Home is where you hang your hat, or so the old adage goes. For Justin Kauflin, critically acclaimed and accomplished jazz pianist and composer, the last few years of touring has found home to been many places. On the brand new release, “Coming Home”, Justin invites others to experience the world from his perspective as he sonically paints the homes he has found throughout his global travels. This is his third release, and second with the tastemaker imprint Qwest Records. With this album, he ventures into new sonic territory bringing in more modern influences of synths, electric guitar, and bass. From the start, recording “Coming Home” was electric. Mr. Quincy Jones and Mr. Derrick Hodge produced the album at Quincy Jones’ famous Westlake Studios (Michael Jackson, Madonna, Frank Ocean). Justin was joined by Chris Smith on acoustic and electric bass, Corey Fonville on drums and percussions, and Alan Parker on acoustic and electric guitar. The musicians had a blast bringing the album to life. Justin is planning a tour to support the new album. He is excited to get back on the road and create new experiences with his music and can’t wait to take these tunes in front of a live audience and create new life into them.
I had the honor of discussing the new album with Justin and how it grew from a newly planted seed and bloomed into a beautiful flower of sonic unity. We get into how “Home” was at times, redefined and what made the road have a comfortable feel. Of course, we had to find out what kinds of special touch working with both Mr. Quincy Jones and Mr. Derrick Hodge (as well as the other talented band members) brought out of each other during the process. And finding out what Mr. Kauflin would play on greenarrowradio if given the chance to fill in for me if I were to step out of the studio. He would easily take you, the listener, with him on a similar ride we attempt each time we get toGether through the airwaves. Check out this great person and artist in our chat, I think you’ll find he is someone to help guide us through.
Photo by John Lewis Marshall
Naia Izumi is an independent guitarist, bassist, drummer, singer songwriter and producer based out of Los Angeles and recipient of the 2018 NPR Tiny Desk Contest. Creating music and playing for people on the streets, watching and feeling those who pass by and making sounds that resonate within the moment when the heart feels it. Many of the shared moments of creation are interpreted elegantly with a guitar through an intricate uniqueness that is refreshing, soulful and downright bizarre at times with haunting undertones reminding you that magic exists.
I had the chance to catch up with Naia shortly before the September 8th show on the beautiful Terrace at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. We take some time to let people who go to the show know that the moments that will be shared will be unlike anything you may have seen online that features Naia. Feeding off the atmosphere and the audience has been a key to the growth of this artist. We walk through a timeline from when that first sonic experimentation to the moment in May when Naia won the annual NPR Tiny Desk Contest. Can you believe that it may have actually slipped his mind that he even entered the contest? We dissect the song he entered, “Soft Spoken” and discussed being born with something to say, and when that right moment to be heard showed up. I listen to A LOT of music of all sorts, and it is hard to find something/someone that truly fits into that “unique” category, but with Naia Izumi, I think I have found it.
Photo By Beck Harlan/NPR
Lemon Bucket Orkestra are Toronto’s original guerrilla-folk party-punk massive. The multi-award-winning ensemble has been heralded as a groundbreaking, genre-bending phenomenon by media and fans alike, and over the past 8 years have performed all over the world from WOMAD in New Zealand and Pohoda in Slovakia, to Festival D’Été in Québec City, and Luminato in Toronto. Equal parts exhilarating precision and reckless abandon, LBO’s live shows are a truly immersive experience – ranging from the ecstatic to the cathartic and all points in between – and they have expertly captured that unique blend of energy and emotion on their new album “If I Had The Strength”. Released in Canada through Outside Music in late 2018, it’s set for worldwide release via a new deal with Six Degrees Records this September, and includes guest appearances from famed soprano Measha Brueggergosman, rising Latino rapper Boogát, sing-a-long phenoms Choir!Choir!Choir! and more. The band will be busy touring the Canadian festival circuit this summer, and are heading out on a 12 date US tour in support of the Six Degrees release this fall. Along with the worldwide release of the new album, LBO will also be premiering a new live video for the song “Freedom”. Filmed with multiple cameras at Toronto’s legendary Opera House earlier this year, it captures the band doing what they do best – taking the audience on a joyful, impassioned ride through the Balkans and beyond. Don’t miss your chance to see this dozen strong juggernaut if you can.
I had the chance to catch up with Michael Louis Johnson, trumpet player of Lemon Bucket Orkestra to discuss what people at the Madison World Music Festival can expect when they show up and bring the party. We get into the creation of the new album from seed to blooming flower, and the vision and fuel behind the making of the video for “Freedom”. I found that we painted a great picture of what a show will be like and how the album and video were made, but hearing who Michael, on behalf of himself and the band, might choose to put on a festival bill with them if he could choose from any artist ever really opened my mind to the who behind the what.
Lemon Bucket Orkestra
Grammy Award winning children’s artist Dan Zanes and Haitian-American vocalist and music therapist Claudia Eliaza present the freewheeling musical world of the Night Train 57, an engine powered by fifteen original singalongable songs. In this Sensory Friendly comic folk opera, the husband-wife duo are joined by Mexican percussionist Yuriana Sobrino on a collection of festive tunes played with an amazing array of diverse instruments, and of course their voices. This recording is intended to be enjoyed as a stand alone listening experience for families and early childhood educators as well as fans of the comic folk opera. Night Train 57 was significant in the Theater for Young Audiences genre in that it was the first entirely Sensory Friendly work to be commissioned by The Kennedy Center which for several years has been the leader in the movement towards greater accessibility. The show premiered in the Fall of 2017 and will be touring North America for the next several years. Claudia and Dan are at the forefront of the emerging Sensory Friendly movement which aims to help performing arts venues provide conditions that are welcoming to a variety of families, including those who have children with special needs. Night Train 57 is the 22nd release from Dan’s Festival Five Records, a label specializing in all-ages music for kids and kid sympathizers. The label’s first release was Rocket Ship Beach in 2000. For the past 2 years, in addition to Night Train 57 performances, Claudia and Dan have been performing as a duo – and sometimes a trio with Haitian jazz vocalist Pauline Jean – in venues large and small across America and Canada. In concert, their soulful take on family folk music includes selections from Lead Belly, Baby!, an award winning 2017 Smithsonian / Folkways release, as well as hits from Dan’s deep back catalog and, more recently, some traditional tunes from Claudia’s Haitian heritage.
I had the honor of speaking with Claudia and Dan about this project and how we all share the “inclusion is a cool thing” thinking. We get into how the songs were developed and nurtured by a new found toGetherness, and how the first experience of a sensory friendly event has left not only Claudia and Dan with a real satisfied feeling, but what it has shown to mean for the variety of people in attendance. Variety. Diversity. Everyone.
Performing Arts centers are catching on and I am sure the one closest to you does not want to feel left out, so share this concept, share this interview and share these people with them and hop on the Night Train 57 engine that can, for all.
Photo Credit: Anna Zanes
Started by four friends from Lima with a shared passion for traditional Afro-Peruvian music and global DJ culture, Novalima stands in the common ground bridging past and future, uniting tradition and innovation.
From their humble start, file-sharing musical ideas and producing their first album in separate countries at the dawn of the internet, Novalima is now a live musical force revered worldwide for breaking boundaries and uniting seemingly irreconcilable genres, communities, and generations. They have created an inspiring movement and revolutionized the music scene in their native Peru by bridging a longstanding divide between the mainstream and the minority Afro-Peruvian community, who have struggled against discrimination and cultural dissolution for generations. Taking a year off from touring during 2017, Novalima went back in the studio to explore and experiment with new sounds from Peru. This time around, the influences came not only from its African heritage but also from the exploration of ancient sounds, languages and instruments from the Andes and the Amazon. On this new album called Ch’usay (Voyage in Quechua, the native language of the Inkas) to be released on September 2018 on Wonderwheel Recordings, Novalima goes one step further to enrich their sound by collaborating with new generations of local artists from the peruvian music scene. The release of the new album will also coincide with Novalima`s 15th Anniversary which will include a special color vinyl release of all their previous albums on July 1st and a European and US Tour on mid July.
I was fortunate to catch up with Rafael Morales in Lima shortly before the group heads over to the United States to beGin their fifteenth anniversary tour and celebrating this fantastic new release with a set of music at the Central Park Sessions- The Novalima Select Session on August 1st. We get into what a newcomer to the scene can expect out of this powerhouse group of innovators, the new album and how it came to be and we find out how happy they are to kick things off in a new place to call home…Madison.
Photo by: Vito Mirr
Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal‘s combination of soul, funk and R&B is in a word, electric. Best displayed in their high-energy live show, the blend of honest lyrics and rich, intensely soulful vocals merged with a top-notch band create an undeniable chemistry. Formed in 2012 in famed blues town Lincoln, Nebraska, the award-winning five-piece band includes some of the area’s most revered and accomplished musicians. Inspired by the historic sounds of Stax, Motown, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philly and San Francisco, the band continuously crosses musical boundaries both in style and era, and joins forces each show with a common goal – to have the crowd dancing so much they forget even their smallest troubles. In 2017, Josh was featured as a contestant on ‘The Voice’, and the band completed their first European tour; a 27-city stint capped with a live album release from their show in Brussels, Belgium.The hard working band completed several national tours from 2015-2017, playing more than 150 shows in 32 states each year, including opening for friends of the proGram, Mr. George Clinton and Mr. Charles Bradley (rest in soulful peace). Their year-round touring schedule took them from coast to coast, including several major summer music festivals.
I had the chance to catch up with Josh before he and Soul Colossal head to Madison to bring that goodness to Atwoodfest on July 28th. The band takes playing on The Clyde Stubblefield Stage very seriously as you’ll hear in this conversation, so we are expecting this to be “one of those shows’ people talk about for years. Josh and I talk about the upcoming album to be released first overseas, where Soul Colossal will be off to shortly after, and those in Madison will be treated to some of these new tunes in advance. When asked what artists he would share if given an hour of greenarrowradio to proGram, he did not hesitate his answering. Find out who would be on his playlist by clicking play above.
Listening to the soul sounds coming through his transistor radio in the late fifties and early sixties, Lee Fields was hooked. Through the seventies, he made his living touring the legendary Chitlin’ Circuit alongside some of the greatest names in blues and soul history. He landed a gig with Kool and the Gang before their rise to fame. But, as the seventies came to a close, disco began its reign and Lee’s soul career plummeted. For decades, he thought his music dreams were dead. But with one phone call, everything changed…
Interspersed with striking, never-before seen performances of new and classic Lee Fields songs, the Lee Fields Film (working title) takes us through Lee’s memories from the moment soul music began to his hard-won present-day success – and shows how 50 years of changing technology has conspired to create one beautiful but fleeting moment in music history.
I had the honor of discussing this documentary with the film-making duo responsible for bringing this five year project to the finish line. Jessamyn Ansary and Joyce Mishaan talk with love about how this project took off from a moment’s notice and how it has grown into a flower almost ready to bloom for all to enjoy. That’s where we all come in. I share the love of Mr. Fields’ music, have had him on the proGram and understand what real feels like to me. Take a moment and check out the project’s Kickstarter Page and see “what the soul” is going on!!! Don’t just take my word, listen to Jessamyn and Joyce share their dream with you.
UPDATE: Because of YOU, the SOUL will go on. Goal reached and surpassed. THANK YOU(s).
Photo By: Mike Canzoniero
Graphic Design By: Ashley Marzulla
Los Lobos came to Madison to show Fete de Marquette an incredible time. One of my favorite outdoor festival bands, heck, one of my favorite bands to see live because of all the different sounds they manage to share to open minds everywhere. Over the years I have seen them in intimate settings, big festivals and now here at our hometown community festival where the stage is or front door to the neighborhood. Steve Berlin has been with the band since 1984 or so and I have grown to appreciate him as a member of Los Lobos, but also as a producer or new sounds with other artists coming on to the scene. I am not usually surprised when I find out an album I am diggin’ on and ready to share with the listeners has passed through Steve first. So it was a thrill to be able to hang out with him during the Making Movies set that preceded Los Lobos. We talked baseball for a bit, but we relished in deep enjoyment in the music we were seeing at that very moment. Of course, Steve produced these cats and also joined them on staGe for a few tunes. Priceless.
Shortly before they hit for the evening’s show, Steve and I caught up to put something quick on record. We spoke about what it is like making music in 2018 versus when the band got it first going back in what we now get to call, the day. We also get to talk about some of the new bands Steve is working with, including Making Movies, and we even find out about a group he wishes he was even more a part of. We both agree that music unites and there is still a good reason to be exited.
Big thank you to Susana and the entire Fete team for helping make this a go and for letting me fit in to the scene.
Steve Berlin & misterG
Bent Knee is a band without frontiers. Its borderless sound combines myriad influences from across the rock, pop, minimalist, and avant-garde spectrums into a seamless, thrilling whole. Its latest album, “Land Animal” the groups first for InsideOutMusic/Sony, takes its sound to a new level. It offers a suite of songs full of addictive hooks, lush melodies and enthralling twists and turns that capture the reality of life in the 21st Century—a reality of people and nations in the midst of tumultuous change. It also communicates a ray of hope and desire for listeners to embrace the fact that they’re not alone in their struggles. The band has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Its last two albums, 2016’s “Say So” and 2014’s “Shiny Eyed Babies”, were hailed as significant art-rock achievements. The group has performed hundreds of shows across the world to date. With “Land Animal”, Bent Knee has elevated its storytelling ambitions to create narratives that reflect and refract the currents we’re exposed to in the news every day. But wait…there’s more….
I had the chance to reconnect with members of Bent Knee in support of their upcoming event in Madison at Art In. Spent some time aGain with bassist, Jessica Kion and first timer on the show, violinist, Chris Baum. They will be heading here on The Paper Earth tour, which we find out, has been anything but a wild ride. We spoke about the differences/similarities in the process developing the “Land Animal” and this new work which Madison will get a taste of first hand. I am always thrilled to share tales of learnings about ourselves when we stretch into new circles, and Bent Knee latest work performed with the Boston Conservatory Percussion Ensemble, will prompt you to go check out the YouTube video and leave you wanting to check it all out in different shapes and forms.
Image by: Chris Anderson
Igor Yuzov was born in Germany, raised in Ukraine and studied in Russia. He grew up in the former Soviet Union, where folk music was the norm and rock’n’roll was illegal. A rebellious streak, however, led him to seek out the forbidden music. As soon as it became possible, Igor left Russia for America with his “Folk’n’Roll” band Limpopo and was personally greeted by Ronald Reagan. In 1993, Limpopo won Star Search and their popularity began to blossom. Igor dreamed that Elvis Presley came to him and told him to start playing rock’n’roll. Igor and his Russian friends became Red Elvises and gave street performances on Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade. As their crowds grew larger, the City of Santa Monica ordered them to discontinue their street performances. Evolving over the years, Igor’s music has been labeled “Siberian Surf Rock” which contains humorous lyrics and grooves that forces his audience to dance. Over the past 20 years, Red Elvises have constantly toured all over the world with occasional breaks to record new music and to participate in film and television projects. No matter where they perform, Igor & Red Elvises always bring the party with them.
I had the opportunity to chat with Igor ahead of the July 11th show in Madison at High Noon Saloon. We give new comers to the scene an idea of what to expect from the a Red Elvises‘ show and who will be on stage rockin’ you. Igor and I talk about the party that naturally ensues with their style of music and if you ask me, Madison sounds like the perfect place to get a party started. Igor and I compare the shared international discussions and feelings both World Cup soccer and a musical bridge provide those who are paying attention. I think you will also find it interesting to hear what artists Igor would share with the listeners if given a portion of the show to proGram.
Photo credit: Emily Butler Photgraphy
Edgar Winter is a true music legend and pioneer. He has been celebrated across the globe since his 1970 solo debut, Entrance. Even now, with over twenty albums, top hits “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride,” and numerous collaborative efforts to his credit, Edgar Winter has not been satisfied to ride the wave of popular music stardom. His music is always evolving and he is a master at stretching his skill and imagination to produce amazing results. You can get a sense of that continual growth as you go through and listen in to his complete discography. The evolution is real and ever-shaping. He continues to thrill audiences with his live performances, always remaining on the cutting edge of music and style. Mr. Winter is now, just as before, at the very top of his game, and his future looks even brighter than his past.
I had the complete honor of talking with Mr. Edgar Winter as he prepares to rock and roll with the crowd in Milwaukee on July 1st at the world’s largest music festival, Summerfest. We start off putting who and what to expect if you happen to be on your maiden voyage into the music and scene of The Edgar Winter Band. There are always new fans to be had. It is a thrill to listen in on how Edgar has gone about and goes about listening to, feeling and sharing all types of instruments and music. The evolution is real and ever-shaping. We get into how the respect of all things musical happened to him and how much of an influence his brother Johnny truly was on his being. We find out what music Mr. Winter would share with you, the listeners if give as much time on the proGram as he wanted, really. And towards the very end of the conversation, we get an idea of a new project in the pipeline that pays homage to Mr. Johnny Winter, is brother, mentor and inspiration and how it went from being a for profit idea that was not to get off the ground into a “do it your way” respectful offering that will get to our ears in the soon to be.
Photo By: PAUL ZOLLO
When you think of New Orleans, the city’s foremost flambeaux-lit traditions of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, voodoo, Po’ boys, beads, gumbo, and second line undoubtedly come to mind. You can also count Big Sam’s Funky Nation amongst those NOLA treasures. Known for a boisterous blend of funk, jazz, rock, and hip-hop, nothing short of seismic live “experiences,” and a whole lot of Southern charm, Big Sam’s Funky Nation might very well be The Big Easy’s best kept secret. Big Sam, the frontman, personally draws on over two decades in the game, spanning everything from 300 shows per year during his days in Dirty Dozen Brass Band and gigs backing up Widespread Panic and Dave Matthews Band to recording and touring with Mr. Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello. Additionally, he was sought out for a recurring role on the critically acclaimed HBO series Treme.
I had the pleasure of catching up quick with Big Sam in advance of the Funky Nation heading to Madison on June 28th to play the Ruby Lounge. We spoke about what kinda party will be happening when we all get together to celebrate. We dive into the new album, “Songs In The Key Of Funk Vol. 1”, and how not only is it a New Orleans sound, but it heads knee deep into a funk that is beyond one area of the world. Big Sam’s Funky Nation bring their sound to all sizes and shapes of people including the kids….as I recall a great album FUNKY KIDZ….where they get down to the Hokey Pokey. That’s what it’s all about.
Photo Credit: Andy Goetz
The story goes that the Big Wu, bound for rock stardom, sold their souls for a case of Old Style beer one thirsty night long ago. The legend and the band live on. Still rocking their powerful, moving, and energizing original music for the fans. A jam band with a unique style and presence, the Wu combine strong, free flowing sonic improvisations and vocal harmonies, with finely crafted songs for all tastes. Oh, and their fans are famously friendly.
I had the chance to catch up with Padre of The Big Wu to talk about the upcoming event on June 6th at the Majestic Theater with opening act, The Grasshoppers. Padre and I talk about the potential of what is and what could be when it comes to the moments leading up to a show, such as the one on the 16th. We get into the new music that will soon be in my hands to share with all you listeners, the upcoming Big Wu Family Reunion, which is August 17 and 18th and this year it is back to being a home game. Finally, we somehow get to talking about how Robert Randolph is the butter on Prince‘s bread…err…something like that. Check it out out for yourself.
Photo Credit: Wandering Skunk Photography
MOKOOMBA brings audiences an electrifying blend of Afro-fusion and tantalizing traditional Tonga rhythms. Their mix of Zimbabwean rhythms, Afro-beat and Afro-rock generated exuberant scenes in over 75 concerts in 2017: from New Orleans Jazz Festival to the Sziget Festival. This force of global sound was also featured in/on many popular music media outlets such as Songlines Magazine, Arte TV, Afropop, just to name a few.
The name MOKOOMBA stems from the deep respect that the Tonga people have for the Zambezi River and for the vibrant life that it brings to their music and culture. This exciting Tonga group from Zimbabwe certainly has a unique sound that is set to take the world music scene by storm! Their music is rooted in the local traditions and life in their hometown of Victoria Falls, a town on the Zambezi River named after the spectacular waterfall. MOKOOMBA has brought a unique flavor to a vibrant global music scene that was dominated by sungura, reggae and dancehall, urban and afro-jazz bands at that time of their conception.
I had the wonderful pleasure of talking with bassist of Mokoomba, Abundance Mutori about the upcoming events we in Madison are fortunate to get a chance to be a part of. On June 1st, they will be at North Street Cabaret and then again on June 3rd at the Central Park Sessions. Abundance and I painted a quick image of what newcomers to the sound and scene could expect to see and hear at either event. We discuss the energy and tradition of the group as well as how the group ended up toGether doing what they love. Can’t wait to share in the vibe of Mokoomba as they head back to a place that already loves them….Madison, Wisconsin.
Here Come the Mummies is an eight-piece funk-rock band of 5000 year-old Egyptian Mummies with a one-track mind. Their “Terrifying Funk from Beyond the Grave” is sure to get you into them (and possibly vice versa). Since their discovery, Here Come The Mummies has been direct support for P-Funk, Al Green, Mavis Staples, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Cheap Trick; rocked Super Bowl Village; become a regular on The Bob and Tom Show; played massive festivals like Summer Camp, Common Ground, Voodoo Fest, Musikfest, Suwannee Hulaween, and Riverbend; and sold tickets by the thousands across large swaths of North America.
I had the chance to chat with Mummy Cass about the upcoming show in Madison on May 24th at the Majestic Theater and what the people in attendance can expect if they are first timers to the HCTM’s scene. Mummy Cass gives the role call of the entire cast of characters who will sweat and funk with you on the 24th (or whenever you happen to catch their live show). We get into how they were able to discover the musical gods that reside on Earth from visitors for another location. But for me, the best part of the conversation was talking about the possibility of some brand new music, and how these Mummies are going about nailing down the tracks…you see it’s going to be a live recording and who knows how and when the green light will be on.
Midnight and Cass Funkin’ Out Front
The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore, the third album in a trilogy by singer/songwriter Kristo Rodzevski and his group of jazz progressives, will be released by Much Prefer Records on May 25, 2018. Mixed by celebrated producer Bill Laswell, “The Rabbit…” represents the fulfillment of a musically adventurous idea: Assemble seven world-class improvisers in a studio, establish an environment for pure music-making, and capture all on tape. By partnering with core collaborators Mary Halvorson (guitar), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) and Michael Blanco (bass), then inviting contributions from Kris Davis (piano), Ingrid Laubrock (saxophone) and Brian Drye (trombone), Kristo fermented an intoxicating brew. The bubbling inventions are spontaneous performances without overdubs. Thematically, the album continues themes established in Kristo’s first two releases of this trilogy, Batania (2015) and Bitter Almonds (2017). While those trilogy installments examined the deep feelings for his Macedonian grandmother and mother, “The Rabbit…” explores a transition, the fading significance of his past to his life in the USA.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Kristo to discuss the creation of the final act in this sonic trilogy and how the inner workings of this team of experimenters and improvisers created another album that speaks to the feelings and emotions unlike many other releases. We talk about how rich and full an album of few takes and all different can feel. We get into how tracks were selected as the one to use, how Mr. Laswell took to listening to the original stories and ideas behind the tracks and added a little tweak here or there to accentuate the tales. There’s an eye opening chance to learn a little about one of the tracks and how it makes me feel and maybe we learn a little about the why I feel that way too. The art of the album cover, the physical piece of art that accompanies the music was also created in a very similar fashion as the music….. one take from open-minded communicators makes for brilliant art, all around.
Mars Williams is an open-minded and highly versatile musician, composer and educator who commutes easily between free jazz, funk, hip-hop and rock. He has played and recorded with so many amazing artists across the entire scope of the music landscape, including: The Psychedelic Furs, Billy Idol, Bill Laswell, Ministry, Power Station, Die Warzau, The Waitresses, Kiki Dee, Billy Squier, DJ Logic, Wayne Kramer, John Scofield, Charlie Hunter, Kurt Elling, Swollen Monkeys, Mike Clark, Jerry Garcia, Naked Raygun, Friendly Fires, The Untouchables, Blow Monkeys….see…many different music language spoken. The great John Zorn credits Mars as “one of the true saxophone players–someone who takes pleasure in the sheer act of blowing the horn. This tremendous enthusiasm is an essential part of his sound, and it comes through each note every time he plays. Whatever the situation, Mars plays exciting music. In many ways he has succeeded in redefining what versatility means to the modern saxophone player.”
I had a chance to catch up with mars once again, we had spoken when I was on air on WHUS out of the University of Connecticut a lifetime ago. This time is was to talk about the upcoming event at Arts & Literature Laboratory, with a Mars Williams Duo, with a special guest drummer. We spoke deeply about his new release and a European tour to support the Album “Painted Pillars” with Tollef Østvang. Mars was recently nominated for a very special award and check out our chat to find out who his competition is. Can you say, teacher Vs. student? Of course, I couldn’t let Mars go with talking about one of his projects, Liquid Soul and we started the conversation about perhaps an upcoming Midwest tour? Who knows??
Mars Williams by French Quarter Photography
Trio Mokili play roots and jazz-inflected renditions of music from across the African continent: Ethiojazz, Nigerian Afrobeat, Zimbabwean mbira music, Ghanaian Palm Wine, Malian desert blues, and more. Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock is considered a North American authority on African guitar styles, leading the internationally-touring Occidental Brothers Dance Band Int’l and collaborating extensively with musicians from Mali, Ghana, Zambia, and Congo. He is joined on drums by OBDBI bandmate Makaya McCraven and upright bassist Junius Paul. The group is working on their debut album, a mix of live and studio recording capturing the energy of their live improvisations and the sounds of the African golden age.
I had a chance to catch up with Nathaniel Braddock of Trio Mokili as they make their way back to Madison to perform at Arts and Literature Laboratory on April 27th. Nathaniel and I get into what folks in attendance can expect from an evening with this group as far as being a part of that shared moment. We talk about the process of creating a new album when the people collaborating are far apart and how the debut album is coming along. We also learn what Nathaniel would treat the listeners to is give the chance to take over proGramming greenarrowradio for a bit.
Black Violin is an amazing treat. Part classical music (both Kev and Wil are classically-trained string instrumentalists), part hip hop and completely cool, there’s Kev Marcus on the violin and Wil B. on the viola. The open-mindedness of combining many beats and styles gives them a distinct style that have captured the ears of all listeners of art. The duo current performs with DJ SPS and drummer Nat Stokes to help bring this uniqueness to the masses. Their popularity has risen with a performance accompanying Alicia Keys at the 2004 Billboard Awards, and by performing on the same bill with some of the industry’s biggest artists, such as Wu-Tang Clan, and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. The two men are also avid producers and writers, having worked with people like Kanye West, Tom Petty, and the members of Aerosmith. Receiving a great honor, they were invited to play at the Kids Inaugural Concert, one of the inaugural balls for United States President Barack Obama, in 2013. The concert was a special tribute to military families and was attended by First Lady Michelle Obama, her daughters Malia and Sasha, and Second Lady Jill Biden.
I had an opportunity for a brief conversation with Wil B on his day off (thank you Wil) to discuss what the folks in Madison are geared up for when Black Violin heads to the Overture Center on May 3rd. We get into what opportunity means not only for them, but how to try and open up the world to the youth by believing in themselves. We discuss the path to and the doors that opened for both Wil and Kev to be where they are today.
Our friends over at Ropeadope are thrilled to announce release of The John L. Nelson Project, “Don’t Play With Love”. The long anticipated album was in conversations between Mr. Nelson and his eldest daughter, Sharon, many years ago. In a time before Prince Rogers Nelson changed the world of music. Shelved as John L. Nelson frequently collaborated with Prince, the project re-appeared in serendipitous fashion with the sheet music falling out of a cabinet as Sharon Nelson was organizing (yes, just like the movie). Sharon brought the great Louis Hayes (her & Prince’s cousin) to Paisley Park with his seasoned band – including Richard Germanson, Dezron Douglas, Vincent Herring, and Jeremy Pelt. And these cats laid down seven tracks live. The incredible history paints the picture, and these players and those melodies let the music jump right off the canvas. “Don’t Play With Love” is a journey from the past to the present conjuring up the sense of an earlier time yet the feeling of the human emotion that rings true for eternity.
I had the distinct pleasure of discussing this new release with Ms. Sharon Nelson. We start off learning about the man, the father and the musician, John L. Nelson was. Kind, caring and hardworking went into all that he did. We dove into the journey that was life and how her dad’s would find time to write and create the songs that she and Prince would go to bed to each night. Because of their collaborations at times, you can hear the influence of Mr. Nelson in some of Prince’s music. As Sharon says a few times, “The music ran in our DNA”. We talk about how this Be-Bop sound is both fresh and familiar and how the incredibly talented group of musicians worked and shared this emotional journey with Sharon leading the production…..well, she does talk about the presence of her father and brother within Paisley Park overseeing the entire project. This to me is another wonderful peek into jazz music, into the Nelson family, and how a guy so many of us felt we knew, observed and allowed himself to be influenced. This album is important in so many ways, as a teaching tool, as a history book and as a look towards the future of modern music.
I am humbled and honored.
You can dive in and listen or take it home here
The John L. Nelson Project – Don’t Play With Love