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    Latest Hot Track Obsession


    2014 - 07.15

    Here’s a tune I’ve been listening to a lot lately: “C130” by the band Brownout.

    Seems these guys were trying to make something that sounds as big as a C-130 Hercules aircraft, shown here fighting forest fires.  And I’d say they succeeded, in a genre you could justifiably call Cinematic Funk.  It’s pretty huge.

    c-130-2

    I like to play trumpet and it sounds like this


    2014 - 06.28

    So I’m in a band and it’s called “100% Juice” and I think it’s preaaatty cool.  If you like improvised, funky music or electrified horns, I think this is worth your listening time.  I will post more as we create more.

    So far there are 5 tracks up on our Soundcloud although we’ve been playing for over a year now.  We’re selective like that?  The track “Freeze Pop” was recorded using a multi-track interface, the Tascam US-2000.  I’m quite jazzed about the prospects of using this thing to make progressively better and better recordings of the music we’ve been making.

    I will also mention here that if you REALLY like it, there is a continuously rotating directory which hosts our latest and greatest jams in long form, unabridged format, accessible as zip files.  These are also the high-fidelity, sonically-best way of listening to us.  You will hear a clear difference versus the streaming version.  These can be found here:

    http://www.microcosmologist.com/juice/

    Saturday Brunch with The New Mastersounds


    2014 - 04.28

    The New Mastersounds at International Fest in Houston TX.  World Music... well they are from Europe I guess!

    Simon at IF“At this point we’re just making shit up.  I don’t even know what song we were playing there,” jokes Simon Allen from behind the drums as they wrap up an impromptu reggae detour lasting a couple minutes or so.  Midway through Simon had broken into what I’d describe as a dancehall or Caribbean type beat which is something I’ve never heard them do.  Having seen this band enough times to lose count, it was one of the more interesting moments in the show for me.  Rushing out the door to get there, I had debated bringing along my Zoom H4 audio recorder to tape the show but decided not to at the last second since I was pressed for time and wasn’t sure where the windscreen was.  Maybe about 3 tunes in I came to regret that decision; despite my familiarity with their catalog, the brits had again managed to step outside my expectations and bust out some new tricks.

    International Fest in Houston was this weekend and as Eddie noted toward the end of their performance, the first time that The New Mastersounds had visited “H-Town” as an audience member instructed them to call it.  They took a certain pleasure intoning this moniker in the most deliberately anglicized accent they could muster.  Eddie was sporting an off-white suit and Pete (who was announced in a nasal-sounding voice as “Peter” at all times during the show) wore a Brooklyn Bowl shirt, which I thought was pretty cool.  Weather was humid and what you’d call “pretty warm” here in Texas.  Thrice the band saw fit to comment on how hot they thought it was even though as their introducing stage manger explained, “this isn’t even the real heat yet.”

    It was a smooth Mastersounds.  Very much a groovy, jazz-in-the-park style performance, which I enjoyed.  There were two things of particular interest in the set: one, where a solo Eddie Roberts on guitar began their tune “Thermal Bad” stretching in a delicate, bare setting all the way until the B section arrived.  Typically this is a super rocking number, so it was intriguing to hear them give a wholly different take on it.  And sure, they took it there eventually.   But this show wasn’t about the meltdown, it was far more focused on the slow builds and the clear, thoughtful solo, delivered to an audience who had recently finished up a casual afternoon brunch and drank that Saturday coffee as I had.

    Joe Tatton on the keys took it into dreamy, full-on Mister-Rogers-Feeds-The-Fish Mode on the rhodes, drifting our minds off into the sky with those delays and open spaces in his phrasing.  There were some bursts of that dexterity he likes to keep hidden in reserve, and some eyebrow-tilting jaunts into the ‘out’ keys, but for the most part, he kept the dial locked on Spacey.  Which is perfectly fine by me since he doubtlessly excels in that realm.  Similarly, Eddie Roberts showed us in a few brief flourishes that “yeah, I could burn it down if I really wanted to, but hey it’s just our first date here, Houston, and I wanna take it nice and easy you know?  Make it special?”

    The second point of interest was a very gentle and chilled version of “Summercamp.”  The original tune is already laid back as-is, but this live version subtracted the driving percussion during the melody, instead seeing Simon mirroring its rhythm with light taps on the cymbals.  For me this was the coolest part of the show since Summercamp is one of my favorite joints off their most recent two albums and two, it’s always neat to see musicians taking a familiar song and going new directions with it.  Hopefully they return to Houston sooner than later…

    Dat Suit

    You Might Be Cool. But You’ll Never Be ‘Personal Disco Component’-Equipped Cool.


    2013 - 07.02

    So recently I was looking to possibly purchase a boombox and, like I always do, I had to go research this matter and determine what is the coolest possible boombox as a point from which to work backwards in determining my final choice.  And I totally found the coolest boombox.  Ever.  In world history.  It’s this:

    image

    Bear Creek 2012 Recap


    2012 - 11.22

    As previously stated, I attended this year’s Bear Creek music fest purely as a soul-food spectator; no camera, no zoom recorder, no phone, no nothing. Just pure eyes and ears. That was a good decision, a liberating thing that allowed me to savor the experience with no distractions. For those so interested, I’ll go over the highlights from this year.

    Standout Groups:
    1. Headtronics. This was the unknown band that knocked me out. Members include DJ Logic, Freekbass, Will Bernard on guitar, Steve Molitz (keyboardist from Particle), and a live drummer who sorta stayed in the background. I went to watch these guys never having heard of them before, and had zero expectations. We were right in front and damn… my socks were knocked clean off by the end of the first tune. Electronic beats with top-notch musical integration between the players. Will Bernard had some killin solos and Steve Molitz on keyboards held his own too. Out of everything I saw, this one made me go for the dancefloor high score. I definitely want to find a taped recording of this show. This was the unforeseen gem!

    2. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. This one’s more obvious. People had been hyping up this group to me for a long time–they lived up to those expectations. Sharon is the real deal. The new-generation torchbearer in the Aretha Franklin style soul champion lineage. Superb energy, showmanship, passion, and legit vocal chops. In-tune, on-point, and selling it all night. FIRE. I would see this group again in a heartbeat.

    Honorable mention for the Sugarman 3. These guys used simple arrangements with impeccably tasteful sounds for an ensemble greater than the sum of the parts. Solos were short but sweet and the whole deal felt polished & choreographed, in a good way. I bought their new LP afterward.

    Flops I Really Wanted to Like:
    1. The Budos Band. These guys were the biggest disappointment of the fest. I really wanted to love them. I tried hard. I adore their albums, their horn section sounds great, plus their set list for the evening was perfectly selected but… something just didn’t come across live. The energy was lacking, the solos were universally mediocre at best, and the stage banter between tracks was comprised of yelling/cursing. Strange. I would not go see them again. Unfortunate.

    2. Charles Bradley. This guy used to be a James Brown impersonator who then started doing his own material. Awesome concept and I had heard rave reviews of his live performance, however his intonation was off quite often, which turned me off quick. And his dancing came off as silly and laughable to me. Maybe someone else would dig it but not me. Cheesy.

    Standout Solos:
    Big Chief Eric Krasno seemed more mellow this year, perhaps reflecting a deeper, personal contentment with his recent engagement (I know that feel bro!). But he did take the crowd to probably the most intense musical peak of the festival with his solo on Soulive’s “Eleanor Rigby”. That was a major highlight. In later solos he seemed content to let it marinate, particularly in Lettuce’s second set.

    Eddie Roberts also reached for the sky on a thrilling rendition of “Thermal Bad” which gave Krasno a run for his money in my book. You could debate which rollercoaster took you higher, but it would come down to a matter of personal preference: Krasno is more soulful and possibly a little more dexterous in his playing, while Roberts delivers his distinctive articulation style and unimpeachable ability to sustain a long crescendo of energy even atop of a raging band behind him. Either way, those two set the bar.

    Most Silver-Lined Cloud:
    The keyboard player for the New Mastersounds, Joe Tatton, was unable to attend, due to some kind of visa issue. In his place Robert Walter filled in for two whole sets, playing their catalog with a mix of impressive accuracy where appropriate and fascinating divergence where space existed for personal interpretation. Having seen the Mastersounds perform probably close to 20 times now, I have long felt that Tatton is the most unpredictable element of the gig; swinging from bored and unengaged over to fiery and wickedly good–you never know what the night will hold with him. There were multitudes of spots where Robert Walter hit a grand slam on the B3, peppered throughout both sets. I profusely enjoyed seeing this NMS configuration. A delight, unquestionably. I did miss Joe’s top-notch space-outs, effects use, his clean dexterity, and overall sensibility. But this was a treat. I do want to see Joe back at the keys, but seeing this incarnation of my favorite band was probably the best overall highlight of the fest for me. Sort of an alternate reality, ‘what-if’ version of the band. And a badass, enthralling one at that.

    Best Facial Expressions:
    The bass player from Chapter 2, handily. He wins this contest every year with his huge infectious smile, but this time he took it to another level with a deranged look that said “is this for real, or is this really for real?!” Out in the crowd we were giggling and yelling “I know, I KNOW!”

    Most Impressive New Chops:
    Rashawn Ross, the trumpeter for Lettuce, completely blew up their first night with resoundingly powerful, clean, clear high notes and one particularly superb solo; doubtlessly the best I’ve ever heard from him, studio or live. This guy’s been hitting the practice room and it showed.

    Most Promiscuous Sit-Ins:
    Pee Wee Ellis, the elder statesman of tenor sax, decisively had the highest number of guest appearances. He does need a little certain je ne sais qua to ‘push’ him into taking a great solo. He’s capable, of course, but the right mood has to be there. This was best achieved with Ike Stubblefield’s group. Bill called it; “That was the best Pee Wee solo I’ve ever heard.” Indeed.

    Best Musical Interaction:
    Eddie Roberts and Grant Green Junior shared the stage during one tune of the second New Mastersounds set. Grant Green was parked on his barstool and Eddie stood close next to him for an extended session of trading solos. Their trading had a very advanced level of musicianship where they finished each other’s phrases and challenged one another by echoing styles and techniques on top of those continuous riffs. Their facial expressions during this exchange were also humorous as they sought to one-up each other. At the end of it, my buddy Bill laughed and said, “I think Mister Roberts actually got a little bit of a lesson there!” Sort of heartwarming in a way, to see this exchange between different generations of musicians who continue in the tradition that Grant Green Senior began. I’m glad I was there to witness this.

    Craziest Sit-In:
    Perhaps Robert Walter’s presence acted as a tacit invitation for guest appearances with the New Mastersounds because this year saw the largest amount of them out of the three years I’ve been to Bear Creek. In that same second New Mastersounds set, things got crazy when FOUR keyboard players took to the B3 and Rhodes, reaching over each other and elbowing for position in a comical, photogenic moment of sheer keyboard firepower. Included were Nigel Hall, Ike Stubblefield, Robert Walter, and Wil Blades. I yelled to Bill “Joe Tatton, you’ve been replaced!” Bill, ever the defender of Joe, said “no one man can replace Joe.” In spite of the joke, I do agree.

    Most Valuable Player:
    Nikki Glaspie seemed to be not only sitting in with everyone under the sun, but at the helm for several different acts I’ve never seen her with. She played drums both nights for Dumpstaphunk and although memory fails me as to who, she was main drummer for a few other acts as well. Her bombastic style, particularly the way she throws in extra accents and cymbal crashes anywhere but on beat one, has always made me enjoy her playing. She was everywhere at this fest, and dropping serious beats.

    Best Vendor:
    The vendors at this fest are remarkably consistent. Big shout out goes to the Grilled Cheese Wagon, who delivered a toasty and delicious three day run of grilled cheeses, egg wraps, and quesadillas. Why eat anywhere else when these people do it so solid without fail, every single time? Honorable mention to Homegrown music for supplying me with some excellent new shirts and being the worthy recipient of a custom cassette tape I labored over only to have the intended tradee disappear into craigslist oblivion.

    Questionable Redesigns:
    The outdoor purple hat stage remained this year, which is definitely preferable to the tented configuration, sound-wise. They scheduled all affiliated acts consecutively though, which I sort of wish they hadn’t, in the interest of sit-ins and cross-pollination. Friday night the purple hat belonged strictly to Daptone records, and Saturday it strictly belonged to Royal Family records. Admittedly it was cool to see all of their offerings in a row, but still, for interbreeding these awesome musical endeavors, I prefer it mixed up.

    There was also no end-of-the-fest treehouse jam session this year. In its place there was a VIP jam in the barn. We hung out there for a while and were not impressed with the sounds we heard. Don’t know who was playing but it definitely didn’t involve Royal Family, Daptone, or Nawlins. Instead we found a golf cart equipped with a heavy-duty laser light show and hopped on for an epic joyride. We tipped it over by accident, rode it through the woods, beatboxed with random passerbys, eventually arriving at an impromptu drum jam just up the road from our campsite where we spent the rest of the night generally banging on anything that made noise. Those kind of randomized interactions are very much a part of the festival experience and I’m glad there was a window to fit that in. Good. Frickin. Times.

    Greetings from Glorious Bear Creek


    2012 - 11.09

    So me and my pal Billiam are attending our third consecutive Bear Creek Music Festival and I have zero doubts that this one will be just as hot as the previous ones.  Slight twist though: this year I will be attending purely as an observer/enjoyer.  Last year I was granted a press pass and used it as an excuse to rent some cool photo gear like a steadicam and a 2nd camera body.  I also brought along a custom slider I made, which was fun to use.  The results of all this are dutifully recorded under the Bear Creek tag.  It was an awesome experience, no question, but I do admit, when you’re investing energy into chronicling what’s happening, you do miss out on ‘the moment’.

    This year I will be solely devoted to savoring ‘the moment’ as it unfolds.   And that’s gonna be awesome!

    Album Art Feature: Cali Fever


    2012 - 04.30

    Here is one of my favorite LPs in my collection, still in the original plastic wrap, Cali Fever by the band Orgone, from LA.  If it weren’t for the New Mastersounds, I think these guys would probably hold the title of the hottest thing happening today, in my taste.  Vintage production styles, superbly written funk tunes, and a killer instrumentation (namely a super-tight trumpeter & trombonist) round out the reasons to love this band.  Cali Fever’s got a number of gems on it, including the title track.  Get onto Spotify (where you can listen instantly and free) to check out the album Bacano if you’ve never heard these guys.  Also a stellar offering.  Seriously, love, love, love this band.

    Of course, it’s featured here because the album cover is a neat piece of artwork unto itself.

    Soulive: Let’s cut right to a supa funkay keybode so low.


    2012 - 02.23

    More Soulive from Bear Creek 2011!  Break out your pens and papers kids, and take notes; this is what you call a groovin’ keyboard solo.  Fer serious.

    Note, this video has been configured to start playing at 5:34 when Neal’s solo begins.  Jog back to the beginning if you wanna watch the whole glorious endeavour.

    Soulive in Star Filtery Glory


    2012 - 01.23

    Ok, I lied, there are more awesome videos from Bear Creek.  In the clip below, I set the player to start at 7 minutes in (you can do this by adding &start= and then the number of seconds to the embed code), so it jumps straight to the awesome part with the wicked star filter action. Feel free to rewind if you dig these styles! Man! Just look at that guitar! It’s magically delicious!

     

    The Microcosm of Bear Creek 2011, Captured via Photography


    2012 - 01.13

    Okay, at long, long last, here it is. All of my favorite shots from Bear Creek. Grab something to drink, put on some tunes, and get comfortable before you dig in! And don’t forget that fullscreen button! There’s too much hotness here to even describe, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Turn on the titls (click “show info”) if you want some IDs on who you’re lookin at. Enjoy!