Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016 – All Along The Jazz Continuum

Melbourne International Jazz Festival has again succeeded in bringing some of the world’s greatest musical innovators to perform on stages throughout Melbourne over 10 days; creators from all along the jazz continuum – some whose music we’ve known and loved for our entire lifetime so far, others whose new music we’ll benefit from knowing better and may very well love for the rest of our lifetime to come.

Amongst the 129 festival events making up the musical feast on offer, opening weekend saw performances by the Robert Glasper Trio and Gary Bartz Quartet; as well as a screening of the film Miles Ahead– which has only just arrived in a few Australian cinemas.

The final days of the festival feast, the ones I was blessed to experience first-hand, included live performances by “modern masters” Eddie Palmieri and the Wayne Shorter Quartet – and contemporary “jazz explorers” Snarky Puppy and Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life. Every single musician who performed with those groups, representing 60+ decades of music, was an absolute delight to hear live.

Wayne Shorter Quartet live concert 2016

Wayne Shorter Quartet at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

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Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet

Puerto Rican-born Eddie Palmieri has over 60 years experience as a piano player, composer, bandleader and innovator in Latin jazz and salsa music. His performance at Hamer Hall stunningly showcased the full breadth and depth of that experience.

He began his MIJF show with a piano solo of “Life” – a deeply moving song written for his wife before she passed. From the first of every magnificent note he played during those first few minutes I was completely immersed in the experience; present in the heart-wrenching emotions his playing stirred up inside me.

Those feelings quickly turned to joy when Eddie Palmieri’s seasoned band joined him on stage for the second song – beginning an upbeat, energetic party that didn’t stop until the last beat of the encore.

Eddie Palmieri Septet live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Eddie Palmieri Septet at Hamer Hall

Jonathan Powell on trumpet – Louis Fouche on alto saxophone – Vincente “Little Johnny” Rivero on congas – Camilo Molina on timbales – Nicky Marrero on bongo/timbalitos and Luques Curtis (the youngest in the group) on bass.

When the party started many sitting in the theatre crowd were quick to grab the rare opportunity to move onto the dance floor created front-of stage for this show only.

Appreciators of the group’s musicianship got to watch the hands, feet, faces and smiles of the seven musicians on stage up-close and in awe. Dedicated salsa dancers became frustrated at the lack of space to dance “salsa-proper” with a partner. But most people got to dance exactly how they wanted – salsa, Australian-Style – ie. any way they feel to. This inspired Eddie Palmieri to say something I wasn’t surprised by – “You don’t dance like any other crowd I’ve seen before”.

Eddie Palmieri Septet live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Check out video snippets from the show here:


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Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life 

Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life shows is one of countless examples of Melbourne International Jazz Festival keeping its finger on the contemporary music pulse; always maintaining a revolving door of interconnected performing artists ready to share their new music projects. Having performed at the 2015 festival with Chris Dave and the Drumhedz  Marcus Strickland went home to the U.S. and finished recording his new album Nihil Novi with Bob Power, Meshell Ndegeocello and Twi-Life. In their good judgment the festival brought him back in 2016 to share those new sounds with Melbourne audiences.

Marcus Strickland live concert 2016

Marcus Strickland at Bennetts Lane

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Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life performed four intimate shows at Bennetts Lane: featuring Keyon Harrold on trumpet, Charles Haynes on drums, Kyle Miles on bass and Mitch Henry on organ and keys.

Mitch Henry live concert with Twi-Life 2016

Mitch Henry at Bennetts Lane

The connection between these five musicians and the inspiration they gleaned from playing together was palpable. They share a lot including a long personal and professional history together; experience in composing and producing as well as playing, and importantly; a shared view that music is music – an expression of themselves and the combined sum of all their many musical and other influences- free from the limitations of genre labels, expectations and boundaries imposed by others.

All that matters is that they express their voices in music – and that people feel it. And judging from the good-vibes mood and big smiles on everyone’s faces (including mine), I’d say Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life most definitely achieved that in abundance at Bennetts Lane.


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Marcus Strickland audiences got the special bonus of hearing he and Twi-Life perform a beautifully-haunting new song by Keyon Harrold called “Lullabye” (video footage of the first half of the song below). And folks who made it to the Arts Centre for MzRizk’s daytime interview with Strickland and Harrold were played a recording of another new killer track from Keyon Harrold’s forthcoming album, featuring prolific hip hop producer and vocalist Georgia Anne Muldrow. 

Keyon Harrold live concert 2016

Keyon Harrold at Bennetts Lane

It seems only natural that the revolving festival door will bring Keyon Harrold back in 2017 to perform his new album live.  

Click on these links to read interviews with Marcus Strickland and Keyon Harrold in the lead-up to Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016.

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Snarky Puppy

I’m not gonna talk about the music Snarky Puppy played at The Forum– except to say I appreciated it and the musicianship with which it was played. Check out a tiny video snippet from the show yourself:

Instead I want to share something else I appreciated about my Snarky Puppy experience. And that’s the encouragement bandleader and bass player Michael League gave the crowd throughout the night to make the right choices in supporting music and the artists who make it.

Snarky Puppy concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Michael League at The Forum

It began with Canadian support act Michelle Willis. She was accompanied by League on bass and Mark Lettieri on guitar – with League introducing her as a talented independent artist they kidnapped to bring on tour with them so people could hear her music.

Michelle Willis live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

Michael Lettieri & Michelle Willis at The Forum

More encouraging words came during Snarky Puppy’s set when League took time to talk about the ways people choose to consume music today, the importance of supporting artists by going to their shows and buying albums – and the efforts the group makes to support independent artists through their own GroundUP Music Label.

Hopefully it ended up with everyone buying a Snarky Puppy, Bill Laurance, Mark Lettieri, Charlie Hunter or GroundUP compilation cd on their way out of the venue. If so they would’ve been in the foyer with the band to hear and smile at the “woh-oh-ohhh-oh-oh-ohhh” melody from the song “Shofukan (We Like It Here)” which a group of fans coming from the show spontaneously broke into.

Listen here to a dirty mp3-only sample of a Snarky Puppy song from their latest album Culcha Vulcha– and buy an uncompressed, hard copy of the complete album here.

“Grown Folks” by Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha (2016)

Culcha Vulcha (2016)

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Wayne Shorter Quartet

Joining Wayne Shorter on stage at Hamer Hall on closing night of the festival was Brian Blade on drums, Danilo Pérez on piano and John Patitucci on bass.

Wayne Shorter Quartet live concert 2016

Wayne Shorter Quartet at Hamer Hall

The one and only word I need to describe the 90-minute musical journey with the Quartet that followed is exquisite.

It was a joy to see and hear the pleasure and inspiration all four musicians took in listening to each other, playing and bouncing off each together and in connecting – with each other and by consequence, the audience.

Check out some video snippets from the show here:

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Future Modern Masters of Melbourne International Jazz Festival

Every live music experience I had at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016 left me feeling happy, high, energised and inspired…as live music experiences should. Blessed am I and every other festival participant for their own experiences.

I’m certain many of this year’s performing artists are making music now that will be known, loved, remembered and cherished for a very long time to come, maybe even forever-after. I guess that in 20 years+ time some of the “modern masters” programmed at future festivals will be the “jazz explorers” performing in these years now. That makes me excited about all Melbourne International Jazz Festivals still to come.

Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life live concert 2016

Marcus Strickland & Keyon Harrold at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

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Keyon Harrold Going Deeper

Being mentored by Wynton Marsalis; getting a trumpet lesson from Clark Terry before he passed; touring with D’Angelo And The Vanguard and so many others, and more recently playing trumpet for Don Cheadle in his role as Miles Davis in Miles Ahead. Those are just a few on an insanely-long list of music experiences St Louis-born trumpeter, composer and producer Keyon Harrold has within him.

Keyon performs next week at Melbourne International Jazz Festival, giving fans the blessed opportunity to experience him “go deeper musically” in a live setting and to hear new music. He took time with me before his trip to share some of his good-news music stories.

keyon harrold

Keyon Harrold

“I try to surround myself with the best”

B: The first time I heard you play live was in Australia with Maxwell at Soulfest 2014. Last year I caught you in London with D’Angelo And The Vanguard. And next week you’ll be in Melbourne again performing at the jazz festival with Twi-Life. You certainly keep yourself in fine musical company dont you?

KH: Exactly. I try to surround myself with the best.

Keyon Harrold live at Soulfest 2014

Keyon Harrold with Maxwell at Soulfest 2014

Maxwell live at Soulfest 2014

Maxwell

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“the horn is so much like a voice”

B: The trumpet seems to bring an additional freedom available for the taking that other instrumentalists don’t necessarily have- a greater flexibility maybe, to dip in and out, both within songs and between different musical projects. You seem to have taken full advantage of that versatility on offer to you.

KH: Absolutely. I try to sing it the way I can, being able to basically somersault from the jazz to the hip-hop to the R&B to the whatever. You know, whatever it demands, whatever the idea is, I try to bring it to life.

The horn is so much like a voice. I just wanna be able to sing in any genre that I take on. I love it.

“music is music”

B: Amongst the many different artists you’ve collaborated with during your career, where along the way have you felt most at home musically?

KH: I feel at home in any situation. It doesn’t matter to me cause I think music is music. The only thing that changes music to me is the beat. That’s also what Quincy Jones taught me.

I was explaining to some kids today. They asked me about the idea of do I play hip hop, or do I only play jazz. And I gave them an idea. I started playing the theme to Star Wars and had them basically pound out a beat while I changed the melody to fit their beat. And it was hip hop. And it classical. And it was jazz. You know, going back and forth.

And I let ‘em know that music is music. There’s only 12 notes so, I take that and I do what I do creatively in between that. The beat is the only thing that dictates what genre I’m in.

“music is who I am”

B: Talking with Marcus Strickland last week he told me a little about Meshell Ndegeocello recording your spoken words for the Nihil Novi track “Mantra” over the phone. Do you want to elaborate on the feelings you expressed to Meshell there about music?

KH: That interview is one of the funniest interviews I’ve ever done. Cause first of all I didn’t even know I was being interviewed. Meshell Ndegeocello called me and she was just like “Keyon, can I record you?”. I was like “Ok”. Then we just started talking and going into you know, whatever.

I think I spoke basically to the point that music is who I am. Music is how I approach the world.

B: So you didn’t know it was intended for the song?

KH: I did not know at all. That’s what was the funny thing. I went over to Marcus’ house one day after he finished mastering the record and he played it for me and I had no idea that that’s what it had turned into. I guess that’s maybe the reason why it flowed the way it did.

“Her Beauty”

B: If you’re up for it I want to swap “goodness-of-music” stories with you.

Mine’s about your song “Her Beauty (Through My Eyes)”. I first heard it at a time when I’d let myself get way too busy and wound up to stop and feel much of anything; and too busy to even notice. That song instantly hit me deep inside, stirring up a whole lot of emotion, making me feel. It stopped me in my busy tracks and put me back in the present-  in my feelings then and there. And it felt damn good to feel.

KH: Oh really? Wow, well you know what, I’ll tell a story about that song. And then I’ll think of something else.

“Her Beauty (Through My Eyes)” was a song that I literally was cooking up in my kitchen.

In my house I have a long deck that I got tired of going downstairs to where my studio was. So I put a set up in the actual kitchen. And I would just sit there and I would watch tv. I would watch sports centre and I would do music. And so I started crafting the music, I started you know making a beat. And what I wanted to do was fuse a trap beat to jazz. Because I’ve heard people try to do it but I’ve never heard them do it well. So I just wanted to do it.

So literally, that song took me about 30 minutes to put that together. And I did it- I did the bass-line, I did the track, I added some colour elements, I put the trap beat on it. And then what I decided to do was to double the bass line. And once I did that, with the trumpet I felt “ You know what, let me play a little bit over this”. So I played a little bit over it. And then like within 30-40 minutes it was done. And I just put it on the internet. I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t even have to send it out to anybody.

I just put it out on the internet because I felt like you know, this is what I feel right now. And it’s beautiful to me and it’s what I think of it. So “her beauty” was about the actual music. It wasn’t necessarily a person. It was just a thought of what I think of as beautiful. But whatever I think of as beautiful, it’s my perspective. If you look at it like a woman then that’s a whole different thing, but I don’t wanna go there.

But that song was just one of the things that was just an honest perspective that I just wanted people to hear. I sent it straight to Gilles Peterson and Gilles Peterson put it on. And I guess people heard it from there. It was a process that didn’t take me going to the studio to do it. I just did it. And just put it out there.

And I’m happy that you.actually.heard.it.

“the kind of legacy that I dream to leave to other trumpet players”

KH: Another moment was when I met Clark Terry.

Clark Terry is an iconic trumpet player – a jazz stylist – an amazing musician. He actually was one of Miles Davis’ influences, from St Louis. I’m from St Louis. He played with Duke Ellington. He played with Oscar Peterson, a lot of different people. And he was just one of those people who was a trendsetter.

He recently died and right before he died, like literally maybe a month before he died, I was able to talk to him over the phone. And he gave me a trumpet lesson.

I was in the middle of a studio session. And I literally stopped the session to go out and have a 30-minute phone call with Clark Terry. And his biggest thing to me was jazz was annunciation on how to swing music. And his biggest thing was teaching me this phrase “oodles and noodles”.

So most people play things straight. But he showed me how to swing my notes by using “oodles and noodles”. It’s tough to explain it cause you had to be there, but it was one of those things.

Getting a chance to talk to Clark Terry before he passed away, that has set me in motion as a trumpet player to this day. You know, looking at people like him, that’s the kind of legacy that I dream to leave to other trumpet players.

“I got a chance to basically embody his spirit”

B: Speaking of Miles Davis and legacies, you play trumpet in the film Miles Ahead. How did it feel making such a significant contribution to a project honouring such a profound musical legacy?

KH: Working on the Miles Davis movie was such a highlight in my life and in my career thus far. An amazing ask of someone to have me step in and do it. I got a chance to basically embody his spirit and to basically push that legacy on. Also I got a chance to be myself as well.

It’s a total honour. You know when you think of jazz, you think of Miles Davis. They’re synonymous. You think of Miles Davis as the Treasure, as the Icon, as the epitome of what Jazz is. And I was called to basically you know, be that person. It’s such an honour.

Keyon Harrold live at Soulfest 2014

I mean that project was a special thing. I got a chance to work with my good friend Robert Glasper on the project. He did an amazing job with the score. I got a chance to work alongside Don Cheadle. And so many other amazing musicians. Marcus Strickland is on it as well. Kendrick Scott, Burniss Travis, Elena Pinderhughes, Mike Moreno, to name a few.  So many other amazing musicians from the States who all worked on the soundtrack.

It was an amazing project. It took while to get it done but we finally got it done.

at the record store

B: You mentioned Robert Glasper amongst other contemporary artists. If you’re down at your local record store buying new music which three albums are you going to be looking for?

KH: I’d have to have Radiohead [A Moon Shaped Pool]. I’d have to have the new Miles Davis album that Robert Glasper just did – Everything’s Beautiful. I would get the new Drake [Views]. I’d have to have all those.

Obviously the Kendrick Lamar [untitled unmastered] and my man Terrace Martin’s too [Velvet Portraits]. I’d have to have all that too.

“dropping some new music”

B: So when can we hope to get down to our local music store to buy a new Keyon Harrold album?

KH: Later this year, for sure. I’ll be releasing something in the next month. Probably dropping a single in the next month. I’m so excited to start dropping some new music for you guys. Definitely this year.

“an appetiser of what’s to come from the new record”

B: And your festival shows next week?

KH: On the 8th June I’ll be performing some original music so you get an appetiser of what’s to come from the new record. That’ll be myself featuring the Twi-Life group.

And then for the rest of the performances I’ll be supporting Marcus Strickland with Twi-Life. I’m so looking to it. We’ll be at Bennetts Lane, I hear it’s a cool place.

B: It’s that, and a hugely iconic venue for Melbourne. I’m excited to hear you play live again soon.

KH: Perfect. I had no idea that you’d caught me a couple of times already. I’m happy you get a chance to hear me in a different type setting. Playing with D’Angelo is very cool. Playing with Maxwell, also very cool. But you’ll get a chance to hear me really go deeper musically you know, as to what I like to do.

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Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016 is on now until 12 June.  Robert Glasper’s shows have been and gone but you can catch Keyon Harrold, Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life performing at Bennett’s Lane this coming week. 

Tickets here: 8 June –  Keyon Harrold feat. Twi-Life10 June – Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life (inc. Keyon Harrold); 11 June –  Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life (inc. Keyon Harrold)

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Marcus Strickland – From Twi-Life To One Life

No music artist likes the constraints of genre-boxes or external expectations. And Marcus Strickland is no exception.

For over 15 years he’s been known and respected as a “jazz” saxophonist and composer – not daring to step outside that box. Until recently.

With his latest creation Nihil Novi, Strickland has moved beyond the expectations of others and opinions of music purists to create the “music” he wanted to create; music that embraces the many different parts of himself and the world around him.

In an interview this week before his upcoming performances at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016 Marcus Strickland explained that by doing so he’s been liberated from living his “Twi-Life” to living his one life.

Marcus Strickland

Marcus Strickland

You’re coming back to Australia next month to perform for a second time at Melbourne International Jazz Festival. But this time around as bandleader with Twi-Life, on the heels of your newly-released album Nihil Novi.

MS: Yes this is a very exciting time for me. I did a project that I’d kind of wanted to do for a long time but didn’t really have the means to do it until now. And now that the ball’s going it’s like I can’t stop it. I’m already thinking about the second record for this band.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with the Australian people cause I had such great time before, and I think it will be an even better time this time.

Mantra by Marcus Strickland's Twi-Life - Nihil Novi (2016)

Nihil Novi (2016)

I understand Nihil Novi is a Latin term for “nothing new under the sun”. How does that phrase relate to this body of music?

MS: It’s kind of a realisation that I’ve come to. I think a lot of times as an artist or any kind of creative I think we’re expected to come up with something out of the blue. When actually it doesn’t work that way. It’s always inspired by what’s around us, especially what our environment is. I think that goes for many different things, many different inventions.

It kind of reminded me of something my father taught me a long time ago. He’s very familiar with Latin terms because he’s a lawyer. And also he’s very familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes from the Bible. I’m not a very religious person. I just think it’s an incredible book.

King Solomon in that book, he said after experiencing many trials and tribulations and basically becoming King of Kings, the most wise kings that all the other kings looked up to. After becoming that and experiencing all he did, he came up with the conclusion that there’s nothing new under the sun. I think that’s a very compelling tale, whether it’s true or not.

So that kind of coincided with how I felt about this record you know. Just coming to that realisation and just saying “hey, this is what’s around me and I’m just gonna create from what’s around me” – instead of thinking of what’s expected, or trying to come up with something out of the blue that is not connected to anything. It set me on the right path to think that way.

People are most familiar with your work as saxophone player but Nihil Novi has a strong beats-focus. Tell us about your beat-making life past, present and going into the future?

MS: It started out as almost like, I called it a hobby. Even though it’s music-based, it seemed like a hobby to me because I didn’t dare mix it with my professional saxophone and composing career until recently.

I could see influences in past records I’ve done but not until now have I totally just embraced that as part of Me, you know, instead of this separate thing. That’s kind of where the title Twi-Life came from for the group because I felt like I was leading a double life almost.

But it’s really all one life now. And I’m really enjoying it. I’m gonna keep going down this path. I really love it. It’s liberating. I’m no longer being scared of the jazz purists, or purists of any other sorts. And it’s just leading me down a very fun path.

So you feel a new-found freedom in your music-making?

MS: Definitely. And I have a feeling it affects everyone too, especially the audience actually. That’s who it’s for. There might be somebody in the audience that was expecting me to play a Gershwin tune. Or there might be someone in the audience who was expecting us to just have a straight-up R&B set.

But I like the fact that several audiences that we’ve had in Europe have already been taken aback. They’re like “Yeah, we have no idea what to expect”. And that’s the great thing about it you know – to go beyond expectations and just do exactly what you want to do. So I really find it amusing to see reactions. I love them all.

There are so many incredible artists who contributed to Nihil NoviMeshell Ndegeocello who produced it, co-wrote and played bass on some tracks; Pino Palladino on bass also, Chris Dave, Robert Glasper, Keyon Harrold – all superb musicians and innovative artists in the world of contemporary R&B, funk and jazz.  

I’d love to hear about your experiences of working with all those artists but I’m most curious to hear about Bob Power – who of course is well known, respected and admired for his prolific contributions to R&B and to hip hop way back since the days of The Native Tongues Collective [incl. The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest & De La Soul]. 

What did Bob Power bring to Nihil Novi that was unique and what did you take away from the experience of working with him in terms of your own creative development? 

MS: It was incredibly easy to work with him. First of all he’s just a very chilled dude. He’s like the nicest guy in the world and you would never know he is the genius that he is. I think that’s the very telling thing. Even though he’s basically done everything there is to do sonically, he is still open to new things and trying new things and very excited about the unknown. And that’s exactly who should have captured this record.

I really applaud Meshell [Ndegeocello] on choosing him. I had no idea that I would have access to Bob Power. But of course I was working with Meshell, and by working with her it gave me access to the great Bob Power. I really appreciate all of it and I’m glad to have that under my belt. I’m not sure if that’s even possible again but at least I’ve had that experience to work with such a master.

A lot of what went into this record was what I’d thought of sonically in my head. Like I had a very particular idea of what I wanted the bass to sound like. And it just so happens that Kyle Miles started playing the bass line for “Tic Toc”. I think at that time I was taking a nap in the middle of the session when Bob got him to play the bass-line and just lay it down. And I wake up and it’s exactly the kind of bass sound that I’d imagined on that song. He was playing it. And I was like “Ok, he’s hired. Whoever that is, he’s hired”. LOL.

“Tic Toc” by Marcus Strickland

Mantra by Marcus Strickland's Twi-Life - Nihil Novi (2016)

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A lot of it was very sonically-based so to have someone who was such a wizard at frequencies as Bob Power and have so much….I mean he has an incredible roster of just pure raw experiences. So to have him in there, it made me feel much more comfortable. It didn’t matter what experimentation we were doing, he could handle it you know. So that was great. It was a blessing.

Can you talk about the significance of the track “Mantra”? 

MS: “Mantra” is definitely something I was imagining as the way to deal with any kind of adversity. It doesn’t even matter what level of adversity it is.

I think a lot of times what we as humans do in order to get through difficult situations is to repeat over and over and over again something that motivates us, gets us through. Whether that be prayer or a little voice inside that says “It’s gonna be ok”. Anything like that. So that’s kind of like the meaning behind that song and it’s definitely applied to many of the things that I’ve experienced and many of my friends have experienced as black Americans.

A lot of people think that there’s such thing as post-racism. I don’t think so. I think as long as there’s a human condition there’s gonna be some flaws along with it. And since whenever I can even imagine, people do get treated differently based on how they look. It’s unfortunate. But it happens. Yeah, so I really enjoyed the words that Keyon said.

The genius of Meshell [Ndegeocello] is that she captured the message in a very casual way. She just called up Keyon Harrold out of the blue and said “Hey Keyon, I hope you don’t mind if I record this conversation. I just wanna talk to you for a little bit”. And they started talking. And somewhere in that conversation he said what’s on that track. And it’s the most natural way to communicate it other than writing the speech out or something like that, which is what I was thinking in the beginning. That’s the great thing about having a producer like Meshell – she thinks outside the box.

So Im very happy with how that ended up.

“Mantra” by Marcus Strickland

Mantra by Marcus Strickland's Twi-Life - Nihil Novi (2016)

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I ask you about “Mantra” because you’re amongst other contemporary artists, like D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar, using their musical voices to discuss African-American experiences of oppression, violence and racism in a very frank and (positively) confronting way. What do you think is the ripple-on effect of those voices being expressed and heard?

MS: I think it’s gonna affect the right people in the right way.

There’s definitely a lot of struggle associated with purely how we look. It’s just a fact of life. All you have to do is talk to an African-American parent about the first time that they had to explain to their child why they were treated differently than all the other kids that didn’t look like them. It’s a fact of life. We still have to go through it.

And to pretend like it doesn’t exist or to not even include that in the music, is kind of pretending. There is a saying that “art imitates life” and that’s what we’re doing. We’re just playing our life. We’re singing our life. We’re expressing our life.

I think when music is used as a means of communication, it becomes much more than music. It’s actually speaking to people. It’s almost like a conversation rather just playing some notes and not having any meaning behind them.

One of the people who inspired this record the most is Bazoumana Sissoko. That’s who “Sissoko’s Voyage” was written for. He’s a Malian percussionist and singer. He has the most amazing and powerful voice and the first time I heard his record, I was totally moved. I think I might have got a little misty.

I think the reason for that is because he is what they call in West Africa a “griot”. Griots tell history orally. They don’t write it down. They perform it in front of the people. They’re highly respected. They have a very important role in society. And I think a lot of what inspires African-Americans in America is that we’ve kind of adopted or kept that entity in our being.

I mean when I listen to Kendrick Lamar he sounds like a modern griot to me. He is telling our story. He is telling our relationship with prisons, with drugs, with oppression. I feel the same way with D’Angelo. I feel the same way with anybody who’s regarded as an incredible artist today. David Bowie, I think he was a griot too. He had very important messages in his music. Coltrane too. Even though he was just dealing with more the sonic side. He hardly had any lyrics but when he did have lyrics, they were very meaningful.

I think it’s all the sound and the language of our people. That’s the connection. I don’t think it ever should be broken.

How does Nihil Novi translate in the live performance space?

MS: I think there’s a lot of jazz journalists out there that don’t really understand how to write about this record because I wasn’t even thinking about how we were going to possibly perform it live. I just wanted to do the record that I exactly wanted to do without being hung up on what the possibilities are.

And as a result it has inspired what I feel is a very experimental way of performing. I feel like it’s basically a live production. And I can’t wait to have like maybe a dvd set or something of live performances because live performances take what the record does and multiples it times ten.

Because the musicians I have surrounding me are all producers in their own right. And they’re also very much live performers. They all have a jazz background to some extent. And also they’re familiar with all kinds of other black American music such as hip hop, R&B, soul, gospel, funk, all that stuff. So it all gets displayed all at once.

And because I’m so open to including all that in the performance, I think it’s exciting for them. Because finally they’re not on stage with someone who’s like “We’re an R&B band so just play R&B”; or somebody who’s just like “We’re just jazz so you just better just swing and not do anything else”. They’re on the stage with somebody who’s just like “Look man, be You. Just do this. Let’s have fun. It’s a playground”. It’s very exciting.

Thanks for your time today Marcus. Folks going to your festival shows should be excited to hear you and Twi-Life perform live.

MS: Yeah, it’s gonna be a party. I’m really looking forward to it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life (Keyon Harrold on trumpet; Mitch Henry on piano; Kyle Miles on bass; Charles Haynes on drums) play four shows at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club on 11 and 12th June 2016. Buy tickets here and check out the complete MIJF program here.

Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2016

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Bluesfest 2016 – Embracing Contemporary Hip Hop, Soul & Jazz Of The Highest Order

Blessed be lovers of innovative contemporary hip hop, R&B, funk and jazz music for the gift of consecutive live performances by Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington and Hiatus Kaiyote on the one stage at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016.

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote

Kamasi Washington live concert 2016

Kamasi Washington

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert 2016

D’Angelo

If you’re one of those music lovers you’ll know that every single one of the many musicians and vocalists who performed on stage with those artists on Thursday and Saturday nights (minus Kendrick Lamar on Saturday) are amongst the most skilful, talented and innovative creators of funkified jazz and soul music in the world right now. Having been influenced by and collaborating on each others’ music projects, all of them were in perfect company together on the main stage. And anyone lucky enough to be there would have found themselves in musical heaven – mesmerised by each and every sublime sound delivered by those artists.

Hiatus Kaiyote

As musical creators Melbourne’s “future-soul” group Hiatus Kaiyote earned their place on a bill with Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington and their accompanying artists. As live instrumentalists, vocalists and performers on stage in the flesh at Bluesfest, Hiatus Kayote undoubtedly demonstrated their rightful place amongst them to audiences made up of both punters and those contemporary music peers alike.

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert - Australia 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote at Bluesfest 2016

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As well as delivering a welcome acknowledgment of the passing of the great hip hop creator Phife Dawg during their Thursday set, Nai Palm (vocals/guitars/keys), Simon Mavin (keys/samples), Paul Bender (bass), Perrin Moss (drums) and their three background vocalists delivered two stunning sets of songs drawn mainly from Choose Your Weapon and including a new song on the video below, and as always; showed audiences their unique “multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster” sound is at its most supreme when heard live.

Kamasi Washington

The inclusion of L.A-based saxophonist Kamasi Washington in the 2016 line-up was a welcome surprise after the cancellation of his first visit to Australia last year when Soulfest folded at the last minute.

Kamasi Washington live concert - Bluesfest 2016 Australia

Kamasi Washington at Bluesfest 2016

Each Bluesfest show Kamasi Washington performed with The Next Step / West Coast Get Down sounded unique. But both were definitely a family affair; a collective affair; and a humble and respectful one. Parts of Kamasi Washington’s recent jazz masterpiece The Epic were performed as well as some new music by him. But this was not a one-man Kamasi Washington show. It was a showcase of the sublime funkified jazz music and skills of all the incredible artists on stage with him who grew up playing music together. Everyone had their moments to shine during the sets and when it wasn’t their turn they listened, enjoyed, and appreciated what they heard from one other.

Ryan Porter and Kamasi Washington live concert 016

Ryan Porter w/ Kamasi Washington

Audiences were treated to the sounds of Kamasi Washington playing with his father Ricky Washington (who “taught him everything he knows”) on flute and with Ryan Porter (“one of his mentors”) on trombone; drum solos and drum-offs between Ronald Bruner Jr and Tony Austin; a jam between Kamasi Washington and Ronald Bruner Jr (“like they’ve being doing together since he got his first drum-kit at 3 years old”); a must-hear song “Abraham”  about to be released by double-bass player/vocalist Miles Mosley, and another from keyboardist Brandon Coleman; with vocals by Patrice Quinn (“the most beautiful voice he’s heard”).

Brandon Coleman live concert Australia 2016

Brandon Coleman

Miles Mosley live concert - Bluesfest 2016 Australia

Miles Mosley

Kamasi Washington & Ricky Washington live concert 2016

Ricky & Kamasi Washington

Ronald Bruner Jr live concert 2016

Ronald Bruner Jr

Tony Austin live concert Australia 2016

Tony Austin

Patrice Quinn live Australia 2016

Patrice Quinn

Kamasi Washington and the other artists who joined him on Australian stages undoubtedly gained a huge number of new admirers. Hopefully that brings any or all of them back again to play soon.

Check out snippets of video footage from Kamasi Washington’s two Bluesfest 2016 shows below and hear sample tracks from The Epic (2015) here.




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D’Angelo And The Vanguard

Accompanying D’Angelo at his Bluesfest shows were Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey on guitars, Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums, Rocco Palladino on bass, Bobby Ray Sparks on keys/samples and Jermaine Holmes and Charles “Red” Middleton on background vocals.

D'Angelo & Jesse Johnson live - Bluesfest 2016

D’Angelo & Jesse Johnson at Bluesfest 2016

Despite a curious set list taking audiences back to the glorious D’Angelo eras of Brown Sugar and Voodoowith only glimpses of the more recent ground-breaking album Black Messiah, D’Angelo and the 7 sublimely-skilled musicians and vocalists with him on stage delivered delightfully funky, soulful, rocked-out performances that were technically flawless.

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

D’Angelo himself dazzled and seduced the crowd with his skills and artistry on guitar and piano, his contagiously-huge smile and his other-wordly vocal range. He left no doubt that he’s a musician, artist and performer of extraordinary genius in contemporary times, akin to the most legendary of funk, R&B and rock greats of our musical history.

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

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Check out a video of the grammy-award winning Black Messiah song “Really Love”, performed live at Bluesfest on Saturday.


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Click here for more videos & photos from all 4 of D’Angelo’s Australian shows this time around.

Kendrick Lamar

Thankfully Bluesfest ignored any naysayers who questioned Kendrick Lamar headlining a festival that might have started as “blues and roots” 27 years ago – but long ago moved forward to expand it’s line-up for the musical good of the broader population.

Before Kendrick Lamar’s set I wondered how the complex musical wonder of To Pimp A Butterfly would translate in the live arena. But the Compton rapper brought a killer band on tour with him. That live instrumentation combined with the sharp and clear lyrical flow delivered by Kendrick Lamar with 100% passion and conviction, simply commanded attention and awe through every moment of the 75 minute set that flew by in a flash. From start to finish Kendrick Lamar made it abundantly clear that the experience of hearing his music performed live is profoundly more brilliant than the studio-version.

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar at Bluesfest 2016

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Check out these video snippets from Kendrick Lamar’s Bluesfest show plus a sample track below from the newly-released album untitled unmastered (2016).

Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered (2016)x
Kendrick Lamar – untitled 02 | 06.23.2014 – untitled unmastered (2016)

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Bluesfest Appreciation

Byron Bay Bluesfest – this year was a dream.

In my book Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, The Vanguard, Kamasi Washington, The Next Step, West Coast Get Down and Hiatus Kaiyote are the artists in the world right now creating the freshest sounding, most innovative blends of funk, soul, R&B, hip hop and jazz. All except Hiatus Kaiyote (Melbourne-based), Bluesfest brought those artists a long way to deliver spectacular live performances on Australian shores.  In doing so they filled a big gap left by the cancellation of Soulfest – “Australia’s first annual neo-soul, jazz & hip hop festival” which didn’t make it to its second year.

Thanks go to Bluesfest for embracing those contemporary artists and delivering the most blessed of line-ups in 2016!

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

D’Angelo

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert Australia 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar

Kamasi Washington live concert 2016

Kamasi Washington

Note: Despite feeling 100% satisfied by my Bluesfest 2016 experience, it was a limited one for sure. I went for 2 of 5 festival days, stayed at 1 of 6 festival stages and heard only 4 of 82 acts on the bill. A whole other world of music was happening over the five festival days – from Tom Jones to Allen Stone through to The Wailers – and a range of performing indigenous artists at the festival within the festival- Boomerang. I just can’t tell you about them here.

But you can check in to Beaver on the Beats on Facebook for more festival photos coming of D’Angelo, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington. 🙂

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D’Angelo Live In Australia – One, Two, Three, Four

After experiencing the first three of D’Angelo’s four incredible Australian shows, I was mysteriously left feeling less than fully satisfied. It didn’t make sense when D’Angelo and The mini Vanguard touring with him had just delivered flawless, stunning performances to Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay Bluesfest audiences.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

#1 – Melbourne’s Palais Theatre

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

# 2 – Sydney Opera House

D'Angelo live concert - Bluesfest 2016

# 3 – Byron Bay Bluesfest

 

 

 

 

 

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D’Angelo, Every Time

D’Angelo’s phenomenal vocal range and delivery as well as his skills on piano and guitar, are unquestionable. They are simply and absolutely sublime to hear live – every time.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

So is Michael “D’Angelo” Archer’s joyful high energy and super-smooth, confident engagement with the crowd. Man or woman, even if you only care about the sounds of music, who out there wouldn’t blush if D’angelo looked you in the eye and pointed at you while ever-so-naturally singing “I feel like makin’ love to you” in his voice from on high?

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

At all his Australian shows D’Angelo undoubtedly demonstrated he’s a musician, artist and performer of equal wonder to the legendary R&B, funk and soul artists who influenced and shaped him. Some of them he payed tribute to in his sets (“She’s Always In My Hair” by Prince, “Red Hot Mama” by Funkadelic and “Brent Fischer Interlude” by Black Messiah collaborator Brent Fischer). D’Angelo does all those artists and their music justice, and then some. And how many contemporary artists can we say that about in 2016?

D'Angelo live concert Australia 2016

No I don’t think my slight and mysterious dissatisfaction was about D’Angelo’s performances. They made me smile from ear to ear in awe.

The [mini] Vanguard 

Did I miss hearing the distinctive bass sounds of Pino Palladino, the live horns and the gorgeous complementary female vocals of Kendra Foster or Joi Gilliam usually heard with The Vanguard? Sure I did. But their absence alone wasn’t leaving me with that feeling.

Because technically the seven insanely-skilled musicians on stage with D’Angelo played and sang almost flawlessly. Although he appeared nervous or daunted at times, Pino’s son Rocco Palladino did an admirable job on bass. And any opportunity to hear Chris “Daddy” Dave on drums, Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey on guitars, Bobby Ray Sparks on keys/samples or Jermaine Holmes and Charles “Red” Middleton on background vocals…is a blessed one I would gleefully take any time. They all killed it. And I appreciated hearing every note they played and sang on Australian stages.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

Chris Dave (l) – Isaiah Sharkey (m)

Jesse Johnson - D'Angelo & The Vanguard 2016

Jesse Johnson

Rocco Palladino with The Vanguard- Bluesfest 2016

Rocco Palladino

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

Bobby Sparks (r)

Jermaine Holmes - D'Angelo concert 2016

Jermaine Holmes

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

Red Middleton (l) – Chris Dave (m) – Isaiah Sharkey (r)

Looking Back

Was it the group’s set-list choices that left me wanting more? Maybe a little. In my world every song they played is a “Beloved Forever-After Song”. It’s true that all were arranged and delivered in funked-up, rocked-out, soulful brilliance. And hearing each one made me happy.

But a set made up of “Brown Sugar”; three/four jams on other artists’ songs, four/five songs from Voodoo (“Devil’s Pie”“Chicken Grease”“Untitled (How Does It Feel)”“Left & Right”, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”); and only three from Black Messiah (“The Charade”“Really Love”“Back To The Future”/ “Sugah Daddy” at Bluesfest)…curiously felt like a look back to the distant (albeit magnificent) past.

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

Objectively the set choice might’ve been the safe bet when playing to Australian audiences made up of admirers from different D’Angelo eras. But for disciples who love every song he and his collaborators ever created, but appreciate the group’s artistry even more since the release of Black Messiah; and for newer disciples (including many young musicians there) because of Black Messiah, only hearing a small part of that album felt strange. Especially after they spent the past year promoting it through North America and Europe on The Second Coming Tour.

DAngelo - Black Messiah (2014)

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“Aint That Easy” – Black Messiah (2014)

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“The Show”

Maybe my mysterious feeling was about being delivered a “show”. I guess when you reach the professional playing levels D’Angelo And The Vanguard have, with their intense tour schedule performing show after show in different cities, having a pre-formulated, programmed “show” for perfect and tight execution on cue by a lot of musicians and crew might be more necessary, or pragmatic, or safer.

But the flip-side to that is a loss of organic spontaneity – musically and otherwise. As an audience member I still crave that spontaneity no matter how incredible the show is. No matter how amusing it might be to see D’Angelo mimic kissing a woman “way down there”; or how much I like seeing he, Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey come together with their guitars in those moments. It makes me wonder if creative artists performing on stage also crave it at some point on their touring road.

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert Australia 2016

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Fourth, Final, Full Satisfaction

Whatever the mysterious, probably unreasonable thing that left me feeling not-quite-full after three incredible D’Angelo shows, it disappeared and mattered not once the the fourth and final Australian show happened on Saturday night at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016.

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

# 4 – Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

Finally and inexplicably all seemed as it naturally should be at a D’Angelo gig. With everyone seemingly vibin’ on the experience, together. The set-list was nearly the same but as a Byron Bay sider might say: there was some indescribably-different type of musical and energetic magic that happened at Saturday’s closing show…leaving peeps there connected, loved-up and on high. It was created collectively by everyone there of course, hopefully felt by them too.

D'Angelo live concert - Bluesfest 2016

Everyone at Melbourne, Sydney and Bluesfest shows (and others around the world) had their very own experience of D’Angelo And The Vanguard live. Maybe it was nothing at all like mine. Surely it was special.

Leave a comment if you want to share yours – we wanna hear it!

D'Angelo live concert Australia 2016

Visit Beaver on the Beats on Facebook for more photos from these & other D’Angelo And The Vanguard shows; click a link for individual shows: London Roundhouse (2015) –  Melbourne Soulfest 2014 Brisbane Soulfest 2014; and check back here soon for Byron Bay Bluesfest’s dream main stage line-up with Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington & West Coast Get Down and Hiatus Kaiyote.

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Orishas Reunited For New Album

Orishas only did two things that troubled me during their 11 years together creating stunning, one-of-a-kind Cuban hip hop music. The first was featuring Pitbull on one of their tracks “Quien Te Dijo” – and there ain’t no way of ever undoing that.

The second and much more devastating thing was their decision to split up in 2010.  All five Orishas albums have been on high listening and dancing rotation since- well and truly part of my Love & Appreciate For Forever-After Music Collection. But each listen still made me wish for new Orishas music to add to it (I’m greedy I know).

Six years on and the trio has remedied that selfish trouble of mine by delivering the super-exciting news of their reunion.

How far that reunion goes beyond the recently-recorded single is anyone’s guess. Hopefully it involves the recording of many more Orishas albums to come and the blessed opportunity for fans around the world to have themselves the live Orishas experience. It’s one I never got to have- and since the split thought I never could. With this news Orishas goes back up high on my Live Music Bucket List, in hope.

Orishas are Yotuel Romero Manzanares, Roldán González Rivero and Hiram Riveri Medina (“Ruzzo”). If their music-making history is at all reflective of what’s to come, the world is in for a special treat. The elements that make up their distinctive sound – the very different rap flows of Ruzzo and Yotuel, the heavenly singing voice (+ guitar & bass) of Roldán and the beautiful sounds of traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms seamlessly fused with modern hip hop beats and live instrumentation – with lyrical stories, sentiments and slang dearly particular to Cuba…ain’t found anywhere else in this wide world of music.

Orishas

If you don’t already know and appreciate the musical goodness of Orishas check out these sample tracks from their albums past- and watch the Orishas space to hear new music they’re gifting the world in 2016.

Orishas - A Lo Cubano (1999)Orishas – “A Lo Cubano” – A Lo Cubano (1999)

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Orishas - Emigrante (2002)Orishas – “Niños” – Emigrante (2002)

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Orishas - El Kilo (2005)Orishas – “Al Que Le Guste” – El Kilo (2005)

 

 

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Orishas - Antidiotico (2007)

Orishas – “Que Vola?” – Antidiotico (2007)

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Orishas - Cosita Buena (2008)

Orishas – “Machete” – Cosita Buena (2008)

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Get any or all of those hard-copy Orishas albums into your own music collection here.

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Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly: The Art Of Music In 2015

With each passing year of life the rarer it seems I hear new music that sounds truly fresh and innovative to me; new music that makes me feel excited about the art of music and its contemporary evolution. Lots of new albums were released in 2015. Only three spring to mind that gave me that excitement.

One was Hiatus Kaiyote’s Choose Your Weapon. The second was The Epic by Kamasi Washington.

Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon (2015)

Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon (2015)

Kamasi Washington - The Epic (2015)

Kamasi Washington – The Epic (2015)

Finally for 2015, the album that got me the most excited, was Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Knock yourself out reading and watching the countless reviews and opinions on To Pimp A Butterfly published throughout the world this past year. All that matters is this: The Compton rapper and dozens of his equally brilliant musical collaborators succeeded in sampling, revamping and creating anew the super-tastiest sounds of soul, jazz and funk wrapped in a hip hop masterpiece beyond compare in 2015. And if you haven’t already, get your hands on To Pimp A Butterfly in its most sublime format (vinyl of course) to hear and take pleasure in all its sonic intricacies for forever-after.

Folks who choose to buy their music digitally or take it for free; who don’t see the full album credits unless they go looking on-line and mightn’t know which artists created To Pimp A Butterfly’s 16 magnificent tracks other than Kendrick Lamar and listed “feature” artists…take the time to learn now. Their names matter. All of them are stunning contemporary artists in their own rights – and collectively they and Kendrick Duckworth Lamar made magic with To Pimp A Butterfly.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Kendrick Lamar feat. George Clinton & Thundercat – “Wesley’s Theory”

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“Wesley’s Theory” written by Kendrick Duckworth, George Clinton, Steven Ellison, Ronald Colson, Stephen Bruner & Boris Gardiner; Produced by Flying Lotus & Ronald “Flippa” Colson; Additional Production by Sounwave & Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & James “The White Black Man” Hunt; Mixed by MixedByAli; Horns & Alto Saxophone- Terrace Martin; Trumpet- Josef Leimberg; Background Vocals- Dr. Dre, Anna Wise, Ash Riser, Josef Leimberg & Whitney Alford. Contains elements of “Every Nigger Is a Star” by Boris Gardiner.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Kendrick Lamar – “You Aint Gotta Lie (Momma Said)”

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“You Aint Gotta Lie (Momma Said)” written by Kendrick Duckworth, Terrace Martin, Rose McKinney, Josef Leimberg & Mark Spears; Produced by LoveDragon; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, James “The White Black Man” Hunt & Matt Schaeffer; Mixed by MixedByAli; Keyboards- Sounwave & Terrace Martin; Alto Saxophone/Vocoder- Terrace Martin; Trumpet- Josef Leimberg; Percussion- Larrance Dopson; Guitar- Marlon Williams; Background Vocals- Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, Preston Harris, Wyann Vaughn & JaVonte.

“For Free? (Interlude)”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Terrace Martin & Rose McKinney; Produced by Terrace Martin; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & James “The White Black Man” Hunt; Mixed by MixedByAli; Drums- Robert Sput Searight; Piano- Robert Glasper; Bass- Brandon Owens; Organ- Craig Brockman; Guitar- Marlon Williams; Alto Saxophone- Terrace Martin; Background Vocals- Anna Wise & Darlene Tibbs.

“King Kunta”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Spears, Johnny Burns, Michael Jackson, Ahmad Lewis, Stefan Gordy & D. Blake; Produced by Sounwave; Additional Production by Terrace Martin; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, James “The White Black Man” Hunt & Matt Schaeffer; Mixed by MixedByAli; Bass- Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner; Additional Guitar- Marlon Williams & Matt Schaeffer; Background Vocals- Whitney Alford.

“King Kunta” contains: interpolations of “Get Nekkid” by Johnny Burns & D. Blake; resung lyrics from “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson; elements from “The Payback” by James Brown/Fred Wesley/J.Stark and from “We Want the Funk” by A. Lewis & S. Gordy.

“Institutionalized” feat. Bilal, Anna Wise & Snoop Dogg

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Columbus Smith & Fredrik Halldin; Produced by Rahki & Fredrik “Tommy Black” Halldin; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & James “The White Black Man” Hunt; Mixed by MixedByAli; Keyboards- Sam Barsh; Clarinet- Pedro Castro; Cello- Gabriel Noel; Violin- Paul Cartwright; Background Vocals- Taz Arnold a.k.a. Ti$a.

“These Walls” feat. Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Terrace Martin, Larrance Dopson, James Fauntleroy & Rose McKinney; Produced by Terrace Martin & Larrance Dopson of 1500 or Nothin’; Additional Production by Sounwave; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & James “The White Black Man” Hunt; Mixed by MixedByAli; Guitar- Marlon Williams & Gregory Moore; Keyboards- Robert Glasper, Larrance Dopson & Terrace Martin; Percussion- Larrance Dopson; Alto Saxophone- Terrace Martin; Trumpet- Josef Leimberg; Additional Bass- Thundercat.

“u”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Taz Arnold & Michael Brown; Produced by Taz Arnold a.k.a. Ti$a & WhoAreI; Additional Production by Sounwave; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & Matt Schaeffer; Mixed by MixedByAli; Alto Saxophone/Keyboards- Terrace Martin; Tenor Saxophone- Kamasi Washington; Baritone Saxophone- Adam Turchin; Guitar- Marlon Williams; Background Vocals- Bilal, Jessica Vielmas & SZA.

“Alright”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Pharrell Williams & Mark Spears; Produced by Pharrell Williams & Sounwave; Recorded by James “The White Black Man” Hunt; Mixed by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali; Alto Saxophone- Terrace Martin; Background Vocals- Pharrell Williams, Candace Wakefield & Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner.

“For Sale? (Interlude)”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth & Taz Arnold; Produced by Taz Arnold a.k.a. Ti$a; Additional Production by Sounwave & Terrace Martin; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali; Mixed by MixedByAli; Alto Saxophone/Keyboards- Terrace Martin; Trumpet- Josef Leimberg; Background Vocals- Bilal, Ti$a, Preston Harris & SZA.

“Momma”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Glen Boothe, Taz Arnold, Sylvester Stewart, Lalah Hathaway, Rahsaan Patterson & Rex Rideout; Produced by Knxwledge & Taz Arnold a.k.a. Ti$a; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & James “The White Black Man” Hunt; Mixed by MixedByAli; Alto Saxophone/Keyboards/Vocoder- Terrace Martin; Background Vocals- Lalah Hathaway & Bilal.

“Momma” contains elements of “Wishful Thinkin” by S. Stewart as performed by Sly & The Family Stone, ”On Your Own” written by Lalah Hathaway, R. Patterson, & R. Rideout; samples from “On Your Own” performed by Lalah Hathaway, from the album Self Portrait.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

“Hood Politics”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Donte Perkins, Mark Spears, Stephen Bruner & S. Stevens; Produced by Tae Beast, Sounwave & Thundercat; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & James “The White Black Man” Hunt; Mixed by MixedByAli; Keyboards- Terrace Martin & Robert Sput Searight; Background Vocals-  Bilal, Anna Wise, Preston Harris & Dion Friley. “Hood Politics” includes sample of “All for Myself” (S. Stevens).

“How Much a Dollar Cost” feat. James Fauntleroy  & Ronald Isley

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Terrace Martin, Josef Leimberg, Rose McKinney, James Fauntleroy & Ronald Isley; Produced by LoveDragon; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, James “The White Black Man” Hunt & Matt Schaeffer; Mixed by MixedByAli; Alto Saxophone/Keyboards- Terrace Martin; Trumpet- Josef Leimberg; Percussion- Larrance Dopson; Guitar- Marlon Williams; Ronald Isley’s verse recorded by Thomas Burns.

“Complexion (A Zulu Love)” feat. Rapsody

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Stephen Bruner, Mark Spears & Marlanna Evans; Produced by Thundercat & Sounwave; Additional Production- Terrace Martin & Antydote; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali & Matt Schaeffer; Mixed by MixedByAli; Keyboards- Terrace Martin & Robert Glasper; Alto Saxophone- Terrace Martin; Trumpet- Josef Leimberg; Percussion- Larrance Dopson; Background Vocals- Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, Lalah Hathaway, Talkbox Monte & JaVonte; Background Vocals/Scratches- Pete Rock; Rapsody’s verse recorded by 9th Wonder.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

“The Blacker the Berry”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Matthew Samuels, Stephen Kozmeniuk, Ken Lewis, Brent Kolatalo, Jefferey Campbell, Alexander Izquierdo & Zale Epstein; Produced by Boi-1da & Koz; Additional Production- Terrace Martin; Additional Drum Programming & Additional Engineering- Katalyst; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, James “The White Black Man” Hunt & Matt Schaeffer; Mixed by MixedByAli; Drums- Ronald Bruner Jr; Keyboards- Robert Glasper; Bass- Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner; Alto Saxophone- Terrace Martin; Percussion- Larrance Dopson; Background Vocals- Lalah Hathaway.

“i”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Columbus Smith, Ronald Isley, O’Kelly Isley, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley, Rudolph Isley & Christopher Jasper; Produced by Rahki; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, James “The White Black Man” Hunt & Matt Schaeffer; Mixed by MixedByAli; Mix Assistants- The White Black Man & Matt Schaeffer; Keyboards- Sam Barsh; Guitar- Keith Askey; Drums- Kendall Lewis; Bass- Chris Smith & Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner; Percussion- Rahki; Background Vocals- Taz Arnold a.k.a. Ti$a, William Swept, Candace Wakefield, Devon Downing, Edwin Orellana, Dave Free & Dion Friley; Additional Vocals- Ronald Isley, recorded by Thomas Burns. “i” contains portions of “That Lady” by Ronald Isley, Christopher Jasper, O’Kelly Isley, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley & Rudolph Isley.

“Mortal Man”

Written by Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Spears, Stephen Bruner & F. Anikulapo; Produced by Sounwave; Recorded by Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, James “The White Black Man” Hunt & Matt Schaeffer; Mixed by MixedByAli; Bass- Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner; Keyboards- Robert Glasper & Junius Bervine; Guitar- Marlon Williams; Alto Saxophone- Terrace Martin; Trumpet- Josef Leimberg & Ambrose Akinmusire; Background vocals- James Fauntleroy & JaVonte; String Arrangements by Kamasi Washington, Sounwave & Terrace Martin.

“Mortal Man” contains: elements of “I No Get Eye for Back” by F. Anikulapo  and excerpts from “I No Get Eye for Back” as performed by Houston Person; features parts from the music journalist Mats Nileskar’s 2Pac Shakur interview in New York, November 1994.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

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The Return of Blackalicious – Imani Vol. 1

Old school hip hop duo Chief Excel and Gift of Gab are back in fine form with their first new Blackalicious album since 2005.

Imani Vol. 1 is the first of three new Blackalicious album instalments they say are coming.

Blackalicious - Imani Vol. 1 (2015)

Blackalicious – Imani: Vol 1 (2015)

Anything I have to say about the nitty gritty of its 20 tracks matters not really. Sufficed to say Imani Vol. 1 is a refreshing throwback to glory days of hip hop gone.

Instrumentally producer Chief Xcel and a handful of live players on drums, bass, guitar, keys, horns and strings have created a diversity of sounds crossing funk, blues, jazz, soul, R&B, rock and dub.

Lyrically, Gift of Gab (with his killer, high speed flow) and another handful of guest vocalists and MCs bring positive messages of hope, faith, perseverance and love – in spite of and despite the struggles life deals us.

All in all the Blackalicious crew has created sounds of music that will command your attention again and again; and, all things being equal, give you the experience of feeling better, feeling good, feeling inspired, feeling hopeful and, feeling that your body must move.

What more do you need from your hip hop?

Blackalicious - Imani Vol. 1 (2015)

Check out two sample tracks from Imani Vol. 1 here – remembering as always, they are compressed mp3 versions only. For the full sound goodness, buy the album on vinyl or cd here.

Blackalicious - Imani Vol. 1 (2015)

Blackalicious – “Blacka”

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Blackalicious (feat. Lateef, Lyrics Born, Monophonics & DJ D Sharp)- “Alpha And Omega”


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‘F’ Must Be For Funk

‘F’ in the A to Z of Fusion must go to Funk.

Why? Because put simply and personally, funk on the downbeat (like reggae’s offbeat) moves my body into action and takes me to a higher, happier place than any other breed of music in this world. More generally, because funk music in its original and many evolving forms of fusion since, makes up a huge chunk of the timelessly-sublime music available in the world to listen to, love and most definitely cherish, forever-after.

George Clinton live concert - Electric Ballroom, London 2015

George Clinton live at Electric Ballroom, London 2015

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The Birth of Funk

A fusion of R&B, soul and jazz, funk music was brewing in the 50’s before being characterised as a genre in the mid-60’s with James Brown and his signature “on the one” groove.

James Brown - The Godfather of Funk

James Brown - I Got You (I Feel Good)

 

James Brown – “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (1965)

 

 

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Funk Fusion

Since the 60’s funk music has evolved into countless other musical forms through its fusion with pop, jazz, rock, metal, electro, highlife, gangsta rap and more – including Fela Kuti’s development of Afrobeat in the 70’s – and hip hop since the 80’s via its heavy sampling of funk tunes.

The Funk Collection

These names here are just some of the world’s many artists who’ve contributed to the evolution of funk music: anywhere from dabbling in it, to living and breathing the funk. If their music is not already known and loved by you, it can be from now and forever hereafter…

Horace Silver. Cannonball Adderley. Little Richard. James Brown. Sly Stone. George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. The Meters. Earth, Wind & Fire. Fred Wesley. Cameo. Brides of Funkenstein. War. Maceo Parker. Larry Graham. Parlet. Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Dyke and the Blazers. Marva Whitney. Bernadette Cooper. Klymaxx. Ohio Players. Chaka Khan. The Commodores. Steve Arrington. Lyn Collins. Cymande. Zapp. Madame X. The Isley Brothers. Stevie Wonder. Mother’s Finest. Vicki Anderson. Slave. Labelle. Platypus. Sheila E. Lakeside. Betty Davis. The Bar-Kays. Buddy Miles. Con Funk Shon. The Horny Horns. Lynn Mabry.  Kool & The Gang. Mallia Franklin. Sun. Starleana Young. Heatwave. Miles Davis. Roy Ayers. Millie Jackson. Herbie Hancock. Patrice Rushen. Fela Kuti. Femi Kuti. Seun Kuti. Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Living Colour. Brooklyn Funk Essentials. Afrika BambaataaFishbone. Dam Funk. Prince. Rick James. The Dazz Band. Jesse Johnson. Brand New Heavies. JamiroquaiMe’shell Ndegeocello. D’Angelo. Erykah Badu. The Soul RebelsSharon Jones. The Bamboos. The Cactus Channel. The Putbacks.

Sly & The Family Stone - Fresh (1973)x

Sly & The Family Stone – “Thankful N’ Thoughtful” – Fresh (1973)

 

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The collective of visionary funk artists and the music they’ve created throughout its history remind us always that universal possibilities, musical and otherwise, are limitless.

Longevity in Funk

From that collective there’s one whose name we can link to almost every funk variety in its history. One who has contributed to keeping the funk, glorious funk alive in countless reinvented forms according to changing times and musical landscapes since its beginnings until today. That artist is George Clinton – working alongside the many revolving artists within the Parliament Funkadelic / P-Funk collective.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Late last year George Clinton released the 3-disc masterpiece First Ya Gotta Shake The Gateand has been delivering the funk live on worldwide stages since alongside a multi-generational group of artists. His grandkiddies and Garrett Shider (son of dearly departed Parliament Funkadelic guitarist Garry Shider) are amongst them. So too is the legendary Blackbyrd McKnight.

Funkadelic - First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (2014)

 

George Clinton & Funkadelic -“Yesterdejavu” –  First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate (2014)

 

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Blackbyrd McKnight + George Clinton - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

George Clinton (l) + Blackbyrd McKnight (c) + Garrett Shider (r)

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The Survival of Funk

Hopefully George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic were right when they sang “the funk will survive just like it always has”.  Certainly it will in some form at least. But an artist promising “the whole funk, nothin’ but the funk” is a rare find in the world these days. For my ears that’s a shame, for sure.

So it gives me hope when I hear that artists like Brooklyn Funk Essentials are helping the funk survive with the recent release of their album Funk Aint’ Ova – the first in seven years.

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It’s reason to feel excited about hearing the new sounds created by funk legends Cymande on their first album in decades – A Simple Act of Faith – just released and available to buy here, with the vinyl coming in January.

Cymande - A Simple Act Of Faith (2015)

A Simple Act of Faith

And reason to count our blessings for contemporary artists like D’Angelo And The Vanguard and Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote for incorporating the funk sounds of old into new musical blends of a totally fresh and innovative kind.

D'Angelo live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

D’Angelo live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

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D'Angelo - Black Messiah (2014)

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D’Angelo And The Vanguard- “Sugah Daddy”- Black Messiah

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No matter what the future holds for the creation of new funk music, we’ll always have reason to count our blessings for all the timelessly-sublime music created through funk history so far. It’s in our world to listen to, love and cherish forever-after. And for that, the world and us mere humans who live within it, are a whole lot richer. Amen.

More of the Funky Kind

Indulge in more sounds of funk here. Click on a photo to check out video footage of live performances and/or sample tracks by that artist.

Erykah Badu live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu

Prince

Prince

Larry Graham live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Larry Graham

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Femi Kuti

Fred Wesley

Fred Wesley

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

D’Angelo

Hiatus Kaiyote live at WOMADelaide 2014

Hiatus Kaiyote

Herbie Hancock concert - Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Herbie Hancock

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Parliament Funkadelic

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Got other beloved Funkateers in your music collection whose names are missing from the list above? Do tell.

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The Putbacks – “Kung Fu Pyramids” Sweet Vinyl-Style

HopeStreet Recordings unfailingly gives its music releases a description that stimulates the imagination; that invites you to press play and enter into a kooky adventure. I’d usually call copying and pasting the exact contents of a press release to be a lazy Beaver’s game. But what the label says about “Kung Fu Pyramids” and it’s B-side “Snake Eyes” by Melbourne’s funk outfit The Putbacks just shouldn’t be messed with. Not by this Beaver anyway.

For the fighters, Kung Fu Pyramids is a slice of dark, guitar-driven, psychedelic, martial arts funk. For the gamblers, the brooding downtempo minimalism of Snake Eyes is an ode to the joys of Mia, dice game of champions.

Pressing play to enter this instrumental funk adventure with The Putbacks will bring wonderful rewards you won’t find elsewhere.

Putting the needle down on your super-limited edition 7-inch vinyl copy you can buy through HopeStreet from 9.00 a.m. tomorrow (as part of Independent Label Week), will bring even greater rewards.

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