After burning CDRs for years (even still), I recently decided to start pulling them into Buy Music Club playlists. Easy to build and they are the best way to support artists these days. Here are two recent ones and will post future playlists here as well):
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou creates some of the most profound music I’ve ever encountered. I had the occasion to write about her last year for the excellent and deep In Sheeps Clothing site. And plain forgot to post it here. For those who think they are unfamiliar:
You no doubt have encountered in some public space one of the 16 compositions she recorded (out of the hundreds she’s written), as Guèbrou’s music seems to be part of the ether. It’s employed as background music for a novelist or artist deep in concentration or as a mood-setter at a low-key get-together. It comes up in the YouTube algorithm. Norah Jones overheard it at someone’s house, instantly resonating with “one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard: part Duke Ellington, part modal scales, part blues, part church music.” Director Kelly Reichardt lamented to Pitchfork: “It was a secret and now it’s in every sandwich shop you walk into … like, ‘Oh my god, the nun record’s here, too.’”
“We were on the verge of civil war. You had this great split between progressive forces trying to accommodate different people in a way that respected each other. But by doing that, privileged people were going to lose something or other, whether material or psychological. There was a march through Leeds by these fascists, so we demonstrated against it. I got truncheoned down by a mounted police officer, who was obviously on the side of the fascists.”
Got to speak with Jon King, El-P, Downtown Boys, and Clipping. about why Gang of Four remains relevant 40 years later.
That Essence Rare: Gang of Four changed the way punk sounded and what it could say for the Washington Post.
(Back in 2007, I had the honor of interviewing Joe Chambers for the Stop Smiling Jazz Issue. In retrospect, I knew very little about the man’s wide breadth of work but I was always fascinated by his very out compositions, which appeared on a lot of Bobby Hutcherson sessions. Hutcherson I was familiar with through Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch. Via Chambers, I would soon go into deeper exploration of Andrew Hill, Joe Henderson, and the like. It would be years before I even realized that Chambers’ exploratory duo date with Larry Young yielded that famous Nas sample. On the occasion of his first release as a leader for Blue Note, Samba de Maracatu, I’m re-posting our chat here).
The drummers who manned the throne during Blue Note sessions out at Van Gelder’s studio read instead like a roll call of the form’s finest: Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Anthony Williams. In that pantheon sits Joe Chambers, who thundered behind Blue Note’s post-bop new bucks: pianist Andrew Hill, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, saxmen Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, vibist Bobby Hutcherson. Brought up in a musical household (though of no relation to Mr. PC, Paul Chambers), as Chambers came of age in Philly, where he saw swing’s giant jazz armies pare down to the lean post-World War II into bebop quartets, as rhythm and blues was crescent.Continue reading “Joe Chambers interview”
For me (and no doubt many musicians around the world), Bandcamp felt like a beacon of hope amid the crushing reality of 2020. So many new rabbit holes to dive down, so many elders to speak with, so many stories to unearth before history returns to re-bury them. They kept me feeling inspired in a very debilitating time otherwise, so posting some of my favorites in one place:Continue reading “Bandcamp in 2020”
Daddy’s has been closed for a few years now. I couldn’t even say when it was, but I was deep in new fatherhood when they shuttered, so I never got to say my farewells or get the chance to spin one last set there. But I DJ’d there every month for a few years and a few patrons used to tell me I was the first person to ever go in there and play disco music, a decided break from being in there on a Saturday night and having bearded dudes playing great downers like Skip Spence and Fred Neil. Last time I was in the bar, someone dropped Toto’s “Africa” to complete rapture. Perhaps me playing Toto’s “Georgy Porgy” there led to such a sad state of affairs?Continue reading “Daddy’s Canon”
“I sometimes feel like I am some kind of mystery to people abroad: the odd one, the visitor in the room. As it relates to Jamaica, that feeling has always been strangely similar.”
There were few glints of light or reasons to feel upful about 2020, one small exception being the monthly drip of oddball new Equiknoxx productions dropping on Bandcamp. I got to chat with main man Gavsborg island-to-island about this past year and provide a little listening guide for the quickly expanding Equiknoxx galaxy.
Last year, I was asked by PBS station KCET in LA to contribute a brief history of jazz. Which was a massive, sprawling topic that no one book –much less one essay– could possibly contain. It was to serve as complement to this awesome documentary about the current state of Los Angeles creative music and a feature on the lasting legacy of pianist/ composer Horace Tapscott. Both are well worth your time.
That said, I attempted a meditation on jazz as an expression of folk, a living music, a form of protest, and how jazz embraces the world and reflects it back to us, as messy and vital and loud as a functioning democracy. If anything, it often comes back to the alchemy of taking the creative act and making it a part of life. Or as Cecil Taylor once put it: “Living becomes a musical process. It becomes a search to absorb everything that happens to you and incorporate it into music.”
(Just learned that the Twin Cities’ alt-weekly City Pages is no longer. It was one of the first outlets I wrote for, so it held a special place in my heart. This piece on electronic music pioneer Tod Dockstader touches on cow toys, digitized frogs, a childhood spent soaked with boric acid, and Gerald McBoingBoing. It was impossible to find in the archives, so it’s reprinted here.)
An old Coke bottle, a nail, marble, some deflated balloons, a few rolls of adhesive tape. In the hands of Minnesotan Tod Dockstader, these trivial items and certified junk all conspired to create masterworks of electronic music in the early 1960s, during the hazy, pricey dawn of the genre. His scant half-decade of work revealed a world where sound itself became the organizing force, rather than melodic logic or linear progressions. His loops, jump cuts, and juxtapositions anticipated the next 40 years of synthesizers and sampling culture.Continue reading “Brave Old World: Tod Dockstader’s Vision of the Future”
“Donald…thinks forward all the time. His mind is too quick and his curiosity too active for him to get caught in any single groove.” For the newly launched portal (and my favorite LA kissaten, In Sheeps Clothing), I went deep and high to write about my favorite era of jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, spanning from 1969-1972. It was an era when Miles was chasing the voodoo down and Byrd was hot on his heels, presenting a parallel universe of where jazz-fusion might go. But as an educator and mentor, Dr. Byrd was also wise to listen to his students. It was how he achieved chart-topping success throughout the rest of that decade, influencing the next generation of hip-hop producers along the way.
Jazz is the Teacher: Donald Byrd’s Lessons in Musical Innovation for In Sheeps Clothing HiFi.