Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The power of music is impressive, especially the red-headed stepchild that is known as Hip Hop. Slandered oft but admired incessantly by millions. On a daily basis, we are bombarded by an abundance of messages that glorify misogyny, violence and hyper sexuality, so much so that we tend to forget how powerful & beautiful Hip Hop really is and the potential it has as a genre. This energy that I speak of above is every so often encapsulated in the form of a gifted emcee. His name is Jay Electronica. I found out about him reading Just Blaze's Blog. Just dropped a track Jay Electronica had where he was rhyming with no drums. I was speechless. I hadn't heard anything like it before. Check it out below.
PS:For those of you who think there's no such thing as Down South Hip Hop, Jay Elec is from the N.O.
Jay Electronica-The Pledge
Friday, August 10, 2007
J-Dilla handpicked this fellow Detroit native emcee, Guilty Simpson. Stones Throw signed him. That should give you an idea of Guilty Simpson's potential and ability. He's done work with Dilla, Phat Kat, Skyzoo, Black Milk and a score of others. He's renowned for being passionate about making quality music with no boundaries & keeping it extremely gully--what a combination. Check out his new track "Before I Die" featuring the Heliocentrics then comment. Sorry for the delay; expect a torrential downpour of dopeness in the coming days.
Guilty Simpson-Before I Die featuring the Heliocentrics
Friday, August 3, 2007
Leslie Feist (Feist) has been writing and recording music for over 16 years. Her experience as a songwriter and musician has propelled her to a level that many solo pop artists won't achieve in their lifetime. Feist isn't new though; she's far from a gimmick. And she'll probably be around for a long time. Her album, The Reminder is lush with electro-jazz and britpop textures.
"1,2,3,4" is vibrant with bluegrass, choirs, horns, and Feist's spirited vocals. "My Moon My Man" is geared more as a Indie Rock song with a Britpop direction while "So Sorry" is a study in complexity and restraint, little to no instrumentation; very minimalistic. The album trades sensitivity and complexity back and forth with ease. As the album progresses, the songs gradually build in intensity like "The Limit to Your Love" which harnesses the lucidity of Feist's voice with lush guitars, timpani, and strings or fall back into "Sealion" a song patterned after Nina Simone.
Feist is an intelligent pop singer, and she is making the kind of music that Carly Simon, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell (yea, like that) would be composing if they were young woman in our era. With a few more albums and a little more experience, she will be making music that not only stands the test of time but also transcends the candy-coated playfulness of today's pop scene. The Reminder is a big step in reinventing the wheel.
Van-Go Tha Hustla
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
What does Kanye West's Late Registration, the movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Punch Drunk Love have in common besides being masterful artistic works? It's as simple as looking up at the title above or the picture. But, just judging from the picture above you'd think he was a run-of-the mill caucasian man. Truth be told he's more like a musical genius. Jon Brion is multi-instrument musician, a producer and a composer. He started doing his thing around 17 when he dropped out of school to pursue music professionally. His mom was a jazz singer, and his father, a band director at Yale and both siblings heavily involved in music; even a dunce could see what the future held for Jon Brion.
He's worn different hats throughout his career. He's been a band member of The Bats (early 80s), Til' Tuesday (late 80s) and The Grays (mid 90s). He's also done the solo thing with a brief stint on Lava/Atlantic. During that time he released Meaningless, (97) his solo album. He played various instruments on Sam Phillip's LP Omnipop; produced albums for Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, Eleni Mandell, Rhett Miller and Evan Dando. Brion also composed movie scores for Hard Eight, Magnolia, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch Drunk Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I (Heart) Huckabees and The Hard Break-Up. I can't speak for all of these movies but the score for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Punch Drunk Love are nothing short of incredible. The combination of the overwhelming visual aesthetic and the audio accompaniment combine to compel you to FEEL. I know it seems awkwardly phrased but watch and listen to either of those movies and you'll understand perfectly. I almost cried watching Eternal; no punchline intended thats simply the truth. Later in his career, he's moved on to production which seems like a natural transition. Besides the list above featuring the likes of Fiona Apple and Rufus Wainwringht, he played a major part (executive producer) on Kanye's opus, Late Registration, and his upcoming release Graduation. He's currently working with Dido, Spoon and The Section Quartet. The guy's resume is nothing short of official. Still not convinced, the guy had tendonitis in his hand and performed his regular set of covers and original works at Largo (LA club) with one hand. If you're not impressed with that then you're either half god or a robot. Here's some tracks to preview.
Jon Brion-Eternal Sunshine Theme
Jon Brion-Punch Drunk Love
Kanye West ft. Cam'ron and Consequence-Gone
Monday, July 30, 2007
I found out about Horace Silver on accident. I found myself in the place that feeds my information addiction (the public library) looking at the documentaries and stumbled upon A Great Day in Harlem. The film was about the creative birthing and execution of photographer Art Kane's black and white picture of 57 of jazz's greatest musicians taken in 1958 on the steps of a brownstone in none other but Harlem, New York.
The most entertaining aspect of the documentary was the interviews of the still-living musicians interwoven with the tale of how it all came to be. I never would have known Dizzie Gillespie was hilarious and I wouldn't have found out about electric pianist Horace Silver, the man who helped create "hard bop", a branch of jazz that combines components of R&B and gospel.
I found his 1972 Blue Note Records release All (Phase III), a weird, new-age devotional album with song titles like "My Soul Is My Computer" and "How Much Does Matter Really Matter?" Now it might seem anachronistic to say something created in the seventies was "new-age" considering that it's a late 20th century movement (around the 1980s) but consider this: these people had Psychedelics. Need I say more?
On this particular album, Silver enlists a few vocalists to sing over his compositions and even sings on a few himself. Sounds like a gem, right? Not exactly. A friend listening to the album with me said that it almost sounded like Christian lounge music. Terrible, I know. But, the second-to-last track named 'All' stood out. Silver sang a swanky sort of melancholy melody layered over his deliberate but lighthearted playing that I remember listening to a lot at the end of long, frustrating days. That was enough to send me on the chase.
Since then I've heard seven of his releases and two of them seem to stick out in my mind as better than average. The first is his 1968 album Serenade To A Soul Sister. The record jacket has an average quality picture of what you could almost imagine was just a picture of Silver's friend that he decided to use for the cover. But, the casualness of the photo really sets the tone for the informal sound of the rough-around-the-edges production of the album (keep in mind that I'm talking about the vinyl album, not the re-mastered CD). It begins with "Psychedelic Sally", a song just over seven minutes that starts quickly with a chorus of happy, blaring horns and continues through with every track building on the last to end with a slow, sentimental song called "Next Time I Fall In Love." On this song Silver plays with a sincerity and pace that reminds me of Monk's "Ruby, My Dear."
My favorite thing about this album is the chorus of horns. I could be wrong, but it sounds like every time they appear on a track they are notably crisp and layered with two octaves being played simultaneously. The entire album is energetic and maybe a little more funky than I think most people would categorize traditional jazz to be.
His 1999 release, Jazz Has A Sense Of Humor, sounds something like you would imagine an album with that kind of title would sound like without being too boring or predictable. It starts real sultry with silky, upbeat horns over Silver's whimsical playing. The tone of the album is consistent even though the tempo speeds up in "The Mama Suite, Pt. 1: Not Enough Mama" but never drops below mid-tempo. My favorite track on the album has a few different angles to it. On one hand "Ah-Ma-Tell" almost sounds like Silver's jazzier interpretation of the songs that could be found on 1964's "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi. Yet at other times portions of it sound like and sometimes evoke the same listening experience of "It's Your Thing" (the Jackson 5 version, not the Isley Brothers'). If it had horns, that is. Like a much faster, less funky version. Sometimes it even sounds like it could have been a James Brown song. Call me crazy...or simply comment and disagree with me. It won't hurt my feelings.
Here are a couple tracks from Jazz Has A Sense of Humor:
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Fela was returning from the [United] States circa the Black Nationalist movement back to his native, Nigeria, with his band the "Nigeria 70." It was a promoter that dimed him and his band out; citing the fact that they were in the US without proper documentation that sent him back prematurely. Upon returning to Nigeria, Fela did two things. He renamed his band the "Africa 70" and erected the Kalakuta Republic, a recording studio and a commune for the band. It was Fela Kuti's independent state in the heart of the motherland. His enterprise continued with the emergence of two clubs: the Afro-Spot & the Shrine. The popularity of Fela and his music in Africa as well as his growing political awareness rose simultaneously. This put him in direct opposition with the ruling faction who terrorized the Kalakuta Republic with suspect search warrants and unwarranted intrusions. Fearful of Fela's growing popularity, the government intended to incriminate him by planting a joint of cannabis on his person or in the premises. He discovered the plot and ate the joint. Police responded by taking him in custody and waited until he moved his bowels to examine his excrement. Fela was able to secure the feces of another inmate/supporter and with no evidence of Fela being guilty, the government freed him. The result of this whole ordeal was "Expensive Sh*%," a track describing the whole story.
Most tracks don't have such colorful anecdotes behind them, but we're dealing with an extraordinary character. Fela was the creator of Afrobeat (a fusion between jazz and West African highlife), a fervent human rights activist, multi-instrument musician, composer and "political maverick." My words don't do justice to this man's legacy. Read about him here. Check out Expensive Sh&% and He Miss Road below.
Fela Kuti-Expensive Sh@! & He Miss Road