Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Funk: Karl Denson's Sexual Chocolate

Words By Karen Dugan (Tiny Rager)

With outstanding talent, worth ethic and enthusiasm, Karl Denson is one of the most respected men in the Funk music community. Amazing us with his saxophone and flute skills, among other instruments, Karl Denson fronts bands such as Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Greyboy Allstars! But have you ever heard of his involvement with Sexual Chocolate?

If you haven’t already watched it, go rent Coming to America! Eddie Murphy plays many rolls throughout the movie but the best role was as the band leader of Sexual Chocolate. And who’s playing saxophone for this gnarly band? None other than our beloved Karl Denson.

For many years Sexual Chocolate was out of commission but lucky for us, Karl Denson decided to breathe life into this fictional band by performing a funky Sexual Chocolate set on Jam Cruise 8 in January of this year.

Backing Karl on stage was an allstar cast consisting of the members of KDTU, Debrissa McKinney (Josh Phillips Folk Festival), Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones), Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Jans Ingber and Liza Oxnard (The Motet). And a super special surprise came when legendary harmonica player Lee Oscar (WAR), a guest on the boat, came out on Galaxy, am actual WAR cover.

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe Live at Theatro Carlo Felice on January 7, 2010. <---Direct Archive Link

1. ...banter... (2:01)
2. Front Money (5:57)
3. Galaxy (13:25)
4. Groovy Thing (5:15)
5. Fallin' (6:06)
6. Flute Down (8:54)
7. Mighty Rebel (9:23)
8. Groove On (9:31)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Jazz: Esperanza Spalding

Words By Zach Zeidner


Esperanza Spalding, arguably one of the most exceptional contemporaries to have recently bombarded the Jazz scene, is a perfect mix of beauty, brains, and sheer unadulterated talent. As a virtuosic upright bass player with an equally talented voice and innovative mind, Spalding embodies the perfect modern jazz musician. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Spalding can be best described as if Ornette Coleman and Madonna had a child and she was raised by Billie Holiday and Stevie Wonder. This woman screams talent, exploring new and interesting avenues of Jazz, R’n’B, and popular music. Astoundingly, the public has even acknowledged it. Spalding was recently nominated for an Emmy for best new artist, which is extremely rare for a Jazz musician and exemplifies Spalding’s ability to enrapture and infiltrate the collective mind of the public. Spalding became the most searched person and item on Google as a result of her televised performance at the Austin City Limits Festival this past year, an utterly remarkable accomplishment for a Jazz musician.

Esperanza Spalding’s album Esperanza, is a remarkable album that explores the avenues of jazz music few contemporaries choose to explore these days. Spalding uses various Latin based grooves with standard walking bass lines to develop some jams that will leave you bewildered. Spalding’s vocals are astounding; creating inflections in her voice that are reminiscent to Billie Holiday. With an ability to scat like Sarah Vaughn and demonstrate the vocal range of Ella Fitzgerald; Spalding, in my opinion, embodies the perfect female jazz voice. She demonstrates this ability on numerous tunes throughout the album. Her Portuguese rendition of “Body and Soul” is a remarkable demonstration of her vocal abilities as well as her perpetual drive to perfect the uncharted territories of contemporary jazz. This album is a beautiful piece of work that can accompany a quiet afternoon on the couch, dinner with a loved one, or even a bedtime album. Esperanza Spalding is a recent addition to the Jazz scene but her influence is growing with her popularity and I look forward to numerous more albums that will unquestionably blow us all away. Bravo Esperanza, Bravo.

Purchase Esperanza's Album Here

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Years Preview: Denver

Words By J-man

New Years runs often offer some of the most exciting shows on our scene and the transition from 2010 to 2011 appears on paper to be no different. Our focus falls on Denver, CO. With it being our first year in Colorado, we thought it would be best to hit it hard, and cover everything within' our means.

Wednesday December 29th, 2010

Railroad Earth
w/ Elephant Revival
Ogden Theatre Denver, CO

Thursday December 30th, 2010

Railroad Earth
w/ Whitewater Ramble
Ogden Theatre Denver, CO

Friday December 31st, 2010

King Pigeon (Molitz, Kang, Wall, Basso, Teels)
Quixote's Denver, CO

Main Event:

Greensky Bluegrass
w/ Danny Barnes
Cervantes Denver, CO

Surprise After Party*

Saturday January 1st, 2011

Great American Taxi
Bloody Mary Breakfast
Quixote's Denver, CO

Everyone Orchestra (featuring Steve Molitz)
Quixote's Denver, CO

Full coverage including: Reviews, Photos, Video, Interviews, Links and more. Stay tuned to MusicMarauders through the New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Bluegrass: Sexfist

Words By J-man

When someone says "Sexfist", bluegrass may be that last thing that comes to mind. If you're not familiar, it's time to check out one of Chicago's best kept secrets. Sexfist has been doing Tuesday night residencies in Chicago bars for sometime now, and has been breaking onto the festival scene, Phish lot by Phish lot...

Enjoy some of the best bluegrass on the scene from some folks who truly respect the music, but don't take themselves as seriously as some... Check them out!

Sexfist Live at Red Line Tap on October 13, 2009. <--- Direct Archive Link

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Saturday Dead: 12.21.68 & 12.29.68

Words By Andy Zimmer

For my holiday-inspired pick, this week I chose to give you some vintage primal-Dead. The first show, from the Shrine Exhibition Hall on December 21 of 1968 was the last show that the Dead played before taking a few days off for Christmas. The sound quality is, perhaps, not the best. But, hey, it’s a 68' show... What do you expect!?! Fans of both the lysergic-influenced sound of the late-60’s, and strong Pigpen vocals will want to check out this short but sweet set.

The second pick is the Dead’s first recorded show after their Christmas break (there is evidence of a show from the day before, but I’ve never been able to find any recordings). This show, from the Gulfstream Park Racetrack on December 29th, was part of the larger Miami Pop Festival. With an excellent artist lineup including Country Joe, Chuck Berry, John Mayall, Booker T. and the MG’s, and Paul Butterfield; I’m sure that this was a helluva good time. The Dead’s set is short, but intense. Jerry’s playing stands out as particularly strong.

Happy Holidays and have an excellent New Years. Thank you to everyone that enjoys my picks; I really appreciate the support. Keep on dancing, and I’ll see you in 2011.

Grateful Dead Live at Shrine Exhibition Hall on December 21, 1968. <--- Direct Archive Link

Grateful Dead Live at Gulfstream Park Race Track on December 29, 1968. <--- Direct Archive Link

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Funk: Matt Dickey

Words By Karen Dugan (Tiny Rager)

Welcome to Friday Funk!!! In my humble opinion, there is no better way to end the week or start the weekend then with powerful music fueled by funk-filled vibes. It gets the blood pumping and the hips shakin’! Through this column, I look forward to sharing with you all things funk...

As my first installment of "Friday Funk" is landing on Christmas, I wanted to perhaps focus on a seasonal release. I was set to suggest George Porter’s newest CD release: Christmas In New Orleans "A Tribute to My Mother". Don’t get me wrong, you should take a lovely listen to this cd as George has truly invited us into his heart with this release, basing it on the fact that he almost lost his mother a few years back and she has always wanted him to do a Christmas CD. However, I have continually been pulled back to a newly released cd that came my way a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to turn off.

Brooklyn guitarist/composer/arranger Matt Dickey has taken his time, four years to be exact, in creating an original instrumental CD that combines the spirit of afrobeat, funk and fusion jazz producing an overwhelming sound that almost seems to produce a big-band feeling with his 9-piece band backing him. And he did it all within the confines of his own home.

Taking his time paid off for Matt as he has created a beautiful arrangement of songs with focus on showcasing the beauty of individual instruments as well touching on the various styles of music that skirt around the funk genre. The first song begins with Matt introducing his fingers/guitar to our ears and within a measure the funky horns and bass join. The funk ignites throughout the album but at times the songs become slower an more contemplative, even incorporating elements such as electronica and hip-hop. Featuring some of NYC’s best session artists, you may recognize names such as Adam Deitch (Lettuce) and Borham Lee (BreakScience) found performing on various tracks.

Matt Dickey is an artist who is meticulous in his work and yet at the same time can break out into incredibly obscure jams, challenging the borders of musical genre in every song. I encourage you all to take a listen and buy the cd ($9.99). It’s worth every penny.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Jazz: Tony Williams

Words By Zach Zeidner

The Joy of Flying

Tony Williams may arguably be the greatest jazz drummer ever. His early work with Miles Davis demonstrated his unique technical abilities and earned him a spot as one of the top coveted hard-bop and post-bop drummers. As the times went one and jazz went electric Williams verified his desire to go electric with his project, Tony Williams Lifetime. This project originally was an intensely psychedelic infused power trio including master guitarist the Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young. What developed from this original trio was Emergency! - Originally released as two separate LPs, this album blew people away and as contemporary bassist Christian McBride puts it “that album is pure evil!”. As the project developed, they inducted Jack Bruce of Cream into the band and released the album Turn It Over. The addition of a bassist allowed for more complex, lengthy and goal-driven jams, as Young did not have to account for the bass lines with his feet.

As the seventies drew on, Williams developed even more astonishing projects. In 1978, he released The Joy of Flying, an incredible album with multiple lineups throughout the album that made this record the outstanding piece of work it is. Starting off with a duo piece by Williams and Jan Hammer, the album immediately goes into one of the most noteworthy tunes of the album. “Hip Skip” is a progressively funky jam that doesn’t stop peaking until the tune finally comes to a close. With George Benson on guitar, Jan Hammer on keys, Paul Jackson on bass, Michael Brecker on Tenor Sax, Ralph Macdonald on percussion, Jon Faddis on Trumpet, Randy Brecker on Trumpet, Barry Rodgers on Trombone, Ronnie Cuber on Baritone Sax, and David Sanborn on Alto sax, the lineup could not be more promising. The next tune “Hittin’ on 6” is a monstrously funk-infused psychedelic jam that includes Tom Scott on lyricon, Stanley Clarke on bass, and Herbie Hancock on keys. Ya, I don’t really need to explain how destructive that song is. The album continues with extended funky jams full of some technically mind-blowing drum parts that will make your jaw drop. As well, for an added bonus a duo between Williams and avant-garde pianist extraordinaire, Cecil Taylor, closes the album with an astonishingly disjointed yet strikingly coupled jam which will leave you perplexed and discombobulated as you try to unravel what you just aurally witnessed.

Purchase Tony Williams' "The Joy of Flying" on

Monday, December 20, 2010

Two Nights of Soulive 12.17.10 & 12.18.10

Words & Photos By J-man

Soulive is one of those bands that won't let you down. I have been seeing them for almost ten years, and what I can tell you is this: They bring it every night. Consistently. And they have been doing so for years... I can't recall ever seeing a bad Soulive show. Their aggressive approach to the music creates a high-energy vibe that's almost untouchable on the scene. I was fortunate to catch Soulive at the end of their "Rubber Soulive" tour, for two nights at Cervantes' Masterpiece Theater in Denver, CO.

I anticipated a hefty amount of Beatles tunes and Friday night they delivered. Let me first say, that I am not the biggest Beatles fan (Though I do respect their contribution to music). I did however really dig Soulive's album "Rubber Soulive", though I do much prefer the band's original music.

With the venue packed, the trio proceeded to absolutely destroy a combination of both Beatles and Soulive tunes. Eric Krasno's command of the guitar is mind blowing. The combination of his ability to nail every note, with expressive tones make him one of the most impressive guitarist's on the scene. Though, not always recognized as such, it's clear to me that he has progressed a great deal in the ten years that I have been seeing the band.

Alan Evans' precise groove on the drums had Cervantes' going crazy. He reads the direction of the music really well and leads with force. His serious look reflected his focus. His brother Neal Evans, located on the opposite side of the stage, plays a dual part in the band. As Soulive has no Bass player, Neal covers both the organ and bass parts. With one hand he holds the notes for an almost uncomfortable length of time and the other he tears through the melodies. Soulive reflects mature, calculated music with strong chemistry, yet at the same time brings more rage than most bands on the scene.

The Shady Horns (Sam Kininger and Ryan Zoidis), were also present to add a funky layer to the Soulive vibe. I really dig the sound scape that Sam and Ryan create. Their sound is so full and pure sounding. Nigel Hall also joined the band on keys, and with the addition of the stage hand running back and for the accommodate Alan, they stage was pretty full.

Saturday evening Cervantes' would play host to Soulive's James Brown tribute, which clearly meant: an evening of funk. Over the years, Soulive has incorporated different sounds, styles, and musicians. But, none have effected/changed the band as much as Nigel Hall. I appreciate what Nigel does, but when I go to see Soulive, I much prefer the straight ahead jazz styling of the trio. Though, I understand his role in relation to the band. Being that it was a funk tribute, I knew prior to the show that we were in for a large dose of Nigel.

Cervantes' was even more packed than the previous evening, with an even higher level of energy. Folks had come to funk out. Soulive proceeded with a handful of instrumental driven jams ending the first set early, leaving me to wonder if they were going to do three sets.

At the start of the second set in the James Brown fashion, Nigel Hall was introduced. With the accompaniment of the Shady Horns, Soulive delivered the funk. Throughout the second set there were issues with the drums and the mics. All of a sudden I would notice the mic stand going down, or a portion of the drum set falling apart and stage tech's literally running and sliding across the stage. It got to the point where Alan kicked over the mic stand out of anger/frustration and it went flying across the stage. For the remainder of the show Alan tore apart the seemingly clueless stage hand. It was distracting, unprofessional and left those who noticed, scratching their heads.

Soulive closed the set around one o'clock am, wrapping up their encore by one fifteen. The lights came on and folks began to look around in a confused fashion... For a band that rages it like Soulive, I had anticipated a late encore. I was mistaken.

The two nights at Cervantes' with Soulive were extremely enjoyable with the exception of a few stage/sound issues. They are a band at the top of their musical game. If you get a chance to catch Soulive, don't pass it by...

J-man's full photo album from the show.

An Interview: Keller Williams

Interview & photography By Amy Panaia, Zingara Photography

Keller Williams, most noted for his one-man band looping extravaganza, is remaining true to his roots while pursuing a vast assortment of performance, recording, and extracurricular projects. Keller’s “Kids” album was just named one of the year’s best kid/family albums by The Washington Post. Keller Williams’ musical resume proves that he is one of the most talented and expressive musicians on the scene.

Amy: The “Kids” album is an exciting shift in your career, but it also makes a lot of sense for you to do. How long had you pondered the idea of making a family-oriented album?

Keller: A long time. My daughter was born in ’04 and I had a summary of songs written on this record before that. It took years to culminate the inspiration for the rest of them. It took actually having kids and then having those kids grow up a little and listen to kids music and it went from there. It’s been a good a long time, I would say probably eight years that it’s been in the thought process. The record was recorded about two years ago and we finished it up late last year. I finished it and then “shelfed it” and did the whole Keels “Thief” record which was released before “Kids”. It is definitely been in the thought process for a while and It’s finally out into the world; it’s set free!

Amy: My two youngest kids listened to the album with me and said to me “He’s weird!!” but that you were “so funny” and “so cool” and their favorite songs are "Good Advice" and "Mama Tooted". Which songs were most fun to record?

Keller: "Good Advice" has a little kid choir, so that was interesting having four or five kids standing in front of microphones singing along, and that was fun. "Mama Tooted" because it’s got this groovy little percussion line that I came up with at the last minute and that was kind of the first track with my new fretless bass It was an old bass that I had the frets taken out of and it was a new bass to me. "Mama Tooted" is definitely one that a lot of men like, a lot of kids like, but that’s kind of where it stops. The women grin and bear it and take it. I would have to say the ones with just me and Ella (Keller’s six year old daughter) were probably the coolest "Hey Little Baby", "Horseback Ride", "Fastest Song in the World."

Amy: I think one of your most charming features musically is your story-telling ability. This carries over to the “Kids” album. What do you think separates your album from other children’s music?

Keller: That’s a good question, that’s difficult... Doing this record got me into the XM Kids Place Live... I went in and recorded a kids show in front of a live audience that was my first kids’ show which was my first real exposure into the massive world of kids music and family music. Leading up to this record was a lot of the classics that we would play Jungle Book, Sound of Music and things like that. Once I started listening to Kids Place Live... The Concept is to get the parents involved so they can tap along and like it and want to put it on and just connect with their kids. Try and not compromise my original sound or style but yet keep the lyrics light and direct it towards the ten and under crowd.

Amy: You also have a children’s book Because I Said So. How excited are you about this? This is an interesting venture for you.

Keller: It wasn’t really a stretch. I didn’t really sit down and write a kid’s book... I sat down and wrote a funny kids song that was translated into a kid’s book and this added bonus was really exciting. The idea of doing book signings is quite fabulous! For me, to have people read my book a long time for now is another thing that’s really exciting. As a songwriter you always want to try and write something that outlives you; something that continues on long after you’re gone. I think that this book has a chance of doing that and that’s really exciting for me.

Amy: Your vibe from this past Smilefest was amazingly energetic, creative, spontaneous, and fresh. Do you feel like you’re keeping the same momentum now as you were at the start of the “Thief” tour?

Keller: The Keels and I vowed in the beginning even before we did a record and our creed was never to do too many shows together so that when we come together it’s always fresh. I think because of that there’s always some certain excitement that comes to the Keller/Keels set. Now that we’ve done about a dozen shows together, which is the most we’ve done In one couple month period, we are so much tighter both vocally and mentally. It’s even more exciting now than at the beginning. The Blackmountain show at the beginning of October was one that I really remember as being good.

Amy: I read an interview where you stated you had a great team handling different aspects of your career, but that you have a problem “keeping up”. What do you feel your biggest challenge is career wise?

Keller: Well keeping up in one aspect is just memorizing my schedule. I’ve found as I get older, the trust that I have for my team and how they totally have my back 100% I’m able to NOT look at the schedule and find out at the airport where I’m going (Laughing). It’s not the keeping up with it physically, It’s the mental side of it. I’m so grateful to have wonderful people who have my back. It’s difficult to keep up with the kids, chasing the kids around, having to do this nap before this interview. This is what I call “luxury problems”. People coming up and saying hi when I’m having dinner, and have a mouth full of food and want to shake my hand…this is just an example of what I call a luxury problem.

Amy: Are you so busy that you’ve lost sight of where you started from? Are you grateful for your humble beginnings?

Keller: Oh my god, everyday! It wasn’t that long ago that it was me and my wife and two dogs in our 74 Chevy blazer with a pop up. That’s real... That’s a song called the Blazebago. It’s parked out in the woods, it’s still around. It hasn’t run for many, many years and it’s been pushed back further into the woods, not by me of course, but by people paid by my wife- to get it out of her sight, type of thing(laughs). Really though, it was 1997 that I left Steamboat [Springs] and me and my wife traveled for three years... doing upwards of 200 shows a year making 200 bucks a week. Our mantra was “exposure”. Everything we made would go back into the gas tank or a hotel or the campground. It was probably ten years ago that people just started to come to the shows. It wasn’t that long ago, so that I definitely have a strong grasp of what has happened. I’m still way below main stream radar; I still feel there are tons of untapped things that I want to do and I want to experience. I’m very grateful to have people that buy the tickets and come support the shows and help me continue to do what I want to do.

Amy: You definitely have a very dedicated fan base.

Keller: I’m very lucky for that.

Amy: At Mag Fest, you briefly mentioned your musical history including: Hee Haw, punk rock days, The Grateful Dead, and then discovering your love & appreciation for Bluegrass. Who are some of your Bluegrass influences?

Keller: It starts with Hee Haw and Roy Clark’s “Pickin’ and Grinnin’”. Once I got into The Grateful Dead that opened me up to the Americana side of things. Once I got back into bluegrass, I guess it was Old and in the Way with Peter Rowan, David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, John Kahn, Vassar Clements... I lived that album, studied the album, I learned all those songs.

Also, Larry Keel and McGraw Gap, Larry’s band was definitely kind of like the first more up-close & personal experience. Standing right there and feeling the acoustic music, without any kind of amplification... with the upright bass and the banjo and the guitar and the mandolin. I think that was really one of my first real influences was that band.

Getting into everything that’s involved with the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and all that that surrounds: Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, Marco Conner, so many incredible players. A band Strength in Numbers, they took traditional kind of Bluegrass instruments, and had a little bit of that Bluegrass sound, but it was leaning in the New Grass era, more intricate compositions, but done with traditional Bluegrass instruments…that really got me off too.

Bands today like Cadillac Sky, who are just fantastic. Yonder is really popular and for great reason too. Those guys are following the Bluegrass formula, but adding other elements of pop music and mixing up classic rock tunes. The list can just go on and on! Leftover Salmon... the best times I’ve had with Leftover was when they weren’t on stage at four a.m., picking in the campground. That’s where the real magic happens.

Amy: What’s on your current playlist?

Keller: I’ve been really into this album called “Funks, Fixes and Remixes” by the Pimps of Joytime. My love for that band started with that album. The Funky Lowlives- really great funky music, a lot of it instrumental. On the total opposite end of the spectrum... Bassnectar, Girl Talk, [DJ] Yodo. Yodo especially is crazy live electronic music, nothing is pre-recorded, everything is played and looped. It’s similar to what I do, yet way more tapped into the late night electronica thing that I love so much… I incorporate elements of that into my own show, but yet don’t really commit to going full-blown electronica. I kinda dig being absorbed by the full-blown electronica when it’s done right and live. Opposites attract and I really like when the beats are perfect. There’s a certain energy between midnight and five a.m. at festivals that’s really untouchable. It’s really popular now and it’s for good reason. I’m right there with them.

Check out for all things Keller.

Pop Rewind: Neil Young

Words By Greg Molitor

Neil Young is quite the rare breed. In popular music, it’s difficult these days to find individuals who carry world class talent as both songwriters and as performers. Then again, artists like Neil Young don’t come around very often either. As a man who knows how to write and perform like a true professional, Young has been empowering audiences with his brand of Canadian folk rock for fifty plus years and is still going strong. Like many, his career has seen both success and turbulence, but as the sands of time have told us, Neil Young is already considered one of the most prolific and important artists of his generation.

Here are some links to give you a glimpse of Young playing his tunes with a variety of different artists. Whether it’s with CSNY, Crazy Horse, or as a solo artist, he seems to always be at ease when performing. The man is still playing shows to this’s hard to keep Neil Young away from what appears to be his home away from home.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Future of Bluegrass Music

Words & Photos By J-man

We know where bluegrass music originated. We know all about Bill Monroe's contribution, Del McCoury's longevity and Garcia/Grisman's building of a bridge to jam/improvised music. But what about the future of bluegrass? Where will it go from here? With the gaining popularity of bands like Yonder Mountain String Band, Cornmeal and Greensky Bluegrass, what's to become of the traditions of this roots music? Moreover, what's going to be the next musical innovation within' this genre?

For answers to my questions, I turned to guys like Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon/Great American Taxi), Del McCoury, Sam Bush, and Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band).

In order to discuss the direction of the music, you have to establish a reference point in which to work from. When asked about the future of Bluegrass music Anders and Vince both responded by referencing Bill Monroe.

"First off, its really hard to talk about "traditional bluegrass" and really know that we mean the same thing. To me, "traditional bluegrass" means straight ahead, old school bluegrass music that sounds exactly like it did when Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs started it" Anders stated.

"Bluegrass was created out of old time music for commercial radio use. It's Bill Monroe's vision, his boogie woogie" proclaimed Vince.

Our reference/starting point for the discussion about the changing and adapting of this music would be Bill Monroe's early material throughout the mid forties and fifties. We'll work from that point on. In the beginning the music was raw, acoustic based mountain music with quick tempos, high tenor harmonies and a preview of what was to come in regards to instrumental virtuosity. With the addition of Earl Scruggs' three-finger banjo style to Bill's band, the music started to take shape and adapt. With the folk revival of the 1960's, many college students and young people were turned onto Bill's music. The innovation in his music was apparent immediately when Bill began recruiting forward thinkers/pickers like Bill "Brad" Keith and Peter Rowan.

Through the decades the music began to change and strengthen in both popularity and compositional respects. With the increasing popularity came an influx of folks playing Bill's music, but with their own personal touch or spin on it. From there, the music began to morph. By the time the 70's rolled around, there were a couple of major influences to the changing of bluegrass and the beginning of the Jamgrass/Newgrass movement... Newgrass Revival and Old and in The Way.

Old and in The Way was a band comprised of Jerry Garcia, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, David Grissman and John Kahn. They put their spin on a number of traditional song, including "Uncle Pen" as well as covers such as the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses", to originals such as Peter Rowan's "Panama Red". Their ability to bridge rock and bluegrass with a hint of improvisation jam music fueled the creative fire within' the genre.

Newgrass Revival bred a new form of progressive bluegrass styling that pushed the bounds and raised the bar for what became "Newgrass" music. This may have been the single biggest leap/progression within' the genre to date. With guys like Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, John Cowan and Pat Flynn, progression was inevitable.

Now let's bring this current and gain some perspective on where traditional bluegrass music stands today within' an ever expanding genre...

"Music will reflect the times and it's no longer 1952. As long as the music happens in a community of friends with an eye on roots and tradition, it will evolve just fine" Vince stated.

When asked about the future of bluegrass, Tim Carbone said "I travel a good bit in the south and all around the country. A month doesn't go by that I don't hear some young phenom playing the fiddle, guitar, banjo or mandolin. It can be quite annoying... just kidding... sorta. The future of traditional bluegrass music is in good hands. There will always be the pure stuff."

I took comfort in knowing that Vince and Tim felt the future of the tradtions were in good hands. I wondered about bands that implemented outside musical influences and what their take would be on the value and continuation of the traditional sound. For that I turned to Anders Beck.

"I think that the future of bluegrass music is going to continue to evolve away from the strictest definitions of the music as more of the younger players (and I'm talking anywhere from fifteen to forty year olds) begin to meld all of their other influences into the music. That's what we do in Greensky... not because we are really trying to specifically do that, but because we all love bluegrass, but we also love other types of music like jambands or 80's music, etc."

I reflected on the growth in popularity of Newgrass and Jamgrass music. I wondered if the more traditional folks viewed it as a threat? For that I referred back to my interview with Del McCoury from this past summer at Grey Fox.

"I always felt, and Bill felt this way; People have to play what they like to play, or like to sing... and if it's Jamgrass, well I'm all for it. If it's Newgrass, that's fine." Del said with sincerity.

He went on to say with a smile, "I remember when Sam Bush, he's my old buddy... I remember when those guys started with that. They were kind of one of the first popular bands to do "Newgrass". And I liked it! I didn't find it in myself to do it, But I liked listening to them do it. It gives another branch to the music."

One of the most traditional men in music today, supports the branching and more progressive approach to bluegrass. I appreciate so much, to see guys like Del McCoury, who are traditional in nature, supporting innovation and progression.

I went back to something Anders said about Newgrass/Jamgrass and his introduction to bluegrass. "I absolutely see it as an aid to the longevity and security of bluegrass music. It catches people's attention who may not have ever liked bluegrass in the first place and brings them into the fold. Using myself as an example, I got into bluegrass because I was a Deadhead and learned that Garcia played in a bluegrass band. I figured I would check it out and bought "Old And In The Way." I loved it first because it was a new side of Jerry that I didnt know, but then began loving the vibe and energy of the music. Fast forward a few months and I'm buying Earl Scruggs albums and lots of other roots of bluegrass type stuff."

I then turned to Sam Bush. I was curious what drove him to the progressive side of bluegrass music. "It really is a matter of growing up around bluegrass style music, or country music in general. This is music about playing it the way you feel and obviously certain things are traditionally handed down in certain styles. So I learned certain fiddle tune styles, but also at the same time you have to realize that while I was watching country music shows and Grand Ole' Opry shows as a kid, I was also watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. At the same time I was lovin' bluegrass, I was also (when I was in high school) playing electric guitar in rock bands. It was all just music to me. I don't really think about what type of music it is or what genre it is it. It just either appeals to me or not." Sam told me.

We know that bluegrass music is changing, we know what's motivating and driving the progression, but what will be the next innovation? "I don't have much of a clue. You have so many sub-genres within bluegrass. Newgrass, Jamgrass, Jazzgrass, the Classical Grass of the Punch Bros., etc... I would hope more and better songs." Tim said.

"... Besides anything technical like better gear to get acoustic instruments to sound better through huge PA systems or something like that, I really think that the only innovation can be in the creative process. I think the only big change or innovation that I can see happening is people putting their own creative stamp on the music and therefore making it different than anything before it... While the traditional folks probably won't admit it, and you might get crucified for saying it at the IBMA conference, Yonder Mountain String Band has done more for bluegrass than any other band in a long time. They are the new Old and In The Way in that they turn huge amounts of people onto bluegrass music who may have otherwise never discovered it." Professed Anders.

I wondered what Yonder Mountain's Jeff Austin thought? "As long as bands like the Stringdusters continue to get respect, I have hope." He went on to say "I don't play in a bluegrass band, so I feel weird having an opinion either way."

"I personally think people should relax. It's that super smart shit that will destroy the vibe of community music... Can't wait for Justin Bieber's grass record myself." Vince told me.

After all of the insight, I felt better about the security and productive continuation of bluegrass music as a whole. I wondered what it would take for some of the defenders of tradition to see the light and value in the increasing popularity of their music based on change, adaptation, innovation, and ultimately in the end; respect. It seems counter productive to deny or turn a blind eye on innovation. What some view as the downfall of traditional bluegrass music, may in the end be it's savior.

Sunday Bluegrass: Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys

Brown County Jamboree
Beanblossom, IN

1. Watermelon Hanging on the Vine
2. Band Intros
3. Bile Them Cabbage Down
4. I Ain't Broke, but Brother I'm Badly Bent
5. I Hope You'll Learn
6. Bugle Call Rag
7. Cry, Cry Darling
8. Ya'll Come
9. Changing Partners
10. Blue Moon of Kentucky
11. Get Up John
12. Down Yonder
13. Just a Little Talk with Jesus
14. Boat of Love
15. I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling
16. The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band
17. White House Blues
18. Rose of Old Kentucky
19. Uncle Pen
20. Rocky Road Blues
21. Muleskinner Blues
22. The First Whipperwill
23. The Little Girl & the Dreadful Snake
24. I'm Knocking on Your Door
25. He'll Set Your Fields on Fire

Download the show here.

Oak Leaf Park
Luray, VA

1. Watermelon On The Vine
2. Intros
3. Panhandle Country
4. I Gotta Travel On
5. Blue Moon Of Kentucky
6. Put My Rubber Doll Away
7. Rawhide
8. Linda Lou
9. Carter Intro
10. Carter Ripping off Flatt and Scruggs
11. Sugar Coated Love (1)
12. What Would You Give (1)
13. Mac Weisman Intro
14. Can't You Hear Me Callin (2)
15. Travel That Lonesome Road (2)
16. Whitehouse Blues
17. Yall Come

Bill Monroe
Bessie Lee Mauldin
Billy Baker
Bobby Smith
Tony ?

1 w/ Carter Stanley
2 w/ Mac Wiseman

This show was the first event that used the words, "Bluegrass Festival".

Download the show here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday Dead: 1.16.70

Grateful Dead Live at Springer's Inn Portland on January 16, 1970. <--- Direct Archive Link

Casey Jones, Mama Tried, Black Peter, Hard To Handle, China Cat Sunflower-> I Know You Rider, High Time, Good Lovin'-> Drums-> Good Lovin', Dancin' In The Streets, Alligator-> Drums-> The Eleven Jam-> Death Don't Have No Mercy Cumberland Blues, Me & My Uncle-> Dire Wolf, Uncle John's Band, Easy Wind, Cryptical Envelopement-> Drums-> The Other One-> Cryptical Envelopement-> Cosmic Charlie

Friday, December 17, 2010

Greensky Bluegrass 12.8.10

Words & Photos By Greg Molitor

For the many of us who see shows on a regular basis, concerts provide a chance to escape the daily grind, but every once and a while, we unexpectedly see a show that completely floors us. These moments are what we seek as concertgoers; like a swift roundhouse kick to the heart, an incredible show often reminds us why we became infatuated with live music in the first place. On December 8th, 2010, Kalamazoo’s Greensky Bluegrass rolled into Lansing and laid down a performance so thick, so soulful that I couldn’t help but shed a tear or two…ah, what it is to be alive!

I arrived to Mac’s Bar on Michigan Avenue a few minutes into Greensky Bluegrass’ first set, and as a casual fan, I selfishly was disappointed to see a gazillion people crammed into the tiny bar. I give kudos to the band for having such a wonderful turnout, but at that time, my thoughts were not on the band’s success, but my own. Come to find out, the world does not revolve around me…not even close. I’ve learned this the hard way in the past and will surely need a reminder for the rest of my days. Luckily for me, the catalyst necessary for me to pull my head out of my ass was performing onstage this evening. As a fan not familiar with Greensky Bluegrass’ song repertoire, it’s a difficult task to dissect its set tune by tune. Sure, there were masterfully performed covers like Pink Floyd’s “Time”, The Band’s “The Shape I’m In”, and The King of Pop’s “Beat It”, but Greensky truly soars when it plays its originals. The band has timeless, heartfelt tunes, and they sure do know how to play the hell out of them!

To put it simply, Greensky Bluegrass is unique as bands come. As a group that has mastered the art of dynamic change, the duality of sheer power and delicateness exudes from each of its tunes. Throughout the evening, the band raged like a steel train headed for a brilliant disaster of a wreck, and then seemingly out of nowhere, would drop into a spaciously melodic phrase requiring each member to be on the top of their musicianship throughout. The band would then playfully work through the improvised calm with ease, patiently waiting for the moment where it would collectively build on itself for another round of runaway insanity. This rollercoaster effect was prevalent throughout the entire show, and just when I thought I had seen it all, there was the encore…

I spent much of this Wednesday writing and watching videos in remembrance of John Lennon. After a day of reflection, it was perfectly fitting that Greensky’s encore gave tribute to the fallen hero. “A Day in the Life” was its choice, and it was beautiful beyond words. Any member of the audience that knew the lyrics was singing along at the top of their lungs…it was the type of moment we have met briefly before yet dream about having again, an experience that keeps us longing for the possibility that life might offer one more chance for everything to be absolutely right in the world. It was at this point where I lost my dry eyes but gained so much more. Overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted, I left Mac’s Bar as a firm believer in all things Greensky Bluegrass. I’ll be checking them out for many years to come as long as they’ll have me…and I have a strong suspicion that they will.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Interview: Fareed's Departure From Garaj Mahal

Words By J-man

J-man: Recently it was brought to my attention that you are departing from Garaj Mahal. Can you talk about what prompted your departure and the transition to your new project in Math Games?

Fareed: Sure, well… First of all we have been doing Garaj Mahal for almost eleven years… and I have a lot of other musical projects and musical ideas that I wanted to explore… and a couple of opportunities that came my way that I wanted to pursue. For a lot of reasons it just ended up being that we were just going in different directions. Sean Rickman sings quite a bit. Now, I’m not sure about this and you may have to check with them; but it seems that between Kai and Sean, they seem to be doing more vocal tunes… and I am definitely in more of a jazz direction.

I just completed a beautiful jazz trio album with a couple of jazz legends… Billy Hart on drums. Billy Hart played with Miles Davis on the album “On The Corner” and he also played with Herbie Hancock, and guys like Pat Martino, Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. The list is long. Then George Mraz on bass. He played with Stan Getz and Chet Baker and other legendary musicians from the jazz scene.

So we made a beautiful straight-ahead trio album and in the meantime I have been working more and more… In fact, one of the reasons I am leaving Garaj Mahal is probably because of Eric Levy getting the Moog guitar into my hand. I have been writing more music for the Moog guitar…

J-man: I heard the Moog disk you did with Garaj Mahal, Phil sent it over… I was really impressed with it. It was not typical of the stuff you were doing with Garaj Mahal. I really dug the spacey aspect mixed with the capabilities of the Moog guitar… It was really innovative and exciting to hear.

Fareed: Cool. Thanks, man. Well essentially Math Games is going more in that direction. We have sort of a groove sensibility along with the electronica. I’m not sure if Phil sent you any Math Games tracks but that was really the birth of it and it’s going way way further than that. We have a visuals guy, working visuals…

J-man: Excellent!

Fareed: … And the visuals are actually going to be coordinated with the music. There are lot of mathematical and geometrical ideas that we have put into the music, as well as the visuals…

J-man: I have a question that I have been wanting to ask you. With someone like yourself who is a respected jazz musician; what pushes you towards… say, creating visuals at a show or working with an electronica vibe? I mean, you’re a jazz musician… So that’s kind of outside of the box.

Fareed: Well, I mean… I kind of feel like jazz is an approach and an attitude. Of course it’s a style of music and of course it involves improvisation with the jazz language. But I think that if jazz can’t relate to the new music and the new sounds that are a part of our culture now days, that it’s destine for obsolescence.

J-man: So it’s more of a push to adapt to what’s happening currently with music?

Fareed: … In a way yeah. But, on the other hand I think it’s cool. I just really like that music (Laughs). And for the most part it’s really cool sounds and really cool beats but shitty music. You know? Theres like no melodies, no chord changes, nothings happening… But it’s this really cool texture… And of course I am making these huge generalizations. There is some great music out there in that genre. But for the most part it’s some sounds and some spookiness and everybody raves and has a good time.

But I think that if you couple all of those with sonic elements and root elements, with actual melodies, chord changes and compositions; that are free from having to be regular song form because we’re not talking about someone singing the melody or the hook. We’re not talking about a pop song anymore so it’s a format that is in and of itself very compositional… instrumental electronic music. And potentially a freeform kind of music. Because it doesn’t really have to have a hook, in the way that pop music has to have a hook. And so it opens itself up to a lot of compositional ideas, and I think there is a sense that technology, and mathematics, and geometry, and physics, and music, and electronics are starting to come together in our world everyday. Those things within our culture are all related to each other. So I think there is more and more of an understanding intuitively within our culture, or all of the complexities… And I’m writing a kind of music that I fell relates to that.

J-man: How does Math Games differ than what you’ve been doing with Garaj Mahal?

Fareed: I would think it’s more conceptual. There’s still a lot of jamming and a lot of trance… There’s a lot of funk in there. But it’s definitely more conceptual and less… four guys on stage just playing.

Garaj is a great band. It’s a fantastic band and nothing is ever going to replace that. But after ten years of playing, more or less the same tunes every night…

J-man: Right, I understand… I’m curious; what was the highlight of your career with Garaj Mahal? Also, do you see yourself getting back with Garaj Mahal on any level at some point? Maybe a reunion at some point or selected dates? I know that they are planning on proceeding without you, but will you come back to that musical idea or is that something that you’ll be putting in your past?

Fareed: It’s all good vibes… There are no bad vibes at all….

J-man: … I wasn’t implying that there would have been bad vibes…

Fareed: … In fact, not this week, but the week after Christmas… With Steve Smith, I just found out that I am going to Indonesia… and it turns out that Kai is going to be there to (Laughs) and I think, if it’s the same band that he was playing with, I think Sean is in that band too…

J-man: (Laughs)

Fareed: I go fuckin’ half way around the world and I can’t get my head out of that universe… Fuck. But no, it’s all good vibes. I think you need to check with them, but I think they are going to continue as a trio. So that means that it’s going to evolve in a different way.

One of the things about the Moog guitar in Math Games is that the Moog guitar allows you to do a lot of things in terms of playing melodies and holding chords and a lot of different textures that I just couldn’t do on a standard guitar. But it also kind of gets in the way of the piano player… Leaving no role for a keyboard player in that music. That’s just the nature of the Moog guitar…

J-man: Right, you’re utilizing effects that would otherwise be produced by the keys…

Fareed: … And so, in a way when I was writing this music I was like “What’s the keyboard part? Shit, there is no keyboard part. I’m playing the keyboard part…" Kind of like if you were in the Charlie Hunter Band and you said …

“Why is there no bass part?”

“Well Charlie is playing the bass…”

“Why is there no guitar part?”

“Well, Charlie is playing the bass and the guitar.”

So… There is no bass player (Laughs). It’s the same thing with the Moog and the keyboards. Also, what the Moog guitar does best is… Polyphonic or multiple sounds. In a way that sort of opens up the possibility for a trio. But in a quartet setting, I play a traditional guitar because the Moog guitar doesn’t do what it does as effectively.

J-man: Going back to the earlier part of the question: Do you have a specific moment that you view as the highlight or climax of your career with Garaj Mahal?

Fareed: Wow… There are so many amazing… I could write ten books…

J-man: You should (Laughs).

Fareed: (Laughs) Garaj Mahal is one of those bands where I’d have to wait like a hundred years until everyone is dead to publish it… Like Mark Twain’s auto biography.

J-man: (Laughs)

I’ve had a lot of great memories, but I think some of the best have to be some of the late-night shows we’ve done at High Sierra, and more recently we’ve done some cool ones out here in the easy. A lot of the late-night Garaj gigs are always really magical and quite spacey. The band just tends to, when we don’t have the restrictions of curfew or time, and we have a… lubricated audience, shall we say. The energy seems to take off in a way that no other band before or I think any band since… It’s very special. I’m excited to continue to do it once in a while.

J-man: We’re going to be doing our best to get folks out to your shows, provide coverage and familiarize our readers about what is you’re doing with Math Games…

Fareed: Cool…

J-man: Beyond what you have been playing an immersing yourself in, What have you been listening to recently?

Fareed: Well, I listen to all kinds of stuff. To be honest, I don’t as get much of a chance to listen to music as I wish I did because I am so busy doing it that I pretty much practice the music that I’ve got in my head. Then working with the Flat Earth Ensemble I have been learning all of these Bengali folk tunes, which is kicking my butt. I listened to a lot of Bengali folk tunes for a while (Laughs) and I have been listening to a lot of straight ahead jazz. Also, our new record which we’ve been working on… mixing and all of that.

I have been listening to a lot of straight ahead jazz records, trying to get a handle on how it’s mixed. A lot of the old jazz records are mixed really differently than pop records; The drums are usually on one side, the piano is on one side and the bass is in the middle. So we’re trying to figure out how to make this record sound like one of those old 50’s records…

J-man: I see. That’s cool… What point are you at in the recording process?

Fareed: Well, we recorded the whole record in two and a half days.

J-man: Wow, that’s incredible…

Fareed: Some tunes we did three or four takes for each tune and some tunes just one take. So we’re trying to figure out which takes are the best ones and putting it all together. Ultimately with jazz trio records I'd say fifty percent of the album is playing and fifty percent is silent and getting it to be full is just hard. In the jazz trio… The Billy Hart and George Mraz record, I just play one six string guitar with an amp and a chord. It couldn’t be further away from Math Games. No technology, no electronics, no weird stuff. Just an upright bass, a standard drum set and one six string electric guitar, one amp…

J-man: When can we anticipate that album?

Fareed: We’re looking at March. The San Francisco Jazz Festival… It looks like they are interested, Charlotte Jazz Festival is interested. So, I should have some rough tracks posted relatively soon. Maybe one or two tracks.

J-man: Well Fareed, I really appreciate everything that you do. I am a huge fan and I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us again. A lot of our readers absolutely love what you have done, solo, with Garaj Mahal and now with Math Games. I wish you the best and look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Fareed: Definitely! I really appreciate this coverage and it means a lot. Garaj is a special group and it’s always going to be a special band, and who knows, there may even be some collaboration between me and Hertz in the future.

J-man: Excellent. Well, I loved the stuff you did with Garaj Mahal, though I also understand the necessity to move on and explore other projects… I do hope that you will have a chance to do some work with Garaj Mahal again.

Fareed: Absolutely. Thanks, man.

J-man: Take Care, Fareed.