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Maddison Murphy has figured out the (seemingly) uncomplicated math of releasing a successful music compilation. Creation can often appear effortless when someone excels at what they do. Puppy Teeth Records, her Brooklyn-based cassette and digital label, recently released its Good Friends, Vol. 2 compilation. Maddison is the Great Curator. A genre-jumping collection of songs she carefully handpicked, culminating in your new favorite mixtape. An ordering of 25 tracks that produce a distinctive experience of moods and tones with enough variety to warrant a one-sitting listening experience. As if that musical journey wasn't enough, Maddison donates 100% of the compilation's proceeds to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. [This episode features five of my favorite artists from Good Friends, Vol. 2 including Homeschool Friends (Maddison's solo project) and Beau Borek's three minutes of perfection "New Year's Day".]
Some people have a natural penchant or inclination in regards to their talent. The timeline of their experience doesn't appear to correspond with the execution. File Amy León into this category. Although she is undefinable and hard to pin down. She's been singing for only three years and has recently released her wise and beautiful debut, Something Melancholy. If she must be classified, "instinctive" is perhaps the only proper division. There is an intentional immediacy in Amy's voice and writing. Not only a singer and a poet, she's also an educator and an activist. The visibility and proper representation of brown people. The equal rights of women. These are some of the issues that captivate this formerly shy child of Harlem. Currently based in Brooklyn, Amy's mission statement is the continual utilization of her art as a tool to inspire people and to implement social justice. [This episode includes "Burning in Birmingham" and "Strange Grace" from Something Melancholy in their entirety.]
Isn't it the greatest gift when an artist shares their interior world through their chosen medium? An objective Nandi Rose Plunkett had decidedly been working towards through the experimental pop music of Half Waif. Half Waif is the solo project of the Brooklyn-based singer/ songwriter in which she eventually realized her intention with lyrics that have became more lucid and unguarded over the span of her recording career. The paring down of barriers to their core innocence. Since the 2011 inception of Half Waif, Nandi's released two EP's, two full-length albums and form/a, her stunning new EP consisting of six meditations that reflect on her childhood, relationships and the wages of bare honesty. This episode includes "Frost Burn" and "Night Heat" from form/a in their entirety.
Carina Zachary's path to being the lead vocalist of post-hardcore band Husbandry was not without its diversions. It was preceded by failed stints with bands of various genres and even a year where Carina had given up singing. The Brooklyn-based Husbandry became a four-piece after she answered a Craigslist post resulting in a 2014 EP and last year's Fera. The full-length debut is an embarrassment of riches: each song an exciting fruition of Carina's clear, powerful vocals intertwined with neck-breaking soundscapes from her fellow band mates (Jordan Usatch, Guitars; Arnau Bosc, Bass & Vocals; Andrew Gottlieb, Drums). As an Afro-Caribbean woman in the metal scene, Carina's rare presence (and voice) is an essential addition to the genre. This episodes includes "Grab Twist Pull" and "...With Codeine" from Fera.
The myriad proverbial hats that Tania León wears are a testament to her talent and longevity. Composer. Conductor. Educator. Arts Organization Advisor. Since her '60s emigration from Havana to the States she's accumulated milestone after milestone. A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem with Arthur Mitchell. Grammy nominations. A Guggenheim Fellowship. Her compositions performed at institutions like the Kennedy Center while she has conducted esteemed orchestras around the world. Ms. León is also the artistic director of Composers Now, an organization she founded in 2010 to celebrate living composers from all backgrounds. In February 2017, Composers Now was honored with a Proclamation on behalf of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The history of America is as beautiful and endearing as much its narrative can be ugly and traumatic. Journalist Brian Seibert's What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing is an exploration of those contradictions as seen through the lens of tap. The talent. The culture. The ups and downs. The indignities. A New York Times dance critic and features writer, Brian's epic tome is both timeless and (sadly) contemporary in its sensitive, incisive portrayal of race in America. Fourteen years in the making, What the Eye Hears easily takes it place as the definitive account of a classic art form.
There's something undeniable about singer-songwriter James Tillman's falsetto; it's the soulful hinge that swings his incredible Silk Noise Reflex album. Plaintive vocals that are unhurried but deceptively so because there's always a knowing backbone present. The D.C. native's full-length debut was executive-produced by Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs after James served as an opening act on one of the group's tours. This episode features both "Rat Race" and "Human Behavior" from Silk Noise Reflex.
Some of us were born with a love for pop music that runs a mile deep and candy-sweet. Some of us run from it, deny it. Keeping in mind that the definition of pop has a wide enough chasm to fit both the Beatles and Beyoncé. But for the ones who can't hide our devotion, whether as a fan or in the case of singer Eric Nizgretsky, the sound of hooks on hooks on hooks is unabashedly embraced. Eric is the frontman for the four-piece band Loose Buttons. With its origins at Miami University, where Eric attended, Loose Buttons are currently based in New York and gearing up for the release of their latest EP, Sundays with Loose Buttons (2/24/17). Sundays proves that loving intelligent pop is all pleasure and no guilt. The remaining members of Loose Buttons are Adam Holtzberg, Zack Kantor and Manny Silverstein. This episode features "Milk and Roses" and "Am I the Only Reason?" from Sundays.
To call Brooklyn-based MICK a DJ isn't wrong; it's simply an incomplete description. Accurate, but ultimately a term that's slight. Nonetheless, his accomplishments as a DJ loom large and his selection of sounds cover the waterfront with hip-hop often at the foundation while still leaving space for house, rock and jazz. With tasteful precision, MICK has shaped the tenor of rooms at private events and parties for the likes of Beyoncé, LeBron James, Hillary Clinton and companies including Yahoo, MasterCard and Nike. The full list is both long and endlessly impressive. While your introduction to MICK was probably through his spinning, he's also a digital entrepreneur with his fingerprints on innovative tech projects like Dot Dot Dash and Localeur. Additionally, MICK finds the time to include gigs as a celebrated brand consultant, music curator and style influencer...and a fairly new dad. Cheers to being intentional with your time!
The final Talk Music Talk episode of the year is a departure from the usual long form interview. The 111th show is a three-hour, hand-chosen compendium (by yours truly) of music from some of the podcast's 2016 guests, hitting on just about every genre. From saxophonist Donny McCaslin (bandleader of David Bowie's "last band" on Blackstar) to LCD Soundsystem's synth player Gavin Russom to new and emerging artists like indie-psych act Corbu and rapper James Lanning. I'm calling this episode "Radio TMT" and I'll guide you through all the eclectic sounds you'll discover or perhaps enjoy again.
There's a metamorphosis procedure to being an outlier. The various traits, tics or dispositions that set you apart from them, are one day celebrated and cherished. Take Brandon Stosuy for example, he was raised in a southern New Jersey town prior to being led by music to leave a population of 800. After leaving his working class family there were eventual stints in Canada, Portland and Buffalo before honing in on Brooklyn. Along the way there was a collegiate education, nowhere jobs and drifting accompanied by desire and endurance. Brandon's perseverance eventually resulted in writing/editing at Pitchfork and Stereogum, publishing a few books including one for kids (Music Is..., 2016) and presently curating music events at MOMA PS1 and the Broad Museum. He's currently the Editor in Chief of Kickstarter's The Creative Independent, a site consisting primarily of daily interviews with creatives from various disciplines discussing both the personal and their process.
An album can be identified as a collection of singles surrounded by filler or ideally, a united suite with a statement or purpose. About Town, the third full-length release from Nicholas Nicholas occupies the latter role. The repetitive moniker is the solo project of Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Chris Masullo. Bristling amongst the dark-night-of-the-soul vocals and forlorn music of the brilliant About Town belie words that celebrate love and its accompanying emotions. Shades of a red herring? Perhaps, but it forces the listener to not place total faith in their first impressions. It's not necessary to feel tricked or deceived because complex music doesn't ever reveal all that it knows within a first sitting. Or even multiple ones. If considered as a short story collection, About Town is a less a series of songs than an assemblage of lives circling and thriving on the themes of ardor. It appears we've stumbled into Nicholas Nicholas Country.
For Gavin Russom, the route to playing synths in LCD Soundsystem (and building instruments for the James Murphy-led group) was lined with dreams and false alarms. From the wrong friends to a wrong college decision to a fair share of the wrong dead end jobs. In addition to his LCD role, Gavin DJ's and also heads up several projects including Black Meteoric Star. The Xecond Xoming of Black Meteroric Star is the TBA double-album. An hour of raw, unencumbered Detroit-techno in the shape of a Rhode Island kid who grew up to traverse the world from stages to club booths, delivering on his childhood fascination with sounds. The episode includes a 2016 live performance of "Shelled Landscape" from a Devil's Night DJ set at "Thriller" in Dresden, Germany; a studio version will appear on The Xecond Xoming of Black Meteroric Star. [This is a companion podcast to episode #107 with Ryan Leas, author of the book LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver, an exploration of the group's second album: (http://bit.ly/TMTryanleas).]
Music journalist Ryan Leas is the author of LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver, the 116th volume in 33 1/3's series devoted to one album. Suffice it to say he's a learned listener with his byline appearing on numerous sites including Pitchfork, Stereogum and GQ. Ryan's writing can distinctly evoke a moment, a feeling or the nuances between the notes all within the constraints of a single declarative sentence. As detailed in the book, Ryan was in high school when the second album from the James Murphy-helmed project was revealed to him by that one teacher we all needed. Arriving in the midst of LCD's 2016 reunion, Ryan's debut effortlessly combines both memoir and music scholarship under one 5x7 cover. [This is a companion podcast to episode #108 with LCD Soundsystem's Gavin Russom, who plays synths and builds instruments for the group: (http://bit.ly/TMTgavinrussom).]
In the words of music editor/writer J. Edward Keyes, there is a remedy for nostalgia, specifically when you're discussing new music. The best recordings didn't cease when you left your teens. Amazing songs are in full abundance, but now you have to do a bit of online legwork to unearth them. Joe's background has been a statement of his receptivity with over two decades of writing about an array of styles from hip-hop to black metal to Christian rock. The latter? A signpost harkening back to Joe's nascent journalism career writing for Christian music magazines prior to contributing to secular publications like SPIN, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. He also left behind an early calling to be a youth pastor. Joe's currently the editorial director at Bandcamp, a music platform for independent musicians to sell their music and merchandise. He oversees the Bandcamp Daily website that is an eclectic source of interviews, genre round-ups and in-depth articles. Joe also has a personal blog, An Atheist's Guide to Christian Rock, that explores and reevaluates some of his most beloved music of the genre.
What is that particular thrill of discovering a limited-edition cassette that came out late last year and slipped under your radar? It feels as if the artist created the music solely for you. The album in question is In Between and that artist is Big Eater. Big Eater is the solo project of singer/songwriter Matt Bachmann and the debut full-length release is one of the best albums you missed last year. Or this year. A hazy hodgepodge of folk, jazz, pop and the indescribable wrapped around the core of a break-up. The follow-up is in the works, but until its arrival, now is the time to revel in the hushed masterstroke that is In Between. This episode features two songs from In Between plus an exclusive TMT live performance of the unreleased "Drive."
Ice Choir frontman and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Feldman knows his way around a J-pop song: specifically from '83 to '89. With the synth-pop group's second release, Designs in Rhythm, that seven-year stretch abounds but through the native-New Yorker's filter of enigmatic lyrics, endless hooks and crisp vocals. Regardless of where the influence originates, the album's melodies are sturdy enough to be transported to any genre of music. Although Ice Choir bears a decidedly electronic sound, Kurt's wheelhouse is vast enough to accommodate a nearly seven- year stint as the drummer in the janglier indie band, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This episode features two songs from Designs in Rhythm.
Once upon a time vocalist Melanie Charles (a.k.a. D'Flower) had a sartorial period where she'd deftly mix contrasting patterns. Her mother likened her daughter's music to this phase; she couldn't be more apt. Melanie's musical style is a brew of her jazz training, soul influences and operatic dreams and perhaps, a splash of just about everything else, including her Haitian heritage. Last year's Rat Habitat EP (Guns That Shoot Bubbles with Jordan Peters) is the proof, but only a sliver of her electric talent. Melanie plays the flute, self-orchestrates with a SP202 classic sampler and the piano was her first instrument at age five. For this born-and-bred Brooklyn musician, her forthcoming solo album will truly reflect all the facets of her artistry. This episode features two Rat Habitat songs plus a TMT-exclusive live performance of Melanie's unreleased "Without Us" from her TBA solo project.
For James Lanning, hip-hop and photography are more than just modes of pure entertainment, they're the means to inspire people via rap and a Canon 5D Mark III. James has been vocal about his personal struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts and hopes that his art can be a part of the conversation to remove the stigma often attached to these issues. As evidenced by James' death-defying, bridge-hopping music video, "One," that went viral earlier this year, urban exploring has been another vehicle of artistic expression for the Brooklyn resident. "One" will also be included on James' forthcoming debut EP, Another Day Wasted, along with "Regina" and "Run Away (ft. Inas)," which are both included on this episode.
On David Bowie's final studio album, Blackstar, his vision was manifested by jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin. Although the collaboration instantly threw Donny (and his core group of musicians) into the consciousness of both Bowie fanatics and the general public, diehard jazzheads have long been privy to the three-time Grammy-nominee for decades. Over the course of eleven studio albums as a bandleader and countless guest spots and side gigs, Donny has continuously pushed himself to discover new landscapes with each album. The present one building on the foundation of its predecessor. Beyond Now, Donny's twelfth release, is a continuing representation of this truth, finding its roots in the dynamic between himself and Bowie. In a collection of originals, challenging electronica/pop interpretations and two Bowie covers, Beyond Now is the ultimate evidence of what the legend saw in Danny and his expansive work.
In another lifetime, Carlos D was the slick-haired, style-conscious, all-black wearing bassist of the band Interpol. Since leaving the "post-punk revivalists" group in 2010, he's returned to the public consciousness as theater actor Carlos Dengler. Carlos has never spoken publicly about his departure from Interpol, but in this exclusive TMT conversation he shares why he abruptly left after four studio albums and three tours. This is his personal story of the highs, the lows and even the band therapy. In addition to his candid revelations about the band, Carlos discusses both his traumatic childhood and overcoming a drug addiction while still in Interpol. During the intervening six years, Carlos pursued a career in acting that would include receiving an MFA from NYU's Acting Program and staging his first solo show, Homo Sapiens Interruptus. In August, the hour-long monologue premiered in New York to positive reviews and sold-out performances as a part of the Fringe Festival. Due to its success, the show returns as a part of the festival's Fringe Encore series for a two-week October run.
A quick and dirty Google search for Brooklyn singer/songwriter Kamilah yields only one official video. An entry to NPR's Tiny Desk Contest for her slow-burning ballad "1600 Miles". Although Kamilah's submission didn't win last year, she's spent the time in between conducting a plan of action. Two new videos will premiere on her forthcoming website (IAmKamilah.com), which currently highlights Kamilah's social media links. If waiting isn't an option, this podcast includes an exclusive "TMT Session with Kamilah" featuring four intimate performances. Suggestion: Be seated when listening. Remember the first time you heard Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car"? Or how you felt listening to Joan Armatrading on vinyl? There's no doubt this born-and-bred Bahamian artist will conjure the same sensation.
Jazz and classical share the spotlight when it comes to the music of Brooklyn singer/songwriter Matt Kanelos. With his latest project, Violence, the multi-instrumentalist plumbs both the commonality and tension between the two genres while adding his own spin of cabaret, improvisation and avant-garde tendencies. Violence is the namesake of a generous 55-minute EP and a short film that feel wonderfully chaotic when absorbed as a whole. In addition to his own work, Matt plays piano for cabaret performer (and past TMT guest 045) Carol Lipnik at live performances and on her stunning album, Almost Back to Normal. This episode features two songs from Violence: "Nonviolent Man" and "God Is a Guy".
Computer Magic is the electronic music project of Danielle "Danz" Johnson. She is the very definition of prolificacy. One look at her CV and clearly Danz can not not make music. Under the guise of Computer Magic, she's released a handful of LPs in Japan and eight EPs worldwide. Last year's Davos was her first full-length American album and her latest EP, Obscure But Visible, comes out everywhere in October. Launched in a bedroom just"for fun", Computer Magic has since bloomed into a legion of diehard fans from the States to Japan and also a song featured in a Lexus commercial. This episode includes "Dimensions", the first single from Obscure But Visible.
Expanding Heart is the exquisite new gem of an album from jazz pianist and Bay Area-native Jarrett Cherner. His trio record is at once an artistic statement of meditative discovery and also a gift to the listener with its moods of tenderness and contemplation. Jarrett's second outing as a bandleader is a collection of original compositions plus a handful of covers including two by Ornette Coleman. Out on October 21, Expanding Heart is destined to find a place on every jazz aficionado's playlist. This episode features two tracks from Expanding Heart: "Distance" and "Meditation 1".
It's not often you bear witness to the eve of a musical movement. Floordoor Records first releases won't appear until late-September, but bloggers and social media are already hyped by the singles and videos that have been trickling out over the past few months. Not to mention a slew of incendiary live performances at the Bed-Stuy venue, C'mon Everybody. This September and October, Floordoor's inaugural two albums will arrive from A Bunch of Dead People and Public Speaking, the respective projects of founders Ruben Sindo Acosta and Jason Anthony Harris. Additional albums from label mates Supplier, My Love MHz and Eternal Garb will eventually round out the Brooklyn label's first wave. Their mission statement? Perhaps: hullabaloo and tumult in concert with harmonies and grooves. The fledgling collective plans to be a home for genre-daring music that attracts listeners who are as progressive as the artist roster. This podcast features a song a piece from A Bunch of Dead People and Public Speaking.
As founder of the Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit label, saxophonist/composer Éyal Hai has crafted a universe of invigorating music that hinges on jazz but also summons in influences like the Beatles and Brazilian sounds. The Brooklyn-based Rabbit operates as a collective featuring Éyal's fellow musicians Jonathan Greenstein, Daniel Meron and Arnan Raz. Since 2014, the label has produced five albums. Hailing from Israel, the collective's individual records are unique on their own but together form a complimentary mosaic that pushes and challenges the listener. This episode features four of my favorite songs from the label.
This podcast episode of Talk Music Talk featuring Samora Pinderhughes was recorded July 22, 2016 at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City on the Lower East Side. It features an intimate performance with Samora on piano and vocals followed by my conversation with him. Samora's set highlights music from both his Venus Project and the Transformations Suite. The Transformations Suite album comes out on October 12, 2016.
Samora was previously interviewed on Talk Music Talk for back-to-back podcasts. Scroll down to episodes 078 and 079 for more information on Samora and to hear both interviews.
In her three decades plus career as an opera singer, Martina Arroyo has achieved one highlight after another. She's performed all over the world as a celebrated spinto soprano, including over 200 performances at the Met Opera with three opening nights to her credit. She's worked with top conductors like Leonard Bernstein and has performed the repertory of Mozart and Strauss, to name a few. Ms. Arroyo's hard work and immense talent has been recognized by her peers with a 2010 NEA Opera Honors Award and a Kennedy Center Honor three years ago. Although the Harlem native officially retired in 1989, it hasn't stopped her from using her legacy to educate others. In 2003, she established the Martina Arroyo Foundation, which fosters excellence in young opera singers in an educational setting. Kudos to Ms. Arroyo for allowing her expertise and command to inspire a new generation. This podcast also features an interview with the Foundation's music director, Maestro Willie Anthony Waters.
It is a fortunate few who not only love what they do, but also help others in the process. For over twenty decades, New York educator Adam Goldberg has done just that with music. As a teacher at PS 177Q in Fresh Meadows, Queens, he expands the world of children with learning challenges by utilizing iPads and a slew of music creation apps like GarageBand and iKaossilator. At the New York public school, Adam founded the "Technology Band", a successful example of education and innovation uniting. Since their inception, the high school ensemble have performed music as complex as Chick Corea's "Space Circus" and have also been featured on FOX News and NPR. Here's to Adam Goldberg for heralding the power of music.
Producer and photographer João Gonzalez has gone on record saying that the Soft Glas tag visually represents the way his music sounds. This feels apt considering the project is a glorious synthesis of not only haunting, electronic soundscapes but also well-considered aesthetics. From the curation of João's Instagram and promotional images to the release of last year's dos EP, there hasn't been one wrong step. Yet nothing ever feels clinical or over calculated, on the contrary only a warmth resonates through the entire Soft Glas canon. Whether João's working with collaborators for his own music or producing for others like the violin duo (and friends), CharGaux, the Brooklyn-based musician is in utter command of his talents. 2016 year will reveal an embarrassment of riches when the dos follow-up, Late Bloom, arrives along with the Soft Glas-produced CharGaux album. This episode features a selection from both Soft Glas albums.
For the past 20 years, independent publisher Akashic Books has blazed a path of nonconformity and subversiveness through literature. Johnny Temple, the bassist of 90s alt-rock band Girls Against Boys, funded the fledgling press with the spoils of a major label advance the group received. In the pass two decades, the Brooklyn house has released over 400 books including titles from Marlon James, Arthur Nersesian and imprints from Dennis Cooper and Mobb Deep's Prodigy, plus the bestseller "adult children's book" Go the F**k to Sleep. In 2016, Akashic Books continues its eclectic streak with the publication of both Ziggy Marley's cookbook and Ron Kovic's Born on the 4th of July follow-up.
Journalist and music/cultural critic Laina Dawes' book What Are You Doing Here? explores the race and gender issues of African-American female fans of metal, hardcore and punk music. Subtitled "A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal", this is not only Laina's story but also of black musicians and their fans in a genre and culture that is primarily white and male.
Frontman Jonathan Graves' Corbu are on the heels of releasing one of the best albums you'll hear in 2016. Crayon Soul is melodic when you want it, a bit psychedelic when you need it with expansive lyrics and soaring vocals from Jonathan. Fellow members Amanda (creative partner) and Todd Hoellerman (drums) complete the triumvirate. Preceded by last year's two EP's, Corbu's debut was mixed by Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, MGMT, Tame Impala). Although Crayon Soul isn't released until August, this episode features the latest single, "Battles", which is just one of twelve perfect songs.
Singer/songwriter Arlene Gould christens her music Afro-Pop. It's a brew of all her musical influences and experiences that make her so dynamic. Currently based in Brooklyn, Arlene is originally from Israel and her heritage includes both Israeli and Caribbean roots. 2016 will see the release of Rollin', her debut album and also the name of the first single and video which premiered on the AfroPunk site. If the single is any indication, Rollin' will be the feel-good album of the year. This episode features the title track.
In case you were wondering, it only takes ten hours to manifest innovation. From start to finish, Monthly Music Hackathon NYC reinvents the wheel on last Saturdays by uniting musicians, programmers, scientists or the merely curious for a musical think tank culminating in a performance (or presentation). Hackathon was founded four years ago by Jonathan Marmor and features a different theme each month such as "Glitch", "Music Games" or "Gender in Music". Jonathan is also a composer, tabla player and a Spotify engineer manager. This episode includes an excerpt from his composition "List of Songs" as performed by Tiny Big Band.
For any music lover, you have to admire someone who gets to spend their days in full-music submersion. Case in point, Bob Kosovsky. He's the curator of New York Public Library's Rare Books & Manuscripts Music Division. The Music Division is a genre-spanning public library that's home to a music clipping inventory (featuring over 46,000 names), more than 100,000 photographs and access to the papers of innovative artists like John Cage and Meredith Monk plus many more discoveries. The music library isn't just a resource hub for scholars and journalists doing research, it's also for the music geek or a tourist who wants to watch a taped performance of a Broadway show. Bob also teaches music theory through the Extension Division of Mannes College/The New School for Music and has been a Wikipedia editor since 2006.
From the start of her career, Nellie McKay made it abundantly clear that music wouldn't be the only device she'd utilize to be outspoken and provocative. Along with her genre-defying 2004 debut, Get Away From Me, her politics dared you to shy away from her intentions, whether it was for the environment, animal welfare or feminism. In the past dozen years, Nellie released five more eclectic studio albums including last year's My Weekly Reader, an album of 60's covers with themes of drugs and politics. Incidentally, the ensuing twelve years have not tempered her activism; Nellie is still fighting for the causes she's passionate about including her tireless, on-the-ground campaigning for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Our conversation took place on the eve of the New York primary, where ultimately Sanders would lose to Hillary Clinton.
Israeli trio Kadawa have been performing for a little under a year in their current incarnation of Tal Yahalom, Almog Sharvit and Ben Silashi. On guitar, bass and drums respectively, Kadawa's music is a collision of jazz and rock rooted in both mindbending improvisation and original composition elements. Between their organic interplay and prowess, it's hard to imagine that they haven't been playing together for years. This podcast features two songs from Kadawa's debut album which comes out in the fall.
When the title of your first album is i am DAJ, it's a proud mission statement representing both your simplicity and boldness. Born DeShawn Aaron Jenkins, DAJ traversed many journeys and evolutions to produce a full-length project that represents the summation of his hard-won life experiences. The debut release is also a masterclass in perfect album sequencing with songs that explore electronica, acoustic soul and house music with DAJ's vocals as the (un)common denominator. For anyone who claims "good" music isn't made anymore, submit a copy of i am DAJ as their research assignment. The podcast episode features two songs from the album.
From the Czech Republic to New York City, composer/performer Lucie Vítková has blazed a singular path of experimentation and creativity harnessed only by her limitless imagination. Whether it's through her voice, the harmonica, an accordion or even tap dancing, Lucie's music is marked by a sense of adventure found in both her improvised performances and recordings. The current Columbia University Visiting Scholar is completing her next album, Music Domestic, which consists of found sounds discovered within her home. The podcast episode features a Music Domestic demo and also a piece from Lucie's 2015 album, Chorals.
Artists like Samora Pinderhughes occupy that sliver of real estate which inhabits both talent and that certain something you can't quite name, but you immediately recognize its presence. These visionaries easily set themselves apart from the musical chaff. Pianist. Composer. Bandleader. Singer. Samora is a graduate of Juillard's prestigious Jazz Program where he received his Bachelors of Music degree. The Bay Area-native has shared stages with the likes of Ron Carter, Christian Scott and Branford Marsalis and has performed his original compositions all over the world including Cuba, Australia and in the States. For the past five years, Samora has been fine-tuning his large-scale composition "The Transformations Suite" in numerous live settings. The hour-long suite is a tapestry of music, theater and poetry united to invoke social change and will be released as an album in the fall. The second installment of this two-part interview features a Talk Music Talk exclusive: the recorded premiere of "Transformation", the opening song on the album.
Singer/Songwriter Paul Weinfield's spiritually-minded essays began as an intersection between music and meditation that happened to garner a sizable Facebook following. The synthesis makes sense considering music has been an integral part of his life including writing songs on his guitar at age nine and meditating helped him cope with both health issues and a 10-year writers' block. On the other side of these past challenges, the New York-native released six albums under his Tam Lin project and also teaches meditation. Paul is currently contributing to the forthcoming album from Fairytales for the Fatherless plus working on a 2016 solo release.
When a musician claims Prince, Steely Dan and Bob Dylan as a few of their influences, it's quite possible to expect a derivative hodgepodge from said musician's output. In the case of singer/ songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Thompson, those brilliant touchstones get filtered through a distinctive point of view with Feign Pathos. The enthrallingly-named moniker is Ryan's vehicle to showcase his slinky, soulful voice as it carves out a stirring path regardless of the setting. Whether it's the electronica foundation of the single "Sophisticated Lady" or with his acoustic solo performances, Ryan's brew of R&B and alternative music is evocative yet personal. He's currently perfecting Feign Pathos' forthcoming debut EP.
Mike Sniper's independent record label, Captured Tracks, was founded with $10k from selling his power-pop record collection and two releases: Dum Dum Girls' 2009 debut and his own project, Blank Dogs (2008). Since then, he's turned the Brooklyn imprint into one of the premier go-to places for exciting new artists and reissues of previously hard-to-find treasures. From homegrown acts like Mac DeMarco and DIIV to career retrospectives from Milk-n-Cookies, the mainly vinyl label continues to expand its influence and musical diversity with Mike's creation of the Omnian Music Group. This recent endeavor consists of nine sister labels that exist to produce more output without diluting Captured Tracks. Not just content with releasing music, Mike has also opened up two record stores in Brooklyn's Fort Greene and Greenpoint neighborhoods, both bearing the Captured Tracks name. This episode concludes with a five-song sampler.
Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins is one of those fortunate people who knew at an early age what they wanted to do with their life. She discovered her calling when she started playing the violin at age nine. Since then Kelly has hit many career highlights as a soloist and chamber musician including performances with numerous orchestras like the Dallas Symphony and the Chamber Orchestra of New York, over 800,000 YouTube views for her "Imagination" music video album and praise from the New York Times and the Strad magazine. Kelly's latest milestone is her Broadway debut in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof where she fulfills the titular role from the orchestra pit. In addition to her vast musical talent, Kelly is also a humanitarian who founded and directs Music Kitchen, a program that brings chamber musician performances to New York City homeless shelters with participation from over 100 acclaimed artists. Kelly's future plans include more music videos featuring her virtuoso playing.
You don't get to be on Broadway for nearly eighteen years by pure luck. You could say singer and actress Rema Webb's journey to the Great White Way began at age twelve when she first started singing lessons in our shared hometown of Clairton, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Along the way she participated in choirs and pageants, trained in piano and classical voice, studied her craft at the University of Pittsburgh and in Italy. Rema's consistent work ethic eventually led to a role in Ragtime, her Broadway debut. She's since added nine more musicals to her resumé including 16 1/2 years in the Lion King, the Book of Mormon and the current revival of the Color Purple. In February, Rema was featured on cast recording albums of the Color Purple and A New Brain. She is also the founder/executive director of On Broadway Performing Arts Training Program, a organization dedicated to the performing arts, mentoring and education of young aspiring artists. On April 25, Rema reprises Children Will Listen, her celebrated one woman show at New York's 42 West.
In between his travel and style gigs, photographer Nick Onken's musical forays have been quite impressive. He's aimed his camera at Justin Bieber, Usher, Asher Roth and Mary J. Blige, to name a few. As the official photographer for the non-profit Pencils of Promise, Nick utilizes his camera to help provide education to children in the developing world. He's also a successful podcaster with his inspiring SHOPTALKradio that features lively interviews with dynamic creatives from all fields. With Nick guiding the conversations, he's the perfect example of someone living their passions. Creative. Talented. Caring. Nick Onken is clearly the equal of his guests.
Electronica producer and artist Praveen Sharma's career is a study in fluidity. He easily moves from duos (Praveen & Benoit and Sepalcure) to his solo project, Braille. Last year, Braille was well-represented with two releases: the Everyone's Crazy EP and the full-length Mute Swan. From mysterious house tracks to brooding mood pieces featuring extraneous vocals, the common threads are innovation and melancholy. Expect a new Sepalcure release from Praveen and musical partner Machinedrum (Travis Stewart) later in the year.
Is it too soon to call Marcus Paul James' new single "Living in Dreams" the best song you'll hear in 2016? Yes, it might be a tad presumptuous, but I stand behind my prediction that you will play this ballad 10 times in a row. The Brooklyn-native singer/songwriter comes naturally to good music with a successful career performing on Broadway in musicals like RENT and the Heights. More recently he appeared in NBC's the Wiz Live last December. Marcus is currently working on his forthcoming EP tentatively scheduled for a Spring release.
After hearing the eclectic roster of cassette (and some vinyl) label Already Dead Tapes, it's no doubt that you'll be kicking yourself for tossing out that banana-yellow Walkman. It's okay; every ADT release comes with a digital download. But admit it, tapes are way more fun than MP3s. Based in Brooklyn via Chicago, ADT was founded in 2009 by Joshua Tabbia (and Sean Hartman). Since its inception, the label has carved out a respected reputation for its genre-defying list of artists from all over the world in small batches. Joshua says the curation process is a natural reflection of his own varied musical tastes. A graphic designer by day, the Kalamazoo-native also handles the creative design for the independent label. With dozens of releases every year from hip-hop to noise to alt-rock, ADT offers plenty to discover for music aficionados. Get a taste of the label with an exclusive 5-song sampler after our conversation.
Meshell Ndegeocello's CV may include collaborations with the eclectic company of Herbie Hancock, Basement Jaxx, Robert Glasper and Madonna, yet with every project she remains resolutely herself. Whether it's through guest spots or her own releases, Meshell's sound has always been her hallmark. In 1993, Madonna's fledgling Maverick Records released Plantation Lullabies, Meshell's debut which perfectly highlighted that sound: dual pleasures of baritone singing and spoken word with her distinctive bass-playing washing over and through you. For more than 20 years and 11 albums, this restless artist has touched upon genre after genre without sacrificing her identity or style. Utilizing her laptop as a new instrument, this year Meshell plans to release a new album that aims to fuse both politics and dancing.
To say that pianist Vijay Iyer covers the musical waterfront is quite possibly an understatement. His expertise finds him comfortably traversing from his namesake jazz trio to a hip-hop-rooted project with poet Mike Ladd to a classical album, Mutations. Vijay's eclecticism has not gone unnoticed. His talent has been praised by the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Pitchfork. Last year, DownBeat magazine named him their Artist of the Year and in 2013 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellow "Genius Grant". Vijay is currently an Artist-In-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which will include multiple performances in a variety of settings along with curated works by fellow artists.
You've got to hand it to artist manager Marat Berenstein, he knows talent when he sees it. Since 2014, the Marat Berenstein Company has been shepherding the careers of young talent such as music and visual artist Daniel Bázan, Jr. and music supervisor Matt FX (Broad City, Difficult People). In addition to managing and developing content with MBC, the New York-based entrepreneur also specializes in music licensing as adjunct faculty at NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Marat is an expert in the field of licensing and has placed his clients' music in a variety of projects for major corporations including MTV, VH1 and HBO. With Marat's creative understanding of the music business and early success, it feels safe to say that it takes talent to know talent.
There's a good chance music writer Jesse Jarnow knows more about the Grateful Dead than you ever will. Understandably, he did get a head start when he was in middle school. Since then he's been on a slippery slope that would eventually lead to writing extensively about the iconic jam band. He's penned liner notes for Dave's Picks, the archive series of classic Dead shows; compiled the entire setlist repertoire for the band's 80 disc concert box set, 30 Trips Around the Sun and has a forthcoming book that explores the Dead community entitled Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America, coming out in March. He's also the DJ of the Frow Show on freeform radio station WFMU...where, of course, he manages to squeeze in some Dead music.
As the premier opera music authority, Fred Plotkin possesses the history of Italy at his fingertips. Not by birthright, mind you, but still rooted in his DNA. A racially-diverse Brooklyn rearing included ample time spent in the homes of Italian friends which spawned a love for their rich culture. Fred also grew up on a constant diet of classical music in his own home. His love for all things Italian was set after Fred graduated high school and his mother rented a Tuscany apartment for them to spend a summer vacation. Eventually his twin passions of opera and Italian culture would lead to a storied career as journalist, lecturer and the author of nine books including Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera and Italy for the Gourmet Traveler. Fred's expertise recently earned him the Cavaliere della Stella d'Italia, the Italian equivalent of knighthood, conferred by the president of Italy.
Kat Cunning is a star! There...I said it. Now catch up. Actor. Singer. Dancer. Photographer. If I've left out anything, it's only because there's nothing she can't do. Kat deftly moves from strength to strength in everything she touches. Transcendent as the Fairy Godmother in Company XIV's Baroque-Burlesque interpretation of Cinderella. Rapturous at a sold-out Joe's Pub performance in December 2015. The new year ushers in even more abundance of riches with Kat's leap to Broadway in Cirque de Soleil's Paramour as the lead actress' understudy in addition to her own character, Lila. The Portland native will also release her debut album of original material this year. Kat Cunning will own 2016!
Drummer. Feminist. Activist. Badass. Kiran Gandhi occupies these labels and also defies and expands them to her liking. Kiran is in constant motion from studying at Georgetown University to obtaining a Harvard MBA while simultaneously touring with M.I.A. to crafting a stint as Interscope Records' first digital analyst. She's also spoken at TEDxBrooklyn on her "Atomic Living" concept of finding multiple pillars that you're passionate about and then choosing the various moments and opportunities that arise to support them. Most recently, one of Kiran's pillars, gender equality, went viral in August of 2015. She ran the London marathon sans sanitary protection to give voice to "sisters who don't have tampons" and to end "period shaming". Post-race pictures display Kiran proudly posing with clear evidence of her menstrual cycle in effect. Yeah, just another day in the life of a badass. In 2016, Kiran will bring that same rebellious spirit to her debut album.
Music writer Marshall Yarbrough closes out Talk Music Talk's final episode of 2015 with his picks of the year. The Assistant Music Editor of the Brooklyn Rail newspaper explains in detail what albums, books and events in music excited him the most.
What's not to admire about music psychotherapist Brian Harris. For over the past 20 years he's dedicated himself to improving the lives of others through music. He's a nationally certified and state licensed therapist with two degrees in music therapy. Brian's innovative analytic and vocal psychotherapy techniques have helped people from all walks of life including trauma survivors, children with developmental disabilities and also, adults dealing with Alzheimer's and related dementia. Brian's astute understanding of the mind and body connection has led to a recent tenure at Beth Israel Medical Center's Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine in New York City. He's also an adjunct at NYU where he received a Masters degree in their music therapy program.
Singer-Songwriter Steve Garvin first picked up the guitar at age 19 when he was a freshman at Villanova University. After graduation, he landed in Chinatown where his New York-sized bedroom doubles as a DIY recording studio. The result? His recently released EP, Don't Run Away, proves that maybe size really doesn't matter. The sound? A gorgeous rush of '60s- dappled harmonies and classic songwriting dipped in an array of '80s synth influences. The Midwestern transplant is intent on growing as an artist and perfecting his craft. So far? So good.
For label head Noah Padawer-Curry, Onamazu represents the rarefied challenge of releasing electronica music that succeeds inside of the club and inside of your flat. The label specializes in Downtempo Bass music with an eclectic roster of artists from all over the world that blow up the definition of the genre. Since its April 2015 conception, Onamazu has achieved eminent signs of a bright future including 2000-plus SoundCloud followers and multiple featured placements on Spotify. For Noah and business partner/graphic designer Max Burstein, 2016 will surely bring in continued milestones with upcoming plans to expand into touring the label's acts and also, producing a clothing line that will appeal to both fans and anyone who loves graphics that are as singular as Onamazu's sound.
Multi-woodwind player Yacine Boularès is the bandleader of Ajoyo, which means "celebration" in Yoruba. It's a fitting name for a group whose songs represent a joyous, whirlwind synthesis of jazz, soul and African music. As a Fulbright Laureate, Yacine attended the New School for Jazz, where the French-Tunisian musician first met and collaborated with vocalist/composer Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Ajoyo's self-titled debut features the two-time TMT guest (episodes #21 & #36) on six of the eight titles. Sarah served as my introduction to Ajoyo and was also my entry point to pianist Jesse Fischer. Listen to companion episode #56 of TMT to hear my conversation with Jesse.
Yacine was recently awarded a French American Jazz Exchange grant to produce his new trio with cellist Vincent Segal and drummer Nasheet Waits. The project will premiere next year with an album plus performances. Hopefully, 2016 will also see the sophomore Ajoyo release.
2015 has been an eventful year for pianist/composer/producer Jesse Fischer. He released two records that managed to reveal multiple aspects of his talent. First there was Vein Melter, a collaboration with horn player Sly5thAve, that was a powerful reimagining of Herbie Hancock's 70's fusion masterpiece, Headhunters. Then in September, Jesse returned as a bandleader with the diverse, poignant Day Dreamer that found him adding lyrics to his music for the time. Day Dreamer stars vocalist/composer and two-time TMT guest (episodes #21 & #36), Sarah Elizabeth Charles, on four titles. In addition to introducing me to Jesse, Sarah was also my connection to the group Ajoyo, who are led by multi-woodwind player Yacine Boularès with Sarah as the featured vocalist. Listen to companion episode #57 of TMT to hear my conversation with Yacine. NOTE: In my intro and outro, I mistakenly refer to Jesse's Vein Melter collaborator Sly5thAve as "Sly5thAvenue".
It's hardly a coincidence that the enthusiasm careening from J. Hoard's earworm of a single "Not So Fast" is an accurate portrait of the artist as a young man. Mildly pretentious James Joyce references aside, one can experience the celebration Jonathan demonstrates in his performances and on his aptly-titled debut EP, Feel Good. The Columbus, OH native currently resides in Brooklyn and is perfecting the upcoming full-length Feel Good album. Jonathan is also busy performing on stages from city to city including Gentei Kaijo's the Lesson, a Thursday nite jam at Arlene's Grocery, where you can catch Jonathan freestyle singing (and dancing) to weekly packed crowds. Just try to deny the unadulterated joy and immense talent of J. Hoard.
Is "Haunt" a musical genre? If not, may I humbly nominate Brooklyn duo the Bright Smoke as its progenitors? Consisting of Mia Wilson (vocals/guitar) and Quincy Ledbetter (multi- instrumentalist/filmmaker), their second full-length release, Terrible Towns, is the 2015 album most likely to break your heart before putting it back together. With Mia's soft-focus vocals and the evocative landscapes Quincy builds beneath her, the sustained mood is the highest example of why albums still matter. And if only to sweeten an already delicious aural dish, Quincy directed a video trilogy of Terrible Towns songs that premiered on Diffuser.fm. Yes, "Haunt" definitely feels correct.
Singer-songwriter and up-and-coming pop star Ellis Martin has easily fulfilled the willful maxim, "Give the People What They Don't Know They Want" with an innovative amalgamation of electronica, '60s Motown and doo-wop that he calls "Molly Pop". Although the label might ring as provocative, it doesn't detract from music that is simultaneously contemporary and timeless. For proof, just listen to his debut EP, Pornotopia, co-produced by fellow Stanford U. alum, Jidenna, whose "Classic Man" hit was released on Janelle Monae's Wondaland label. Originally from South Side Chicago, Ellis is now based in New York and working on volume two of Pornotopia which will see a 2016 release. In the meantime, he's preparing to spread his titular concept, an insanely melodic stance against society's inauthentic view of sex and love, with a slate of live performances. Welcome to Planet Pornotopia!
In just over five short years, Mindy Abovitz has expanded the narrow definition who gets to drum with Tom Tom magazine, the only magazine dedicated to female drummers. As its founder and editor-in-chief, Mindy has fused her passions of feminism and drumming to create a platform designed to dispel the ignorance, misogyny and flat-out neglect often lodged at female percussionists in a male-dominated field. What started out as a personal blog quickly grew into a printed quarterly that features an intentional broad palette of diversity from race to class to sexual identity that celebrates women and girl drummers and beatmakers from all over the world. The revolution begins with a pair of sticks and a dream!
Music business consultant Rick Goetz is standing tall at the crossroads of a rapidly changing industry where the gatekeepers are fewer and the musicians posses more beneficial options than ever. Your favorite band at the local dive bar can now foster their audience through social media, YouTube or SoundCloud. Between sluggish album sales and low-paying streaming, companies like Rick's appropriately named Music Consultant are giving the indie artist the chance for a fulfilling career sans a major label, but still providing many of the same advantages like creating marketing plans or A&R services. In an uncertain landscape, even major artists like Elton John and Sting have utilized Music Consultant to increase their odds for a blockbuster album. With 20 years of experience under his belt including stints as a major label A&R representative, a music supervisor, an artist manager and as a bassist in his own 90's band Dine-O-Matic, Rick has truly seen the music industry from both sides now.
I'm extremely honored to interview Highsnobiety's Jeff Carvalho for Talk Music Talk's 50th episode!!! As a partner and executive editor of the daily news site and coffee table worthy magazine (and their menswear site Selectism), Jeff is an astute overseer of what's vital in fashion, art, design and of course, music. Highsnobiety regularly features aural tastemakers like Pharrell and Oh Land with sumptuous layouts and insightful articles. Jeff says he's obsessed with music which is evident by Highsnobiety's consistent coverage and also through his lively Twitter feed. It's wonderfully common for Jeff to recommend the latest video or song that currently excites him. One more thing...he's also quite hyped about the return of cassettes. Sounds good to me.
As the Brooklyn Rail's Music Editor, critic at the New York Classical Review and with his own Big City blog, George Grella covers the musical waterfront with an informed and creative point of view. Often forceful and always entertaining, George doesn't shelter his opinions in hyperbole including in his just-released book on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. It's the Brooklyn writer's exploration of the 1970 classic that isn't quite jazz and isn't quite rock; but its own island of a genius working at the peak of his powers. The book-length essay is the 110th volume in the 33 1/3 book series and also their first jazz title. George's writing provides an aerial view of not only the innovative creation of the album but also its history and influence. George Grella's book is the definitive map of a masterpiece.
1WayTKT are hardly your typical DJ/production duo. Comprised of DJ U-Kno and J-Glaze, their singular blend of house music and live trumpet infuses their performances with an energy and soul so often lacking in computer-generated EDM. The same heart can also be found in their recorded output which has collectively garnered over 500,000 plays on SoundCloud. From remixes to original cuts, every sound that 1WayTKT create is designed for maximum joy through BPM.
A renowned former music critic, Kandia Crazy Horse's journey from scribing about music to performing her own happened unexpectedly. A Country-Western blend is her milieu which naturally reflects her rural Southern roots of Hee Haw and 1960s-70s free-form radio. Her exquisite 2014 debut, Stampede, was awarded "4-stars" from the British MOJO magazine. This year will hopefully see the release of Canyons, the second installment of a planned tetralogy. Fingers are crossed!
Rony's Insomnia is the creation of Rony Corcos and is a brilliant summation of her numerous talents: singer, songwriter, lead guitarist, producer and engineer. Count to Ten, the first title under her group name, is a dark and brooding song collection featuring mostly personal accounts with the exception of "Rose," which was inspired by the life and murder of four-year old Rose Pizem. The Jerusalem-born artist currently resides in New York where she regularly performs her unique brand of rock featuring threads of her jazz training and assorted influences. Count to Ten is one of the best albums I've heard this year; it should be yours, too!
With a four-octave voice and a madhouse sense of wonder, perhaps an influence of her Coney Island rearing, Carol Lipnik is not your usual cup of tea. She is without peers. Her buoyant performances are only equalled by the twisted beauty of her recorded output including this year's highly praised sixth album Almost Back to Normal. Released through her own Mermaid Alley imprint, it was generously funded by a grant from the Peter S. Reed Foundation. Produced by Jacob Lawson, who also played violin, Normal prominently features accompaniment by pianist Matt Kanelos who serves as the anchor to Carol's flights of fancy. Carol and Matt's musical collaboration can be experienced during their weekly Sunday residency at Pangea, an East Village cabaret and Italian-Mediterranean restaurant. New Yorkers? Run don't walk! Out-of-towners? Book your flight! Welcome to the wonderfully eccentric world of Carol Lipnik.
The upward trajectory of R&B singer/composer/producer Daniel Bazán, Jr. is undeniable. An alumnus of NYU's acclaimed Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Check! Profile in JAY Z’s Life + Times magazine. Check! Performances at SOB's and Pianos in New York City. Check! These exciting milestones are merely the evidence of hard work and talent from this Queens native. Raised in the Dominican Republic, Daniel started playing the piano at the age of eleven which led to him defining his craft in churches, schools and cultural centers before a return to his birthplace. Eventual forays into jazz and hip-hop were integral stepping stones to the artist he is today. After a recent rebranding, Daniel is crafting a new chapter that finds his music style more soulful with an underpinning of jazz chops. His recently released demo "Wrong For You" is a glorious example. In addition to music, Daniel's also a distinctive photographer with a beautifully-curated and well-respected Instagram account. Daniel Bazán, Jr. is definitely One to Watch!
In addition to being a singer-songwriter, Bryan Wade has created a practice to help musicians deal with anxiety called the Connected Musician or as Bryan explains: the intersection between music and mindfulness. Some musicians are at a loss for words between songs or judge themselves harshly at band rehearsals. Whatever the case, the CM is designed to allow musicians to fully enjoy their passion for music minus the tension and self-criticism. Even if you're not a musician you'll find plenty of transferable tips that will inspire more inner peace, along with discovering Bryan's personal journey of music, mindfulness and meditation.
Israeli born jazz guitarist and composer Idan Morim currently resides in New York where he recently graduated from the New School for Jazz. Prior to his move he'd been a professional musician since he was seventeen in his home country, served in their military (and band) and also toured China as a part of a theater company. Since graduation, Idan'sbeen busy overseeing group performances as a bandleader before heading into the recording studio. Look for his debut album late 2015/early 2016.
Witnessing Josh Dion drumming is as equally exciting as listening to his soulful voice. Whether he's performing with other acts (including previous TMT guest Nate Wood, episode #37) or in his own band Paris Monster, Josh's unique style is a visceral experience. Along with bassist Geoff Kraly, Paris Monster is the ultimate example of musical multitasking where Josh simultaneously drums, plays keys and sings. Their debut EP, It Once Had Been Kind, sacrifices none of the thrills of their live performances with five stunning examples from your new favorite duo.
JOE BUCKingham is a painter, illustrator and graphic designer. His connection to music is vast and celebrated beginning with his big break designing 1991's De La Soul is Dead album cover. Since then his artistic journey has been a series of reinventions and milestones including projects with Ecko and The Fader magazine, album covers for Redefinition Records and even the classic Native Tongue logo. Whether creating an aesthetic for brands or creating his own fine art, Joe's unique style is simultaneously timeless and fresh.
Brooklyn-based Songwriter/Musician/Artist Zachery Allan Starkey may find his inspiration in iconic synth touchstones like New Order & Depeche Mode but the glorious results are all his own. From working class Ohio to art-infused Bushwick, Zachery's path wasn't without challenges but it was all a set-up for his three solo albums. The most recent, 2013's DIY, was entirely performed and produced by Zachery and features the frosty new wave track "Into the Sun," inspired by the passing of his grandfather, who ignited his interest in the arts. His latest project is ZGRT, a collaboration with Rob Interface and Jo-Anne Hyun. Released April 2015, their debut single "Hard Power" was co-produced by Zachery and Gavin Russom (DFA Records, LCD Soundsystem) and is the first taste of more to come.
Shilpa Ananth, creator/bandleader of SA, tags her music Indian Soul. An amalgamation of East and West influences; an original stew consisting of Indian root melodies and lyrics with Jazz, R&B and Soul. Indian Soul is also the title of her debut and is a manifestation of a musical dream that began in India for Shilpa before moving to the States to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston and then New York City in 2014. With the release of Indian Soul under her belt, Shilpa, along with SA, is currently sharing her beautifully expansive music on tour.
Multi-instrumentalist and mastering engineer Nate Wood first came to my attention through his singing and guitar playing via a live performance. In addition to his three solo albums, Nate is also the drummer in the Grammy-nominated jazz fusion group Kneebody. As Nate states, the primary difference between his solo and group are the lack of his vocals. For the complete Nate Wood, one should turn to his excellent third album, Another Time (2014), performed and recorded entirely by himself.
CATCHING UP WITH SARAH ELIZABETH CHARLES
When I first interviewed jazz singer Sarah Elizabeth Charles on episode #21, she was just days away from the release of her transcendent Inner Dialogue album. How fitting that my first repeat guest and I speak on the eve of her debut headlining performance at NYC's Blue Note with her S.E. Charles Quartet. In this mini-episode, we catch up on the time in between our conversations and discuss what she has planned for the future. Inner Dialogue is one of my favorite albums of 2015!
Harlem born and bred singer/songwriter/performer Dandy Wellington is both a delight to the eyes and ears. His seamless integration of music and style files him into that rarefied club of the Björks, Bowies and Madonnas. What makes him even more unique is that his taste harks back to the golden era of big band jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Columbia-era Billie Holiday but with a modern Dandy-twist. His new album Harlem Rhythm is a prime example of his inspired originals and a redux of a classic 60s chestnut. Dandy's live shows are not to be missed where his thrilling performances are a highlight of the New York scene featuring His Band in accompaniment. On a stage or through your speakers, Dandy Wellington is a consummate experience.
Journalist James Gavin is the author of four acclaimed books each exploring the interior lives of music legends. His first book, Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret, was published in 1991 followed by Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne in 2009 and 2014's Is That All There Is?: The Strange Life of Peggy Lee.
Street photographer Ricky Powell is the master of wielding his camera to capture "right now" and creating a timeless picture. Basquiat and Warhol right before they enter their joint '85 exhibition. Run-DMC, in a mid-jump silhouette, photo-bombed by the Eiffel Tower. A born and bred New Yorker, Ricky synthesized what the classic era of hip-hop felt like whether you lived in the culture or not. The same honesty found in his celebrity photos is also found in his classic street photography.
Finnish-American singer/songwriter Janita (pronounced "YAH-nee-tuh") moved to Brooklyn at the tender age of 17, but not before setting her homeland afire as a highly popular singer and actor. Since then she's released several albums, including a stint on Sony, that have seen her style evolve from the very poppy to the evolved Didn't You, My Dear? Janita's just-released third American album is a lyrically honest and musically haunting statement from a talent crafting music on her own terms. In addition to performing music, she's also an activist for musicians receiving adequate payment for radio airplay; since early 2014 she's represented the grassroots #IRespectMusic campaign.
Singer/Composer/Pianist akie bermiss is the real deal! The one to watch! Possessor of a flexible gift that can veer from jazz to funk to hip-hop without losing his proverbial breath. The evidence is in his transcendent live performances and his EP akie. But perhaps the real proof is his opus- in-progress "Alien Love Songs", a 20 song suite akie's been performing songs from live.
California-native SiairaShawn currently calls New York home, the city where she recorded her acclaimed 2013 EP, Ghost and single "Lamb". The singer-songwriter continues to expand and refine her new soul sound with her latest release Flowers While You're Here, a sonically-beautiful trilogy of EP's. Camellia, the first installment is out now with Lily and Iris following later in 2015. SiairaShawn is also a consummate altruist sharing her talent and expertise with youth in educational settings. Day and night, this accomplished artist is living a life of music.
Jazz/Folk singer-songwriter Ashley Daneman is only a few months out from her full-page feature in the prestigious Downbeat Magazine. The March 2015 issue celebrated the release of her debut album Beauty Indestructible. An achievement for any artist but especially for an indie artist without the luxury of a major-label backing. Currently based in NYC, the wife and mother of two kids saw the fulfillment of her album release at 37. Daneman's age should be an unremarkable fact but it's really just a beautiful signpost of the adversities she's overcome on the path to Beauty Indestructible with the bonus that dreams don't have a deadline.
There's an element to the music of David Rothschild that appears casual and comfortable to a listener's ear. But to quote an old ad, don't let the smooth taste fool you. There's a hard-earned craft to his songwriting that belies his EP, Simple Changes. This debut sounds like the lived-in effort of a seasoned veteran. Released February 2015, on the heels of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, David is just getting started with a sound that reminds you of The Band or early 70s Elton John, but of course is distinctively his own.
Christopher Botta calls his music electro-acoustic. An exciting intersection between his laptop and his electric guitar exploring the infinite possibilities between them. A musician, composer and engineer based in Brooklyn, Christopher is the co-founder (with drummer Joseph Branciforte) of the cellar and point, a 7-piece "garage-chamber" group, whose 2014 debut ambit was high-praised by everyone from The Brooklyn Rail to All About Jazz to BBC Radio. He also releases music through his solo project da kid.
To label Mel D. Cole a music photographer seems too thin a description. Yes, he was dubbed as one of Complex magazine's 50 Greatest Music Photographers. Yes, he's the "house photographer" of The Roots crew and Questlove hailed him as his favorite contemporary photographer. And of course, his exquisite black and white photos perfectly capture the performances of artists like Lauryn Hill, Nas and Common. However, Mel is equally adept at travel, nightlife and street photography. His talent is as immense as his creative choices regardless of the setting or subject.
Drummer and composer Ramsey Jones is creating his own legacy. As the oldest of six siblings that included the late rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard, the Brooklyn native has been a force in the New York music scene including 25 years in the Afro-Punk band Funkface. His band appeared in the classic Afro-Punk movie and Ramsey has played with Vernon Reid and of course on several Wu-Tang Clan albums featuring his cousins RZA and GZA.
Soulful singer-songwriter Aaron Pfeiffer is on the precipice of something big. The fellow Pittsburgh native currently lives in New York City. Since his relocation four years ago, he's been on a proactive path to his dreams. Last year he made it to the blind audition of The Voice; this year he has a July residency at NYC's Rockwood Music Hall to celebrate the June release of his debut EP Nightcall. "Can't Shake This", the first single from the EP is available now on iTunes: https://itun.es/us/VrxK6
Jack Rabid has not only lived through New York's early 80s punk movement, he's also a documentarian of the Lower East Side history. As editor/publisher (and co-founded with the late Dave Stein) of The Big Takeover magazine, he's spent the past 35 years detailing music in all its colorful forms. Jack is also a drummer. There was the early DIY band The Even Worse and the '90s critics' darlings Springhouse. He's also done stints with Last Burning Embers and Leaving Trains.
Hip-Hop producer Malik Abdul Rahmaan is an infinite source of music history spanning generations and cultures. It makes sense for the burgeoning musicologist who feels just at home in his Brooklyn residence or his home-away-from-home Tokyo. Malik is big in Japan where his beloved soulful beats keep him never lacking for production work. Everyone wants some of the Malik-style including Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah. His 2014 album 36 Seasons featured no less than three tracks with production by Malik. In addition to helming the sound for others, Malik is an artist in his own right; look out for his forthcoming project under his own name featuring field sounds.
French-American jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant covers the waterfront when it comes to her singular song selection. Songbook standards rub shoulders up against work songs, songs sung in her native French and smart originals. Her first US-release, WomanChild (2013), is the eclectic scene of the crime which has been rewarded by a worldwide fervent fanbase, a Downbeat Jazz Album of the Year and a Grammy Album of the Year nomination. It's been a long two years since WomanChild arrived, but fortunately we'll be rewarded with a late-August follow-up.
Vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles is on the precipice of an exciting new career chapter. Her just released full-length album, Inner Dialogue, expands on the promise of her 2012 EP debut, Red. While the EP represented a moment in time of where she was as a bandleader with her S.E. Charles Quartet, Inner Dialogue captures her present vision. The sophomore album includes a lusher sound and lyrics that are vulnerable in their bare honesty with palette that includes jazz plus two Haitian folk arrangements and the premiere of horns in her music with the presence of co-producer/trumpet player Christian Scott.
Since 2008, Cuban pianist (and composer, producer & educator) Aruán Ortiz has released five albums--- three in 2012! From Alameda in 2010 to his most recent album, Banned in London with the Michael Janisch Quintet in 2012. Ortiz can as easily be found leading his own quartet or in a duo with fellow pianist Bob Glück or as a sideman with talents like Esperanza Spalding and Don Byron.
String Noise are an experimental violin duo comprised of husband and wife Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris. Based in NYC, they've had over 30 new works composed specifically for them since their 2011 inception. Outside of their String Noise collaboration, Conrad and Pauline can be found performing as soloists and also in the case of Conrad, with his group The FLUX Quartet.
Treehaus is the solo music project helmed by pianist/singer/producer Josh Jacobson. Although his 2014 debut, Afterglow, was a Prince-like one man band affair, he regularly performs live in a trio. Lyrically inspired by nature, Afterglow is an impeccable blend of jazz, electronic and even a little respect to his Chicago roots with tinges of house music.
Jesse Cohen is 1/2 of the Brooklyn-based synth duo Tanlines. Their first release, Mixed Emotions, came out in 2012 with the follow-up Highlights in 2015. During the interim, the percussionist has not only spent the time crafting the band's upcoming album, he's been busy hosting his most excellent podcast No Effects with Jesse Cohen. The year-old show not only features Jesse's discussions with fellow musicians like Mapei and How to Dress Well's Tom Krell but also insightful interviews with journalists and actors.
goste is Owen Ross. Owen Ross is goste. Whether he's flying solo or in a band setting, goste effortlessly combines organic and electronic sounds with his beautifully corrosive voice crashing through the mix. The Bushwick resident's latest EP, Eugene, is a deeper exploration of a sound he's been refining since his days at the Berklee College of Music.
Brooklyn singer-songwriter Reni Lane is busy busy busy! What with crafting her next batch of new music, being a spokesperson for the Keezy music creation app and planning her musical reintroduction. It's been five years since the Oregon native's sophomore album and after a brief career hiccup she's returned wiser and never more certain of her direction as an artist.
Jazz singer Nicole Henry possesses all the best qualities of a star: talent, beauty and presence. Of these three gifts, her talent takes centerstage. Over the course of four studio albums (and two live sets), the Miami-based vocalist's supple, versatile instrument has not only honored jazz, but also the blues, soul and originals.
Hailing from Columbus, OH, genre-defying violinist Christian Howes was classically trained on the string instrument from the age of five; an early signpost of the success that would follow him throughout his life. A soloist with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra at 16. Working with the legendary guitar pioneer Les Paul. Praise and accolades from prestigious jazz publications JazzTimes and Downbeat.
Paste Magazine once declared Jerry's Records "The Best Place To Spot World-Renowned Crate Diggers—And Nab a Bargain At The Same Time" in their list of the 17 Coolest Record Stores in America. Owner Jerry Weber has been providing a sanctuary for vinyl junkies and newbies for over 30 years. The Pittsburgh institution currently boasts over 2.5 million records, making it the largest store that only sales used vinyl.
Poet/Hip-Hop Artist Jack Wilson (aka D.J. Brewer) has successfully made the transition from Pittsburgh to New York in the few years since his relocation in 2012. Before he moved, he got his start through slam poetry, representing his hometown at national poetry slams from 2000-2003. During his short time in New York, he's already released three EP's and most recently a mixtape entitled HERE.
Nick Demos is known for his Word of the Day. Faith. Success. Envision. A few examples. He's also a director, creativity coach, web host and a TONY Award-winning producer of the musical Memphis. He also holds artistic retreats and workshops through his non- profit One Healing Arts Company. 2015 will continue his reign of inspiration and creativity with the premiere of his Word of the Day app, directing his first film Policy of Truth and two web TV series' HAG and as the host of The Broadway Style Guide. Nick is also a Hathavidya yoga teacher.
Thirteen albums into a storied career as a singer-songwriter, Darden Smith is also a humanitarian. I'd already been familiar with his music for some time and was intrigued to hear about his non-profit SongwritingWith:Soldiers. His latest album, 2013's Love Calling, is a gorgeous organic tone poem.
I was turned onto Jason Gross and his online magazine Perfect Sound Forever by previous TMT guest Josh Medsker (Episode 007). Created in 1993, PSF is one of the earliest online music publications. He's also the social media manager and a writer/editor at TheBlot, a digital culture publication. Jason's also written for The Wire and Village Voice.
Daniel Givens is a writer, DJ, artist, poet, musician and more. Instead of only discussing 10 of his favorite albums of 2014, I was interested in hearing about his artistic career. It's the conversation that couldn't be contained within an hour.
Josh Medsker hails from Anchorage, Alaska and is the creator/founder of the music & literary 'zine, Twenty-Four Hours. His 'zine is the perfect example of how his writing straddles both music journalism and prose/poetry.
JackLucy describes her music as Urban Folk. It's the amalgamation of a sound that combines two different genres that simultaneously describes what she does and provides a starting point to a larger conversation of eclecticism. She hails from Pittsburgh and currently resides in NYC.
Eric Himan is an indie singer-songwriter with 7 studio albums released including his latest Gracefully. He's sold over 40,000 CD's and this year he opened for and performed with one of his musical heroes Ani DiFranco.
In a clear example of serendipity, I was in a TMT state of mind when I first heard Eyre's amazing voice. I was at the Barclays subway stop in Brooklyn and had just left my producer's studio. I was on a high because we'd completed "Liz"--the TMT theme song I'd written. My train was coming so I hastily typed in Eyre's website in my Notes app and checked out his website. I discovered through his blog he moved from California to New York nine months ago. He eloquently writes about his struggles in pursuing his musical dreams yet somehow maintains a positive attitude that is truly inspiring to anyone who's ever had a dream.
Susan Fast is a musicologist and Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies and Director of the Graduate Program in Gender Studies and Feminist Research at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Michael Jackson's Dangerous for Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series. She has the honor of being the 100th book in the series and coincidentally the first album of Jackson's to be featured.
Von Decarlo is a singer, actress, TV personality, author, mother. Von and I are both from Clairton, PA, a small town outside of Pittsburgh. We were also in the high school band together. I was the drum major and she played clarinet. Von was engaged to comedian Patrice O'Neal and was planning to marry him a month before his untimely death in 2011. In the podcast introduction, I reference that they were married based on our discussion.