This past Thursday night I had the honor of seeing, The Bad Plus, at The Neptune Theater in what turned out to be an incredible performance. I have been a fan of The Neptune Theater ever since my first show there which was Snarky Puppy. I think the venue is an excellent size, and usually has pretty good sound as well. Upon arriving Thursday night, I was surprised to find seats on the floor right in front of the stage. This was my first concert at The Neptune that has been seated, but looking back on the performance it fit the atmosphere very well.
Having no opener for them, The Bad Plus came out on stage and instantly started burning on a tune I didn’t recognize, and eventually morphed into a roaring chart titled “My Friend Metatron”. Instantly blown away, I knew the entire performance was going to contain the highest level of musicianship. It was after this tune that bassist Reid Anderson finally addressed the crowd. Showing a remarkably dry sense of humor throughout the performance, Anderson welcomed us all to the show and made everyone chuckle before the lads brought down the energy with a sensitive cover of “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper.
As the tune progressed, The Bad Plus continued to expand our understanding of the song by adding dissonant harmonies and convoluting the pulse more and more. Following up the cover came an Ornette Coleman tune entitled “Law Years”. The juxtaposition of these two songs one right after the other perfectly highlighted that, The Bad Plus, are not only musicians that know what the crowd likes to hear, but are also heavy jazz players that love to venture off into the realm of free improvisation as they abandoned tonal center and traditional rhythm. The Ornette Coleman tune found The Bad Plus experimenting with textures and harsh timbres that any free jazz fanatic would have been impressed by. What followed for the next hour came an inspiring mix of both pop and heavy jazz tunes that shifted along the spectrum from the most “out” to the most “in”, inciting cheers and immense applause from the audience countless times.
Over all, The Bad Plus demonstrated an ability to combine the familiar with the unknown, all the while remaining tasteful. Not a single note or idea was played that the music didn’t call for, which showed that pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer David King poses an immense sense of maturity and trust in each other as musicians. I would recommend seeing The Bad Plus to anyone who is a fan of music and can appreciate witnessing the experience and comfortability of three killin’ musicians who have spent the last 17 years shedding and making music together.
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the American hip hop scene experienced a beautiful collision with jazz. Groups like A Tribe Called Questand De La Soulgained a fair amount of fame from this movement. Let’s dedicate some time to another one: Digable Planets.
When I first discovered Digable Planets, my attention was immediately drawn to the presence of a female rapper. It caught me off guard to hear Ladybug rapping confidently alongside Butterfly and Doodlebug in the group’s Grammy award-winning single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”. My surprise quickly turned into admiration for their smooth flow. Listen to how their voices glide in “Where I’m From” (below).
The mellow sound of their music makes for easy listening, although it’s a bit of a juxtaposition to the content of their lyrics. The trio’s second and final release, Blowout Comb, is a highly politicized production. It’s interwoven with far-left, Afrocentric messages and references to race and class on the East Coast. “Black Ego” highlights Butterfly’s interaction with a police officer, while “Dial 7 (Axioms of Creamy Spies)” evokes imagery from the Five Percent Nation. Other tracks like “The Art of Easing” shine a light on the realities of urban life in Brooklyn.
Unfortunately, after only a few years together, Digable Planets disbanded as a result of creative differences. Seattle native Ishmael Butler (Butterfly) is now a member of alternative hip hop group Shabazz Palaces. Doodlebug, aka Cee Knowledge, is the lead member of Cee Knowledge and the Cosmic Funk Orchestra, while Ladybug Mecca embarked upon a solo career.
Despite their short time together, Digable Planets’ sophisticated rhymes and jazzy rap remain fresh two decades later. I welcome this blast from the past every time I hear them, and I hope you all can do the same.
This Thursday, the 19th, The Bad Plus is performing at The Neptune Theater. I first heard about The Bad Plus from their collaboration with saxophonist Joshua Redman, which was equally exciting and experimental. Similarly, on their own, The Bad Plus refuses to be confined into any one genre or sound. Drawing most of their influence from jazz, The Bad Plus often venture off into genres of rock and pop, but do it in a way that feels comfortable and not gimmicky. Known for off-the-wall covers of various rock and pop tunes, seeing The Bad Plus perform live will be an adventure through the realms of free jazz and pop music alike. The trio consisting of bassist Reid Anderson, drummer David King, and pianist Ethan Iverson all met back in high school and have been making music together since 1990. Regardless of what set the band decides to bring to the audience on Thursday night, it will undoubtedly be one that reflects their forward-thinking mindset and 27 years of musical experience together.
Last weekend, The Suffers performed live at The Crocodile. If you weren’t able to make it, here’s what you missed.
The show kicked off with two openers. The first was The Bandulus, an endearingly upbeat, Portland-based soul and reggae band. Right off the bat, the entire crowd danced and sang along. It was fabulous. The horn section of The Suffers even came out to join for a bit, demonstrating the closeness and camaraderie of the groups. The second opening act was Jakubi, an electronic/hip-hop/R&B outfit all the way from Melbourne, Australia. To be honest, these guys completely stole the show and were the highlight of the entire night. Laughing and pushing each other around, Jakubi was clearly having a good time. Lead vocalist Jerome Farah used a talk box to infuse some futuristic vibes alongside their funk and reggae sounds, and the result was an entirely different, raw energy that had the crowd more fired up than they would be all night.
By the time The Suffers filed across stage, the entire room was packed. The band paused in the darkness for a moment, arms raised silently toward the ceiling. It was a powerful display of unity before the lights flashed on and they jumped straight into their set. As with both openers, The Suffers had the whole crowd immediately moving to the music. People around me were clapping and head-bobbing, beer sloshing out of their cups.
Kam Franklin dominated the stage. “Presence” is the one word I would use to describe it. It was impossible to miss her strutting across, and I was blown away each time she unleashed her voice. In between songs, Kam stopped to casually chat with the audience. It really reinforced the already intimate feel of the venue. She spoke passionately about the importance of opening acts, praising both The Bandulus and Jakubi for their performances. After all, she said, The Suffers were once openers, too. Kam also called the theme of the night: chasing dreams. This upcoming January will mark the 2-year anniversary since The Suffers quit their day jobs to pursue music full-time. “Live the life you want to live”, urged Kam, “because being able to say you tried is the most wonderful thing.” She laughed, telling us that if we fail, we Seattleites have legal weed to comfort us.
Another highlight of the night came with an announcement: The Suffers have been writing new music while on tour, and they wanted to play some of it for Seattle. My favorite was “Do Whatever”, a follow-up to Kam’s words about chasing dreams. It featured strong jazz and R&B influences, making me feel like we had suddenly landed in the middle of a downtown jazz club. Other great renditions included “Stay”, “Midtown”, and “Giver”, the final performance of the night. Kam’s voice was clear and soulful, ringing throughout the room. This song is so much better live; I could truly appreciate the talent and restraint of the percussionists when they were sitting 20 feet away. The horn section was also able to show off fabulously, with rich, gentle crescendos from Jon Durbin and Michael Razo. (These two had adorably synchronized dance moves.)
As the night wound down, this band wanted us to remember two things, if nothing else: their name and their hometown. And I must say, The Suffers from Houston, Texas will live in my memory for quite some time.
Coming all the way from Houston, Texas, The Sufferswill be performing live at The Crocodile this Saturday, November 12th, at 8:00 PM. Get excited, because these soulsters do it like no other. They call themselves a “Gulf Coast Soul” band, combining soul with reggae, South American, and jazz influences. The result is beautiful. It’s a seamless blend of genres that doesn’t fit in any one box. It also perfectly reflects the diversity of band, which includes a Latin percussionist, a classically trained saxophonist, a jazz drummer, and a gospel singer.
In their self-titled 2016 debut, The Suffers tastefully arrange each section of their 10-piece ensemble alongside the powerful vocals of Kam Franklin. Her captivating voice is so warm and rich, and I can’t wait to hear it fill the room this weekend. For first-time listeners, I recommend “Giver” (below). Other notable tracks include “Make Some Room” and “Gwan”, which was performed on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Even if soul isn’t your thing, I hope you all can “Make Some Room” in your busy schedules to enjoy these fabulously soulful Texans. It’s going to be a good time.
I’m going to be honest here and say
that I first found out about Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestraonly a
short time ago. I first heard the song “Cold Canary Gaslight” and fell in love
with the wonderful and distinct sound that the band produces. Marty O’Reilly’s
smoky voice paired with the delicious blend of jazz, folk, and blues instantly made this band one
of my favorites. They just recently released a new EP, called Preach ‘Em Now! and I have opinions on
it. Here they are:
The EP starts off with the track,
“I Heard the Angels”, which is a cover of Reverend Gary Davis’ song. Or at
least, it might be. I’m not sure what the history of the track is, or who the
first to record it was. But anyway, the track opens up with a single guitar,
playing a bluesy riff. It initially sounds like something you’d hear in an old
coffeehouse on open mic night, and I mean that in a good way. The guitar sounds
as smoky and rough as Marty’s voice, and the entire track has an almost lo-fi
tone. The kick drum joins in, then the bass, and the EP takes off. The
introduction of the violin creates a vibrancy, while the distorted guitar keeps
you laid back and slightly depressed, creating what I can only describe as a
dystopian atmosphere. The song truly does sound like the inner turmoil of a man
about to face death. Which is interesting, given it’s actually a worship song.
song is “Preach ‘Em Now!”, the EP’s title track. It starts off with a blues
rock sound, before delving into a more jazzy vibe. The whole song alternates
between jazz, blues, and blues rock. While this may sound like it would make
for a confusing and annoying song, Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra
makes it work. Towards the end, the song develops into an instrumental showcase
of the violin and the guitar, delighting the ears.
the Wolves”, the third track on the EP, slows the album back down, bringing
back the sad and slow violin and double bass. This song is a lot more jazz
heavy than the previous, with the double bass creating a laid back atmosphere
that pairs well with a fine glass of wine and a fireplace. Then, the violin
comes in periodically, sometimes shouting and sometimes whispering to the
listener, alternating the mood of the song throughout.
continues the jazz and double bass theme. However, the upbeat guitar and
bassline take the EP in a new direction: joyful. The violin is still there to
add an unsung frantic tone to the meaning of the song, but isn’t as depressing
as the previous tracks, and wails far less. The change in direction that occurs
with this song is what keeps the EP from going stale and leaving every track
sounding the same.
end the EP, “Shudder” brings up the rear. Immediately, this song sounds
different. Starting the track with only vocals and a semi-acoustic guitar,
Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra went with a more personal feeling to
the last song on the EP. The lyrics to this song elude me, but the track gives
off a feeling of optimism in the face of opposition. This, along with the
opening track, are my favorites from the EP.
I liked Preach ‘Em Now! more than their previous album, mainly due to the dedicated cohesiveness the band stuck to in this instance. No song sounds dissimilar to the previous, yet each is unique and offers its own flavor to the delicious spread that is this EP. Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul
Orchestra isn’t too well known yet, but they deserve every new listener they
receive. Give ‘em a listen.
Before I delve into my (rave) review, I have to warn you,
reader: this song is an overwhelmingly scintillating odyssey with lyrics that
will either chill or inspire you. I cannot take responsibility for the intense
emotional reaction you are prone to have when you embark on this gorgeous,
sprawling, 7-minute voyage.
Here is a preview of some of the lyrics, all of which are
“Cold eats the flesh of broken hearts / tender the strike of tinder gods.
Embers across a rayless sky / still warm my soul, I often cry. Hot coals.”
…Kind of awesome imagery, right?
I am a staunch advocate for long songs with multiple phases. MGMT’s “Siberian Breaks” and Daft Punk’s “Touch” are definitely in
my top 25. And “Hot Coals” easily entered those ranks on my first listen.
Featured above is a fan-made music video that Edward Sharpe and
the Magnetic Zeros shared on their Facebook page with the following
comment from lead singer Alex Ebert:
The song lilts from a blues rock beginning into more familiar
alternative folk territory, before transitioning yet again into a jazzy and
upbeat chorus complete with masterful piano ornamentations and wire brushes on drums. The time changes just keep coming, surging forward seamlessly and sending the
listener deeper into this vivid arena of aural stimulation.
In later stages, there are trumpet features
and swelling organs that I believe are resuscitative. Seriously. If I
ever go into a coma, play this trumpet solo to revive me.
This is the first single to be released by the band since
their eponymous album in 2013. It is also ESMZ’s first studio release since their messy
split with Jade Castrinos. Many
fans have voiced complaints about the band’s sound without Jade, especially at
live shows. But if you’ve enjoyed Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in any
musical capacity besides their hit single “Home”, you may find this change is less
a tragedy and more a testament to the band’s maturation. “Hot Coals” is
unmistakably Jadeless. And indeed, it is still a creative masterpiece that demonstrates
fantastic growth for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
There has already been plenty of discussion about how ESMZ
will have to adapt to losing their lead female voice. I would like to turn the
focus instead toward the statement “Hot Coals”makes: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will thrive in this
Ten’s company: The band’s current members are Alex Ebert, Nico Aglietti, Stewart Cole, Josh Collazo, Seth Ford-Young, Christian Letts, Orpheo McCord, Mark Noseworthy, Crash Richard and Mitchell Yoshida.
Egert said, “Hot
Coals, to me, are memories.” Perhaps that is why the track is so remarkable; it
is a collection of nostalgias lovingly spun together into a song for the ages.
This single about memories establishes itself as more than memorable – it is an
unforgettable milestone in Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ discography
that has left me eager to see what flames they’ll kindle next.
Lamar’s latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, was undeniably brilliant. It was both lyrically and sonically divine. One
of the album’s most beautiful aspects was its funky, jazz-infused sound. I
wasn’t a fan of jazz before To Pimp a
Butterfly, but now I’m obsessed. Thank you based Kendrick.
as a genre, can be quite daunting. I had no idea where to start with it. So I
did the only thing I could do: I searched for “jazz” on Spotify. There was so much to listen to! I found some
cool Spotify playlists (Shouts to “Late Night Jazz”) that helped narrow down my
So, two months of jazz-capades
later, here are my three favorite albums. If you want to get started with jazz—and
you totally should, it’s dope—these albums would make for an ideal starting
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out
Dave Brubeck sure can
play the hell out of a piano. This album’s sound is playful and sunny. Perfect music
for rolling down a grassy hill, or for a wine-soaked picnic on the beach. The
seven pieces on this album each elegantly swell to their euphoric peaks.
“Strange Meadow Lark” is my personal favorite on this album. It’s pure bliss
when the horns kick in:
Coltrane – A Love Supreme
About six minutes into this glorious beast
of an album, Coltrane puts down his saxophone to chant “A Love Supreme.” The
other instruments carry on, providing a smooth backdrop for his chant. It’s a
simple and fleeting moment, lasting only about thirty seconds. But somehow, it’s
my favorite thirty seconds on this album. It’s amazing. It’s catchy. It’s
This album is abundant with such
moments of wonder. The whole thing just swings into your ears. Tension
frantically rises and falls in a majestic tide of harmony. This album feels
like an insane action movie. Like Die Hard. A Love Supreme is the jazz
equivalent of Die Hard.
Davis – Kind of Blue
This is a phenomenal album. Miles
Davis and his trumpet are a soothing balm to the ear. Also, the man himself,
John Coltrane, plays the tenor saxophone on this album.
The album kicks off with pensive
piano notes, an oddball bassline and tentative bursts from the trumpet. It’s so chill:
This album makes me feel like I own a
yacht. That’s a great way to feel, no doubt about it. I listen to this album almost every day. I brush
my teeth to it. I fall asleep to it. I even ate pizza to it once. If you haven’t
heard anything on this album yet, get with the program.
But, don’t just take my word for it all. Venture into the wonderful world of jazz and experience the magic for yourself. In the words of the great jazz pianist, Bill Evans (He also played on Miles’s Kind of Blue. That album is straight up star-studded), “You can’t explain jazz to anyone without losing the experience. Because it’s feeling, not words.”
Annnddddddd we’re back. I’m sorry for such a long sabbatical but I was just researching music. And being lazy. So who wants to talk about French deep house?
Gonna be honest, I’m SO NOT an expert on house music, but because deep house has elements of soul and 1980s jazz-funk and this specific musician uses a lot of piano and saxophone, I’m going to say that I somewhat know what I’m talking about.
Should we meet Klingande?
A French duo composed of musicians Cédric Steinmyller and Edgar Catry, these guys don’t give the vibe of what you think of when you think of house music: electronic, boring, repetitive. They dig honest sound, and true jazz, funk, and soul. With three solid singles out, deubting in in 2013, these guys are beautiful in their sound.
There are house beats, but there are also funky basslines, eclectic vocal samples, excellent percussion and hypnotic, just straight-jamming grooves of saxophone solos that distinguish Klingande’s sound.
The two boys themselves label their music as “melodic sound,” and for sure they have this vibe of sunny beaches and the strange juxtaposition of classy, classy saxophone jazz and more modern dance pop.
I mean, take a listen to “Jubel.” You’ve got these straight up dope saxophone melodies (thank you fantastic Mr. Snake Davis) running throughout the entire track of lovely Lucie Decarne’s vocals. Reaching number one on the charts in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Switzerland, this track also hit #3 on the UK Singles chart.
We start out slow with bongo-drums and light layering of keys, yeah? Then a bassline melody, still good, right? Then a build up to the vocals, and you’re like, “Hmm, pretty good.” But then we hit the sax, and you’ve got to just stop and smile.
And then look at his first single ever released, “Punga.” The vocals are phenomenal combined with the saxophone layered on piano. And to be honest, the sax on this track is better than the sax on Jubel, but the standard of excellence here is just so high that either way, any of Klingande’s tracks are going to exceed any of our expectation for musical innovation.
If you like Avicii, if you like Bakermat, if you like saxophone, if you like grooves, please. Do yourself a favor. Check out his Soundcloud here, trust me, he’s worth your time.
And sweet deal because if you fall in love enough, go and check out his show at The Crocodile on May 20th. You can bet I’m gonna be there.
It’s been rough lately, and honestly I should be writing a paper, but I’d rather write about music, so let’s just procrastinate together.
I’ve fallen in love, recently. It’s that time of year, you know? And I realize that I fall in love quite often, I’m a romantic, but this guy is worth it, I’m telling you.
Let’s meet Taylor Berrett.
As I write this, I literally can feel myself become giddy,it’s almost unreal. It’s crazy. Is this how love feels?
Okay, so this is actually really strange because I first
discovered Berrett a couple of months ago when I went to an Alex Clare show at Neptune Theatre (remember that show
preview?). He was the opener, and I remember, at the time thinking, “He’s good,
young, but this kid’s got it.” I took a couple photos, swore he was going to go
far, and then just vaguely forgot about him. Here’s a photo of him performing,
he’s a pretty rad guy.
But anyway, then I followed him on Facebook, just for news
updates and slowly Berrett began to come out with more of his own music. When he
performed a couple of months ago, he had a couple of his songs, so I knew he
could write, but I was basing his vocal ability off his Beatles covers.
So I knew this kid has talent.
It’s a little crazy I’m reviewing
this guy so soon because his debut album doesn’t even come out for another two
weeks, but the tracks and the EP that he has out now are just too good to not
talk about, and I expertly assume they will be on his debut album.
But let’s talk about my favorite
tracks first, which aren’t on his 2012 EP Anchor
Chasing. “Those Days,” a track that he just released this year, starts off
just the way I like it: with some finger snaps, simple acoustic harmonies, and a raw,
The rhythm on this track is so brilliant and the lyricism that
this man has is so natural, I am reminded of singer-songwriter (and one of my
favorite musicians) Kris Allen. We
start off easy with “Slow down, turn around/Tell me what’s tearing your heart
out baby,” building up the main chorus “Everybody has, everybody has those
days/ Feeling like an ocean, having trouble making waves.” As we build up to
the chorus, we get a little trumpet and sax into the mix, and my heart drops into
my stomach. Then bam, xylophone, and the world just stops.
It’s this perfect mix of acoustic
folk with jazz and it just feels easy
you know? You get the feel of just chilling on the beach with this guy,
drinking some margaritas, with a guitar and a guy playing saxophone in the
background. When we get to the sax solo, you know Taylor Berrett is a classy
musician and not one to be reckoned with. He knows instrumental composition,
and he knows it well.
Okay, so now for my absolute favorite
track that he has out so far. “The Heat,” a track that he released,also, just a
couple months ago is just a game changer.
It’s a little more upbeat, but it’s probably, and this may be a stretch, a
track that I would say is one of the best new singles I’ve heard this year. He starts drumming out some awesome beats,
leading in with some great vocals that just has excellent rhythm and a sense
of, once again, jazz and blues. Listen to the part when he sings his chorus, “Got
no place that I can go/ Got no money to my name/ Got no scars that I show/ Got no
bad luck I can blame.” The way he weights his vocals rhythmically is not just
catchy. It’s brilliant. The electric guitar mixed with his drummer is all so
cohesively in sync with his vocals, that you would almost expect Berrett to be
someone who’s been in the business for years. Taylor Berrett labels himself as acoustic pop,
and definitely, I can see why he would want to brand himself that way; he wants
to be commercial. But don’t let that fool you, this guy knows solid blues. He
knows solid jazz. He is catchy, but he is skilled and talented. You see it in
the last track I discussed, you see it in the bridge of this track when he
sings “They say man take it easy, enjoy it while you’re free/ I said the heat I
can stand is, is standing still against me.”
And the acoustic version is even
better. Here’s a look.
This voice. Please. There is
control, there is great tone, there is great pitch, and there is just a
When I listen to this guy, a smile
forms on my face. Is this what love feels like?
Maybe it’s the combination of the fact
that I’ve seen this guy start it out live, and then have listened to his more
matured singles, and maybe it’s the fact that I know he is the real deal
because I have seen him sing. I’m not
sure. But this is probably my favorite artist
to review thus far, and I love a lot of musicians.
But anyone, one more, let’s talk.
Let’s take it back two years, to another
track, also not on his EP. I like his EP, and we’ll get there, don’t worry. But,
honestly? I really just dig these tracks that he chooses not to publicize as
much. They’re rad. “Fair Warning,” takes it back a little bit more to his folk
roots, but he still rocks it, like usual.
You get this banjo, tambourine, campy
feel, but once again, his lyricism of, “Call me the wanderer/ Write me away/ I’ll
be the mountain you cannot escape,” never fails. This a track I’m pointing out
just to emphasize Berrett’s versatility as an artist. I’m sorry, but I don’t
care how campfire folk he gets, the man has vocals and the man can write. And
why is it surprising? This 22-year old singer from Virginia started writing songs at age 13,
so he’s had plenty of practice.
Quick note on his EP, Anchor Chasing, because I feel like I
should comment. It’s alright; I’m not trying to disregard his first published
accomplishment. Style wise, it’s more lowkey than the other tracks I’ve talked
about, simple. When you listen to it, you can hear in his voice that he still
very much new, and hey this is an EP from two years ago, so it’s
understandable. We all mature as artists.
Of the five tracks on the EP,
there are only two that I truly love and know will make it to his full length
album. “Whole Heart” is definitely a track I love best and a song I think
Berrett is exceptionally proud of especially since he keeps promoting it. It’s
full of those beautiful piano melodies that you all know I love, so points
right there. It’s two years old, but I think this is a solid original
composition of his, and personally, I’m proud. “Pomegranate Sky,” another great
one on his EP is dreamy and acoustic, but solid with some violin and piano in
the background. You feel relaxed listening to this. You have to let his voice just
take you away, and he does, successfully.
By the way, please, please, check out all his music on his soundcloud here!
All in all, this man is going to
top charts. I’m not predicting that, I’m guaranteeing it. He knows what he’s doing,
and seeing as he is already signed to Warner Brothers, and seeing as his album is
about to be released mighty soon, it’s only a matter of time.