Love, love, love the sound of this band! Knew absolutely nothing about them before stepping into the photo pit, but decided stay for their entire set and forego trying to photograph another band because I was loving their sound. This quartet fuses jazz and soul in a way that is truly sonically pleasing to the ear. The lead singer, Rachael Price, has such a wonderfully soothing tone to her voice that I couldn’t help but fall instantly in love with it. Throw in highly skilled players on upright bass (Bridget Kearney), trumpet/guitar (Mike Olson) and drums (Mike Calabrese)- if my memory serves me right, they all graduated from the prestigious New England Conservatory- and you’ve got a band that sounds amazingly good live. My only regret? That I’m only now discovering their music.
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.
What do you get when you combine progressive rock, Balkan folk, Klezmer jazz and surf rock? Atomic Ape.
Formerly known as Orange Tulip Conspiracy, the 5 piece band led by Jason Schimmel performed a gig at El Cid on January 31, 2014 to celebrate the release of their latest album, “Swarm”. The intimate venue was packed (capacity 104), and those that were in attendance were treated to a musical barrage of styles and musicianship that is, in my opinion, both unique and unparalleled.
If you’re looking for simple, pop tunes, you should move on. If Atomic Ape’s music is anything, it is definitely not simple. The compositions and arrangements crafted by Jason Schimmel (who has previously played for Estradashere and still occasionally with Secret Chiefs 3) are about as masterfully complex as they come, as evidenced during their live performance with seamless transitions into different rhythms, themes, and styles within any particular composition.
But however complex the music may be, it is all still accessible, as long as you are willing to let the music engulf you. I was consistently amazed with the ways in which the band melded the aforementioned styles to create a sound wholly their own. Not only that, but each player was given time to shine with stand-out moments to demonstrate their individual musical chops. Guitarist Tim Young, who played next with Thruster!, and accordionist Max Wipple, each joined Atomic Ape on stage for a song or two.
Ingenious music like this doesn’t come around very often. If you missed out on their recent tour, I highly suggest picking up a copy of their latest album (which, I may add is superbly produced and mixed) to hold you over until they perform in your neck of the woods.
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.
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 →
The first time I heard of Trombone Shorty, he was a recurring character on the HBO Series “Treme”. At first I thought he was fictional character, but as I did more research on the music played in the show, I discovered that he was, in fact, a highly acclaimed trumpet and trombone player who grew up a child prodigy from a musical family. I can truly say that a television show helped me delve into New Orleans R&B, Funk, Soul and Jazz. I watched many videos of him perform (like the one immediately below) and I knew that talent like that needed to be seen live. When I heard he was to have a free concert on the Santa Monica Pier, I “penciled” it into my calendar.
I love horn sections. Earth Wind and Fire, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago. They each had amazing horn sections that gave their hit songs an extra something. Every so often, I’ll hear a popular, modern album that utilizes a great horn section, and I think that there’ll be a resurgence or renaissance of that type and style of music, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Dustbowl Revival did a great job warming the crowd up, and when Trombone Shorty took the stage the audience was adequately lubricated for some funky, jazzy goodness and with the first note, the dancing began.
Trombone Shorty and his backing band, Orleans Avenue, wowed the audience with their musical prowess. While his singing was good, it was his work on the trumpet and trombone that truly mesmerized the audience. The highlights of his set, for me at least, was when he showcased his impressive circulatory breathing, holding notes for what seemed to be forever. A partial video clip is in the highlights I posted below, and they are partial because I had to stop filming as I had to watch him hold that note with my own eyes instead of the through the lens of the camera. It was amazing.
He played to the audience’s local leanings by covering snippets of popular Los Angeles hip hop standards by Snoop and Dre and added his own flare to classic jazz standards (snippets of each are included in the video montage below).
Watching Trombone Shorty perform made me long for another trip back to New Orleans. When that trip happens, I’ll make sure it coincides with a Trombone Shorty performance at a New Orleans club.
Earlier this year, a friend of mine posted a video clip on Facebook of a performance by a singer named Jose James. I liked what I heard, and started googling him and his music. When I stumbled upon his amazing cover of Freestyle Fellowship’s “Park Bench People”, I nearly lost my mind. I mean, I grew up with “Innercity Griots”, and I have always preached how that that album is in my top 10 list of best and most influential hip-hop albums of all time. What made that album so groundbreaking was how it pushed the limits of hip-hop (at the time), thematically and musically, especially using live jazz instrumentation, courtesy of members from The Underground Railroad (I even got to meet Onaje Murray– who kills it on Freestyle Fellowship’s version of “Park Bench People” in high school once, but that’s another story). Needless to say, I was feeling what Jose James was doing with his music and the fact that he picked one of my favorite hip-hop songs to cover earned him some mad respect.
While I was watching some of the video clips on Youtube, I noticed that Youtube had a tiny little caption in the video description that showed where he would be performing in Los Angeles next. I clicked through the link trying to see how much the tickets were, but apparently the show had sold out. Apparently, it was a KCRW promoted concert, and to my dismay, they had just featured Jose the day before, and tickets for the show sold out immediately. Slightly disheartened, I simply “liked” Jose’s Facebook page for updates on when he’d be in town in the future.
Facebook. Some people can’t stand it. I can’t live without it. About a week after trying to get tickets, I get a notice on FB that a second show had been added. I logged on and purchased tickets. FYI, the ticket for this second show also sold out. Thank you, Facebook.
It had been a tough couple weeks leading up to the show. Work had been overwhelming, and it seemed that everybody I was working with was heading to South By Southwest to work on various projects. I’ve never been to SXSW, so I was a bit envious. But since everyone was in Austin, TX for the music festival, I got a little reprieve from phone calls and emails to enjoy myself for the evening.
When I got to the venue, I picked up my wristband and got stamped at the door. The performance venue was downstairs in a dark basement with low a ceiling. My guest and I roamed the venue looking for a good place to stand, and we ended up basically where we started off, by the entrance, close to the stage right. The show was scheduled to start at 10pm, but the bouncer at the top of the stairs told me that he started around 11 the night before.
The later it got, the smaller our little space got. People kept filing in, and the temperature of the room started rising. You could feel it. Note to self: bring a small handheld fan for the next show I attend there. The air-conditioning was on (so says the venue), but you couldn’t tell.
Close to 11:00pm, the band the took the stage. One by one, the band members took the stage. Kris Bowers (keyboards), Solomon Dorsey (bass), Takuya Kuroda (trumpet) and Richard Spaven (drums). Each member introduced themselves to the audience through solos, and after a good 10 minutes of jazz instrumentals, Jose joined them on stage to sing “It’s All Over Your Body”, the first track of off his latest album . That song is about 5 and a half minutes long, but they jammed out for at least 10 minutes. It seemed to me that the audience truly understood the musicality of the gentlemen on stage. Each of them was truly skilled at their respective craft.
The room was getting hotter and hotter, and if you came in wearing a jacket or a sweater, you weren’t wearing it anymore. You could feel the the body heat coming off of the person standing next to you. You would think that the temperature would be unbearable, but no. Girls were shouting out Jose’s name with each line he sang, and bodies were swaying to the rhythm. If anything, people were sneakily pushing their way towards the stage, immersing themselves in the sweltering heat. The music was that good. No one wanted too leave their spot (at least where I was standing).
People have compared vocals to D’Angelo and Bill Withers. People say that he evokes the 70’s soul of Gil Scott Heron. As cliched as it sounds, he’s Jose James. His performance showed me that he is his own style … meaning, if you heard his voice on the radio, you’d probably be able to tell that it’s him and not some other singer.
I usually try to take video clips of a handful of songs of the concert I go to, but after the show I realized that I had only taken clips of three songs. It was the kind of show where you didn’t want to watch it from the tiny screen of a cell phone. I was no more than 15 feet from the stage. I was going to soak it all in with my own eyes. Luckily, the three videos that I did take were of some of the highlight I took away from the show.
I had seen Robert Glasper earlier this year, and it just so happened that the music of “Vanguard”, one of my favorite songs off the album, was written by him. Jose wrote the lyrics. Great song.
Jose covered Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”. A great song. A great voice.
It was 1am when Jose closed his set with “Do You Feel”, and people started to leave. It’s almost understandable. Almost. After all, it was a Wednesday, and people have 9-5 jobs. The show was already over 2 hours. I, technically, have a 9-5 job. BUT he hadn’t played “Park Bench People” yet.
After a bit of cajoling from the faithful who moved forward to take up the space from those who couldn’t hang, Jose came on stage and started to sing a cappella a Marvin Gaye medley of “What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me”. What he did with the medley blew my mind. The voice is an instrument, but what he did with his instrument left me amazed. He became the human record player, scatting lines making it sound like a DJ was spinning records.
“What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me”, with their strong social commentary, segued brilliantly into “Park Bench People”, a song about the ravages of homelessness. He continued the scat passages of “Park Bench People” like he did with the medley and made those songs … for lack of more poetic words … his bitch. He took a song that I already loved, and left me amazed with his performance. Close to 1:30am, Jose and the band wrapped it up.
I was able to tell Jose before I left that I was amazed by his set, and that there was nothing I appreciated more in the world than good music, but upon retrospect the concert itself was a one of a kind experience. To experience that kind of musicianship, in that venue, with the heat, and skin, and vibe, excitement, and movement … Before I left him and his band alone, I was able to get Jose and Takuya autograph my 12” single of “Park Bench People”.
They say that listening to good music is like having sex. On March 13, 2013, in the crowded, sweltering basement of the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice Beach, I left a concert drenched in my own sweat (and probably the sweat of others), my feet and legs aching from the physical exertion of standing for over two hours. I was physically and emotionally spent, but absolutely in awe of the performance that I was lucky enough to catch. When I got to my car, I sat there smoking a cigarette just to relax for a moment.