Ben Tyree Talks Catalytic

A product of the diverse Washington, DC music scene, guitarist, Ben Tyree is a performer and composer of virtuosic ability, infectious groove & eclectic tastes. He studied both jazz & classical music in high school while writing his own rock songs and going to jam sessions at night. He continued his studies at DC’s prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts and at Howard University before moving to New York in 2002. The template for his genre-hopping agility was set by the pioneering Miscellaneous Flux, the band that he co-founded in 1998 while still in residing in DC., the group fused jazz, hip-hop & punk rock into a crowd-invigorating mix, releasing 2 EPs & a full-length album before disbanding in 2005 following its members’ move to New York. Tyree’s longstanding trio BT3 continues in that vein, melding together jazz, funk & rock in an eye-openingly memorable way. The trio recorded their debut CD, re:Vision, in 2010 with special guests and both friends of the proGram, John Medeski& DJ Logic, no strangers to boundary-erasing grooves. In recent years he’s toured and recorded with the group of people who extended my ears, the eclectic Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Chamber as well as the uncategorizable Memphis singer-songwriter Valerie June, whose unique blend of folk, blues, gospel & soul have brought him to the stages of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno & the Late Show with David Letterman. His compositions have also taken the leap from stage to screen. He has scored several independent films as well as pieces for television that have appeared on ESPN and in advertising campaigns for companies like Green Team USA.

I had the chance to check in with Ben about his latest project titled ‘Catalytic’ in a duo partnership with friend of the proGram, percussionist, Sameer Gupta. The new tunes are due out December 6 via Tyree’s Sonic Architectures imprint. We talk about the process that shaped the new music starring right around the time that the two neighbors put out their Unruly Neighbors record. We discuss the trust that defines an understanding within each other, of each other and the directions the music takes, knowing when an improvisational moment is concluding or shifting. Ben takes time to define how each track took shape and where or how the titles came to be. There are so many relatable moments to this process and this music that make sense to me, and I truly believe that if you approach this listening the same way, with an openness to go with each flow, you’ll find your daily, hourly, momentary moment that fits just right. The key is the desire to be adventurous and look for the unknown, these two creators have it and sharing it has a second part to it…..you need to go find it. Be your own catalyst in finding your adventures. Start here.

Into The Spiral With Marshall Allen

The Sun Ra Arkestra is a sonic explosions recreating itself with each note and was formed in the mid-1950s and led by keyboardist/composer Sun Ra until his death in 1993. They are certainly considered a pioneer of afrofuturism. The Arkestra is still led by saxophonist Marshall Allen, an member since 1958. To this day, the outer shell of the travelers on stage are still draped in their cosmic entrance gear, expelling from the ever-evolving swirl. In jazz, unity could emerge — even as individual notes seemed in disarray and rhythms seemed uncountable. Jazz demanded discipline and precision, but also an open mind. “A lot of things that some men do… come from somewhere else,” Sun Ra said, “or they’re inspired by something that’s not of this planet. And jazz was most definitely inspired, because it wasn’t here before.” Jazz was the road to a mystical experience, a sort of reasoned ecstasy. It was the music of elsewhere. Sun Ra called his band the Arkestra, though it went far beyond the limits of a band. The Arkestra was Sun Ra’s grand Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work that crossed the boundaries of art and life for Sun Ra and his musicians. Arkestra performances were music, theatre, dance, philosophy. They combined the ancient and the radical future, African rhythms played with fists and synthesizers played with the elbows. Arkestra musicians followed Sun Ra’s style, wearing Egyptian headdresses and African robes and Mardi Gras beads. Onstage, they laughed and danced and walked arm in arm. Sun Ra wanted to show his audiences an expression of pure possibility. And yet the Arkestra was more for the musicians than the audience. Musicians lived together (for a long while in a building Sun Ra bought on Morton Street, in the Germantown area of Philadelphia) worked together, thought together. When they weren’t onstage, they were rehearsing. They played music in place of social activities, in place of sleep. The Arkestra breathed music together, abandoned themselves to it, like one single enlightened organism with Sun Ra as their guide. Sun Ra’s compositions were famously difficult, even for the most talented instrumentalists. Arkestra musicians tell stories of being baffled sometimes for months before they could hear music in the written notes. The intervals were mad, impossible. Sun Ra was patient though, often choosing musicians who were more intuitive than knowledgeable, who could be developed (intuitive people had more space in their minds). One could imagine the Morton Street building like a monastery, and Arkestra rehearsals akin to liturgical chant, with Arkestra players embodying the music through repetition until playing was an ecstatic experience. For this experience of both the past and the future, breathing and being altered in the now, we find Marshall Allen continuing to be a director from which it came – within the spiraling sound landings of The Sun Ra Arkestra.

I had the honor of checking in with Mr. Marshall Allen ahead of CODAFEST 2022 – A Celebration of Creative and Cultural Music’. Highlighting this 5-day event will be the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra, led by the 98-year-old saxophonist and protégé of the late/great Sun Ra. This event will be on November 19th at Cafe Coda. We discussed how the moment, any moment is about the vibration of that day, that moment, that time. This translated into how the group will be proceeding into the spiral while here in Madison, avoiding the square and adding the feeling of the audience to the building blocks of notes to be. This little conversation reminds me to always listen in to what those who’ve been to and from – and how/why there is the reason what the Arkestra did/does resonates within me. Its the moments within each. Take a moment. Make a moment

DA CRUZ Scream Baladas da Luta

The 6th album by DA CRUZ (Bern/São Paulo) is called “Baladas da Luta” (“Ballads for the Fight”), and that’s exactly what it sounds like. Profound, Brazilian urban music in an attack position against hatred, delusion & political short-sightedness. There are guests on this album like the British-Nigerian pidgin rap guru Magugu or Arnaldo Antunes, who was chosen by “Rolling Stone” as one of the hundred best artists in Brazilian music. There is heavy-blooded Afrobeat, angry Hip-Hop or a Brazilian disco flair. There are touches of Krautrock, Baile Funk or Soul – all held together by the warm voice of Afro-Brazilian singer Mariana Da Cruz. Mariana Da Cruz grew up as the seventh child of a cotton picker and a cook in Paranapanema, a small provincial town in the state of São Paulo. Recordings, concerts, music lessons; all that was unaffordable. Music, however, was an escape point even then – Mariana absorbed it through a small transistor radio in her nursery. She was already singing as a teenager in a club in the nearest big city, Campinas, where she studied to become a teacher: Bossa Nova, MPB, Elis Regina, Jorge Ben – all the classics – it was her basic research. But curiosity drove her first to Lisbon in the early noughties, later to Bern, where she lives today. It stands to reason that she would reflect on the world’s dislocations through her first home, Brazil. A country that anticipated all the developments we see everywhere today. “There is a fundamental alienation between politics and the people, there is burgeoning racism, social divisions, there is an ever greater injustice in the distribution of wealth, and there is this inexplicable yearning for authoritarianism”, she says. And she sings against all this. For more than 15 years. A key driver of her music is her engagement with her African roots. Whereby the situation here – as for all Afro-Brazilians – is somewhat complicated: “We know that our ancestors come from Africa, but we don’t know from where. You can’t do any research on that,” explains Mariana Da Cruz. “We’ve travelled a lot in the last few years for this search for traces, been to Burkina Faso, Bahia, Rio – and all these experiences and impressions flow into my music. Da Cruz is a radical independent project. All of their albums so far have been recorded, mixed & produced in their own studio. They have been released on their own label Boom Jah Records, except for two albums released with the American label Six Degrees Records. The core of the band besides Mariana includes Ane H., former singer and programmer of the industrial band Swamp Terrorists, Bernese guitarist Oliver Husmann and drummer Pit Lee.

I had the honor of chatting with Mariana and Ane H. of DA CRUZ about the new release, “Baladas da Luta”. We get deep into the need and reasons behind this album and how the music stands with Brazil as times get very unrecognizable. The power of the songs are clearly explained by Ane and Mariana and if you wonder if music does have the power to make a stand against or stand with a group who is in need of a shouting voice, this album will take you by the ear and show you. Not only do we talk about the music, the situations on a global level that do affect us all, there are questions asked on how we find one language to speak…to SHOUT…to unite. For me, these people making this music always opened my body to the grooves of the sound, but this record has my eyes and mind in concert with my heart and sense of equality and justice. There is power in these songs. Check for yourself.

CODAFEST 2022 and Ugochi

Her created sounds have been described as ‘lively, energetic music that makes your feet move & heart think’. With over 2 decade of experience in the literary & music industry, UGOCHI has gained quite a notable reputation for her solo career & collaborations. Not content to rest on her gnash, UGOCHI are always laying foundations for the next release, adding more classics to their repertoire. She has shared the stage with several established artists such as Common, Eric Benet, John Legend, Femi Kuti, Edwin McCain, Seun Kuti, Maxi Priest, Malik Yusef, Umphrey’s McGee, Richie Stephens, Blitz the Ambassador, Yellowman, J. Ivy, Queen Ifrika, Luciano, Wayna, Femi Kuti, Shaggy, Richie Stephens, Queen Ifrika, Vieux Farka Toure, Tony Allen, Bushman, Fatoumata Diawara, Wayne Wonder and Stephen Marley, King Sunny Ade, Me’Schell Ndegeocello. Ugochi & A.S.E.’s music is not just a unique flavor of soul music cooked up in her cosmic kitchen of sounds, styles & accents; it is also an introduction to world affairs for Africa enthusiasts all over the world. Her music honors her musical influences thru the expression of heart felt lyrical poise & soul swept instrumentation, giving birth to an incredible sound that fills a need that may have been previously unknown.

I had the complete pleasure of catching up once aGain with family to the show, UGOCHI as she and A.S.E. are heading back to Cafe Coda on November 17th as part of CODAFEST 2022. We discuss how a live experience like this is an opportunity to leave all that other stuff somewhere else and make this shared moment an opening to joy and healing. The band always finds this togetherness on a stage, with a community to be healing. Some of the styles of sounds/rhythms are discussed – hint – very similar to the way greenarrowradio flows and the love of how a place like Madison come with open ears, open hearts and especially open minds really is not lost on Ugochi or A.S.E., so, if anyone round here has a couch that is just right for that stage……

Timo Vollbrecht’s FLY MAGIC presents Givers & Takers

FLY MAGIC is saxophonist-composer, bandleader & scholar Timo Vollbrecht’s longstanding signature ensemble. A genre-exploding unit with a bold sense of creativity & intent. After 2 acclaimed records and performances in over 30 countries, their 3rd album, Givers & Takers, marks a new chapter: It conjures acoustic delicateness with otherworldly electronic soundscapes of orchestral width. Recorded in the studio while on a 12-date-tour, it captures the unique chemistry the 4 musicians developed on the road while using the stage as their laboratory. It is out now on BERTHOLD Records. Originally from Germany and based out of New York, Timo is a celebrated creative force on the Brooklyn music scene who fuses jazz with post-rock, electronics & instrumental songwriting. Described as a “luminously-fine bandleader” by the NYC Jazz Record, he has performed at landmark stages like the Village Vanguard. He is also the new Director of Jazz Studies at Brown University. Together with Keisuke Matsuno (guitar), Elias Stemeseder (piano & synthesizers) & Dayeon Seok (drums), he formed a band with no bassist. Instead, Stemeseder – who just led his residency at John Zorn’s iconic Stone venue – plays synth-bass while his other hand operates other keys. Thematically, Givers & Takers refers to Timo’s underlying sense of community through music. The album emerges from this place of human interactivity. It features four musically synergetic friends of diverse backgrounds entering into an improvisational dialog marked by mutual trust. Giving & Taking is a natural part of this process. The fact that Givers & Takers is also the name of their favorite bar in Brooklyn underpins the importance that Timo and his bandmates assign to the gathering. With Givers & Takers, Timo is presenting his vision of a band that is truly original, avoids easy categorization, and blends acoustic and electronic sounds enveloped in intricate song forms.

I had the pleasure of getting toGether with Timo to dive into the creation of this project. We got into how one records this open music without a bassist, how working this music out live during a tour assisted in the heart of the music and how this is really friends making music, and how THAT is part of the entire process of seeing the initial vision through. We talk about the diversity of the individuals making the music and how that fits into the music itself with the live spirit of an audience helping to wrap this into its final building. Once again, this kind of music that encourages spaces for created improvisation and the ‘I Don’t Know’ also does the same for a listener in my opinion. Timo tells me what he would drink at the bar with these friends as well as building a setlist choosing two tracks off the new album. FLY MAGIC does just that for me.

Sentimental Fool Heads To Madison

Legendary soul singer Lee Fields makes his full-length Daptone Records debut with his long-awaited new album, SENTIMENTAL FOOL, which drops officially on October 28. Mr. Fields’ first new album in three years. The album was produced by Daptone Records founder ‘Bosco Mann’ – producer/musician Gabriel Roth – at his Penrose Recorders/Daptone West studio in Riverside, CA. Mr. Fields recently wrapped a West Coast headline run and will celebrate Sentimental Fool with an eagerly awaited North American tour, which got underway October 15 at Space Ballroom and then traveling through a very special New Year’s Eve show at Brooklyn, NY’s Brooklyn Made on December 31. Hailed by Rolling Stone for “his classic American soul sound,” Mr. Lee Fields is arguably the greatest pure soul singer alive today. His prolific 5 decades career spans more than 20 albums & over 40 singles, an ever-evolving body of work which continues to grow via samples by such artists as J. Cole, Travis Scott, Rick Ross, & A$AP Rocky as well as outside-the-box collaborations like the worldwide dance club hit, “Jealousy,” with French DJ/ producer Martin Solveig. In 2001, Roth opened the doors on Daptone Records, with Mr. Fields releasing a handful of singles. Now, more than 2 decades later, he has officially joined the Daptone roster, reuniting him with Roth on the 25th anniversary of their first meeting to record ‘Sentimental Fool’, a deep, blues-tinged collection expertly showcasing the beauty, power, and raw humanity of Mr. Fields’ voice. The album – features backing from an all-star lineup of Daptone family members including guitarist Thomas Brenneck, bassist Benny Trokan, drummer Brian Wolfe, keyboardists Victor Axelrod & Jimmy Hill, saxophonists Neal Sugarman & Ian Hendrickson-Smith, trumpeter Dave Guy, along with an array of additional guest musicians/ backing vocalists. It’s clear with this new album, the top of his game is where Mr. Fields is at.

I had the pleasure of catching up with family to the proGram, Mr. Lee Fields ahead of his Saturday, October 22nd show in Madison at The Majestic Theater. It is always thrilling to have an artist be their complete self during a conversation and this one is a fine example. Mr. Fields expresses himself completely with just how happy he is with the Sentimental Fool tour kicking off and how the new record of the same name has turned out. We get into how he and ‘Bosco Mann’ got back together and made the vision of one, the success of two. Oh…laugh when you’re happy.

Also premiering in November is the new Lee Fields Documentary

[here’s a earlier conversation I had with the co-directors]

Steven Wright At The Barrymore

Academy Award winner & legendary mind-bender Steven Wright is a prototype comedian that many others constantly try to emulate. When you’re funny, people want to figure out just how. Deadpan delivery is not for everyone. Upon graduating from Emerson College and holding many odd jobs, he attended an “open mike” audition and became a regular performer at Ding Ho’s Comedy Club & Chinese Restaurant in Cambridge, MA. It was during this time that he got his big break and was booked for his first “Tonight Show” appearance on Friday, August 6, 1982. The king of late night enjoyed the performance so much he invited him to appear again the following Thursday, a rarity. His back-to-back appearances helped put his career into high gear. He soon found himself performing his off-beat routines on “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” & several stops back to “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” Mr. Wright expanded his comedy career to include comedy albums, film & television appearances. He has been nominated for an Emmy Award as a Producer on the 2014 season of the hit FX series, Louie and continued as a Producer for the 2015 season. He guest starred in two episodes of Louie in 2015 & 2011 and was in Louis CK’s critically-acclaimed web series Horace and Pete. Steven is a regular guest with Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers and continues touring the U.S., Canada & overseas. The way he sees life and how it happens is presented in such a way that I for one, appreciate how much he has influenced my way of always questioning everything.

I had the chance to connect with Mr. Wright back just before the pandemic put a halt on everything. This conversation was recorded and placed on the shelf [with a mask]. The show was rescheduled a couple times and we set things up and then then things changed. Just like life. So, here is the re-edited, off the shelf and mask-less chat we had in 2020. Still fun and relevant. People here in Madison can catch him 10/8/2022 at The Barrymore and others can go right here to find out where they can get a dose of this special mind-bender in action. We get into the day in the life of, baseball, the perfect movie role for him and just the things that come up. Check it.

Omar Sosa In Madison

Seven-time GRAMMY-nominated composer, pianist and bandleader Omar Sosa’s musical trajectory has taken him from Camagüey and Havana to touring in Angola, the Congo, Ethiopia and Nicaragua in the 1980s, to a sojourn in the African-descent communities of Ecuador in the early 1990s, to an extended presence on the San Francisco Bay Area Latin jazz scene, to his current engagement with artists from Spain, France, Brazil, Cuba, the United States and many African nations. Sosa fuses a wide range of jazz, world music and electronic elements with his native Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original urban sound – all with a Latin jazz heart. I am excited to announce that he will be heading to Madison this year and it could be a highlight for anyone who decides to make this an event not to be miss. For his Overture performance, Mr. Sosa brings his new Quarteto Americanos, featuring Bay Area artists Josh Jones on drums, Sheldon Brown on saxophones and Cuban bassist Ernesto Mazar Kindelán.

I had the honor of getting a little bit of friend of the proGram, Mr. Sosa’s time as he was between rehearsals/shows/family time. We got into providing the imagination of people a view into what the scene will be like on Wednesday, September 21 in the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center For The Arts. Mr. Sosa provides a window into how this group of talented ‘family’ friends ended up getting together to create. The window opens a little wider to learn what the quartet will bring sonically, experimentally and spiritually as together, we all will be in one unique universe as the sounds surround. We learn a little about each musician – why Mr. Sosa believes he is still on this planet and believe me, if you go catch this event, you too will be grateful.

Two For The Road lead to Madison

Eric Vloeimans (trumpet) is one of the best-known musicians in his native country, the Netherlands. He has led a wide variety of ensembles over the years and is a frequent guest soloist with bands & orchestras of all sorts. He has won 4 Edison prizes (the “Dutch Grammy”) for his recordings and has toured throughout Europe, Asia & the US with his own groups & artists such as Mercer Ellington, John Taylor, Peter Erskine, The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Wayne Horvitz, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and so many others. Will Holshouser (accordion) is a veteran of the New York music scene who has performed all over the world with artists including violinist Regina Carter, clarinetist David Krakauer, & improvisers Han Bennink & Michael Moore as well as with his own projects. He has also performed with Antony & the Johnsons, Kiran Ahluwalia, Uri Caine, Guy Klucevsek, New York City Ballet, New York City Opera, Martha Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright, Suzanne Vega, & many others. This dynamic duo hit the road September 11 – October 2 for a twelve city tour of the US & Canada to celebrate their expressive & playful live album ‘Two for the Road’. The album was officially released September 1, 2022 via V-flow/Challenge Records. The album was recorded during a live concert tour of the Netherlands in 2021, during a window in the pandemic when musicians & audiences could finally come together. The 2nd album from this duo, it showcases their expressive writing, playful & virtuosic improvising, & omnivorous range of influences, stretching the format to include a colorful range of sounds from their vibrantly vast musical backgrounds.

I had the opportunity to catch up with these two open minded conversationalists ahead of their event on Friday, September 23 at Audio for the Arts, here in Madison. We got into the two great tastes of accordion and trumpet working it out toGether and we dive deep into the new record. While there are moments one could consider ‘jazz’, there much more to this sound and rhythms. We learn about Eric’s beautiful “Innermission” series composed during lockdown: several pieces that range from introspective, almost Schubert-like meditations to joyful rhythmic romps. We also get into Will’s long-form composition/suite “Redbud Winter,” which was commissioned by the American Accordionists’ Association, and touches many feelings during its play time. I think this is music to soak in live and be amazed, but also to take home and use as needed.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe

Singer/saxophonist/flutist Karl Denson fronts the Tiny Universe as if he’s preaching the gospel. Highly regarded as one of the best live acts on the planet, KDTU distills the sweeping stylistic range of its concert performances into their own authentic sound featuring Denson and his long-standing seven piece unit. His energy and spirit are contagious while his songwriting serves a larger message of fellowship—across generations, genders, religions and cultures. Not surprisingly, he’s none too pleased with the current state of political discourse. Thus the reason why KDTU’s last album, ‘Gnomes & Badgers’ (out now on Seven Spheres Records), is Denson’s hard-grooving answer to these tragically divisive times. He was a member of Lenny Kravitz‘s band and has co-founded and led The Greyboy Allstars. Denson has recorded with artists including Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Slightly Stoopid, Blind Boys of Alabama, Blackalicious, Stanton Moore, and Jon Foreman of the rock band Switchfoot. He amazingly continues to lead his own KDTU and Karl Denson Trio (KD3), while touring with the Rolling Stones since 2014 to date.

I had the pleasure of catching up quickly with Mr. Denson right before he was heading out on a well deserved and hardly gotten vacation. So a biG greenarrowradio thank you to him for making the time. We talk about the upcoming event Live on King St. Free Convert Series coming up September 16th and get to know a couple of the newer names in the Tiny Universe. Karl opens up about his writing process and his recent listening back to his varied catalog and how that is making him feel since he is one who is usually a forward listener. We also learn a little about how he gets into an artist he likes. Karl mentions why working with someone like PHILCO, helps keep that innovative/improvisational tool in his toolbox sharp. He may also reveal what solo he plays as a member of the Stones gives him a special feel…maybe.

View With A Room by Julian Lage

Guitar virtuoso Julian Lage expands his horizons on ‘View With A Room’, a collection of ten original compositions out September 16 that marks his second release for Blue Note Records. Having established a home base with his brilliant trio of bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King—most recently heard on the guitarist’s acclaimed 2021 Blue Note debut ‘Squint’ Mr. Lage casts his gaze outward to discover new orchestrational possibilities with the addition of six-string icon and friend of greenarrowradio, Mr. Bill Frisell, who adds his inimitable voice to this stunning album. ‘View With A Room’ is enhanced by the production team that the guitarist has assembled and which has become an extension of the trio itself. The album was produced by Margaret Glaspy, Julian’s wife & musical partner who brings her own insights as a singer-songwriter to the lyrical/storytelling elements that make his compositions so singular. She worked closely at Brooklyn’s Bridge Studios with engineer Mark Goodell, who Lage credits with “wrangling this album into a sonic place that references what we love best about classic Blue Note records while still feeling utterly contemporary and unique to the sound of this band.” Longtime friend & collaborator Armand Hirsch added integral post-production elements that bring the emotional intent of each song into focus. The best part s for us in Madison, is Julian Lage is bringing his trio here on the day this album drops.

I had the chance to catch up with this former child prodigy recently to find out what we can plan on being a part of when he and his trio hit Madison 9/16 at the High Noon Saloon. We talk about what it is about that life, stretching moment of being one with a crowd. We spend a little bit of time walking our minds through the new record and how the added layer of a Bill Frisell helped take it into the beyond, from the seed of idea into the flower of songs. I am a fan of not only the music of Julian Lage, but after you listen in for a bit on our chat, it may be easy to feel our similarities in how we approach music…we talk about his recent time at the mecca of venues, Village Vanguard and also his being a part of the gang at the Alternative Guitar Summit. I find it easy to listen to him as it is his collaborations [which are many and vast] as well as his trio, each avenue opening a new path to something different. Come along.

photo by Shervin Lainez

More With Making Movies

As Making Movies delivers its 4th album, XOPA, the Kansas City band proves true the maxim which, in English, is like an encouraging version of “reap what you sow.” Meant to inspire to push forward, the phrase is chanted on the LP’s multi-movement epic, “La Primera Radio” — but it’s exemplary, too, of the band’s musical odyssey. This is a band that makes American music with an asterisk: because Making Movies’ sound encompasses the entirety of the Americas, not solely the country inarguably centered in mainstream everything. It’s through this broader perspective that they have crunched classic rock into Latin American rhythms — African-derived percussion & styles like rumba, merengue, mambo & cumbia — in a way that feels oddly familiar, yet delivers the invigorating chills of hearing something uniquely new. Each member: Enrique Chi, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter; his brother Diego Chi, bassist/experimental vocalist; percussionist Juan-Carlos Chaurand; & Duncan Burnett, newly incorporated into the band on drums, is enthusiastically committed to music history, to uncovering connections between genres & cultures both their own & otherwise. They’re all lifelong musicians too, hailing from disparate yet similar backgrounds, parents that cherished music, fathers that kickstarted cultural movements, families in which gospel is critical to their very existence. The band’s collective desire for exploration has attracted a several connections, many of them legendary players, like friend of the proGram Mr. Steve Berlin of iconic rock band Los Lobos, a recurring collaborator & steadfast champion of the band. An approach from beloved Panamanian musician Rubén Blades led to joint songs like “No te Calles’‘ & “Cómo Perdonar.” Making Movies has also created with indie-folk band Hurray for the Riff Raff, trumpeter Asdru Sierra of Ozomatli, Puerto Rican salsero Frankie Negrón, and all-female mariachi group Flor de Toloache. On the heels of Making Movies’ 2019 album ameri’kana, the band worked on a documentary series, through which they connected with the legendary organist Reverend Charles Hodges, an soul music pioneer who played alongside Al Green, and fellow Memphis, Tennessee, musicians the Sensational Barnes Brothers. At their live shows, they are wholly present, feeling every original groove with the same rush of as when they first found it. This approach has prompted many to proclaim: ‘This IS my new favorite band’.

I had the opportunity to catch up with family to the proGram, Enrique Chi ahead of the Making Movies sets on the weekend of August 13-14th at the McPike Sessions – the Pursuit of Happiness. We got into why coming to Madison is a no-brainer, we dive deep into the technology and songwriting sides of the new record ‘XOPA’ and we touch base on the give back the band is art of with a discussion around the upcoming AMERI’KANA Music & Arts Festival. Check them out live, listen to the music but definitely figure out a way to find out that the difference is why.

Hot Pursuit Of Happiness

Thollem is a perpetually traveling pianist, keyboardist, composer, improviser, singer-songwriter, activist, author & teacher. He’s spent most of his life living on the road throughout North America & Europe. His work is ever-changing, evolving & responding to the times and his experiences, both as a soloist and in collaboration with hundreds of artists across disciplines. He is known internationally as an acoustic piano player in the free jazz and post-classical worlds, as the lead vocalist for the Italian agit-punk band Tsigoti and as an electronic keyboardist through a slew of projects. Born & raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Thollem began playing the piano, composing/improvising as a child, absorbing the sounds of his culturally diverse upbringing. As an adult he has continued to incorporate the breadth of musics he has experienced on his extensive travels. Since 2005, he has played over 1,500 concerts throughout North America & Europe as a soloist and in collaboration with other musicians, dancers & filmmakers. In that time span, as lead facilitator or co-leader, he has also released close to 100 albums on 23 different vanguard labels. A very brief cross section of his many collaborators include William Parker, Pauline Oliveros, Stefano Scodanibbio, Nels Cline, Rob Mazurek, Ravish Momin, Michael Wimberly, Mike Watt & Carmina Escobar. The deep true list is as diverse as his ear.

Over the years I have had a chance to discuss several different projects with Thollem, but this one is unique. He was out of his element in some ways with his most recent work, ‘This Day’s Called Tuesday’ by his twenty first century one man band Hot Pursuit Of Happiness (HPOH). We get in there about what was different and how these tracks developed over time [and are still evolving as Thollem figures out what they will become in a live setting]. We talk about Thollem the singer/songwriter, the live beat maker and the sonic producer all in one in a real time environment…but it seems like the bottom line is just how this music, these songs make me, make him, make WE feel. There is something to this new music, I hope you will take a listen and share just what it is. It miGht just be special.

In Flower, In Song by Trio Xolo

‘In Flower, In Song’ is the debut album from Trio Xolo, an improvising group composed of bassist Zachary Swanson, saxophonist Derrick Michaels, and percussionist Dalius Naujo. With a telepathic ear toward musical interplay, Trio Xolo performs free-flowing stream of consciousness improvisations. The result is true, in the moment composition. The trio moves together dynamically as their voices simultaneously overlap and converge into one. In Flower, In Song was recorded live in one room and unveils a warm, organic sound: Swanson’s distinctive use of gut strings produce a dark, woody tone, Michaels draws robust color from a vintage saxophone, and Naujo expresses a nuanced control of energy and dynamics. Through explorations of melody, atmosphere, and texture, they can either embrace or dispel the traditional hierarchy of the trio format. At its core, Trio Xolo creates music that seeks to capture the essence of the moment through deep listening.

I had the opportunity to have a conversation with bassist, Zachary Swanson ahead of the album’s release. We got into how the moments were born, the flow of the sound and what we both found really cool was at the end of the day, the songs presented in an ‘order’ in a collection, we actually in the order that they were conceived. This in the now making of art, such as ‘In Flower, In Song’ has been in the front and back and even the sides of my mind, so getting more time with someone who lives in it, was special. Just like this record. The exploration finds will find a home behind your ears and gets right into the veins of my moods. This record will assist in taking your time and finding new ways to spend it, opening paths that were unseen and it’s up to you to go blaze that trail. Take Trio Xolo with you on the journey.

Release Date: August 19, 2022 on 577 Records
Compositions by Zachary Swanson, BMI

More With Charlie Wooton

Over the years, Charlie Wooton and I have gotten together to talk about all the projects he has been touching for many years. We go back. From the times with Bonerama and Royal Southern Brotherhood, to his work with/as Zydefunk and his very own Charlie Wooton Project. The guy can play that bass in ways we have only seen a few do before and that can certainly lead to gigs, jobs and music that comes from certain places. Charlie can groove and funk with the best of them. He can make Zydeco sound like it did when it was born or add a little future to it even. This time around, he is heading up to Madison as part of friend of the proGram, Mr. Sonny Landreth‘s band at LA FÊTE DE MARQUETTE on July 16th.. We get into just how the opportunity to make some live music happenings with a childhood hero came about. That story starts off in a space we know well. Charlie relives a moment in Japan with friend of the show, Rafael Pereira, São Paulo native who brings his rich understanding of Brazilian rhythm to Janelle Monae and many others and how their collaborative groove was an introduction to their band Zabadodat, and from there, we get to Mr. Landreth. The tales wander, just like the innovation of the onward mobing artist – and Charlie has some stories and ways to share that will entertain, make you shake your head and of course probably gives you a want to catch this event live.

After all is said and done, Charlie not only opens up about changes to himself thru the years of our hanGin’, but also to where the desire to give back starts and grows. Blue Monday Mission is a nonprofit that takes care of elderly musicians that can’t work anymore. Most musicians live hand to mouth. Blue Monday Mission folks come in and help in anyway possible, from medical help to cutting lawns to just visiting. Blue Monday Mission is also educating younger musicians about the business so they can one day return the favor. It’s run by John Williams. Charlie also shared his thoughts on a potential Congo Square music-documentary that resides in his thoughts but seems ready to spill out in the world.

Anteloper’s Visit And New Music

Anteloper is a duo of psychedelic sonic compatriots starring a pair of raggedy celestial sound warriors: trumpeter jaimie branch and drummer Jason Nazary. These longtime friends/collaborators met as young explorers and consider this electrified duo a continuous experiment into an unknown sonic abyss. Improvised organisms, abstract bangers, and mind-bending head boppers are guided by a unique desire to hear what has not been heard before. This here is music made of and for the moment, tipping towards the future, moving feet to the new-new beat. When prompted about the duo’s name, branch comes back rhyming: “An Anteloper, is an antelope, interloper,” adding in a jovial manner, “an antelope walks up to a party, but you know, people don’t want him around.” Turns out, she had the name before the band was formed, and once the duo started rehearsing, it was apparent that THIS was what an Anteloper sounds like. Another creature pops up in the title of the duo’s new album: Pink Dolphins. branch explains that the name is in part a nod to her Colombian heritage (from her Mother). “There’s these amazing pink river dolphins that live in the Amazon – they can swim in salt water, they can chill in fresh water, or they can rock in mixed up brackish waters. They are uniquely ‘aquadelic’ in that way. Aquadelic and super endangered.” In many ways branch & Nazary are like those dolphins – adaptable to varied terrain and moving in many directions through sound. What makes this album special is the way that the duo bravely abandons the known as they leap forward into a path less-travelled. There’s no pre-made template here, only sound. Only a starting point, the destruction of that point, and the telepathic creation of a new way out. The electronics incorporated by both players are navigational devices, transportation sound-crafts. The resulting output is freewheeling, other-worldly, improvisational music, inspired by the unknown and at home in the astro-world. But the driving force behind Anteloper’s psychedelic space-music is not escapism, rather a complete immersion in the hyperreality of the present. Their music is made for destroying concepts of a past & a future, for confronting and embracing the moment, for the betterment of the here and now. It’s music that is as rare and bewilderingly beautiful as that aquadelic pink dolphins surfing through the Amazon River.

I had the opportunity to catch up with jaimie and Jason ahead of the July 13th Anteloper event at The Bur Oak here in Madison. We created a mental mosaic for anyone unfamiliar with the scene that is created live by jaime and Jason. We spent time discussing the brand new release, ‘Pink Dolphins’ and how it pieced toGether, which is a whole lot like what we will experience in a live setting. The starting point, was in fact, also the whole point. I get that. We talk relationship and vibrational connection and how the two put aside each one, and become….Anteloper.

Photo by Tim Saccenti

A Freedom With Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman is a musical collective formed in 1998 by guitarist/vocalist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs & drummer JT Lewis. Harriet Tubman was an African-American woman born into slavery in 1822 in the southern US state of Maryland. Tubman is renowned as a liberator of other African-American slaves who like she, chose to defy the system of Slavery and seek freedom by escaping to the North. She accomplished this with the help of a secret network of safe houses, or “stations” on what was known as “The Underground Railroad”. Far from being underground, Ross/ Gibbs/Lewis have collectively performed w/some of the most important musical innovators & visionaries of the last half of the 20th century: Herbie Hancock, Henry Threadgill, Tony Williams, Don Pullen, Tina Turner, James Blood Ulmer, Sonny Sharrock, Leroy Jenkins, Cassandra Wilson, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Oliver Lake, Muhal Richard Abrams, Aretha Franklin, Lawrence Butch Morris, and so many others. The music of Harriet Tubman is both familiar & fresh, while allowing the listener to experience the music free from distracting labels of style or genre. At the same time, it is easy to perceive sources that have seeded the musical development of the trio. From the electric explosion of fabled Miles Davis bands of the 70’s; to the transcendent spirituality of the music of the Mississippi Delta & beyond; to the anointing cry of John Coltrane’s musical apex; to the open rhyme scheme of the rhythm invention of the American Urban 80’s; to the imagined sound of the endless expanse of the African savannah – Harriet Tubman uses ALL of their musical experiences to communicate a vision of musical freedom and musical invention for those who choose to take the journey.

I had the honor of catching up with two thirds of one of my guilty pleasures out there in the sonic landscape creation, Harriet Tubman and the collective within/around it. Friend of the proGram, JT Lewis and Melvin Gibbs took a moment to discuss what the scene on June 24th at Cafe Coda in Madison has the potential to be. We get deep into the paths of the music, from an ancestral calling and receiving to a future moment that awaits. We share in the belief of the unity and togetherness of the music, and how in a live setting, that can enrich the exploration and experience for both artist and audience. Whether you can make it to this show or not , and we are just a few of the lucky ones, if you have yet to discover these cats or this project – there is not better time than now. They can help you locate what your freedom feels like.

Photo by James Andrew

Super Yamba Band & Kaleta Help Open Festival Season

Brooklyn’s Kaleta & Super Yamba Band are fronted by Afrobeat/Juju veteran Leon Ligan-Majek a.k.a. Kaleta. The singer/guitarist from the West African country of Benin Republic lived his adolescent life in Lagos, Nigeria where Afrobeat was born. Kaleta’s guitar chops earned him decades of touring/recording with Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Lauryn Hill & more. Kaleta got his start in the late 70s performing in church & was soon after picked up by iconic Juju master & world music pioneer King Sunny Ade. A few years later Fela Kuti came calling. Kaleta would go on to tour the world playing guitar for the King of Afrobeat in his storied band Egypt 80 through the 1980s & into the 1990s. Now based in New York City, Kaleta has been leading Super Yamba Band since 2017. Their debut album “Mèdaho,” which was released by California indie label Ubiquity Records, draws on the group’s shared reverence for the raw, psychedelic sounds that captivated Kaleta as a music loving kid in 1970s Benin. Mèdaho means “big brother,” “elder” or “teacher” and is dedicated to Kaleta’s late brother Ligan-Ozavino Pascal who introduced him to funk and soul music at a very early age. The album was included on Bandcamp’s “Best Albums of Summer 2019” list and two of the songs were chosen for the ABC/Hulu series High Fidelity staring Zoe Kravitz. Kaleta & his band have also erupted onto the stages and video screens of major music festivals/music publications across the US. They performed at the historic Apollo Theatre in 2019. In 2017 they rocked Paste Magazine’s Emerging Music Festival in NYC & after that performance Afropop Worldwide fell in love with Kaleta, saying “his James Brown grunts have got to be some of the best in the business!” The members of Super Yamba Band have honed their craft performing with a diverse range of artists such as David Byrne, Rubblebucket, Yeasayer & Between The Buried And Me, just to name a few.

My pal Kaleta [we have been sharing music for well over a decade now] fought jet-lag to make sure we chatted briefly about the upcoming event in Madison at the Marquette Waterfront Festival. Kaleta & Super Yamba Band will be closing out the Saturday night festivities. We got into the facts that the show will be more than expected or seen before, new music and how the sounds evolve and grow further/deeper as the group gets more time back in each others space. As far as the show goes on Saturday – Madison will be ready – I hope wherever you are, you get a chance to share time with Kaleta & Super Yamba Band.

Free Radical’s White Power Outage Vol. 2

Free Radicals, a musical, political, & cultural force in Houston for over 2 decades, just dropped their highly anticipated new album ‘White Power Outage Volume 2’. The 25-track project is the follow up to Volume 1 and continues their quest to put an end to white supremacy. ‘White Power Outage Volume 1’ (2020) made waves with the press, radio, & fans through its diverse sound & beautiful mix of vocalists & musicians representing shades of Black, LatinX, white, Asian, mixed, & indigenous people that make the up the culture of Houston Texas. They came together to make revolutionary music, and to demand an end to the white supremacy in the arts, culture, politics, the economy, and in their personal lives. Volume 2 is another genre-bending compilation packed full of highlights. Leading up to the album, Free Radz released the single ‘Bipartisan Baby Jail’ featuring Michele Thibeaux, Henry Alvarez & Karina Nistal. The single also includes 4 year old kids from Peace Camp Houston and combines singing, rap, & poetry over funk. ‘Mutiny On The Bayou’ features one of Houston’s longest standing and best rappers, D-Ology, and rips open the suppressed history of Houston’s 1917 massacre of Black soldiers. ‘Checkpoint / Dompass / Hajiz’ sees Lindi Yeni expressing her lifetime of experience with human rights & South African apartheid to this track. Yeni is joined by Jitsvinger, EQuality, and Prince Alfarra. On ‘Killer Bee Honey’, the Next Generation, Cherria Rattler enlists her daughter Marium to re-record & expand on the track originally recorded by Cherria 22 years ago, protesting the destruction of the planet by shortsighted & greedy men. Other highlights include the Karina Nistal led ‘El Ritmo Contra Gitmo,’ ‘Pokke Koebês’ by Jitsvinger who nails white conquest of South Africa in Afrikaans, Karega Ani’s poem ‘Crystal Stare,’ & instrumental track ‘Manifestación En El Centro Hoy.’

I had the opportunity to check in with Nick Cooper, drummer and producer of Free Radicals along with one of the collaborators on ‘White Power Outage Vol. 2, EQuality. We get into the seed to flower construction of this new music, synchronizing with artists from around the globe on a mission for one, and EQuality dissects ‘America’s Blues’, a track he brought to Nick and away the went. We talk about protests they have attended and shared their sounds and beliefs at, and the desire to get more time with current and new collaborators. Maybe you can brinG them to you.

Talkin’ Cree Country with Tomson Highway

Writer, composer and musician Tomson Highway was born in a snowbank on the Manitoba/Nunavut border to a family of nomadic caribou hunters. He had the great privilege of growing up in two languages: Cree, his mother tongue, and Dene, the language of the neighboring nation, a people with whom his family travelled and hunted. He is the proud son of legendary caribou hunter and world championship dogsled racer, Joe Highway, and artist-in-her-own-right (as bead-worker and quilt-maker extraordinaire), Pelagie Highway. That’s them on the cover of the brand new record, ‘Cree Country’. Sung by the incomparable Patricia Cano, ‘Cree Country’ is a stylish collection of twelve new country songs from one of Canada’s most prolific artistic innovators. With a spectacular band including the very best of Canadian country players, the album’s compelling tunes speak of real life, love, longing, devotion, our connection with nature, and the courage it takes to strive for your goals. Produced by the award-winning John Alcorn, the virtuosity of each musician is given great room to shine, with backup vocals that recall The Jordanaires, the gospel quartet loved by Elvis. Cree is an Indigenous language spoken by 100,000 North Americans. Many of Canada’s most well-known place names are of Cree origin, including Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Chicoutimi, Québec, and Ottawa. It’s a very rhythmic language that lends itself naturally to music-making – and particularly country! Tomson recalls living in the Manitoba bush in the 1950’s and hanging a transistor radio high in the trees at night to hear country music waft north all the way from Nashville, Tennessee. The joy of hearing that music is the inspiration behind these tunes.

I am proud to say that I had the chance to catch up with Tomson Highway to discuss the seed to flower creation of this fantastic new release. It was incredible to hear how long this music, this show, has been a work in progress. The happiness and joy that this sound spreads is really incomparable to that which oozes out of Tomson…I am still noticing my smile is a little bit wider these days. Within these words, there are paths to inner healing and hints on ways to find that happiness that is clearly still all around – I think I will just climb the ladder a little higher and adjust my transistor radio…recalibrate and check out Tomson and Cree Country.