Nneka Live & With Love In The Eutropia Sanctuary

I’ve discovered that when in Rome in the Summertime, the good-vibes, open-air, artistic sanctuary of Eutropia Festival with its killer line-up of music artists seems like the only place in the city to be. Also that when in any part of the world at any time there’s a live Nneka concert to be found, that is most definitely the place to be.

Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

Nneka live at Eutropia Festival 2015

Having loved Nneka’s unique fusion of soul, reggae, Afrobeat and hip-hop music for a long time and having made it my [very-out-of-the-way] mission to get myself to Rome to finally have myself the blessed live Nneka experience, my hopes and expectations for her Eutropia show were incredibly high.

What Nneka and her four-piece band gave (their All), and what the audience received at the gig from the moment they stepped on stage until the last note of the encore played nearly two hours later, went far above and beyond all those hopes and expectations.

with Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

with Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015Gros Ngolle Pokossi with Nneka live at Eutropia Festival 2015with Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015The five artists with their combined talents, performed nearly all songs on Nneka’s recently-released album My Fairy Tales as well as a handful of her most well-known tracks from Soul Is Heavy and No Longer At Ease.

Despite the serious lyrical content of those songs, one dedicated to “all the refugees who’ve drowned at sea just trying to find a better home, and all the blood shed for religion”, the music and its delivery lifted the Eutropia crowd higher, higher and higher again. As Nneka herself pointed out to the Eutropia crowd, to constantly battle against the world’s injustices is tiring – and to throw love back at those causing the suffering is a much more productive and uplifting exercise. From start to finish positive energy and love were undoubtedly flowing to and from the stage.

Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

Both seeing and hearing the young but seemingly old-soul Nneka, open her self-described (‘Halfcast’) “big lips” and “big mouth” to sing her politically and spiritually charged lyrics with the most truthful and naturally flowing emotions from heart and soul, with her incredible voice, mesmerized me like no other female artist has done before in the live arena except for the divine Erykah Badu.

Nneka live in concert at Eutropia Festival 2015

Get a glimpse of the very special live Nneka experience with this here footage from her Eutropia show. The first song ‘Shining Star’ is a single from her 2011 album Soul Is Heavy, and the second ‘Babylon’ is from the new album My Fairy Tales.


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You can also listen below to a compressed mp3 version of the track ‘Book of Job’ from My Fairy Tales, two more here (‘Believe System’ + ‘Local Champion’) and songs from past Nneka albums here. Remember you deserve to hear and have the hold-in-your-hands, uncompressed hard copies in you music collection to love forever after, and in whatever form you choose to get them, Nneka and her musical collaborators deserve your financial support.

Nneka - My Fairy Tales (2015)
Book of Job by Nneka – My Fairy Tales (2015)

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Concerts in the good-vibes sanctuary of Eutropia L’Altra Città Festival 2015 continue until September (check out the program here). If you can only get to one, be sure to make it the George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic show tonight :) .

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Protoje & The InDiggNation Live In Amsterdam – Ancient Future Tour 2015

About this time two years ago I was in Jamaica on the hunt to find Protoje’s then-new album The 8 Year Affair. Finding a Summer show on his island home wasn’t an option because Protoje and The InDiggNation were touring Europe. I’ve watched their busy tour schedules since, waiting patiently for a chance to catch a live show.

I finally got it at Amsterdam’s Melweg last week – on the tail end of their tour of the now-new third album Ancient Future (released in March this year) – and amongst the collective’s shows at venues and reggae festivals throughout Europe including Mighty Sounds, Lakesplash, Summerjam, Sunrise Reggae & Ska, One Love and Summer Vibration.

Protoje live at Melkweg, Amsterdam - July 2015

Protoje live at Melkweg

Was I satisfied with my long-awaited live Protoje and The InDiggNation experience? Most definitely and completely. They quenched my thirst for wicked contemporary roots reggae music – and today that’s not an easy thing to do.

I love the sounds, quality, essence and musicianship levels of old – and cringe when I hear bands all over the world doing those sounds and the artists who made them an injustice by unsuccessfully trying to replicate them and creating bad, bland reggae music in the process. But I also want reggae music that sounds fresh, unique, diversified and has an edge to it.

At their Amsterdam show (like on the albums) Protoje and The InDiggNation collective delivered all those sounds I crave from both the past and present, made every part of my being smile with joy instead of cringe – and demonstrated live what an all mighty justice they’re doing for Jamaican and worldwide reggae music. My one of only three passing thoughts at the gig (great live music takes you out of your head) was “I haven’t heard live reggae music this wicked since Sly & Robbie”.

Protoje live at Melkweg, Amsterdam - July 2015

The humble and gentle Protoje himself with his unique hip hop vocal flow that gets my body moving every time, is just one part of the goodness of the live experience. The others, equally as important and talented are their sound engineer Greg Morris plus the seven core members of the InDiggNation on stage with Protoje: Peter “Kongz” Samaru (drums) – Lamont “Monty” Savory and Kevin “Zuggu” Patterson (guitars) – Paris LaMont Dennis (keys & vocoder) – Danny Bassie (bass) – Shenae Wright and Keiko Smith (background vocals).

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At Melkweg the crowd got the extra-special treat of hearing the absolutely stunning live vocals of young Jamaican diva Sevana when she joined the group on stage for three songs – two from Ancient Future (‘Love Gone Cold’ & ‘Sudden Flight’) and her own first single (produced by Protoje) ‘Bit Too Shy’. Sevana’s presence took the show to new heights again.

Sevana + Protoje & The Indiggnation live at Melkweg, Amsterdam 2015

Sevana with Protoje & The InDiggNation at Melkweg

The heavenly vocals of Zuggu in place of Ky-Mani Marley on ‘Rasta Love’ were another highlight amongst the gig’s many.

The Indiggnation live concert at Melkweg, Amsterdam 2015

The second of those three passing thoughts was that Protoje and The InDiggNation seemed a wee bit tired. Totally expected given their relentless tour schedule – and it didn’t stop them from delivering a killer show that brought a whole lot of happiness to everyone there.

A few times during the set Protoje thanked the Amsterdam crowd for taking the time to come out and listen. My third and final thought in response was “Kind words, but seriously? Man, thank you all for bringing your music to us”.

Protoje live at Melkweg, Amsterdam - July 2015

Anyone with a thirst like mine for wickedly-diverse, fresh, unique contemporary reggae music with the qualities and essence of old, needs to find their own sublime live Protoje and the InDiggNation experience. I’ll take another one, and another, wherever and whenever I can. In the meantime we can all keep dancing to our beloved hard-copies (digital if you must) of Ancient Future, The 8 Year Affair and The 7 Year Itch.

Listen here to ‘Sudden Flight’ (featuring Sevana and Jesse Royal) and check out video footage below of Protoje and The InDiggNation performing ‘Protection’ and ‘Bubblin’ in Amsterdam (all three tracks from the new album Ancient Future, which you can buy here).


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A Blessed Musical Day With Eric Harland & Co.

It’s a blessed musical day when a Beaver finds herself arrive in Amsterdam to hear about an Eric Harland, Dave Holland, Chris Potter and Lionel Loueke show starting in two hours; buy a randomly-seated ticket and turn up to the gig to discover she’s seated a few metres behind Eric Harland on drum kit – with the other three remarkably-talented jazz cats next to him on stage making awe-inspiring music together.

Eric Harland, Dave Holland, Chris Potter & Lionel Loueke live at Bimhuis, Amsterdam 2015

Each of those four artists have their own long career histories in jazz and world music. Just to name a few artists of many, double-bassist Dave Holland’s history includes work with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock; guitarist Lionel Loueke with Herbie Hancock; saxophonist Chris Potter with Pat Metheny; and drummer Eric Harland with a long and evolving list of the Who’s Who in the contemporary jazz world.

Playing together on stage at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis Theatre, they took us on a sound journey aboard the groove train, through funky town, down and dirty into blues land, across the seas to West Africa and through many diverse landscapes of jazz.  Every moment of that journey had my jaw dropping in awe and my mouth open wide with a joyful smile.

My ears stayed with all four players but given my vantage point so close to Eric Harland, I couldn’t keep my eyes off his masterful hands on the kit (especially after interviewing him recently then missing out on sold-out tickets to his Voyager shows at Melbourne International Jazz Festival).

Eric Harland live at Bimhuis, Amsterdam 2015

Two sets, one standing ovation, an encore and a second standing ovation later, I turned to the young jazz head next to me and said “Wow. That was amazing“. He shook his head at me and replied matter-of-factly “Of course it was. What else did you expect from those four?”.

And so went Beaver’s spontaneously blessed Wednesday in Amsterdam with Eric Harland, Dave Holland, Chris Potter and Lionel Loueke :) .

Get a glimpse of the musical goodness with these snippets from the show…

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D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Then & Now – Night & Day

The difference between D’Angelo & The Vanguard’s concert at London’s Roundhouse on Monday night and the last concert of theirs I heard is like Night and Day.

The last was nine months ago when they performed at Soulfest 2014– “Australia’s first annual neo-soul, hip hop and jazz festival”. At that time and for the previous decade, live performances by D’Angelo – or any news of D’Angelo – were rare, almost non-existent. We had no idea then that Black Messiah and the ‘Second Coming’ of D’Angelo were imminent.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

I raved about the seemingly phenomenal goodness of those Australian shows. But with hindsight and the experience of D’Angelo and The Vanguard in London this week I see things a little differently.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

D’Angelo & The Vanguard live at London Roundhouse

Sure the 2014 shows were magnificent – but really, that was for the rare opportunity to experience the incredible musicianship of each and every one of those long-beloved funk and soul artists on stage performing their craft live. The reclusive D’Angelo first and foremost of course – joined (amongst the rest of The Vanguard) by Jesse Johnson, Pino Palladino and Kendra Foster.

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But what I saw clearly in London this week when D’Angelo & The Vanguard graced the stage and started playing (albeit an excruciating 90+ minutes late due to flight delays), is the epic transformation that’s taken place for them since Soulfest. With the release of Black Messiah, considered a wondrous musical gift by, well, everyone who knows anything :) , and 30+ live shows later, D’Angelo & The Vanguard are now a different, much much stronger beast than ever before.

For starters the 11-piece group now includes horns, glorious horns care of Keyon Harrold and Kenneth Whalum III. And as of this month veteran soul diva and long-time friend of D’Angelo, Joi Gilliam brings her talents to The Vanguard posse, taking the place of Kendra Foster on back-up vocals.

Joi Gilliam - D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Joi Gilliam

But above and beyond that, the greatest transformations are the profound connectivity and tightness of the group evident in every sound and movement made; and the visible changes in their leader D’Angelo.

Gone is the timid, slightly nervous, restrained D’Angelo I saw on Soulfest stages reacquainting himself with performing to the world – and avoiding ‘Brown Sugar’. Enter D’Angelo on the Roundhouse stage – completely and utterly comfortable, confident and happy in his human and musical skin, doing what he loves to do and what (it seems) he was naturally born to do before the vultures of the music industry, the press (and the public too) sent him to face his demons and retreat for way too long: to bring absolute joy to the people of the world through music.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Both the Roundhouse and Soulfest shows ended with ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’ – and the opportunity for all (D’Angelo too from behind his piano) to hear and appreciate the individual sound of each player and vocalist in turn, and acknowledge their contribution to the show before leaving the stage. Of course I wanted them to stay and play on and on, and on some more.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

On my way out of the Roundhouse my smile got even wider after hearing a guy tell his friend his only disappointment about the show was that D’Angelo played some of his old songs [only two I think – ’Brown Sugar’ and ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’] instead of more of Black Messiah (we did get ‘Sugah Daddy’ ‘Ain’t That Easy’, ‘Really Love’, ‘Betray My Heart’ and ‘The Charade’). Turn back the clock to Soulfest when it drove me crazy to hear people complaining D’Angelo didn’t play ‘Brown Sugar’.

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

Betray My Heart – D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)

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My only disappointment was that another spiritual, sublime, superb D’Angelo & The Vanguard experience had come and gone again so quickly – and wasn’t coming to London again a week later as planned because of cancellation of the Eventim Apollo show.  The fact is that no number of live D’Angelo & The Vanguard shows will ever be enough – and I’m grateful for the glorious one I got this week.

Check out a few short snippets from the Roundhouse show here…

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When I got the post-Parliament Funkadelic-blues in April, I consoled myself by buying a ticket to D’Angelo’s Roundhouse show. The tables now turn and my consolation for next week’s cancelled D’Angelo show comes via the live P-Funk experience that awaits me in London on August 7.

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Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This

The blues guitar and gospel vocals of dearly departed Pops Staples and the rest of the Staples family, has always been sweet music to my ears. But the release of Pops Staples’ most recent album by Mavis Staples in 2015, 15 years after his passing, and amongst the rest of the world’s contemporary releases, is ever so much sweeter.
Pops Staples - Don't Lose This (2015)

Pops Staples- Don’t Lose This (2015)

Don’t Lose This was originally recorded and produced by Pops and Mavis Staples shortly before his passing in 2000. On the album sleeve Mavis shares these words about the evolution of those recordings between then and their release now.
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“I chose this title because these were the words my father said to me as he gave me the tape of his final recordings.
 
He was sick and lying in bed and asked me to play the records for him in his room. After listening to it, he called me to his room again. He was weak, but he handed me the tape and in a soft voice said “Don’t lose this, Mavis.” I said “I won’t Pops. I won’t lose it.”
 
Since his passing, I’ve listened to these recordings many times over; it always brought me so much joy to hear his voice and guitar playing. He was an amazing musician, man and father. He was my best friend.
 
While Pops’ voice and guitar sounded so good on the original recordings (and remain untouched on this record), I knew the songs needed something else to really come to life. Something special. Pops deserved that. So I called on my dear friend Jeff Tweedy to fill out the tracks around Pops and he’s helped to craft this beautiful album.
 
I’m proud to share these recordings. I haven’t lost them Pops!
 
Here are the last songs from my hero, Pops Staples.”
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Pops Staples - Don't Lose This (2015)

Pops Staples - Don't Lose This (2015)

 Somebody Was Watching – Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This
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 No News Is Good News – Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This
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The pure, wholesome, soothing, feel-right sounds of Pops Staples heard on Don’t Lose This are a musical diamond in the 2015 rough. Thanks to Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy those sounds have not been lost – and the world has gained muchly from this wonderful musical gift it’s been given.
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Pops Staples sings that taking Jesus as his guide meant his bad times became better than his good times used to be. I say that people who add Don’t Lose This to their music collection, preferably on sweet vinyl of course, can expect to find that both their bad times and their good times will become much better for it thereafter.
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My Fairy Tales By Nneka

Once upon a time at the beginning of the 80s, a beautiful and intelligent girl from the Nigerian kingdom of Warri was born. She was named Nneka Lucia Egbuna, and was destined to bring much musical goodness to the world.

Nneka grew into a passionate, socially and politically conscious woman.  Also a special music artist with a unique vocal style and moving voice.

By 2011 Nneka had blessed the world with three albums+ of the delightfully soulful, hip hoppy, skanking kind [listen here].  Through those songs she told stories of suffering and injustice that needed to be told; and was a musical messenger of the kind that the all-too-troubled world needed more of.

Nneka - Soul Is Heavy (2011)

Soul Is Heavy (2011)

Nneka - No Longer At Ease

No Longer At Ease (2008)

Nneka - Victim of Truth

Victim of Truth (2005)

 

 

 

 

 

The world and its people who heard Nneka’s music were better for it. And, so it became that Nneka was decreed a living music legend.

Four seemingly long years later, and not so long ago, Nneka finally gifted the world with another album she named My Fairy Tales.

Nneka - My Fairy Tales

My Fairy Tales (2015)

Nneka fans of old found less of the soul and hip hop flavours in My Fairy Tales than past albums. They got more Afrogroove highlife, reggae and dub; even a dash of EDM to end the story. Some folks felt that overall My Fairy Tales didn’t have the same ‘bite’ as other Nneka creations. Others said the new album’s sound was more cohesive and consistent than albums which came before.

No matter what was said, everyone agreed on some things: it was an absolute pleasure to hear Nneka’s impassioned voice singing nine new songs; the music sounded like no other in the world; the bass lines in My Fairy Tales hit them deeply like bass should; and importantly, that it was good to be reminded that despite the suffering, corruption, violence and injustices inflicted on Africans (and people everywhere), the response must always remain the same: education, compassion and the Almighty Love, in abundance.

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People all around the world listened to My Fairy Tales and loved it. They felt refreshed and grateful to hear new music of the high quality and conscious kind.

Believe System by Nneka – My Fairy Tales

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Local Champion by Nneka – My Fairy Tales

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The people bought My Fairy Tales and other Nneka albums on vinyl where they could, or at least on cd; and treasured them in their music collection forever thereafter. They admired Nneka’s paintings –  remembered the music and messages of dearly departed Fela Kuti – pored over the lyrics in storybook font and discovered the names of Nneka’s many musician and producer collaborators – felt touched by Nneka’s voice – heeded her messages, and danced.

Nneka - My Fairy Tales (2015)

The extra-blessed also found themselves the live Nneka experience somewhere around the world in 2015.

For My Fairy Tales and all other Nneka music experiences before and beyond, the people lived, and died when they’re naturally supposed to, happily ever after in peace and love. :)

The End.

…of Beaver’s Fairy Tale.

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Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015: Herbie Hancock & All Who Followed

Ever so perfectly, this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival opened its eleven-day program with a performance at Hamer Hall by two of jazz history’s most influential and pioneering artists: Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. One of them, Herbie Hancock, is a musical hero in the life of Chick Corea, me and millions of other people around the world living, passed and yet born.

Herbie Hancock at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock: “My friend and inspiration”

Chick Corea introduced Herbie Hancock to the Melbourne audience as “his friend and inspiration”. Two days earlier at their Brisbane show, Chick told a story of the epiphany he’d had when first hearing Herbie Hancock play live after Chick moved to New York in the 60s. “Sure, he was playing jazz and blues and stuff” Chick reminisced, “but way over there” (gesturing to a distant place). “This guy opened my imagination to all that’s possible”.

Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Chick Corea (r)

I imagine if you asked the hundreds of diverse international and Australian festival artists who performed in the ten days after opening night, they’d have their own stories to tell about the profound inspiration and influence of Herbie Hancock and his music in their world. And judging from the multi-generational audience’s response to the pair’s arrival on stage and to each part of the flawlessly-played 90 minute performance that followed, I’d bet too that all those audience members could add many more stories of Herbie Goodness.

Herbie Hancock concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

This current world tour is Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea’s first together since 1978. This time around they bought electronic keyboards/synthesisers to sit alongside their pianos – utilised most at the start of the show with an improvised piece which made us feel like we were hearing the score to a weird and wonderful sci-fi movie being created live right before our eyes.

From there they moved into revamped renditions of well-known seminal classics from each of their long musical histories including Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and the greatest grooving blessing of the night, Cantaloupe Island.  The show finished with a version of Chick Corea’s Spain where they enlisted the audience in five-part vocal harmonies and a piano call-and-vocal response exercise which if nothing else, highlighted the distinctive playing styles of these two artists: Chick’s the straighter, more percussive and confined (easier for the audience to mimic) – Herbie’s the looser swinging melodic phrases full of slurs, chords and metric modulations challenging for even the highly-musical Melbourne audience to replicate.

Chick Corea live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Both in their mid-70’s, the chops of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea remain impeccable, superb to hear. Just to be in the audience and ponder the vast wealth of their combined musical experiences in our jazz history (well over a century), was awe-inspiring. Their long-standing connectivity in music and friendship evident in their banter, their playing and the looks and smiles exchanged between them, was a pleasure to witness.

Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Before this show Herbie Hancock was one of only a few living artists left on my Live Music Bucket List. Hearing the sounds of his hands creating music right before my eyes was an experience for which I will definitely die much happier.

Herbie Hancock at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

If you didn’t make it to Herbie and Chick’s sell-out Melbourne shows, get a glimpse of the experience with footage here from their Brisbane show two days earlier- the first utilising synths- the second a snippet from Cantaloupe Island

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Then remind yourself here of just two of so many reasons Herbie Hancock deserves so much praise from Chick Corea, Beaver and everyone else…

Herbie Hancock in 1973…

‘Watermelon Man’ – Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters (1973)
Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters (1973)

Head Hunters (1973)

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Herbie Hancock in 2014, in collaboration with Flying Lotus…

‘Tesla’ – Flying Lotus (feat. Herbie Hancock) – You’re Dead
Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

You’re Dead! (2014)

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Melbourne International Jazz Festival Artists Who Followed

During ten festival days after opening night venues throughout Melbourne, including historical jazz club Bennetts Lane in its final days, hosted performances by hundreds of diverse, genre-bending jazz artists.

Eric Harland Voyager

Day two began with a free concert in Federation Square which gave folks in Melbourne a teeny taste of festival performances to come including The Bad Plus (U.S.A) – The Hoodangers (Melbourne) – and Eric Harland Voyager (U.S.A) whose musical skills and group cohesiveness seemed unaffected by their arrival to the gig fresh off the plane from the other side of the world.

Eric Harland live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Eric Harland

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Eric Harland Voyager live at Federation Square – with Walter Smith III (sax), Julian Lage (guitar), Harish Raghavan (double bass) and Taylor Eigsti (piano)…

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Richard Bona

The final Melbourne International Jazz Festival performance I can share the goodness of was the Richard Bona Quintet show at Coopers Malthouse Theatre.

I’d enjoyed Richard Bona’s recorded music on cd, seen online videos of his phenomenal virtuoso skills on bass, and recently spoken with him about the long-lasting memorable experience he hopes audiences will have at his shows. The actual live Richard Bona experience was another thing all together though – a reflection of all that and so much more.

Richard Bona concert - Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Richard Bona Quintet

As you’d expect from this world fusion artist, Richard Bona’s set was made up of diverse musical flavours from jazz through to funk, salsa and classical Indian. Many songs were performed by the full band, including Shiva Mantra (video below) and a tribute to his inspiration Jaco Pastorius in the form of Teen Town.  Others were performed by Richard Bona solo – a cappella or with a loop pedal – perfectly highlighting his phenomenal musicality as well as his angelic voice. Threading all those songs together were the very funny stories and anecdotes shared by Richard Bona – and all of it combined left the audience with wide smiles, gratitude and joy.

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Melbourne International Jazz Festival returns in May 2016 for another 11 days of musical goodness.

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Ngaiire Live & Revamped

During her show at Howler in Melbourne last week, Sydney-based soulstress Ngaiire talked of a time not so long ago when she questioned the value in continuing on her musical path. Thankfully Ngaiire found a way over that hump and is set this month to release her new single Once – with the full album Blastoma due out in September.

After hearing Ngaiire perform older and new songs to the made-happy Melbourne crowd clapping for more at the set’s end, there is no doubt in my mind of the incredibly-high value of her music in this world.

NGAIIRE live at Howler, Melbourne 2015

Ngaiire live at Howler 2015

From past experience the number and names of musicians on stage with Ngaiire at her live shows has been a fluid thing. The revamped, rejuvenated Ngaiire Camp of the Blastoma era is her on vocals and sample pads, Andrew Bruce on synth and long-time collaborator Jack Britten remaining by her side on keys and synth (and also co-producing Blastoma with Paul Mac).

Andrew Bruce w/ NGAIIRE live at The Howler, Melbourne 2015

Andrew Bruce

w/ NGAIIRE live at The Howler, Melbourne 2015

Jack Britten

My preference in any music is always for as much live instrumentation as possible – and at Melbourne’s show I surely missed the sounds of human hands on drums and bass. But truth be told when it comes to Ngaiire and her music, any combination of players on stage with her is a delightful experience for the fact that it includes Ngaiire front and centre: She who commands you to smile in awe at her powerful and emotive vocals; at the humility and humanity oozing from every word sung and spoken to the crowd; and too at her outrageouly-wonderful outfits (care of Sydney designer Amelia Vivash at Howler).

NGAIIRE live at The Howler, Melbourne 2015

All the better that the musicians and singers Ngaiire does choose to have by her side are also a highly-creative and skilled part of the musical whole – including back-up vocalists at Howler, Christian Hemara and Bille McCarthy.

w/ NGAIIRE live at The Howler, Melbourne 2015

Bille McCarthy

w/ NGAIIRE live at The Howler, Melbourne 2015

Christian Hemara

The group played songs beloved to those familiar with Ngaiire’s last album Lamentations – including Uranus (sampled below) – a duet encore performance of ABCD with Andrew Bruce on keys – and Dirty Hercules minus the original accompanying vocals of Nai Palm, who’s currently in the U.S. touring the new Hiatus Kaiyote album Choose Your Weapon, and whose achievements Ngaiire took the time to express pride in.

And finally the Melbourne crowd were treated to hearing 3 new tracks from Blastoma – including the first single Once which was co-written by Australian artist Megan Washington.

NGAIIRE live at The Howler, Melbourne 2015

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Blastoma is new music from Ngaiire. Ngaiire’s voice and what she does with it, are divine. And three album/EPs later she’s given me no reason not  to trust in the musical goodness of what she’s delivering next.

Until it comes we’ve got Ngaiire Music Past to keep us good company. Here you have a sample track from her last album in compressed mp3 format – and of course the blessed amongst us with hard copies have so many more Ngaiire & co. sounds to hear and treasure :) .

‘Uranus’ by NGAIIRE –  Lamentations (2013)
Lamentations (2013) - Ngaiire

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Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon

The less words said about Haitus Kaiyote’s new album Choose Your Weapon, the better really. And I say that with the greatest of respect for Hiatus Kaiyote, their music and their artistry.

Listening, hearing and experiencing this one-of-a-kind music is what needs to happen instead.

Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon (2015)

If I must use words I’ll start with the short and sweet ones Hiatus Kaiyote themselves (Australians Nai Palm, Paul Bender, Perrin Moss and Paul Mavin) use to describe their music: ‘multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster shit’.

Hiatus Kaiyote

Go on and tell you simply that Hiatus Kaiyote and other contributing artists to Choose Your Weapon have created 69.27 minutes of soulful, jazzy, swinging, grooving, sonic magnificence that fits into no musical box except the one called ‘Hiatus Kaiyote’.

That all things being equal, listening to this album will make you feel something (mostly ‘good’ I suspect, but the full emotional spectrum is available) – and experience the endless realms of your imagination.

And finally, that you might find yourself getting a good whipping during a few of the Choose Your Weapon tracks.

More than enough words already. Magnificence is the one that counts. Listen here to two of the album’s 18 tracks in dirty mp3-style.

Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon (2015)

‘Shaolin Monk Motherfunk’ – Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon (2015)

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‘The Lung’ – Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon (2015)

…featuring strings by collaborator-with-so-so-many-artists of the world including Flying Lotus and Quantic – Miguel Atwood Ferguson.

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If you love this music like I do, you know already that buying Choose Your Weapon on vinyl and/or at least cd to hear it as it should be heard, is what’s needed yeah? Hold the album in your hands, read the lyrics, credits and thankyous, and admire the artwork. Play it on a good sound system. Soak up all its sonic subtleties. And relish your Hiatus Kaiyote whipping.

Catch the live Hiatus Kaiyote experience where you can too. I promise it’s even more delightful than studio-style. Folks in the States hearing their shows right about now will surely agree – and peeps in the U.K, Europe, Japan, Russia and Australia can find out or remind themselves as the band continue touring Choose Your Weapon over coming months.

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An Inspiring Conversation With Eric Harland

If you’re not already familiar with the impressive musical history of Eric Harland you only have to read on to get a sense of why he is considered to be one of the world’s greatest contemporary drummers in the jazz sphere.

Eric Harland returns to Australia next week with Voyager to play four shows at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015. And after a late Wednesday night gig at New York’s Blue Note, he was gracious enough to start his Thursday morning with an inspiring rave with me about his love of Melbourne’s iconic jazz venue Bennetts Lane, the openness he finds in Australian audiences versus those in the States, a jazz centre run by people working solely for their love of music and the other-worldy realms music can take us to – and took he and Wayne Shorter to when they played ‘Footprints’ together in 2008.

Eric Harland

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In Conversation With Eric Harland…

Beaver: How’s your day looking on that side of the world?

Eric Harland: It’s great. I’m playing this week at the Blue Note in New York and we do these late nights cause we’re playing two sets. So you know, late hours and early mornings.

Beaver: A morning interview to start your day is probably not so ideal then.

Eric Harland: No, it’s good. I’m sure I would have been up anyway cause I just got back from Europe. Once you come back to the States from Europe you just tend to wake up early anyway from that time change.

Beaver: And into another timezone next week for your Australian shows?

Eric Harland: Yeah, that’s gonna be fun. I love Australia. The people there are always great. Optimistic is the word that comes to mind about them. I love their openness.

It’s very different to here in the States where people tend to be more judgmental about a lot of of different things. So I love playing there. It’s very similar to playing in Europe where people are really into the music and are ready to hear what’s about to transpire without coming into the situation with a preconceived notion or expectation of something that’s gonna happen. It takes a big pressure off playing.

Beaver: Could it be that people in Australia are thirstier for live music compared to the States where there’s more of a saturation of music and artists playing it?

Eric Harland: You know what, I think you hit the nail right on the head. There’s just so much music here and so many artists that are doing the craft.

“in other countries music is…the act of expression”

I also think it’s a difference in what we see the craft as. In other countries like Australia the lifestyle and living is taken care of on a base level. But in the States it’s not the same. Just living here won’t get you any money; and won’t get you health care and schooling. I think people here really utilize whatever they have to try and better their life financially, just because they want to ensure they have somewhere to live and a job and stuff.

I feel like in other countries music is more ‘the act of expression’: using artists’ ears; speaking with one another – ‘What are you saying today?’ ‘What is the sound coming from your soul?’ It’s great.

Beaver: So playing music and having to be the best at it in the States is like a survival mechanism?

Eric Harland: Yeah it’s totally that. You see it all the time. A lot of musicians don’t go within to see what actually resonates with them personally. A lot of them tend to come from a standpoint of “What’s popular? I better recreate that so I can guarantee people will like it”.

I think that if you come authentically from within, people will resonate with it anyway. And that’s why we’re so attracted to the really great musicians who have stood the test of time. It’s because they really come from a unique sound that was within the person – like a statement – a music statement – a life statement – a soul statement, that they really wanted to express.

And we love being a part of that journey. I’m happy for all the opportunities I have today to be able to express myself musically and just see what happens.

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“one of my favorite places in the world” 

Beaver: I see that three out of your four festival shows next week are sold out.

Eric Harland: Wow, that’s so great. I love Bennetts Lane. I remember hearing Chris Dave there last year. And also playing there with Jamie Oehlers, Paul Grabowsky and Reuben Rogers. It’s a great listening room and a great atmosphere. I love the way the people really wrap around the stage. It’s not quite a half circle but just that nice round-about. You feel the energy is really coming at you from all angles, especially where the drums are. And the acoustic of sounds really travels from the stage. There’s a certain magic in that room, acoustically and feeling-wise. And I’m sure the feeling just comes from the openness of the people. But I really really do enjoy playing there, it’s amazing.

Beaver: Yeah Bennetts Lane is a special place. Did you know that on the weekend after the festival ends, it’s closing its doors after 22 years? It’s a huge cultural loss.

Eric Harland: Oh yeah, when I heard that I was like “Oh my god. Nooooo”. In a way I feel honored to be able to play there. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

Beaver: Do you think that Bennetts Lane struggle to stay open and closure is reflective of what’s going on elsewhere in the world?

Eric Harland: Well you know that’s one I will say about the States. Clubs close and then they reopen under different management. Hopefully the same will happen at Bennetts Lane.

In New York we definitely have an over-saturation problem.

Beaver: Of venues?

Erica Harland: Yeah. There’s a lot of different venues. And a lot of them I personally try and avoid.

“no genuine appreciation for the artist”

I don’t feel like the way that they treat musicians is necessarily on a quality level. It seems like a lot of clubs, yeah mainly clubs, treat you like you’re ‘work for hire’. It’s almost like you could be a wedding band. They just want you to fill the room so that they can make money off you. There’s no genuine appreciation for the artist they’re hiring to be in the room.

Now I’m at a point in my life where I have a closer relationships with lots of promoters and venues so it’s different for me now. But I can still clearly see that the venue staff are just there making a check. It’s a great day when you can really wow the staff. But, you know, do you really have to wow them?

I remember hearing stories back in the day where people wanted to work just for the love of music.

“people wanted to work just for the love of music”

Prime example: there’s a club called Kuumbwa Jazz Centre in Santa Cruz, California. Basically the whole club is set up with volunteers who just want to be around music and musicians – just because of the way music makes them feel. So you can instantly feel that love when you walk in the room. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody. Just the fact that you’re an artist means you’re completely embraced and everyone is like “We’re here for you. Let us know what you need”. Its a family and communal atmosphere that’s contagious. It jumps on you and it just feeds your soul and you’re so happy you’re there.

So there’s Kuumbwa versus playing clubs in New York (and I’m not gonna name names), where the city is expensive and people are a little jaded. They ready to go home, and the night just started. You might need a little something, maybe to place an order for food so you can get some nourishment before the gig and the hostess isn’t interested in serving you. So you’re like “Is this really where we’re playing tonight?” And it really affects the music. It affects the way you feel.

Beaver: Yeah the under-appreciation and payment of musicians is a complete and utter travesty. To make music is one of the most valuable contributions you can make to the world. Kuumbwa sounds amazing. Who owns it?

Eric Harland: It’s a guy called Tim Jackson. He’s also the guy who runs the Monterey Jazz Festival. Kuumbwa is like his baby. He’s been doin’ it since the 70s.

I was fortunate enough to celebrate with them on their 40th anniversary this year. We did a whole ‘Trane band – a one-night special occasion show. It was me and Benny Green, Christian McBride, Joshua Redman and Roy Hargrove. The energy in the room was just off the charts.

“a sense of love for the artists…and music”

When Tim emailed us all and asked if we wanted to be a part of the 40th anniversary, and said he really wanted this particular band to come together and play, you could see the immediate response we all had. Everyone answered his original email within two hours, which says a lot about that place and about Tim as a person: his vision to always maintain a sense of love for the artists and for the music. And how that’s transmitted is beautiful.

Beaver: He sounds like a kindred spirit. It’s really inspiring to hear that a place like that exists in the world.

You have so many great stories from your lifetime of music. Amongst all of those experiences do you want to share a magical, goodness-of-music moment that affected you profoundly?

Eric Harland: Wow. There’s too many. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll start with telling you the first thing that popped into my head.

“Damn – so this realm is available?”

The first time I was in the SF Jazz Collective, we did a show one year honouring Wayne Shorter. That was the first time I got the chance to actually play with him. We were kind of doing a mini-rehearsal/sound check and we started playing some of Wayne’s music. Wayne was at the side, putting his horn together, really chilled and relaxed. We started playing ‘Footprints’. Then Wayne started playing and I felt an immediate connection. It was like “Oh-My-God”. I just felt like we were talking – without using words.

It’s funny cause sometimes you play music and it does get real conceptual at times. You’re throwing out ideas and other guys are listening and they’re responding to that idea. That’s the communication using rhythm and harmonies, and sometimes songs, sometimes phrases. But the experience of playing with Wayne shorter is the same as it is playing with Charles Lloyd: it’s an invitation beyond music.

When Wayne started in on ‘Footprints’ it was just such an ethereal experience. I connected with him so strong and so fast – and it resonated in how he just walked straight over to me and stood right next to me on stage. And we just was playing, and it was just one of the most amazing experiences.

I was taken back because it really felt like we were no longer playing – that we was just like two kids in a bubble just kind of floating up in the air like in space. I felt like I wasn’t even playing. It was just something happening. Physically, my body was making the motions and I could hear the sound, but it didn’t sound the same. It didn’t feel the same. The song was no longer relevant. We were still playing the song but it was just like this moment where I was like “Damn – so this realm is available? Woah. Okay then”. It was another level that I had never really experienced before. That changed my life from that point on.

“screaming…crying…jumping up and down…and weeping”

I remember hearing another great story from a friend about ‘Trane playing at the Village Vanguard. He said it was the most spellbinding thing he had ever seen in his life. He opened the door and just heard people screaming and crying and jumping up and down and weepin’ like the whole room had turned into a church. He made his way through the room and looked up and saw that ‘Trane was in the middle of the stage, on the floor, on his knees with his horn playing into Elvin’s bass drum – and the two of them had worked up such a chant that it shook the whole room. When it was over everyone came together and was crying. When I heard that story I was just like “God Damn”. I know that exact kind of thing happens in church but I was like, “In a jazz club? Really? Man, we got our work cut out for us”.

The mission statement that we have available for us to do, and what we have to contribute to the people, is incredible.

Beaver: I completely agree. And I love hearing good music news stories – thanks so much for sharing yours.

So then, you’re on mission next week at the jazz festival?

Eric Harland: Yeah the Melbourne shows are gonna be great. I don’t have any expectations. I love the guys in the band – Taylor Eigsti [piano], Julian Lage [guitar], Harish Raghavan [double bass] and Walter Smith III [sax]. We’re gonna come and just be available. We’re already excited that everyone’s so ready for us to be there.

We’re gonna play both older and new material – dancing back and forth between – and feeling the flow of the moment – seeing what happens – and remaining available.

Eric Harland - Voyager Live By Night (2010)

Voyager Live By Night (2010)

Eric Harland - Vipassana (2014)

Vipassana (2014)

I’m ecstatic. And ready.

Beaver: Well now I  am too :) . Chatting with you today has been such a pleasure – and super inspiring. Thanks so much. Have a great day and a blessed time on the Bennetts Lane stage in it’s final days.

Eric Harland: Thanks to you. You take care.

[Click here to read the full interview with Eric Harland.]

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Tickets are still available to Eric Harland’s fourth Melbourne International Jazz Festival show at Bennetts Lane next Sunday night. Get them here before they sell out.

Eric Harland VoyagerYou can also hear Eric Harland playing at Bennetts Lane on Friday night with the Walter Smith III Quintet

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