Monthly Archives: February 2012

Rubblebucket with JuBee & The Morning After and Baby Baby

Rubblebucket - High Energy Headliners

Last week, on February 9th, I had a chance to see three great groups at the Cox Capitol Theater in downtown Macon. Sean Pritchard — of the Georgia-based indie-music-covering website TheBlueIndian.com, and the organizer of the event — gave me a heads up about the show a few weeks in advance, but I still almost missed it.

I am so glad that I didn’t.

I missed the first band of the evening, but I made it just in time for the first notes of Baby Baby’s raucous set. The Carrollton, Georgia-based band is known as much for their onstage antics, as their cheeky, hard-rock inflected music, and they didn’t disappoint.

Frontman Fontez Brooks led his shirtless bandmates through a number of new songs like “Rain” and “Haters,” along with what is arguably their most popular song, “Fire.” Since I first heard the band at another Blue Indian showcase in August of 2010, I’ve been amazed at their ability to connect with an audience through any means necessary.

Brooks jokes and playfully taunts from the stage as much as he sings. At the Capitol, he and his bandmates playfully chided the bartender for not comping their drinks, before launching into “Nerds,” a blistering, but tongue-in-cheek original.

Local favorites JuBee and The Morning After followed with a strong set of originals that explored and exploited the ever changing borders of pop, rock, and hip hop.

The band garnered nationwide attention last October when they appeared on the TV show Jimmy Kimmel Live, and in the ensuing months, they have only tightened their sound and group approach.

JuBee’s ability to shift between imploring vocals, hard-rock shouts, and dizzying rhymes is really amazing, and his band is always there to support him. Drummer Alex Scarborough is the propulsive heart of the band, locking up with bassist Danny Davis to provide a firm base for the band to open up for JuBee’s extrapolations, or one of guitarist Alec Stanley’s blues drenched solos.

The band is a little slick  and rehearsed for my taste, but their pop appeal was undeniable at the Capitol on an otherwise quiet Thursday night. By the time the leader introduced “On,” the piece that they performed on the Kimmel show a few months earlier, the vast majority of the crowd was in front of the stage dancing and singing along.

The Brooklyn-based band Rubblebucket closed out the night with an exuberant set of originals that incorporated afro-beat, jazz, Euro pop, and avant garde experimentation. This was my first time hearing the group, and I was really blown away, not only by their musical conception and group dynamic, but by their devotion to theatrics and performance.

Despite the relatively small crowd that remained for their extended set, Rubblebucket — expertly led by singer and baritone saxophonist Kalmia Traver and trumpeter Alex Toth — delivered an epic show. Covering songs from a recent spate of albums, along with a savvy cover of Blondie’s Heart of Glass, and incorporating fantastic props like a pair of ten foot, glittering robot figures that the performers strapped to their backs, the performance bordered on sensory overload in the very best sense.

If you have never heard Rubblebucket, you’re in for a treat. Seek out their records, or better yet, see them live!

In the mean time, check out these videos of the band in action:

Rubblebucket performs ‘Breatherz’ Live in Chicago from Northwoods Revolution on Vimeo.

Macon Miracle Presentation – Podcast

From the Bibb County Board of Ed. Website

I brought my recorder to the Bibb County Board of Education’s presentation of Superintendent Dr. Romain Dallemand’s Macon Miracle plan on Friday, February 10th at the Macon Centreplex. The event was part information session, and part celebration of a plan for ambitious and controversial school reform that has yet to pass a Board of Education vote. I captured the events in the auditorium, and was also able to interview a number of people as they left the convocation. Tensions were high — as people have very strong opinions about the strategic plan — but my interview subjects were all gracious, insightful, and open in sharing their opinions with me. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I did putting this podcast together. Running time is 11 minutes and 50 seconds.


Aside

Georgia College and State University’s fifth annual Global Citizenship Symposium hosted a diverse group of speakers over three days, February 6-8, 2012. Topics ranged from the AIDS epidemic, the juncture of health care and religion in Africa, global food shortages, … Continue reading

Guitarist Anders Nilsson’s “Night Guitar”

Swedish-born and New York-based experimental guitarist Anders Nilsson produces music that is at once bracingly direct and utterly unclassifiable. My review of his wonderful new album “Night Guitar” appeared in the January 2012 edition of The New York City Jazz Record. 

Photo: Philippe Dollo

Listening to this deeply focused and atmospheric solo performance again and again, it’s hard to escape the notion that Night Guitar is more than a little biographical in nature.

Guitarist Anders Nilsson isn’t shy about sharing the details of his musical journey. On his website, the young guitarist recounts his upbringing in Sweden, his love of — and subsequent disillusionment with — Swedish shred guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, his move to New York a decade ago, and achieving musical liberation while busking in Manhattan subway stations.

These experiences permeate the vignette-like movements of Night Guitar, often in surprisingly direct ways.

On “Meet Me In The Back Alley,” Nilsson opens with a moody bass drone that he quickly adorns with plucked scale tones and micro-tonal string bends. Transitioning to a second mini-movement, he introduces a rhythmic chordal pattern that is quickly overtaken by overdubbed, and overdrive-laden distorted guitar chords. The effect is shocking, and even comical, but it’s clear that schtick is not Nilsson’s game. He’s simply integrating the sounds of his life without the filter that limits most artist’s sonic choices.

The distortion effect — a clean, highly condensed tone that nods toward guitarists like Malmsteen and sonic experimenters like Sonny Sharrock — reappears throughout the album, almost always without warning — a reminder not to get complacent on this shape shifting and emotionally resonant music.

 

On “Breakfast Boogie/Nightmare Ballad,” — which can be heard above in a music video by Arrien Zinghini – Nilsson’s considerable skills as a cinematic composer are apparent from the first ostinato bass notes, which establish the foundation of a structure that remains throughout the tracks careful edits and overdubs. You can almost imagine a shadowy figure flickering across a screen as the crosshatched patterns and effects Nilsson conjures make way for pulsing, bent high note punctuations, just as the piece grows from a tangle of interconnected phrases into a sprawling and diffuse panorama that somehow never loses its tense, claustrophobic feel.

Equally foreboding is the album’s episodic closer, “The Journey Beyond,” which manages — more than any other track on Night Guitar — to blend Nilsson’s vast sonic influences into single composition. The result is an epic, and often melodramatic, performance that tests the bounds of genre bending without losing its laser-like compositional focus.

Ben Allison @ Carnegie Hall

This Friday, February 3rd, is a milestone date for Ben Allison. The free-minded bassist and composer will make his Carnegie Hall debut at 10pm, and, if the lineup is any indication, it will certainly be one of his most memorable shows.

Joining him at Zankel Hall will be his latest quintet with guitarist Steve Cardenas, saxophonist Michael Blake, guitarist and banjoist Brandon Seabrook and drummer Rudy Royston, along with newcomers — but veterans in their own right — percussionist Rogerio Boccato and vocalist Joey Arias.

I’ve been a fan of Allison’s music since discovering his album Third Eye in the early 2000s. His music linked the worlds of Ellington, Mingus and Andrew Hill with the hard-edged and worldly downtown music scene in New York City, while managing to sound utterly original. Additionally, his focus on texture and timbre as an element on equal footing with melody and harmony make for singularly compelling music.

Ben does a great job of explaining the origins of his compositional style here:

Over the last 15 years, Allison has stayed true to his M.O. as a bassist, composer, and bandleader, releasing ten studio albums that map the steady refinement of his sound and style. Since I started seeing his bands live around 2003, the bassist has largely pared down the relative harmonic complexity of his early compositions in favor of melodically, rhythmically, and texturally rich compositions that compliment the styles of his carefully selected collaborators.

Saxophonist Michael Blake, drummer Rudy Royston, and guitarist Steve Cardenas have been close compatriots of Allison for years, and know his music inside and out. Brandon Seabrook is a relative newcomer who contributed on a pair of selections on Allison’s latest album Action/Refraction, a stellar collection of crafty cover songs.

Rogerio Boccato is a versatile and well-respected artist who has performed with the likes of John Patitucci and Hermeto Pascoal. This video — also from the series that Carnegie Hall produced in anticipation of the concert — gives a glimpse of the musical connection Allison and Boccato have already fostered:

To my ears, Ben is at his absolute best when writing for, and performing with, a group that includes a unique, non-traditional solo voice — 2002′s Peace Pipe, a collaboration with Malian Kora master Mamadou Diabate is a great example  – and the addition of vocalist Joey Arias is another reason this concert is a must-see.

Arias, who is probably best know for his important collaboration with the operatic performance artist Klaus Nomi, has made a name for himself as a performance artists, cabaret singer and drag artist over a career that has spanned nearly 40 years. I have never heard him perform with Allison, but given their shared penchant for blurring boundries — musical and otherwise — it’s hard to imagine the collaboration being anything but thrilling.