LowDown Brass Band deftly synthesizes the gritty sounds of Chicago with the high energy street beat of the Crescent City. LDB brandishes a powerful brass frontline of trumpets, trombones, saxophones, with a funky backline of drums and sousaphone. Combining the poetic ferocity of Billa Camp with stellar vocal harmonies, adventurous improvisation, movement, and grooves, LDB creates an infectious and diverse sound that has something for every listener. Fresh off their headlining set at The 2018 Montreal Jazz Festival, LowDown maintains a constant performing and touring schedule throughout North America. Recent performances include the Lagunitas Beer Circus, Chicago Jazz Fest, Friendly Gathering, Alaska’s Salmon Fest, Chicago’s Do-Division Fest, Wakarusa, Cotai Jazz Fest, and a annual residency at Shoe Fest. Following an ambitious project titled LowDown Sounds, that included a critically acclaimed cameo by Roy Ayers on the track “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”, LowDown Brass Band is now touring their 2018 hip hop release titled LowDown Breaks featuring MC Billa Camp. This new record steps deeper into refining their unique sound, combining hip hop breaks with live soul samples and deep cut grooves.
I had the chance to catch up with Shane Jonas, singer/trumpeter and one of the songwriters of LowDown Brass Band ahead of their end of July and early August run in Wisconsin, starting with the July 31st show at The Shitty Barn Sessions. Shane and I go through the who’s and what’s of the group gearing people who might not know them up for checking them out. We talk about the differences of process from when the band first started to the very new single that just dropped in June. The growth is obvious to those who have known about them for a bit. Shane also builds a set-list starting off with that brand new single “We Dem Boys” and the results are gonna make the fun in your funk jump for joy.
Alma Afrobeat Ensemble was founded in Chicago in 2003 by guitarist Aaron Feder. In 2006 Aaron made a move to Barcelona in search of a different sound for the band. He quickly found a group of international members, from all continents of the globe. In a short time the band was reformed and headlined the Fiestizaje music and arts festival in 2008. The band then set about recording their first studio album, Toubab Soul which was released in 2010. Shortly afterwards, they released the remix album, Toubab Resouled, and opened the world music festival Cruilla de Cultures with Konono No 1. The story has many twists and turns along the way, but now in 2019, they have a brand new self released album, “Monkey See, Monkey Do” out and the growth from those beginning is continuing to expand their sounds and styles. Which brings us to the Summer of 2019.
I had the chance to chat with Aaron ahead of Alma Afrobeat Ensemble’s set closing out this year’s Atwoodfest in Madison, Wisconsin on Sunday, July 28th. We get into what people can expect from this band now based in Barcelona, and how lucky Madison is to have them finally get here. Aaron has been trying for years and fortunately, Atwoodfest was able to get the stars to aliGn. We go seed to flower on the new release, “Monkey See, Money Do”, and while not a completely politically charged album, it does speak in a socially aware tongue and groove. I wanted to let people get a feel for the type of person Aaron is so we find out what had been floating his personal boat these days, as well as the set-list he would program, starting with which one off their new album he’d go with, for the listeners if given 45 minutes or so of the show.
Afro-funksters Kaleta & Super Yamba Band are known for their explosive live shows teeming with danceable rhythms and a vivacious energy that brings out the boogie in audiences from all walks of life. Fronted by legendary Afrobeat veteran Leon Ligan-Majek—a.k.a. Kaleta, the Brooklyn, N.Y. based group weaves together lively, multi-faceted rhythms and groovy basslines beneath bright horns, swirling synthesizers and Kaleta’s smoky vocals. Song lyrics seamlessly glide between languages native to West Africa along with French and Pidgin English, “the official language of Afrobeat” according to the band. Vocalist, guitarist, percussionist and producer Kaleta was born in the West African country of Benin Republic and lived his adolescent life in Lagos, Nigeria—the birthplace of Afrobeat. He got his start in the late 1970s performing in church and after capturing the attention of world music pioneer King Sunny Ade, was given the opportunity to go on a global tour with the iconic Nigerian musician and later with Fela Kuti though the 1980s and into the 1990s. After moving to New York City, Kaleta was overjoyed to find Super Yamba Band and hear their fresh take on the vintage sounds of his native Benin, taking its cues from artists like Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, El Rego and Gnonnas Pedro. Today, the band’s infectious sound and energy has earned them a devoted following and a skyrocketing reputation. The group has erupted onto the music scene with performances at the World Music Institute’s Masters Of African Music Series in New York, Felabration NYC, Millpond.Live Festival in Massachusetts, Paste Magazine’s Emerging Music Festival in New York City and the historic Apollo Theatre. In a review of their performance at the Emerging Music Festival, online tastemaker Afropop Worldwide said “their ace-up-the-sleeve: the singer Kaleta, whose James Brown grunts have got to be some of the best in the business.” With their latest single “Mr. Diva” (2018), Kaleta & Super Yamba continue to treat listeners to an unforgettable experience of world-class Afro-Funk dance music. A new album on Ubiquity Records is due out this Autumn.
I had the honor of discussing the upcoming Kaleta & Super Yamba Band event in Madison, Wisconsin at the High Noon Saloon on June 30th with the legend himself, Kaleta. We discuss what event-goers can expect from the groups first time in Madison. It was thrilling to here him talk about how he got started playing with two Icons in a music scene I love, King Sunny Adé and Fela Kuti. I also took the time to get some of the inside scoop on how the soon to be released album started coming together from a seed to it’s eventual big bloom in Autumn. I hiGhly recommend checking out this band in any capcaity, but for the real feel, find them live and hold on tight.
Special Guest App is a technology platform that helps make it extremely simple and affordable for anyone, anywhere to hire LIVE entertainment on demand via mobile and Web apps. Special Guest App removes friction from the LIVE entertainment booking process by seamlessly facilitating discovery, communication, scheduling, agreement, and payments. This people-centric tool helps venue owners and managers make more money by streamlining the entire process of booking live entertainment and their professional talent buying team operates to help leverage live entertainment to help them grow revenue and create incredible experiences. Special Guest is agent, manager and promoter friendly and actually serves all talent types, including musicians, comedians, magicians, kids entertainers, dancers, DJs, actors / actresses, rappers / hip hop artists, photographers, and much more! The company was cofounded by actor / comedian Damon Wayans, Jr and serial entrepreneur and best selling author, Kristopher Jones
I had the opportunity to discuss this innovative application with co-founder Kris Jones, who is (just to name a couple) a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and best selling author that comes with years of experience and an open mind that makes this application tick from a technology/business standpoint. We get into the who, what, where, why and when can you get started using Special Guest type questions. For me, the reason I wanted to help spread the word is that this platform helps even out the playing field for all types of talent, including those who don’t have the black-book filled with all the right connections. Special Guest can help all the hands in the jar come out with hand fulls!!
Mobile App can be grabbed up here for iOS.
*Soon to be released for Android.
Energy, mysticism, roots– it’s hard to describe the genre-breaking music of Making Movies, a band that Rolling Stone says is “breaking down walls in the United States,” with a mix of afro-latino rhythms and psychedelic rock’n’roll that makes the group’s sound something unique. The connection between the Chi brothers (hailing from Santiago, Panama)– together with their Mexican bandmates, the Chaurand brothers–results in an overwhelming musical presence that takes you through landscapes festive, furious, refreshing, and dark. At times the falsetto of Diego Chi takes you to the underworld, while the fuzz of Enrique Chi’s guitar anchors his spirited voice in the midst of the Chaurand brothers’ primal and folkloric percussion. An explosion of energy on the stage–does the soundtrack make the movie, or does the movie make for the soundtrack?
In 2017 Art As Mentorship was created by Enrique Chi, born out of six years of collaboration between Making Movies and local non-profits Base Academy of Music and the Mattie Rhodes Center. What began as a week-long music education camp for youth in an undeserved community has grown into a six-month songwriting and mentorship program called the Rebel Song Academy. Students get to record with and learn from industry professionals, like Grammy-winning producer Steve Berlin of Los Lobos who recorded the first class in 2018. The world turned their attention to Making Movies as Rubén Blades, Flor De Toloache, Asdru Sierra, David Hidalgo, Frankie Negrón & Las Cafeteras joined forces with the band on their new album, ameri’kana, which was released in May 2019. The first two singles, “No Te Calles” and “Cómo Perdonar”, were launched along with a movement that invites artists and fans to participate on the website NoTeCalles.World, by joining the chorus with Rubén Blades and Making Movies. The album includes “Delilah”, a song about immigration written during a week-long writing session between Blades and Lou Reed that had never before been recorded. Saying that “Rock’n’roll is Latin music” the band dedicates the album to the beautiful inhabitants of the ameri’kana continent.
I had the privilege of re-connecting with Enrique ahead of the groups return to Madison on June 23rd as part of the Sessions at McPike Park – Pursuit Of Happiness Sessions. After having a chance to hang with this great group of people when they were here last year, I definitely developed a fondness for them as people first and then the music. If you have seen then, you know what I mean. If you haven’t find a place to and go! Enrique and I get into what to expect if you are new to the Making Movies scene, we get into the creation of the new release, ameri’kana and how working with one of their heroes, Mr. Rubén Blades took their stories to a best seller book level. We get a little political, well, we can call it topical in our discussion about how music has opened our minds and eyes but we get back into the music when Enrique rattles off a list of artists/songs he’d spin for the greenarrowradio listeners if he was in the pilot’s seat. This is THE band people should be talking about.
Armed with only their wits, Whose Line is it Anyway? stars Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood are taking to the live stage and they’re…Scared Scriptless. Prepare to laugh yourself senseless as improv comedy masterminds Colin & Brad must make up original scenes, songs and more from whatever you, the fans, suggest! You just might also get to join in on the fun on stage. It’s a hilarious comedic high wire act… just like a live version of ‘Whose Line!’ How the heck do they do it? We don’t know either! Don’t miss the best duo in improv, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, in their wildly entertaining Scared Scriptless Tour.
I had a chance to catch up with long time friend of the proGram, Colin Mocherie ahead of he and Brad hitting Madison on June 14th at Overture Center For The Arts. We get into what to expect from the hilarious “Scared Scriptless“ event, how this thing called improv stays fresh and Colin shares some wise words of advice about going for a yes, when one might lead with a no. And yes…it is all made up right there.
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!!!
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.
Black Ants, Scorpions Lobster: Image of Brooklyn Bugs
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 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 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.
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” 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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.