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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Equiknoxx

“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.

A Guide to the Jamaican Label Equiknoxx, Who Are Reinventing the Sound of Dancehall for Bandcamp

From Bandstand to Social Justice: How Jazz Remains ‘America’s Classical Music’

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.”

From Bandstand to Social Justice: How Jazz Remains ‘America’s Classical Music’

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.

Sonny Rollins-Freedom Suite

Freedom Suite was Sonny Rollins’ protest, but he didn’t need to utter a word or sound a full-throated roar through his reed. It’s not a raised fist, and never needs to shriek. Freedom Suite is so disarming that you might not recognize it for a protest anthem at all.”

An unbelievable honor to have my name appear on a Sonny Rollins record. At the height of his career, Rollins cut Freedom Suite, his brief liner notes throwing down a gauntlet in 1958: “How ironic that the Negro, who more than any other people can claim America’s culture as his own, is being persecuted and repressed, that the Negro, who has exemplified the humanities in his very existence, is being rewarded with inhumanity.”

The album was quickly retracted and butchered by his label. They changed the cover, title, and put the massive title suite on the b-side. I wrote the liner notes that accompany the new Vinyl Me, Please reissue of the album. You can order it here.

Eddie Chacon

“I was pretty lost. I had a real identity crisis after it was over. I questioned my own validity as an artist. I left my recording studio one day and didn’t turn it on for 10 years.”

I got the chance to chat with Eddie Chacon for the New York Times. Chacon’s curious tale winds through the likes of Cliff Burton, Uncle Luke, The Dust Brothers, Daddy-O, and a Sir Elton John co-sign, before arriving at the rarefied space that is his new album, Pleasure, Joy and Happiness. Call it R&Bient, the Lewis album Laraaji never made, or what Marvin Gaye with Martin Rev might have sounded like, it’s a dreamy little listen.

Eddie Chacon, a Fleeting ’90s Neo Soul Star, Returns as an Old Soul for The New York Times