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.


Once and Future Pat Metheny

Don’t play that song for me (yet)

By BlueTwango

Remember the first time you ever heard a live band that grabbed you by the ears and wouldn’t let go? Maybe not for a lifetime. You walked into the theater on a hunch, a tip or just a lucky accident. Then, a musician you’d never met struck a chord that resonated within your soul. Your life as a music listener divided at that moment, into before and after.

For me, that happened one night in Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium, in the early Seventies. It was one of those apples-and-oranges double bills like Bill Graham put on at his Fillmores, East and West, mixing up the likes of the Dead or Quicksilver with soul singers, folk musicians and straight-ahead Jazz cats.

My big night started out calmly enough, with a mellow set by the Marshall Tucker Band, who more of us will probably remember than admit remembering. With a twang and a flute in 4/4 time, they were perfectly adequate.

Then came something completely different. Five men dressed in white walked to the front of the stage. A tall, thin Englishman asked for a minute of silence. The first thirty seconds of that came for free, as the audience puzzled over the unfamiliar request. But I wasn’t so surprised. This was the home of the city’s symphony orchestra, after all. Every time I’d been there on school field trips, they began by ordering us to be quiet. But this Bubba-studded crowd started to grumble. “Play some music!”, someone demanded. Someone else, in the back, yelled,”Whipping Post!” That broke the tension, a perfectly timed joke lifted from the Allman Bros.’ live album of the time.

Finally, the long minute passed and the Orchestra began to play. The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Rivers of surging electric violin poured from the stage, while a double-necked electric guitar shot lightning bolts at the ceiling. Chiming keyboard notes clattered the chandeliers. A landslide of drums tumbled over the crowd who, caught helplessly in their seats, had no chance to resist.
Mahavishnu Orchestra
The world hadn’t known such a juggernaut as John McLaughlin’s breakthrough instrumental ensemble. Like no band before and few bands since, it mixed classical complexity with Jazz audacity, delivered with the amplified power of arena rock. Although a commercial success, Mahavishnu was dismissed by generations of critics under the dreaded label of “fusion.” Much of their music is unendurable to me now, but at the time, the wonder was that there could be such music at all. So wild, but so controlled, so committed, so composed, so free. I’d never heard their records, and the music certainly wasn’t played on the local Top 40 stations. This was the very first Jazz I’d heard, except in some passing, lo-fi soundtrack. And I’d walked in expecting some guy to sit on a cushion and play sitar, or something.

Virgin ears — that’s what I brought to that concert, and it was part of the magic. I’ve tried to recreate that feeling, but as every ex-virgin knows, it’s a bit more difficult now. But the challenge has come, and I’m doing my best to meet it.

Every day, I say this little affirmation to myself: “I will not listen to the new Pat Metheny album.” Not yet. And don’t think about an elephant, either, that’s about as hard. For I’ve followed Metheny like a sunflower follows the light, ever since he emerged as a more melodic, less frenetic master of his own post-fusion school of eclectic, adventurous jazz. Now he’s debuted a new project, the Orchestrion. Rumor has it as a remotely-controlled array of acoustic instruments forming a backup band, inspired by the mechanical orchestral music machines that were briefly popular a century ago. I imagine a steam calliope that brought all its friends along to play, with the Mighty Oz standing behind the curtain in a striped shirt.

Every other “Metheny-ac” already knows how this contraption looks and sounds. The record is on the shelves, the downloads are streaming and Pat’s own board is bubbling with ecstatic reviews. Emphatic adjectives abound, such as “epic” and “amazingly complex.” One fan writes, ”I gotta say, for a bunch of solenoids, it swings pretty hard in places.”

Me, I’m keeping cotton in my ears until the Orchestrion Tour arrives locally, on May 5. Only three (ouch) months (damn) away (no!).
Pat Metheny's Robot Orchestra
Am I crazy? Am I denying myself sure pleasure now, in exchange for future delight? Maybe I’d enjoy the live performance better if I was familiar with the music, the better to follow the flow. I dunno– I don’t even know if I can keep my curiosity in the bag for that long.

”Jazz is the music of surprise,” said Duke Ellington. Should be, anyhow. I’ve grouched about other musical efforts that didn’t bother to try stretching envelopes — including Pat’s recent string of Trio records. Now, the most inventive Jazz guitarist since Les Paul has been tinkering again. I can’t wait to hear what he’s come up with. But I will wait… until I can see it for myself.

Has anyone else ever faced this dilemma? My best advice is to avoid it. Instead, check out for the whole scoop. If you like what you hear, do me a favor and don’t tell me too much about it. But do yourself a favor,too.There might still be a seat available when the Orchestrion visits your town.

Note from thejazzmonger – See Bluetwango’s earlier post at:


SoundCloud is a Very Cool Site

If you like music, and you enjoy sampling cutting-edge tracks by new talent, you need to check out a great new site called SoundCloud. Regular readers may have noticed that I posted some tracks in an earlier message using the high-quality SoundCloud audio player.  The player is a very versatile utility, letting you upload a track, edit, scrunch, tweak and manipulate it all over the place. Then playback and store the new creation.

SoundCloud is also a vast community of music creators and fans which offers quick-and-easy, down-and-dirty facility for uploading and sharing sound tracks. In just a few days of poking around, I have found some interesting tracks. Here is one posted  by a young man who calls himself T-Cash. He presents it as “inspired by an old church song.” T-Cash has stepped-up the beat and pushed that melody through the electronic instrument window to create a “Funky Piano/Tech/Power-guitar” track that I think is really good. Give a listen to The Golden City RC-2:

Take a look at the Sidebar (over to the right) and you will see a button/link inviting you, or anyone you know, to send me a soundtrack via my personal “drop box” at SoundCloud. I will listen, give the sender/composer/arranger/whoever some feedback and will consider posting the best tracks on this site. Hopefully, some hard-working new talent will get a modicum of exposure. We ain’t the big-time but, heck, we are pushing toward 40,000 hits and we just came online in January of 2009. It took quite a while to get the hang of it and develop enough decent content to invite scrutiny so, actually, we have only really been “out there” about six months.

Here is what you are looking for on the Sidebar:

Send me your track

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