Dutcher Snedeker

Pianist and Collaborator

2017: Plans for this Page

So 2017 is here! A whole new year for concerts, albums, projects, and musicians to enjoy! I thought I would take time to outline some goals that I have for this blog.

Basically, this thread has served as a dump from my previous Wordpress site and a list of playlists spanning 2 fall seasons. The content that migrated over to this page initially was geared towards articles promoting collaborations I was involved in at the time I was studying at Grand Valley State University. This ranged from contemporary classical ensemble concerts to improvisatory house shows, serving as way to highlight the diverse talent that I was grateful to be working with at the time. It then moved to playlists built around musical exploration and taste, beginning with the overly ambitious "album per day" weekly playlist and recently spawning the "track per day" playlist.

While it definitely helped to condense the content into something more digestible, I thought it wouldn't necessiraly make for an interesting read. Many sites and musicians cobble together music to listen to, but with so many platforms auto-building playlists and discovery tools into their platform, it's just another thing to compete with on the internet. There are opportunities for more conversation and more room to educate with descriptors with more personalized arrangements of playlists, and I enjoy making them. However, I can't ignore the fact that weeks have either been rushed to the deadline, missed the deadline entirely with too little context on the song, or have been missed entirely due to my schedule.

Now, what 2017 gives me is an opportunity to properly start, a chance to craft a wider variety of articles not just for my own catharsis, but to grow as a writer and deliver more interesting write-ups for this website. This will include playlists and details on current collaboration projects, but I also want it to be a platform to try out different styles of content related to music and other interests. Consistency is key, so I'm looking to more effectively organize my time and efforts around daily writing habits.

I was once told that a website can easily turn into a shrine to self-image, and when I initially made this site on Squarespace I definitely took that wrote without realizing it. If you couldn't tell between the photos and sprawled layout, it was set up poorly and overloaded with too many ideas and too many ill-formed concepts. Now, as I go into the second half of my second year owning this site, I hope to stretch and test the value of renewing this domain. I'm excited to better connect with people that visit this site and spend less time shouting to myself in my own little corner of the internet.

So let's enjoy 2017 together, and delight in new possibilities and career ventures! 

Week Off, Back on the 11th!

So as you may have noticed, I did not post last night. I was away all weekend doing some gigs, and I had to play catch up on grad school work going into the final week of classes. 

So, next Sunday will be full of holiday cheer! Take this week to enjoy sinking into the holiday season. Feel free to browse the previous weeks for tunes you may have missed!

Sunday Sampler Week 5: The Gang's All Here!

This week features some great music groups on a large scale, ranging from iconic funk bands to legendary fusion groups. The larger a band gets, it can be a challenging to wield an increasingly unruly beast, but these bands pull it off amazingly! Plus, within each group is a ton of new musicians!

Something by Snarky Puppy (feat. Lalah Hathaway)
For those not yet hip to the beast that is Snarky Puppy, feel free to drool as you pour over hours of listening material. The North Texas born fusion group seamlessly layers rock, funk, pop, and a host of cultural music genres to create a sound all their own. The group is fearlessly lead by bassist/composer/producer Michael League, who has recruited some of the world’s best musicians to delight the ears and challenge the concept of a fluid, dynamic live ensemble. Boasting multiple keyboard players, percussionists, horns/winds, and guitars, each member is fully capable of leading groups of their own (and many do). They are able to take advantage of their large group by doing frequent collaborations with other artists, and with their collaboration with Lalah Hathaway on Family Dinner: Vol 1, they won the Grammy in 2014 for Best R&B Performance. What Lalah Hathaway does with her voice towards the end of her solo pretty much justifies the Grammy, and the band’s reaction in the live video says it all. 

Micro Clown by Funky Knuckles
As if one multi-genre incorporating fusion group wasn’t enough for my ears to handle, over the past year I’ve been digging into the inventive, daring music of Funky Knuckles. This group of musicians are stitched together by their passion for exploring funky grooves, flexing their musical chops, and pushing themselves musically to create a dynamic, engaging experience for their audience. These musicians are all also sidemen for a host of legendary musicians, including Stanley Clarke, Erykah Badu, Chris Dave, and Talib Kweli. The group is also signed to the same label as Snarky Puppy (GroundUp Music), which is a fitting label for a large group pushing the boundaries of their sound. Check out a recent video a tune called “Me Too,” off of their most recent album New Birth

Starfire by Jaga Jazzist

In 2002, the BBC gave their “best album” recognition to this group’s second release, A Living Room Hush. From then on, this Norwegian experimental jazz group has toured the globe, bringing their unique blend of electronic and acoustic sounds. They have collaborated on a record with another large ensemble, the Britten Sinfonia, performing their music orchestrated for an even larger, more sprawling combination of the two groups. "That Live with Britten Sinfonia was an album not necessarily intended to happen at the time of the recording only makes its release all the sweeter. This 35-piece marriage of Jaga Jazzist and Britten Sinfonia is capable of everything from earth-shattering power to refined beauty. With Britten conducted by the world-renowned Christian Eggen, Live with Britten Sinfonia is the vital document of an opportunity that no longer need feel missed by so many Jaga fans around the world—an album that, transcending their already significant accomplishments, demonstrates even greater potential for Lars Horntveth's writing and Jaga Jazzist's effortless (and faultless) performances." (John Kelman) Go enjoy their music, and check out a live performance of the two ensembles in this video!

Let’s Groove by Earth, Wind, and Fire

Grammy winning, iconic pioneers of future funk sound bursting with soul, this band has made their mark in American music history. This track, from their album Raise!, sold over a million  copies and had a music video that was the first ever to play on BET’s “Video Soul.” Not much is needed to be said about this group, as they are a household name in entertainment, performance, and funk music. With Maurice White’s leadership and the combined songwriting efforts of multiple members, they have received awards and have been inducted into multiple Hall of Fames for their catalog of iconic music. You can even see their influence in the artists of today (ex. Bruno Mars’ music video for Treasure is stylized off of this tune’s video).

P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up) by Parliament

Pioneers of funk and lead by funk wizard George Clinton, this group was paramount in not only defining a genre, but incremental in bringing about social change. Their shameless display of their sound and ways of expressing their black identities in the face of opposition, P-Funk continues to operate under Flying Lotus’ label, Brainfeeder. Their story is full of surprises, including operating under and marketing a completely different name to avoid copyright issues. Check out this live performance!

Voodoo Mon Amour by Diablo Swing Orchestra

Another mixed instrument band from Scandanavia, this group blends several genres into an exciting take on a “swing orchestra.” One moment you’ll hear driving thrash metal riffs from the guitars, the next you’ll hear operatic vocals overtop of it all. They craft their own sound from a distinct blend of their various instruments and genre influences. Who says you can’t have a swinging rock band that includes orchestral instruments and classical vocal styles? Check out their bass player playing through the tune!

Askim by Kamasi Washington

While Kamasi Washington has headed more traditional ensembles, his debut release, The Epic, shows a desire to create an expansive sound through a double-combo setup. This includes electric and acoustic basses and keyboards, two drummers, and two horns players with a singer at the front of the group. It strays from a traditional big band setup because of the double rhythm section and the fact that there are a balance of horns in different sections. Washington has been a force of nature in the realm of jazz, and The Epic is a fully realized vision of what music he wants to showcase to the world. Check out this amazing concert!

Can You Get To That by Funkadelic

This sister act to Parliament was also led by George Clinton, taking their psychedelic, rock fueled funk into a decade of music. What makes this group stand out from Parliament is that it is more experimental in nature. Their first three albums, including Maggot Brain (the album this track is on), were not commercially successful, in spite of many tunes from those albums being performed live in their sets for years. Again, the stories around George Clinton’s projects could fill several books, and he continues to make great music and seek out creative musicians to round out his groups. Check out Funkadelic performing in this video! 

The Peacocks by Matt Ulery’s Loom/Large (feat. Zach Brock)

Matt Ulery expands his jazz group Loom to include a 27 piece orchestra, complete with different arrangements to include the mix of strings, rhythm section instruments, and winds/horns that make up this big band. Matt Ulery has been featured in a previous article, so you can find out more about his background there and on his website!

Flight by Snarky Puppy (feat. The Metropole Orkest)

I decided to feature Snarky Puppy twice because this project highlights a different style AND a project collaboration with the Dutch ensemble known as The Metropole Orkest, an orchestra that is as comfortable recording classical as they are functioning as a big band. The versatility of Snarky Puppy is complimented by the flexibility of The Metropole Orkest, creating some interesting moments of interaction and orchestration for the super large group combination. Check out a live performance of this tune here!

Sunday Sampler Week 4: Everything is Connected

One reason that I love listening to so many different artists is that so many artists collaborate together and can be found on so many different projects. This goes beyond simply featuring a guest soloist at a rock show, as those kinds of collaborations are temporary. I refer to artists sharing their talents on projects of other equally talented artists, sometimes not necessarily in their genre or music scene. The playlist for this week threads through 10 tracks, along the way passing through staple songwriters, popular electronic artists, and spiritual jazz artists, all the while highlighting links from track to track. So for those who like a little music history with their playlist, enjoy this week's selection!



Melatonin by A Tribe Called Quest

A staple of 90s hip hop, this group made a triumphant return to the music scene with their latest release, We Got It from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service. This album's single, "We The People," electrified the stage on a recent broadcast of SNL, hosted by comedian Dave Chappelle. One of the original socially conscious hip hop artists, these artists carve out their own positions and interpretations of dozens of issues facing the black community today. They have received recognition for their efforts in not only alternative hip hop music, but for intelligent, thought-provoking rap. They also bring several others in on the conversation as guest artists, including Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, and Kendrick Lamar. Not only was Lamar a guest artist on the album, but Q-Tip, on one of the founding members of A Tribe Called Quest, appeared on Kendrick Lamar's track "You" and was also inspired by Lamar when creating this new album. Q-Tip was also appointed as the Kennedy Center's first "Artistic Director for Hip Hop Culture" this year!

Fall in Love by Slum Village

Another iconic hip hop group from the 1990s, this Detroit-born group continues to perform music around the country. The original lineup included rappers Baatin (died in 2009) and T3, along with producer J Dilla (died in 2006). They have worked with a variety of artists, including Q-Tip, D'Angelo, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Pete Rock. They cut their teeth in the underground hip hop scenes in Detroit, often performing at open mics with fellow rappers like Eminem. The have put out material as recent as 2015, with different members coming in and out of the group along the way, including J Dilla's younger brother Illa J. Check out this video for some recent material, and keep an eye out on this group, who no doubt will try and follow A Tribe Called Quest's lead in some capacity. 

Complexion (A Zulu Love) by Kendrick Lamar

One of the many great tracks off of To Pimp A Butterfly, this tune is as harmonically infectious as it is rhythmically grooving. Kendrick Lamar speaks to skin color, a recurring justification for years of black oppression from white Americans and a constant reminder of his position in the world in spite of his fame. The album takes nods from 90's hip hop as well, blending together elements of black American music to form the accompanying instrumentals to his rap verses. I have been diving into this album to write a research paper, which I will be happy to tag once it is completed at the end of the semester! A guest artist on this track is Rapsody, who speaks on complexion with her own perspective, one that she outlines in spoken word form in this video.

Tell Me A Bedtime Story by Robert Glasper Experiment

The connections here are pretty distinct, because Robert Glasper has been known in recent years for his collaborative spirit when crafting listening experiences (check out Black Radio 1 and 2). He has worked with Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp A Butterfly, he has worked with guests that also appear on that release (Bilal, Terrace Martin, Snoop Dogg, etc), AND Glasper is covering a Herbie Hancock tune, who is an influence on the fusion style of this new release (ArtScience) and keyboardist who collaborated with Glasper on the music for the recent Miles Davis biopic (Miles Ahead). This tune was originally written for a soundtrack supporting Fat Albert, a cartoon created on the experiences of producer Bill Cosby. The tune originally featured Herbie Hancock (synthesizers/keyboards), Joe Henderson (tenor sax, alto flute), Joe Farrell (tenor sax), Garrett Brown (trombone), Johnny Coles (trumpet, flugelhorn), Joe Newman (trumpet), Buster Williams (bass), Albert Tootie Heath and Bernard Purdie (drums), and Eric Gale (guitar). There is a great writeup of ArtScience on Pitchfork and a short video from Glasper detailing the concept. 
 

Betcha Wouldn't Hurt Me by Quincy Jones

This track from his album, The Dude, features singer Patti Austin and iconic musician Stevie Wonder on synthesizer. The slick production, quality team of musicians, and careful attention to broad appeal through varying music styles (combining funk and jazz) makes this album an overlooked classic. During the year it debuted, it took home 3 Grammys, adding to the massive list of accolades from Quincy Jones. Seriously, this man has been a musician, music and TV producer, and film score composer. He has worked with dozens of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson (iconic album Thriller), and Miles Davis, to name a few. His TV work includes multiple seasons producing The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (discovering Will Smith in the process) and MAD TV. His film compositions include the Steven Spielberg adaptation of The Color Purple, as well as TV theme compositions for shows like Sanford and Sons and The Cosby Show. He continues to produce great talent and blow my mind with how much success a man can have in his lifetime, as he recently turned 83. 

You've Got It Bad Girl by Stevie Wonder

This tune is from an album called Talking Book, an album more famous for the tracks "You and I, "Superstition," and "You Are The Sunshine of My Life." To say that Stevie Wonder isn't an American treasure is to deny his sheer catalog of quality songwriting. His music spans generations, moving from Motown to now, and continues to inspire new musicians. He may have been blind, but his musical senses were in top form as a composer, band leader, collaborator, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. He's earned 22 Grammys and a lifetime achievement award for his music, and he continues to perform today. Here's a clip of him performing another iconic hit, "Don't You Worry About A Thing," on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

You And I by Jacob Collier

This kid has been on my radar for years, starting with seeing a video of a young Jacob Collier performing his self-produced, multi-instrumental arrangement of "I Saw Three Ships" on YouTube at 16 years old. He cites Talking Book as his first purchased album and the beginning of his lifelong obsession with Stevie Wonder, who no doubt informs his songwriting. I'm a fanboy for sure, backing him on his Patreon to get a shirt with my autographed copy of his debut album, in addition to having a short melody harmonized by him (currently backlogged from his busy touring schedule). He's got the talent of generations of musicians (growing up in a musical family), the education from the Royal Academy of Music in London (where his mother conducts their orchestra), and the production/financial backing of Quincy Jones. He's blazing a trail of quality music with a truly joyful spirit, and if you aren't hip to him you will be blown away by his talent. If you want more of his vocal arrangement skills to add to your holiday playlist, check out this arrangement of "White Christmas" he wrote The Manhatten Transfer and Pentatonix. 

Bye Bye Blackbird by John Coltrane

This live track was released as part of a series of previously unreleased tracks from Pablo Records. This 1962 recording features Coltrane (saxophones), Elvin Jones (drums), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and McCoy Tyner (piano). This year marked a Coltrane in transition, further pushing the sounds of the instrument in the jazz genre while still harmonically exploring concepts first played in Giant Steps. This year was also when Coltrane met his second wife Alice Coltrane, who in 1966 went on to replace McCoy Tyner in his group. I own this vinyl release, I found it at the WYCE dollar drive held at the Easttown Street Fair, and it is definitely an interesting recording for jazz historians to check out. 

Turiya and Ramakrishna by Alice Coltrane

Alice Coltrane was a Detroit native, American jazz pianist with classical training, organist, harpist, singer, composer, swamini, and second wife/supporting keyboardist to John Coltrane. This conceptual tune is off of her third release, Ptah, the El Daoud, and includes Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson as the horn players (first release with horns). The album was named for the Egyptian god Ptah, "The El Daoud," meaning "the beloved." "Turyia," according to the liner notes, "was defined by Alice as 'a state of consciousness - the high state of Nirvana, the goal of human life,'" while "Ramakrishna was a 19th-century Bengali religious figure (taken from Wikipedia). Here is a video of her performing in Bombay, a testament to her exploration of the spiritual discovery through music with Eastern musicians. 

Never Catch Me by Flying Lotus (featuring Herbie Hancock, Thundercat, and Kendrick Lamar)

Flying Lotus is a household name in electronic music, from his imaginative art styles to his body of modern production work (including To Pimp a Butterfly) to his spirited collaborations within his distinctly sounding music. He runs the label Brainfeeder, signing artists like Thundercat, Parliament/Funkadelic, and his alter ego hip hop persona, Captain Murphy. His music can frequently be heard as the bumper tracks on Adult Swim. He is the grandson of Marilyn McCleod (influential figure on his music, collaborated with Jermaine Jackson and Diana Ross) and the grand nephew of Alice and John Coltrane. He is a modern force to be reckoned with, and I can't wait for his next album. Here is the music video for this track, another look into Flying Lotus' creative brain as a short film director. 

Sunday Sampler Week 3: Friends in High Places

Another week, another great opportunity to check out new music!

This week, I decided to start a series within this series, a feature I like to call “Friends in High Places.” This playlist focuses on musicians that I have met in my experiences as a musician, people that are great to be around and work hard at their craft. I may have also been a part of their projects too, which is always fun to do. Being a musician with other busy musician friends, it’s hard to see their shows or be on top of everything that they do, but this playlist serves to highlight some great musicians!

All of these performers work in Michigan, mainly on the west side of the state and most of them live in my hometown, Grand Rapids. Hope you enjoy! Feel free to share other artists from your homes in the comments if you have recommendations!

(Note: The new deadline for this will be evening on Sundays, shooting for ahead of 8 pm)



Maybe by Benjaman James

I recently met Benjaman James through some mutual friends who had been gigging with him over the past year. Since he’s a Traverse City native, I’m not often that far north because it’s a long drive from Grand Rapids. When this past summer wrapped up, I had the chance to carpool up to fill in on a gig with him and I got to see what a hard-working, fun-loving musician he was to work with on these gigs. He’s an MSU grad that focused on engineering and music, and from the first gig I worked with him I could see he had a clear plan for his music from budgeting recording time to booking some great events. I got to play a live taping at InsideOut Gallery of Stateside with Cynthia Canty (Michigan Public Radio) as the house band with him! This track is off of his recently released debut EP titled Growing Pains, featuring some great music and some awesome Michigan talent!

City of Sin by Eric Engblade

Eric Engblade is a West Michigan staple in folk driven singer-songwriter music that’s been engaging audiences for years! I unknowingly saw him live with his previous group, Northern Skies, at Festival of the Arts, at first only noticing that our mutual friend Jeremy Niemeier (formerly in Fauxgrass, toured with Shawn MacDonald) was on stage shredding on his electric violin. I then met him through mutual friends that gig with him frequently, and the rest is history! I’ve had some shows with him while gigging with The GravesTones (Billy’s Lounge, Founders Brewing, etc) and I’ve gotten to see him perform a couple times outside of that, and I’m always impressed with his stage presence and ability to connect with an audience. He’s a talented musician, a great friend to many, and soon to be a father! I encourage you to check out his shows and buy his album! 

Bluenose Baby by Megan Dooley

I first saw Megan Dooley perform solo on a New Year’s Eve show at Rockford Brewing Company, one that included The GravesTones. She had such a great sound to her music, a simple duo of guitar or ukulele with her voice. Her inspiration draws from a bevy of American styles from blues to folk to jazz and back again, all the while engaging audiences with her friendly personality. Her album, Made in Kalamazoo, is a testament to her roots in the area, as she grew up in the city, continues to perform around the area, had her album funded by the Kalamazoo Arts Council, and she continues to run the Wednesday night open mic at Louie’s Trophy House Grill, a venue that I was introduced to from a show with a group called Mizpah. Go look up her website, bring the whole family and all of your friends to her next show, you’re in for a treat!

We’re So Lonely by Vox Vidorra

So this group is one of my favorites around town, because they have that classic old school vibe with new school applications. They have a solid band, great song writing, and they wrap it all up in a great live show that has taken them very far over the past few years. Plus, when you zoom in on the other aspects of the band, you see that the singer and her bass-playing husband recently opened Creston Brewery, a place that not only makes its own unique brew selections but also serves up a Mexican inspired menu! Gotta love musicians that dig great eats and drinks! This track has a music video showing different parts of Grand Rapids, which is always fun to see, and these guys are all great people! I had the pleasure of meeting them at a show put together at Mexicains Sans Frontieres, one of the premiere independent venues in town. It was Brad Fritcher + Trois, Vox Vidorra, and Modern Mayors, three awesome groups rocking a great party/show, one definitely for the books! Check out this group’s debut album, go eat all their tasty food, and check out their website for details on their shows!

A Clever Disguise of a Human to a Mongoose by The Underground Circus

This group was a lot of awesome things, more than just quirky titles hinting at music off the beaten path. This was a collection of great musicians from around Grand Rapids rallying behind bearded bass man Justin Avdek to realize a vision he’s had for the last few years. Combining the exploratory natures of jazz, the fierce identity built around funk, and the genre bending styles of fusion, we have an album that was successfully realized at Amber Lit Audio. It includes tunes mainly by Avdek, with some contributing tunes and ideas from the rest of the group. Get down with some weird funk, tell a friend, hit up the project’s Facebook page to contact for gigs and to buy an album! 

Rise and Shine by Cameron Blake

Cameron Blake is a singer-songwriter I met over the summer who had already been recording a sizable album with a lot of the same friends that turned me on to Benjaman James (and recorded his album too). The man is a poet, a charitable man, and an artist who elevates his poetry through folk infused instrumentations with classical nods. His new album boasts collaborations with jazz artists, symphony musicians, and choirs with arranged parts! He’s built up a following over his years and he’s built up quite a sum in supportive donations towards this large project, account for every minute expenditure to realize his vision. I encourage you to go see his shows, his music can be both moving and getting you up and moving! 

Canoe by Steve Talaga (ft. Andy Szumowski & Tom Lockwood)

This album, a solid release that dropped a few years ago, features a great trio of great jazz professionals that can be found in West Michigan. I met Steve Talaga in high school at the Aquinas College Jazz Camp, where Tom Lockwood could also be found, and I met Andy Szumowski at a local show in Grand Rapids. I believe it might have been the same Vox Vidorra show mentioned above! This album shows their tight musicianship, attention to finer details when recording jazz born out of a traditional sound, and their creative expressions on their respective instruments. You can check online to find out more about their projects/backgrounds, and I definitely encourage you to find a chance to see them play! They may be involved in other projects, but it just shows how communicative and collaborative the jazz scene is in West Michigan.  

Let Go by All Is Well

I was introduced to this band simply by knowing my percussionist buddy and fellow GVSU graduate, Nathan Coles, who drums for the band. Since first seeing their album release show at The Pyramid Scheme, I’ve tracked this group’s progress over the past couple of years, and it’s exciting to watch. They went from hours of rehearsals and putting out an EP to consistently playing shows that connect their sound with like-minded audiences and bands around the Midwest. They’ve opened for groups like Little Tybee and This Town Needs Guns, in addition to regularly collaborating with local artists like The Fever Haze. If you’re a fan of indie post-rock goodness, look no further than these guys. I was happy to even book them at Mulligan’s over the summer, they were so gracious in accepting! Go show these guys love on their website and check out their tunes! 
 
Movin On by Isaac Norris

I’ve known this man since I was in grade school with his two kids, but I had no idea he was an active musician on the Grand Rapids scene until I did a year in Big Band Nouveau and found out he was in the tenor sax section. Since reconnecting, I’ve seen him hustle and work hard to put out the tunes he wants to create, all while taking care of a family and working as an architect. He’s a clear example that no schedule can deny motivation to make music, so get hip to his album and check out the next show The Isaac Norris Project puts together! (Also, I recorded the synth solo on this track!)

Love Vertigo by Andy Frisinger

I met Andy through a gigging opportunity subbing in for some gigs, and I got to know him and his band’s style over the course of a couple years! It was awesome to mix his brand of grooving music with classic tunes from the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Jamiroquai (to name a few). He slays on saxophone, soothes on vocals, and he’s all about putting on a fun show and enjoying the company of his musicians, both on and off stage. He’s a Grand Haven musician you’ve gotta go see, and you also better be ready for his next release! Check out his website to find out when he’s playing next! Word on the street is he is working on new music too!

Sunday Sampler Week 2: Jazz Roots with Many Branches

Title cliche aside, this week is about jazz! Aside from a couple of tunes on the list, many of these tracks are related to jazz! We have contemporary crossovers, a classic quintet, some great examples of fusion, and some interesting takes overall of how to base tunes around jazz elements. You can hear influences ranging from how jazz approaches rhythms to harmonies, from style to common practices from musicians (i.e. improvisation). Feel free to make other suggestions and to check out the accompanying videos. Enjoy your week of tunes!
 


Dean Town by Vulfpeck

This track has a bass groove that couldn't escape my ears this week, having seen their music video of the track on Facebook before listening to it with the full release of their new album, The Beautiful Game. Vulfpeck has a lot of internet hype boosting the success of their albums and live show experiences. The Ann Arbor based group formed at the University of Michigan with the idea of emulating the legendary session artists from the 1960s (Funk Brothers, Muscle Shoals, etc). This funk band is made up of Jack Stratton (keys, guitar, and drums), Theo Katzman (guitar and drums), Joe Dart (bass), Woody Goss (keys), and they are the contemporary response to classic groups like Pleasure. Get down with this track, and those of you who are musicians, join me in learning the tune on bass!

Arithmophobia by Animals As Leaders

I've loved Animals As Leaders from the minute I finished listening to their debut release, originally just a solo project from guitarist Tosin Abasi. Now, with a trio including guitarist Javier Reyes and drummer Matt Gartska, the band has blazed a trail with virtuosic instrumentals, inventive compositions, and an engaging display of talent in their live shows. This track from their upcoming release, The Madness of Many, is clear that while the group continues to push themselves musically, you can hear the roots of their sound from the first album release. If you're curious as to how Tosin Abasi navigates an extended range guitar, check out this video of him showing some very interesting guitars in his collection of custom instruments. 

Saturn Hola Hoop by Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra

This group was a very unexpected finding from my Spotify Discovery playlist this week. The Berlin-based group includes 18 high-demand musicians dedicated to feeding their various musical experiences through an experimental machine. Each concert, festival, and album is entirely curated around their music, which now includes over 80 orchestrated works. Their sound explores various textures, sounds, and fluid compositional structures. Their director, Daniel Glatzel, gives a more in-depth interview explaining the group. If you don't believe that they can perform a tune like this live, check out this live performance video!

Bus in These Streets by Thundercat

Thundercat has made a name for himself in so many music fan circles. His sense of creative style, his synthesis of funk, fusion, and electronics into a distinct musical sound, and his increasing collaborations (George Clinton, Herbie Hancock, Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar to name a few) have made him a household name. He's constantly surprising me with his inventive compositions and virtuosity on his 6-string bass guitar. This track is also co-produced by KNOWER member Louis Cole, which is definitely clear when you listen to the drumming and the samples used. This song definitely reminds me of some sort of old-school 70's children's TV show! If you want to check out a music video, here's a video of a track from his recent EP release, a tune called Them Changes

Overtime by KNOWER

KNOWER is a Los Angeles based group that continues to excite the internet with their cool videos and their ability to fuse dance music, funk, electronics, and jazz (some say electropop funk). Both artists started working together after Louis Cole was encouraged by Jack Conte (Pomplamoose, CEO of Patreon) to start producing his own music. Since the group's inception, they have made several albums and have collaboarted with a host of artists, including Dennis Hamm (keys for Thundercat), Tim Lefevbre (Tedeschi Trucks, Donny McCaslin, etc), and Snarky Puppy (on Family Dinner Volume 2). While they often perform as a duo, they have recently been touring with additional members for KNOWER Live Band, which you can check out here1

On Green Dolphin Street by The Miles Davis Quintet

This live recording is part of a 2-volume set entitled In Person Friday Night at the Blackhawk, San Francisco. The legendary quintet features performers Hank Mobley (sax), Miles Davis (trumpet), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Wynton Kelly (piano), and Paul Chambers (bass). The collection, re-released digitally by Sony Records, charted at #9 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums Chart. If you're a fan of great musicianship, or if you are looking for an album to study as a jazz musician, this is definitely one for you to check out!

Amphibians Night Out by Mattias IA Eklundh

Mattias Eklundh is a Swedish musician that has made a name for himself in the world of virtuosic electric guitar playing. His sound revolves around almost comically displays of expert guitar playing, including a strong command of extended techniques, variety in his sound, and technical facility used to facilitate crazy compositions. He has worked with a variety of artists worldwide, and is known for his "Freak Guitar" approach to life, whether it is playing on his custom Applehorn guitars or giving guitar summits on his playing style. If you want to see this man in action, check out the music video for this tune!

Stella By Starlight by The Robert Glasper Trio

Last week, we had Robert Glasper Experiment bassist Derrick Hodge featured in the playlist, but this group is an entirely different unit. We have Robert Glasper on piano, Vicente Archer on bass, and Damon Reid on drums. This jazz classic comes from an album called Covered, which features a collection of arranged cover tunes from the group spanning from John Legend to Radiohead. The album was recorded, audio and video, live from Capitol Records, so feel free to browse!

Seven Ways Til Sunday by T.R.A.M.

This supergroup includes Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes from Animals As Leaders, Adrian Terrezas Gonzalez (Mars Volta, Transient) and drummer Eric Moore (Gospel Chops, Suicidal Tendencies, etc), and it features a distinct blend of styles to create an entirely new sound. They compromise their various influences to creatively display each player's talents, and the Sumerian Records release stands out as a an album that left fans wanting more. You can check out a rare live performance of another tune, HAAS Kicker, from 2011 in this video!

Sunday Sampler Week 1: Eclectic Tastes

Hello! Thanks for checking out this blog post, one that I'm trying to update more regularly with a different posts. This particular series is one that I've always wanted to do, but never really executed in a manageable way. If you scroll down, you'll see that for awhile I tried to listen to a new album every day, which is exhausting as it was stripping the joy out of music discovery. By making a playlist of different tunes rather than entire albums, I am avoiding the overwhelming task of trying to critique dozens of songs while being able to delight in a variety of styles. 

These weekly installments will be published every Sunday at 2 pm EST, so you can go out into the week enjoying each week's playlist. Let me know what you think! 


In A Trance by Hiromi (w/ Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips)

Hiromi Uehara is one of the musicians that when you find out about her, you are instantly on board with everything she does. Born in Hamamatsu, Japan, she has made a name for herself as a pianist force to be reckoned with, both in classical and jazz performance. She has a myriad of projects and appearances under her belt, including touring with the Stanley Clarke Band, performing with Chick Corea at age 17, a variety of solo albums, her trio, and her fusion group SonicBloom. Her new trio album, Spark, dropped this year, and this track is a fiery way to kick off the release. It showcases the technically virtuosity of Hiromi and the tight execution of the music from her trio.

If you are grooving to this tune and want more, I definitely suggest this video of "Kung Fu World Champion," the first track I ever listened to by Hiromi! This video is unfortunately an incomplete live performance, but it is the trio I remember and it is from the time when Hiromi's giant hairstyle was in full force.

Hout by Louis Andriessen

If you have any knowledge of 20th century classical development, you probably hear names tossed around like Schoenberg, Stravinsky, John Cage, or Steve Reich. You may have also heard of the term "minimalism," used to described composed music that builds gradually on simple, repetitive material. While Reich is a household name in American minimalism, there are other champions of the style with their own unique executions of the sound. Louis Andriessen, a Dutch pianist and composer currently teaching at the Royal Conservatory at The Hague, has a particular sound that allows his music to stand above the fray. Composed works are often written for an ensemble made of electric guitars, electric basses, and congas paired with traditional orchestral instrumentation. He also takes inspiration from the energy in big band music (i.e. Count Basie, Stan Kenton, etc) Igor Stravinsky and Claude Vivier. This particular work is a canon, but with the voices so close together that it creates this melody that sounds like it is fed through a delay pedal. The piece is very difficult to perform, and I was fortunate to see members of New Music Detroit and the Bang on a Can All Stars perform this piece twice.

If you enjoy this, feel free to check out my performance at Bang on a Can 2016 of Andriessen's piece "Hoketus," an exciting piece that uses a "hocket" within a minimalistic texture. This technique dating back to the medieval times that involves dividing up a melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic line between multiple players in an alternating fashion. 

Midnight - Solo by Lianne La Havas

What can I say about Lianne La Havas? Her voice is captivating, instantly drawing the listener into her experiences and deep into the heart of her songs. I first heard about her through a documentary called The Distortion of Sound, and then proceeded to find a performance of her singing "Tease Me" by herself, accompanied by her guitar playing. The emotion behind her delivery paired with the hypnotic guitar playing had me sold in seconds. She has such a great sense of artistry in her music, whether it's with her full band (as heard on the 2015 release Blood) or on this 2016 release of solo/acoustic songs titled Blood Solo EP. 

If you want more of her music (as I always do), feel free to look at her NPR performance, where she is accompanied by her pianist/backing singer James Wyatt and additional backing singer Frida Mariama Touray. Part of the video description, by Suraya Mohamed, sums it up best: The first time I saw La Havas live, I was unprepared for the experience: Her music touched my heart in a way I'd never experienced before. I cried through the entire performance. Her music was that powerful, with lyrics woven together with beautiful harmonies; it pulled emotions out of me I didn't even know existed."

The Second by Derrick Hodge

Typically when you see Derrick Hodge on stage, it is with the Robert Glasper Experiment, a group that introduced me to his grooving sound on their 2012 Grammy-winning release Black Radio and the 2013 follow-up Grammy-winning album Black Radio 2. However, it is clear that Hodge's experience in bass playing also applies to recording and composing, as he has worked with a wide variety of artists, including director Spike Lee, composer Osvoldo Golijov, Common, Timbaland, Mos Def, and Jill Scott. This release is the follow up to his first solo debut, Live Today, and it showcases Hodge's tastes in music and attention to writing around the bass. Feel free to check out both albums, and check out a video of him performing an improvised work (utilizing a Ditto Looper) in this video

Low Feels Blvd by Dillinger Escape Plan

This band is hard to define, as their sound could easily be described as a a hornets nest inside a jar of nails tumbling in a dryer as much as it could be a haunting jazz-inspired ballade echoing the pain of the soul. Every album they have put out shows how effortlessly they thrive in controlled chaos, eschewing conventional song structures in favor of raw personality dictating their performances. Their technical facility is clearly in rhythmic precision, because as you sift through the dissonance you hear the group commanding each song no matter how impossible it is to decipher. The world of music academia needs to hear the Dillinger Escape Plan, the average music listener needs their musical scope challenged by their blend of styles, and the metal community knows them well and dreads their departure (this is the band's final album). I can speak from multiple shows that they can take this frenetic energy to the stage AND put on an unforgettable stage experience. I've been waste deep in the mosh pit and have had the joy in singing into an outstretched mic with several fans on their tune "Farewell Mona Lisa," off of their 2012 release Option Paralysis. This listening isn't for the faint of heart, but what a wild ride for those who take the challenge!

Scott Free by Matt Ulery

Chicago-based upright, electric, and brass bassist Matt Ulery has made a name for himself in the jazz community. In addition to solid musicianship on his instruments, he is known for his distinct blend of American/European/South American folk traditions, classical, and jazz. He has a trio, his group "Loom," and he recently put out a new album, featuring 27 piece big band arrangements, titled "Loom/Large" that continues to showcase his creative output. This particular track is off of his 2007 release with Loom titled Music Box Ballerina. The track centers around a rhythmic groove built on three measures of 4/4 time with a turnaround in 3/8, which allows for interesting moments of phrasing and rhythmic layering. I have been fortunate enough to see him a couple times live and perform this track over the summer, which you can check out here

I definitely encourage you to check out more of his music, and if you want an album steeped in his character as a composer, check out his release By A Little Light, an album that includes singer Grazyna Auguscik and Grammy winning contemporary classical ensemble Eighth Blackbird

Jack Pirtle's Neon Livers by MonoNeon

Those who browse YouTube in search of great musicians have definitely gotten hip to Dwayne "MonoNeon" Thomas Jr., a bass guitarist who is known equally for his strong musicianship and his entirely neon-colored attire. This Tennessee musician, born to a family of musicians, has learned the bass guitar simply through years of listening and playing experience. He plays the bass guitar just like Jimi Hendrix played the electric guitar: upside-down and left handed. This allows him to have more bending on the higher strings, a sound he makes use of frequently. MonoNeon has worked with Tye Tribett, Ghost Note (Snarky Puppy drummer Robert "Sput" Searight side-project), Ne-Yo, Bootsy Collins, Georgia Anne Muldrow, David "Fuse" Fluczynski (guitarist for Hiromi's group SonicBloom and Berklee College of Music Instructor), and has received nods from artists like Marcus Miller, who was quoted as saying MonoNeon is a "young bad cat" on the bass playing scene. He was also one of the last musicians to record and perform with Prince before his passing.

What I love about MonoNeon, aside from his great bass playing, is his intentional submersion in all art forms. A quick browse of his YouTube channel shows him playing along to other musician's videos, playing along to speech, and performing various genres including electronic, funk, microtonal music, and jazz. At the end of each video is own set of artistic standards to which he holds himself to, including creating art every day and living in and around his mistakes during his journey of personal growth, two ideologies that define his authenticity as an artist. This short, quirky funk track shows his desire to shamelessly highlight his personality. Seriously, get hip to this bassist and delight in his musical endeavors!

Cold Crush by Kirkis

Known mainly in electronic music circles (go figure), Kirkis is the artist name of Hiatus Kaityote keyboard/synth player Simon Mavin. You can check out a video highlighting some of his influences here. This particular track comes off of his most recent release, titled Cold Crush, which includes the original track, a remix by Mndsgn, and the instrumental versions of both tracks. This track is relaxed, grooving, and washed with colorful sounds and textures. I definitely encourage you to check out the remix as well, it is a well done reimagining of the song and highlights the similar production/sound choices between the two artists. Plus, if you haven't heard anything from the band he is involved in, check out this tune off of their first album (Tawk Tomahawk), a tune featuring Q-Tip entitled "Nakamarra."

Clockwords by Meshuggah

Those who know my music tastes well have heard me mention Meshuggah on occasion as one of my favorite bands. Those in musical academia who have never heard of this group should definitely check out composer/guitarist Derek Johnson's explanation of their album Catchy 33 in this video. Whether or not you are a fan of metal, this band's contribution to music, especially metal, continues to inspire newer sounds, a dedication to strong musicianship, and an attention to tight, rhythmic groove build on a heavy sonic foundation. Their music thrives on a pulse, a driving engine of sound that ensnares the listener in their hypnotic grooves. The endurance and technical facility of this band cannot be understated, especially when you consider how equally difficult it is to execute their songs as it is for typical metal guitar "shredders" to dazzle with instrumental gymnastics (sweep-picked arpeggios, multi-finger tapping licks, etc). 

This tune is off of their brand new album, Violent Sleep of Reason, a much-welcomed followup to their previous release Koloss, an album I could not stop going back to the past couple of years. What makes this album that much more indicative of Meshuggah's level of musicianship and experience is that it is entirely recorded live in the studio, rather than first recorded and then rehearsed for the stage. The intricate patterns, the wall of sound engulfing the listener, and the frantic syncopations overtop a steady pulse make this tune a great introduction to the album. If you still doubt their ability to play this tune, check out a studio performance from drummer Tomas Haake in this video.

Shake Loose by Donny McCaslin
Donny McCaslin's quartet was definitely exciting to discover in a live performance setting. I had purchased a ticket on recommendation from some friends, and we traveled to Holland, MI to see this group live at The Knickerbocker Theater. What I was treated to during the show was a raw display of jazz fusion that easily warranted their Grammy nominations. Each player easily could have their own groups (each player plays with a variety of world class musicians) and yet they all work so well together. It's worth mentioning that Henry Hey was a sub that night, but his application of synthesizers and keyboards to the band's sound were a great fit in Jason Lidner's absence. On drums we have jazz/electronic drumming expert Mark Guiliana and bass virtuoso Tim Lefebvre, both who have been featured on several drumming and bass playing publications. This unit is sounds so good together that David Bowie hired them to collaborate on his final release, Black Star. 

Donny McCaslin wanted to capture the band's live energy and sound in Beyond Now, and with this first track leading the album, I feel the presence of the group. It feels like the players are interacting, leading each other to dynamic swells and texture shifts throughout the track. Browse Donny McCaslin's catalogue, I would recommend listening also to "Stadium Jazz," the first tune performed on that concert in Holland, MI. 

My Bang on a Can 2016 Experience

I made sure to save and include every day of my Bang on a Can experience. It was such a joy to be in that environment, constantly working my creative output with a collective of collaborative musicians at the highest level. Such genuine, lovely people work and participate in these summer sessions, and hopefully this will give you taste of just how much can happen in 3 weeks, each day probably being 15 hours of hard work and great hangs. 

Day1/Night 1:

What a welcome event! Some great food and celebration of everyone's arrival, I've pretty much met everyone involved! Now begins a day of introductions and the first rehearsal of the Bang in a Can composer attendee pieces I'm premiering. Should be a great first day of work!

Day 2:
We met with the groups that we will be performing the composer premieres with, read through the pieces, some great playing! We also got a taste of Nani, the instructor who would be teaching us some Ghanian song, dance, and percussion for a recital! Also, day 1 of yoga, much more intense than I would have thought, haha

Day 3:
-Rehearsed the Julia Wolfe, super crazy piece
- Rehearsed 10,000 birds for the John Luther Adams week in residence
- Ken Thompson put on a killer recital, such great playing and cool music. So glad to be working with him!
- Nani called me “All is Well” yesterday, today during class it was “Michigan State,” I’m sensing a t-shirt theme, haha
- Yoga is still hard, I take the “able” out of flexible
- Mass MOCA’s director spoke to us during lunch about the vision and challenges creating this place
 

Day 4 at Bang on a Can: more great interaction with musicians, rehearsal for a Grammy winning cellist's recital next week, African drumming/dancing, creating an improvisatory piece in front of an art installation and large audience, witnessing Mark Stewart work his magic over the crowd and show his talents, and sharing drinks and conversation with the locals.

All the months I was hyping this up doesn't do it justice, this is truly something special. I am so grateful to have this opportunity and I am not even a week a into the program.

Day 5:
- Dave Cossin put on a great recital, performing an Alvin Lucier’s “Still and Moving Lines of Silence in Families of Hyperbolas,” which allowed us as listeners to meditate or room the nearby gallery spaces to get different acoustic perceptions
- We rehearsed 10,000 birds and Hoketus (such a crazy fun piece, hard for a group)
- More great hangs at the Legion
- a recital showing off our drummer, singing, and dance skills that Nani taught us over the past few days!

Day 6: got a little time to practice, enjoyed another great recital that introduced me to Haegeum repertoire and the music of Larry Polansky and Scott Wolschlegger, saw an amazing performance of "Les Triplettes de Belleville" with a live orchestra, and had another great night at the American Legion with BOAC folks, a couple returning fellows, and members of that live orchestra.

Day 7:
- Chill morning, got some practicing in
- survived Hikael Gorden, a hike that Michael Gordon took all the BOAC fellows on
- the best barbecue hangs at the Mass MOCA director’s new 70s meets modern house, complete with a pool, gin and tonic station, beer, hookah, and plenty of great conversation

Day 8:
- Gregg August put on a great recital, showcasing some music from a Lincoln Center cruise quintet arrangement and a fierce cello/bass duet by Julia Wolfe
- We started the morning with soundpainting with Todd Reynolds. It was great to have done it for so many years at GVSU but it was also awesome to practice some new signals
- All of the BOAC participants got to hear the founding story, struggles/vision/development in their entirety, by founding composers David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Michael Gordon. All of them are so wonderful, friendly, and such resonate spirits defiantly standing out among the rabble

Day 9: shredded some Tigran, improvised with some cool musicians, did some sound painting, rehearsed music for two concerts tomorrow, grooved on some Latin music during the seminar tonight, finally met Pascal LaBeouf, rehearsed some Cage and Andriessan, and closed down the Legion. Seriously, I am loving every day here in spite of the hurdles!

I guess I missed a day, so day 10 and 11 included:

-String folk jam at the Chalet

-Bang on a Can All Stars concert
- Great hangs at The Mohawk Tavern
after a Michael Gordon birthday celebration at Bright Idea Brewing!

-More Latin Percussion jams

-rehearsing all the hard pieces (I.e Wolfe and Andriessan)

- hearing some great fellows perform and performing with in a trio improvising off of more art

- playing two concerts on Wednesday with some excellent musicians pushing me to play at my best, including Nick Photinos’ recital

- more memorable times with great people and learning so much

Seriously, I can't believe every day here, it's so cool

Day 12:
- Todd Reynolds put on a great recital showcasing a variety of his talents and involving plenty of people
- Latin night at the Legion was awesome! From grooving with the full band to sight reading some new charts among the showers of drinks, it was a great night dancing and celebrating our hard work
- More great lunch performances from the Bang on a Can fellows
- I got the morning off because I wasn’t part of the Brian Eno, very nice to relax!

Day 13 included:

- an amazing performance of "Music for Airports" by Brian Eno

- some time to relax and hang with friends

- Tom got to pour some beers for us at the Legion

- McDonalds hates us so we got pizza

- shedded more Tigran, the Wolfe piece I am performing, and worked on some original music

- snuck in a quick sauna session after dinner

- heard Vicky Chow perform a recital of some amazing music that continues to inspire my playing and drive to work

Day 14:

- time to practice the rep for concerts

- a performance of John Cage's "Atlas Eclipticalis" in the Richard Nonas gallery

- time spent relaxing and enjoying the company of other fellows getting dinner

- hangs by the lake and at the Legion

- Tom buying folks McDonalds (they didn't hate us last night!)

Yesterday was

Day 15:

- some really great lunch time performances, including some Vijay Iyer and Andy Akiho by the RighteousGIRLS, a piece performed and written by my roomate Tyler Taylor, a hilarious piano duet, and several percussionists performing Steve Reich's "Music for Pieces of Wood"

- I played in a concert of some great world premieres, so many cool ideas executed so well by the fellows

- had some fun conversations with MOCA staff and some great hangs at the Legion grooving to Beck, Meshuggah, and Hiatus Kaiyote

- I got the morning off, which was weird but nice to not play with my tennis elbow/tendinitis issues

- jammed with Laura and Dylan doing some free improv and some fun grooves

Day 16:

- met awesome conductor Brad Lubman, who polished up "Tell Me Everything" to be ready for Saturday

- ears the beautiful music of Martin Bresnick performed in a great recital

- checked out Public for a chill pub with more beer options

- learned about the wonderful world of Whurly instruments in O of OI

- fought through tennis elbow and tendinitis to pull of rehearsals

- enjoyed some sleep and and a breather in the morning

- spent some time listening to Tigran and Bad Plus to work on some of their tunes

Day 17:

- Lake Windsor concert complete with local pizza, a group photo shoot, playing tambourine in the second line "Saints Go Marching In" portions of the show, seeing so many cool performances entertaining the audience all wrapped up with Mark Stewart's amazing sense of musical delight and audience involvement

- enjoying some great conversation at and after the Legion with Bang on a Can folks

- Listening to John Luther Adams speak about his life and how nature, spaces and close friends influence his music

- seeing the music of Bun-Ching Lam played at a great recital

- enjoying more great student performances for Tech Tuesday

- another great time in the O of OI with Balloon Powered Organ Pipes!

Day 18:

- had dinner with my uncle and Hilary Noble at a place in town caught up briefly before my concert

- Performed John Luther Adams' "10,000 Birds" in the expansive Richard Nonas gallery

- heard a variety of world premieres: each composer wrote a miniature to premiere at a small concert!

- heard more great lunch time concerts

- rehearsed "Tell Me Everything" one final time, knocking out some parts

- enjoyed a night of good conversation at The Chalet

- heard Ashley Bathgate SHRED her commissioned work "ASH" by the Sleeping Giant music collective

Day 19:

- saw a performance of John Luther Adams' percussion music in the Richard Nonas gallery

- saw the last lunch time concert, where everyone involved did an awesome job

- did a round of sound checks for the Marathon

- John Luther Adams coached us on his piece A Light Within during rehearsal and soundcheck

- John Jansen is visiting along with Adam Cuthbért and Matt Finch!!

- we had a great night jamming at the Chalet, idk how many tunes we played but it was so fun sitting in with some of the Bang on a Can All Stars and bearing witness to how they interact/lead a band

- Chalet = late night drinks and conversation

- got to have a relaxing morning communing with Bang on a Can fellows

It's so crazy that there is only the Marathon left!!!

 

Day 20:

How can I possibly summarize this experience? Day 20 was yesterday and it further solidified why I love Bang on a Can and the hard working, immensely kind and talented people that are involved in this experience. Everybody did so well at the Marathon, so much incredible music!

There were people from all walks of life, from The Netherlands to Australia, from the Ivy League and Royal Music Academies of the world to small cities, from the world of New Music to folk to jazz, from the most prestigious institutions to the most down-home organizations.

Nobody came with an ego. Not one person came across as competitive, only collaborative. To have this working group of musicians pour their heart and soul into their art every day was so motivational. It further solidifies that I am on the right track and that I have the skills in place to make a lot happen wherever I go.

I got to meet some amazing faculty and share in some great hangs/concerts, from Meshuggah loving guitarists to Grammy winning strings to fierce pianists and percussionists, everybody was much easier to talk to than their bio might let on. They don't let their accomplishments cool down their passion for art, they continue to put on amazing concerts and they are so good at their craft I can't explain it in this status.

Bang on a Can is a new home, a well to drink from for creative inspiration, a community that spans the globe and shares a common vision to soak the world in New Music and collaborative, shared experiences in music. It's well worth the money spent and it's something that will bring me back to North Adams for years to come.

 

2016: Time to Change!

Hello!

First of all, thank you to anybody who has followed this blog since it's initial posts in 2014, where I stumbled on to WordPress looking to practice writing about music by informing people friends/collaborators from around West Michigan. Over 2015, it expanded to include more posts regarding specific events, promote new projects, and to take up new challenges, closing the last half of the year with a challenge to listen to a new album every day for a year. Needless to say, ambitions are still high, but it's time for a shift.

The project is a fun idea in retrospect, but it's like starting a new diet (which I'm doing in fact), where you get motivated by the idea, hit the ground running towards the end results, and reaching that point where it is not a habit but a chore. I made it about 13 weeks in and I can definitely say that the holidays were a time to take a break. I was no longer seeing the joy of discovery in new albums while at the same time showing disdain for my lack of enthusiasm behind my writing: reviews got shorter, I accumulated a backlog and tried to cram multiple albums into the same day, and I got burnt out during the busy times around Christmas. It was definitely a time of learning for me, showing that it does take time, patience, and a clear direction to condense music impressions into smaller reviews.


So what is this post about? You probably skipped to this paragraph, so let me just say that 2016 is going to be the year I keep up with this blog. It's time to focus on more than just listening to albums (although the project will continue) and get back to the roots of this writing space. It wasn't to flex my listening muscles so much as it was a chance to hear and experience the stories around music in West Michigan, diligently working to highlight people and have their voices heard. I want to get back to interviewing friends, reviewing shows and project recordings, and inform about the music scene in West Michigan from the perspectives of musicians I work with and myself. Here's to 2016, a year of progress! Let's improve together and see what we can learn. 

365 Day Music Project Week 11

This week was a fun trip through my Facebook feed! I initially posted this idea to any interested friends and family members that wanted to suggested some albums to add to my listening list. I got such a wide variety, and I’m happy to have weeks like this where the entirety of my listening experience is chosen by recommendation! It was cool to hear some new sounds, material from artists I had only heard one or two tracks by, and change up the genre pool that I would pick from. So, thanks to all who made suggestions, maybe yours is on this week’s list! More suggested albums will be included in future posts!

(Note: This is coming out late due to a very busy last couple of weeks, pushing hard to get back on track. I appreciate any who take the time to read this!)

Thank You Happy Birthday by Cage the Elephant
The only material I had ever heard by this band was any song included in an advertisement, particularly related to the Borderlands series (Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked). This album definitely caught me by surprise, because they have such an eclectic and inventive sound for being a group in the pop spotlight. The combine different electronic noises and sounds with an indie rock base, reminding me of acts like The Hive with their energetic sound. It’s definitely an album I’ll revisit and it gives me hope that more acts are playing around with their music without trying to adhere to a popular sound.

 

Ben and “Sweets” by Ben Webster and Harry “Sweets” Edison
These two jazz legends recorded this release in 1962, the third album they recorded together after Sweets (1956) and Gee, Baby Ain’t I Good To You (1957/58). It features Harry “Sweets” Edison on trumpet, Ben Webster on saxophone, Hank Jones on piano, George Duvivier on bass, and Clarence Johnston on drums. It’s a classic sound of the 60’s, putting an emotional rendition on some classic standards like “My Romance” and Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” while including original tracks from both Webster and Edison. It’s an album you can zone out to reading in a coffee shop as much as it is a great album to analyze for some great, lyrical horn playing.
 

Oh Wonder by Oh Wonder
The debut release from London-based duo “Oh Wonder” is a great addition to my listening list. This album is the product of Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht, who sought to write, record, and release one song per month in 2014 until their debut dropped in September 2015. Their vocal sound is a combined one, with each track featuring both artists singing over the music they've crafted. It’s got a soulful, mellow R&B vibe to their sound, and it makes sense that they follow up a strong release with some tour dates across Europe and in major American cities. What is crazy is that before the album even dropped, the tour dates were already selling out before the duo had ever played publicly. It’s clear this group is hitting the ground running and seeing the fruits of their year-long project paying off.

True Colors by Zedd
So I know this artist is clearly famous, but it was interesting to hear the music behind the hype and technicolor light show photos plastered on my Facebook wall every time my friends when and saw him live. What is clear right away: this man has played acoustic instruments before. There is an organization to his music that feels like he played it on regular instruments for ideas instead of just plunking out notes on a midi keyboard or solely sampling. There were some songs that I enjoyed, but about halfway through the album I felt that it hit a plateau, reminding me why I don’t listen to a lot of electronic artists. Harmonies, melodies, and instruments/sounds were good and had great production, but I’m so used to other styles that I feel like it’s a collection of radio hits. I get it, he’s really good at making a strong product and a great live experience, it’s just not what I would seek out on a daily basis. It can no doubt elevate a party or keep the energy going in between sets at a concert, but it’s not an album I’ll go out and buy. Keep doing what you do Zedd, I respect your hard work but I’m not on the hype train just yet, maybe I have to loop your entire catalog to find out.
 

Meddle by Pink Floyd
It’s cool to have some classic rock on the docket, as I know it’s a source of inspiration for many, including my earliest listening experiences. This album is a full of awesome electronic experimentation, moments of jamming as well as carefully orchestrated moments, and it culminates in a 23 min track at the end that shows just how much Pink Floyd can do when given time to record an album. It’s devoid of any popular hits that creep onto radio stations, but it shows a band unafraid to take risks when exploring their ideas. It let me zone into their atmospheric moments while also giving me some great rock moments to vibe off. Take a listen if you’ve only just gotten your feet wet with Pink Floyd if you want an album off the beaten path.
 

The Near Future by I Fight Dragons
I had no idea who this band was other than hearing their name mentioned in passing. After listening to this album, I definitely would add this to a playlist for a revisit! They have a video game infused rock sound that combines elements that remind me of Foo Fighters and Fall Out Boy, making some great modern rock that isn’t trying to be a Breaking Benjamin clone or something in between rock and heavy metal. They have a fun approach to their music when infusing the Nintendo-style synth sounds into a familiar style, boosting each track with a dash of nerd nostalgia. They also have some great talent in the band too, with some really solid guitar solos woven into certain tracks. Check this band out if you want some great driving music or another rock band to add to a party playlist!

In Colour by Jamie xx
Never heard of this guy, but another interesting suggestion! He’s got credibility in the pop and electronic world with his distinct beat-making style, being sought after by artists like Adele, Alicia Keys, and Florence + The Machine for collaboration. He’s got a chill vibe and some cool ideas on how to build loops, beats, and samples that keep him separate from different subgenres of electronic music. Check him out if you need some music to zone out to while working like I used it for! It's got some great ambience and Jamie xx knows when to push the song forward naturally. 

365 Day Music Project Week 10

Lovely Planet Original Soundtrack by Calum Bowen

Recently, I was reminded of a game for PC called “Lovely Planet,” a colorful, cartoonish game by Tequila Games that is almost a parody of the First Person Shooter genre. Paired with the fast-paced indie shooting mechanics is the game’s awesome jazz/funk/electro-pop driven soundtrack. It pairs so nicely to have such a fun soundtrack to an equally enjoyable game! The game can be found on Steam for about $6, but it is also currently available as part of the “World’s Apart” bundle on a site called “Bundle Stars” for discounted price with 11 more included indie titles. While purchasing the soundtrack definitely helps Bowen’s musical endeavors, it is also great to check out the game even if you typical wouldn’t play an indie title like “Lovely Planet.” One can only hope Bowen is asked to return to score the music for the sequel, “Lovely City,” which should be out some time next year. 
 

Viscera by Haunted Shores
NEW HAUNTED SHORES IT’S BEEN SO LONG!

Okay, just had to get one shouting statement in. Basically, I’ve been following Misha Mansoor and Mark Holcomb since Periphery’s first album came about and Haunted Shores had some singles and a split-EP with Cyclamen. These guitarists have a distinct style that keeps getting refined with each new release, everything from their technical facility to their production skills. This album shows how interesting an instrumental album can be! It’s exciting, it’s got some great moments that build into a soaring guitar hook, capturing the energy from Periphery’s live sound and developing some great new musical ideas in the process. It’s got some nods to black metal, Devin Townsend, and includes a guest appearance by Jorgen Munkeby on saxophone, who fronts the group Shining (featured in last week’s post). For any metal fan looking for some well written and produced instrumental music, I definitely recommend this EP. Go support them! From beginning to end, you’re on a supersonic experience! 

Breaking Brain by Panzerballett
I love this band, everything they do is like a virtuosic musical carnival. I never know what to expect from their originals or their arrangements of popular tunes and themes. This album is proof that they are still coming up with fantastic ideas and continuing to push the limits of their band. From Indian-rhythms infused with metal to “Mahna Mahna” done with such increased difficulty in their interpretation that it seems inconceivable that it can be pulled off. They are totally comfortable moving from a polyrhythmic guitar riff into a series of jazz solos while still keeping the riff going. They can pull from prog rock roots and easily combine it with the Pink Panther theme. Their sound is organized chaos, pulled off so brilliantly by some of Germany’s finest musicians daring to experiment with genre bending to create their own unique sound. Seriously, even if you just listen to the covers on this album, you need to check out at least one song on this album. It’s an oddity to show your friends as much as it is a theory exercise for music nerds!


Polysemy by Mestis

I am happy to see Javier Reyes getting the spotlight for this solo project, and it’s a huge step forward from his first release. The production quality is better as well as the song arrangements, as you can hear every nuance Reyes pulls off on 8-string electric guitar. Tosin Abasi often gets the attention for Animals As Leaders, but some people tend to forget that it really takes their combined skill set to pull off an instrumental progressive metal trio. Reyes gets to show off his classical, Latin, and jazz musical roots in this release, combine technical facility with the range and harmonic options offered by an extended range guitar. He shows why 8-strings are no longer a novelty and demand a particular kind of expert to be able to fully utilize their capabilities. If you want groove laden prog with a great amount of diversity, you’ll love this album! It’s as much for guitarists learning the 8-string as it is for metal fans to get introduced to other styles and sounds through this side project.


The Color Before the Sun by Coheed and Cambria

Man, it has been forever since I’ve listened to a release from this band. I remember hearing “Welcome Home” for the first time and rocking out to that song on Rockband. “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV” was an album that had a lot of variety and a distinct approach to modern rock, punctuated by a vocal sound everybody can recognize. Their new album is no different. They continue to write songs with strong hooks and creative flare, with the experience to realize when to borrow from other strong songwriters. It’s cool to still see them around, burning as brightly as ever. 

Young Jazz Giants by Young Jazz Giants

Okay, I am only going to tell you to listen to this album once. Seriously, this was a rare discovery and an interesting bit of recent music history. The group, led by sax player Kamasi Washington, includes the Bruner brothers and Cameron Graves on keys. This album is so great! It shows that they were killing it on their instruments back in their college days, but it shows the genesis of so many future projects. You get a glimpse of Thundercat, Kamasi's direction on The Epic, and an album full of their funk/hip hop/jazz fusion that is so refreshing to hear even over 10 years after the fact. Go listen to this and remember why these players have worked with everyone from Chaka Khan to Suicidal Tendencies to Kendrick Lamar. 

Please Rewind by Moonchild

I was surprised that the first time I heard this band was through Jacob Mann's YouTube series, specifically on a video about "laying back." It was so great diving into this album, it's got such a deep groove throughout and is oozing future soul vibes reminiscent of DIlla's style. It's great to see innovation out there, and these guys fit in nicely.

365 Day Music Project Week 9

What a busy week! Hopefully you all enjoyed your Halloweekend events! I myself had a great time playing a variety of shows with different groups in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Muskegon. Each group had a different style, with MOODS providing creative, original jazz, Andy Frisinger providing solid funk, and a party group that was a meshing of the two styles. I then rounded off my weekend playing with a tubist at GVSU’s Octubafest event and seeing local act Withhold the Blood (Muskegon death metal), Soreption, Cattle Decapitation, and Cannibal Corpse live for a super energetic show at the Pyramid Scheme. So much music variety!

This week’s listening list had some great, brand new additions to the plethora of music that 2015 debuted. Take a listen!
 

International Blackjazz Society by Shining
This new release from Norway’s Shining is another great example of just how well they can craft songs out of a variety of influences! The term “blackjazz,” coined from their first release, describes their sound: the surging energy of black metal with the creative nature of jazz! It’s all wrapped into a modern rock package that makes them more accessible to a wider audience than niche genre fans might believe. They continue to push their sound with a frantic array of hard hitting guitar riffs, distorted synth layers, and squealing horns that fuel the fire by their live sound. I would encourage you to check this out as well as their other releases!

Spotify Sessions by Hiatus Kaiyote
This band is just one of those groups that as soon as they put anything new out I immediately consume it. Even though this release is a just a live performance of their album songs, it’s a clear testament to how good this group is performing music. It’s got some of my favorite tracks performed flawlessly for a live audience, with some additional musical moments to release highlight how hard this group grooves. If you haven’t heard any of these songs, start here and work your way back through their catalog. Their sound is a blend of electronica, hip hop, jazz, and funk that works so well, and it’s definitely the reason they had such a successful US tour recently.

Lumiere by The Afterimage

It’s so good to have a full release from this group! Yes, some of the songs are familiar, but they still are fan favorites! This group has the technical wizardry you’d expect from modern metal guitarists with the playful idioms of pop that drive those catchy hooks home. It can be hard to reign in technical prowess for better songwriting, but this group does a good job of showing off their chops without drowning the music too heavily in sweep picking and tapping exercises. It’s got a lot of weaving guitar riffs that serve as the complex template for some cool vocal lines. This album is for the tech metal fan as much as it can be for the alternative music listener looking for some cool ideas to help expand their own musical visions.

A Thoughtiverse Unmarred by Georgia Anne Muldrow
Literally as I type this, I see that on Spotify this hard working, talented human being has put out another album entitled “Oligarchy Sucks.” How does this woman find the time to craft albums by herself? She records all the instruments, samples, vocals, and does all of the production unless otherwise specified! She goes hard, not shying away from current event topics like police brutality, struggles facing black Americans, home/heritage, and speaking powerful messages within her conceptual releases. This release has a ton of cool moments, pairing some very tasty beats with some skilled wordsmithing. Seriously, go check her out! If you somehow can’t enjoy her music, you’ll still be very impressed by her work ethic and dedication to her craft.
(Note: As I went back to finish this article, she put out ANOTHER release on Spotify. This woman is unreal, it’s so inspiring).


Soul Sphere by Born of Osiris

This group has had long history on my iPod, from high school hallways to college classrooms. They were one of the first current metal acts I had ever heard, placed unexpectedly in a collection of artists given to me by a friend in 8th grade to browse. This was before Spotify and the only ways to get music as a kid was to either ask a parent, find a friend with the music, or attempt to survive downloading it on Limewire. From their first album, “The New Reign,” their blend of tight polyrhythms, crushing palm-muted riffs, and tasteful inclusion of synth sounds kept my head banging and my interest peaked. As the years progressed, they had albums that would raise and lower my interest, often really getting my attention with a stellar release every other album. “Soul Sphere” is definitely one of those releases! It’s got their same technical flare with great songwriting, not shying away from some great technical moments. This group continues to survive because they continue to improve their musicianship beyond mere guitar chops, and this album shows why they have been in the game for nearly 10 years now continuing to polish their sound!

GAIA by Lionel Loueke
I first heard about Lionel Loueke through a collaboration he did with Robert Glasper’s group a couple years ago, an album titled “Heritage.” Right away, I noticed how creative Loueke’s guitar playing was and the combined sound of African and European music heritages. With “GAIA,” it is a return to a trio format, where the interactions are more condensed and involved. Bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer Mark Guiliana (featured a bunch in Week 8) complete the group, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. The music has a lot of variety with some great moments of improvisation and interaction. It’s got dense rhythms paired with a splash of harmonic exploration, all packaged within a tightly rehearsed unit that shines from track-to-track.
 

Congregation by Leprous
This album is full of surprises, and it shows how pretty much every time I listen to Leprous I get reminded of how creatively this band can work within the metal genre. Interesting guitar riffs dancing around different time signatures and subdivisions without the constant need for speeding scalar patterns. The album favors longer songs to develop ideas, and each track feels like a journey into each band member’s heads. Leprous is infectious in their songwriting, musical approach to the metal genre, and their attention to detail with each note played or instrument sound used. Go check this album out!


365 Day Music Project Week 8

Here we are, month 2 of this project! It's safe to say the habit is solidified at this point, and I'm happy it is leading to more active music listening during my week. It's been a fun journey so far, hopefully some of you have been joining in at your own pace!

Natural State by SEER
So from late 2013-2014, I performed with a Grand Rapids trip hop/indie group called Mizpah, a fun project for me to learn how to better interact with electronic elements and have better stage presence. The group disbanded, but not without releasing a full length debut, "Aporia," which can be found on the Music tab on this website. What does Mizpah have to do with SEER? Both are led by Benjamin Geisert, who continues to fuse artistic vision with solid production and electronic music. 

The Chicago based group drops a solid release, the combined vision of SEER (Geisert) and Jommis (Jesse Forde). It's surreal, industrial electronics that toss in some solid beats, flowing vocal lines, and a sonic thread linking the experience together. It's an album I could zone into while working as much as it is an album to blast in my car rides. Definitely excited to hear their next release and check out more of the scene they are involved in.

Sacred Words EP by Suicide Silence

This EP for me is like a gaming company putting out DLC to keep people invested for the next release. It's Suicide Silence beyond their latest album, breaking in their new vocalist and breaking down more slamming riffs. They continue to perform strong and delight fans at festivals all around the world, and this group continues to scratch that deathcore itch I have every now and then. This band was one of the first "heavier" metal acts I was exposed to, and it lead to a myriad of new sounds. If you're already a fan, you've checked this release out, if not, it's not anything amazing by their standards. It's based around one track, add in a remix and live version of the song (and instrumental), and then add two more live versions of songs on their recent full length. Sometimes you gotta just hype the fan base with an appetizer to what's coming for the main course. 

Ancient Mechanisms by LV

This release was 100% picked because Tigran Hamasyan played on it, so good on this artist first of all good on this artist for wanting to collaborate with such a great musician. Outside of my fanboy listening of Tigran tracks, I enjoyed the vibe on the album. Electronic, ambient, grooves with weird instrument sounds layered, and some great danceable beats to ground some of the avante garde elements. Not much else to say other than I want to check out more of this artist!

Senpai EP by Sithu Aye

Playfully tongue-in-cheek, this anime-music inspired EP is catchy, very focused, yet very musical in what it is trying to accomplish. It's a fun release, and even though it's 3 tracks it's still a fun listen! Here's the artist explaining a bit about each track:
"'Oh Shit, I'm Late for School!' follows that now classic trope of running to school for a piece of toast in your mouth and the electro-pop style is one that is very often used for slice of life or romantic comedy anime. 

'Senpai, Please Notice Me!' tries to capture that tried and tested trope of falling in love with your high school senpai, one that is used so much in anime that it became an internet meme. 

And finally, "The Power of Love and Friendship!" is meant to represent the vibe from battle anime, where even if you're badly losing a fight, just remembering that you're really good friends with everyone will spur you onto victory. 

This EP is unashamedly cheesy and cliché and I make no apologies for it, because it was incredibly fun to make and if it conveys even a fraction of the enjoyment that I get out of anime to you, then I consider this EP a success." 

Family First by Mark Guilana Jazz Quartet

One of two listening examples from this artist this week, Mark Guiliana is such a solid musician and a creative force behind a lot of awesome projects in the East Coast jazz scene. I first saw him play with Donny McCaslin's quartet (also featured this week), and now I get to hear a release of all original music! This album is a flurry of great acoustic playing, taking bold steps and playing around with rhythm all over each track. It's for the jazz nerds as much as it is the jazz enthusiast!

Fast Future by Donny McCaslin

What can I say? This is another stellar release from this group, a combination of creative jazz elements with cool sounds and impeccable musicianship. Each member in the quartet has been featured on magazines covers, in other fantastic projects, and each of their names is synonymous with a fantastic album. You'd be doing yourself a disservice of you didn't listen to this artist, and I definitely encourage you to start here and work backwards through these artist's catalogs!

My Life Starts Now by Mark Guiliana

So what makes this different from his quartet album? It's got electronics and guest artists! Plus it isn't the same base quartet of musicians from the other project. It's super groovy, tastefully blending acoustic and electronic elements into a modern jazz album easily at home with seasoned jazz listeners and young musicians looking for some inspiration. Go listen, go enjoy some great music, and try to deny the creative forces involved on this project!

 

 

 

365 Day Music Project Week 7

Another week, another great chance to check out some new tunes! I'll just let you get started, because it's less about my opinion and more about getting a chance to add new jams to your life's playlist!

Outerborough by Todd Reynolds

Todd Reynolds is a fantastic musician and an even greater human being. The times that he visited GVSU to perform concerts and coach students were very memorable in my undergrad years. This past year, my last one at GVSU, I had the opportunity to see his great blending of violin with electronics firsthand at Strange Beautiful Music 2014 and when he visited GVSU this past April. He performed for the Arts at Noon series and the GVSU New Music Ensemble spring concert, where I got to perform an improvised work, Meredith Monk’s “Gotham Lullaby,” and with other ensemble members in an aleatoric piece for iPad and electronics by John Jansen. Each work he performed was taken out of his full length release, a combination of his performance and composition style, showcasing many original works and commissioned pieces from notable New Music composers!

This album is a clear example of Todd Reynold’s versatility as a musician and composer. His stylistic influences range from blues to rock to minimalism to classical to jazz! It’s crazy how easily he fits so many genres into one release. He has played with jazz musicians, symphonies, quartets, and rock groups all over the world, and the experience he has gathered with each project shows strongly in this solo release. I can’t say enough about this man, so I’ll refrain from rambling and let you take a listen! My words don’t do the album justice, so you’ll just have to experience it for yourself!

Juicebox by Juicebox

This is Juicebox, an R&B/jazz outfit from San Diego, CA. Their music is groovy and relaxed, showing some solid musicianship and some great West Coast talent. The album was nominated at the San Diego Jazz Festival for best new jazz album of 2015. I found out about their music through a posting from Adrian Terrezas-Gonzalez,(Mars Volta, T.R.A.M, The Earful) who plays with their bassist Omar Rodriguez in other projects. This album is another great reason why Bandcamp is a fun site to explore, because you never know what music you’ll enjoy! Check this album out if you want a few solid tracks to add to your list of soulful jams.

Swarm EP by Swarm

Every now and again I like to check out guitarists, because I have been listening to metal and following certain trends since the 8th grade. One thing that really pushed my musicianship, even beyond my classical training or interest in jazz, was listening to metal albums and trying to imitate things on guitar and piano. Checking out solo artists crafting groovy riffs and technical solos was a weekend past time on various metal sites, often connecting to a variety of new artists in “related music” sections. This particular guitarist I found through a great young guitarist that I follow on Instagram, and I thought I would give this album a listen. In short, it’s a solid first release from this guitarist: groovy riffs, some cool soloing ideas, and it’s self-produced. Who knows, maybe we’ll see him playing in the next big metal band?

Fit for an Autopsy
This band hits hard once again! Every album they put out has more slamming grooves and some feel-good angry music. It’s that kind of deathcore punch you need to drown out the annoying parts of a day and vent without shouting. It gets you banging your head and reaching for your guitar to play along. There’s always an album like this that reminds me why I like certain aspects of metal and what attracted me to the genre in the first place: the heavy. The crushing riffs, the pounding drums, the growling vocals tying it all together before the breakdowns hit you hard. If you liked this band’s last album, this is another great addition to their catalog.

LGND by LGND

LGND (formerly spelled Legend) puts out a new, self-titled album produced by Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz, a man known for his insanely low and heavy guitar riffing and production (like his Acacia Strain release). I have enjoyed previous releases from this band, and I’m happy to see another album! It’s got some solid tunes that get me grooving, which is what I’ve come to expect from the group. It’s hard to pontificate on groups like this for me, but I will say it’s for any metal fan wanting to hear some breakdowns and headbang! Songs like the one above take normal song topics, like heartbreak, and turn it up to like a thousand with such gritty, heavy-hitting music.

Fortified by Ghost-Note

This group is a side project by the fantastic percussion players that make up Snarky Puppy: Robert “Sput” Spearight and Nate Werth. In short, this album is awesome musicians playing some creative, jazzy, funky music that showcases the skilled percussion duo rhythms, cool electronics, and some great guest artistry. It’s fun, inventive, and it shows what skilled musicians can do with years of collaborating and performing. Go listen! Go love this album, it’s definitely one I’m gonna purchase the CD/DVD for when I get some extra money!

Blood by Lianne La Havas

After hearing her debut, I couldn’t wait to dive into her new album. My interest was only strengthened by her fantastic NPR Tiny Desk Concert this month, where she proved that with the right collaborating musicians, you don’t need layers of electronic filler and production to really effect a room full of people with great music. It’s soulful, it’s bluesy, it’s jazzy, it’s pop with heart and it stands out from the typical charting pop artist. She is such a genuine soul, and I hope to play music with as much authenticity as her in my career. Definitely glad I checked this album out!


365 Day Music Journey Week 6


Another week, another great bunch of releases! Many of the releases gravitate towards jazz or hip hop, great music to analyze and focus with for me. The groove keeps me working and keeps me focused, but it definitely gives me some new ideas on how to improve my music writing. Hope you dig it!

Ethos by Logan Richardson

In anticipation of his next release, I chose to listen to this album to bring my attention back Logan Richardson’s music and creative drive. The first track I ever heard from this man was “Turning Maze,” an AB style head both being in a different odd meter with a distinct groove. It invokes that cool sound of jazz that got me hooked as an 8th grader: attitude, complex design into something so natural, and a ton of flexibility in interpreting the music. The lack of harmony displayed in the chart allows for a horn player to explore possibilities and a rhythm player to impose other harmonies. There are plenty of moments like “Turning Maze” on this more recent release from Richardson. The release showcases Logan Richardson’s distinct approach to jazz, fusing true musicianship with a vision to make a statement with each tune, carefully crafting each part to delight listeners and create a dialogue.

For What It’s Worth by Vanilla

Sometimes I like to get music completely through random choice. I’ll find a track in my Soundcloud feed and browse other tracks by that artist. I’m also one of those people that will entertain Spotify’s curated, weekly playlist to discover new artists. This release was found simply through searching “jazz” on Bandcamp’s website. It’s a release that oozes a soulful, groovy vibe that is infectious. It kept me focused while getting lost in its funk and hip hop rhythmic pulse. If you need some solid vibing music or just want some fun grooves to interact with as a listener or artist, you should check this out!

I by Plini/Sithu Aye

Being a fan of both guitarists, I don’t know how I missed this release! It came out a couple years ago, and it’s a 4 track EP showcasing the talents of both guitarists. Each player has a strong songwriting for instrumental, metal guitar, but they do a great job crafting lead lines and shredding in solos. The album also features two of my favorite metal/jazz fusion guitarists Jakub Zytecki (Disperse, solo projects) and David Maxim Micic (Bilo, Destiny Potato). If you haven’t checked this gem out and are a fan of instrumental guitar, you will dig the players involved.

Tones by Tajima Hal

Like Vanilla, this jazz/hip hop beat maker from Japan makes some very relaxing, groovy music that is akin to Flying Lotus. It’s a great example of people capturing a moment rather than trying to expound too far on an idea, with each track being under 3 minutes. This digital release was also produced onto cassette tapes by Urban Wave Records, as it is the perfect mixtape format for an album like this one. Tajima Hal is a rising beat producer, “playing in parties/live events in and around Tokyo with Nippon beatmakers like Lidly, Bugseed, Pigeondust, ill.sugi, Youtaro” and more (taken from the album’s Bandcamp page). Now there’s a whole scene for you to check out! Always glad to get a perspective on music from around the globe.

Return to the Fire by Tim Garland
This is a recent release from a jazz legend, and it’s cool to see seasoned players getting on hip platforms like Bandcamp to put out releases! This release is one of many in Garland’s prolific collection of releases, drawing from a variety of styles. I was happy to see that he had joined Chick Corea and The Vigil for their performance at St. Cecelia in 2014, as his collaboration with the pianist is well known and spanning a least a decade. If you want to start from the latest and work backward, you will have a great selection of releases to see Garland’s talent and hear firsthand the reason he is a jazz legend.

Ready to Roll by Farnell Newton

This trumpeter on the west coast is just the kind of active musician I want to be. He plays in a horn section supporting Jill Scott and Bootsy Collins, two household of their respective genres. He then takes the time to carve out great collaborative efforts like this release. He acts as producer and player, creating funky, soulful songs with the likes of Donyea Goodman, Tony Ozier, Will Birckhead, and a host of other session musicians to really make this release super solid. If you need some great music to kick off your day or to groove with, look no further. Also, you can find Newton running the “Jam of the Week” page on Facebook, a growing collective of musicians from around the globe all performing a video adhering to a simple guideline each week (submit by Sunday, can be a tune or style as the theme). It's a tool to showcase different players, learn a lot of valuable repertoire for performing jazz musicians, and a way for people to offer expertise on areas to work on. 

Lone Wolf by Marcus D
A great hip hop/jazz release that just grooves, bringing back 70’s funk vibes and keeping the flow moving. Featuring a myriad of different hip hop artists, it’s a great way to sample a variety of different musicians while taking in the strength behind the sound that Marcus D is so well known for in Seattle. If you want to explore a region of hip hop that isn’t trap beats blowing out the speakers in your Suburban with 22 inch rims, give this a listen and pump the vibes into your neighborhood. 

365 Music Journey Week 5

This week was not without it's challenges for listening for sure. I had a week of working a job til 2:30 pm and then heading downtown for a 5-7 pm outdoor concert every day for the most part. Take that exhausting week of music and add a few late nights this weekend rolling into another work week, and you have a recipe for a very drained Dutcher. Some of the writing suffered, and some of the albums definitely deserve a second list for sure to really have the music sink in further. 

So here is my week's offering from this past week, sorry to those who expected a drop for Sunday, but we will be back on schedule this weekend for sure. This week had a lot of releases that can be found on Bandcamp, from indie rock to jazz electronics to ambient hip hop to hang drums and double-necked acoustic guitars. It's a nice variety all found in one great location, hope you enjoy! 

Two Fold pt 1 by Haywyre
This artist caught my attention with one of his YouTube videos shared on my newsfeed, blending some sweet jazz harmonies with some tight electronic production. Like I’ve said before regarding jazz, it’s such a malleable style, and it definitely allows more room for an artist to create something with greater presence. Haywyre is definitely an artist I’m going to follow up on, he’s got a good thing going on with his music.

This release came out in 2014 and it shows an attention to combining distinct, contrasting musical elements within each song. Electronic vs. acoustic, organic vs. synthetic, simplicity vs. complexity, all dancing within a classical and jazz influenced style weaved into an electronic music sound. All too often we dismiss the work of people with sound musical training crafting something in an electronic space, seeking the purely electronic musician stitching samples and crafting musical materials solely in an electronic space. However, when you have an artist like Haywyre, who is clearly at home in the realm of classical and jazz, creating electronic music with the same craft as a purely electronic artist, you get something with more punch, more direction, and with a much better flow to an album release. I’m definitely a fan, and if I had more electronic music like this I’d probably listen to this genre more often.


We Are the Drum by Kendrick Scott Oracle
This album dropped towards the end of last month, and it’s such a cool album. It’s hard to articulate an album like this from only one listen, but I can tell you this: awesome rhythms, great melodies, some sweet harmonies, a thread of awesome music expertly crafted and performed by some top level musicians. The title track above shows a powerful force behind Kendrick Scott's music, one that sits comfortably in varying rhythmic meters and bursts forward with a soaring melody line flying across a rich harmonic sky. You’d be doing yourself a disservice ignoring this new album, and especially if you haven’t listened Kendrick Scott and are craving a new artist in today’s jazz scene. Go listen to it now!!!

Secret Space by Secret Space

This group is newer to me, but I found out about it through a friend’s promotion of the group. His name is Dean Tartaglia, a mutli-instrumentalist who studied music at Ohio University and previously part of the duo indie rock group Silent Lions, who played a show at Mulligan’s with Mizpah the year I was involved with the group. He’s got a focus, he’s got a vision, and his new project is signed to Equal Vision Records! It was cool checking out this album, as it showcases the group’s grunge, psychedelic rock sound with such strong delivery. I have the song linked above stuck in my head for sure, and the rest of the album is just as fun to listen to. Can’t wait to see more from this band!

Since there were no live performances of the album music up yet, I thought I would share this: a clip of Daniel Waples and James Winstanley (The Hang Drum Project, a duo of traveling hang drum performers showcasing the instrument) playing in a village in rural India, just in case you thought the release lacked some sort of cultural reference. 

Sunset in India by Hangin Balance

This is the latest release from Daniel Waples, a UK HandPan player that I got acquainted with from his Youtube videos. I hadn’t even known about the instrument until then, and seeing this flying-saucer looking steel-pan cousin percussion instrument in action was really cool. Such a cool tone, and some cool possibilities for sound. It’s very similar to a hang drum in its construction and performance approach. At kind of reminded me of drumming inside the “hamburger” playground equipment in elementary school.

This collaborative album features the Waples with DK musician/producer Lars La Ville, and it definitely has a distinct India vibe to it with its instrumentation, song styles, and harmonic/rhythmic palette. It’s a cool collaboration that both showcases La Ville’s creativity in accompanying Waples’ handpan playing while also showcasing Waples’ mission to show the versatility of the instrument. It’s great for somebody looking for world music that doesn’t sound like a generic CD you’d sample in Target or glance at waiting in line at a coffee shop. It’s got solid production and some cool creative choices, so check it out!

Run Towards The Mountains by Ian Ethan Case
This guy is a monster on acoustic guitar, mainly because he is often seen slapping, tapping, and strumming his double-necked acoustic Ovation guitar on stage. His compositions show a variety of sounds and styles the guitar is capable of playing while staying tasteful with his technical display. It isn’t mindless shredding nor is it one approach, mesmerizing to watch. In addition to solo, double-necked acoustic works, he has some recorded tracks that are performed live with looping and layering to create even more vibrant, involved songs. He’s such a cool artist, and for those that love more involved acoustic guitar playing will really dig this release!

So the Flies Don’t Come by Milo

This album was definitely a trip, a random choice from this past week’s Bandcamp lineup of popular releases. The album is a tapestry of lyrics woven from spoken word and rhythmic rhymes and stitched together with the fluid, organic backbeats that drive mood more than typical snare hits on 2 and 4, also including elements of jazz and ambient electronics. There is a method to the madness, buried deep within strong poetic delivery and accented by guest artist responses and very distinct backing tracks. It’s an album you’d expect to unearth on Bandcamp, and it’s one that got airtime on this past week’s “Bandcamp Weekly” radio podcast. It’s definitely for fans of hip hop looking to find something with personality and not something constructed solely to deafen drivers in custom car audio speakers. As one bandcamp reviewer put it, “Channelling his spoken word flow and cerebral wordplay over jazzy and intricate beats, milo has created a collection of tracks brimming with attitude, aggression, and insight.”

 

 

New Bermuda by Deafheaven
Already, some of you are thinking “oh great, another Deafheaven critique” or are so deep into their new release you can’t hear anything above the music you’re blasting to immerse your household environment. Those who know me well know that I don’t get the Deafheaven hype: I’ve listened to the critically acclaimed debut, “Sunbather,” noticed their rise to popularity from underground to NPR, saw them live supporting other acts I wanted to see, and I still came away with questions more than definitive answers. Many say they “changed a genre” by combining elements of shoegaze, black metal, punk rock, and thrash. Many are already typing feverishly to correct my supposed misinterpretation of their favorite band, which is fine by me (every has an opinion). Maybe I come from a lack of understanding of that specific underground scene where they were conceiving Sunbather and New Bermuda, but all I can do is offer my interpretation from listening.

This album is different, yes, and it does more to both reinforce my negative association with their music as much as it does to strengthen the arguments of their supporters. Each track is a patchworking of different genre styles, all fitting together to highlight their various influences as a group. For fans of their music, this is a way to highlight their ability to link together such different genres into a cohesive sound. It’s a way to show that the energy of thrash metal and punk, the drive of black metal, and the ambience of shoegaze can be linked.  For me, it feels disjointed, as each track is long enough to include several style switches without really feeling like a single song.  I liked some of their ideas, and they definitely have improved in terms of capturing the sounds they want to convey, but sometimes I felt that the tracks needed a break that wasn’t a genre shift while the track was still running. Clearly they know something I don’t with their continued success, but I’ll definitely keep my eyes on the group over the years to see what changes (if anything does). Who knows, maybe live each track hits the ears differently?

365 Day Music Journey: Week 4

Another great week of music, both in my listening adventures and live! I had a solid week of music work playing a lot of different roles and styles. It's always fun to see where music will take me week to week, and this week kept me working!

To quickly list what I did:

  • recorded more songs for the upcoming DidyMo release
  • performed with a jazz trio at the Chemical Bank ArtPrize event dinner
  • accompanied Hannah Rose Graves at ArtPrize
  • played the first of my ArtPrize Public Piano concert series sessions
  • helped run parts/rehearse music at the AHS Chamber Choir retreat
  • performed at an indie venue with MOTH, Those Willows, and Kyle Indigo

So much fun! And as varied as the music was for me this week, my listening once again gravitated mainly towards jazz, but not without it's deviations! There's a rockabilly band, a metal fusion act, and some soulful funk to add to the list. Hope you enjoy!

Video taken live from their September 4th album release show

Dead Man Walking by Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish

Earlier this month, I was happy to join Hannah Rose and The GravesTones to support Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish at their September 3rd show at the Tip Top Deluxe near downtown Grand Rapids. There was a good sized crowd for the cozy venue, all energetic and eagerly awaiting the Jesse Ray’s performance of new music at their album release show. Their album, “Dead Man Walking,” is a testament to their sound and live presence, giving 200% of themselves with each guitar strum and hit of the drum.

It’s always nice to experience a West Michigan staple band like the Carolina Catfish firsthand by meeting them through the show. I like to see artists in their element before hearing the rehearsed, polished product that usually comes out of an album. However, with this group, it’s clear that they leave a level of transparency to the listener when it comes to showcasing their recorded sound vs. their live sound. Each track on their new album hits hard with rockabilly swagger, digging deep into their roots and baring their souls for the world to see. Each tune tells a story that can connect with us all, talking of life and the many struggles that come with it.

I would definitely recommend listening to them if you want another cool act to add to your list of local bands. Their album captures their live sound while boosting some elements I felt that certain songs lacked on the live stage (mainly that low end the bass guitar provides, which Rick Johnson provides in addition to keys on the album). However, Jesse Ray and Josh Worsham have proven they can captivate an audience simply by playing real, unfiltered music that resonates with the hard working, Michigan attitude we all know.

Two (Live) by Chick Corea and Bela Fleck

This album is bananas, like seriously. Two giants in music collaborating on a live performance with such variety, virtuosity, and artistry that blows away any doubts that the music would be limited in any capacity with just a piano and banjo duo.
Touching on Spanish, French, South American, and certain European styles, the concert attendees were treated to a great program! Such command of different styles in addition to full confidence in their sound and creativity, these two artists deserve a place in music history. Winding solo passages, dense harmonies, a range of extended techniques on both instruments (ex. Harmonics, muting piano strings, etc), and a spirited conversation between each performer gives me such delight as a listener. It’s not holding back, it’s true expression and joy rather than going through the motions, it’s taking risks with the audience on the edge of their seats!


I really enjoyed listening to this album, because it confirms two things about these masters that helps fuel my fire as a musician: they never stop learning, the delight in approaching things in a different way, and they make sure to ground the concert experience in the simple joys that come with playing music. There is always time after the fact to analyze parts, transcribe solos, and take in harmonic construction of each piece, but for a first time listen, take in the masterful playing of two titans of music history. They work so well together, effortlessly flowing through music with true abandon. It's so great to listen to them, and it gives me hope that when I am aged that I can have the same spirited and joyful approach to music that these virtuoso musicians have.

Stretch Music by Christian Scott
The New Orleans born horn player makes a statement as bold as his fashion and his unique variations on the trumpet. Right away, the music takes you into a different realm, one that elements of classical instrumentation with extended techniques (placing items for a buzz on the piano strings), digital drumming instrumentation, and a hip hop groove can coexist. It grabs you as a listener immediately, never letting go until the last note has faded.

This release is just phenomenal, and shows just how much genre breaking the jazz world is trying to do with how artists can create music. The harmonies are there, the tradition of improvised soloing is very present (with plenty of guest artists), but the tone is fresh and modern, unyielding in just what instrumentation can be used to create unique music templates. Echoing guitars and Rhodes, a blend of acoustic and digital sounds, and powerful, focused tone that blends perfectly with each statement. Musicians like Christian Scott stay true to their craft, thriving in success without losing sense of their creative direction. There are hints of Latin America, blues, rock, post rock, minimalism, and ambient electronic music all combined easily within the malleable medium of jazz. The more artists like Scott take advantage of this style’s flexibility, the greater impact jazz will continue to have on American culture.

Also, for $10, you get the "Stretch Music App," which gives you the ability to control the mix levels of the recorded band so you can rehearse with this group and practice soloing/melodies. It also has charts for every single part! Seriously changing the game right there.

Your Drunken Soundtrack by Max Ox
So me being the dumb person I am sometimes, I did not do two things regarding this group:

1. Make the connection that Jacob Mann is the same guy who does the “One Minute Jazz” series videos on Youtube

2. Listen to this awesome release in full!

I had sampled a track from this album, really dug it, and meant to come back to it. For whatever reason, even with my fellow musician friends around me singing this album’s praises, it took me a good while to around to listening to the full album. I don’t know what brought about the time delay, but I am glad to have listened to this release in full.
Right away this group sounds great, blending some great harmonies, grooving hard to some funky beats, and showing that they have a great deal of fun putting the music together with their song structure and choice of instrument sounds (especially the synth, which is amazing throughout). It’s like of a video game synth led a funky/hip hop jazz trio, with plenty of surprises placed in each track. Honestly, I am going to let this release speak for itself, if you love groups like Thundercat, you’ll really be into this release!

Mike Maher (voice), Hildegunn Gjedrem (voice), Alison Wedding (voice), Brad Williams (guitar), Mike League (bass), Justin Stanton (keys), Cory Henry (organ), Louis Cato (drums), Chris Bullock (saxophone)

Maz by Maz
This debut release is the side-project from singer/songwriter Mike “Maz” Maher, who is an accomplished trumpeter for the Grammy winning band Snarky Puppy. Combining his roots as a singer with adesire to create soulful, catchy music, this project was born, funded through Kickstarter, and includes a variety of great collaborating artists, including many great musicians who have collaborated in/with Snarky Puppy and can be seen elsewhere as members of the current Late Show house band with Jon Batiste (like Louis Cato is for example).

It’s a great blend of funky grooves, smooth lyrics and melodies, and solid musicianship all around. So much tasteful songwriting also likens the album to the music of Stevie Wonder, blending different instrument sounds, grabbing your ears with catchy hooks and beats, and showcasing musicians through great solo moments! I’m glad I finally heard this side project, because it shows that musicians can and should explore a variety styles and different projects when results as good as this can come to fruition. If you need a groove to get you going on your work commute or something to celebrate a great weekend, this is what you need to groove to during your day!

Novallo II by Novallo

In September of 2012, this group came onto the metal scene with a unique offering: an album that playfully blended video game sounding synths, elements of pop and jazz, with crushing metal breakdowns and weaving guitar lines to carve out their distinct sound. It doesn’t hold back in technical aspects but forgoes the assumption that mindless shredding will equate to metal album sales. It has a sense of direction, with each track sculpted to reflect the group’s desire to stand out from the herd and have fun combining their differing musical influences.

This album allows for the metalhead to have headbang material as much as it does for the modern rock/metal songwriting artist to have reference material for how to pull off combining genre elements without sounding hokey. The syncopated riffs mirror many metal acts out there (ex. Periphery, Tesseract, etc) but add in elements of funk that sit comfortably in a groove pocket. There is a plethora of instrument sounds, from beefy guitar tones to spacey synth leads, delivering a tasty, bite-sized album of musical treats to sample. Like one commenter on the site noted, it was “So worth the wait.” Three years of internet silence have rewarded fans with the next phase in this group’s sound and a strong addition to their catalog.

The video features the same bassist and drummer from the March 2014 show at the House of Pancake

Tinks by Peter Schlamb
A last year, I had the great privilege of performing a house show with the Hermon Mehari Quartet, a group that contained Hermon Mehari (trumpet), Peter Schlamb (vibes), Karl McComas-Reichl (bass), and John Kizilarmut (drums). This group was way too good, showcasing a variety of great jazz talent with a direction that is grounded in tradition but challenging the genre through inventive songwriting. One tune from the concert, “Stacy Hill” off of Peter Schlamb’s release, was performed and definitely stuck in my head. It was a catchy tune with an infectious groove and some great harmonies that laid a solid foundation for solos. Clearly, these guys were on another level, and I learned a bunch by watching them perform and interact on stage that night back in March of 2014.

Peter Schlamb is one of the few vibraphone players I know on the scene, which is surprising because you think any instrument close enough to a piano would capture my attention. Studying with the likes of Stefon Harris (fellow vibes player), Aaron Parks, Nasheet Waits, Ben Street, and Aaron Goldberg whilst attending New School University in NYC, Peter Schlamb carved out a name for himself in the east coast jazz scene. He has performed with fantastic artists like Mike Moreno, David Binney, and Logan Richardson to name a few. It’s moments like last year where you appreciate working so hard as a musician to develop your sound and collaborate with others, because who knew such a rock star lineup of musicians would literally play in my quartet leader’s living room one muggy winter evening. You’ll definitely want to check out this album, it’s got some great tunes, some cool instrument features (vibes and distorted Rhodes), and a great lineup of players.

©2015 Dutcher Snedeker. All rights reserved.