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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Richard Bona: “Music is The Real School of Life”

If you love the sounds of jazz, blues, funk, West African rhythms, flamenco, salsa, bossa and the other diverse musical flavours of the world and you’re not already well acquainted with the vast body of music of Richard Bona, now is the time.

His very long list of collaborators and fans include Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, Chaka Khan, Tito Puente and Lauryn Hill. And he is respected by they and music appreciators all around the world for his prolific songwriting skills, innovative fusion music creations, honey-sweet vocals and phenomenal abilities on bass, guitar, percussion, balafon and every other instrument he plays now, or might ever decide to play.

Beyond all that Richard Bona shared in our interview this week that he is simply a lover of this beautiful life in which we’re all different but equal – a fact that music helps remind us of, to embrace and celebrate.

Folks in Australia get their chance to celebrate with him at Melbourne International Jazz Festival on 28 and 29 May 2015 – and in Sydney on 30 May. And people everywhere can read on for the full interview with Richard Bona talking about current music projects, his take on fusion of the world’s sounds, human connection in music and musicians embracing technology in a digital age.

Richard Bona

These Musical Days

Beaver: Apart from your upcoming Australian tour what’s going on in the musical world of Richard Bona these days?

Richard Bona: I’m working on two separate projects: a flamenco project with gypsy musicians in Spain – and another project called Mandekan Cubano. It’s me with six Cuban musicians. We’re playing and recording that project here in July in the studio of my Paris house.

Summer time is coming so there’s a lot of touring. I’ve got three shows here before I come to Australia. After that I’m going to Holland and will keep playing until August 7.

In terms of putting the record out, I’ve been with Universal with the last five records and I did two before that with Columbia. So right now I don’t have a record company and I’m planning on finally releasing something on my own, to try something different. So that’s the plan right now. When the record will come out, I don’t know yet. I’m shooting for 2016.

Student of Music

Beaver: Many refer to you as a ‘jazz musician’ but your music incorporates so many different styles of music other than jazz. Do you identify yourself with jazz?

Richard Bona: I don’t identify myself as a jazz musician. Jazz is just one part of my thing that I do. I’m a student of music in general. I just love to learn from other music. Like I did when I went to India and recorded with guys in India – and to Brazil to record with guys there. I just love to embrace or approach music that way. I consider music being a school that never ends.

I don’t like routine – it’s just not in my genes. I want to constantly feel like I’m learning something new cause I get bored quickly if I do the same thing. I like to feel with the music that the more I know, the less I know – cause I know, that I don’t know. That’s the beautiful thing about music.

I’m not afraid of difference. I remember last year when I started this flamenco project, a lot of gypsy musicians were like “What? You never played this music” and this and that. But just give me a few months here and I get to learn the basics and all those things. Its just like a language.

That’s what I’m doing lately, and that’s what I’ve been doing for years. Just trying to embrace new things and incorporate them in my music to make up something new.

Fusion Forever

Beaver: The exchange and fusion of cultures (including music) has been happening for all of history. But with rapid advances in technologies during recent decades, that fusion process has rapidly sped up too. With music from all around the world much more accessible, the sounds which artists can and do blend together when creating new music are almost limitless.What do you think we’ve lost and gained in all of that? Some people might say for example it’s been unhelpful in preserving traditional forms of music.

Richard Bona: It’s a very intriguing question. In any situation you gain and lose. We get to gain for example cause as a kid I didn’t even have any idea how Indian musicians sound. I grew up in a tiny rural area in Africa [Cameroon] with no radio or nothing. The chances for me to hear something that a Pakistani or Egyptian guy is doing would be almost impossible – zero. We have access now to things we didn’t even dream of.

In terms of preserving ‘traditional forms of music’ though, the question is preserve what?

What we talk about preserving was also a fusion already. People were doing fusion since people have been traveling and mixing with each other. When the black people were taken from Africa it was already a fusion right there – a lot of music got created then. We’re talking about 400 years ago. So where does the authenticity start and stop? Where’s the line?

They say “that blues is not authentic” but the blues was already a combination of black rhythms and some of the classical European harmonies you hear today, and melodies, that’s what became jazz music too. They were already mixing things.

The moment you put people from different places together, there’s a fusion. It’s been happening for all of time. But in the past 50 years it’s happened more rapidly than 200 years ago because people are traveling faster, moving faster and get their information faster too.

[B: check out Richard Bona’s reflections on the diversity and influence of blues music with these sample tracks from his 2009 album The Ten Shades of Blues…]

Richard Bona - The Ten Shades of Blues (2009)

‘Sona Moyo’ – Richard Bona – The Ten Shades of Blues

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‘Good Times’ – Richard Bona – The Ten Shades of Blues

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Learn The Technology

“one foot in the past and one foot in the future”

Richard Bona: We have definitely lost a lot in terms of a sound. When I record analogue and digital – the difference is night and day.

I still have my foot in an analogue world where I still do things like I used to do when we used to play as a kid. I used to play with my folks in a church, and I still record like that, because the real essence of music is there. So in my house in France I have an analogue studio.

I also think there’s way too many informations now. I was actually lucky as a kid to grow up in a place where I didn’t have a radio, tv or Facebook. Cause too much information kills the information.

Musicians today have to do so many things around music. They have to go and update their Facebook page, and do things that have nothing to do with the music. That’s a loss right there cause its really hard to find time to play these days.

But we gotta get versatile and learn the technology these days because that’s where the world is going. As a musician today you can’t ignore that. We should have one foot in the past and one foot in the future. So in New York I have a digital studio too.

I give you another example of a friend who’s still writing music with a pencil. It takes him a month to write a song, the whole arrangement. His handwriting is perfect. I will never have beautiful handwriting like him, I wish I had. But today you could do the same thing on a computer in one hour. Well, if I have a choice, I will do it one hour. I don’t have one month to sit. But those are the people who never embrace the technology. They look at a computer and just go “Please, No”.

When I come to Australia I’m actually giving classes about that – how modern musicians need to be be connected with technology today.

“Don’t worry…we are live to the bone.”

Today everything is digital, everything is formatted – all the radio, all the tunes, all the singers. When they play live, most of our “super stars” are all in playback, not even singing live.

There are a category of musicians today that just want to sound like they sound on radio. The young people who go to see Beyonce want to hear it exactly how it sounds on the radio. If you change anything, they’re like “Why change it? We heard it like this, just do it like this”. They have to satisfy audience in the masses out there.

That’s a loss right there when people can’t even perform live because they’re so scared to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of that interaction of music. We don’t have to be perfect. That’s what makes music what it is – when we just get to improvise on stage.

But don’t worry – we live. I will never change that when it comes to my performances on stage. We are live to the bone.

Richard Bona

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Connection In Music

Beaver: You agree that music is one of the greatest healing forces in this troubled world of ours?

Richard Bona: Definitely.

Beaver: You were born into a musical family and surrounded by music during a lifetime of playing and composing on your own and collaboratively with phenomenal artists all over the world- ie. a lifetime of blessed music experiences. What’s your take on the goodness of music in people’s lives?

Richard Bona: If our world had the reflection of music then we would probably live in a perfect world. Because music actually has that perfect science.

Music is so rationale. I think it’s even more rationale than mathematics and numbers. If I give you 10 and divide it by 3 for example, you’ll never find the exact number right? But with music, it’s so perfect. You move one finger and get exactly the chord you want. You move another finger and it’s not the same chord anymore. It’s perfect.

For example I will go to India and see someone I never ever met before, and the moment we start playing music we create a bond. It seems like we know each other, are family, instantly.

But you put two politicians together to meet up once year all the time at the U.N. and they barely talk to each other. Or, I just travelled on a plane to Paris. People can sit next to each other on a plane for eight hours and not say a word.

That would never happen in music, never. The moment we play that note right there, boom, we are linked.

Immediately when music comes, you see people dancing together, they don’t even know each other. But if you met that person in the subway or wherever, you might not even say ‘hi’ to them.

Music Transcends Difference

Beaver: What experience do you want audiences at your shows to have?

Richard Bona: I just want my audience to remember the good time they spent when they heard me playing. I want them 20 years from now going “Wow. That was a good moment”. Cause that’s what the music is all about. We should celebrate life, cause this life is beautiful. Music is a tool that helps remind us of that.

And also to remind us that we’re all one in the same boat. That’s what we forget with “I’m from here”, I’m from there”, “Im yellow”, “Im black.” When music starts to kick in, it reminds us that we’re all just humans and we should appreciate this beautiful life.

That’s why I love doing what I’m doing because I get to connect people. And I get to connect myself to people. In music we don’t fear the difference like regular people do. Through music I learn to actually embrace the difference. Cause when you embrace the difference, you become taller.

Where I grew up for example, you wash you hands and you go eat with everyone in the same place. If I stay in my village with the same people, we know the same stories, we eat the same food, we eat the same way. But if I meet a Japanese guy he’s going to tell me “I’m gonna teach you how to eat with chopsticks”. “Oh, wait a second, you don’t eat with your hands? You guys eat with chopsticks”. From there I meet a European guy and he says “I’m gonna teach you how to eat with a fork”. So right there you’re expanding your knowledge, and vice versa. Music is exactly the same way.

Music is the real school of life.

Politicians should use music as a tool actually. But maybe they know the power of music so they don’t want it around them :) .

Beaver: I’m sure you’re right :) . Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.

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Richard Bona gives a free workshop at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015 on 28 May and the Richard Bona Quintet performs two live shows on 29 May. The festival kicks off the night before with a performance by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea– ending on 7 June with Dee Bridgewater & Irvin Mayfield with The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. In between those opening and closing shows are 100+ live performances, workshops, talks and films by other superb Australian and international artists in various venues throughout Melbourne. Check out the full festival program here.

Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

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Future-Soul Artist Wallace Releases ‘Vinyl Skip’

New Zealand Music Month has just begun. About the same time last week Beaver was praising the unique sounds of music coming out of Aotearoa (New Zealand) in recent decades – a promising, young New Zealand-born “future soul” artist named Wallace was digitally-releasing her debut single Vinyl Skip.

Wallace Gollan - Vinyl Skip

Wallace Gollan is a jazz-trained singer/songwriter who cites NGAIIRE, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Hiatus Kaiyote and Little Dragon amongst her influences. So then, what we know about this artist already is that her musical roots are grounded in goodness.

Next we can conjure up beautiful imagery from this Vinyl Skip story Wallace shares:

“Vinyl Skip came about after I misheard a rap by Common. He’s talking about life and says “let’s spend it slow forever”. I thought he’d said “Let’s spin it slow forever” and got this image of two people dancing to a record spinning too slow but not caring cause it meant they could dance for longer and get lost in the moment.”

Wallace Gollan

Photo by Matthew Predny

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Hear the sounds of Vinyl Skip

 

And wait patiently for the release of Wallace’s forthcoming EP to better get to know the sounds of this emerging female artist (for now you can only buy the digital single).

Until then, look out for the chance to experience hearing Wallace’s stunning voice live. She’s now Sydney-based so folks in Australia are more likely to get theirs sooner than the rest of the world.

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Myele Manzanza: New Zealand Music Aesthetics

Except for the reformation of Trinity Roots and what a handful of other New Zealand music artists like Myele Manzanza, Fat Freddys Drop, Electric Wire Hustle and Ladi 6 are up to, these days I’m more out of touch with New Zealand’s music scene than I used to be.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots: Citizen Tour 2015

The Sound

When I was on the pulse during the past decade and more, I always thought Aotearoa (New Zealand) was a musical gem undiscovered (to their loss) by most of the world beyond Australia.

For small South Pacific islands distant from so much of the world, there seemed to be a disproportionately high number of New Zealand music artists blending flavours of soul, jazz, reggae and beats to create chilled, spacious, smooth, feel-right music with an inexplicably distinctive (and unique) New Zealand sound. I couldn’t work it out except to guess that its stunningly dominant natural environment played some part.

Myele Manzanza on The Sounds

During my recent interview with “afro-elastic soul” artist Myele Manzanza, I asked him about that sound; and to share any home-grown insights into the evolution of New Zealand music throughout his lifetime – which included years of drumming and composing with Electric Wire Hustle and working on numerous solo and collaborative projects with fellow New Zealand (and international) artists.  

Check out Myele’s response with sample sounds from some of the players in that musical evolution…

Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic live at WOMADelaide 2015

Myele Manzanza: .

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“New Zealand music out to a wider world audience”

“I think as far as the era of New Zealand music you’re referring to, in order for that to happen, I guess the thing that really broke down the door was Fat Freddys Drop – as far as getting New Zealand music out to a wider world audience. I have to take my hat off to them because of what they did and the level they did it at. I don’t think anyone of that era has gotten to the level of where Fat Freddys Drop got to.

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“a new vanguard”

You could maybe throw in Lorde, who’s stupendously big. She’s of a new vanguard/league/generation. Her success is incredible. There must be some element of influence of what’s happened in New Zealand music over the past 10 years on what Lorde does, but I don’t really bring her into this era of New Zealand music that you’re referring to. Even though it’s beats and soul, its a different thing.

“that sound”

As far as to how Ladi 6, Electric Wire Hustle or Fat Freddys Drop got here and got to that sound…when I was 14 or 15, Trinity Roots and The Black Seeds were coming to prominence (Trinity Roots reached their peak and then disbanded for some time). The Black Seeds and Fat Freddys Drop were still on their scent, but were in the community so I kind of grew up around that sound.

It might also trace back to Che Fu – he had a very big impact.

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Trinity Roots- ‘Egos’ – Home, Land and Sea (2004)

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Fat Freddys Drop- ‘Roady (feat. Ladi 6 & P Digsss)’ – Based On A True Story (2005)

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Ladi 6- ‘Walk Right Up’ – Time Is Not Much (2008)

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Che Fu- ‘Fade-Away’ – Navigator (2002)

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“Once Bob Marley hit…”

There’s obviously a very big reggae thing in New Zealand.

Once Bob Marley hit, and I think he performed in New Zealand in the early 80‘s [1979], that was a big cultural turning point; a. because his influence was so big anyway, but; b. when he came and performed he really got to know the local culture. I think there was a connection for him too because Waitangi Day (the day a treaty of agreement was signed between Maoris and the colonial population) is on 6 February which also happened to be Bob Marley’s birthday.

For whatever reason, and particular Maori and Pacific Island culture in New Zealand, people were very much drawn to Bob Marley, his message and his sound.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Natural Mystic Vinyl - Tuff Gong Studios, Jamaica

Maybe there’s an ‘island thing’ too where the geography relates to the style. There’s something that can be related there and got taken up. There’s a reggae thing that’s been happening in New Zealand music for decades now. Trinity Roots and Fat Freddys Drop came out of that but they also had their jazz, soul, electro, dub and techno influences.

“the J Dilla-thing in New Zealand music”

It might be fair to say that whilst Electric Wire Hustle had those same influences, [we] were maybe the first to champion the J Dilla-thing in New Zealand music; that rhythmic aesthetic; that sound and style of contemporary left-field hip-hop/soul instrumentals. We latched onto that, and it might have given us a point of difference. Ladi 6 was in there as well. So were a number of other artists. Isaac Aesili –  part of a group now called Sorceress (previously called Funkommunity) was very much in that scene.

It’s interesting thinking about that timeline and the history of that – and will be interesting to see what happens next.

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Electric Wire Hustle- ‘This World (Feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow)’ – Electric Wire Hustle (2009)

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“what happens next”

Obviously Lorde is the now. It’s undeniable that whatever will come after Lorde in mainstream New Zealand music will be largely influenced by her.

But for me I think my next step is maybe taking those influences but maybe going further into the jazz thing. By “jazz” I mean improvised music that’s fluid and can move and shift as performed in the moment in real time, as opposed to pre-programmed drum machine stuff.

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Myele Manzanza- ‘Elvin’s Brew’ – One (2013)

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Even though that’s very much a big part of what I do, what I think I’ll be working on over the next few years of my life will be a synthesis of that – finding my line between the programmed electronic-thing and the improvised jazz/soul, real person, real time-thing and trying to make that my sound.

As far as where the rest of New Zealand music is headed, only time will tell.”

~~~~~~~~

More of The Sound

Start here if you want to check out more sounds and images of Myele Manzanza, The Eclectic and other Aotearoa New Zealand artists:

Myele Manzanza & The Eclectic (including father Sam Manzanza and Aotearoan soul divas Rachel Fraser & Lisa Tomlins) performing live at WOMADelaide 2015 last month…

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…or click the artist’s name for more live videos, photos and sample tracks by Myele Manzanza, Trinity Roots, Fat Freddys Drop and Electric Wire Hustle.

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…and stay tuned, because there’ll always be more New Zealand music artists added to Beaver’s world.

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Bluesfest 2015 – Nothing But The Euphoric Funk

Five festival days of performances by 89 international and Australian acts at Byron Bay Bluesfest ended for me with three hours at the main stage frontline having what felt like the most euphoric live music experience of my lifetime.

I was, of course, in the company of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

George Clinton at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

With the greatest of respect to all other performing artists and the Funk Disclaimer below, everything that came before Parliament Funkadelic at Bluesfest 2015 mattered little to me after the P Funk family arrived on stage – and by the end of their gloriously epic set, even less.

Bluesfest Before The Funk

Up until that spiritual Parliament Funkadelic experience, my Bluesfest time had been challenging.

Lenny Kravitz had cancelled and there weren’t many programmed acts left for my own personal musical tastes – and, so many of the 2015 artists were Bluesfest frequent flyers. An unfounded festival greeting by a police sniffer dog didn’t help. Nor did ugly behaviours I saw by some of my fellow festival-goers. Then there was that disappointing Bluesfester who found my camera with its images and sounds so precious to me, and decided not to return it. And amongst all of that I just wasn’t as successful as others in not letting the rain and its resulting inches-deep, stinky mud slush get me down.

Xavier Rudd & The United Nations live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Beyond the negative…moving on to accentuate the pre Parliament Funkadelic positive :) …Bluesfest 2015 had some acts that motivated me back through its gates to experience the goodness of their shows.

Jurassic Five and the awesomely-funky sounds of hip hop created by DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark alongside four stellar emcees (Chali 2na + Akil + Marc 7 + Zaakir aka Soup) who might “sound like one” in unison but individually have their own unique melody and tone which makes your body move in delightfully different ways.

Jurassic 5 live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

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Gary Clark Jr – an absolute monster on guitar whose sounds reminded me of how good the blues can be and how important it is to the past, present and future of music of so many kinds.

Gary Clark Jr. live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Fly My Pretties – a talented collective of independent artists coming together again in the live arena to represent the distinctive sounds of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Fly My Pretties live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Jimmy Cliff with his astounding level of positive energy and delightful showmanship so many Bluesfests later – and his super-tight Jamaican band.

Jimmy Cliff live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires – akin to a placid James Brown bringing the sounds of funk and soul to the stage.

Charles Bradley live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue who bought his feel-good mix of jazz, funk & hip hop from the lands of New Orleans to get down to in Byron Bay, yet again.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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You can check out Trombone Shorty’s take on funk with this here sample track from his album Say That To Say This….

Trombone Shorty - Say That To Say This album cover

Say That To Say This (2013)

‘Get The Picture’ – Trombone Shorty – Say That To Say This

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Paolo Nutini…whose musical style may not be up my personal alley of taste, but who impressed me nonetheless with his engaging live performance.

Paolo Nutini live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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Rodrigo y Gabriela and the way just two people and the stunning sounds of their guitars can so easily fill the space of an entire main festival stage.

Rodrigo y Gabriela live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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No doubt the 100,000+ folks who passed through Bluesfest gates over its five days with leanings towards different musical flavours to me, had lots more of their own experiences of musical goodness.

Xavier Rudd & The United Nations live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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All my Bluesfest 2015 experiences both good and challenging, washed away in euphoria within minutes of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic arriving on stage to close the festival’s main stage. Some might say that’s a travesty to Bluesfest and its artists to say so, but I do so through the eyes and ears of a long-time devoted Funkateer.

Funk Disclaimer

Funk music has brought me more listening and dancing joy during my lifetime than any other musical style in history. That’s a pretty profound contribution to have made to my wellbeing – one which I am eternally grateful for.

George Clinton and the many incredible musicians, vocalists and visionaries who have flown on the Parliament/Funkadelic/P-Funk mothership throughout its many different historical incarnations have been at the front, centre and side of funk music since the 60’s.

They’ve constantly reinvented themselves and their music to keep it alive in a changing world, musical landscape and life circumstances. George Clinton tells it that all along the way, people in the music industry have repeatedly screwed he and other artists out of royalties and tried to squeeze them down or out.

So to witness and hear George Clinton (at almost 75 years old) on stage in 2015 alongside other P-Funk legends  – still keepin’ the funk alive and fresh – and performing it so energetically and brilliantly for three epic hours, was a super special, blessed thing.

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Amongst those old-school P-Funkers by his side were Robert PNut Johnson (in the P-Funk family since 1976), Michael Clip Payne (since 1977), DeWayne Blackbyrd McKnight, Steve Boyd and Lige Curry (since 1978) plus Bennie CowanGreg Thomas and Ricky Rouse (since “a very long time” ago).

P Nut Johnson - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Robert P-Nut Johnson

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert- Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

Michael Clip Payne (r)

Blackbyrd McKnight + George Clinton - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

Blackbyrd McKnight

Steve Boyd- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Steve Boyd

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Lige Curry (r)

Bennie Cowan- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Bennie Cowan

 

 

Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Greg Thomas

Ricky Rouse- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Ricky Rouse

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic Made Me Do It

The priceless value of George Clinton & co.’s music in my life and to the world of music generally, was more than enough inspiration to make me do things I’ve never done before to take full advantage of the Parliament Funkadelic blessing before me at Bluesfest.

The first was lining up for a George Clinton signing before the show – not to get his name on anything – but simply for the chance to thank him for the profound musical gifts he’s given.

George Clinton at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

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The next out-of-character mission was maneuvering my way to the Parliament Funkadelic frontline (in dangerous sound-quality territory) long before their set so I could witness the brilliant chops of each and every one of those artists up close.

Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

Ricky Rouse and Blackbyrd McKnight

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Bluesfest During The Funk

It was there on the Mojo stage frontline at 8.30 pm that all the funk stars aligned and I found myself directly in front of the mothership collective, surrounded by a posse of multi-generational, devoted Funkateer strangers-became-funk-bonded-friends. For the next 3 euphoric hours we watched and listened in awe, danced, and screamed in appreciation whenever asked, for the super-tight live funk delivered by George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

On a different day or place I know that live P-Funk explosion could have been even bigger than it was at Bluesfest.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

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Long-time musical heroes were joined on stage by a new generation of P-Funk stars who have their own independent music projects going on: Danny Bedrosian – Thurteen – (Garry Starchild Shider’s son) Garrett Shider and George Clinton’s grandkids Tracey “Tra’zae” Lewis-Clinton, Patavian Lewis and Tonysha Nelson

Their presence gives me hope that the funk really can survive long into the future “like it always has” – thanks muchly to George Clinton and so many other artists in the P-Funk family passed and living.

Tra' Zae - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Tra’zae Clinton

Tonysha Nelson - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Tonysha Nelson (c) + Danny Bedrosian + Garrett Shider

 

 

 

 

 

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Thurteen (l)

Kandy Apple Redd - George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Tonysha Nelson + Patavian Lewis

Garrett Shider- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Garrett Shider

Those on stage with George Clinton took their turns to shine – so often at the behest or encouragement of Dr Funkenstein – and unfailingly with his support and appreciation.

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Most P-Funk stars were on stage shining consistently for the whole epic set – including the superb drumming delivered by human funk machine Benzel Baltimore Cowan.

Benzel Baltimore - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Benzel Baltimore Cowan

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We got tasty funkin’ jams and solos, beloved songs of all ages from the vast Parliament/Funkadelic/P Funk discography. as well as new ones showcasing music of the younger P-Funk members like female duo Kandy Apple Redd.

Patavian Lewis - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Patavian Lewis

Tonysha Nelson - Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Tonysha Nelson

Carlos McMurray was amongst those youngsters on board the mothership, bringing to life the irreverent but beloved P-Funk character Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk.

Carlos McMurray- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

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At the end of those three euphoric hours, the final uncharacteristic thing George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic made me do when I realised the experience was really, truly over and the mothership crew had flown away (maybe never to return) – was to shed a tear.  Dramatic yes? But a true story of the profound goodness of funk music in this life!

Then I moved on to simply be grateful for my music blessing, and relish in the buzz I felt in every cell of my body for as many days as it lasted.

For its shockingly-bad sound quality, I’m loathe to include this video footage from my guardian angel/bodyguard friend behind me at the show protecting my P-Funk dance space, but, dedicated Funkateers might find some goodness in the imagery at least…

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“The Mothership Will Fly Just Like It Always Does”

Thanks to the live experience of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at Byron Bay Bluesfest, it was five days before I could bring myself to listen to any music at all – for fear it might taint that euphoric feeling I so desperately wanted to hold onto.

To try and comfort myself about the mothership’s departure  – and renew my hope that funk music truly will survive into the future, all I could finally turn to was this here George Clinton and The P Funk All Stars song from their seminal 1996 reunion album T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.  Its lyrics affirmed the survival of funk then and always, and funk do I hope that the words remain true into our musical future.

George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars - TAPOAFOM

T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (1996)

‘T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (Fly Away)’ – George Clinton & The P Funk All Stars – T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

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At Bluesfest I got to thanks George Clinton personally for the crazy-amazing music he’s gifted the world over five decades. I suppose a benefit of cyber-Beavering is that I can put out here the same deep-felt thanks and appreciation to every other Parliament Funkadelic member past and present – and hope that they or their family might receive those thanks.

Blackbyrd McKnight + George Clinton - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

Blackbyrd McKnight (c)

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Finally in this long Beaver funk story, thanks has to go to Bluesfest for bringing George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic (+88 other acts) back to perform on its stages in 2015.

Greg Thomas - Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015 - Australia

Greg Thomas

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Ricky Rouse- Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Ricky Rouse

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic devotees can get the low down on their recent Sydney show here and check in to Beaver’s Facebook page for lots more Bluesfest photos coming.

Better yet, funkateers in the U.K and U.S. between now and August can find their own euphoric P Funk experience at one of their Shake The Gate World Tour shows.

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic Givin’ Up The Funk Live In Sydney

Any cats or kitties out there whippin or wailin and jumpin up and down tellin each other who the greatest contemporary funk cats in the world are can just zip it.

Those cats are George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic collective, of course.

I knew it a while back when the gift of the new Funkadelic album First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate came.

Funkadelic - First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (2014)

If there was any doubt then (there wasn’t) I know it unequivocally now after having the unfunkinbelievably-crazy-amazing live P-Funk experience at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Wednesday night.

Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Sydney, Australia 2015

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live at Enmore Theatre, Sydney 2015

Dr Funkenstein

At the helm of the Parliament Funkadelic mothership in 2015 remains Dr Funkenstein himself, George Clinton – a musical innovator and visionary who continues now in his 70’s like he always has, to put his paw prints into our present, past and future of music. On stage in the live arena George Clinton now like always, facilitates, directs, performs, sings and shakes his ass with that innately-oozing musical and manly style, panache and cool he is loved and respected for by millions of people around the world.

Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Sydney, Australia 2015

P Funk in 2015

Alongside George Clinton on Australian stages, keepin’ the funk, glorious funk alive and well as promised is a fresh, multi-generational collective of 14+ super-talented cats from P Funk days of old and new. I’m gonna name the artists I can and apologise to any I miss crediting for their awe-inspiring chops that put a smile on everyone’s faces during the entire Sydney show and long thereafter.

Ricky Rouse playing his guitar every which way; Lige Curry on bass; Benzel Baltimore on drums; Bennie Cowan on trumpet; Robert “P-Nut” Johnson and Michael “Clip” Payne on vocals; Gregory Thomas on saxophone; Danny Bedrosian on keys/synths; Garrett Shider (son of the dearly-departed P Funk guitarist/musical director from early Parliament Funkadelic days Garry Shider) on guitar; Thurteen Thurteen who sung his vocals from both on stage and amongst the crowd; and George Clinton’s grand kiddies Tonysha Nelson, Patavian Lewis and Tracey “Tra’Zae” Lewis-Clinton on vocals. Melbourne funkateers at Friday’s Parliament-Funkadelic show also got another one of the P Funk guitar legends on stage – Dewayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight.

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The spaceship might not make an appearance on stages these days but a Parliament Funkadelic show would not be that, without the appearance of one or more of its beloved characters. This time George Clinton brought along Starchild’s nemesis from days of old – the vain, “too-cool-for-everything-real” pimpster Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk (in 2015, aka Carlos McMurray). Before the night was done there was nothing for Sir Nose to do of course but succumb to the funk and get down and dirty with the best of them.

Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Sydney, Australia 2015

Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Sydney, Australia 2015

Check out this video from the Sydney show featuring Sir Nose.

George Clinton maintains Parliament Funkadelic has kept its musical currency throughout its long history by keeping a focus on the younger generation of artists who’ve formed part of the ever-changing collective at different times. True to that belief the Sydney set was opened with a medley of First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate tracks collaboratively performed by George Clinton and his younger P Funk counterparts. Check out a video here of the ‘Pole Power‘/‘Baby Like Fonkin’ It Up’/ ‘Get Low’ medley plus a [dirty mp3] sample of the album version of ‘Pole Power’ below.

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‘Pole Power’ – Parliament Funkadelic – First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate (2014)

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After a short taste of new Parliament Funkadelic music, the rest of the Sydney set was made up of the most well-known and popular songs of old like ‘Flashlight’ and ‘Give Up The Funk’. There was just so much incredible musical shit constantly happening all over the stage during the entire set that (impossibly) I wanted to hear, see and to dance with eyes closed to every single sound played.

I once read a review of a Parliament Funkadelic concert where the writer said their 90-minute set made the gig too long. Surely no true funkateer would think, feel or say that?  George Clinton & Paliament Funkadelic played brilliantly for two blissful hours in Sydney and it was but a minuscule of the vast, beloved Parliament Funkadelic catalogue. I could have funked out with them all night long and then some.

Parliament Funkadelic live concert - Sydney, Australia 2015

Many thousands of funkateers will be blessed tomorrow to get their own glorious dose of George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic playing live at Byron Bay Bluesfest.

For those who won’t, the consolation prize is this here final video from Parliament Funkadelic’s Sydney show.

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Trinity Roots: Citizen Tour Australia 2015

Direct from playing in their homeland of Aotearoa to a crowd of many thousands of loyal fans at WOMAD New Zealand, Trinity Roots have finally blessed Australia with their first-ever Australian tour.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots live at Miami Marketta, Australia 2015

The very special bonus prize for people at all those shows was the chance to hear live and take home the long-awaited, fresh-off-the-press new album Citizen: the first studio album released by Trinity Roots in over a decade.

Trinity Roots - new album Citizen - 2015

Citizen (2015)

Beloved

For people in Australia in the musical know, both the Trinity Roots tour and the arrival of new Trinity Roots music was a big deal.  They count this group of artists amongst la creme de la creme of contemporary worldwide music-makers of recent history. Most Australian fans never had the opportunity to hear Trinity Roots play their beloved music live before the group disbanded and went their separate musical ways in 2005.

Since the welcome news of a Trinity Roots reunion a few years back and the making of a new album, folks in Australia (and elsewhere) had been waiting patiently with anticipation and excitement for the release of Citizen and the live tour that would follow.

It’s not surprising then that the excitement in Australian venues before Trinity Roots started playing was palpable. So too was the joyful satisfaction of the crowd during their set and long after it finished.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots live at Brunswick Hotel, Australia 2015

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Trinity Roots + 1 Live

Trinity Roots in 2015 are original members Warren Maxwell (guitar/lead vocals) and Rio Hunuki-Hemopo (bass/vocals) plus new drummer/vocalist Ben Wood.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Warren Maxwell

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Rio Hunuki-Hemopo

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Ben Wood

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Joining the trio on their Citizen tour was the talented Ed Zuccollo on keys and synth – also the maker of mini-moog sounds on some of the studio album tracks.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots live at Miami Marketta 2015

Trinity Roots’ live performances went above and beyond the crowd’s high expectations. Set lists were a balanced mix of long-beloved songs from past releases (‘Sense And Cents’‘Little Things’ – ‘Egos’‘Two by Two’‘Home, Land & Sea’‘Just Like You’…) and newly-beloved ones from Citizen (‘Bully’‘Haiku’ ‘El Kaptain’…).

Pick your musical flavours: blues – soul – punk – rock – jazz – reggae or dub. You’ll find all of them throughout Trinity Roots songs of old and especially the new – blended together seamlessly into a distinctive Trinity Roots sound that is perfectly reflective of the beautiful culture and natural environment of Aotearoa –  and is totally unique in this huge, wide world of music.

Those songs are played and sung with exceptional skill and musicality and an honest, passionate outpouring of heart and soul. The angelic voice and one-of-a-kind vocal tone of lead singer Warren Maxwell and the three-part harmonies of he, Rio Hunuki-Hemopo and Ben Wood are nothing but a delight to hear live.

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015

Trinity Roots live concert Australia 2015What else is there to say? All in all and simply put, the live Trinity Roots experience is absolutely sublime.

Check out video footage here from the shows in Brisbane and Miami – and try to imagine how much better it sounded live and direct in person (and in different venues with varying sound quality).  The first one ‘Haiku’, with its unusual time signature, is a new one from Citizen – with ‘Sense And Cents’‘Little Things’ and ‘Egos’ from earlier Trinity Roots releases.


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Karl S. Williams

Another bonus of catching an Australian Trinity Roots show was discovering the songs and vocals of Gold Coast-based support artist Karl S. Williams. Apparently (says my friend who insisted we get to the gig on time to catch his set) “deservedly, he’s going to be huge”. If you didn’t get there early enough to hear Karl S. Williams play you have another chance next week at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Karl S. Williams live at The Zoo, Brisbane 2015

Karl S. Williams live at The Zoo, Brisbane 2015

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Citizen

All of the above comments and praise about the live Trinity Roots experience apply to the new album Citizen.

Those live experiences are ones we had and loved – and hopefully will have again many more times. The studio version of Citizen is one we can have in all its beautiful musical subtleties and with its extra contributing musicians and vocalists from the lands of Aotearoa, over and over again forever hereafter – alongside previous and always-beloved releases Trinity Roots – True – Home, Land And Sea and Music Is Choice.

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Sample a couple of the more chilled-sounding tracks off Citizen below. Note like always – these are just compressed mp3 versions of the songs. You can buy the real-deal, hold-in-your-hand, hear-all-the-sounds-of-the-music album on cd now from any good independent music store or on-line – and hopefully on vinyl soonish.

new Trinity Roots album Citizen - 2015

Citizen (2015)

‘El Kaptain’ – Trinity Roots – Citizen (2015)

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‘This Road’ – Trinity Roots – Citizen (2015)

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I reckon people throughout the wide world beyond Aotearoa and Australia could find themselves a whole lot of goodness in getting to know the sounds of Trinity Roots. If you’re one of them you can check out samples of earlier Trinity Roots music here.

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