Mercy: Wadada Leo Smith

Groundbreaking composer/trumpeter & friend of the proGram, Mr. Wadada Leo Smith celebrate his 80th birthday with a year of special events including “A Dialogue: Creativity and Mercy with a Reflection on the Role of the Artist in Today’s World,” Harvard University’s Louis C. Elson Lecture delivered virtually at 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 14. The event features the world premiere of Mr. Smith’s new work “Mercy,” composed in honor of essential hospital workers and performed by Smith, Vijay Iyer, and Andrew Cyrille. Smith and Iyer will also participate in a virtual conversation followed by a Q&A session. Wadada’s year-long celebration of his 80th birthday includes the release of six major projects comprising twenty-two CDs on TUM Records, two world premieres, inclusion in a film and concerts, and numerous residencies culminating in an 80th birthday celebration concert to be broadcast on his birthday, December 18, 2021.

2021-22 TUM Recordings

May 21, 2021 – Sacred Ceremonies, a 3-CD box set featuring Wadada with Milford Graves and Bill Laswell in duets and a trio.

May 21, 2021 – Trumpet, a 3-CD box set featuring 14 new compositions for solo trumpet.

November 19, 2021 – Wadada Leo Smith’s Great Lakes Quartet: The Chicago Symphonies
Box set with 4 CDs. Smith on trumpet, Henry Threadgill and Jonathon Haffner on saxophones, John Lindberg on double bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

November 19, 2021 – Wadada Leo Smith, Vijay Iyer, and Jack DeJohnette: A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday
This brings the three artists together for the first time in this meeting of creative giants.

February 18, 2022 – Wadada Leo Smith: String Quartets No. 1 – 12
Box set with 7 CDs featuring RedKoral Quartet plus featured soloists including Smith, Anthony Davis, Alison Bjorkedal, Thomas Buckner, and more.

February 18, 2022 – Wadada Leo Smith: Emerald Duets
Box set with 4 CDs, one each with Pheeroan akLaff, Han Bennink, Andrew Cyrille and Jack DeJohnette. This set adds to Smith’s long history of duo recordings with some of the greatest drummers in the history of creative music.

This event in it’s entirety, help me, as a human doing, fill in some of the cracks in my foundational concreate that have been slowly eroding away in the past couple of years.

Amyl & The Sniffer Livestream “Comfort To Me”

Amyl & the Sniffers, the Melbourne, Australia rock band fronted by Amy Taylor, released their sophomore album “Comfort To Me” a few weeks ago via ATO Records/Rough Trade. I was thankful to be a part of a VIP event where the band premiered a filmed performance of the record played in full, in one take, on a slab of concrete in a suburban wasteland somewhere in Melbourne, Australia.

“Comfort To Me”, which was co-produced by the band and Dan Luscombe, is the follow-up to Amyl & the Sniffers’ critically acclaimed 2019 self-titled debut album, which won Australia’s esteemed ARIA Award for Best Rock Album and saw the band tour their anarchic and ridiculously fun live show internationally for the past two years. With its lyrics largely written during the Australian Bushfire season, when The Sniffers were already wearing masks to protect themselves from smoke in the air, Comfort To Me came together in a 3-bedroom apartment where the four band members quarantined together during COVID-19 lockdown. The result is a less spontaneous and more darkly considered record that masterfully captures the essence of the band like never before. “This album is just us — raw self expression, defiant energy, unapologetic vulnerability,” says Taylor. “It was written by four self-taught musicians who are all just trying to get by and have a good time.”

This album, this band. THIS THIS THIS!!!

The Shift Music Festival & Visionaries Summit

The Shift Music Festival & Visionaries Summit is a free, online conference and music festival with 100+ speakers and music artists from around the globe coming together to offer electrifying inspiration, deep transformative practices, powerful healing work, ecstatic music celebrations, and real game plans for change.

This year, there was this fantastic partnership with TreeSisters, a social change and reforestation charity out of the UK. While this event is completely free, we invite you to donate to Tree Sisters and aid our goal of planting 1 million trees. To plant one tree costs on average about 50 cents USD. 100% of your donation goes to reforestation efforts through TreeSisters. And it is never too late to reach out to find out more and donate to the causes.

What a mind and soul opening event

Out Field Pointing

The middle portion of the proGram this week was in game shape from the get:

I Got Burned- Tommy Castro
I Caught A Break- Tommy Castro
Peace Will Come- Tony Holiday Ft. Southern Avenue
Right Shoe Wrong Foot- Colin Linden

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Like A Snake- Boogie Beasts
Heart Stealer- Rusty Ends Blues band
Dallas Man- Sue Foley

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Looking Back- Dagnasterpus
White Pigeon- Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns
Marshville Station- Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns

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Chain Reaction- Mister T.
Spicy Brown- Hot Mustard
Tulum- Brothers Of Brass

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I Can’t Get No Satisfaction- YORK
Devil and the Deep Blue Sea- The Fontanas
Hepcats in Heat- Trog’low

Jane Lee Hooker – Drive

Joined our family Jane Lee Hooker as they celebrated the release of “Drive”. They received rave reviews from fans and music press around the globe when they released “Jericho” in January 2021 – the band’s first new music since 2017. While Drive still retains Jane Lee Hooker’s signature blend of bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll soul that can be heard throughout their catalog, the song represents a bit of a sonic evolution. With last year’s COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements in effect in NYC, the band found themselves locked out of their Brooklyn rehearsal room – the creative space where they write and rehearse with amps cranked up at maximum volume. Out of necessity, band catch-ups were moved to the grapevine- filled backyard of singer Dana Athens’ family home in Brooklyn – with tiny practice amps, acoustic guitars and drummer Ron Salvo keeping the beat on upturned plastic garbage cans and recycling bins. The first song to come out of those acoustic backyard sessions was Drive, with lyrics penned by Athens. “I was not intending to write about travel, the song is really about long-standing plans to see a friend and how you can still feel connected to someone no matter the distance between you.” She continues, “Lockdown made these friends seem even further away, so I guess the song also contains a bit of escapism and fantasy – wishing that you could be together.” Guitarist Tina Gorin adds “Not being able to see friends and family in any normal way during that period of time, hearing Dana sing those words really made the lyrics hit home.” Matt Chiaravalle (Joe Bonamassa, Warren Zevon, Courtney Love, Spacehog, Kittie) produced and mixed Drive, having previously worked with the band on their Jericho single as well as both Jane Lee Hooker full-lengths: “Spiritus” and “No B!” A new album will follow later this year – and singles “Drive” and “Jericho” are a first taste for fans of what’s to come.

Billy Martin Illy B

Big shout our to our friends over at Brooklyn Raga Massive for hosting one of my favorite improvisers, Mr. Billy Martin…AKA Illy B. We were able to be a part of an improvised journey into who and what Billy has to offer in the moment. Billy Martin was born in NYC in 1963 to a Radio City Rockette and a concert violinist. At age 17, he devoted himself to music and dove into Manhattan’s thriving, eclectic musical landscape. In the years to follow, he honed his craft everywhere from Broadway orchestra pits to Brazilian nightclubs and burgeoning underground performance spaces. From the roots of the downtown scene, he emerged with Medeski Martin and Wood, bridging the harmonic complexity of jazz, the conversational fluency of free improvisation, and the groove and swagger of classic R&B and funk. A series of albums and high-profile collaborations with John Scofield, John Zorn, Iggy Pop, Natalie Merchant, and others, brought the band international acclaim. His experiences as a teacher, student, and musician led him to create and direct Life on Drums, a cinematic exploration of percussion and the creative process with his childhood drum instructor, Allen Herman. Billy is currently Executive Artistic Director and CEO of the legendary Creative Music Studio. Billy also owns and manages his own record label Amulet Records. Martin has relentlessly pursued diverse musical contexts, from free improvisation to chamber compositions to film scores. Much of his work is available via his Amulet Records label, which recently released the Road to Jajouka—a series of collaborations (produced by Martin) between the Master Musicians of Jajouka and such artists as Ornette Coleman, Flea, Marc Ribot, John Zorn, Lee Ranaldo, Bill Laswell, Mickey Hart, MMW and more.

WMI PLUS At Home – Anoushka Shankar

It is always a pleasure to spend a little time with our friend, world-renowned composer and sitarist Anoushka Shankar, but to be able to do that in an intimate conversation with friend and fellow musician Priya Darshini is priceless. Anoushka shared some music and talked about her upcoming album (Love Letters P.S.) release, as well as continuing her family’s legacy as an artist, humanitarian and activist. This fantastic conversation was followed by a Q&A with those in attendance. What a treat that the World Music Institute put on here, and they have been and continue to find ways for us to stay on top of what is going on with the important bridge builders around the globe. Check out what they are doing and try to find a way to support them and spread the word.

Wisconsin Sound Series: Pro Arte Quartet

The Pro Arte Quartet (PAQ) was founded by conservatory students in Brussels in 1912 and became one of Europe’s most celebrated ensembles. Named Court Quartet to the Queen of Belgium, PAQ attracted the attention of notable composers, among them Bartok, who dedicated his fourth quartet to PAQ, and Barber, whose Op. 11(“Adagio for Strings”) PAQ premiered. Stranded in the U.S. when Nazi forces invaded Belgium in 1940, PAQ was offered residency at the University of Wisconsin, where it has remained since. One of the world’s most distinguished quartets, PAQ is the first and only quartet to reach its centennial anniversary, celebrated with new works, exhibits, a documentary, radio broadcasts, CD releases, and a new book on its storied history. PAQ’s performance is part of the Wisconsin Sound Series which showcases and supports local musicians and artists.

Program:
String Trio in C Minor, Op. 9 No. 3 (1797-8) Ludwig van Beethoven
Allegro con spirito
Adagio con espressione
Scherzo: Allegro molto e vivace
Finale: Presto

David Perry, Violin
Sally Chisholm, Viola
Parry Karp, Violoncello

Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1 No. 3 (1793-4) Ludwig van Beethoven
Allegro con brio
Andante cantabile con Variazioni
Menuetto: Quasi Allegro
Finale: Prestissimo

Thomas Kasdorf, Piano
Suzanne Beia, Violin
Parry Karp, Violoncello

Wisconsin Sound: Mr. Chair

The Wisconsin Union Theater’s new online event series, called Wisconsin Sound, will exclusively feature Wisconsin artists, and on April 11th we were treated to some Mr. Chair. The Theater team created this new series both for its patrons as well as to help support performance artists, many of whom have experienced canceled performances due to COVID-19. Mr. Chair looks like a jazz combo, enchants like a string quartet, and electrifies like a rock band, all while delighting listeners with their fresh and authentic sound. As classically-trained musicians well-versed in jazz, electronics, prog rock, world music and beyond, Mr. Chair is a contemporary fusion ensemble for music fans of all backgrounds. Their compositions are long-form journeys – sometimes delicate and sweet, sometimes thrashing with unbridled energy and conviction. Their sound palette is diverse, and used to tell stories in styles cinematic, surreal, romantic, funky, whimsical, and always captivating. They perform original works as well as their own arrangements of iconic pieces from Stravinsky to Bach. Mr. Chair can fit any size room. They design acoustic shows for intimate cabaret settings all the way up to thrilling concert hall performances with full string orchestras.

Breaking the Olympic Standard: Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad is an entrepreneur, activist, speaker, and Olympic medalist in fencing. A 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, 5-time Senior World medalist and World Champion, in 2016, Ibtihaj became the first American woman to compete in the Olympics in hijab. She was a 3-time All American at Duke University where she graduated with a dual major in International Relations and African Studies. In 2014, Ibtihaj launched her own clothing company, Louella, which aims to bring modest, fashionable, and affordable clothing to the United States market. In 2017, Mattel announced their first hijab Barbie, modeled in Ibtihaj’s likeness, as part of Barbie’s “Shero” line of dolls.

Ibtihaj released her debut memoir in July 2018, PROUD: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream. Her third book, New York Times’ Bestseller children’s book, The Proudest Blue, released September 2019 with glowing reviews. As well as an author, Ibtihaj is a sports ambassador with the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative, and works closely with organizations like Athletes for Impact and the Special Olympics.

As part of the WUD Distinguished Lecture Series, Ibthihaj was part of a virtual event discussing her career in fencing, what it’s like preparing for the Olympics, diversity and activism within the sports industry, and how her identity as a woman of color and a Muslim-American impacts her within the male-dominated sports world. I was psyched I got to check out this event. It was a joy to hear her speak of getting after it, not being afraid to be the only one, and that will all of her hard work and successes, she is still just another member of our global community with regular thoughts and feelings just like you and I.

Cabbage Pop

The final portion of the proGram this week was the first to show off it’s feeling on Spring:

Imagine (arranged for Vocal Ensemble)- Afrika Mamas
Hlonipha- Afrika Mamas
Come Away- Vana Liya Ft. Half Pint

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The Throne- Indubious Ft. Capelton
Arabia- Roots of Creation Ft. Mihali
Night Shift- Gentleman’s Dub Club Ft. Gardna
The Right Time- Krak In Dub Ft. Johnny Osbourne & Ras Demo
Good JuJu- Nicola Conte & Gianluca Petrella

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You My Love- Anushka
Sluntseto Trepti (Carmen Rizzo Remix)- TRIGAIDA
Frantic- Izy
A Song on the Wind- Eagle

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G.O.Y.D.- Lava La Rue
Gold Chains- Genesis Owusu
Rapvid- King Khazm Ft. Oze, Ephniko & DJ Gafeto

Nicholas Payton Virtually At WUD

As a leading voice in American popular music, the Grammy Award-winning Nicholas Payton is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, producer, arranger, essayist, & social activist who defies musical/artistic categories. All the while, he honors the tradition of what he terms “postmodern New Orleans music,” as well as the spirit of Black American Music, of which he states, “There are no fields, per se. There are lineages.” Already a prodigy before entering the 1st grade, he began playing trumpet at age 4 and started performing professionally at age 10. Before the age of 20, he was already in demand by everyone from Danny Barker & Clark Terry to Elvin Jones & Marcus Roberts. Mr. Payton released his first album, “From this Moment”, in 1995 on the famed Verve label. He received his first Grammy nomination in 1997 for the album “Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton”, and for the category of Best Instrumental Solo, which found him winning the award that year. Mr. Payton has released over 20 recordings as a leader, pushing musical boundaries & showcasing a variety of contemporary & traditional styles, while displaying his ambidextrous ability to play both the trumpet and keyboard at the same time when he’s inspired to do so. He has collaborated with numerous mentors & contemporaries alike, ranging from Common & Cassandra Wilson to Trey Anastasio, MonoNeon, & Jill Scott, to Dr. John, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste of The Meters, Allen Toussaint, & Abbey Lincoln to name a few. His most recent albums are “Quarantined with Nick” and “Maestro Rhythm King”, both released in 2020.

I had the chance to catch the Nicholas Payton Trio virtually through the University of Wisconsin Union Theater. The music was energizing my living room. I could feel the real life oozing out of the instruments. There is no way that what I was witnessing (once aGain), wasn’t helping to lift, even, raise the vibration of the collective conscious of one audience. It’s that moment brought to us, virtually or otherwise, we walk in the same shoes and we repair the souls errr soles together.

Keeping The Goods In

The first portion of this week’s proGram knew how to strain the good stuff in:

The Delicate Balance of All Things (Rapid Reiteration Mix)- Beauty in Chaos Ft. Cinthya Hussey/Wayne Hussey
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The Kids- Palm Ghosts
Social Debris- Alice Cooper
Jericho- Jane Lee Hooker
Moonlight Reflection- Triptides

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Crash, Boom Bang- Sara Petite
Dirty Rotten Guy- Joyann Parker
It Ain’t Bad- Ghalia Volt
Hateful Blues- Ally Venable
Down In Lenox Town- Misty Blues

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Put A Little Love In Your Heart- Hurricane Ruth
I Grew up (Kate’s Place)- Allan Harris Ft. Grégoire Maret
Girly Face- Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio
How Much A Dollar Cost- R+R=NOW (live)

Okaidja Afroso Storytelling Plus

Okaidja Afroso is an Afropop singer-songwriter & multi-instrumentalist from Ghana, West Africa. His unique artistic vision has led him to combine his native rhythms with unforeseen pairings of musical flavors. His sound is a spicy fusion of Ghanaian music with diverse cross-cultural influences. Although most of Okaidja’s hypnotic arrangements are sung in his native language, the meaning shines through. His calling and life purpose is to bring us all together so that we can laugh and grieve and dance and forge forward together, in community. His uncle was the town’s notorious composer who spared no one with the songs he wrote about life in their small fishing village. Okaidja’s mother was a colorful lead singer in her spiritual church. Her powerful songs of praise earned her the name “the spiritual singer.” As a young boy Okaidja sang while he worked on fishing boats. The fishermen would sing a cappella songs as they worked, and Okaidja passed the long days learning the songs of the great sea. Born into a family of musicians and storytellers in the village of Kokrobite on the west coast of Ghana, at the age of 19, he was accepted as a professional dancer for the prestigious Ghana Dance Ensemble at the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies. He became well known for his energetic stage presence and excelled in his performances of the Ga fetish dances. The Ghana Dance Ensemble gave Okaidja the opportunity to study with the best teachers in the country. As he toured internationally, Okaidja expanded his artistic reach becoming a master multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and arranger.

I had the chance to checkout the virtual event put on by the Wisconsin Union Theater featuring the beautiful works of Mr. Okaidja Afroso. The stories around the musical tales where as informative as they were an easy way to slide into another person’s culture (and shoes). The different instruments used present the page turning of the book for the evening, with not only a new image and sound, but feeling. While it sure is strange not to be able to soak in those feelings in person, the virtual experience offered is still a great way to support the scene, the artist and the arts. If you get a chance to see Okaidja Afroso virtually or soon enough in a live setting, go get your spirits lifted, your minds enriched and your hearts filled.

Bursting Into The Dark

The final portion of this week’s proGram could have taken us straight into he night time:

I’m on It- The Allergies Ft. Dr Syntax & Skunkadelic
Never Wanted You More (Dr. Rubberfunk Remix)- Smoove & Turrell
Theme from Selva- Quantic

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Zion- Polyrhythmics
Omega- Black Market Brass
I’ll Take You There- Riddem Doctors
Goin’ Somewhere- Riddem Doctors

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Holding On- Selina Albright
Get The Lowdown- Tony Koch and the Alt News Band

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(interlude) Merica Mirror- Public Enemy
If You Can’t Join Em Beat Em- Public Enemy
Closing: I Am Black- Public Enemy

The Planets at the Symphony

Witnessed this performance at the Overture Center as part of the Madison Symphony Orchestra:

Music Program:
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I. George Enescu | Romanian Rhapsody No. 1
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II. John Corigliano | Chaconne from The Red Violin
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Intermission
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III.Gustav Holst | The Planets
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*Featured Artists
Naha Greenholtz, Violin
Madison Symphony Women’s Chorus, Beverly Taylor, Chorus Director

The first half of the show was simply energizing and enlightening with both power and precision highlighted. The Planets took it to the next level with the HD video presentation that made the sounds guide a tour that was unmatched in this setting. If you were ever enthralled by the vastness and wildness of the colors and sounds of space and it’s mighty giants, this show would certainly add another level to your imagination and desire to explore.

planet-67672__180

Raul & Habib in Madison

The niGht was cold but inside the Overture Center for the Performing Arts the heat was just getting turned on. Sitting in the center of the orchestra section was the best place for my ears to be when our friend, Raul Midón took the stage. As he got everything situated, the moment of true readiness was known with the first breath taken into the mic and the first note played on his guitar. The fluidity and sincerity of his voice certainly hit home with the Madison crowd, as they gave him the handclapped approval every artists likes to hear. His guitar work left many speechless as he plucked ans picked and slapped his way throuGh many tunes you can find on his live album, as well as a few off the upcoming album that he and I discussed on the proGram a week earlier entitled “Don’t Hesitate” which left the people ready to reach into their pockets and walk home with it. They’ll have to wait at least into early spring to be able to take it home. Then they can take all that positive storytelling upliftedness home with them in more than a memory form. Raul was on before our other friend, Habib Koité. Habib and the band brouGht a fire with them that comes from the motherland, the homeland. He gave us great tales in music form as well as between the songs, telling the audience of how the homeland sufferings makes the music even more meaningful to the world, and how sharing it with us was/is a true joy. Then he and the band proceeded to give us plenty of new tracks off the brand new release Soô, all done with large smiles upon their faces, which easily translated into smiles on our faces. It was hard to contain the bodies from wanting to get up and move, so we didn’t. When the liGhts went up and Habib saw all of us, you could feel how honored he was to have us all (and it was an ALL) there with him sharing in these moments. This show was filled with these positive moments, both in the audience and on the staGe, it would be well worth your time to catch one or either of these friends of the proGram as they make their way around the world doing the things they do.

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an Evening at the MSO

I always enjoy getting a chance to sit in a box at the symphony. Tonight it was the opposite side as usual, so a different perspective was gained. Which is always a good thing. The night was wonderful with Guest Trumpet player, Tine Thing Helseth. While each piece did hit me in ways mentionable, it was the Adams piece Doctor Atomic Symphony that just blew my mind….Smashing….Stunning piece.

Here’s the proGram for the evening:

Madison Symphony Orchestra

John DeMain– Music Director/Conductor
Tine Thing Helseth– Trumpet
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Jean Sibelius
Finlandia, Op.26, No.7
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Joseph Hayden
Concerto for Trumpet & Orchestra in E-flat Major
Allegro
Andante
Allegro

Ft. Ms. Helseth
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John Adams
Doctor Atomic Symphony
The Laboratory
Panic
Trinity

INTERMISSION
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Alexander Arutiunian
Trumpet Concerto in A-flat Major
Ft. Ms. Helseth
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Richard Strauss
Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

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