeply musical home, one in which both of his parents were classically trained musicians — and as a result, Lowery learned to play piano at a young age. As Lowery got a bit older, he became infatuated with jazz, soul and funk. Lowery’s love of jazz, soul and funk has deeply influenced his latest musical project pantology.
Lowery’s panotolgy debut, ““Never Enough” revealed an emerging artist and producer, whose sound and approach owed a debt to Flying Lotus, Bill Evans and J. Dilla: instrumental beatmaking, centered around completely original compositions. Now, as you may recall, the Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer’s pantology debut EP 2Q19 is slated for release this month, and the effort reportedly showcases an artist, who’s further honing his sound while delving into darker conceptual territory.
Last month, I wrote about the atmospheric EP single “Descent,” a track that reminded me a bit of Miles Davis‘ electronic era, Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard and others but paired with tweeter and woofer rocking beats, wobbling low end and Sergej Avanesov‘s expressive Kamasi Washington-like saxophone playing. “False Step (AWOL),” 2Q19‘s latest single manages to clock in a relatively brief 2 minutes plus — but it manages to be an expansive track that begins with a fuzzy, lo-fi introduction complete with altered vocals before rapidly shifting to a shimmering and twinkling bit of neo-soul, centered by a sinuous bass line and head bopping groove and stuttering beats. The track evokes an escape into a shimmering and altered world — before a sudden crash into reality. Ultimately the track suggests that escapism is at best temporary and rarely sustainable.
Growing up in a musical home, in which both of his parents were classical musicians, a young Will Lowery wound up learning to play piano as a young boy. As Lowery got older, he became named with jazz, soul and funk. Unsurprisingly, his musical project pantology that draws from his early love of jazz, soul, funk and hip hop.
Lowry’s debut single as pantology “Never Enough” revealed an emerging artist and producer, who’s sound and approach owed a debt to Flying Lotus, Bill Evans and J. Dilla with his own unique touch. In other words, we’re talking about instrumental beatmaking that’s centered around completely original compositions. His pantology debut EP 2Q19 is slated for release next month, and the effort reportedly showcases an artist further honing his sound while delving into darker conceptual territory.
The EP’s second and latest single, the atmospheric “Descent” is centered around gently twinkling keys, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, wobbling low end paired with Sergej Avanesov‘s expressive Kamasi Washington-like saxophone playing. And while being sleek and decidedly modern, the track manages a soulfulness and self-assuredness that belies the project’s relative newness while nodding at a nubmer of different periods in jazz history — in particular, Miles Davis‘ electronic era, Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard and others.