Neal Francis’ Midwest Soul at Waterfront Festival

There is a deep connection between Neal Francis’ childhood—his obsession with boogie woogie piano, his father’s gift of a dusty Dr. John LP, and the songs he’s created. The result is an astonishing collection of material without parallel in the contemporary funk and soul scene. The influences are unmistakable: the vocal stylings of Allen Toussaint and Leon Russell; the second line rhythms of The Meters and Dr. John; the barroom rock ‘n’ roll of The Rolling Stones; the gospel soul of Billy Preston; the roots music of The Band. He pays tribute to the masters but has his own story to tell. The piano prodigy found himself touring Europe by the age of 18 with Muddy Waters’ son and backing up other prominent blues artists coast-to-coast. In 2012, he joined popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With Francis at the creative helm, The Heard transformed into a national act, touring with boogaloo progenitors The New Mastersounds and chart toppers The Revivalists and appearing at Jazz Fest and Bear Creek. As The Heard’s star rose, however, Francis sunk deeper into addiction. Once a promising sideman, by 2015 he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment, and was perilously close to self-destruction. He worked hard to change all that. 2018 was a busy year. In February Francis finished recording basic tracks for the yet-to-be named debut album in Los Angeles and spent the following months doing overdubs in Chicago with engineer Mike Novak (who also recorded demos for the project). After playing his first show in November, Francis was signed by Paradigm Talent Agency. 2019 has already brought a North American tour supporting The Cat Empire and he continues to tour relentlessly to promote his own music.

And that brings us to June 8th at the Marquette Waterfront Festival in Madison, where I will be able to catch a set of music I have been looking for. I had a chance to catch up with Neal ahead of the festival to help people get to know him a little better. We talk what people who don’t know about his sound/style can expect, we talk about new music and how his soon to be released album was born. We get into the way he was and where he’s at and I think many of us would like to know what songs & artists a cat like this would build a set around after I start it with one of his new tunes. Oh YEAH!!!

Swarm To Table With Brooklyn Bugs

Brooklyn Bugs is an edible insect ambassador. Their mission is to raise appreciation and awareness for edible insects through delicious, educational, and creative programming. Their interesting work has been featured on the Smithsonian Channel, New York Times, NPR, Food and Wine, Live with Kelly and Ryan, Forbes, and Gizmodo, as they help explain why the United Nations endorses edible insects to address the issues of food scarcity and sustainability. They work hard while striving to introduce edible insects and normalize them in America as a sustainable source of protein that can be found in your pantry, eaten as a snack, and beautifully plated by chefs. They are currently on their Spring College Tour, which this year is bringing them to the University of Wisconsin (Madison). Joseph Yoon is an entrepreneur who is the chef/owner of Yummy Eats (est 2011) and Dinner Echo, and the Executive Director of Brooklyn Bugs. Joseph views his participation in this global food movement as an extension of his commitment to his community, and volunteers his time and resources with both Brooklyn Bugs and Yummy Eats. Our kinda guy.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Joseph ahead of his upcoming time in Madison for the Edible Insects Event: “Swarm To Table” Series from April 25th – April 27th. We first discuss what the mission and importance of Brooklyn Bugs and why edible insects is a topic we are proud to be discussing here at the UW. We dive into what this three-day event series will be all about with featured presentations by leading researchers in the field of insect agriculture and experts in insect cuisine, pairings of edible insects with Wisconsin craft beers, and culminates in a delicious multi-course insect banquet and art show. For this event series, Joseph will be delivering an informational lecture on the 25th from 1:00 – 3:30 PM at UW Engineering Hall – Room 122 Entitled: “New Frontiers In Insect Cuisine”. On the 26th, he will be doing a hands-on workshop: “Cooking With Insects” from 4:00 – 6:00 PM at the Food Apps Lab – Babcock Hall. The event winds down with the Swarm-To-Table Gourmet Insect Feast and Art Exhibit with a partnership with the fine folks from Slow Food UW & MIGHTi, While all the portions Joseph is participating in or leading are cool, there are a several other things happening as well. Click here for more.

Since I originally aired this conversation on Record Store Day, we talked about some of his most favorite artists to listen to on vinyl and man, there were some wildly symbiotic connection points going on during that part of the chat. Try it. You know you wanna.

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Black Ants, Scorpions Lobster: Image of Brooklyn Bugs

The Wooten Woods Experience Comes Alive

Born into a traveling military family, bassist Victor Wooten relied on music as a source of stability and familial connection. Wooten’s formal training began “as soon as [he] could sit up straight,” and by the age of six, he and his brothers’ soul band were opening for legends like Curtis Mayfield and The Temptations. After moving to Nashville a few decades later, Wooten met banjoist Béla Fleck and formed Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, whose revolutionary blend of funk, bluegrass and jazz catapulted Wooten into the spotlight. Despite his impressive musical resumé, which includes five Grammy Awards and a spot on Rolling Stone’s top ten bassists of all time, Wooten has remained humble and a champion for the arts by running “Wooten’s Woods”, a nonprofit camp for musical development. Wooten’s charitable philosophy is derived in part from his instrument of choice. “As I started getting older and really looking at the bass,” he explains to the Chicago Sun-Times, “I realized, ‘wow, the whole purpose of this instrument is to serve other people’ … I’ve grown to love it for that reason.”

Victa has been a long time friend of greenarrowradio and it was great caching up aGain ahead of the April 18th event, The Victor Wooten Band & The Wooten Woods Experience at Memorial Union’s Shannon Theater. This is another fantastic hang with a man who devotes as much energy to the creation of new music as he does to the give back to students of life. We get into the feelings he has of the 20th year of Music & Nature Camps, and how this tour is unlike anything else he’s done. He will not only be playing music. We talk about who will be playing with him as “the” band, but we will also be treated to current and former students, instructors, and counselors from the camps to share in the holistic view of the different ways of teaching/learning, using nature as a guide to use what we learn straight away. There will also be a couple of teachers from the camps other special guests. We highlight some other unique moments that will take place during this interactive experience, with someone from the audience invited to learn and share and the fact that at every show, a bass guitar will be given away to start someone else’s new journey. Since, this is right around Record Store Day, I make sure to find out what Victa thinks are some albums best suited for vinyl play and who was sitting right next to him as we were discussing all this. This conversation reminds me why I love Vic and his approach to going about it all. Please check it out and share, even if you are not in Madison for this particular event.

Durand Jones & The Indications Back In Madison

Durand Jones & the Indications aren’t looking backwards. Helmed by foil vocalists in Durand Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer, the Indications conjure the dynamism of Jackie Wilson, Curtis Mayfield, and the Impressions. This young band of twenty-somethings are students of soul, including guitarist Blake Rhein, who moonlights doing research for The Numero Group. Even with that background, and an aesthetic steeped in the golden, strings-infused dreaminess of early ‘70s soul, the Indications are planted firmly in the present, with the urgency of this moment in time.

I had the chance to catch up with Durand Jones and Aaron Frazer of Durand Jones and The Indications ahead of their April 10th show in Madison at the High Noon Saloon. We get into what the audience can expect from the band now as they have started to really come into their own as soul music’s latest “real deal”. We dive into the brand new release, “American Love Call” as it went from ideas into a piece of work I consider to be timeless and important. We compare the times of now to the times before and where the path has led them as friends, people and band-mates. Both Durand and Aaron let us know which song they would choose off the new release to share with the greenarrowradio audience if they were taking over the proGramming and what other artists/tunes they’d pair with that track. If they come to a town near you, please follow my soul advice and check it out. You will not be disappointed.

Photo by: Mark Jackson

Etienne Charles’ Carnival Project

Etienne Charles is the Assistant Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Michigan State University. Hailed by The New York Times as “an auteur” (Ben Ratliff), by Jazz Times as “A daring improviser who delivers with heart wrenching lyricism” (Bill Milkowski). According to Downbeat Magazine “Charles delivers his ebullient improvisations with the elegance of a world-class ballet dancer.” (John Murph). He has received critical acclaim for his exciting performances, thrilling compositions and knack for connecting with audiences worldwide. In June 2012, Etienne was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad & Tobago and the World. Perhaps more than any other musician of his generation or Eastern Caribbean origin, Etienne brings a careful study of myriad rhythms from the French, Spanish, English and Dutch speaking Caribbean to the table. Crucially, as a soloist, he fully understands the New Orleans trumpet tradition; which is readily discernible in his trademark instrumental swagger, and what famed Crescent City Pianist, Jelly Roll Morton so succinctly captured in the now immortal phrase, ‘The Spanish Tinge’. He has performed and or recorded with Monty Alexander, Roberta Flack, Frank Foster, Ralph MacDonald, Johnny Mandel, Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Maria Schneider, Count Basie Orchestra, Eric Reed, Lord Blakie, David Rudder and many others. He holds a Master’s degree from the Juilliard School and a Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.

I had the honor of chatting with Etienne recently about his latest release, “Carnival: The Sound of a People”. We dissect a few of the tracks, from their beGinning stories through the history of a cultural experience that is as much celebration, as it is a spell. We talk about how the album went from it’s infancy to a place where listeners and music sharers alike can go to place that is tracked in certain storytellers tales, but is as culturally important to a people, as the food the grow and the children they raise.

Take A Live Risk! With Kevin Allison In Madison

Actor, comedian and master storyteller Kevin Allison brings his award winning storytelling show RISK! live back to Madison on Saturday, March 16, at the High Noon Saloon. The night will feature Kevin and local storytellers taking the stage to tell their true, personal tales “they never thought they’d dare to share.” Storytellers are still in the selection process, I can tell you the cast once confirmed. The show will be recorded for the popular RISK! podcast which gets a million downloads every month. RISK! has been hailed as “always entertaining” (The New York Times), “consistently unforgettable” (The AV Club) and one of the Best Podcasts To See (Entertainment Weekly). Kevin Allison is a founding member of legendary comedy troupe The State whose MTV series remains a cult classic. He is also the creator and host of RISK!, the award winning live show and podcast where people their true stories ranging from hilarious to provocative to heartbreaking. Now in its 10th year, Kevin hosts RISK! live monthly in NYC and he tours RISK! around the world to feature local storytellers. The show has featured incredible true stories from Trevor Noah, Margaret Cho, Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman and more, plus plenty of everyday folks.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Kevin ahead of the show in Madison to help get some newbees into the scene. We talk about what to expect at a live Risk! event. How the eye to eye delivery of a story can be life changing and just how he went about staring up this amazingly spot on podcast and live event series. Just from chatting for a bit with Kevin, I can tell how this show, these events and the people he gets to share stories with from either side of the ear are changing Kevin’s every day. Maybe it’s that change you have been waiting for?

I just received word that the Madison cast of storytellers to open their true, personal stories they never thought they’d dare to share are: Amanda, Amy, James and Stephanie.

A Way with Words Heads To Madison

“A Way with Words” is a call-in public radio show about language. It’s heard across the country and around the world by broadcast and podcast.” This program is co-hosted by Martha Barnette, who is also a journalist and the author of several books on language, as well as Grant Barrett, who is a dictionary editor and linguist specializing in slang and new words. Sometimes the two of them bring this show out on the road where folks get to join this popular public radio’s lively show about language for a fantastic evening! Slang, dialect, etymology, language change, new words, and a whole lot more are on the agenda. Martha and Grant will explore the amazing oddities of English, from the very old to the very new — plus host a language Q&A where you can find out what you’ve always wanted to know. You’ll come away enlightened and inspired! These events are packed, lively occasions filled with language-y wows, linguisticky goodness, and bookish goofing around. Martha and Grant have already wowed them with packed houses in New York City, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Dallas, San Diego, Arcata, California, and Portland, Oregon.

I was able to catch up with Martha and Grant ahead of the March 7th event being held at the University of Wisconsin’s Union Theater’s Shannon Hall. We paint a little picture of what someone who has never been to a live “A Way with Words” event or someone who has no idea what the show is about, can expect. We talk a little bit about the fun times to be had by the entire room and some of the challenges Martha and Grant face while performing in a live setting as opposed to being in the comforts of the studio. For me personally, this show is so much about community building and adding steps to the bridge to one another, so we talk a little about how this show unites and is a source of connection for so many who may not otherwise think they have walked down similar paths. The truth is, whether live or on the radio or in a podcasted format, “A Way with Words” brings the cool nerd out of all of us, so maybe it’s time to let your inner nerd find some commonality with a word.

Changing The Pace With Andy Frasco

In 2017, Andy Frasco reached a fork in the road. Renowned for a jubilant jambalaya of rule-breaking rock-n-roll his career kept rolling ahead at full steam. To date, he had released three independent albums, chronicled a German gig in front of 15,000 screaming fans on the recent live opus “Songs from the Road”, made jaws drop at festivals such as Grandoozy, Firefly, Mountain Jam, Summer Camp, Rock am Ring, Rock im Park and Electric Forest, generated millions of streams, launched Andy Frasco’s World Saving Podcast, and performed at festivals alongside icons such as Peter Frampton, Gary Clark Jr., The Revivalists, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dog, Joe Walsh and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few. After a string of wild shows (and wilder nights) on tour somewhere in the heart of America, one morning sounded a very loud wake-up call for the singer, songwriter, performer, and namesake of Andy Frasco & The U.N.

I had the chance to chat with Andy ahead of the March 6th show in Madison at the High Noon Saloon. Their first headlining show here in Madison and it sounds like Andy really loves the spaces, places and faces in our little city. We got into what someone who has never heard of his band could probably be in store for at the show. We talk about the lifestyle adjustments he made leading up to the brand new album (dropping tomorrow) aptly named, “Change of Pace” and how working with Widespread Panic‘s Dave Schools resulted in a song-centric album that brings attention to life, not just the party. We learn a little about what his podcast is all about and also what artists he would share to my listeners if given 42 minutes of greenarrowradio to proGram. Even tho there has been a change to his pace, there is no change to the man or the good time energy he will be sure to bring to everything he does. Take a listen for yourself!!

John Raymond & Real Feels Find Themselves In Madison

John Raymond is making a name for himself as one of the most promising, genre-bending musicians in jazz today. With a singular voice as a trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer, Mr. Raymond is “steering jazz in the right direction” (Downbeat Magazine) by pushing it’s boundaries, seamlessly incorporating indie-rock, folk and electronic influences into his music. Mr. Raymond has performed with artists such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, S. Carey (of Bon Iver), Orrin Evans (of The Bad Plus), and Cory Wong (of Vulfpeck) among others. He has released six albums since 2012 – four with his primary band Real Feels (w/Gilad Hekselman & Colin Stranahan), each receiving praise from Stereogum, the New York Times, Downbeat, JazzTimes and more. John has also established himself as a sought-after educator, both as Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Indiana University and as a guest clinician and soloist at schools around the world.

I had the pleasure of chatting with John ahead of the February 20th show in Madison, as John Raymond & Real Feels hits up Arts & Literature Laboratory to open doors into spots where music may not have yet found. John and I set the stage for folks who may not be familiar with him or his music and with words, he guides us through what new ears to this scene can expect in a live setting. We get led down the path that helps map out just how John has found his open mindedness towards music and his “Voice” in the jazz community (and beyond). With the release of a brand new album to support, “Live Vol. 2”, we get a little insight as to how Real Feels interpretation of a timeless classic got started, worked on and presented. All of this ties in nicely with learning how working with artists from many musical syles & genres has backed into the vision and feelings of Real Feels. As always, the best way to find out just what’s what, is to catch one or more of their shows.

Photo by: Andrea Canter

Madison Beats-n-Grooves With Michal Menert & The Pretty Fantastics

Anchor Bay, California based electronic music artist and producer Michal Menert draws breath from the world that surrounds him, transmuting daily inspiration into music that is singularly his own. Michal co-produced the chart topping Pretty Lights album “Taking Up Your Precious Time”, and it was only natural that he was the first artist to join Pretty Lights Music. His debut solo album “Dreaming of a Bigger Life” was released in 2010, followed by 2012’s mega-LP “Even If It Isn’t Right”. In winter of 2015 the highly anticipated “Space Jazz” was introduced to the world, followed by fall 2015’s debut release by his band Michal Menert & the Pretty Fantastics, “1”. Just this Winter, he and the Pretty Fantastics put out another ear and mind opening album, “From The Sea”. His no boundaries type approach has opened up very cool experiences and opportunities to collaborate, support, work with artists of all sorts, including Dead & Co., Mickey Hart, Bassnectar & Umphrey’s McGee are just a small sample. Committed to a community driven approach to collaborative creativity, Michal works hand in hand with producers he chooses for his own record label, Super Best Records. A dynamic and ideological producer, collaborating and working closely with a new generation of hip-hop & EDM producers, this is one artist who is dedicated to bringing a new musical vision to life free from limitation.

I had a chance to talk briefly (we had a wacky phone connection) with Michal ahead of his February 20th show in Madison at the High Noon Saloon. We got into what one who doesn’t know could in a nutshell believe they are getting into when they walk into this show. We talk about how the music he creates has been influenced by the world around him and who helped open his ears to it all and I can’t help but notice that they way Michal approaches his creation of music, is very similar to how I go about trying to proGram greenarrowradio. We did get a little time to talk about the creation of latest album, “From The Sea” and how it went from the seed to the exploding flower of sonic goodness, I have been fortunate to share with he listeners.

Photo by: Bad Astronaut Photography

The African Buttafly Lands In Madison February 16th

This world needs a healing force, a soothing voice and Ugochi, a warm spirit who has become extremely versatile and creative with the range of music she is able to perform. Her musical interests span all corners of the globe. She fuses her choreo-poetic style of spoken word with her unique singing ability in order to generate a more powerful word sound attraction and that sound has been described as “lively, energetic music that makes your feet move and heart think”. As a multidisciplinary artist, she has written a one woman show about her families immigrant experience as well as written poems that have been honored in an international anthologies. She has also been saluted by internationally renowned literary organizations and has shared the stage with several established (and diverse) artists such as Common, John Legend, Femi Kuti, Edwin McCain, Seun Kuti, Maxi Priest, Malik Yusef, Umphrey’s McGee, Blitz the Ambassador, Yellowman, Queen Ifrika, Shaggy, Queen Ifrika, Vieux Farka Toure, Bushman, Fatoumata Diawara, Stephen Marley, King Sunny Ade, and Me’Schell Ndegeocello. The music of Ugochi is rich with poetic harmonies and uplifting ideas and has helped bring her tomany lands around the world. In 2003, legendary Chicago diva Chaka Khan saluted the emerging artist as “someone who will have a long life in the music business,” when she was selected as a semi-finalist on Star Search. Ugochi also wrote the only original song for the critically acclaimed “Red Hot and Riot Compilation,” in honor of the late Fela Kuti and global AIDS awareness. The song, “So Be It”, was performed by R&B star Kelis.

I had the honor of spending a little conversation time with Ugochi to discuss her upcoming event in Madison on February 16th at Café CODA, where she along with the Afro Soul Ensemble will be spreading the good deep feelings and positive energies. We get into what that experience miGht feel like for a newcomer to her scene. We dive mind first into what makes her spirit open to the ideas and rewards of collaboration in all communities of the arts, with a spectrum artists and bands from all walks of life. We touch on the importance and influence of Chicago, social-justice and the give back of music and the arts, and how it all fits in in the year 2019. I do enjoy knowing how artists put together a collection of their works into an album form, so we dissect her latest release, “Love Shot”, which features friends of the program Mr. Tony Allen and the Chicago Afrobeat Project. Her eclectic and versatile nature shines through when asked which artists/album/songs she may choose if locked in a room with a 6 CD changes for a day. I’d like to be a fly with big ears on those walls.

Joe Policastro Belongs Here

Hailed by Downbeat for its “deft analysis of choice repertoire,” and by the Chicago Reader for its “diversity of approaches to all kinds of source material,” the JOE POLICASTRO TRIO is Chicago-based alternative jazz trio led by bassist Joe Policastro features guitarist Dave Miller and drummer Mikel Avery. While firmly rooted in jazz, the band’s open-minded, inclusive nature draws upon a wide array of musical styles and sources while still keeping the aesthetic of an acoustic trio intact. “Nothing Here Belongs” (JeruJazz Records) marks the fourth release by the band. The new release follows in the wake of “West Side Story Suite” (2013), “POPS!” (2016), and “Screen Sounds” (2017), all of which highlighted the trio’s ability to remake unlikely songs in its own raw, highly idiosyncratic fashion. The new release, by contrast, for the first time showcases the trio’s captivating body of original music, while also including characteristically bold arrangements of other artists music. True bands feel like a rarity in jazz these days, especially ones who hone their craft as consistently as this one does. In addition to their long-running thrice weekly residency at Pops For Champagne in the Chicago, the band has been extensively playing together throughout the US and Canada having even performed for President Barack Obama. As sidemen, Joe Policastro (Jeff Hamilton, Pat and Debby Boone, Phil Woods, Diane Schuur), Dave Miller (Clarice Assad, Patricia Barber, Algernon), and Mikel Avery (Joshua Abrams, Theaster Gates, Rob Mazurek) have shared the stage with a wide array of musicians but dedicate collectively to this trio. Whether highlighting the original music of its members, re-contextualizing modern music, or performing jazz classics of the likes of Thelonious Monk, Chico Hamilton, or Charles Lloyd, the trio readily displays its singular approach, sound, texture, and simultaneity.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Joe ahead of the Trio’s February 9th date at Café CODA in Madison. We get into what an audience at this event can expect from the performance with open minds and ears attached. We take a deeper dive into the new album, “Nothing Here Matters” and how it grew from the seed of an idea into the bold flower that is now available for the world to digest. We ebb and flow around improvisational skills of each member and how it works so well bringing them toGether,and how the music on one of their albums builds and potentially strays even during a live event. I enjoyed listening to how Joe listens to and feels music, we have similar ways about us and I hope with any of the trio’s releases and/or going out to check them in a live setting, you might just find the same to be true.

Roots & Tings

Quannum and Solesides co-founder, and Grammy nominated MC, Lateef the Truth Speaker has joined forces with acclaimed Bay Area DJ and producer Jah Yzer and the multi-talented musician and reggae artist Winstrong, to showcase the cross roads of reggae and hip-hop on their newest project “Roots & Tings”. The new music draws deeply and respectfully from the history of both genres while pushing a new vibe to create powerful and provocative tracks. Roots & Tings will roll out singles monthly throughout 2019 with Quannum Records. Each release will be accompanied by original artwork, limited edition t-shirts from aspiring designers and will be available on both vinyl 45’s and digitally, everywhere you can stream. Until embarking on the “Roots & Tings” project, the Bay Area based artists, Lateef, Jah Yzer and Winstrong have known each other separately for more than ten years. Coming together for this project a collaboration was immediately born as they clicked effortlessly over a relatively unstructured creative process on the new project.

I had the opportunity to take a conference call with all three artists about this latest sonic blend and we get into the process of how this collaboration came toGether, how each artists found their place to add their own skillz to the project and how social justice is a big part of the give back that this AND all music can provide. The way they are rolling this project out gives each chunk of the album it’s own personality and visual effects to provide every note an opportunity to reach each listener. Featuring artwork from incarcerated artists and youth apprentices making the clothing, this music provides a chance for each, every and all. They have taken the stories of the past, mixed them with the voice of today and taken what was back to what it is.

Sharing A Moment With Billy Childs

Billy Childs is a versatile improvisational jazz pianist and composer whose talents have been recognized with over ten Grammy nominations and a Guggenheim Fellowship award. Mr. Childs has performed with several influential jazz artists including J.J. Johnson and Joe Henderson before landing a deal with Wyndam Records in 1988. He subsequently released Take For Example, This…, the first of four critically-acclaimed albums for the label. Mr. Childs acknowledges legends like Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock as his early jazz influences, and attributes his love of composition to classical composers such as Paul Hindemith and Igor Stravinsky. This broad range of influences results in his own “neoclassical” style which crosses musical boundaries. Over the course of his versatile career, Childs has collaborated with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Sting, and the Kronos Quartet. He oversaw the Grammy-winning project The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan by Diane Reeves in 2000.

I had the honor of spending a little time with Mr. Childs ahead of his upcoming performance as The Wisconsin Union Theater welcomes Billy Childs and the UW Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, February 9th at 8:00pm at the Play Circle. Mr. Childs will join the UW Jazz Orchestra on stage for an exciting opening act. We discuss what can be expected from the event, including this unique opening appearance with our local jazz orchestra. We get into how the the 2018 Grammy Award winning Best Jazz Instrumental Album, “Rebirth” came together and how he finds his place in the space of artists like Sting and the Kronos Quartet. This week, he has been taking part in yet another musical exploration with students as he is in residence at Manhattan School of Music, so we make sure to find out what has been going into the week working as/on several projects, with fresh new artists.

The Oakland Zone with Tower Of Power’s Emilio Castillio

Oakland, California music legends Tower of Power – the most dynamic and distinctive band of survivors in Soul Music – is roaring into its unprecedented 50th anniversary with a dynamic new disc of all new material that finds them as energized and inspired as ever. A labor of love, definitively titled “Soul Side of Town”, this new release is charged with fourteen filler-free songs. In the spirit of their enduring theme song “Oakland Stroke” – the book-ending intro and outro “East Bay” shine a light on elemental instrumental ingredients within the band’s signature sound. This astounding and historical release (out since June 1, 2018 in digital, vinyl, streaming & CD formats) inaugurates Tower of Power’s fresh affiliation with Mack Avenue Records, a Detroit-based company renowned for its award-winning dedication to top-tier Jazz that is now extending its support to Soul and Funk giants, Tower of Power: a band so one-of-a-kind, it’s an institution. Anticipation is so high for Tower of Power’s 50th Anniversary milestone that the first show on their home turf of Oakland swiftly sold out with a second one right on its heels, and an appearance at this year’s Playboy Jazz Festival also has tongues wagging! This year promises to be a BLAST for Tower of Power and all its fans as they celebrate this incredible milestone with a motherload of electrifying new sounds guaranteed to funkifize, energize and provide the soundtrack for new American movements of Love, Peace, Soul Power, Mind Power and People Power to rise!

I had the honor of catching up with founding member Mr. Emilio Castillo ahead of the group’s November 15th show in Madison at the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater. Mr. Castillo and I get into what a newbie to the scene could expect if this is their first time catching the soulful leGends in a live setting. We talk about how the new album keeps the familiar sound and gives ears a fresh feel, as well as how the album went from the seed of soul to a funkified flower that uplifts and charts! How does Tower of Power keep that signature sound so fresh and when it unites with other artists, how does it know where to do all it does? We talk a little bit about that secret sauce that allowed fifty years to fly by and a hope for fifty more with new songs like the ones on “Soul Side of Town”. Dig, what is hip!

photo by: Anna Webber

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya At High Noon Saloon

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a multi-instrumentalist composer, producer, and performer. His musical identity was forged in the DIY community of Chicago. Relentless participation in numerous musical projects bridged genres and created inroads between scenes. Near constant activity quickly made him a locus of gravity in the community. Nnamdi has toured the USA, Mexico Europe and Canada with projects ranging from punk to jazz. A full accounting of his musical activity over the last eight years includes approximately 15 bands and dozens of tours. All the while, Nnamdi has not only released a stream of records and EPs under his name and the ironic moniker “Nnamdi’s Sooper Dooper Secret Side Project”, but also runs his own label called SOOPER Records. His solo styling combines hip-hop, experimental rock, gospel, and jazz. His songs can often contain a sense of satire that is just as humorous as it is critical. Nnamdi’s lyrical insights draw on the diversity of his cultural experience as a Black, Jewish, first generation Nigerian-American. His work is characterized by the coupling of sophisticated compositional structures with pop-music motifs.

I had a chance to catch-up briefly with Nnamdi Ogbonnaya ahead of his November 8th show at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, Wisconsin. We get into what folks can expect at one of his shows, how he does the things he does the way he does. Find out how “The Simpsons” fit in and which one of his tunes would he choose to build a set-list around if programming a set on greenarrowradio.

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya

¡Mayday! Bringing The Warm Vibes Back To Madison

They’ve performed with Lil Wayne, collaborated with Cee Lo Green and toured extensively with labelmate Tech N9ne. No matter whom they work with or who hears their music, ¡Mayday! quickly impresses whoever hears its diverse music and sees its riveting live show. Before joining Strange Music, ¡Mayday! became a draw in Southern Florida and the Southeast because of its energetic shows and anthemic music, earning such A-list fans as Lil Wayne, who featured the group in his “Get A Life” and “Da Da Da” videos, and Cee Lo Green, with whom they collaborated on the Internet hit “Groundhog Day.” Upon joining Strange Music, the sextet released its debut album, Take Me To Your Leader, in March 2012. The group’s stellar instrumentation and its captivating blend of singing and rapping on such selections as the ominous “Badlands” with Tech N9ne, the stirring “Tango In Tunisia,” the edgy “Death March” and the eerie “Don’t Make Me Live” introduced ¡Mayday! on a national stage as a versatile, noteworthy group with thematic diversity and impressive musicianship. Touring, recording and working with independent music powerhouses Tech N9ne and Strange Music also gave ¡Mayday! the keys to success. And now they have a new release that takes their recent tour experience in a roots/reggae heavy scene and combines that with tier thoughtful hip hop-ness, we get “South of 5th”

I had the chance to speak with Wrekonize from ¡Mayday! before they bring that South Beach part scene back to Madison at Ruby on November 2nd We familiarize folks with the style and sound of the band as it is now, back in the day and where they are heading We dive deep into the new release “South Of 5th”. I guarentee you will have a good time checking out the new album, but also getting yourself tothe part whenever they are in your town will certainly keep that Summer feeling alive.

Dom Flemons Returns To Stoughton Opera House

Dom Flemons is known as “The American Songster” since his repertoire of music covers nearly 100 years of American folklore, ballads, and tunes. Mr. Flemons is a music scholar, historian, record collector and a multi-instrumentalist. He is considered an expert player on the Banjo, Fife, Guitar, Harmonica, Percussion, Quills, and Rhythm Bones. He has performed with leading musicians, such as, Mike Seeger, Joe Thompson, Taj Mahal, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Guy Davis. He has been a professional touring musician for the past ten years and has traveled around the nation and the world presenting traditional folk and roots music to diverse audiences. Mr. Flemons has performed as a soloist at prestigious venues, such as, Carnegie Hall, Cecil Sharp House, the Grand Ole Opry, National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Newport Folk Festival and represented the United States at the 2017 Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Malaysia. In 2005, Flemons co-founded the Carolina Chocolate Drops who have won a GRAMMY for Best Traditional Folk in 2010. He left the group to pursue his solo career in 2014. In 2016 the Carolina Chocolate Drops were inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame and are featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. On March 23rd, 2018, he released his first solo album titled “Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys” on GRAMMY Award-winning record label Smithsonian Folkways. This recording is part of the African American Legacy Recordings series, co-produced with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

I had the honor of speaking with Mr. Flemons ahead of his October 25th show at the Stoughton Opera House. We got into why the Midwest is an important stop to consider in the history of the black cowboy and we sure are thankful for his stopping through. We talk extensively about the creation and concept of the new release (from the turning of the then into the times of the now), and what someone who is unfamiliar with his solo scene can expect at one of his shows. The project comes with a forty page booklet to help wrap your mind around all the pertinent who,what,where,when, and whys and he recommends a book/story he would recommend to any listener who wants to dive in a little deeper. This is one of the conversations that proves to be both entertaining and informational, and for sure, it has inspired me to think about some things much differently.

Dom Flemons Photo by Timothy Duffy

Means To The Ends With Bright Dog Red

Bright Dog Red (BDR), an improvising collective from Albany, New York, fuses free improvisation, electronica, jazz, hip hop, psychedelia, and noise music into a proliferation of beats, bars, and blasts of sonic energy. In early 2018, BDR signed on to release an album with Ropeadope Records, the Philadelphia based record label. The band’s first full-length album, “Means to the Ends,” dropped October 5, 2018. Since debuting in September of 2015, BDR has played a number of high profile bookings, including opening for friend of the proGram, Mr. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at the historic Paramount Hudson Valley Theater, opening for Hip Hop sensation Decora, sharing bills with Italian Surf Academy and with pianist Zack Clarke. In addition, the band has become a fixture on the New York jazz and improvisation scene, playing regularly at venues such as ShapeShifter Lab, Nublu, and Spectrum. Beyond New York, the band has performed at the Berklee College of Music, twice headlined Albany’s Madison Theatre, played BSP Lounge in Kingston NY, Lilypad at Inman in Cambridge, MA, Olive’s in Nyack, NY, and the O+ Festival three years in a row.

I had the opportunity to catch up with the founding member and percussionist of Bright Dog Red, Joe Pignato. We got deep into the creation of this wild new release, “Means To The Ends”, discussing the process that the group followed and follows in making their music. Including leaving in the clams! We learn how the teachers and influences in Joe’s life, the great Yusef Lateef and Max Roach had such a profound imprint on the way Joe goes about his path in life, musically and/or otherwise. How important it must be to find a record label that gets it, even without knowing what IT is, that’s the Ropeadope Records way and is how this partnership came into effect. What a treat it would be to do a three hour radio set build with Joe, as we learn some of what he would try to weave toGether if I gave him a portion of the program to help build that bridge for you. This is a very interesting listen, which makes sense when you put on the new record.

WAS OUT JAZZ ZONE MAD With Tony Adamo

After some time on the radio and some gigging with rock bands (as a drummer) Tony Adamo moved to Los Angeles for several years. By day, he went to work putting up billboards; to workin’ on the rehab of the famous Hollywood sign; to joining the Studio Utilities Union where he worked in the background on TV shows. That gig led him to a job as a Hollywood agent at the Beverly Hecht Agency, where he booked TV commercials and models for print ads. But by night, Tony was out was performing with local bands. Heading back to San Francisco, Tony landed a studio gig and was introduced to Tower of Power original members Mic Gillette and Skip Mesquite, who agreed to record with him. Mic and Tony became fast friends, and Mic later introduced him to Stephen “Doc” Kupka, co-founder of Tower of Power and owner of Strokeland Records. Over the next few years “Doc,” Mic, Skip and Tom Politzer recorded on Tony’s early recordings with Mic writing all the horn arrangements. Somewhere in this mix of experiences Tony found a new groove – spoken word delivered with a full band. He had worked with drummer Mike Clark, and was very hip to the fact Mike could bring out the groove needed for his lyrics. Mike laid down some screamin’ drum tracks, and Tony improvised the rest. Tony’s Ropeadope Records release is titled ‘Was Out Jazz Zone Mad’, and he pays tribute to the greats, to the players behind him, and to the art of improvisation.

I had the hip pleasure of getting toGether with Tony to discuss the road that led him to right here, right now. How the brand new album came together and we even dissected a couple of the tracks to get you, the listener to wear his creative shoes. We find out who some of the key players on the release are, with a centralized focus on the co-producer of some of the work and friend of this program, Mr. Mike Clark. We also learn that if Tony was to come into the studio to do his thing and share some tunes with the listeners of greenarrowradio, I could probably walk slowly back to the studio since everyone would be in radio bliss.