North American (USA) Music Artists

Be patient. Beaver has just begun...

Thundercat Drunk, Dark And Hypnotically Good

You might think hearing Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) sing about drunkenness, madness, the discriminatory police state, heartbreak, rejection, death and so on, would make you feel blue. But you’re probably wrong.

Despite its dark lyrical themes Thundercat’s third album Drunk in its whole sonic journey, somehow turns out to be a hypnotic, feel-good experience.

Thundercat - Drunk

Drunk (2017)

For starters any lyrical downers on the album are expressed by Thundercat straight up and honestly with refreshing kookiness and humour. There’s also a saving light to be found in the darkness as well as crazy space rides to be had, the joy of letting loose on anime and fish in Tokyo and the nine pleasurable lives of a cat hanging out in the sunshine. And more importantly, hearing Thundercat’s smooth falsetto voice singing those lyrics consistently over 23 tracks has the effect of lulling you into a hypnotic place of serenity, simple as that.

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Drunk is full of so many diversely weird and wonderful programmed beats care of Steven Ellison (Flying Lotus), Sounwave and Thundercat himself that you can’t help but feel you’re winning your way through a super-fun computer game. Add to that the living instrumental sounds of Thundercat on electric bass, Dennis Hamm on piano and saxophone by Kamasi Washington; plus vocal contributions by both likely and seemingly unlikely artists like Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald – and there you have your complete hypnotic, feel-good sonic experience.

Check out two sample tracks from Drunk below – with the usual ‘compressed-mp3-version’ warning. Get the real deal in hard copy from your local music store or direct from Brainfeeder so you don’t miss out on the pleasure of hearing all the many subtle sounds this album has to offer.

Show You The Way – Thundercat featuring Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins

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Walk On By – Thundercat featuring Kendrick Lamar

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Bluesfest 2017 – An Awe Inspiring Wealth of Musical Experience

Byron Bay Bluesfest is all about the music. It’s not a festival you go to find a patch of luscious green grass to chill out on and catch up with friends. For starters you’re not likely to find such grass or any other festival spaces to chill out comfortably (unless you pay hundreds extra to sit on a couch in the VIP bar). And besides that there’s just so many incredible artists playing on its five stages throughout the five-day Easter festival to keep you on the move and happily engrossed in music.

Mary J Blige live concert 2017

Mary J Blige at Bluesfest 2017

Over its 28 year history Bluesfest has continued to diversify its line-up extending beyond “blues and roots” music to include more hip hop, funk, soul, jazz and reggae acts so there’s something to satisfy the broadest range of tastes.

Nas live concert 2017

Nas at Bluesfest 2017

No matter your musical taste and even where an act mightn’t be your cup of tea, what you’re sure to find on just about any Bluesfest stage are musicians and vocalists who are highly skilled, accomplished masters and mistresses of their craft; and who each have a wealth of experience in playing and performing. Thinking about the collective skills and experience of all Bluesfest 2017 artists combined, is both mind-boggling and awe-inspiring.

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Those gold standard levels of musicianship make for plenty of special music moments to be found during the festival. You know the ones I mean: those completely-present, thoughtless, blissful moments that make life feel so much better than however it might actually be at the time.

This year I found most of my special moments with Michael Kiwanuka, Miles Electric Band, Nas and The Soul Rebels, Roy Ayers, Laura Mvula, Snarky Puppy, Mavis Staples, Mary J Blige and Booker T.  Check out glimpses of those shows below- and look elsewhere for the low-down on shows by other 2017 artists including Santana, Gregory Porter, Patti Smith, Buddy Guy, Beth Hart, Nikki Hill, Busby Marou, Courtney Barnett, The Doobie Brothers and Neil Finn.

Miles Electric Band

First up there was that absolute sublime found in hearing and seeing the stunning chops of the multi-generational members of Miles Electric Band paying contemporary homage to Miles Davis’ electronic era.

Christian Scott - trumpet

Christian Scott with Miles Electric Band

The group’s second festival show, where the band seemed way more relaxed and wasn’t plagued by the sound issues of the first , fell on Blackbyrd McKnight’s birthday with the band acknowledging that in the most subtle and beautiful of musical ways.

Blackbyrd McKnight - Miles Electric Band concert 2017

Blackbyrd McKnight

Check out a track below from an album you mightn’t yet have discovered- Blackbyrd McKnight’s solo project ’bout Funkin’ Time – as well as video snippets from Miles Electric Band’s Bluesfest shows.

Blackbyrd McKnight - 'bout funkin' time

“Funkin Where You Belong” by Blackbyrd McKnight

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Nas & The Soul Rebels

Then came the delightful experience of hearing Nas perfectly spitting poetic rhymes with positive, inspiring messages accompanied by the sounds of a DJ and live instrumentation by New Orleans band The Soul Rebels (a perfect combo yes?). Nas threw the crowd back into the golden sounds of hip hop days gone, to cassette tapes and the forever-lasting influence of Michael Jackson’s music.

Nas live concert 2017

Nas

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Michael Kiwanuka

A spiritual experience of the highest order was also found in hearing the unique, old-soul voice of Michael Kiwanuka live-  especially when accompanied by his supporting female vocalist for some songs like ‘Rule the World’. He and his band opened both Bluesfest shows with the slow instrumental build-up of ‘Cold Little Heart’ before performing most other tracks from the latest album Love & Hate, ‘Home Again’ and a timely Prince cover, introduced with a bold statement to the effect that “without Prince, there would be no music”.

Michael Kiwanuka live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka’s Australian shows kicked off a long list of tour dates you can get along to over coming months in the U.K, U.S.A and Europe. In the meantime treat your ears to the song below from Love & Hate, check out video footage from his Bluesfest shows and hear more Michael Kiwanuka music here. Any good local music store should have both albums to buy and keep in your beloved-forever-after collection 🙂 .

Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

“Place I Belong” by Michael Kiwanuka 

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Roy Ayers

Both of Roy Ayers’ festival shows were nothing short of instrumental sublime. It was a joy to see this funk-soul-jazz legend in his late 70s, still creating magic on the vibraphone and visibly taking great pleasure in creating live music with his band.

Roy Ayers live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Roy Ayers

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Mavis Staples

At one of her earlier festival shows Mavis Staples told the crowd in no uncertain terms: “You know, my sisters are The Staple Sisters. We’ve been taking you all down for 60 years. And. I. ain’t. tired.”. Now although she (justifiably) looked a little worn by the end of her final show, the overwhelming feeling in the crowd seemed to be that Ms. Mavis Staples just gets better and better with age.

Mavis Staples live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Mavis Staples

Snarky Puppy

There were also all those good vibes brought to Australian stages again by contemporary instrumental jazz maestros Snarky Puppy – this time around with the personal added bonus for me of Bobby Sparks II being amongst them on organ/keys next to Shaun Martin.

Snarky Puppy live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Snarky Puppy

Bobby Sparks - Snarky Puppy concert 2017

Bobby Sparks II

Snarky Puppy live concert - Bluesfest 2017

Shaun Martin

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Mary J Blige

Watching the ever-strong and sassy Mary J Blige completely fill and command the largest stage space any one performer gave themselves at the festival (with her band and support vocalists positioned around the outer stage edge) brought more musical and visual delight.

Mary J Blige live concert 2017

Mary J Blige

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Booker T

Booker T inspired ear-to-ear smiles as he effortlessly bust it out on the organ alongside his son Ted Jones on guitar and other band members, performing a bunch of beloved Stax Records label classics like ‘Green Onions’.

Booker T Jones concert - Bluesfest 2017

Booker T Jones & Ted Jones

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Laura Mvula

Hearing and feeling the power of Laura Mvula’s vocal abilities live as she sang emotively about those places of darkness in which light can be found; and in her own words “making music that helps people”, was a blessed festival experience too.

Laura Mvula live concert 2017

Laura Mvula

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One of the greatest pleasures in being at all those shows was witnessing how each artist on stage clearly respects, encourages and appreciates the others’ musicianship and skills; and takes great pleasure in making music together. From Booker T joining his band on stage, walking to and acknowledging the members one-by-one before sitting down at his organ to play; to seeing Roy Ayers listen intently and smile at music made by his younger band members; to hearing the spokesperson or leader of each group take the time in their set to introduce all individual band members for the crowd to show their appreciation to.

Roy Ayers concert - Bluesfest 2017Roy Ayers live concert - Bluesfest 2017

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I’m certainly grateful to all the stunning musicians and vocalists who I heard perform at Bluesfest 2017; who created those special moments of music bliss. I wish I could tell you every one of their names. Blessed and enriched are all festival folk for their individual experiences- and for the existence of Byron Bay Bluesfest.

Michael Kiwanuka live concert - Bluesfest 2017

You can check out more Bluesfest 2017 photos on Facebook and additional live video footage on YouTube or Vimeo.

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A Tribe Called Quest – Thank You 4 Your Service

Let’s not focus on what might be wrong with hip hop today. Instead let’s talk about what’s right with it; and how A Tribe Called Quest and their newest (and final 🙁 ) album We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service exemplifies those things.

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)

First and foremost there’s the fact that this album saw A Tribe Called Quest’s four original members, each of whom spent the most part of hip hop’s history truly pioneering and mastering its fine art, reunited and creating magic in the studio again. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White: a long-time brotherhood, a family, with their individual talents and combined strengths effortlessly spitting out stunning beats and rhymes with a rare and sublime chemistry that’s simply undeniable.

Then there’s that cast of musical contributors and guest MCs, all of whom along with A Tribe Called Quest’s core members, are themselves masters of hip hop and further exemplify what’s right with it today. They include Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Anderson .Paak, Talib Kweli and Kanye West as well as hip hop veterans and long-time Tribe collaborators Busta Rhymes and Consequence. On We Got It From Here… those featured artists contribute to the tracks in a humble way, their parts subtly integrated into the collective whole without unnecessarily becoming the main focus.

Those MCs spit intelligent, clever lyrical rhymes of substance – speaking out about the things that need to be talked about, and heard by the masses. You know, all those seemingly persistent, cyclical wrongs of this world of prejudice and discrimination in which we still, unfortunately live; and fundamentally, the importance of critical thinking, unity and action in the face of those wrongs. Throughout the album due homage is also paid to the life, artistry, friendship and ultimate death of Phife Dawg (during the album’s making). And despite the heavy weight of its lyrical subject matter, in true and beloved Tribe-Style, the messages are delivered with plenty of humour and fun in the mix.

We Got It From Here… also had a recording process not seen often these days whereby all but two of its contributors (Elton John and Kanye West) recorded their parts in Q-Tip’s home studio-  bouncing creative energies and ideas off each other, inspiring one another, to create all the many parts that eventually made up the final intricate whole after Q-Tip and Blair Wells had meticulously slaved over its production for months after recording finished.

This hip hop album feels and sounds alive – largely because of its perfect blend of live instrumentation with programmed beats. Amongst the contributing musicians adding their creative touches are Jack White on guitar, Elton John and Chris Bower on piano, Q-Tip on drums, bass and keys, Masayuki “BIGYUKI” Hirano on piano, keys and synth, Chris Sholar, Chris Parks and Blair Wells on guitar, Louis Cato on bass and guitar, Casey Benjamin on keys, organ, fender rhodes and piano, Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass, Mark Colenburg on drums, with scratches by George “DJ Scratch” Spivey.

And not surprisingly the group stayed away from the more obvious and most heavily-sampled songs – instead choosing lefter-field tracks from a diverse range of artists including Black Sabbath, Elton John, Can, Nairobi Sisters and Musical Youth.

Finally, We Got It From Here… exemplifies what’s right about hip hop music today because it undoubtedly moves the bodies of us folk in this world who love to dance.

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your ServiceSince the release of their 1990 debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, A Tribe Called Quest have made our lives much much richer with their music. We Got It From Here… is yet another blessed musical gift from these proven masters of hip hop today and for all eternity. We can and should be thankful to the Tribe family for all of those musical gifts.

Check out 2 of the albums 16 tracks here, remembering these versions are inferior, compressed mp3s. Of course Tribe released We Got It From Here… on cd and in its most superior format, sweet vinyl. Get the hard copy from your local independent record store and add it to your Beloved-Forever-After Music Collection.

“Solid Wall of Sound” – A Tribe Called Quest

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“Ego” – A Tribe Called Quest

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Despite Phife Dawg’s tragic passing during the making of We Got It From Here… there’s been talk of a world tour of the album. Here’s hoping that’s true and we get the blessed opportunity for the ultimate of A Tribe Called Quest experiences: to hear and see the remaining members spitting beats and rhymes live on stage.

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H Is For Hip Hop And Its Queens

H in the A to Z of fusion goes to Hip Hop music – leaving aside here the other core elements that make up hip hop culture.

Hip Hop earns its place because its creation definitely involves the refined art of fusion. From DJs mixing records they spin to studio producers/beat makers sampling, chopping, looping, sequencing, recording and mixing-  the beats, sounds and grooves that make up hip hop music are found and blended together from a broad range of worldwide music sources including funk, soul, rhythm and blues, disco, jazz, rock, heavy metal, reggae, salsa, cumbia, soca, pop and well, any other genre you choose really.

The evolution of hip hop music is long and involved. Its characters and contributors are many. Its history fills pages you can find elsewhere. Sufficed to say here its original roots are found in Africa and since its formation in New York in the 70’s the hip hop phenomena has spread far and wide throughout the world. Erykah Badu perfectly describes its contemporary influence in ‘The Healer’ when she sings “It’s bigger than religion, hip hop. It’s bigger than my nigga, hip hop. It’s bigger than the government”.  And thankfully so.

“The Healer” by Erykah Badu – New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)

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It’s the hip hop Kings of the world who’ve generally been the most heard and celebrated. Check out “essential hip hop” albums to find most are compilations of tracks by male artists. But of course there are female artists all over the world creating hip hop music whether they be DJ’s, MCs, beat makers or producers. Sampled below are songs featuring just a handful of those many hip hop Queens – some widely known and celebrated, others less so.

The usual warning applies: versions you find here are just dirty, compressed mp3s. Get the real deal on hard copy from your local music store, in their sweetest of forms on vinyl.

Erykah Badu (U.S.A)

Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground

“Love Of My Life Worldwide” featuring Queen Latifah, Angie Stone & Bahamadia – Worldwide Underground

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Fugees (inc. Ms Lauryn Hill) (U.S.A)

Fugees - Blunted On Reality

“Some Seek Stardom” – Blunted on Reality

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ChocQuibTown (Colombia)

ChocQuibTown - Somos Pacifico

“Somos Pacifico” – Somos Pacifico

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Georgia Anne Muldrow (U.S.A)

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

“Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Ladi6 (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Ladi6 - Time Is Not Much

“Give Me The Light” – Time Is Not Much

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Nneka (Nigeria/Germany)

Nneka - No Longer At Ease

“Halfcast” – No Longer At Ease 

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Telmary (Cuba)

Telmary - A Diario

“Ando” – A Diario

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Yep, blessed are we for the birth of hip hop music and its ongoing fusionary evolution since by artists all over the world.  Thankful are we for both its Queens and its Kings.

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Ten Albums of 2016 That Made Life Sweeter

Blessed we are for the music albums of 2016 that made this life feel a whole lot sweeter. Thankful are we to the artists who created those albums. Some, like Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered, came quickly after his last and were released unexpectedly. Other albums like De La Soul’s and the Anonymous Nobody, and The Diary Of from dearly-departed legend J Dilla, were an insanely-long time in coming.

Below are sample tracks from ten albums of 2016 that likely brought happiness to lovers of jazz, hip hop, R&B and reggae music. All can be found in hard copy and added to your Forever-After Music Collection if you haven’t already done so- including in their most supreme format, on sweet sweet vinyl.

1. Anderson .Paak- Malibu

Anderson Paak - Malibu

“Heart Don’t Stand A Chance”

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2. BADBADNOTGOOD- IV

Badbadnotgood - IV (2016)

“And That, Too”

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Hear more tracks from IV and watch video footage of  BADBADNOTGOOD performing live here

3. De La Soul- and the Anonymous Nobody

De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody

“Drawn” featuring Little Dragon

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Find more tracks from and the Anonymous Nobody here.

4. J Dilla- The Diary Of

J Dilla - The Diary Of

“The Ex” featuring Bilal

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5. Kaytranada- 99.9%

Kaytranada - 99.9%

“Breakdance Lesson N.1”

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6. Kendrick Lamar- untitled unmastered

Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered

“untitled 08 09.06.2014”

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Check out live concert footage of Kendrick Lamar performing at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016 here.

7. Michael Kiwanuka- Love And Hate

Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate

“Cold Little Heart”

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Find more tracks from Love & Hate here.

8. Miles Davis and Robert Glasper- Everything’s Beautiful

Miles Davis and Robert Glasper - Everything's Beautiful

“Right On Brotha”  featuring Stevie Wonder

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Find more tracks from Everything’s Beautiful here.

9. NxWorries- Yes Lawd!

NX Worries - Yes Lawd!

“Khadijah”

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10. Stephen “Ragga” MarleyRevelation Pt. II: The Fruit Of Life

Stephen Marley - Revelation Pt. 2 - The Fruit of Life

“Scars On My Feet” featuring Waka Flocka

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Find more tracks from Revelation Pt. II: The Fruit Of Life here.

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Blessed will we continue to be in 2017 for the existence of those ten albums in our music collections – as well as all new musical delights coming our way this year. Thanks to all artists worldwide who create, record and play music for us live. Life could be unbearable without them, and hopefully we never have to find out.

Kendrick Lamar live concert 2016

Kendrick Lamar live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

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Son Little Live And Intimate In Small City Brisbane

U.S. artist Son Little (aka Aaron Livingston) was the newest addition to my Live Music Bucket List after instantly falling in love with his self-titled debut album released last year.  Finding that long-awaited live experience amongst a handful of people at a tiny venue in small-city Brisbane, was a surprising and a blessedly intimate opportunity.

Son Little live in concert 2016

Son Little live in Brisbane

He performed solo on the Black Bear Lodge stage with a microphone, three guitars, effects-pedals and a laptop in tow. The set included most tracks from the debut album as well as a few new ones- each a fresh, subtly-different journey to the recorded version; all sung and played with raw, honest emotion undoubtedly seen and felt by everyone there.

I ain’t gonna sugar-coat it though. This show could’ve been magnificent, but wasn’t. It should’ve been because Aaron Livingston is a super-talented, one-of-a-kind artist in the contemporary music world. He writes, plays, sings and produces bluesy, soulful, jazzy (non-boxable), instrumentally-sparse songs infused with the essence of glorious musical days gone and stamped with a modern sound that is distinctly different to and recognisable from everyone else. His voice and the ways he uses it especially make it so.

But unfortunately the first of his Australian shows just didn’t flow as it should or reach its full potential. It’s hard to say why, exactly – but more than once Son Little told the crowd he was tired, a broken string put one guitar out of action during the gig and most annoyingly, the competing noise of non-gigging people talking in the venue’s adjoining bar was hard to ignore.

Despite that lack of flow and overall feeling of the gig’s looseness, it was a special pleasure to experience Son Little performing in such an intimate environment: to hear his unique vocal tone traversing both the gravel and the sweet and be impressed by the diverse ways he uses that vocal instrument; to hear him tell stories between sets and exchange banter with members of the crowd at large and individually; to hear his guitar chops and the improvised sounds created on the guitar pedals- including distortion levels hard to find outside of a Parliament-Funkadelic show.

And despite having now experienced Son Little perform live, he’ll stay on my Live Music Bucket List for now ’cause I need another. I know that in a different time and place the experience will be that kind of crazy-amazing we’re all looking for at live shows of beloved artists.

For a taste of the live experience had by folks in Brisbane last weekend, check out this video footage of Son Little performing “O Mother” at Black Bear Lodge.

For a compressed-mp3-taste of Son Little’s studio creations, listen here to sample tracks from the debut album.

Son Little - Son Little (2015)

Son Little (2015)

Son Little – “You’re Love Will Blow Me Away”

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Son Little – “Carbon”

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Son Little – “Go Blue Blood Red”

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And finally, click here to add the full Son Little album, of decent sound quality, to your Beloved-Forever-After Music Collection – importantly, whilst thanking and supporting the music-maker in the process.

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The Second by Derrick Hodge – A Gift For The People

It’s a pleasure to hear the fruits of Derrick Hodge‘s musical labours, independent of his long-time recording and performance work with artists like Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard, Maxwell, Q-Tip, Jill Scott and Common.

Derrick Hodge with Maxwell live concert

Derrick Hodge with Maxwell live at Soulfest

On his new solo album The Second, released on Blue Note, credit for almost all its sounds goes to Derrick Hodge himself. He produced and wrote its twelve tracks except for “Underground Rhapsody” which was co-written with drummer Mark Colenburg. He also plays all instruments, with contributions from other musicians on only four songs: Colenburg on drums in three; and horns by Keyon Harrold (trumpet), Marcus Strickland (tenor sax) and Corey King (trombone) on “For Generations” – musical sublime taking you way back to a dark, intimate, smokey venue of yesteryear.

Derrick Hodge - The Second

The Second is a super-chilled cinematic sonic journey designed to uplift. Derrick Hodge created this music “for the people”. That’s me. And that’s you. So take and appreciate your gift of music given with the best of intentions by this very talented artist.

Check out two sample tracks from The Second here. Remember they’re just dirty, compressed mp3-versions of all the sounds recorded by the makers – which can be heard in their fullest glory when you buy and hear the album in hard copy.

“Underground Rhapsody” by Derrick Hodge – The Second

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“For Generations” by Derrick Hodge – The Second 

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Derrick Hodge - The Second

 

If Derrick Hodge and his collaborators are up your musical alley, you can check out interviews, live concert reviews and sample album tracks by some of those artists here: Keyon HarroldMarcus Strickland; Robert Glasper; Jill ScottMaxwellMos DefCommon.

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and the Anonymous Nobody by De La Soul, finally

Put your hands up if you’ve been been waiting over a decade for De La Soul to deliver the new album fans excitedly starting funding last year. Keep them up if your expectations of how and the Anonymous Nobody would sound, have been building up during those years.

Well put ’em down. Cause expectations of music and in life generally, will only set you up for disappointment. And naturally the De La Soul music you know and loved so long ago is very different to the music delivered by the  trio in 2016 on and the Anonymous Nobody.

De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody

Heavy sampling has been replaced by the warm sounds of live instrumentalists with chops of gold. Skits are few and far between. And only a handful of the album’s 18 songs feature Posdnous, Maseo and Dave spitting rhymes front and centre.

This creation has a huge and diverse cast of contributors writing, producing, mixing, engineering, singing, rapping and playing on it. The results on many tracks are successful; on others, not. Hearing the album in its entirety feels like every so often someone’s gone and changed the radio station on you. Sometimes your happy to stay there; but occasionally you wanna scream at that person to change it back.

Those wanting De La Soul music reminiscent of yesteryear will find some satisfaction – most likely in songs like “Property of Spitkicker.com” (featuring Roc Marciano), “Pain” (featuring Snoop Dogg), “CBGB’s”, “Sexy Bitch” and “Trainwreck”. They’ll also likely appreciate that long-time De La collaborator Bob Power mixes some tracks.

Folks with broader tastes in music will probably find greater happiness amongst the smorgasbord of sounds. It might come from the guitar-heavy song “Lord Intended” – proclaimed vocally by Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) as “the hardest rock shit you gonna hear”, a grand statement that just ain’t quite right. Or maybe it’ll be found in the dreamy song “Drawn” – a killer collaboration between De La Soul and Sweden’s Little Dragon. Fans of Jill Scott talkin’ Love will certainly find themselves some extra goodness. Unfortunately even those with the broadest of musical taste might feel the same pain as me when the and the Anonymous Nobody radio-shuffle lands on a commercial station for five very long minutes with Usher singing “Greyhounds”.

But importantly, peeps like me who revere and cherish the sounds of funk will still thank De La Soul for helping to keep them alive in 2016. They’ll understand and especially appreciate this here song “Nosed Up”.

“Nosed Up” – and the Anonymous Nobody

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“Royalty Capes” –  and the Anonymous Nobody

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No matter what your experience when hearing and the Anonymous Nobody; whether you want to skip one, none or lots of its tracks, I’m sure of two things. That we should be forever thankful for De La Soul and all the music they’ve ever created for our listening and dancing pleasure. And with a killer band of instrumentalists now in tow, the most sublime of De La Soul experiences in 2016 will be found at a live show.

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Miles Davis And Robert Glasper – Everything’s Beautiful

You’d be forgiven for thinking a Miles Davis and Robert Glasper album would include a whole lot of horn and piano playing by those two artists. But, with Everything’s Beautiful, you’d be wrong. And you’re all the better for it.

Miles Davis and Robert Glasper - Everything's Beautiful

Everything’s Beautiful (2016)

Showcasing their skills on trumpet and piano wasn’t the task Robert Glasper gave himself as producer. Nor was it his vision to honour the broad-ranging creative genius of Miles Davis by only creating straight remixes of beloved Miles Davis songs or limiting that genius to his trumpet chops. Because Miles Davis was so much more than an incredible trumpet player (just like Robert Glasper is so much more than a beautiful piano player).

He was consistently an innovator; an experimentalist; a band leader who inspired, pushed and brought out the best in his musical collaborators via both blunt and subtle directions; an artist who was open to everything and revelled in the freedom of creating new sounds beyond expectation boxes and reflective of the particular time in which they were made.

It’s in that spirit that Everything’s Beautiful, through it’s sparse sampling of Miles on trumpet, Miles clapping and Miles’ talking to musicians in recording sessions (the most special of the album’s insights into his artistry), brilliantly reflects the many sides of his creative genius via the subtle.

It’s also in that spirit that Robert Glasper called upon some of today’s most talented innovators in the soul, jazz and hip hop spheres. That he gave them the freedom to take the inspirational sounds of Miles to create new musical magic representing the world in 2016 – according to and expressed by them individually as artists. Just as Miles would have wanted it.

Those feature artists include Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, BilalGeorgia Anne Muldrow, Hiatus Kaiyote, Phonte, Laura Mvula, Derrick Hodge, Illa JLedisi, 9th Wonder and KING plus many other musicians and producers to discover by getting your hands on the physical album.

Erykah Badu live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu

The combined creativity of those artists, and the end result facilitated by Robert Glasper, is a super-dreamy sonic landscape of the feel-right kind.

Amongst its many sonic pleasures is taking an ethereal underwater journey with Hiatus Kaiyote on their reinterpretation of Miles’ 1970 recording of “Little Church”. Another is hearing the heavenly voice of Bilal singing a much-needed message of hope beyond racial oppression and poverty in “Ghetto Walkin” . So too is Laura Mvula’s hypnotic vocal command to “listen in a silent way”. Then there’s those sublime moments after Erykah Badu’s bossa nova morphs into a lullaby of distinctively-Erykah “oo-ee-oo”s in “Maiysha (So Long)”. Or, taking a break from the dreamy for a funkier and fierier vibe with Ledisi’s and Miles Davis’s voices on “I’m Leaving You”. And last but not least of the album’s pleasures is hearing the instantly-recognisable sounds of Stevie Wonder on harmonica in the album’s closing track “Right On Brotha”.

Here you have a teeny, mp3-compressed taste of Everything’s Beautiful’s other sonic delights. In “Talking Shit” you’ll hear Miles embracing new technologies of the time (as always) and encouraging Joe Chambers to do the same. Also describing the sound of hip hop long before hip hop became “hip hop”. “Milestones (Remix)” features the vocals and production of prolific beat-maker Georgia Anne Muldrow and one of the album’s only two piano solos by Robert Glasper. It’s the one that makes me feel the most.

Miles Davis and Robert Glasper - Everything's Beautiful

Everything’s Beautiful (2016)

“Talking Shit” – Everything’s Beautiful

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“Milestones” Remix featuring Georgia Anne Muldrow – Everything’s Beautiful

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To enjoy the full, uncompressed sounds of those songs – as well as Everything’s Beautiful nine other awesome tracks; to find out the names of all the artists who contributed to creating this album and read Robert Glasper’s words about their involvement, buy a hard-copy for your Beloved-Forever-After Collection.

While you’re at your local independent record store doing so, be sure to find Robert Glasper’s other albums too. If you’re not familiar with them, check out samples from a few here.

Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio 2

Black Radio 2 (2013)

“Persevere” featuring Snoop Dogg, Lupe Fiasco and Luke James – Robert Glasper Experiment

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Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio

Black Radio (2012)

“Afro Blue” featuring Erykah Badu – Robert Glasper Experiment

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Robert Glasper - Double Booked

Double Booked (2009)

“Festival” – Robert Glasper

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Also keep your ear to the ground for the release of Herbie Hancock’s new album which Robert Glasper is co-producing.

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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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