Studio Session Sit-In with Modern Day Greats: Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Thundercat and Ronald Bruner

I’ve been working in the music biz for while a now, and I’ve been in studio sessions before, but it’s never been anything special. Most of the time, it’s vocalists overdubbing, or a bunch of people sitting on couches listening to mixes. It’s not like I’ve ever been in a studio session when “genius” happens. I’ve never sat in a studio when a studio engineer pushes the “record” button and some music-savants just jam out their ideas playing off of each other.

Well … I guess I can cross something off of my bucket-list.

Terrace Martin had invited me to his performance at The Troubadour when he opened for Snarky Puppy. Like his gig at the Del Monte Speakeasy, he had Grammy-Award winning pianist/producer Robert Glasper join him on-stage for part of his set.

After Snarky Puppy had finished their concert, I tried looking for Terrace to congratulate him on a killer set. Since I couldn’t find him, I shot him a text to thank him for hooking me up with a free ticket to the show. As soon as I started the ignition of my car, he shot me a text back to meet up with him at the studio where he and Robert were working. It was a weekday, and I had a conference call at 10am, but I couldn’t pass this up.

I plunked the address he sent over in my GPS.  I must have rolled-through two stop signs, rushing to get to the studio. When I walked into the building, the people at the front desk asked me which session I was there for. I didn’t know, so I texted Terrace.

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Holy …. I kinda lost my breath.

I opened the door of the studio, and Terrace greets me. He tells me that I can snap some pics, but that I absolutely couldn’t shoot any video. I didn’t argue.

I scanned the room and saw Robert Glasper to my left, and Thundercat to my right. My brain started hurting just thinking about the music IQ in the room. I’ll admit … I was a little intimidated, so I relegated myself as a silent observer. I had no problem with that.

I spent the next two hours watching these gents “work” in the studio. I got to see them joke around, talk smack … oh, damn, they sure can talk some smack … and, most importantly, play. Watching Thundercat play a riff with such maddening speed and precision that he had to stop to stretch out his hands afterwards. Watching Terrace tell the studio engineer to adjust the mics on the drum kit because of how hard Ron played the drums, then to watch Ron smash the set with violent abandon. Watching both Robert and Terrace lose themselves in the music that they were playing. Oh, man. It was truly an experience that I’ll not soon forget.

When I looked at my watch it was already 2am. Lord knows I would have killed to stay in that studio until the sun came up, but damn that 10am conference call.

As I got up to leave, I addressed the group by thanking them for letting me sit in. I then decided to keep talking and mentioned that, “I wish I was a studio-rat like you guys” (you know … like a gym-rat? …. someone who can’t leave a certain place because of their dedication) … I should have kept my mouth shut.

Thundercat look up from his bass and said, “Rat? Are all musicians rats, now.” Everybody started laughing. I started blushing. Then Robert and Terrace chimed in with the same ribbing. I felt like a fool, but at the same time it also felt somewhat endearing. I sheepishly thanked them all again, and bounced.

When I got to my car, it came to me. I should have said “studio-cat”…

Snarky Puppy | The Troubadour | 8/2/14 [PHOTOS]

Ever since Snarky Puppy beat my favorite neo-soul band of 2013, Hiatus Kaiyote for the Best R&B Performance Grammy this year, I had to look them up and figure out who they were.

I’ll admit … the first video clip  supporting their release of “Family Dinner- Volume 1”. It was Lalah Hathaway singing a song titled “Something” … and she harmonized with herself… let me say that again … SHE HARMONIZED WITH HERSELF!!!

That video was mind blowing, and I’ll have to admit the music, separate from the mind-blowing vocal gymnastics performed by Lalah, was pretty damn good.

Based out of New York, the band is led by Michael League, a Grammy Award-winning bassist. It’s players are part of collective that features nearly 40 musicians. They affectionately refer to themselves as “The Farm” and for this evening, they had 9 of them play at The Troubadour.

With the 10 players cramped on the stage, their music, which is a fusion of jazz, rock and funk, was loud and funky. I won’t lie, though … if you were hoping for some vocalists to jump onto the stage to join them for a song or two, you would have been disappointed. It was an all instrumental set with only the audience singing along with the chants on a song … the name of which totally escapes me, but you can see the video below.

I’m not one to complain though. When you have that many talented musicians on stage, it’s easy for me to get lost in some robust, Grammy Award winning music.

Terrace Martin’s “3ChordFold Pulse” [REVIEW]

terrace-martin-3chord-pulse It feels just like yesterday that Terrace Martin released his last album, the sublime “3ChordFold”. But ever the relentless, working musician, you knew that he had more up his sleeve, ready to share with the world. His latest release, “3ChordFold Pulse” is a follow up worthy of some serious attention.

Not only does he once again call upon the help of some of the highest caliber musicians around (Robert Glasper, James Fauntleroy, Thundercat, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, 9th Wonder and Ethan Farmer, just to name a few), but the album is a musical offering that, at least upon my initial listen, seamlessly covers the musical spectrum.

From the jazz elements in the title track “Pulse” (ft. Preston Harris) and “Its Yours” (ft. Robert Glasper, James Fauntleroy and Thundercat), to the soulful R&B vibes in “You and Me” (ft Preston Harris), “Come and Get Me” (ft. Wyann Vaughn) and All The Things (ft. Don Dolla), to the surprising blues offering in “Lets Go Get  Stoned” (ft. Snoop Dogg and Tone Trezure) to the jazz infused hip-hop of “Poetic Justice [Live in New York] (with Kendrick Lamar) and “Never Have To Worry” [Live in New York] (with Snoop Dogg) … this album has a little bit of everything.

Perhaps my favorite track on this release is Terrace’s live rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly” which was recorded at the Del Monte Speakeasy, a show I was privileged to have been at, and features otherworldly performances from not only Terrace, but also Robert Glasper, Ethan Farmer, Marlon Williams and Ronald Bruner. It’s an amazing recording. I’m lucky that I’ll be able to purchase it to have in my collection for life.

Hey, Terrace? When are you dropping your albums on WAX?!?!? I NEED!

For some reason, I am unable to embed the media player into this post, so CLICK THIS LINK TO GET REDIRECTED TO THE DJBOOTH WEBSITE TO LISTEN TO THE ALBUM IN FULL.

Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper & Friends | Del Monte Speakeasy | 2/16/14

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Earlier this month, I read a great article on LA Weekly’s website about the resurgence of jazz music in Los Angeles. It was a terrific article that opened my eyes to new venues and music to keep an eye on in the Los Angeles area (I’m definitely going to check out The Piano Bar when the West Coast Get Down are playing and pick up a copy of Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic” once it’s released). But even without reading the article, I’d already been trying to learn more about the Los Angeles Jazz scene, and my conduit had been Terrace Martin.

In honor of Black History Month, Terrace decided to gather a few friends to join him at the Del Monte Speakeasy to celebrate the music of some of the great, black musicians/composers. The musicians who turned up to share the stage with Terrace were, to put it simply, legend … wait for it … ary.

Ethan “Ebassman” FarmerRonald BrunerMarlon Williams and Robert Glasper formed the “house band” and throughout the night others jumped on stage to jam. Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who is a very talented spoken word artist, and Myka 9, a member of Freestyle Fellowship (whose album “Innercity Griots” is still, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest, and the first, jazz infused hip-hop albums ever produced) free-styled a song. Kamasi Washington, who Terrace acknowledged was one of the main reasons why Jazz was alive in Los Angeles, joined for a song. Grammy nominated jazz saxophonist, Ben Wendel, and the incomparable, modern day drumming legend Chris Dave stepped onto the stage to play.

I’m not going to wax poetic about the musicality of each of the players, and the amazing music that I witnessed that evening (you can see and hear it in the video highlights below), but I will say the experience that night was something special.

Being up at the front of the stage for the gig, I could overhear the playful banter and ribbing among the players that made the performance that much more engaging. Ron and Robert kept going at each other about their Grammy wins, with Ron jokingly telling Robert that he was going to make him sound better. After Marlon played a quick lick of a theme from “What You Won’t Do For Love”, Terrace and Robert goaded him, albeit reluctantly, into the spotlight for a solo moment to demonstrate his playing chops. While praising his sound man, Terrace honestly told the audience the band hadn’t sound checked earlier in the evening because they were eating, drinking and watching the NBA all-star game. Ron Bruner stepped up to the mic to freestyle sing, after which he told Robert, “See, I told you I’d make you sound better.”. The lighthearted atmosphere of the session kept the evening fresh. When other musicians took over the reigns on certain instruments, or took breaks, they stepped into the crowd with a drink to watch the magic that was happening on stage as well.

With extraordinarily skilled musicians taking turns to play on themes throughout the evening, I imagined that the atmosphere that night was something like the New York jazz scene  during World War II where and when legends like Ben Webster, Lester Young, Thelonious MonkCharlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie outdid each other on a nightly basis. In the packed and humid venue, with music swirling and dancing in my ears, I lost myself to the genius that was present and playing in the room. A terrific evening of music with an incredible, and practically unbelievable, roster of talent. Something that I wish happened more often. Especially in Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not currently available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos.

Terrace Martin | The Virgil | 1/22/14

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A tip for any avid concert goer living in Los Angeles: ALWAYS  find a concert or two to go to during Grammy Week. During the week immediately preceding the awards ceremony, amazing musical talent from all over the world flocks to Los Angeles to join in the celebration of music, whether to attend the ceremony as a nominee, to perform in the city of angels to showcase their own musical abilities for the throngs of A&R, talent agents, talent managers, critics and fans who happen to be in town to celebrate music with them or to just play gigs with their friends. Continue reading