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Esperanza Spalding’s “Black Gold”

I have written, previously, about the beautiful and supremely talented Esperanza Spalding. She is, unquestionably, the brightest light  among the younger practitioners of Jazz. — Bassist, composer, arranger, singer, this young lady is a quadruple threat of the highest order.–

She is out with a new tune, Black  Gold, in collaboration with another young singer, Algebra Blesset. The song speaks of the importance of young black people being cognizant and proud of their history and heritage. The video for the song (see below) does a wonderful job of emphasizing how African history, particularly its Cultural history, is almost completely ignored in American and European schools. Check it out:

That’s Esperanza on the right, with her hair characteristically brushed out to the max. This girl is as lovely as she is talented and that is saying quite a lot.

Listeners familiar with her stunning 2008 Heads Up International debut, Esperanza, and her best-selling 2010 release Chamber Music Society, were well aware that the young bassist, vocalist and composer from Portland, Oregon was the real deal, with a unique and style-spanning presence, deeply rooted in jazz yet destined to make her mark far beyond the jazz realm. That judgment was confirmed on February 13, 2011, when Spalding became the first jazz musician to receive the GRAMMY® Award for Best New Artist.

Her next album, Radio Music Society, is due out in March, 2012.

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Down To The Bone – the non-band

DTTB logo

When I am looking to get groovy, get funky. When I am in one of those moods where I want my shoulders shaking and my head bobbing, I put on a little Down To The Bone. I call them a non-band because DTTB is essentially the genius of Stuart Wade – DJ, mixer, producer – pushed through a varying mixture of musicians.

Stuart Wade

Stuart Wade

Wade never studied music, nor does he play any instrument. He is not a composer, in the traditional sense. Rather, he “creates music” by humming tunes and grooves into a Dictaphone, or face-to-face with musicians in the recording studio. Over several years he has collaborated with a sizable group of musicians in producing three very successful albums with a new one about to be released. If this sounds kind of bush-league to you, take a few minutes and listen to the two sample tracks below.

My favorite is From Manhattan To Staten, released in 1997 by nuGroove Records. This is a collection of funky beats and cool Jazz. Take a sample of the opening track, Staten Island Groove:

My favorite DTTB track, without a doubt, is Brooklyn Heights. In fact, it is one of my favorite Jazz tracks of all time. I defy you to keep still with this track going at a decent volume. I love to listen to this one through my Sennheiser headphones, getting every note from every instrument. My grandson, Evan, when he was just a wee tot, became a groovy dancer when I would put on a little Brooklyn Heights. Cutest thing ever. If you’re holding a beverage, put it down before you listen to this tune:

Manhattan to Staten cover

Manhattan to Staten cover

cc -Some rights

Steve Tyrell

I mentioned that a friend of mine was in New York City a couple of weeks ago, and saw Cole Porter‘s piano in the cocktail lounge of The Waldorf Astoria.

She had asked me for ideas on where to go for some good music one evening. After checking around on what was happening (thanks New Yorker magazine) I recommended they consider seeing Steve Tyrell, who was performing at The Blue Note.

Steve Tyrell at The Blue Note

Steve Tyrell at The Blue Note

They went, and they really enjoyed it. The Blue Note is a terrific, intimate venue for this kind of act. The performance was built largely around Steve’s Back to Bacharach album, but included some tunes from the Great American Songbook. At the very beginning of his music career, Steve worked as an assistant producer for Burt Bacharach, and he has a special feel for all the Bacharach/Hal David material.

Back to Bacharach album

Back to Bacharach album

On most tunes, Tyrell’s voice has certain rough, growly quality. I think of it as “a little taste of Louie.” This makes for an interesting interpretation of some of the classics on his Standard Time album, which includes several of my all-time favorites like Stardust. Probably my favorite track on the album is Fats Waller‘s Ain’t Misbehavin’ from way back in 1929.

Tyrell followed up Standard Time with A New Standard offering more of the great old stuff. This time we get Cheek to Cheek , I Can’t Get Started and Smile. Where you really hear “a little taste of Louie” is on A Kiss To Build A Dream On. It’s not Louie, but it’s close.

Any of you who saw my post on the Denise Brigham recording sessions for Hotel Lafayette knows that I am always intrigued by the process behind the final track. While not quite the same as the ‘live look” at the recording process we saw there, the following video has Steve talking about what it was like working with, and learning from, Burt Bacharach, as well as some of the production work and strategy that has gone into some of his best tracks.

Steve Tyrell will take over at The Carlyle Hotel for a run fro November 10- December 30, plus a special performance on New Year’s Eve. We recommend it. Read more of this post

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