The Musicorium

Sharing some music.

SHE

Posted by Fionn on June 4, 2010

First of all, many thanks to the guys at the Musicorium for having me on here. For my first post, I want to recommend a really pleasant discovery I’ve made in stages over the last year. I’ve been progressively more interested in the chiptune scene on the net, and I think it’s one of the best examples of a music community with a real indie-web ethos, and a genre whose inception demonstrates the genuine creative strengths on the internet. I’ve found it to be a brilliant counterexample to the common music industry notion that without monetary incentive, there is no quality selection, and nothing of any value is produced. The genre is hyperinnovative and thriving. There are some seriously talented musicians involved in it. And most of the music is free to download, with a voluntary donation ethic for remuneration.

Many chiptune musicians are quite diverse, and their work is a rainbow of electronic genres. One such artist is She. She is a Swedish electronic outfit signed to the Japanese label Pony Canyon. There is one official member: Lain Trzaska, who is, despite the name of the band, male. Various (mostly female) vocalists have performed on his records however.

She has one excellent straightforward chiptune album, Pioneer – an exhilarating gameboy-rave album with souped up industrial beats, and atmospheric production. Some of She’s more interesting stuff incorporates a chiptune aesthetic into more mainstream sorts of electronic music. This makes for a highly varied discography which is nonetheless unmistakably the work of a single person.

A common aesthetic runs throughout she’s work. Unapologetically synthy, and heavily produced, the tracks modulate through the classic dance music chord progressions for catchy, plucky tunes, but there is so much going on! Lain manages to create intricate arrangements, where a highly rhythmic combination of instruments overwhelm the listener – more of an aural overload even than outfits like Crystal Castles.

Some of his latest releases Orion and Coloris (these are official releases from she, and are the only ones that must be purchased from iTunes, but I thoroughly recommend them) have the influence of acts like Daft Punk written all over them, but the result is more interesting. No compromise is made in terms of dancefloor appeal, or pop sensibility, but common themes of she’s music shine through: an obsession with all things Japanese and all things futuristic. The tracks also career through various forms of aural manipulation, with sourced japanese phrases and voiceovers, and random atmospheric noise. The initial impression is of turning a radio dial, and listening to broadcasts of excellent dance music from the nightclubs of neoTokyo. And I really can’t emphasize how phat some of the tunes are. There really isn’t another word for it.

I should also mention that she is a multi-instrumentalist, and includes some rather tasteful and skilled analog instruments on his tracks, from the snatches of classical piano on days, to the slap-bass funk of touch and go, to the distorted licks of guitar splashed across his work, notably on fuse. Brilliantly, though, the chips are asked to do the really impressive solo work. It’s amazing how much soul can be gotten out of a Commodore SID chip.

Enough talking. Here are some highlight tracks from perhaps the most immediately accessible records, Coloris and Orion. Do make sure to turn up your speakers, and consider buying these records, just for the higher definition audio.

Coloris

Fuse

Computer Music

autumn in space

The freely downloadable album, chiptek is a good example of this part of she’s corpus, if you want to listen to it before you need more in a similar vein. Here’s a track off that:

supersonic [HD]

Music

Finally, I will say something about the fact that many of she’s albums have quite expansive concepts behind them, with extensive artwork and even backstories to them, all of which are augmented by the snatches of speech and SFX heard during the tracks. Perhaps the most conceptual of she’s stuff, the Days album, is a collection of ambient industrial tracks, which languish as downtempo mood pieces, or which pulsate and rise out of brooding dark atmospheric noise and low synth pads to build into an orchestrated breakbeat crescendo only to vapourize before they have established, sometimes collapsing into simulated CD skipping, leaving you craving more. All this against a background of ominous science fiction themed pronouncements in English and Japanese. It’s really awesome stuff. And there’s quite a story to go along with it. So if you like your electronic music serious, and with a bit of depth, try this out. The sequel, Nights, is in progress!
Day 9
Day 5
Day 11

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Live from Movement/DEMF: Day Three

Posted by SP on June 1, 2010

Day three began with lighting and thunder.  Storms worked their way across the state in the early part of the afternoon and it rained throughout the day.  Far from ruining the festival though, the rain brought cloud cover and cooler breezes that washed away a lot of the previous two days’ pressure and aggressive energy.  We started late and got there just in time to see the end of Francesco Tristano’s set:

Tristano is from Luxembourg. I hadn’t known his music before, but if I had I would have made sure to see the whole thing.  Beautiful stuff.  The reason we were there though was to catch the Moritz von Oswald Trio.  Mortiz is one half of Rhythm & Sound/ Basic Channel, the other half of which is Mark Ernestus. Ernestus had done the dub reggae set that I mentioned in the post on day one.  The Trio was joined by Carl Craig for the set and did an absolutely beautiful hour of minimal, layered, hypnotic music.  Probably this stuff is a little abstract for many, but it was absolutely beautiful while the clouds rolled by and gulls wheeled over the river on the gusts of wind that trailed in the wake of the morning’s storms.  The set was interrupted by a power outage for about five minutes, but it was still lovely:

After starting the morning off with art it was time to go to a party, so it was over to the Beatport stage to hear French berserkers dOP.  Where the trio had been mellow and artistic, dOP were all out throwing down.  They had the crowd up on the stage with them, were drinking, pulling up girls from the audience and dancing with them, and absolutely everybody was shaking it. The MC worked the crowd masterfully, and the music was truly off the chain: imagine techno dance beats combined with New Orleans-style party jazz instrumental components and you pretty much have the idea. Insane, but great fun:

Having learned our lesson about festival attrition on day two we took a dinner break away from the festival in more comfortable surroundings.  Then we returned for the evening sets.

I had wanted to catch at least some of the set by German duo Booka Shade

but it was absolutely packed and for good reason.  What we did see was an excellent performance.  It was too hot though, too packed, and too full of drunks so we went to the Movement Torino stage to check out Italian Mauro Picotto instead:

Picotto’s skills as a DJ are excellent.  Everything that was missing from the day two sets he brought in spades.  His set was very up-tempo, well paced, well managed and kept the crowd on the floor.  That’s harder to do than it sounds, as I learned this weekend rather graphically, so it was a real pleasure to see someone getting it right.

The big draw of the evening was Model 500, brainchild of Detroit techno originator Juan Atkins.  I’d never seen Atkins before and was expecting something good but fairly ordinary in terms of presentation.  Most DJs don’t really incorporate much of a visual effect outside of (usually dispensable) graphics projected on a screen behind them–if even that.  Atkins was a whole other thing.  The set started with as much smoke as I’ve ever seen at any rock show, and when it cleared the Model 500 guys were standing there in Star Trek-looking outfits.  In addition to classic tracks like future (see below), he played some newer tracks with a vocalist and one with a rapper (Nick Speed).  These were not as impressive as you might think however, and came off as being somewhat experimental.  That said, it was an interesting set, if for no other reason than to get to hear stuff like this echoing off the buildings on Jefferson Avenue:

The experimental nature of Atkins set made it somewhat wearing, so we wandered around a bit to see the last acts at the other stages and wound up closing the festival at German Chris Liebing’s set.  It was a really good set, a lot like Picotto’s but more dub-influenced.  Liebing ended the last track by pitch-shifting the last note of the last track into a long, horrific bass note that felt like it was microwaving your kidneys.  It was one of those things you either love or don’t.  I think I was the only one in the ‘don’t’ column in my group, but hey, it was still a pretty good set:

That was DEMF 2010.  Day three made up for the shortcomings of days one and two, but to be fair the heat was a factor and I forgot my age those first two days.  What I will say is that I left the festival very impressed by the diversity of the music and the artistry of the people making it.  A lot of people write electronic music off as something that any talentless hack with a laptop can do, but that just ain’t so.  The only way you’re really going to know that though is if you see it done well, live, with a real human crowd. It’s a lot like jazz that way. There’s something like a quantum effect that happens in these shows, where the observations of the audience change what happens on stage, and what’s on stage produces a reciprocal effect in the audience.  When it comes off it is a beautiful thing.  And the music is beautiful in its own right too. It takes real skill to do this stuff, and if you listen with trained ears, know your way around the rhythmic ancestors of this music in Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean, and keep an open mind about it, you can be richly rewarded for your troubles.

Just stay hydrated.  And if you’re a guy, please keep your pants on for the duration of the performances.  Please.  That is all.

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Live from Movement/DEMF: Day Two

Posted by SP on May 31, 2010

Looking at the schedule for day two gave the impression of a start-to-finish hike between stages in a mad attempt to hear everything.  It didn’t quite turn out that way, but there were some really great moments.

Once again, one of those moments was the first set of the day at the main stage. This time that set was by New Zealander, Recloose. Recloose did an upbeat set of dance music that set a great tone for the rest of the day.  The impressive thing about it though, was that in addition to the usual disco, funk, and techno records that most DJs will play in that kind of set, Recloose played dance music from around the world, and from multiple cultures–African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern–all of that and more.  It was a very impressive, absolutely seamless mix that showed both how universal dance music is, and how contemporary dance music fits into that family.  It was great fun too, kind of like this:

Recloose was succeeded by DJ Pierre, who had a fantastic record selection, but couldn’t get anything going with the crowd, owing to a general lack of structure (in this case structure would mean the pattern of musical builds and releases that a DJ creates using effects, record changes, volume and so on– y’know, what DJs actually *do* with all that hardware up there) uses to so we decided to see what else was going on.

Turns out there wasn’t all that much going on.  A lot of the midday acts seemed to suffer from the same lack of structure that DJ Pierre’s set did, but I don’t blame him or them entirely for this.  Partly I think the squishy nature of a lot of the sets was due to the fact that they weren’t getting much feedback from the crowd.  It was unbelievably hot, and Chene Park is all concrete, making it even hotter.  Making matters worse, the festival organizers prohibit the bringing in of anything to eat or drink, including water, the general idea being to gouge festival goers who have already paid a lot of money just to get inside the gate.  When it’s hot like it was on Sunday that seems almost criminal.  Heat exhaustion is a real problem, and having to spend 3$ for a bottle of water (god forbid you want a beer) makes hydration over the course of 8-10 hours an expensive proposition. Of course you can always leave, and go to the little cooler in the trunk of your car and drink free water (like we did), but that adds to the substantial fatigue of the day.  Even if you did have the money and didn’t mind parting with it, finding shade was a principal concern of the day.

The point of all this is that the crowds really didn’t start giving the DJs much feedback on the dance floor until the sun started go down, and I think that hurt the momentum of the midday sets a little bit.

One act it didn’t hurt was the Martinez Brothers, who absolutely rocked the Beatport stage.  (This stage is also in one of the two best shaded areas in the park, so there was a huge crowd of people here–more people + less heat = more dancing = better performance?) Anyway, they were great. Here’s a sample:

The three acts we’d planned on hitting that day were Anthony “Shake” Shakir, Larry Heard, and Inner City.  Of these, we really only got to enjoy Larry Heard.  Of course “Shake”‘s a genius, and one of Detroit’s best known electronic music figures, but he was playing at that underground stage I mentioned in the Day One post and his sound was too loud.  Add heat, billowing clouds of cigarette (and funny cigarette) smoke, fatigue and a slightly crazy mood building on the pit of the dance floor and you can see why we didn’t hang out too much there.  So it was back to the main stage for Larry Heard.

He was awesome–even better than these links would suggest, and the crowd was with him but it had been a very long day. Being exhausted from the heat we did not make it to Inner City, but called it a day instead.  Probably we’ll take it a little slower for Day Three, and plan a little better for the energy-sapping effects of the heat.

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Live from Movement/DEMF: Day One

Posted by SP on May 30, 2010

Author: Shawn Wilson	This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic license.Geography has its advantages.  In my case one such advantage is a location that makes it relatively painless to go to Movement/Detroit Electronic Music Festival.  This year just for the hell of it I thought I’d write little notes about each day, since I’ll be at the festival all weekend.  As usual for my posts I’ll skip all the (usually) obligatory prose about how awesome Detroit (truly) is, and how this festival is (or was) the beating heart of everything techno, and how bad its current promoter sucks/doesn’t understand the music/etc.. There are plenty of places to find that stuff online. If you’re into this music at all you have your own opinions about that, and I’m not going to gainsay them here.  I’m just going to tell you how it’s going for me.  Here’s the post for today: Saturday.

Got there right as things started today. I had very much been looking forward to a performance by local Patrice Scott, despite the fact that that it was scheduled to be in the notoriously bad “Made in Detroit” Stage.  (For those who don’t know, “Made in Detroit” is a local clothing label that specializes in selling T-shirts pimping Detroit to white kids from affluent suburbs who like to claim Detroit street cred but who only come to town for concerts and sporting events.  It’s okay.  Detroit loves– and desperately needs– the money that all this fake love generates, so don’t hate on ’em.) Anyway, the stage lived up to its reputation and was acoustically awful.  It was like listening to dance music with a tin washtub over your head in an empty pool somewhere deep within a network of caves.  Scott, being the day’s first act, spent the first 20 minutes of his set struggling heroically against the technical limitations of this abominable space.  Whether he succeeded or not I cannot say, as I gave up on psychically willing him to transform the laws of physics in a way that would make the set sound good.  This isn’t his fault though.  Scott is a great artist and DJ in the tried and true Detroit style of techno music, in witness of which I give you this:

Life moves on and I did too, up to the main stage where German legend Mark Ernestus of “Rhythm and Sound” and “Basic Channel” fame was starting a three hour set of dub reggae. This was unbelievably good.  It was a beautiful, warm day, the sun was shining in a bright blue sky such as is seldom seen in this part of North America, and the music was a perfect fit.  Unlike the previous stage, the sound here was perfect, allowing the strategically placed listener to be inside each song.  And I do mean “inside”.  Dub has a lot of space in it, musically and technically speaking, and vintage dub 45s played over a huge, perfectly balanced system make it possible for you to hear everything in this beautiful and deceptively complex music.

Spent a *lot* of time at this one, then wandered around and checked the other stages.  These were somewhat disappointing on the talent front, so we wandered back and watched Ernestus close his set out.  So far my rating on the festival would have been mixed.  Bad sound holding locals back, good sound doing little for acts that were only okay, and only one bright spot in Ernestus’ set.  The crowd vibe too wasn’t that great, as this year seemed to be invaded by frat-boy types, gangsta wannabes, and woo-girls in various stages of scandalous costume.  Last year seemed a lot more balanced with older people and “heads” rounding out the crowd and making it more mellow and fun to be a part of.  I broke for dinner seriously thinking about not coming back, and I wouldn’t have had it not been for the fact that Theo Parrish was headlining at the aforementioned Made in Detroit stage.  My hope was that the techs would have it together by then, so I could see some of this:

Not only was I not let down, I was floored.  Parrish did an amazing set of dance music in much the style you see in the video here, keeping the crowd moving and keeping the heads entertained and engaged too with more than just a little abstraction.  Theo Parrish is known for his creativity as a DJ as well as his creativity  as a maker of his own records, and he was “on” in both respects tonight.  The crowd was great too, as heads and locals pretty much owned the area with old-school dance offs, goodwill, and just plain appreciation for what Parrish was doing. There are easier ways to move your booty at DEMF, and most of the tourists found those ways. The rest, in true Detroit fashion, took the worst stage of the festival over and turned it into the best place to be.

There is one additional thing worth mentioning about this festival for those who haven’t been to anything like it, and that is how down to earth everyone seems to be, from the artists to the crowds.  It’s not at all uncommon to go hear a set by one DJ and be standing next to another you heard play just a couple of hours ago.  Love for the music is what drives the whole thing.

So, overall I’m calling Day One of DEMF 2010 good.  Day Two looks promising as well. With people like New Zealand’s Recloose, Chicago pillar Larry Heard, Detroit’s Anthony “Shake” Shakir and personal all-time favorite Detroiter Derrick May, Mr. Scruff from the UK and Italy’s Psycatron all on the bill, Day Two promises to be the best kind of busy day.  Stay tuned!

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Grizzly Bear

Posted by David on April 18, 2010

The first few casual listen-throughs, I don’t think I really heard Grizzly Bear’s music. They are sort of an indie folk band, or something like that, so there are not a lot of attention-grabbing electric guitars, and their music has a lo-fi, reverby quality which gives it all a sort of distant and ethereal feel as well. As I kept listening to it, though, more and more tunes began to draw me in. Their songs develop in all sorts of lovely and varied ways; the melodies are enchanting and airy, and the rather un-folksy crescendoes cathartic. Harmonized vocals (all four members sing) are probably the band’s most distinctive musical feature, adding much feeling throughout. I’ve listened to and loved both their 2006 album Yellow House, and Veckatimest from 2009. Easily one of my favourite bands among the music I’ve heard in the past year. (They also, somewhat improbably, belong to the same label as the previously-mentioned Flying Lotus, Warp Records.)

The lovely harmonizing and cool progression in this song exemplify a lot of what I like about this band.

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Phantogram

Posted by SP on April 18, 2010

Synth-pop is big now, which kind of makes people as old as I am, who lived the through the age of Depeche Mode, New Order and Erasure as it happened  kind of laugh a little.  If you were gay or in college or hung out in dance clubs a lot it was epic stuff, but it was always a subculture thing.  The real innovators of the period were never known outside of a handful of listeners and the sound in general only registered with people when it trickled into more mainstream pop acts, which again, is kind of like what’s happening now.

At this point I’m just gonna spare you anymore of the obligatory Rolling Stone (or throughly derivative Pitchfork) bullshit about influences or history and just tell you that I love Phantogram.  While it is synth-driven, the sound of Phantogram to me really centers on Sarah Barthel’s voice hanging in a lot of empty space that the music sort of creates in the negative.  Josh Carter’s guitar is masculine but understated, weaving in and out through the space in a way that  complements Barthel’s vocals perfectly.  The darkness of the lyrics gives the whole thing an edge of tragedy that’s hard to resist.  It’s haunting and sexy and just cool.

Yeah, I know they said this about synth-pop in the 80s too. The early stuff has a sense of novelty about it though that makes it campy in a way that diminishes its staying power.  This time around, with electronic music having come into its own, it’s possible to make this music in an environment that takes it seriously. Without taking anything away from the greats of 20 years ago, I think that makes it a little bit smarter and a little bit better.  That’s just what I think though.  You can judge for yourself. Here are two of my favorites from their most recent album, the first from a very cool session at KEXP in Seattle that gives a rare glimpse at how this kind of music is made live.

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The Presidents of the United States of America – The Presidents of the United States of America

Posted by David on April 8, 2010

The Presidents of the United States of America released their self-titled debut album in 1995 (that is fifteen years ago), and I heard various of the hit songs from it on and off from then until just recently, when I finally got around to acquiring the album itself. It is terribly, terribly fun: Infectious, upbeat rock (played, reportedly, on their signature “guitbass” and “basitar”), with lyrics about kitties, candy, strippers and various other things, ranging through puerile, adorable, playfully lewd and self-deprecating. The songs themselves are sharp, un-repetitive and catchy, with great, frenetic drumming and gnarly-sounding… guitbass, I guess. I think they were pretty well known, at least when this album came out, but having come across it now and thoroughly enjoyed all 38 minutes of it several times over, I feel compelled to recommend it.

One of the many, many songs in the world whose Weird Al parody was familiar to me long before I had ever heard the original.

I don’t know who else would write an entire song sincerely detailing how great peaches are.

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Keep Putting Soul Up

Posted by SP on March 5, 2010

Spring is in the air…kind of…anyway it’s time to start emerging from the cocoon of seasonal affective disorder.  For that the doctor orders soul music.

First up is Raphael Saadiq’s The Way I See It–one of those few records that actually lives up to its hype.  Those with a little gray in their hair like me might remember him from 80s/90s pop group Tony! Toni! Toné!  Since then he’s been a producing force behind the neo-soul movement that’s better known these days by the records of Joss Stone and John Legend.  Basically, the guy is everywhere, so I’ll cut his story short.  Google him and be amazed at how consistently he’s produced good records for artists who actually have chops.

The Way I See ItThe Way I See It is a solid effort in the classic Motown tradition.  None of the songs are that deep (except for Big Easy, about the anxiety of a man for his missing girlfriend), and that’s a good thing.  In the fantastic documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, about the now deservedly famous Funk Brothers, the backing band for virtually every recognizable Motown song, Ben Harper is interviewed about the effect the music had on him as a child.  He notes the essential positivity and hopefulness that the music has within its upbeat rhythms and arrangements as its biggest influence, and I’m inclined to agree.  Too much message kills this music (unless you are Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye).  So I give Saadiq props for keeping it thematically simple while surrounding himself with a crew of first rate musicians whose performances are so tight and in the pocket that they could easily be mistaken for the Funk Brothers themselves.  It’s beautifully recorded too.  It just sounds great.  Put this record on, dance, and give the dregs of winter the middle finger.

100 Days, 100 NightsNext up is the latest effort from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.  If Saadiq and his crew are carrying the Motown torch, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are carrying the flame for the Memphis sound.  While Saadiq is the consummate musical professional, Sharon Jones maybe has the better story.  For most of her life she did not sing professionally at all, and was working as a prison guard at Riker’s Island when she got her break at the age of 40 as a backing vocalist for Lee Fields.  There’s something of that toughness lingering in the sound of her vocals.  Sharon Jones sounds like she could probably kick your ass.  It’s a perfect voice for the slightly rougher style of soul music that she and the Dap Kings play, ranging from classic pissed-off girl of a cheatin’ man to wise older sister to dedicated lover. Think Etta James with just a little more roughness in the voice.

As good as she is, though, the Dap Kings are easily her match.  These guys are on fire on every track–classic big band Memphis soul with lots of horns and the same distinctive guitar sound that you hear on old Otis Reading and Sam and Dave tracks.  It’s not as polished or produced as Saadiq’s sound, but that’s for a good reason.  The Dap Kings are period people, and use as much of the instrumentation and recording technology of the late 60s and 70s as they can get away with.  That’s good though.  Their records sound real in a way that few do anymore. You also get a sense of how good these guys are live.  Though I’ve not had the pleasure myself I’ve never heard anyone who has say that they did not absolutely burn the stage down.  Makes sense.

The Dap Kings have their own record label: DapTone Records.  The motto is “Keep Putting Soul Up”.   Sounds about right to me.  Happy Spring everybody.

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Flying Lotus – Los Angeles

Posted by David on February 17, 2010

Los Angeles is a 2008 album by up-and-coming electronic artist Steven Ellison, a.k.a. Flying Lotus. The album is a string of hip-hoppish/trip-hoppish beats, accented with hazy-sounding synths and chopped-up little snatches of speech and singing. He conjures up an incredibly viscous sound: the heavy hits of the kick drums forever seem to be dragging just slightly, record needle noise runs thick over much of it, and the accompanying samples and melodies all have a slightly drunken, far-off feel to them. I suspect that combining this music with some kind of depressant might risk melting one’s face off. I was put off at first — it takes a little getting used to — but the longer I’ve played this and the louder I’ve played it, the further I have gotten into its deep, syrupy grooviness. Another cool act on the strange and magical roster of Warp Records.

Those are both a bit more upbeat than much of the album, but they’re a couple of my favourites.

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Three Great Contemporary Jazz Artists

Posted by SP on January 12, 2010

I was going to write “there are few forms of music that I love more than jazz” but screw it.  There aren’t ANY forms of music that I love more than jazz.  Unfortunately, really good, innovative, and musically sound jazz is hard to find.  Most releases stateside are either anemic descendants of 70’s fusion (think Weather Channel music) or staid attempts at traditionalism by otherwise really competent players who might swing like hell live, but won’t sell records on a major label if they dare push the envelope to jazz snobs in North America.

That’s why I’m dedicating this entry to three American jazz artists that I think are breaking that mold and doing really creative, electrifying work that deserves to be heard: Christian Scott, Jason Moran, and Sean Jones.

First New Orleans native Christian Scott.

I got introduced to his music through the recommendation of a friend that I check out 2007’s Anthem, Scott’s melancholic, thoughtful, and altogether moving reflection on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.  I was immediately arrested by Scott’s whispery tone, which is truly unique (allegedly the product of his own exploration and guidance from legendary mentor Clark Terry).  Anthem is dark and moody, but it fits its subject matter perfectly and stands out, at least to me, as an expressive benchmark.  Below is a video of Scott performing live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2008.

Jason Moran has been a favorite of mine for years.  His 2003 record The Bandwagon: Live at the Village Vanguard got my attention with his versatility, feel, and remarkable sense of song.  It was also just cool as hell.  Who can argue with a jazz cover of Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa? I mean, come on.  His later work, however, far outshines anything on that record.  His latest release Artist in Residence is absolutely arresting in its beauty and structure.  Far from being just an exceptional piano player, Moran has developed the compositional vocabulary to show just how much he understands this music without losing sight of his own message and sensibility.  It is a shame he isn’t better known outside jazz.  The song in this video, from Artist in Residence, is called “He Puts on His Coat and Leaves”.  The video doesn’t do it justice.  If you can, listen to the original.  It’s an entire novel in less than five minutes.

“He Puts on His Coat and Leaves” (live)

Finally there’s Sean Jones, another trumpeter, but from Ohio.  Sean Jones’ reputation used to be strongest in the Detroit-Pittsburgh corridor.  (Jones teaches Jazz at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh) but a turn with the much valorized Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra the last five years has changed that, and Jones is finally coming into some very well-deserved publicity.  Jones’s playing is nothing short of beautiful.  He plays with a clarity and phrasing that are slightly reminiscent of Terence Blanchard (at least to me) but where Blanchard’s playing is austere, Jones radiates warmth and light.  He’s the perfect yang to Scott’s yin.  Plus, as the videos below attest, the guy can swing like there’s no tomorrow.  Jones’ latest release, 2009’s The Search Within, is nothing short of a revelation.  As a composer, Jones already has a fresh and unmistakable signature sound that I think will one day put him in the same league with other great trumpeter/composers like Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd.   The Search Within will knock you out.

Sean Jones, Kenny Blake, Howie Alexander, live in Pittsburgh doing a blazing rendition of Herbie Hancock’s classic “Watermelon Man” parts I & II

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