DJ Vadim is gonna be at Hopmonk’s Juke Joint this Thursday, and although his last few records have been heavy on the reggae tip, I wholeheartedly recommend getting thy ass down there and checking it out. Born in Russia, raised in London, and now living in New York, Vadim’s style is a true cross-cultural hybrid; his series of USSR albums on Ninja Tune bridge in the most perfect way the worlds of hip-hop and electronica, and feature mostly rappers from outside of the United States. I am listening to USSR: The Art of Listening right now, and feeling good.
I stopped by the Guayakí Mate Bar a couple weekends ago to catch the Highlands and the Semi-Evolved Simians, where Celeste and her dad David have started putting on shows. The setup’s great: A cafe and coffee bar in the front and the “Aché Room”—a resplendent name for a venue if ever there was one—in the back. It is wider than it is deep, which is good for bands who don’t exactly draw 300 people, and being right next to the now-desolate Barlow Co. assists for nighttime walks between bands. The Crux played there last weekend; the owner’s planning on booking more shows in the future.
I talked to Noah D today, who’s getting married soon and is feeling the down-home spirit of friends, family and funk. He’s starting a weekly night at Aubergine called “The Dial Up.” I like the name. He doesn’t. The first night’s this Tuesday, June 16, featuring all vinyl—no CDJs, no Serato. The flyer promises Funk Essentials, Hip-Hop Slumpers, Big Reggae Tunes, Soul Boulders, Dancehall Gems and R&B Classics. I’m not sure what a “slumper” is, but A Tribe Called Quest might be a good signpost. Future nights will feature Nick Otis; a pay-the-bills ’80s Night; and Noah’s inventive hip-hop group, Sonicbloom.
Add to all of this Monday Night Edutainment over at Jasper O’Farrell’s still going strong, and the story of nightlife in Sonoma County in 2009 starts with an S and ends with an L. Somehow Sebastopol has gotten nightlife figured out, while Santa Rosa continues to have problems with live music.
This might also be a good time to mention Hillcrest Middle School in Sebastopol, whose marching band were given the chance to perform a song in the Apple Blossom Parade of their own choosing by their teacher, Mr. Fichera. Q: What did the students pick? A: “Love Lockdown,” by Kanye West! Fichera arranged it for marching band in about three hours, and the song’s huge drum cadence never sounded more amazing than bouncing off the buildings of Main Street on a Saturday morning.
Despite that fact that most of Abdullah Ibrahim’s performance last night was a 50-minute, uninterrupted medley of themes largely in the same key and slow tempo, admiration was the prevailing response over boredom. To the uninitiated, the incessant piece seemed like the piano equivalent of stumbling into Guitar Center and hearing the omnipresent Dude Who Plays Unending Blues Riffs; Ibrahim would play a melody for a minute or two, change gears, play a different one in the same key for four minutes, change gears again and so on. Sound dull? To Ibrahim’s many fans who filled Yoshi’s in San Francisco, it was a celebration of a rich life and an underdog career.
Born in South Africa, Ibrahim’s music is inextricably linked with the political struggles of his homeland (Ibrahim’s composition “Mannenberg” was the first music Nelson Mandela heard in decades). He grew up amidst upheaval, was discovered by Duke Ellington, moved to Europe and lived in exile until returning to his home country after the fall of Apartheid. His latest album, Senzo, is a solo recording almost identical to last night’s concert: a pensive outing and essentially a 1,224-bar blues with so many chord changes that each resolution to the root seemed like a triumph.
Ibrahim said no words to the crowd, only bowing with palms together before sitting down and showing that he has aged in the best possible way. His playing could never go completely New Age or into the realm of post-Bill Evans fluidity. Ocassional four-fingered, octaved arpeggios recalled Jaki Byard, and at times his use of discord rivaled Paul Bley’s Closer. Snippets of “Memories of You” or “Round Midnight” crept into his playing, but for the most part it was all Ibrahim: a man no longer nimble, full-bodied or particularly fast at the keys, but a man playing as breathing proof that emotion and experience trumps technique.
The Malcolm X Jazz and Arts Festival is a sprawling celebration of the life and teachings of Malcolm X, spread out over a large field and four tennis courts at San Antonio Park in an area of East Oakland known more for the nightly news than for daytime festivals. Sunday’s celebration marked the ninth year of honoring Malcolm X’s life and message, and the positive vibe throughout the park was one of community empowerment and self-esteem. The lineup, too, was outstanding, with two of the finest living tenor players in the world today, David Murray and Howard Wiley.
Around the perimeter, numerous booths and soapbox stages broadcast the message of self-determination. A banner with a cleverly modified BART ticket paid respects to Oscar Grant. The food court adjoined a popular hip-hop stage with mostly younger dancers, bands and MCs. A skateboarding and graffiti court was filled with murals, some painted on cardboard, some painted on car hoods. A large memorial for Richard Masato Aoki stood between the park stages, where festival co-founder Marcel Diallo’s collective group Black New World alternated on the flatbed truck stage with headlining acts.
With all this activity, it pays to get there early. We arrived at San Antonio Park with a good four hours left of the day’s festivities, but would find we’d already missed David Murray and Howard Wiley. Murray I’ve seen before in New York, but Wiley lives up to his sly surname; I interviewed the brawny tenor player five years ago, but I’m 0-for-3 on seeing him live.
Little did we know what was in store—a welcome surprise in the form of Abraham Burton.
Burton introduced himself to the mid-afternoon scene with a subtle and wordless introduction that exploded into fire and grace with his trio. Playing both intensely and thoughtfully, his explorations cast an upper-register Coltrane-like quality with an even more abstract edge—imagine if Coltrane had recorded for ESP-Disk. After soundchecking with the instantly recognizable first four notes of A Love Supreme, he dropped both “Naima” and another Coltrane original into the set, segueing through “A Night in Tunisia” and a handful of others.
Burton, who’s recorded with a veritable who’s-who of talented underdogs including Louis Hayes, Horace Tapscott and the fantastic Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino, said few words to the crowd—verbally, that is. His playing nonetheless spoke volumes on its own and his trio, with childhood blood brother Nasheet Waits on drums, washed over the congregation on the lawn. The backdrop of an empty lot, an abandoned church and the distant ocean slowly turned pasty and bright as the sun hung low. Laying in the grass, eyes closed, you’d swear you were at Newport in 1965.
More Photos Below. (more…)
Some of you may already know about Aaron Milligan-Green, the dreadlocked musician who’s been collecting signatures to overturn an outdated and illogical city ordinance regarding street music and who often fills the nighttime quietude with his Jungle Love Orchestra (pictured above). My constituent John Beck has been covering the story on his Press Democrat blog, but since John’s currently honeymooning in Paris, I bring you the latest news.
Here’s Aaron’s announcement sent out today about the Renegade Art Revival, reprinted with permission:
My name’s Aaron MG (a.k.a. The Dreaded Jewbacca) and you might remember me from the Santa Rosa street music petition I’ve put together, the SRJC, or however else we’ve met. Nonetheless, this street music petition I mentioned is part of a campaign to overturn section 17-16.090(A) of the Santa Rosa city noise ordinance, an ordinance which allows the city to fine the people $246 for playing an instrument anywhere at anytime in public. This specific law is only the epitome of a larger issue.
As you’ve probably noticed, the streets of Santa Rosa are dead and have absolutely no character or life of their own, yet Santa Rosa is the largest city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. This lack of vitality is no mere coincidence, for there are a myriad of laws here to control “unsanctioned” free expression and social gatherings. Did you know it’s illegal to play with a ball or a frisbee, or even have your dog in Courthouse Square, the “Heart of Downtown Santa Rosa?” I’ve actually met people who have been given tickets for playing hacky-sack. It’s a community vs. commerce kind of mentality, masked by a facade of what’s primarily commercial art—and I’m sorry, but we have enough Snoopy sculptures already. By overturning section 17-16.090(A) we hope to put a crack in that facade.
But a mere crack will not do. The public learns by example and we want to blow that wall to rubble, so let’s give them a spectacle they won’t forget. We the people need to take to the streets that our tax dollars fund and reclaim them as our own again. THE RENEGADE ART REVIVAL is in full effect on August 8, 2009!! We will take over the downtown of Santa Rosa with street performers and artists of all types in hope of breathing a bit of color back into these beige-aggregate streets. This is all being under-the-radar grassroots organized and it will take every one of us to make it happen. We want at least 500-1,000 or more people out there, performers and supporters alike. And you don’t have to think of yourself as an “artist” or a “performer” per se to come out and participate; one way to take part, for example, is to be active in the costumed bicycle parade. Let’s get 200+ people to come out dressed up in their finest threads and Halloween costumes riding on bikes, while dancers, musicians, painters, jugglers, etc. are posted at every corner, nook, and cranny! Let’s actually use our First Amendment right of free expression and assembly. On August 8th we will meet in Railroad Square at 12 noon and march to Courthouse Square, then from there we will disperse and flood the entire downtown.
So spread the word!! There is a Myspace being used to network this whole escapade here, so check it out, sign on, and send others that direction. Forward this email to anyone who you think would be interested. We need everyone to chip in at least a smidgen or two. So on August 8th come one and all to THE RENEGADE ART REVIVAL!!!
– The Dreaded Jewbacca
Yeah, sure, the first time I saw I Am Trying to Break Your Heart I thought, “Ha, ha! What an annoying guy! How brave they are to kick him out of the band!”
Then I went back to the theater a few days later and watched it again, and I realized that I had been 100% wrong, and that what I was watching was a completely one-sided story, and that basically, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart is a propaganda film for Jeff Tweedy.
The only good Wilco albums are the ones Jay Bennett played on. I always thought he got a shitty deal from Wilco, and was actually glad when he filed suit against Tweedy last month. They may not have gotten along, but his influence made that band magical and unpretentious.
So long, Jay Bennett, you died in your sleep last night. I stood up for you. No doubt history will conveniently rewrite itself and give you the credit you so desperately deserved while you were here. You died too soon.
I’ll be on the radio tonight for four hours discussing the life and times of the great Charles Mingus with my good friend Larry Slater, the Jazz M.D.
For those who haven’t been exposed to much of Mingus’ music—which beautifully spans the entire emotional spectrum of the human existence—then I urge you to tune in and be forever transformed by one of the greatest bassists and composers to ever walk the Earth.
That’s from 8pm-12am tonight on KRCB, 90.9 FM. You can also listen online here.
We here at City Sound Inertia are pretty firm that people should be allowed to believe whatever kind of crazy bullshit they feel like believing in, so in the name of Jesus Christ, we bring you the news that there’s a new “Christian Alternative Rock” station in town, Broken FM, at 105.7 in Petaluma and 107.9 FM in Santa Rosa.
Guess what? They want money.
Well, it only took them ten years, but we take such news when we can get it!
The Magnetic Fields’ brilliant song cycle 69 Love Songs is finally seeing a vinyl release. Spread across six 10″ records, each in a separate gatefold sleeve, the set will be bound with a cardboard slipcover and a large version of the CD version booklet. It should be out
sometime in August April 20, 2010, it’s apparently limited to 3,000 copies, and it’ll cost about $100.
I’ve had a running list of albums that should be on vinyl going for quite some time, and 69 Love Songs has been right up near the top since its release ten years ago. Most record companies in 1999 didn’t see any benefit to releasing vinyl, although Merge Records has always been great about LPs—they even pioneered the LP+mp3 download coupon idea, which I covered pretty extensively here last year. Now if they could just release Crooked Fingers’ Red Devil Dawn on vinyl, we’d be set!
There’s a whole lotta other dream albums out there that would be released on vinyl if there were any sense of justice in the world. Here’s a few from the ongoing wish list. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
Please, Record Industry: Put These Albums Out on Vinyl!
Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
The Boredoms – Seadrum / House of Sun
Los Lobos – Colossal Head
K’naan – The Dusty Foot Philosopher
John Prine – In Spite of Ourselves
James Carter – Chasin’ the Gypsy
Gillian Welch – Time (the Revelator)
The Velvet Teen – Out of the Fierce Parade
Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne
Smoking Popes – Born to Quit
Arvo Pärt – Alina
Steve Earle – Transcendental Blues
Camille – Le Fil
Nellie McKay – Get Away From Me
The Rentals – Seven More Minutes
Don Byron – Ivey Divey
Greg Brown – Over and Under
Bebo & Cigala – Lagrimas Negras
Old 97′s – Too Far to Care
Wynton Marsalis – Live at the House of Tribes
Robert Earl Keen – Gravitational Forces
Knife in the Water – Soundtrack
Music bookings just keep pouring in these days, and the Napa Valley Opera House’s just-announced season is full of legends that rarely play such small venues. The intimate theater hosts the Wallflowers (June 18), Joan Baez (July 6), Sarah Chang (July 18), Bruce Hornsby (Aug. 15), and a double dose of New Orleans with the Neville Brothers and Dr. John together (pictured, Sept. 7). The Opera House’s annual fundraising gala, a full-blown wine-and-martini affair with tickets starting at $350, features the biggest booking score of them all: Pink Martini, direct from Carnegie Hall (Oct. 3).
The Opera House also sponsors Motown legend Smokey Robinson at Robert Mondavi Winery, in a series across the valley that marks the 40th Anniversary Season of the Summer Festival Concert Series at Mondavi Winery. Debuting in 1969 with a ticket price of $3, the festival has since included such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Buena Vista Social Club, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne, Stan Getz and many, many more. This year, it’s Robinson (Aug.1), the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (July 4), Natalie Cole (July 18), Ozomatli (July 11), the B-52’s (June 27), and KC & the Sunshine Band (July 25).
The Wells Fargo Center continues its hot streak with a stellar season including Tears for Fears (July 14), Madeleine Peyroux (Aug. 5), Huey Lewis and the News (Aug. 13), Elvis Costello (Aug. 21), Diana Krall (Aug. 25), Sheryl Crow (Sept. 1) and, in a rare on-stage conversation sponsored by Copperfield’s Books, Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim (Oct. 24). Coming in 2010: Anthony Bourdain (Jan. 13) and Dave Brubeck (March 24).
Up in Healdsburg, the Rodney Strong Vineyards Concert Series tips the smooth jazz scales with Peter White and Mindi Abair (June 27), the Rippingtons and Craig Chaquico (July 11), and Euge Groove, Jeff Golub, Jeff Lorber and Jessy J (Aug. 8). Blues torcher Susan Tedeschi stops in with JJ Grey & Mofro (Aug. 22), and the whole series wallops to a rock ‘n’ soul finale with AM hitmakers Hall and Oates (Sept. 7).
The Sausalito Art Festival, an annual event of art and music since 1952, celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock with “The Heroes of Woodstock 40th Anniversary Tribute” (Sept. 6). Among the love-in rockers resurrecting the old spirit are Jefferson Starship, Canned Heat, Big Brother and the Holding Co., Quicksilver Messenger Service and Tom Constanten. The whole thing’s hosted by Country Joe McDonald, who’ll no doubt reprise his famous “fish” cheer. Other highlights at the festival include Night Ranger (Sept. 5) and Johnny Winter (Sept. 6).
The Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival, combined into one weekend, features Al Jarreau and Jazz Attack featuring Rick Braun, Johnathon Butler and Richard Elliot (Sept. 12), followed up with the blues lineup of the Neville Brothers with Dr. John and the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue with Tommy Castro, Janiva Magness, Bernard Allison and Rick Estrin (Sept. 13).
Up in Boonville, the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival this year hosts Femi Kuti, King Sunny Adé, Michael Rose, Anthony B, Zap Mama, Sly & Robbie, the Easy Star All-Stars, Gregory Isaacs, the Heptones, the Abyssinians, the B-Side Players, the Itals and many, many more (June 19-21).
Finally, among the upcoming schedule at Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre is East Bay all-girl punk darlings the Donnas (July 23), reverb-drenched surf icons the Mermen (July 31) and the almighty return of Joan Osborne (Oct. 19). Whew!
In last week’s Bohemian, I raved about Christette Michele’s new album, Epiphany, and the surprisingly rewarding low-and-inside swing it takes at commercial success. Chalk one up for the 26-year-old batter: Epiphany was released this week, and swiftly hit #1 on the Billboard 200.
The funny thing about all this is that Michele is so obviously skilled as a jazz singer. But does jazz sell? Could Michele have tried to make a stab at Norah Jones-ness? Is Norah Jones-ness dead? Is “Love Is You” just a crappy Corrine Bailey Rae knockoff?
So: Into the studio with more rappers, into the makeup department with a new hairstyle, and into the computer with more music editing software. Maybe she’ll make that small-combo album someday, but once the beast starts giving, it’s hard to let go of the leash. Epiphany only sold 88,000 copies in its first week, the lowest sales ever for a #1 album in the SoundScan era, but I’m guessing that unlike the industry, Michele’s pretty happy with her figure.