Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Daaaaaaaaamn, I'm slippin' (First blog in a long time)

Hey guys,
       So, last time I posted a blog was 4 months ago, back in the year 2010. Much has happened, so we're gonna recap: 

By far, my favorite moment this year, so far, came on February 13th. That night, against my better judgement, I was watching the 2011 Grammy's. The catagory was Best New Artist, and the nominees were as the following: 
Justin Bieber
Florence and the Machine
Mumford and Sons
and Esperanza Spalding

      Most people in mainstream culture were familiar with most of these acts, especially Justin Bieber and Drake. Common sense would have told any of us that Bieber was the guaranteed winner. The Grammy's tend to be a popularity contest anyway, and while I HOPED that Esperanza would win, I wasn't really holding my breath. Then this happened:

      For those of you that don't know who Esperanza is (and there was MANY who didn't, so don't feel bad.) Esperanza Spalding is a jazz bass player from Portland, Oregon. Her and her brother were raised by their mother, who was a single parent. She got her GED at 16 to be able to attend Portland State College early. Although the youngest student in the her bass studio, her teachers nurtured her skills and she was encouraged to apply to Berklee College of Music in Boston (where she got a full scholarship.) Since the age of 15, she's been perfroming regularly, and at the age of 20, was hired by Berklee as a teacher.
        So, after she won Best New Artist, every tween came out of the wood work to complain and claim Justin Bieber was somehow robbed of the award. Esperanza's wiki page was vandalized 30 MINUTES after she won. Wikipedia had to put her page on lockdown. Then my buddy Greg (aka E.E. Delrey, check him out!) told me about this video:

At first, we all thought this was fake. No one is that stupid, right? Riiiight?

Thanks Charlie, I was wrong. That girl was dead serious. Her arguement is pretty pathetic and resonates the ignorace of some people. Just because you don't know about this artist, that's not a reflection on that artist, it's a reflection on you. Esperanza Spalding has played for the President of the United States, not once but TWICE. She's also played with giants like Stanley Clark, Pat Metheny, and countless others.
Still, some people think that a 3D movie is more of an accomplishment than being an accomplished musician. Many people were offended with Esperanzas' win:

She who laughs last, laughs best!

On a much more somber note, recently a video has gone viral and has drawn the ire of about every songwriter I know. I won't trouble you by posting Rebecca Black's "Friday," I'm sure you've heard it. I will, however, post her interview with GMA:

       What bothers me is that she's totally cool with being mediocre. They ask the mom how she feels about all the negative comments, she expresses how mad it made her, but, you have to forsee this happening. You put a song on the INTERNET,  it's open to criticism. Don't put yourself on Front Street if you can't handle it.
      In my research, I found that this song is not original and that it was actually written by a legend back in the 60's:

All joking aside, those have been my a) favorite musical event of the last 4 months and b) my least favorite musical event on the last 4 months. Send me your thoughts on anything I've written to Music/Eclectic (Facebook) and/or follow me on twitter @MarcoRLamas.

P.s. Soon I'll have music and dates up on gigs with one of the three bands I'll be working on this summer (and beyond!)

Peace, Marco!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bobby Hebb and "Sunny"

Hi kids,
       As you might know by now, if you follow the blog, is that I love analyzing songs that have multiple versions. This next tune under my lens is a R&B/Soul classic called "Sunny." "Sunny" was written by Bobby Hebb in 1963, after the Kennedy Assassination and the murder of Bobby's brother outside of a Nashville nightclub. Hebb wrote the song to highlight optimism instead of pessimism that was widely felt at that time in American history. The first release of the tune was actually by Japanese singer Miko Hirota.

Hirota's version, unlike future releases, doesn't modulate through keys and some verses are omitted, slightly changing the story line of the song.

The next version released was by marimba player Dave Pike in 1966. Pike release his instrumental version shortly before Hebb released his version, in 1966. At the time, Hebb was touring with the Beatles.

This version also doesn't modulate through keys like Hebbs does. Notice the very distinct key changes that occur throughout the Bobby Hebb version of the song:

This sparked a plethora of cover versions from some of the most respected names in music.
This cut by Marvin Gaye starts in the key of F minor. The original is in E minor:

Stevie Wonder cut his own version of it, in the original key. The remarkable thing about this version is the great orchestration and variations of the vocal melody:

Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield and Jamiroquai have all performed stellar versions of "Sunny:"

Now, my two favorite versions are by two great musicians. First we have the album version of the great Philly guitarist Pat Martino. The album is "Pat Martino/Live" with he recorded in New York with Ron Thomas (keys), Tyrone Brown (bass) and Sherman Ferguson (drums). This combo kills it:

Being the Godfather of Soul, James Brown has also performed "Sunny." This clip is from Paris in the 70's with the J.B.'s as his backing band:

Now, My ALL TIME favorite version of this tune is a live video of Pat Martino with organist Joey Defrancesco at the 2002 Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. The band invites John Scofield to join them on this tune. Unfortunately, Sco looks lost, and his solo is very weak in comparison. He seems to be feeling his way through the changes and doesn't give the listener any confidence. Joey D and Pat on the other hand. Pat Martino MURDERS the solo! He shreds this jam to bits! Watch:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Music Review

Hey kids!
     I know, it's been a hot minute since I've posted, but I've been getting ready for grad school auditions and that got more focus. So, I did some front line reconnaissance and asked around for some new music. I'm glad to hear back from people that there is some interesting new music out there. Big thanks to my buddy Josh Trupin for turning my attention to a bunch of new bands. Now, Josh has his ear more towards the indie sound, so all these bands were revelations!
     The first band to come to my attention were Gayngs from Minneapolis. More of a collective of musicians from the Minneapolis area, Gayngs have a strong ambient sound, based on the layering and overlapping of sounds. 
The members of Gayngs are:

  • Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce (Bon Iver)
  • P.O.S (Rhymesayers)
  • Dessa (Doomtree)
  • Michael Lewis (Andrew Bird)
  • Ivan Howard (The Rosebuds)
  • Ryan Olson (Building Better Bombs, Digitata)
  • Zach Coulter, Adam Hurlburt, and Shön Troth (Solid Gold)
  • Joe Westerlund, Brad Cook, and Phil Cook (Megafaun)
  • Maggie Morrison (Lookbook, Digitata)
  • Jake Luck and Nick Ryan (Leisure Birds)
  • Channy Moon-Casselle (Roma di Luna)
  • Katy Morley
  • Danny Krzykowski
Here are a few videos of their tunes:

No Sweat

Faded High

The Gaudy Side of Town

The next group is We Were Promised Jetpacks from Scotland. Their debut full length was released June of last year, so it's not really thaaaat new, but it's new enough. We Were Promised Jetpacks have a very generic "indie" sound. It seems like they're going of the sound of indie as opposed to the aesthetic of recording and touring independently.

Another band from Scotland The Twilight Sad lean towards a more experimental, ambient sound. Since 2009, they have one album and an EP. The album is Forget the Night Ahead. This album is much darker than their previous release. When asked about it, guitarist Andy McFarlane explained that they weren't looking for a polished sound, and that 3 bass heads were blown in the process.

Reflection of the Television

Made To Disappear

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Music from New Orleans (Part 3): NOLA Metal

Welcome back guys!
            In this last part of my 3 part series on New Orleans, I'm gonna focus on a often neglected scene, New Orleans Heavy Metal. NOLA metal is some of the most clearly influenced by it's environment. Unlike Bay Area, L.A., or New York metal bands, NOLA metal is much more about the groove than about the speed the tunes are played it. They can get fast, but there will be clearer dynamic changes. Something that NOLA metal has in common with the jazz, blues and funk from the area is it's gumbo-like mix of influences. NOLA metal combines thrash, hardcore, grindcore, blues, southern rock and punk to make a completely, geographically unique sound.
           The first band to be identified with NOLA metal is Exhorder. Originally playing straight ahead trash, they adopted more of a groove element for their 1990 album Slaughter In The Vatican. The following clip is the song "Slaughter In The Vatican" from that album:

Another influential NOLA metal band is Eyehategod. EHG combined more elements of Sludge metal, along with blues riffs. EHG has released 4 major label releases to date. Amazing that they're still around considering how choatic they've been known to be on the road and the issues many of the band members have had with substance abuse. Here's a live clip from 2008:

Another influential Sludge metal band is Crowbar. Formed from the ashes of punk band Aftershock, Crowbar is known for playing much slower than any of their counterparts, giving their music a much gloomier vibe:

Soilent Green formed in 1988, but didn't get to release a debut album until 1995. Highly influential for their mix of grindcore, doom metal and sludge metal. Soilent Green is also infamous for the murder of bassist Scott Williams by his roommate and the death of singer Glenn Rambo during Hurricane Katrina. Rambo went to his mothers house during the hurricane, he help her move to the attic, because she was handicapped. Both were found drowned in that attic by rescue workers after the hurricane. Here's a single from their 2008 album "Inevitable Collapse In The Presence Of Conviction":

One of the most prominent musicians from New Orleans is singer Phil Anselmo. Anselmo is best known as the singer of prominent metal band Pantera. Although they were from Texas, Pantera incorporated many elements of the NOLA sound, most noticeably, the focus on groove. Anselmo also works with the NOLA bands Down and Superjoint Ritual.

Here's a few clips of Pantera:

The next clip is of down, Anselmos' band with members of Crowbar, Pantera and Eyehategod:

Soon after Pantera broke up, Anselmo formed Superjoint Ritual. Even though Superjoint didn't last long, it was clear where they were coming from with the NOLA groove metal sound. Interesting side note, the bass player for Superjoint is Hank Williams III (Also known as Hank III or H3.):

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rest In Peace King Solomon Burke

Hi everyone!
   I usually don't like blog about other things when I have a series going (Currently exploring New Orleans music), but sometimes you can't help it. Tonight, I was on Twitter when I read from Living Colours' page that Soul singer Solomon Burke passed away. Burke is a huge influence on the development of Rock and Pop music. Solomon has recorded 36 albums, had 35 major hits, and has won a few Grammy's. Burke died in Amsterdam, after a flight from Los Angeles. He was currently on tour, set to perform with Dutch rock band De Dijk.

Rest in peace King Solomon

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Music from New Orleans (Part 2): NOLA Funk

Welcome to part 2 of my series on New Orleans music! Today I'm focusing on the New Orleans funk sound. This music shares the same roots as NOLA jazz and Dixieland. The following few groups are just some the stand out to me personally and in no way is this a definative list. There are so many groups from the NOLA funk scene that listing the all, or as many as possible, would take up several blogs!
I'm starting with one of the flashiest performers all around. Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, started as a guitarist in the 50's, but moved to piano after his left ring finger got shot in an altercation. In the early 60's, he moved to Los Angeles working on sessions for Sonny & Cher and Canned Heat.
Starting in the late 60's Dr. John started playing music that combined New Orleans-style rhythm & blues and psychedelic rock and elaborate stage shows that resembled voodoo ceremonies. In the late 60's and early 70's, Dr. John broke though with albums like "Gris-Gris," "Gumbo" and "In the Right Place." His best known tunes from the time are probably "Iko-Iko" and "Right Place, Wrong Time." Both songs clearly showcase the unique mix that occurs in New Orleans.

Here's a clip of "Iko-Iko" from the 1995 Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland:

Dr. Johns' most well known song, "Right Place, Wrong Time" comes from the album of the same name. The backing band here is The Meters, also from NOLA (more on them is a minute):

The significance of the "Right Place, Wrong Time" album is the introduction to one of NOLA funks' funkiest groups, The Meters. Dr. John hired the Meters to back him up in the studio and Allen Toussaint to produce and arrange horns.
The core of the Meters are Art Neville (Keys/Vocals), Leo Nocentelli (Guitar/Vocals) George Porter Jr. (Bass/Vocals) Joe "Zigaboo" Modeliste (Drums) and Cyril Neville (Percussion/Vocals.) The Meters are often mentioned in the same breath as James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly And the Family Stone as progenitors of funk music. Their tunes "Cissy Strut" and "Look-Ka Py Py" and considered by many to be funk classics.

"Look-Ka Py Py"

"Cissy Strut"

This blog would be incomplete if left as is, so I'm giving mention to a few others that really define the sound of New Orleans:


Dirty Dozen Brass Band:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Music from New Orleans (Part 1): Louis Armstrong

Hey Ya'll!
Today I'm shining a light to the land below sea level, New Orleans! If Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization, Nola is the Fertile Crescent of jazz, funk, r&b and all other forms of music. New Orleans' musical history has deep roots in Congo Square, the area in the 18th centrury that is currently Louis Armstrong Park. Slaves were allowed to maintain their traditions from back home (Africa) on the weekends after working the fields. This, along with the intruduction of western instruments, paved the wave for the birth of Dixieland and later Jazz.
One of the most popular musicians associated with Nola is Louis Armstrong. A gifted trumpet player and singer, Armstrongs' music influenced countless musicians, and is still felt to this day.

Here's a clip of Louis with Johnny Cash, showing Armstrongs influence on genres beyond jazz:

This next clip is Armstrongs most well known song. It's beautiful, and, to me, ironic, considering he grew up in the shadow of slavery and the spotlight of Jim Crow. A testament to the beauty of music:

Coming soon: Part 2 where I'll be checking out Nola funk!