Black Light Animals are a psychedelic soul group hailing from the Midwest. Taking equal influence from ’70s Italian horror soundtracks, Wu Tang samples, and Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, their sprawling debut album explores themes of humanity, social media obsession, political division, and the concept of “amusing ourselves to death.” Sonically rich and full of spaghetti western guitars, psychedelic keyboards, hip hop rhythms, and lush vocals, “Playboys of the Western World” comes off as some forgotten ’70s film soundtrack, while exploring themes very much relevant to today. Black Light Animals’ “Playboys of the Western World” will be available August 20th on limited vinyl, CD and streaming/digital formats via Groove King Records.
I had the chance to catch up with frontman of Black Light Animals, Cole Bales recently to dive a little deeper into the creation of both the band and this stellar debut album, “Playboys of the Western World”. We get into how it all went from there to here both as a group and as song creators. We chat a bit about the differences for him between B.L.A. and another group ole is in, a more soul oriented outfit, The Freedom Affair and Cole even takes a little time to choose a track off the new album that he would build a set around for the radio show, and what other things he’d surround that track with. It is always a pleasure to dig into an album and after several listens and shares, and still be unsure what to actually call the sounds.. Hoping you all with dig in and wonder with me.
Grant Calvin Weston was born June 6, 1959 in Philadelphia, PA. He became interested in drums at the age of 6, when he (and his neighbors) discovered his talent for rhythm as he beat on every car on the block. In North Philadelphia he saw musicians like Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five and James Brown at the Uptown Theatre, which further fueled his creativity. Seeing his attention focused on the drummers, his father bought him a small set. In high school Calvin learned to read music and played second snare in the drum ensemble. He co-founded the group Bad Influence which played in cabarets and clubs around Philadelphia. At 17, along with bass player Jamalaadean Tacuma, (his close friend from Philly) Calvin joined Ornette Colemans Prime Time Band which toured extensively in North America and Europe. After recording four albums with Prime Time, Calvin went on to play and record with guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer, until 1990, when he joined John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards. During the late 90s and beyond, Calvin recorded and toured with Billy Martin (Medeski , Martin and Wood,) Tricky, Eyvind Kang, Derek Bailey, Marc Ribot, John Zorn ,James Carter, Gypsys Reloaded (with Melvin Gibbs and Jean-Paul Bourelly), Free Form Funky Freqs (with Vernon Reid and Jamaaldeen Tacuma). He has also played on several movie soundtracks including “Get Shorty”.
I had the pleasure of talking with G. Calvin Weston about one of his latest projects, “Stone Church” with Jim Kost, released today via Ropeadope Records. We get into how this album came to be. On our way in that talk, we get into a few stories about Mr. Ornette Coleman, whom he worked with for years at a very early age. Within those stories, we learn how G. Calvin did it, learned how to find himself inside the rhythms, contnuing to be an “improvizationalist”, finding how what he does know can assist in the deeper learning of finding his voice. Man, this is gold!! We circle back to how that influenced his playing on “Stone Church”. Of course, we could not be stopped from hinting about new music that is coming out soon, as you all know how much I like to be one of the first to get the newness into the universe. After talking with G. Calvin, it is so simple to me to see just why I have always leaned into the way he did what he do.
Joe Marcinek Band is an experience you will never forget. That is because each show features a different lineup of musicians creating a different set of music every night. The music is equal parts Chicago Blues, New Orleans Funk, Grateful Dead Psychedelia, and that magical Jazz Fusion. Joe tours nationally from New York to LA and everywhere in between. Most of the lineups will only happen one time making every night a can’t miss show. The group has featured many prominent special guests including Bernie Worrell (P-Funk, Talking Heads), Melvin Seals (Jerry Garcia Band), George Porter JR (The Meters), Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Alan Evans (Soulive), Kris Myers (Umphrey’s McGee), Tony Hall (Dumpstaphunk, Dave Mathews & Friends), Shaun Martin (Snarky Puppy, Kirk Franklin), Allen Aucoin (the Disco Biscuits), Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident / EOTO), Erik “Jesus” Coomes (Lettuce), Borahm Lee (Break Science), Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band), Mike Greenfield (Lotus), Borham Lee (Break Science), Steve Molitz (Phil Lesh & Friends / Particle) Joey Porter (The Motet / Juno What), Fareed Haque, Scott Metzger, Nate Werth (Snarky Puppy) Garrett Sayers (The Motet) Allie Kral (Yonder Mountain String Band), Freekbass, Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin (moe.) and that list keeps growing.
I had the chance to catch up with our brother to the proGram, Joe Marcinek about the brand new release,JMB4, We get into the process leading up to these songs on this album, the songwriting experience and this all-star band featuring himself, drummer Nikki Glaspie (The Nth Power), bassist Tony Hall (Dumpstaphunk), and keyboardist/organist Shaun Martin (Snarky Puppy). In addition, JMB4 includes special guest appearances from a pile of talented friends including Eric Gales, Roosevelt Collier, Eric “Benny” Bloom (Lettuce), and Jason Hann (The String Cheese Incident). We are even able to talk a bit about getting back out on the road and we don’t hesitate to give props to the visual and concept artist behind the art, Yhali Ilan. Always spreading the joy and love of the music and the art, Joe Marcinek with whomever he’s playing with is going to be a fun and “in the moment” time.
Art by: Yhali Ilan
For nearly two decades, Nate Smith has been a key piece in reinvigorating the international music scene with his visceral, instinctive, & deep-rooted style of drumming. He holds a diverse & ample résumé, which includes work with esteemed jazz leading lights such as Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, José James, John Patitucci, Ravi Coltrane, and Somi among many others. His 2x GRAMMY-nominated debut album, KINFOLK: Postcards from Everywhere, sees Nate fusing his original modern jazz compositions with R&B, pop, & hip-hop. He’s also ventured into the pop/rock world with recent collaborations with Vulfpeck spinoff band The Fearless Flyers, Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes) & performances with songwriters Emily King and Van Hunt. In recent years, through a series of viral videos, he has emerged as one of the most influential & popular drummers of his generation. His videos have been viewed millions of times and have inspired countless musicians and fans. In September of 2018, he released his first ever solo drumset album Pocket Change. As a composer and arranger, Nate received two (2) GRAMMY nominations for his composition “Home Free (for Peter Joe)” for best instrumental composition & best arrangement (instrumental or a cappella).
I had the complete pleasure to share some of the cool with Nate about his upcoming trip into Madison to play at Breese Stevens Field as part of the 2021 Madison Jazz Festival. We get into the who and what KINFOLK of this stripped down version of the band will be sharing with us (including some not yet released material), the making/feeling “it” of the music toGether. We find out how important the ears are an instrument & we get into an artists relationship w/our mutual friend Laura Hanifin as a story telling/conceptual image-taker on his projects of then now and the future. Get into this one and feel summa that cool ooze off you too.
Photo by Laura Hanifin from Pocket Change Album: Waterbaby Music: 2018
Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Fewfully explore moments of the past, present, and, yes, even the future. The new album Cosmic Transitions is a Five-part suite that addresses interpersonal relationships during a Retrograde period. The recording of this project took place on September 23rd, 2020 at Rudy Van Gelder‘s legendary studio where greats like John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, and many other great musicians expressed what they felt in those moments. Isaiah Collier is a Chicago/Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, curator, activist, motivational speaker & educator. He is probably most known for his work as a saxophonist, and drummer with this group. His sound/approach is drawn from the influences of John Coltrane, Roscoe Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, Ari Brown and Gene Ammons and he has shared the stage with many distinguished artists—Chance The Rapper, Lewis Nash, Waddada Leo Smith III, Junius Paul, James Carter, Rene Marie, Marquis Hill, Bennie Maupin, Rudy Van Gelder, Angel Bat Dawid, Kahil El’Zabar and many more. He is one of many bright stars from Chicago and will bring the Chosen Few to Madison on June 12th for two shows at Cafe Coda as part of the Madison Jazz Festival.
Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few are heading into the festival on the heels of a fresh new music release. A release filled with a wide range of human emotions and musical possibility, Cosmic Transitions was crafted with the full intention to awaken those who hear it. Each part of the Suite weaves into the next. Not for the faint of heart, the album sets out to be a timestamp for before and after. Enjoy the journey. And enjoy our conversation about the upcoming event (who will be making the moments with us),the creation of these newest sonic adventures and the giving of and beyond the music.
It is always nice to et introduced to a new artist. For me, the new album by blues/soul singer Patti Parks is my first ear meeting with her. She’s releasing a new album entitled Whole Nother World, which is produced by GRAMMY AWARD-nominated blues great Kenny Neal. Patti, a Buffalo, NY native and a Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductee, is, as expected, really excited about the release of this collection of songs. Recorded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at Brookstown Recording Studios (Kenny Neal’s studio), Whole Nother World was released on May 28 on Mr. Neals’ Booga Music label. Along with producing the album, Mr. Neal arranged and also performs masterfully on it. A riveting live performer, Patti has a soulful, sensual voice that does immense justice to her uplifting blend of Chicago blues, Memphis soul and tasty funk.
I had the opportunity to cacth up with both Patti and Mr. Neal to dive in a little deeper into this fantastic new release. We get into the history of some of the songs, including a story of loss and regain. We learn both how Patti worked differently on this album that work previous, with her being in a whole new element Mr. Neal’s hometown and in his revered studio. It was also really fascination to get an idea of how Mr. Neal goes about creating, using his ears to see what the story is and how it gets to the place he might have heard it in his mind….legends do! Of course, there’s the music and then there’s the give back. Patti has been a working nurse and is creator of the Nurs’n Blues education program, which she developed to help high risk children at drug rehab centers, so we made sure to give some shout outs to this great work.
Dirk Quinn is the guitarist for the jazz/funk band that coincidentally bears his name. Based out of the beautiful city of Philadelphia, the Dirk Quinn Band (DQB) travels extensively throughout the US and Canada e=where they are met with smiling faces and ready to groove bodies. Utilizing over a decade of steady performing, they have developed a unique and in the now style – one that appeals to a wide variety of music listeners with a wide array of fans always seen in attendance at their events. It is the band’s infectious energy and interplay along with great melodic sensibilities, rhythmic experimentation and an accessible modern edge, keeps the Dirk Quinn Band as a mainstay atop any list of all that jazz and funk improvisations at its most engaging. I have been a fan of their musical creations for a long time, personally.
I had the chance to catch up with the four cats that’ll be heading to Madison at Garver Feed Mill on June 9th to tear things up and bring those good feelings. We got into what people in Madison can expect from this foursome as they get prepared for an evening of in the moment groves that can twist and turn on a dime. The main theme seems to be “That Feel good energy”. Speaking of feeling good….we had to talk about their latest release “The Milton” and find out how the new music came toGether during some of these crazy times. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know all four cats were gonna join the call, but it was a great chance to feel their energy as individuals, and listening to them talk about what song off the new album they’d choose to build a radio setlist out of was fascinating. I think it was for them too. Check out our chat, checkout the band live and hey, check out all the years worth of music the DQB has put out just for you.
Innovative composer & bassist Almog Sharvit announces the release of his debut album as a leader, Get Up Or Cry, on May 28, 2021, via Unit Records. Together with his band members Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Brandon Seabrook (guitar & banjo), Micha Gilad (piano, keys, synths) & Lukas König (drums), Almog creates an amusement park of a record. After years of exploring & absorbing art in a wide variety of media, Almog possesses his own personal and compelling style, both in performance and composition. Get Up Or Cry was recorded in a single day at Wonderpark Studios in Brooklyn. In post-production, Almog applied experimental techniques usually found in pop & electronic music to the songs – the record features filter sweeps, heavy distortion and compression, and creative automation and panning that he gladly says “will knock the dust off your stereo.”. My suggestion is you turn it up real loud and listen to each part a few times over….like exiting the ride at that amusement park and quickly running back in line to get after it aGain.
I had the chance to catch up with Almog about the new album ahead of its end of May release. We get into the importance of getting those right musicians backing this project – those who find the sense of humor within some of this music – they felt the smile this album creates. We get into the cross-genre stylings and some of those after recording extra manipulations to enhance the visions. Snuck in is not only a couple of bands we learn are loved by Almog, but also which songs of the new record he’d choose to build a setlist with and what other artists would be included…always a very interesting path to get people talking about, and this time is no different. I look forward to more music to come in the future, but will certainly continue to get back in line for some more Get Up Or Cry.
My pal Joseph Yoon is pretty cool. His mission is to raise appreciation and awareness for edible insects through delicious, educational, and creative programming. His work has been featured on the Smithsonian Channel, New York Times, NPR, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Live with Kelly and Ryan, and Forbes, as he and his colleagues help explain why the United Nations endorses edible insects to address food security and sustainability. He strives to introduce edible insects and normalize them in America as a sustainable source of protein with broad applications that can be found in your pantry, eaten as a snack, and beautifully plated by chefs. A couple years back, I had Joseph on the program to talk about how he goes about his mission. It’s impressive to say the least. We also discussed an event he was part of here at the University of Wisconsin, where I got to be a part of an incredible spread of deliciousness. This time around, we did remind folks of the mission but we mostly wrapped our heads around Brood X. Brood X, otherwise known as the great cicada hatching of 2021, is starting to happen now as soil temperatures in some parts of America move closer to 64F which is the trigger, according to scientists, for trillions of the insects to push up to the surface and into the world to mate. It is an absolutely amazing 17-year-life cycle for the heaps of bugs, who form different broods emerging at different times- all after remaining underground for almost their entire lives before briefly emerging to mate and then die. Brood X is the group of cicadas that spread over tracts of the north-east of the US, including New York & Washington, as well as parts of the Midwest & West Virginia. And… there is so much more to the entire story.
Joseph and I get deep into the entire Cicada scene as part of this amazing Brood X happening. We get into the hunt, the love and respect of the living beings and the ways to prepare and enjoy this nutritious and amazing insect. To Joseph, this is way more than just a cool thing to do (which there is no argument from me that it truly is way cool), this is something that is going on globally for so many right reasons and how do we turn the page in places that still see the “bugs” as mere pests. One of the many things I dig about Joseph is how the whole thing for him has such an artistic twist to it, from the selections of foods, to the accompanying additions of an meal , to the beings themselves and how they live their lives. You can hear the love of the creatures, the love of what Joseph is doing – just listen to him talk about all the possibilities with each part to the cicada’s lifecycle. This is a guy with the passion I think we need! For me, I was super excited to touch on the “chorus” of cicadas during our conversation as well and when you grab an earful, you’ll hear what cool thing he and Grammy nominated saxophonist Jay Rodriguez are up to.
Cicada Nymph Spring Salad w/asparagus, peas, red onions, chilis, garlic, butter, lemon, mint.
Marcus Rezak carves out a distinguished style in the world of guitar with several cutting-edge groups such as Shred is Dead, Digital Tape Machine, Stratosphere All-Stars, Katharsis, Supernatural Beings in addition to frequent engagements as an artist-at-large. Known as a master of jazz improvisation and a seasoned artist of the sit-in, Marcus is a frequent call among bands and musicians. His 2018 debut as a bandleader saw him collaborating alongside Kris Myers and Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee, Arthur Barrow of Frank Zappa’s band, and legendary saxophonist Bill Evans. Since then he has toured across the US with eclectic lineups featuring the likes of Ike Willis, Kris Myers, Jay Lane, Scott Page, and more; led his band through two tours on the US Virgin Islands; spearheaded official Umphrey’s McGee afterparties, and continued to hone his chops in his home studio and licensing endeavors. ‘Truth in Sound’ is his most recent work featuring members of Trey Anastasio Band, esteemed percussionist Kalyan Pathak, and more. His adaptability and exceptional skill have garnered Marcus much deserved respect in the music world and have leveraged his ability to take his craft to integral heights.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Marcus to talk about the brand new music of “Truth In Sound” out now on Color Red Music. We dive into how the EP came together and the parts were put in place. We talk about working with the folks who signed on to get the project off the ground, their contributions to complete the vision within and ready for consumption and the ear share. There is a twist of course. Shortly after the release, one of those perfect fits to complete the project, Mr. Tony Markellis suddenly passed away. Marcus talks about the feelings that come with the release now versus the moments shortly before and how this music will be able to help carry a well deserved and very brought torch in Tony’s name. Check out the chat and help celebrate the more that comes with this release.
Funkboy aka Ivan Bodley is a bass player and music director for the stars. He has performed with 50 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and counting. He has been musical director for Sam Moore (Sam & Dave), Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, The Shirelles, The Crystals, The Tokens and has performed with Sting, Elvis Costello, Temptations, Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, Eddie Floyd, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Bo Diddley, Buster Poindexter, Uptown Horns, Paul Rodgers, Wynonna Judd, and David Foster. Funkboy is a magna cum laude graduate of the Berklee College of Music and an inductee into the New York Blues Hall of Fame. To date, he has traveled to 29 countries around the world and played to audiences of up to 82,000 people in performance settings ranging from jazz duos to 150-member symphony orchestras. Appearances include Carnegie Hall (featured soloist with the Rock Concerto), Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize (with Cracked Ice led by Crispin Cioe), 12 Broadway shows including “Rock of Ages,” “Spider-Man,” “Hedwig & the Angry Inch,” “Kinky Boots,” “Fun Home,” and “Ain’t Too Proud,” Obama Inaugural Ball featured in the Barry Levinson documentary “Poliwood,” Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Today Show, Emeril Live, Imus in the Morning, Charlie Rose, Live with Regis & Kelly, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Istanbul State Symphony and Israel Symphony Orchestras. So you can see that this Funkboy is a FunkMAN of the world.
All the above happenings come with more stories than one could imagine. Luckily for us, Funkboy has put many of them down into his new book: “Am I Famous Yet? Memoir of a Working-Class Rock Star”. I had the opportunity to catch up with him recently to garnish a little insight into some of the types of tales told within the pages (the ones he shares will certainly tease you into wanting a little more). He tells stories of circles being complete in a way where they seem drawn by fairy dust and an incredible gig, for two. That’s right…Just two people. Not only is this a page turning, but it is a head-shaer as well, people never stop amazing and I am thankful we had FUNKBOY’s keen observational skills taking notes. We also dissect his new tune (and first of hopefully many) on Color Red Music called “Crab Walk” and find out what it was like creating the music during a wacky time in the world.
Todd Clouser is a composing guitarist, songwriter & performer based between Mexico City and the USA. Combining elements of rock, jazz blues, spoken word & improvised musics, he has toured the world with his group A Love Electric, as a solo act and performed alongside luminaries from John Lurie to John Zorn, Flea, Cyro Baptista, John Medeski, Keb Mo, and more, performing at rock, jazz and world music festivals across the globe. His prolific output & genre-evading creativity had NPR call Todd “a fascinating musician ….. (he) doesn’t belong to any scene and doesn’t want to”, and Mexico City’s La Jornada mentioning the group as “one of the most important acts of recent years”. A native of Minneapolis, MN, Todd grew up traveling the USA following his favorite artists & self publishing poetry/recordings before being signed to Ropeadope Records for his first “proper” release, entitled “A Love Electric”. As time/tours passed, A Love Electric became a band, first an instrumental act joined by NYC downtown scene heroes Steven Bernstein, Cyro Baptista, & Billy Martin, eventually settling as a trio that explores Todd’s songwriting while honoring the inquisition and fearlessness or jazz tradition, w/Hernan Hecht on drums & Aaron Cruz on bass. The trio has gone on to release 6 records on labels in the US & Mexico while performing nearly 1,000 concerts in the span of 7 years. So much has happened since those early days. Philanthropy/community outreach work has been an important of his work in Mexico and beyond. With the founding of his “Music Mission” initiative, Todd and patrons have donated thousands of dollars worth of instruments, education materials, workshops and basic needs support to communities in Nicaragua, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Durango etc. Todd is also the founder of Ropeadope Sur, a record label based out of Mexico City with a focus on Mexican acts in search of increased projection of their music, the first act signed being Los Cardencheros de Sapioriz, an acapella group singing slave-era songs on the ranches on northern Mexico.
It’s always nice to visit with family and Todd and I had a chance to catch up as he is heading to Madison on May 124th to play Garver Feed Mill in a trio with Alex Mercado and Rodrigo Villaneva. We get into the event which is entitled Cinema Music for Unmade Film and the tour that it is a part of. We spend some time also talking about his latest releases, “Fake Dudes” by Magnet Animals on Rare Noise Records, and a brand new live album on Ropeadope Sur called “Live, Loft, Köln”. The best part of all the things Todd is a part of is that there are so many kinds….it really provides me, a listeners and a sharer of music to learn so much about so many. I think this latest conversation will do the same.
Garage A Trois return in the form from which they were born 22 years earlier with a new studio album, Calm Down Cologne, on RPF Records. Comprised by guitarist friends of the proGram, Charlie Hunter, saxophonist Skerik and drummer Stanton Moore, OG GAT released their debut album Mysteryfunk to wide acclaim in 1999. The band evolved over the years in various configurations before eventually going dormant following its 2011 album, Always Be Happy, In 2019, the original 3 piece line-up reunited for a handful of shows. This would lead to an afternoon recording at Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho in Seattle, right across the street from where the band was playing a sold out, three night run at Nectar Lounge. Ace engineer Randall Dunn was invited to document the proceedings and captured the resulting album in one magical session. Dunn later took the tracks to AVAST! Recording Co. for mixing. With all but a few edits on the beginnings and ends of performances, Calm Down Cologne presents the music as it was played in the studio that day. The story about the album title might be that legendary underground Seattle artist Rick Klu gave Skerik the idea when he was describing a bouncer having to use some ‘calm down cologne’ on an unruly patron. I have been sprayed once or twice myself I think.
I had the chance to dive deep into the new music with Skerik. We talk about the creation of these mind-opening, ass-shaking tunes and how music – this music is the best thing they can do and capture this music in the now moment. This translates so beautifully when this band is live and amazingly, onto this record. We also got into some of the new music is is making with True Loves on Color Red Music, and recent music with Nels Cline. SAY WHA????? Skerik is also cool enough to build a setlist of things around one of the new tracks on Calm Down Cologne….click into find out what he choose.
Atlanta based producer Matt Mansfield aka Piper Street Sound has created a stunningly beautiful & collaborative EP of instrumental Reggae music with legendary Reggae guitarist Andy Bassford (Toots and the Maytals, Dennis Brown, Horace Andy, Culture, Roots Radics). Black Eyed Peace follows 2020’s Small Plate / Rid Them EP but puts a focus on guitar melodies masterfully executed by Maestro Bassford. The songs still bear that special Piper Street customary horn heavy & dub infused stylin’ but on this release, the flow moves into some new territory; elements of Rocksteady, major keys now bouncing alongside their minor key brethren, Yaya Brown’s akete drumming prods and propels the rhythms carved by the uber-tight drumming of Brian Daggett and the bass of Mansfield, Chris Case’s keyboard mastery blazes alongside, almost at times within the horns of Will Scruggs, Jonathan Lloyd and Dashill Smith. Black Eyed Peace is a collaborative affair pieced together gradually over the course of the pandemic, the horn sessions miraculously took place the week before everything shut down, and all other elements were recorded in home studios and electronically gathered by Matt, who then helped to guide them through the forest of the unknown into a toGetherness of today, many of us seek to find.
I had the opportunity to spend a little quality time with Andy Bassford to get a deeper look and feel into what led to his accepting this fantastic project as something he could feel ready to attach his name to. We get an inside look into his decision making, the vibrancy of the newly found relationship with Matt and even the possibilities of what comes next sonically. When you listen in, it sounds like the discovery of what could be has just beGun. Andy has been around so many of the great artists and sounds of a genre specifically, but I believe after listening in on this conversation, you’d agree that he is clearly in the business for the music, and I am so excited that Matt and he have found each other, and as that door keeps opening, we will all benefit from future collaborations and new found friends.
In her first new recording in a decade, Joy Harjo – the first Native American named Poet Laureate of the United States – digs deep into the indigenous red earth and the shared languages of music to sing, speak and play a stunningly original musical meditation that seeks healing for a troubled world – “I Pray for My Enemies”, released on Sunyata Records March 5. Collaborating with producer/engineer Barrett Martin on this unique new album, Joy brings a fresh identity to the poetry & songs that have made her a renowned poet of the Muscogee Creek Nation & one of the most authentic and compelling voices of these times. “The concept for I Pray for My Enemies began” says Harjo, “with an urgent need to deal with discord, opposition. It could have been on a tribal, national or a personal level. I no longer remember. The urgency had a heartbeat and in any gathering of two or more, perhaps the whole planet, our hearts lean to entrainment – that is, to beat together.” Latin Grammy-winning producer, composer and founding father of the historic Seattle music scene, Barrett Martin brings a new dimension to Harjo’s unique sound-world – her words and music spoken, sung and explored in a vibrant mix of classic instrumental sounds. Harjo and Martin describe it as “funkified spoken word” inspiring “elegant jazz, urban soul, and inner city, reservation grit.” She sings and speaks her poetry, as well as playing saxophone and flute, on an album she describes as “very much of-the-moment.” Martin holds it all together with drums, upright bass, keyboards & production duties. He assembled an all-star band to explore Harjo’s work, featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.) on electric guitar & feedback; Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) on electric guitar solos; Krist Novoselic (Nirvana) on acoustic guitar; and Rich Robinson (Black Crowes) on electric guitar solos. Additional players include renowned Iraqi oud master Rahim Alhaj; trumpeter Dave Carter & percussionist/backing vocalist Lisette Garcia. Joy’s stepdaughters sing harmony vocals, and her husband Owen Sapulpa plays surdo drum on the album. Joy defines songs and poems as distinctly different expressions, & both are featured in the 16 tracks that make up the album. Her words & music, older & newer, get a fresh new identity here. Some of Harjo’s defining poems appear here – “An American Sunrise,” “Fear,” “Running” & “Remember” – refracting her own experience as a Native American woman of her culturally defining generation. “Calling the Spirit Back,” from an early collection of Harjo’s poems, and the new song “How Love Blows Through the Trees” – written when COVID-19 reached her home in Tulsa, OK – echo the suffering of a world experiencing a pandemic.
Joy Harjo is the author of several books of poetry, plays, children’s books. In May, The Library of Congress will release Living Nations, Living Words: an Anthology of First Peoples Poetry: and in September a memoir Poet Warrior, A Call for Love and Justice, Oprah Winfrey recently picked her anthology of Native American poetry for her book club. Her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation; the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award; PEN USA Literary Award and many others. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.
I had the complete honor of catching up with Joy about this brand new release and we dive into the seed to flower tale. How she got to work with Mr. Martin and the key of the rhythm. All the words above speak the truth about Joy, but to get a true sense of this album and how it sounds and more importantly feels, is up to you. Go hear, go feel.
Heather the jerk is the solo project of Heather Sawyer based out of Madison, WI. She started the project around 2016 to challenge herself and see if she could play music “one man band” style using guitar, bass drum, and high hat. After playing a few shows HTJ released a 4 song ep titled “The Rick Shitty Sessions” recorded by Rick Freuhling of local bands Fire Heads and Dumb Vision. In between now and then Heather played in a couple touring bands and was pretty busy with that. Fast forward several years and a pandemic later, Heather wrote a bunch of songs and decided to record them all as a full band this time around. Cable Access TV is the result of the recording sessions. Recorded entirely by Graham Hunt at their practice space this last fall, CATV also features Graham, and friend Tyler Fassnacht on some guitar and bass help. Cable Access TV is the result of some breakups, a pandemic, and smoking up.
I had the opportunity to get a little time with Heather The Jerk to get her take of how the album creation went down. We talk some of the ins and outs of this album, some of those inspirations that inspired and a new video as well as some thinGs in the pipeline….who is this Dana and The I Don’t Need That’s?? Heather is one of those special people making that real feel to her sound and Madison is lucky to have her within the scene.
With a sound oscillating between psychedelic pop and space rock, Triptides’ album Alter Echoes channels both The Byrds at their most hallucinogenic and Pink Floyd at their most cosmically composed while creating something immediate and new. These are some heady, sun-drenched psych-pop-type sounds that guarantee to open new paths within you, and bring a easy cool feeling over you. The band has established itself as a preeminent part of the new wave of L.A. psych music. With Alter Echoes they pull away from the pack, thanks to the quality of their songwriting, performance and production. The Los Angeles based band is led by multi-instrumentalist Glenn Brigman, and with drummer Brendan Peleo-Lazar and bassist/guitarist Stephen Burns. Triptides’ Alter Echoes will be released on limited vinyl and digital / streaming platforms on March 19th via Alive Naturalsound Records.
I had the chance to catch up quick with Glenn Brigman of Triptides to dive a little deeper into the uplifting sounds created on ‘Alter Echoes”. We get into the path from start to finish, the growth of the music and Glenn builds a set around one of the tracks off the record with some other wild artists and tunes. EarGrab the conversation but make sure to get an earful of this album.
One of the most influential guitarists to emerge during New York’s avant-garde loft jazz scene has returned to influence a new generation of edge-pushing, genre-hopping musicians. Michael Gregory Jackson has tread a winding musical path over his 40+ year career, embracing everything from creative music, jazz, blues, rock and electronica soundscapes to harmonically rich & lyrically-deep vocal tunes, with the complex arrangements & subtleties that are a signature of his music. His ability to span musical genres was best captured by one reviewer’s depiction as “Musical Mercury.” He was barely of his teens when he served as co-creator in the Oliver Lake Quartet, one of the most critically acclaimed & far-traveling ensembles working jazz’s outer fringes. Michael’s brilliant technique on electric & acoustic, flavored with quicksilver runs, volume pedal swells and sudden shifts from crystalline melodic to fuzzy dissonance, has been name-checked as a critical-influence, and can be heard deep in the musical DNA of six-string legends like Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, Pat Metheny, Marc Ribot, Mary Halvorson & others. His journey from the avant-garde to what the industry regarded as a more commercial, song-based sound was thankfully and intriguingly gradual. It gave fans with inquiring taste a ringside seat to an evolution that unfolded subtly over a series of superb albums, ones that continue to be favorites of critics and his fellow musicians. Jackson’s newest release, Frequency Equilibrium Koan, will come out on Golden Records in February 2021. Frequency Equilibrium Koan is a 1977 recording of an extraordinary concert of Michael’s music at Joe Lee Wilson’s New York City venue, The Ladies’ Fort, performed by an extraordinary quartet: Michael Gregory Jackson (guitars & percussion), Julius Hemphill (alto saxophone), Abdul Wadud (cello), Pheeroan aKLaff (drums). Featuring 40 minutes of music and liner notes by Michael and guitarist Bill Frisell, Frequency Equilibrium Koan offers listeners a priceless opportunity to experience a key moment in NYC’s long lost Loft Jazz Scene of the 1970s, with Michael at that scene’s heart.
I had the honor of connecting with Michael Gregory Jackson primarily about this particular release to get deeper into the who and what, the now and then and the journeys between. We talk the scene, the people and the magic of not missing moments. I have been listening to and sharing his music for many years now, and this release makes me feel as close to that NYC Jazz Loft scene as I have ever felt, I believe some of those notes are still ringing thru the streets of the city. Head over to his bandcamp page to get your own taste and see what I mean.
Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and bassist Mark Helias come together to create duets discovered in the moment in a way that is rarely heard today with “Some Kind of Tomorrow”. The long time bandmates, separated by space and time find a way to play in real time with one another and the results are magical. Two master improvisers and composers bring listeners up-close and personal to the first spark of their imaginations at work, recording eleven duet improvisations over the spring, summer, and fall of 2020. The music is raw, authentic, intimate, alive, and unapologetic in its passion. Their sound is deep wood and polished brass recorded with a depth that is hard to describe. They played the music, recorded it, mastered it firsthand and are now making it available to listeners for the first time as a digital download on Bandcamp. Don’t miss these fearless jazz explorers as they face the future.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Jane Ira Bloom about this project. We got into the creation of songs in a way, that up until now had probably not been considered as a way to go about one’s music…but…here we are. We talked about some challenges and the need to do this playing. Versatilityis one of those things I appreciate about Jane, so we touched briefly on the most recnt release she did with M’Lumbo on Ropeadope Records, released back at the end of October, 2020. And of course, as a true sound architect, Jane was able to point to the future a tad with what felt like assurance that there would be a volume 2 AND a new project on the winGs of exploration with a group of female improvisers called “Picturing The Invisible”…ahhh the future looks and sounds good…Listen in above to find out more.
Omar Sosa has been passionately interested in exploring African musical cultures and their connections with his Afro-Cuban roots since early in his career – subtly blending traditional and contemporary sounds on many of his recordings. He has forged collaborations with Gnawa musicians in Morocco, and with musicians from Senegal, Mozambique, Mali, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, and South Africa, et al. Highlights include his 2002 GRAMMY-nominated recording ‘Sentir’ featuring Moroccan singer and Guimbre player El Houssaine Kily, and his 2008 CD release ‘Afreecanos’, which served as a point of departure for his East Africa project. This new exquisite set of music featuring the 7-time GRAMMY-nominated Cuban composer and pianist Mr. Sosa showcases collaborations with 8 East African artists, fusing traditional sounds with jazz in a subtle, contemporary production. The folkloric music forming the basis of this project was recorded by Mr. Sosa while on tour in East Africa, including material from Madagascar (Rajery), Kenya (Olith Ratego), Sudan, Ethiopia (Seleshe Damessae), Burundi (Steven Sogo), Zambia and Mauritius (Menwar). With Mr. Sosa on pana and Paris-based producer, Steve Argüelles on drums and percussion and multi-instrumentalist Christophe ‘Disco’ Minck on double bass, synths and effects. These recordings will help expose some of the rich musical traditions of East Africa to new and wider audiences. Included in these recordings are some possibly unknown instruments that are the very keys to unlock the newness of sounds.
I had the honor of talking with Mr. Sosa about not only his personal journey on the creation of this magical album, but the journey of the music. We got into the times between the recording and the ability for me to be able to share and enrich others with the final product. We dive into the people, the cultures and the special instruments for the regions unfamiliar to many of us, but easily uniting those who open their ears and minds. I have to admit that Omar Sosa has long been one of those artists I have admired from a far, and I am so pleased we got a chance to talk abut this project…as it has taken me back while moving me forward. Hope you get that sense! An East African Journey will be released everywhere on March 5th. Check out more here.