Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou feature

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.’”

The Honky Tonk Nun: Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou for ISC.

Daddy’s Canon

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?

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Brave Old World: Tod Dockstader’s Vision of the Future

(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.

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Jazz is the Teacher: Donald Byrd’s Lessons in Musical Innovation, 1969-1972

“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.

How 5 Musicians Over 70 Are Dealing with Life and Loss in the Age of Coronavirus

“I got this husband and these two cats, so that’s theoretically three boys I have to clean up after. But there’s no coping. I posted something [on social media] about being hunkered down and holding on in West Orange, ‘I got some champagne and I got a good smoke.’ You talk about coping! If I didn’t have this champagne and this marijuana here, I’d have a story to tell you.”

I spoke with some of our most cherished musical elders about the perils of working and surviving during the pandemic, including Gary Bartz, Laraaji, Terry Allen, Hailu Mergia, and Ms. Bettye LaVette.

How Musicians Over 70 Are Dealing in the Age of the Pandemic for Pitchfork

“Stone Crush” Provides a Definitive Introduction to Modern Memphis Soul

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“You look at early rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, soul music, there were hundreds and hundreds of small labels in Memphis that were saying ‘why not me?’ Of course, there are hundreds of reasons for ‘Why not them,’ but they still persevered and cut a record.” Deep into the Mississippi mud of a Singing Dentist, a future prophetess boogie-fying Pigmeat Markham’s “Order in the Court,” and Gutbucket Chic, this is a great comp for fans of Dâm-Funk, PPU, and the like.

Stone Crush: Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987 for Bandcamp