Kamasi Washington

New York City Music Delights

How do people living in New York City find the time to work when the music and dance experiences on offer seem endless? That’s what I asked myself daily as I struggled to fit in the bare necessities of sleeping and eating while fulfilling my one and only New York commitment: soaking up as much live music and dance as possible. 

I rose to the challenge, managing to fit 50 music and dance events into four happy weeks. Some I wouldn’t choose again if I had my time over. But any disappointments at the time didn’t matter. Knowing that the next day in New York and every one after would bring many more, is a blessed thing and a heavenly feeling for any beaver on the beats.

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Choices Choices Choices

Getting on top of the live gigs and parties on offer and selectively choosing between them is key to finding yourself the most sublime of musical experiences in whatever time you have there. Of course if you’re actually living in New York City it’s a different story. Missing out on one act because you’ve chosen another on the same night, or because you have to work, isn’t a big deal ‘cause the one that got away this time will play another show soon enough.

In The Summer Time

If you are music-holidaying then it’s best to pick a Summer-time visit. Festivals, concerts, parties, dance comps and other music events happen all year round in New York City. But like most places in the world the warmer months bring a whole lot more. And lots are free. Checking out the programs for Summerstage, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn, Northside Festival and Blue Note Jazz Festival is a great start.

Kamasi Washington live concert - Northside Festival 2017

Kamasi Washington & The Next Step at Northside Festival 2017

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Plan To Be Gluttonous

So many shows you want to get to, some of them the same night and only 24 hours in a day. Yep, it’s tough. But you can fit more into one day than you think. Lots of venues have early and late shows to choose from in a night. The same artist is often playing both. Short and long term artist residencies are common so you might have multiple nights to catch them. Parties and dance comps happen at all different times of the afternoon and evening. 

Know what’s on when, be organised and you can move from one event to the next with gluttonous ease.

Cross Its Boroughs

Geographically speaking New York City isn’t actually that big. But the cultural diversity found between and within its different neighbourhoods is incredibly rich and beautiful. Getting a feel for its many flavours and discovering your favourites by checking out music events all over the city is super-rewarding.

Higher end clubs might be your thing. You’ll find plenty in hoods like the Meatpacking District. Jazz heads will find lots of choices in West Village and Greenwich Village. You can place yourself in a more uptight environment at venues like Blue Note or the Village Vanguard; or go for a friendlier, freer, less pretentious vibe at venues like Smalls or its nearly sister club Mezzrow.

Happier in outdoor music spaces? Then head to a joyous weekend party on Coney Island Boardwalk. Or hang out in Central Park and wander between African drummers and dancers, Summerstage concerts, a men’s doo wop group and dance skaters.

Robert Glasper Experiment - SummerStage 2017

Robert Glasper Experiment at SummerStage 2017

To check out hip hop’s birth place get to The Bronx for a dance competition. Party an afternoon away with Puerto Ricans in a Spanish Harlem park. And get your skanking fix at a reggae gig in Jamaica, Queens. Dress up and cross city lines for a concert at New Jersey Performing Arts Centre. Or maybe you’re brave enough to make your way through the freaky of Times Square for a live show at BB King.

If you’re comfortable amongst a privileged, hipster crowd then choose gigs in the super-gentrified Williamsburg. To experience a broader reflection of Brooklyn’s diversity get to a family friendly, good vibes concert at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Festival.

Bilal live concert - New York 2017

Bilal at Celebrate Brooklyn 2017

Venues Matter

Consider venues when you make your event choices. A venue and the people it brings, no matter what the band sounds like, can make the difference between a good and a bad music experience.

If you don’t want to be in a crowd of people talking so much it’s hard to hear the performance; or trying to dance on a sticky floor with alcohol spilled across it, you’ll need to give some venues a miss. I went to three frustrating gigs like that at Brooklyn Bowl before I reluctantly had to cross it off my options list despite its great program of acts.

Son Little live concert - New York 2017

Son Little with Soulive at Brooklyn Bowl

If you’d rather be in a space where people around you are there to actually listen and appreciate the music; where it’s simply understood or you’re expressly asked not to use your phone, you’ll find joy at venues like Smalls, the Village Vanguard and Blue Note.  For a totally unique experience of that kind, check out regular open mic nights like All That Hip Hop Poetry & Jazz at Nuyorican Poets Cafe.


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The Seasoned and The Fresh

Long-beloved artists who’ve been making and performing music for many decades won’t be around to do so much longer. You might want to prioritise their shows over those of younger acts while you still can. Sometimes those choices will pay off. Sometimes not.

Making the mission to Only In Queens Summer Festival to be amongst all corners of the world hearing George Clinton and the all-ages members of Parliament Funkadelic kill it on stage again, was the perfect choice.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live concert

Paying dearly to sit through the tackiness and cheese of tassled, sparkly, bikini-clad dancers fawning over Ronald and Ernie Isley as they performed at The Isley Brothers concert was not.

The Isley Brothers live concert New York 

It’s Your Thing by The Isley Brothers

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Turns out after all that my most rewarding New York event choices were to check out the fresh sounds, many of them improvised, being created by more contemporary acts – especially the ones playing in more informal, laid-back venues. Kris BowersJoel Ross Good VibesKeyon Harrold, Robert Glasper Experiment, Taylor McFerrin with Marcus Gilmore and revered Tiny Desk winners Tank and the Bangas were amongst them.

 

4 Am by Taylor McFerrinEarly Riser

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Tank and the Bangas live concert - New York

Tank and the Bangas at Blue Note

Party Picks

Parties put on in bars and clubs. Neighbourhood block parties. Rooftop parties. Parties on Coney Island Boardwalk. Parties in city parks. Vinyl Parties amongst the neon lights of Times Square. New York City is a music and dance lovers’ delight for its choices of dope parties. One of your best chances for finding them is to regularly check events posted on DanceDeets. And of course when you find a DJ you’re into, follow him or her to their next gig.

Visual arts lovers could wisely choose to start their Tuesday night at the Delancey for Collage NYC. There you can dance to killer DJs as New York City artists create musically-themed artworks before your eyes.

Collage NYC Live Art Tribute to 2Pac 2017

Inbox Full

Discover all your choices by keeping a check on social media sites for upcoming shows by your beloved artists; and subscribing to venue and event mailing lists until your inbox can’t take no more. 

These here sites will give music-holidayers a heap of choices to start filling their New York City Summer days and nights: Governors Ball FestivalNorthside FestivalSummerStageBlue Note Jazz FestivalBRIC Celebrate BrooklynHot 97 Summer JamBrooklyn Academy of MusicAfroPunkBrooklyn BasedNew York Live ArtsBrooklyn Bazaar –  Do NYCThe Joyce TheatreJazz at Lincoln Centre92yLe Poisson RougeSmoke Jazz ClubSmalls LiveMezzrowRed RoosterZinc BarThe McKittrick Hotel –  Fat Cat – 55 BarArlene’s GroceryBowery ElectricNuyorican Poets CafeThe KitchenBB King BluesMinton’sNational SawdustBirdland Jazz ClubSymphony Space –  Brooklyn Bowl Blue Note Jazz ClubHighline BallroomCielo – DanceDeets.

“The Music Capital of the World”

One time in Colombia a musicologist told me that Bogota is the music capital of the world. Now for sure Bogota has a rich and thriving music scene. But I had to doubt his statement in light of what New York City is famous for offering.

I’ve now been music-holidaying in both cities and am sure he was wrong. Even if there is such a thing as “the music capital of the world” New York City must trump Bogota and most, if not all world cities as being It, surely? Every scene, every music genres and every type of event is available for the taking in New York – seven days and nights. So I’ll never figure out how its music loving residents find the time to work. But I know it’s a heavenly-sublime city for any beaver on the beats to live in or visit.  

Breakdance battles - Brooklyn, New York 2017

 

Get your glimpse here of a tiny handful of the countless New York City music events that went down in Summer 2017.


Check out more videos by clicking on the artist/event name:

George Clinton & Parliament FunkadelicThe WhispersKamasi Washington – Keyon HarroldBen Williams bass soloTalib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch & The Soul Rebels  – Alice SmithBilalKris BowersSon Little with SouliveGriz with SouliveCover Story Doo WopThe Isley Brothers  – Taylor McFerrin & Marcus GilmoreRobert Glasper ExperimentKarl Denson with SouliveTank and the Bangas  – Joel Ross Good Vibes – Lesedi Ntsane  – Break 4 Justice Dance BattlesFinal Dance Battle – LGNDS: The Return

 

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

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

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote

Kamasi Washington live concert 2016

Kamasi Washington

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar

D'Angelo And The Vanguard concert 2016

D’Angelo

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

Hiatus Kaiyote

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

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert - Australia 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote at Bluesfest 2016

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

Kamasi Washington

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

Kamasi Washington live concert - Bluesfest 2016 Australia

Kamasi Washington at Bluesfest 2016

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

Ryan Porter and Kamasi Washington live concert 016

Ryan Porter w/ Kamasi Washington

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

Brandon Coleman live concert Australia 2016

Brandon Coleman

Miles Mosley live concert - Bluesfest 2016 Australia

Miles Mosley

Kamasi Washington & Ricky Washington live concert 2016

Ricky & Kamasi Washington

Ronald Bruner Jr live concert 2016

Ronald Bruner Jr

Tony Austin live concert Australia 2016

Tony Austin

Patrice Quinn live Australia 2016

Patrice Quinn

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

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




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D’Angelo And The Vanguard

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

D'Angelo & Jesse Johnson live - Bluesfest 2016

D’Angelo & Jesse Johnson at Bluesfest 2016

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

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

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

D'Angelo concert - Bluesfest 2016, Australia

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


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

Kendrick Lamar

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

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

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar at Bluesfest 2016

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

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

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Bluesfest Appreciation

Byron Bay Bluesfest – this year was a dream.

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

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

D'Angelo concert Australia 2016

D’Angelo

Hiatus Kaiyote live concert Australia 2016

Hiatus Kaiyote

Kendrick Lamar live concert - Bluesfest 2016 - Australia

Kendrick Lamar

Kamasi Washington live concert 2016

Kamasi Washington

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

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

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Kamasi Washington: The Jazz 2015 In Soulfest 2015

“Australia’s First Annual Neo Soul, Jazz & Hip Hop Festival” needs some jazz, right?

Soulfest Australia

The inaugural Soulfest 2014 delivered a line-up of spectacular soul and hip hop artists to Australian and New Zealand shores. Best of all it included D’Angelo & The Vanguard afresh, not long before the release of Black Messiah and they got busy playing shows around the wider world.

D'Angelo live concert - Melbourne Soulfest 2014

D’Angelo at Soulfest 2014- Melbourne

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Soulfest 2015, in by bringing saxophonist, composer and bandleader Kamasi Washington from the U.S. to Australia (and New Zealand) to play, has Jazz 2015 in its finest form sufficiently and wonderfully covered.

Kamasi Washington (photo by Mike Park)

Kamasi Washington (photo by Mike Park)

If you travel in the musical realms of contemporary jazz, soul, R&B, electronica or hip hop, chances are you’ve already got the sounds of Kamasi Washington in your music collection- and maybe just don’t know it (especially if you buy your music digitally and miss out on reading an album’s linear notes with the names of all the artists who created it). You’re Dead! or Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus? To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar? Up by Stanley Clarke? The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam by Stephen Bruner (aka Thundercat)? In My Time by Gerald Wilson? All of the above?

Maybe you’ve been blessed to hear Kamasi Washington playing live on stage alongside Chaka Khan, Snoop Dog, Gerald Wilson, Wayne Shorter, Raphael Saddiq, Stanley Clarke or Lauryn Hill?

Or maybe you’re totally onto the workings of Kamasi Washington and recently added his first solo album The Epic to your music collection? Are eagerly awaiting its forthcoming release on sweet vinyl? And/or just had the pleasure of hearing he and The Next Step/West Coast Get Down “throw it up in air” to “see where it lands” at a live show in the States?

Kamasi Washington

If not, well, right here and now is a good time to check out the sounds of Jazz 2015 by some of our time’s most innovative musicians, with the first track from The Epic journey sampled below. Listen, and keep listening, as the story keeps unfolding. Enjoy the space it leaves you in during its final moments. And like always, remember this here sample is just a compressed mp3 glimpse of the full sound.

Kamasi Washington - The Epic (2015)

The Epic (2015)

Kamasi Washington – “Change of the Guard” – The Epic (Volume 1 – The Plan)

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If you’re inspired to experience the whole of The Epic story in its uncompressed glory, buy the entire 17-track, three-volume, 172 minute-long album here.

For an extra-special experience of Kamasi Washington’s music, find your way to Soulfest 2015 and elsewhere he and his band are playing it live. Discover where the sounds land at that particular show. Just know the bonus of getting it at Soulfest is that Kamasi Washington’s jazz set will be amongst performances by some of history’s most beloved soul and hip hop artists too.

Soulfest 2015 poster

Soulfest 2015 tickets here.

Folks in Australia wanting a longer, cosier live experience of Kamasi Washington and his band can also catch their Sydney sideshow on Oct 22nd.

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