Melting Pot

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Kasai All-Stars – The Ploughman (Le Laboureur)

The Congotronics series put out by Crammed Discs has been one of the most ear-opening experiences of the last few years, highlighting contemporary music out of the Congo. Kasai All-Stars have finally released their latest entry into the series, following up from one of the best releases of 2008 with Beware The Fetish. The band hasn’t lost any of it’s verve, or it’s penchant for unusually long titles (the best one this time around is “As They Walked Into the Forest on a Sunday, They Encountered Apes Dressed As Humans”). Great representation of the incredible sounds coming out of Africa today.

They’ve even made a video for the song, “The Chief’s Enthronement” and it’s every bit as fantastic as you’d expect:

FindingFela

Fela Kuti – Viva Nigeria

Last week we played you an interview with Adam Kahan, who’s made a brilliant documentary, long in the making, for Rahsaan Roland Kirk. This week we’re highlighting another, by all accounts, exceptional documentary, just released on the life of the legendary Fela Kuti. Fela has enjoyed quite a resurgence in popularity over the last several years. Virtually all of his records are back in print, multiple Afro-beat outfits from Antibalas in NYC to Mexico 68 here in LA, have popped up to pay tribute to his sound and to top it all off, there was even a well regarded Broadway show in his honor. Finding Fela comes to us in the midst of this Fela-surgence. The soundtrack does its best to provide a cross-section of Fela’s career, opting to provide largely vocal edits of songs that in their original versions run from 15-30 minutes in length. “Viva Nigeria” is a very early track, recorded here in LA while Fela was in the States, having his consciousness raised and coming up with blueprint for his signature Afro-Beat style. The soundtrack also features a few tracks recorded by the “Fela! Band” which is essentially an all-star outfit based out of the Broadway show. All in all, it’s a nice introduction to those who are still new to Fela’s music and a great sing/dance-a-long collection for those of us who have been grooving to Fela for years and years.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer for the film, Finding Fela:

BrownSabbath

Brownout – Hand Of Doom

Adrian Quesada’s Latin Psych Funk outfit Brownout + the music of Black Sabbath…do I really need to say anything else??? Didn’t think so…Rock on!

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Electric Wire Hustle – Bottom Line

First heard of Electric Wire Hustle while at KCRW, when Mathieu Schreyer and Anthony Valadez received music from them, started playing it and soon enough most of DJs at the station were playing music from this soulful group out of New Zealand. Fast forward six years later and the group is readying their second full-length due to be released in the fall. To tease us a bit they’ve released this four song EP, featuring brand new originals “Bottom Line” and “If These Are The Last Days,” plus one remix for each from Flako and Eliphino. I didn’t catch the EWH wave the first time around, but I’m all aboard this time. Electric Wire Hustle is yet another example of the really stellar simultaneously backward/forward thinking soul music getting created outside of the US (Quadron and Hiatus Kaiyote, both bands AntVala had a hand in breaking, being the best recent examples). We’ll see what other treasures the full-length album holds, but if it’s even half as good as these two tracks, it will definitely place highly on my list of the Best of 2014.

By the way, they’ve also created a gorgeous nature filled video for “If These Are The Last Days” that you should check out:

DiscoDuro

Los Disco Duro – Te Lo Creo

There’s been a wave of really nice brand new tracks on vinyl of late.  This one comes to us from the artist formerly known as DJ Ryan at KALX and currently known as Roger Más.  He has a new project called Los Disco Duro, that builds on his previous Nu-Cumbia work under his own name and expands it into a style the boys are calling Sonido Robótico.  For this debut 45, they’ve reconstructed two classic cumbias, “Te Lo Creo” and “Muchachada,” into synth heavy, club ready bangers with robotic vocoder vocals.  While these sounds clearly would find a good home on most latin dance nights, they update to the classic cumbia sound also makes it real easy to throw into most any set where you want to get the people moving.  Hoping for much more from this project in the coming months & years!

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Miles Tackett – Everything

{Tomorrow Night (Thursday July 10th) Miles Tackett is having his record release party over at the Bootleg Bar, performing with his backing band “The Three Times” along with Mexico 68, Luther Russell and yours truly spinning some tunes throughout the night!!!}

“Music Man” Miles is perhaps best known as the driving force behind the mighty Breakestra. He’s also well known around these parts for two legendary nights, Root Down (currently on hiatus, though occasionally getting together as the Root Down Sound System) and Funky Sole (still growing strong every Saturday at the Echo). Recently he debuted a new project, Miles Tackett & the 3 Times, releasing music under his own name for the first time in a long long time via the just released album The Fool Who Wonders. For fans of his other projects, the tunes on this album may be a bit of a surprise. First off, while Miles handles a lot of the instruments on the recording, his work on guitar is featured most prominently. There are some definite nods to Hendrix, but Miles’ style is maybe a bit more akin to Stevie Ray Vaughan in his more Hendrix inspired moments, though it really doesn’t sound like either man explicitly (that makes more sense sonically than it might on paper, as you can hear on “Everything” above, or “One More Time” on the album). It’s not a straight funk sound as some might expect given Breakestra’s history, instead it’s more of a soulful rockin’ style that also has roots in his Laurel Canyon upbringing. The other surprise is Miles’ singing voice, something that I don’t think I’d heard until he started performing this solo material. There’s a real tenderness that comes out of his singing, particularly because of the phrasing where many of the ends of his words hang around, that reminds me a bit of Buddy Miles’ early work, while again retaining a sound all its own. It’s something that you hear on the mellower tracks like “Come Away,” “Paradise” or the cover of “Everybody’s Been Burned,” but you still hear it even when the band kicks it up a notch, as they do on “Everything.” That ability to seamlessly mix together a variety of different elements is one of the strengths of his previous work as a DJ and with Breakestra, and it’s something that is just as welcome here as Miles emerges with his a sound all his own.

As a bonus, here’s the video for the first single from the album, “Just What I Need”:

UndergroundMelting

Underground Vegetables – Melting Pot

I was very very very happy to run into another version of “Melting Pot,” one that I’d never even heard of, recently courtesy of the legendary Danny Holloway. Of late, Holloway has been issuing/reissuing hard to find music via his label Ximeno Records. Just ahead of the recent Beat Swap Meet, he sent a message that he would be there with this 45, and I immediately put in a reservation for a copy. Since I had to run to do my show on KPFK, I missed him that day, but was able to track him down before a recent gig at Dub Lab. Underground Vegetables’ version of “Melting Pot” on this 45 is shortest of any of the other versions (also considerably shorter than the version that can be found on Studio One Funk put out by the good folks at Soul Jazz Records), but it’s just as tasty as Boris Gardiner’s verison, with some interesting subtle changes to the sound of the original. On the flipside of this 45 is another rare cut, “Gonna Get U,” from Grace Jackson. Though this has a pretty straight reggae vibe, the track was actually recorded in Nigeria! Both tracks are most welcome additions into my collection as the summer of 2014 gets off to a fantastic start.

BetaClub

The Beat Club – Brassa Nova

Brand new music from a fairly new collective of musicians with roots in the UK, Paris and the USA. The Beta Club most notably features Shawn Lee, doing what he does, but also features at least 9 or 10 other musicians and DJs, including Steve Haney of LA’s Jungle Fire. Headed up by UK DJ Sten La’ Ren and repped by the Paris DJs crew, the Beta Club produces a sound that might be best described as “Sinister Library Afro-Latin Psych Funk.” That might seem like a mouthful, but as soon as you hear “Brassa Nova,” and especially the flipside “Freak Beat,” from their recently released debut 45, you’ll see how it perfectly encapsulates the group. Not sure if this group will ever perform live or tour or even record any more music, but this one’s a keeper and well worth tracking down.

FieldsEmma

Lee Fields & the Expressions – Still Gets Me Down

{Lee Fields and the Expressions perform at the Troubadour on June 28th here in Los Angeles!}

Lee Fields’ 2009 record My World is one of my favorite “retro-soul” records of the last 10 years. Faithful Man was a decent follow-up, but it probably wasn’t possible for me to fully appreciate that record coming after all the highs of My World. With the newly released Emma Jean, Lee Fields keeps the fires burning with a mostly mid/slower tempo record backed by the Expressions with a sound that sounds to my ears to be fuller and richer than with Faithful Man. Gone are many of the 70s sweet soul flourishes from the previous album, and we have a return to a more “southern soul” style of production, that better fits all the “Little JB” qualities of Fields voice, many of which are fully on display here on “Still Gets Me Down.” Stately work from a true soul survivor.

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Zara McFarlane – Angie La La

{Zara McFarlane will be making her LA debut next week, Monday June 16th at the Blue Whale, along with DJs Jeremy Sole and Wiseacre of the Lift, not a show to be missed!!!}

I’ve been featuring quite a lot of the jazz releases that have come out here in 2014, in some cases redefining and expanding the drama, in other cases just showcasing the talent that remains within this artform. In the case of UK singer Zara McFarlane that extraordinary talent is evident within one second of hearing her voice. McFarlane seamlessly blends together several generations of jazz into a style that is wholly contemporary and also thoroughly timeless. If You Knew Her is Zara’s second release for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood record label. The title of the record and the songs written and chosen for it are a tribute of sorts to the various women in Zara’s life and to the diversity of experience often overlooked in portrayals of Black women. Like the stylized artwork for the album, every song is a strong and memorable statement on that theme. It’s truly a blessing to be able to bear witness to such talent here at that start of what should be an exceptional career as a vocalist. I’ve listened to “Angie La La” dozens of times and I’m still not sure exactly what she does with her voice a couple minutes into the song, some kind of mix of Leon Thomas yodeling mixed with birdcalls. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a human being create those sounds, and hearing something legitimately novel, in a jazz record, here in 2014…that is really something else indeed, just like Zara McFarlane herself.

As a bonus, here’s Zara’s video for her version of the Junior Murvin reggae classic, “Police & Thieves”:

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Rodrigo Amarante – I’m Ready

Way way back in 2008 a record was released by a group calling themselves Little Joy that set many KCRW DJ’s hearts aflutter. While the inclusion of Fab Moretti from the Strokes was what many people paid attention to, I was much more intrigued by the other man in the trio (rounded out by Binki Shapiro), Brazilian musician Rodrigo Amarante. The first song I heard off of that release was his song “Evaporar” and the simple arrangement and plaintive vocals remained in my mind for days and months and even now I can remember sitting in my car on that first day I heard Anne Litt play the song. That record was one of my favorites of the year and ever since I’ve been hoping for more music from Amarante. It’s taken far too long, but Amarante has finally resurfaced on record with his own solo album, Cavalo. With assists from Moretti and long-time collaborator Devendra Barnhart, Cavalo picks up where Little Joy left off, but deepens all of the qualities that made Amarante’s work on that album special. Part of my love for Brazilian Portuguese is not only in how the language sounds, but especially in the English accents it produces. No other accent caresses the syllables as lovingly as Brazilians speaking and singing in English, as you can hear on the lovely “I’m Ready,” (which is partially sung in Portuguese just to make the heart swoon even more). Can’t express just how much hearing this new music from Amarante makes my heart feel glad…certainly one of my favorite records of the year.

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BadBadNotGood – Confessions

As I mentioned a little while ago, 2014 has been a rebirth year for Jazz, with a number of younger artists playing around with the conventions of the genre and injecting new life into it. One of the best is this group, BadBadNotGood, a trio based out of Toronto. This latest album, III, which is in fact their third album, was my introduction to the group and immediately made me envious of those who have known about the group over the past three years that they have been recording. BBNG crafts music that is very much informed by Hip-Hop, and so it’s not a surprise that they’ve frequently covered some Hip-Hop productions. III is their first album of all original material and it’s by far the best material I’ve heard from the group. I chose to share with you my current fave, “Confessions” which features some extra greasy saxophone work from Leland Whitty. This one is a sure-fire pick to be on my “Best Of” list at the end of the year and for those of you who enjoy recent trends in Jazz, it will likely be a favorite of yours too.

Doheny

Ned Doheny – A Love Of Your Own (Demo Version)

I have to admit to taking a serious late-pass on the pleasures of Ned Doheny. This was the last release in a package of 5 from Numero earlier in the Spring and I was just too engrossed in the rest to give it more than a cursory listen while at Long Beach in between classes (that will be the last time I ever try to preview music during office hours I swear). Doheny didn’t become a big name, but quite a lot of his songs became hits for other artists, including Chaka Khan. This set is a cross section of material from the 1970s and early 1980s and features almost a dozen unreleased demos. “A Love Of Your Own” is a song I was familiar with, having heard the Average White Band’s version of it for years. It wasn’t until this release that I learned that the song was originally written by Doheny, along with Hamish Stuart of the AWB, who you can hear on the harmony vocals. This demo version is a bit more stripped down than either of the studio versions the two men cut, which highlights the groove all the more. Perfect breezy 1970s soundtrack for the California summer, or for wherever you are if you want a little taste of Cali in your ears.

Kuroda

Takuya Kuroda – Rising Son

Now that I’m back (and this time I REALLY mean it) with the end of the semester, as I was trying to get a handle on everything that I wanted to share with y’all I realized that I haven’t paid nearly enough attention to the many fine new jazz releases in 2014. You’ll see quite a few of them here in the coming weeks, many of which I’ve played on the radio show, but there’s been some really nice releases really expanded the possibilities of Jazz, from Kris Bowers, Bad Bad Not Good, Zara McFarlane and this artist, trumpeter Takuya Kuroda. Kuroda first came to my attention playing in Jose James band at multiple live performances in LA in 2013. When I heard he had his own record as a leader coming out this year I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Playing along with many of the other members of James’ group (the man himself adds some vocals to a version of the classic, “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”) Kuroda’s jazz stylings lean on the Hip-Hop and funk side of things, with a sprinkle of the Soulquarians production style for good measure. Highly necessary sounds as Spring turns to Summer.

Conka

Karol Conka – Gandaia

I like to think of myself as a guy who is on top of things musically, but again and again these days I’m proven soooooo wrong. The latest thing that I could have been listening to years ago but only recently discovered is the incredible sounds of Karol Conka. Conka has been recording music since at least 2011 and all this time I could have been grooving out to it and playing for y’all. Of all the rap artists I’ve heard out of Brazil, Conka has the best combination of skill, style and swagger. The music, primarily produced by friend Nave Beatz, expertly mixes Brazilian samples and rhythms with big time bass that could (and likely will as soon as more American rappers and producers hear this record) easily find it’s way onto dance floors of Hip-Hop clubs throughout this country. Batuk Freak took about four years for Conka to complete and it’s been well worth the wait. This is BY FAR the best thing I’ve heard all year and a sure shot selection for my year end list of the best of 2014.

Added bonus, here’s the video for “Boa Noite” the song that started it all:

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