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

Noveller feature

“Sarah has a real gift for using the palette of sound. Her guitar tone is classic, precise, and could have been on a Ventures or Shadows instrumental. But there’s a brooding and undulating maelstrom that she develops until finally it’s just blasting. I like the emotion but also the intelligence.” Anxious, turbulent, foreboding –but with stunning glimpses of great beauty– I went deep on Sarah Lipstate’s pandemic-friendly soundscapes.

Noveller Conjures Anxious and Hopeful Guitar Symphonies for Texas Monthly

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