Alright, I’m going out on a limb and say that I was one of the first to know about the upcoming project by Pyeng Threadgill. Pyeng, she of the critically acclaimed project “The Music of Robert Johnson” invited about 50 of her closest friends to take part of a live recording of her latest work: “Portholes To A Love And Other Short Stories”. This was also filmed by Annabel Wong of Wild Horse Productions. I spoke to Pyeng back in January and she sounded very excited about working on this project. Based on the performance, this forthcoming release will be a huge success for Ms Threadgill.
The Queens Daughters
It’s an added benefit when the events you support take on a greater purpose that resonates far beyond the music. The Queens Daughters:Celebrating Women Who Rock with a touch of soul: Honoring the musical legacy of Labelle. Thanks to the ladies of Ubiquita, we were able rock with three of the funkiest women on the scene today. Headlining the event was Atlanta based Joi (aka Tennessee Slim aka Star Kitty), Tamar Kali and Shelly Nichole’s Blakbushe turned out the ManhattanCenter in NYC. The proceeds of this event went to NextAid, a non-profit organization committed to providing solutions for children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. A great show for an important cause made for a special night.
Though I had been a fan for years, this was my first time seeing Joi. My love for her music goes way back to the single “ The Sunshine And The Rain”, from her first cd “The Pendulum Vibe”. Last year I finally got my hands on “TheAmoeba Cleansing Symdrome”, a great cd that was never released because the record execs didn’t know what to do with it. If you’re familiar with Joi you know that she’s not the traditional soul singer. She effortlessly weaves rock, funk and soul into a high energy rock n soul love affair. In tribute to Labelle, Joi performed her cover of “You Turn Me On”. Labelle would’ve been proud.
I have to say that I was familiar with Tamar Kali but I had never really listened to her until now. Wow! I had no idea that she puts it down like that. Tamar uses her powerful voice to sing her soulful blend of alternative rock. Ever since her performance, I’ve been rocking her ep “Geechee Goddess Hardcore Warrior Soul” in my ride with the volume cranked up.
This was also my first time seeing Shelly Nichole’s Blakbushe. Shelly calls her fusion of music Solaroc; blending soul, funk and rock together. If anyone embodies the spirit of Labelle, it’s Shelly and her band.
When you have events such as these, it’s just as important to have a quality DJ to entertain us between acts. Props to DJReborn and others for keeping us movin’ and groovin’.
Manchildblack at Joe's Pub
About a year ago, I was bangin’ a soulful house track (my favorite kind of house) called “Rain”. At the time, I wasn’t aware that the artist was Manchildblack. I was already enjoying his show at Joe’s Pub in NYC but when he closed the show with that track, it was the exclamation point to an outstanding night. Of course, after the show I had to find out what else I’ve been sleeping on. Turns out that the brother has another ep called “Awake In a Dream” that features the gem “To The Sky”. This is one of those feel good jams that remind you why you love music in the first place. The cut displays Mandchildblack’s great vocals,plus inspiring lyrics and a great chorus. Manchildblack played tracks from his brand new ep “My Minds I”. Below is Manchildblack with Fiona Bloom and singer KiKi. In the meantime, check out his myspace to hear just how talented this man is and become a believer.
The Black Lilly Festival
Man! I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed my first Black Lilly festival. In a short time, the festival that celebrates women in music and film has become a world wide event. If I had any doubts about whether or not I would attend, they were eliminated the moment I saw the lineup.Many talented artists like Lizz Wright, Ladybug Mecca, Muhsinah, Philly's own Bahamadia and many more. The event was well organized with the artists from both genres consistently hitting the stage with no gaps in between. I had so much to report and so many pictures to show off that I decided to dedicate an entire page for the event.
The Rock and Soul show at the Cutting Room
I have two new friends to add to my inner circle. Their names are KiKi and Sun Singleton. We first met over a year ago when they were backing up Alice Smith. The list of artists these two have worked with is bananas. Sun has worked with Angelique Kidjo, D’Angelo and Julie Dexter just to name a few. KiKi has also worked with everyone. Her vocals are featured on the Q-tip single “Work It Out” that dropped in 2007. She is also going to be working with ShellyNicole’s Blakbushe on May 10th. On this night, these two ladies are performing on the Cutting Room stage with their own separate bands. Sun opened the night and sprinkled her brand of Rebel soul all over everyone. KiKi merely combined elements of soul, folk and rock and gave her audience a taste of her enormous talents. You know I’m all about showcasing the independent artists with tons of talent. These two ladies are examples of the musicians out there who are doin’ it real big.
Van Hunt at SOB's.
Van Hunt loves to play with his eyes closed. However there were moments when he couldn’t resist looking out at the crowd that was reciting his songs word for word. With only two albums to credit, Van Hunt is one of the exciting new faces of soul music. If Blue Note doesn’t hurry up and release the forthcoming “Popular”, I’m going to lead the march to their headquarters seeking answers. In the meantime, go to itunes and download the ep until the album comes out. As for the show, now you know dude didn’t disappoint. Granted, I was looking forward to hearing his band but if anyone can rock a one man show, it’s Van Hunt.
PortlandOregon native and now Brooklyn resident Shae Fiol proved that she is more than opening act filler. Shae's style can be described as acoustic soul. India Arie comes to mind. Shae, if you’re reading this, I need a copy of that ep. If not, well I’ll have to wait like everyone for her debut to drop. Shae is a great songwriter and has a wonderful voice so watch out for her. In fact, check her out at Solomon’s Porch in Brooklyn on May 15th.
Future Music is out now!
Let me inform you right now on what is going to be one of the hottest releases of nusoul this year, Future Music by Daru & Reggie B. It won’t be long before Daru is sought for his unique production skills. Reggie B’s voice is as smooth as a tailored suit. It wouldn't be a bad idea to visit Daru's myspace page. The brother has a ton of projects available including a free mixtape download hosted by 4Hero's Marc Mac. Headlining an event hosted by DJ Barry King, Daru & Reggie B, along with Rena, Kissey Asplund and Taihisha rocked LES in NYC. The turnout wasn’t quite as large due to the fact that the Roots album release party was a few blocks away. Don’t sleep though, Daru & Reggie B will be back soon to provide you with more “Future Music”.
Taihisha and Rena
Another record to look for would be “Feel The Love” by Daru & Rena. Rena’s angelic voice combined with Daru’s beats make this release irresistible. What can I say? There’s so much good music out there that it’s hard to keep up sometimes. This record deserves to be in your rotation however and you can go to Rena’smyspace page to check it out for yourself. Taihisha is written for a handful of artists in the industry and we are waiting for her to put her record. She currently has a single out that you can check out via her myspace site.
Rahsaan Patterson at Irving Plaza
I have always been a Rahsaan Patterson fan. I have enjoyed all four of his cd’s including his latest, “Wine & Spirits”. But his performance at IrvingPlaza may have been the best show I’ve seen this year. The man rocked an energized crowd for a solid two hours. He eased his way through his catalogue by singing songs from his first disc like "Spend TheNight"and working his way up to the present. If that wasn’t enough, dude just had to take it there and absolutely smoked the Sade classic “Stronger than Pride”. Those who were there know what I’m talking about. Especially towards the end when Rahsaan started sharing the mic with several up and coming artists in the crowd and one veteran soul diva, none other than Miki Howard. This wasn’t just a great show, this was a lovefest between the artist and the audience. You had to be there.
Taylor McFerrin, TK Wonder and Ty
Sunday night at the Knitting Factory was a special night. First of all, huge thanks to Taylor McFerrin, the man who put this event together.Taylor, joined by TK Wonder performed tracks from an upcoming project that the two of them are working on together. It’s always cool to see the crowd’s reaction whenever Taylor hits the stage. Between his human beatbox skills and his keyboard wizardry, the crowd goes bananas. And when TK rocks the mic, you get the sense you’re witnessing the emergence of the next MC phenom.
Speaking of MC’s, this was my first time seeing the special guest of the night, South London’s own Ty. Ty and the BK crew Mobius Collective tore it down with their highly energized set. Not only does Ty possess the skills but he is a very cool dude. He has worked with a number of artists like 4Hero and graced the stage with Talib Kweli. He brings a tremendous amount of energy and knows how to keep the crowd hyped. In addition, he gave some shine time to Kissey Aspund, who I saw last week in Brooklyn. Kissey sung her track “So Good”, produced by Daru (more on him later). After that, it was back to Ty who picked up from where he left off. Once his set was over, everyone needed a few minutes to catch their breath. You had to be there to understand just how hot this night was. Oh, I can’t leave out DJ Misbehaviour, who was laying down a serious mix of soul and jazz during her set. She has a real cool style and her selections were on point.
And as a bonus, I got to meet a dude who is going to make a lot of noise this year. That man goes by the name of Daru. Daru is a dope producer and is real sick on the drums. I found out first hand when he performed during Ty’s set. This will be the first of many occasions you’ll will hear me spread the word on his new cd “Future Music”, which also features Reggie B on the vocals. I’m telling you right nowthe future of soul is in good hands with projects like this.
Two very talented ladies who were also in the building, Kiki and Sun Singleton will be hosting a party at the Cutting Room in NYC on April 30th. Check the news link for details. DJ Reborn will on hand to provide the music. This will be my first time hearing Sun live but I have heard Kiki live before. I heard Kiki when she worked with Alice Smith last year. Let me tell that she has a great voice so this will no doubt be a fun night.
Kissey Asplund hits NY
It was several months ago when I first heard “WithYou”, the single from Kissey Asplund’s forthcoming debut “Plethora”. The sound, smooth, spaced out soul with a sweet voice to match. Kissey, a native of Sweden was already making noise in the UK and now has set her sights on the US. Produced entirely by the Papa Jazz crew, “Plethora” will no doubt be one of the hottest records in 2008. When I found out that Kissey was coming to New York, I was on a mission to find out where she was performing. My search led me to Williamsburg Brooklyn, where she was performing at Galapagos. Kissey brought loads of energy and several new tracks to the stage. “Plethora” is out now. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
I had no idea who Jesse Boykins was but I’m well aware of him now. Jesse and his band turned out! The boy is dope and his band was tight. He has a great voice and if he doesn’t blow up, I will conduct an investigation.
Another highlight for me was checking out Pursuit Grooves. The Maryland native and now Brooklyn resident stirred my interest with her instrumental cd, “Fun Like Passion”. An organic collection of hip hop flavored beats mixed with some jazzy overtones. Several tracks have that ambient, dreamy feel that takes you to a far away place. Once I knew that she was providing the grooves (no pun intended) I wasn’t going to miss it. I’m so glad I didn’t.
The Zig Zag Live Tour
Tortured Soul has nailed the formula for house music with live instrumentation. Their debut, “Introducing” was soulful house music that resonated far beyond the house music community. Their first single, “I might Do Something Wrong” was a huge success. Another single, “How’s Your Life” was a winner as well. The creator behind Tortured Soul, Christian Urich is also the man founded the rnb group Cooly’s Hot Box. Tortured Soul performed those songs as well as some tracks from their long awaited second disc, “In Transit”, set for release later this year.
Is there a city producing more innovative music than Detroit? Not likely. Just look at the alumni, Carl Craig, the late JayDilla to name a few and of course, Amp Fiddler. Amp perfected his skills working George Clinton’s band, replacing Bernie Worrell. In 2004, he used his education from the P-Funk institute and released “Waltz of a Ghetto Fly”, to critical acclaim. Amp followed that up in 2006 with “Afro Strut”, solidifying his place as one of the funk pioneers on the scene today. “Afro Strut” was first released in the UK so last year Amp re-released it in the US, in the process remixing the hit “If I Don’t” this time including none other than Corine Bailey Rae. For those who missed Amp at the Highline Ballroom, let me tell you that you missed it. The man turned it out!
This was my first time seeing (or hearing for that matter) Mocean Worker. I was very impressed. Adam Dorn, the leader and his band did their thing. Their sound has a jazzy sound from the swing era funked up for the 21st century. I will definitely have to check their catalogue. Some of you may be familiar with the track “Right Now” from their 2004 release “Enter The Mowo”. It’s in a popular commercial of which I can’t remember at the moment. If you’re new to their music, this disc would be a good place to start. Check out their myspace page to get familiar.
An intimate night with Lizz Wright
When Lizz Wright came on the scene in 2003 with “Salt”, everyone figured we had an extremely talented jazz singer. There was one problem with that assessment. When Lizz looked deep within her soul she saw the music that really inspired her. Producer Craig Street (Cassandra Wilson) deserves some credit for that too. Craig produced Lizz’s previous cd, “Dreaming Wide Awake”, and he has also produced her latest project. “The Orchard” is a great record and Lizz Wright is a rising star. Not to mention an absolute delight to see in person. I first saw Lizz perform five years ago and the difference between then and now is obvious. Here is Lizz delivering a wonderful performance at the Highline Ballroom.
Nouveau Riche album coming soon!
Ever heard of Nouveau Riche? If you said yes then you are a true fan of underground music. Nouveau Riche effortlessly blends hip-hop and rock together and make it the perfect marriage. Nikki Jean, the lead vocalist pictured here wants everyone to know that you can go to their myspace page to obtain a FREE download of their ep. This is the appetizer while the full length disc is set to drop later this year. Definitely worth checking out!
The one and only Bilal
How is it that a man whose last (and only) album came out ten years ago can still pack a venue? Well for starters, you got to have some serious talent and a strong fan base. Well Bilal has both. About two years ago, several of Bilal’s new music was leaked on the web. Therefore delaying that long awaited second disc. Well the man is back in the studio working on new material and the hope is that the new record will be released soon. That was hardly a concern to the many fans at the Highline Ballroom. They received more than their money’s worth as Bilal rocked the stage for a good two hours filled with songs old and new. Capping the night off everyone’s favorite “Soul Sista” assisted on the intro by Choklate no less.
Speaking of Choklate, the Seattle resident was one of soul music’s highlights of 2007. Her self titled debut is a very good record that belongs in everyone’s collection. Performing in a acoustic setting, Choklate ran through most of her songs from her debut. Choklate has a great voice and is very down to earth. We just need to get her out to the east coast more often.
The Dreamer is finally here!
I’ve seen Jose James twice within the last month but this may have been his best show yet. This was the third series of the brownswood sessions at Nublu. In addition, it was also the album release party for “The Dreamer”, Jose James debut. Jose covered several songs from his debut and let me make one prediction: “The Dreamer” will be on many lists as one of the best records this year. Once you hear this man’s voice, you won’t soon forget it.
Jose’s set featured special guest, the legendary pianist Junior Mance. For those who don’t know, Junior has played with an assortment of legends like Dinah Washington and Cannonball Adderley just to name a few. To see him perform with Jose is just one indication that Jose is indeed the truth! Preceding Jose was Elan Mehler and his septet, who were great as well. DJ Moni did her thing between sets and Ge-ology was playing a bunch of hot tracks in the nightcap.
Ge-ology has a great ear for music and knows how to make hot beats as well. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out his 2005 mix cd “Ge-ology plays Ge-ology”. Meanwhile, I suggest you try to catch the next brownswood session, which will be the last Thursday of February (28th) at Nublu. This may be the last one so don’t miss it.
Erro & friends at Highline Ballroom
This was a show I was really looking forward to. Despite the fact it was one of the coldest nights of the year. Plus my beloved Giants were playing Green Bay for the NFC Championship. Still, there was no way I was going to miss Eric Roberson, Fertile Ground and Deborah Bond at the Highline Ballroom in NYC. Eric Roberson is simply one of the hottest male soul singers we have today. Those with their ear to the underground scene have been aware of him for years now. With several cd’s under his belt, his current disc, “Left” may be his best. Erro performed many songs from “Left” as well as a few from the “The Vault”. It’s time that everyone recognize the talent this man has. All you need to do is check the songwriting credits this man has. Writing tracks for everyone from Musiq to Jill Scott. His own personal catalogue is impressive as well.
If you’ve never been to a Fertile Ground show, you have no idea what you’re missing. I saw them for the first time back in 2003 and to this day, it has been one of the best shows I’ve seen. Hands down. Great Musicianship, great stage presence. Especially lead singer Navasha Daya, truly one of the most dynamic voices in soul music. This night was no different. It’s great to see a great band or artist come out and perform and win new fans. If you have any doubts, go to their myspace page and sample tracks from their last cd “Black Is…” Seeing one of these acts alone would have been entertaining. Having all three together was just too good to pass up. The first month of the year and I’ve already seen three awesome shows. Plus there’s Jose James on Jan. 31st at Nublu. We have a lot of future shows of the highest quality to look forward to.
The Young Lioness at SOB's
I’ve been waiting for almost a year for “The Young Lioness”. That would be the new album by Teedra Moses. I think it’s safe to say that it will be out this year. Well there is a mixtape out to hold us over in the meantime. Maybe you might decide to go back and play “Complex Simplicity”. With minor exposure this was one of the hottest releases of 2004. That’s why we’re salivating for the new joint. Especially after seeing her do her thing at SOB’s. If you weren’t convinced before the show, you are certainly a believer now.
Starting the night off was Brooklyn born, now PortlandOregon resident Ohmega Watts. Ohmega showcased some gems from his current release “Watt’s Happening”. One of the hottest hip-hop records out right now based on his combination of rhyming skills and raw funk sound. Go to the reviews page to find out for yourself.
Winter Jazzfest 08
Normally I have to wait until the Summertime to look forward to all good festivals. Hey there can be good festivals in the wintertime as well, right? Indeed, the Winter jazz festival at the Knitting Factory in NYC featured some of the hottest names in Jazz. For nine hours spread over three floors this was money well spent. With several acts performing at the same time I had to decide which floor I would spend the majority of my time. I decided to hang out on the main floor where the first act I heard was twenty year old pianist Eldar. Eldar made quite a splash by hitting the scene while still a teenager. Having seen him live, it's easy to see what the fuss was all about. His prowess on the piano is undeniable. This was a nice warmup to the main events. One of my favorite trumpet players out today would be Dave Douglas. Working in a trio instead of his regular working band, Dave introduced some new music he's been working on that featured one of the baddest bass players on the scene today, Scott Colley.
Next up was Don Byron and like Dave, also introduced some new music along with a new group. This group featured pianist Iva Bittova and singer Lisa Moore. Very impressive!
Last but certainly not least is one of the true Saxophone legends in the history of Jazz. David Murray. Cut from the mold of titans like Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders. I have admired his music for many years but this was my first time seeing him live. The man blew the roof off the joint! Simply a spectacular show and the best show I've seen so far in 2008 (It's early, I know). I would also suggest that you go pick up his latest cd “Sacred Ground”. Easily one of the best jazz records out right now. Go to his myspace page to check it out now. While you’re at it, you should check out Dave’s extensive catalogue of classic recordings. Would you believe the man has recorded over two hundred albums! One of my favorites is “Special Quartet” with Elvin Jones and McCoyTyner. Timeless music!
A band that I wasn’t familiar with but certainly impressed by was the South African group the Zimology Quartet. Led by saxophone and flute player Zim Ngqawana. Playing after David Murray isn’t easy but this group put on a very impressive show. Zim showed his versatility by playing a variety of horns, some of which I never heard before. Their music was a combination of South African rhythms and American jazz. I went searching for Zim’s music and I discovered his most recent record “Vadzimu”. Released in 2006, this is one hell of an album. Clearly, the lack of exposure is the only reason why Zim Ngqawana isn’t bigger in the states. Zim is an exciting new artist that deserves to be heard
Pyeng at Nublu
Recently at Nublu, I had the chance to see the talented Pyeng Threadgill. Surely you remember her critically acclaimed debut "Sweet Home: The Music Of Robert Johnson. She followed that up with 2005's "Of The Air". Here with her quartet, Pyeng treated the Nublu crowd to songs from her upcoming disc. I had a chance to sit down with Pyeng to talk about the success of her debut and what's in store for 2008. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Happy New Year everyone!
Giant Step's Holiday Party
The Holidays are in full effect. That means last minute shopping and lots of holiday parties. I'm finding it quite difficult to keep up with all the parties I've been invited to. One thing for sure, it's going to be tough to top the Giant Step Christmas party I attended last week at Blvd in NYC. While DJ Mr Scruff was rocking the party upstairs, DJ Moni and Taylor Askew moved the crowd downstairs at Crash Mansion. As for the live performances, for me the night started with Jose James. After months of waiting to see Jose, I've had a chance to see him twice within the month. Once again, he did his thing. Jose also had some very talented backup singers who were backups in name only. I need to find out who they were.
Next up was Tiombe Lockhart. Tiombe and her Army of Love performed tracks from her latest release "Queen Of Doom". Let's see. In this picture Tiombe is wrapping up "Yellow Spaceships", which is probably my favorite cut from this new EP at the moment. On second thought, she may be finishing up "NowOr Never". You remember that from the Platinum Pied Pipers disc "Triple P". Of course you do. Whichever one it is, Tiombe did her thing on both tracks.
It's been awhile since I've seen Taylor McFerrin perform. The man has spent a lot of time recently overseas packing clubs with his band RAHJ. The man has a multitude of talents ranging from beatboxing to his keyboarding skills. It was great to hear RAHJ perform "Go With Love" from the Brownswood Bubblers 2 compilation. I simply love that song! In addition, Taylor also had TK Wonder perform onstage with him as well. TK, also known as Takenya is very talented in her own right. Having started appearing at various poetry readings, the transition to rapping was seamless. I have a feeling that 2008 is going to be big for her.
Goapele at SOB's
Bay area soul singer Goapele doesn't make it to the east coast often. The only other event I've seen her perform was at Central Park's Summerstage in 2006. Ever since I've been waiting to see her in more intimate setting. My chance arrived last week at SOB's. Looking beautiful and sounding great with a new "do" as well. Goapele delighted everyone with songs from her first two albums "Even Closer" and "Change It All". She even pulled off a surprise cover of the Blondie classic "Heart of Glass". Well done. Not only is she a very talented performer, she is also involved in a variety of social and political issues that affects her community. Proving that we all can make a difference if we just get involved. As far as her performance, Wow! Simply a great show. Sentiments that are shared by everyone in attendance.
The Brownswood sessions
Ever since I saw Taylor McFerrin, Soil & Pimp and Jose James way back in February at the Hiro Ballroom, I became a huge Jose James fan. Sure there are a bunch of male jazz singers out there but JoseJames has that voice that turns heads. Jose James has that voice that commands your undivided attention. Reminds me a little bit of Johnny Hartman. Yeah, he's that good. Just ask anyone who was in attendance atNublu. Jose sung a few songs from his forthcoming cd as well as the John Coltrane classic "Equinox". Awesome. Finally we will have a Jose James album in January on the Brownswood label. You need this one in your collection to start the year off right.
Brownswood labelmate Elan Mehler performed several songs from his impressive release "Scheme ForThought". Elan has been performing for awhile now but thanks to Gilles Peterson, he will now get the exposure he deserves. The talented pianist and his quintet performed several tracks from his just released cd "Scheme For Thought". I suggest you pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and relax to this disc. Essential listening.
DJ Moni moves the crowd, as she always does. No matter what type of crowd, she knows how to please. One of the most in demand DJ's around, her sets are always on point.
In case you missed this Brownswood event, no problem. The next one is scheduled for December 27th, also at Nublu. Don't miss it.