Rewind Review: Betty Davis – Nasty Gal (1975)

Funk mistress Betty Davis classic 1976 album Nasty Gal has recently been remastered and re-released.  If you’re looking for a funk record, a make-out record, or a diva record – look no further.  Nasty Gal is a trifecta of all that.

The title track opens the album, and Davis comes out swinging with her proclamation to an ex-lover that she is a nasty gal, and her ex will now miss her freaky self after she leaves him for spreading lies about her.  It’s a fierce vocal performance that instantly lets you know that she wasn’t screwing around in 1976.

As if the opener wasn’t freak enough, the next track is “Talkin’ Trash,” which is all about dirty talk during freaky sex.  “Do whatever you want to do to me.  Be a freak, I don’t care.  Tell me what gets you off,” she sings while an antsy guitar churns behind her.

“Dedicated to the Press” has great slap bass propelling Davis’ takedown on 1976 media.  She feels bad that they can’t understand where she’s coming from or that they won’t join her on the ride.  “You and I” is a lovely jazz ballad about deciding to leave a lover.  “Feelins” has a fast groove that should’ve been the theme to a third Cleopatra Jones film with its “Hey!  Hey!  Hey!” chants and car chase beats.

“F.U.N.K.” has Davis giving shout-outs to Steve Wonder, Tina Turner, Al Green, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Funkadelic, and others.  “Gettin’ Kicked Off, Havin’ Fun” has Davis purring about having a good time and encouraging a lover to not be afraid to get down with her.  The organ and bass work on “Shut Off the Light” is outstanding, and Davis’ vocals are downright intimidating as she pretty much demands a sweaty romp before bed.

The groove on “This Is It” makes you feel like a bad ass, but just know that you will never be half the bad ass Betty Davis and her crew were on this record (or any other time, really).  The album ends with one of her sexiest tunes ever – “The Lone Ranger.”  There’s not much I can write about this song that would do it justice.  I can’t guarantee that this song will get you laid, but I’d say playing it will probably improve your chances by at least fifty percent.  Davis’ voice moves around you like the hands of a masseuse and her band mixes funk and psychedelia to produce an intoxicating brew.  “Is it true that you want to hi ho my silver?” Davis asks.  Yes.  The answer to that is always “Yes.”

This is the album you wish was the soundtrack to your sex life, even if you won’t admit it.

Keep your mind open.

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Rewind Review: Lionel Hampton and the Golden Men of Jazz – Just Jazz: Live at the Blue Note (1992)

Take a powerhouse jazz lineup and let them go wild in a legendary club and you get a great record like Just Jazz: Live at the Blue Note by Lionel Hampton and the Golden Men of Jazz.

Hampton was a legend on the vibraphone and his equally famous backing band included bassist Milt Hinton, drummer Grady Tate, trombonist Al Grey, saxophonist James Moody, pianist Hank Jones, flugelhorn player Clark Terry, saxophonist Buddy Tate, and trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison.  According to the liner notes of this album, the average age of the band in 1992 was 72.  They were still killing it and teaching youngsters a way of jazz you rarely hear anymore.

The opener, “Corner Pocket,” is tune originally written for Count Basie and has great back-and-forth fun between Hampton, Grey, and Terry.  The title track was written by Al Grey for the show and the whole band has a blast on it.  Everyone gets their turn in the spotlight and Moody especially cooks with a great solo.

Tate sings lead vocals on “Body and Soul” while Hampton and Jones stroll along beside him with their respective instruments.  “God Bless the Child” is an instrumental cover of the Billie Holiday classic with Hampton taking lead on it like the grooviest tour guide you’ve ever met.

“Ring Dem Bells” (originally a Duke Ellington song) is great fun as Hampton encourages each band member to shred a solo.  Edison rips it and Jones’ solo is so good that it almost sounds like he’s goofing throughout it.  The album ends with “Flyin’ Home” (apparently a favorite of Hampton’s to close a show) and has fabulous saxophone work throughout it and Hampton having a blast and laughing through parts of his solo.

This is a great jazz record, live or otherwise, and a worthy addition to your jazz collection (or any collection, really).

Keep your mind open.

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Interview: Steve Davit

Multi-instrumentalist Steve Davit is well-known for his bass and saxophone work with Marian Hill, but he is also a fine solo artist in his own right who blends jazz with electronica, hip hop, and even video game music-influenced cuts.  His first EP, Coniferous, will be out soon.

I spoke with Steve Davit about Coniferous, his work with Marian Hill, jazz, video games, and dreams.

7th Level Music: I’m really looking forward to this new EP.

Steve Davit: Yeah, me too.  I’m just about done with the third track.  I just need to do some mastering tweaks, making sure it sounds right, and finish up the fourth track.

7LM: Is it going to be four tracks?

SD: It’s going to be four tracks.  For physical copies, there’s going to be a bonus fifth track that’s like an improv type of thing.  Timeline wise, I don’t think it’s possible to get an actually produced fifth track before I’m going to release it, which is sometime in March.  It’s a little nebulous now, but Marian Hill is going on tour in April.  I want to have some stuff ready for that, so I came out with four tracks.  I figure, if and when I write more music, I’ll just make another EP.

7LM: How long have you been working on this one?

SD: I didn’t intend to make an EP, so it didn’t have a set start date.  I’ve been writing music for a while.  Early last year, maybe late early 2016.  It basically started with me being upset that I hadn’t written any music in a while because I had been doing a lot of touring.  I had released an album in May 2012 for my senior project, but I hadn’t released any music since then.  So every year, I’ve been like, “I’m going to write more,” but I never did.  So I set a challenge for myself that for sixty days I would write a groove every single day.

7LM: Oh wow.

SD: A groove could be four bars, it could be just a drum beat, a drum beat with chords, or [something] more fleshed out.  A lot of the beats [were from] me on a plane or in an airport beatboxing into my earbud microphone.  I’d record that on my phone and translate that onto my computer.  From that I had maybe ten that I thought were pretty cool.  I showed them to (Marian Hill’s) Sam[antha Gongol] and Jeremy [Lloyd] because I needed some feedback from the outside world, from people whose opinions I respect, and I trust them.  They said, “These few are really cool.  You should make an EP.”  I thought, “Huh.  Okay!”  A lot of the music is a long process of having the idea, letting it germinate, [and] building a way to more efficiently write music and create sounds.  It’s kind of nerve-wracking that I’m finally putting stuff out there, but I’ve found that it’s really resonating.

7LM: You’ve kind of already answered a question I was going to ask you.  I know improvising is a big part of your songwriting structure, and I was wondering if improvisation was part of the process for the EP.

SD: Improvisation to me is, obviously, played out a lot on the saxophone.  Some times I would come up with melodies on the saxophone that were cool, but then little germinations would come from it as I would think of some groove.  I’d start working with a kick drum pattern here, and that wouldn’t be quite right so I’d tweak that, and then I’d have this beat and [I’d] try to come up with some saxophone line that sits on top of that.  That was where the next level of improvisation would come.  With Coniferous, that whole drum craziness thing started off with me having an idea for a five-pattern over a three-pattern and then I thought, “What if I remove every other one?” or “What if it’s all weird, rhythmic stuff that just turns into something cool?”  I thought, “I should do something with this, because it’s really cool, but I don’t know what.”  Sometimes I’ll improvise something and then cut that up and be more meticulous about what it ends up being.  That said, a lot of it does stem from me having an idea, recording it, and then translating that or keeping it as is.  It’s all over the place, really.

7LM: You mentioned you went to Jeremy and Samantha.  I don’t know how you got hooked up with them.  Did you know them from way back when?

SD: Yeah, we were high school buds.  I knew Sam but didn’t talk to her much, because she was a grade ahead of me and she was a girl.  Jeremy was in the jazz band with me in middle school [and] a bunch of my high school friends.  We’re all still pretty tight, which is really nice.  It’s been great having that connection to Sam and Jeremy.  After college, they knew they wanted to work together.  I would help them record stuff.  Sam and Jeremy would still write, and I would record and try to make it sound good even though I had no idea what I was doing.  They made some other tracks where they needed to find a cappella horns, and I said, “I’ll just record it for you.”  I sent them twelve minutes of stuff and that turned into “One Time” and “Got It,” and it just kind of grew from there.

7LM: Your set with Marian Hill was one of the best my wife and I saw at Mamby on the Beach last year.

SD: Thank you.

7LM: You mentioned in an e-mail that your bass rig was having trouble at that show.

SD: Yeah, something happened.  I had to unplug my bass because it was making this loud popping noise.  Mid-song I’m switching cables.  [My bass] just stopped.  It wasn’t making sound.  I thought, “This is bad,” but I was able to fix it.  I’m glad it didn’t show.

7LM: Yeah, no one noticed.

SD: I love performing the music.  I don’t contribute to the songwriting or production, but I really like the music.  I like being able to interpret that music and perform it live.  Festivals are great because people are there to have a fun time, and a lot of them don’t know you so you’re winning them over, and you can see the crowd growing over time.

7LM: That was a crazy festival. Did you have any other odd stuff that happened on that tour?

SD: Nothing that crazy for me, but there was one festival…I play with a clip-on mic on the saxophone.  I put that down and pick up the bass and switch back and forth.  Sometimes, when switching, it will fall off.  So I go to play this solo, and I lift up my horn to be all dramatic and the mic pack just slides off and I grab it and I’m able to clip it and be on for the next downbeat.  Sam was like, “I’m really impressed you got that together in time.”  She was frozen.  She didn’t know what to do.  At one point, this is the most terrifying thing, the microphone cable, as I was picking it up from the stand, got hooked on the stand and hooked on one of the keys of my saxophone and it popped out.  You don’t need to know much about the saxophone, but if a key pops out it’s bad.  Luckily though, it was one of the lowest keys.  The lower the key, the lower the pitch.  So if that key is just flopping around and not connected, it doesn’t affect any of the higher pitches.  I was lucky that I could still play the song without affecting it, but there was this thing jangling around and I was freaking out.  There are some songs where I don’t play so I could run backstage and jam it back in and go back out.  It worked, but I needed to get it fixed.  It was partially messed up for a good two weeks.  I’ve been performing for a while, and I know that the audience doesn’t know what you know.  If you mess up, they don’t know as long as you play it off.  I’m usually able to keep my cool when catastrophic things happen.

7LM: Speaking of audiences, have you discovered that your music is popular somewhere you never thought it would be popular?

SD: Yeah.  It’s kind of tricky [because] my current stuff is so new that I don’t have enough data or reach to figure out who found me organically or who found me because I’m with Marian Hill.  There are tons of Marian Hill fans who are all over the globe.  We have an amazing fan account from Brazil.  We’ve never been to Brazil, but this person has their own Marian Hill fan page.  The first time we went to France, they were singing along.  We were like, “What?  We haven’t even been here before and you know our music in English!  This is crazy!”  Even age range-wise, we have parents with their kids who say, “I love your music.  I took my daughter here,” and then you have twelve-year-olds who are in love with Sam.  For my music, I haven’t done too much to actively push my stuff out there, so the fact that you came across it is pretty awesome.

7LM: I got a press release about “Forward,” and I was telling everybody that was easily one of my top dozen singles of the year.  It just floored me.

SD: Thank you.

7LM: Do you have any influences your fans might find surprising?

SD: Yeah, it’s funny you say that.  I was listening to a random mix of songs on Spotify and this one track by Stereolab came on called “Brakhage.”  That is one of my all-time favorite songs, and I can’t quite put my finger on why.  It’s just a phenomenal song, but it doesn’t necessarily seem to influence a more jazz / electronic musician.  That’s kind of a strange influence.

SD: But yeah, I have a lot.  Frank Zappa, Medeski, Martin, and Wood…

7LM: Those guys are great.

SD: Bela Bartok, Brian Eno, Steve Reich.  Steve Reich is one of the most influential.  I got really, really into rhythm and phase shifting and layering rhythms on top of each other, which is what sparked the initial thought of Coniferous.

7LM: I really like how you blend jazz with a little acid house and some electro stuff.  It’s a really cool sound you’ve put together.

SD: Thank you.  I’ve always known that it’s important to listen to a wide array of styles of music.  My Dad liked a lot of music.  He started his jazz world with Keith Jarrett.  Pretty much all the jazz music I listen to came through him.  I met up with Medeski, Martin, and Wood.  One of the big points that they like to stress is how much world music they like to listen to.  I met Bob Moses, who’s a phenomenal drummer.  He’s full of crazy ideas.  He’d play a solo improv with bamboo sticks, a snare drum, and a weird V-shaped triangle thing.  That was back in 2010.  It was getting me down non-traditional paths of music and tying that into connecting with a wider group of people.  It’s one thing to play really weird sounds and noises and stuff, and ten people in the world like it.  There’s a way to take what that thing is trying to say and share it with a thousand people.  I can’t remember who it was, but somebody was saying there are so many people in the world now that, for the most part, you can find a million people who like what you’re doing.  I just want to be able to make music that’s still me, but comes from a lot of different areas and can reach people.  Not be too far out of left field, because I wouldn’t want to listen that necessarily.  I want to do something that I’d want to listen to over and over again, and hopefully other people will find it and listen to it.

7LM: I read that you’re a big-time gamer, and I was wondering if video game music influenced you as well?

SD: Yeah.  For a while in college, in my free time, I worked with my freshman year roommate and a couple people who were in a video game design class.  Their whole job was to create their own video games, and I always jumped on the opportunity to write music for them.  A friend of mine, Andrew Aversa, has this sample library company called Impact Soundworks.  He started getting me into the idea of making money composing for video games.  I went down that rabbit hole for a bit, but decided it was too annoying working for someone else telling you what music they wanted without knowing how to communicate what music they wanted.  I would make something and they would say, “Well, I don’t know.  That’s not quite right.  It’s needs a bit more of this…”  A group of people’s senior project was to create a video game that was playable and had music and all these different sound effects.  I was in that course as an independent study.  I was supposed to have another guy working with me, but he dropped out so all the music and sound effects landed on me.  They kept telling me to redo this one track.  I had one track for six weeks and I said, “Guys, I want to start making other music.”  They were all, “No, this one is really important.”  I thought, “I’m just going to make my own stuff and be the boss of what I’m making.”  It has influenced me, though, because I listen to a lot of that music.  There are certain melodic sensibilities within that, so it’s still in the back of my mind because games have played a big role in my life.  I think as I start to make more music I’m going to start pitching to music houses and other places that license music.  So, instead of writing specifically for a video game, I’ll say, “Hey, which of you people think this music fits with your game or movie or TV show or whatever?”  A good friend of mine was saying “Forward” sounds like the opening theme song for a new Seinfeld.

7LM: Do you have any favorite video games right now?

SD: Zelda: Breath of the Wild is too addicting for my own good.  Video games are too easy to access.  I deleted all my computer games so I can actually be productive with music.  A friend of mine and I have always played Super Smash Brothers together.  He recently started streaming video games online.  He was having a lot of fun of that.  I said, “Hey, I heard this Zelda game is one of the best games ever made.  Let’s get it and share it together.”  I got it recently and started playing with him.  He said, “You can hold onto it for a bit.”  I said, “All right.”  So I played it a little bit, and I kept playing it.  If I’m not careful, it’s going to take over my life.  I’m putting heavy restrictions on my video game playing, but Breath of the Wild is absolutely phenomenal.

7LM: I just dug out my old Sega Genesis.

SD: Oh nice.

7LM: In a weird way, I’m thankful I don’t have the cables yet to hook it up to my high-def TV because I’m going to have to ration it so hard.

SD: Oh yeah.

7LM: Is there anything else outside of music you’re really passionate about or just love to talk about?

SD: The biggest one is dreaming.

7LM: Oh very cool.

SD: Yeah, the psychology of sleep and how it affects your life.  I’ve been keeping dream journals since at least 2005.  I’ve recorded over two thousand dreams.  I’m very into dreaming, controlling your dreams, using your dreams to enrich your life and be creative.  I’ve come up with some music and in dreams.  I’ve come up with game ideas and artwork in dreams, story ideas.  I recently found out that dreaming about traumatic events in a normal functioning brain will actually decrease the emotional response to that event.  Dreaming is kind of an overnight therapy.  There’s a book I’m reading called Why We Sleep (by Matthew Walker).

7LM: Thanks for this.  It’s been great.

SD: Yeah, thanks, man.

Keep your mind open

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Top 30 albums of 2017: #’s 20 – 16

It’s top twenty time!

#20 – Brother O’ Brother – Neon Native

I’m happy to include some “local” (as in from the same state as I) cats on my list of top albums of the year.  This is a blistering garage-blues record that further proves you don’t need a lot of fancy gadgets and studio trickery to make hard-hitting rock.  They’re one of my favorite discoveries of the year.

#19 – The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions

This album is one of the best reactions to the year in politics that was 2017.  Band leader Carl Newman has openly spoken about how the 2016 election and his battle with depression formed a lot of the songs on this record, but it’s not all doom and gloom.  There’s a lot of hope on this fine power pop album, and we all need a lot of that right now.

#18 – Thundercat – Drunk

I didn’t expect to pick up a jazz fusion record this year, but this one is certainly outstanding and was all over the place in 2017.  It made the top of many lists, too, and for good reason.  It’s an incredible concept album about the day in the life of a guy who parties too much and knows he’ll probably regret it later.  It’s the closest we’ll get to a Frank Zappa album any time soon.

#17 – Priests – Nothing Feels Natural

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got on a big post-punk kick this year and albums like this are the reason why.  It’s a vicious takedown on corporate bigwigs, consumerism, and greed, and the music is sharp as a hatchet.

#16 – The Black Angels – Death Song

If you know me, then you’re not surprised that a Black Angels record made my top 30.  They’re one of my favorite bands, and this album is one of their hardest-hitting in a long while.  It, too, is a bit of a reaction to the 2016 election and the country we’re now living in and seeing on the nightly news, but the Black Angels also let us know that all things are transient and this, too, will pass.

We’re halfway to home!  Who makes the cut?  Come back soon to find out.

Keep your mind open.

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Top 10 singles of 2017: #’s 10 – 6

2017 was the first year in a long while when I bought singles and not just full albums or EP’s, so I thought I’d keep track of my favorites.  Here’s the first half of the list!

#10 – Marlon Williams – “Vampire Again”

Not only does this song have the sexiest groove of the year, it also has a great backstory.  Marlon Williams was bored on Halloween night in L.A. and noticed a local theatre was showing Nosferatu with a live orchestra performing music for the silent film.  He got high, dressed up as a vampire, and went to the event only to discover he was the only one in costume.  This is the story of that night.

#9 – Bebel Gilberto – “Creep” (live)

When my wife and I saw Bebel Gilberto in 2016, she played this song and mentioned that she was “thinking of releasing it.”  “Please do!” I yelled from the middle of the amphitheater.  She did, along with her wonderful EP Live at the Belly Up.  This song makes me cry every time I hear it.

#8 – Honey – “Dream Come Now”

Honey‘s fiery single “Dream Come Now” was one of the most exciting tracks I heard all year.  The opening guitar chaos made me immediately want to buy their album, New Moody Judy, which wasn’t available for another few months.  It was well worth the wait.

#7 – Ty Segall – “The Main Pretender”

This wild, groovy bit of soul-punk from Ty Segall is jaw-dropping, especially with the wicked saxophone work from Mikal Cronin.  This is like a lost Captain Beefheart track and a great example of Segall‘s love of multiple genres.

#6 – The Moonlandingz – “Black Hanz”

Weird, trippy, funky, and catchy, the Moonlandingz released “Black Hanz” and I was immediately hooked on them.  The chorus roots into your head and the song warps into a crazy dream sequence at one point.  It’s my favorite psychedelic track of the year.

Who’s in the top 5?  Tune in tomorrow, friends!

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 25 – 21

Who cracked the top 25 of my live shows I saw this year?  Read on!

#25 – Temples – Valley Bar – Phoenix, AZ March 11th.

Temples were the last band to play on the Desert Daze lineup at the VIVA PHX music festival.  It was my first time seeing them in a small venue, and they nailed it.  They sounded perfect and delivered a solid set that earned them many new fans.

#24 – The Damned – House of Blues – Chicago, IL April 23rd.

I’d wanted to see punk rock legends the Damned for a long while, and this show was pretty much what I’d hoped it would be.  The crowd was a fun mix of punks, goths, and horror film fans, and moshing to “Neat Neat Neat” with the Damned only a few feet away was a delight.

#23 – Thundercat – Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL June 25th.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Thundercat prior to seeing him live at this music festival, and he didn’t disappoint.  He and his two-man backing band played a great jazz fusion set in the middle of a festival mostly devoted to electronic dance music.  He’s an amazing bass player, and seeing him shred live makes you appreciate his skill even more.

#22 – Marian Hill – Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL June 24th.

Speaking of Mamby on the Beach, Marian Hill were one of the best bands we saw there.  They played a great set of sexy dance rock that might be the best new makeout music you need to hear.

#21 – Goblin – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL October 25th.

This performance from Italian prog / horror rock masters Goblin had a criminally light attendance, but they didn’t care.  As usual, being at a Goblin show is like being in a giallo film.  The whole atmosphere is creeping and fascinating.  They also played a nice tribute to the late George Romero.  Shame on you if you missed this one.

Who cracks the top 20?  Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 30 – 26

I’ve arrived at the end of my live music year for 2017.  I saw over 60 performances this year, and the majority of them were a fun time.  There were some that might’ve had lame crowds or that just didn’t thrill me, of course, but 2017 was good for live music.  To save time (and my sanity and your patience), I’m counting the top 30 live shows I saw this year.  Here are the first five.

#30 – A Place to Bury Strangers – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL May 11th.

I’ll see APTBS at any opportunity, and seeing this set where they opened for the Black Angels was a no-brainer for me.  It was also the first time they played Thalia Hall, and they sounded great in there.  I was lucky enough to chat with front man Oliver Ackermann before and after (along with the rest of the band – Dion Lunadon and Lia Braswell) the set, so that made the show extra special.

#29 – Joe Walsh – Scottrade Center – St. Louis, MO May 12th.

Joe Walsh had a fun time opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  He joked with the sold-out crowd, played every hit you’d want to hear at one of his gigs, and had a huge, excellent backing band.  He also showed that he could still shred on guitar, and his performance of “Take It to the Limit” brought my wife to tears.

#28 – Bebel Gilberto – City Winery – Chicago, IL December 20th.

The last show I saw this year turned out to be a delightful night with bossa nova legend Bebel Gilberto.  It was a lovely set in an intimate venue.  Everyone needs to see Ms. Gilberto at least once, and hear her often.

#27 – Bleached – House of Blues – Chicago, IL April 23rd.

If you’re in a band, I wish you could’ve seen Bleached with me twice within six months because you’d have seen a perfect example of how to step up your game.  This show, which had them opening for the Damned, was the second time I’d seen them in that time period.  The first was at a gig in Cleveland in October 2016.  I thought they were good then, but this performance left me gobsmacked.  They’d become tighter and stronger in just half a year.  It had been at least a couple years since I saw so much improvement in one band.

#26 – Partner – Schuba’s – Chicago, IL January 22nd.

This was Partner‘s first gig in Chicago, and one of their first in the United States.  Shame on you if you missed it, because they are now indie rock darlings and their debut album, In Search of Lost Time, is one of the best of 2017.  This show was an absolute home run and wowed everyone there.

Stay tuned for #’s 25 – 21!

Keep your mind open.

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Live: Bebel Gilberto – Chicago, IL – December 20, 2017

Chicago’s City Winery is a wonderful intimate venue, and seeing a lively performer like Bebel Gilberto there is a treat that should never be missed.  Thankfully, my wife and I got to attend her second performance there in as many nights, and Ms. Gilberto was in a playful mood.

Ms. Gilberto shimmied and shook all over the stage and worked through some of her bossa nova classics like “Aganju” and “So Nice,” stopping now and then to put on some more lip gloss or sample some of the venue’s white wine.


She was also a bit feisty, throwing in some political jokes like, “I’m glad this year is almost over, because that means we only have three more left…if you know what I mean.”   Other highlights included her covers of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” and Radiohead’s “Creep.”  Her cover of “Creep” brings my wife and I to tears anytime we hear it, and I felt bad for the couple across from us who went out for a smoke break before she and her two-man band played it.

“Harvest Moon”

She had the crowd singing and even bouncing multiple times throughout the night, calling on us to help her sing rhythms and uplift each other.  “Uplifting” is probably the best way I can describe her performance.  It was a delightful way to end a year that has been rough for many we know and a shining way to start the winter solstice.  More light comes to this half of the world as of yesterday, and I can’t help but think Bebel Gilberto had something to do with it.

“Close Your Eyes”

Keep your mind open.

[Thanks to Vickie Starr for bringing me and my wife some Christmas cheer with press passes to this show.]

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Tom Rogerson collaborates with Brian Eno for debut album.

[Photo credit: Matthew Parri Thomas]
Tom Rogerson is pleased to share a new track “March Away,” taken from his forthcoming debut album entitled Finding Shorea collaboration with Brian Enoout December 8thon Dead Oceans. A perfect example of the studio setting the two artists worked within – Tom improvising at the piano and Brian twisting those signals with the Moog Piano Bar – the track is a prime introduction to this unique release.To accompany the track’s release, a live studio version of the track is also available. Directed by Robert Sieg and shot in Berlin, the performance beautifully illustrates the processes Rogerson and Eno used to create the original work.

Finding Shore is the sound of Rogerson distilling the essence of what he does after a protracted musical journey from childhood until now. As a 17-year-old he had the odd contrast of being taught by the composer Harrison Birtwistle but also working as lounge pianist in a dilapidated hotel in Peterborough. He then spent some time in New York playing jazz, recording with Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus, and had a successful career with post-rock group Three Trapped Tigers, yet however enjoyable that experience was, he admits it was “definitely a diversionary tactic.” Everything seemed to be an escape from the classical world or, as Rogerson himself puts it, “falling out of my ivory tower very slowly.”

After a chance meeting with Brian Eno, the two began to collaborate. Eno’s influence on Finding Shore began by enabling Rogerson to overcome his fear of committing any one piece to its own album. As a way to open Rogerson up, Eno suggested they try experimenting with the Piano Bar, an obscure piece of Moog gear that works by using infrared beams focused on each piano key; these are then broken as the keys are played, transforming the piano’s note into a midi signal that can then be used to trigger or generate new, digital sound. As Rogerson improvised at the piano, Eno improvised with the midi signal to create a unique piece of music.

Watch video for “March Away” –

Listen to “Idea of Order at Kyson Point” –

Listen to “Motion in Field” –

Pre-order Finding Shore:

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Marian Hill’s saxophonist drops one of the grooviest singles of 2017.

Steve Davit, saxophonist for Marian Hillis working on some solo material that combines jazz with electro and hip-hop beats.  His first single, “Forward,” is a funky blast of chopped up saxophone riffs and sweet synth beats.

You can listen to it here, before everyone starts proclaiming it’s their favorite new song.  Get in on the ground floor now.

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