Monthly Archives: April 2014

Our Jazz Fest Picks: Slacker’s Day

The second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival commences tomorrow. It’s four full days—a marathon not a sprint. Here’s what’s in store.

Nigel Hall continues to make waves on the New Orleans music scene. Three weeks ago he got the notoriously difficult to unseat crowd at the Louis Louis Pavilion stage of the French Quarter Festival up and dancing, playing R&B classics from Luther Vandross and Frankie Beverly and Maze. He hits on the Congo Square stage at 12:20 PM with a crack band.

The first of the second weekend of Brazilian bands, Tizumba & Tambor Mineiro, performs in the Blues Tent at 1:45 PM. They are a drum-heavy band from Minas Gerais, a Brazilian state not known for its musical exports. Check the vid for a taste.

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Graded on a Curve:
Bee Gees,
Bee Gees 1st

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most twee of them all? Belle and Sebastian? The Shop Assistants? The Pastels? Well sure, if you adhere to a literalist definition of twee as a post-indie phenomenon. But I take the sniper’s long-range view of music history, and like to think there’s nothing new—including twee—under the sun. For these reasons I would argue that the sixties’ Bee Gees—those pre-Three Disco Kings with their chipmunk voices, vice-grip-tight three-part harmonies, and whimsical takes on Summer of Love psychedelia, baroque pop, and blue-eyed soul—were the tweest bunch to ever tiptoe through the pop tulips.

I was too young for the late-sixties iteration of the Bee Gees; the first I heard of The Bros. Gibb were their mid- to late-seventies megahits as Overlords of the Hustle and the Electric Slide. I didn’t much care for the Disco Bee Gees—although I’ve warmed to them since—and hence had no desire to check out the music they made prior to becoming the Typhoid Marys of Saturday Night Fever. Then I heard Alice Donut’s transcendent cover of “Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You” and I was enthralled. This was one of the gr-gr-grooviest slices of psychedelia I’d ever heard, and it was by… the Bee Gees? I ran, didn’t walk, to Spotify. I had to skip the light fandango with the Brothers Gibb—and post haste!

Now what I’m about to say will shock you—perhaps even see me drummed in disgrace out of the critical corps, my quill snapped over the knee of TVD’s own General Patton, Jon Meyers. But I’ll say it anyway: having listened to it some 300 times, I can honestly say I enjoy Bee Gees 1st more than any Beatles album except that white one of theirs. And I exclude that one solely for sentimental reasons having to do with its inspirational effect on the Manson Family.

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UK Artist of the Week: Steve Strong

The genre Math can often stretch from the ridiculous to the unlistenable, but Steve Strong is heralding the new wave of underground math instrumentalists. His debut album, Three Hands Tall is a masterpiece in the genre, coming from humble beginnings based in Plymouth and signed to Genepool.

Strong has performed as a drummer for over 15 years and has played alongside similarly musically technical bands such as LITE and And So I Will Watch You From Afar. This debut album, out May 19th, is just the beginning though.

In true muso style, Steve already has an EP planned and a string of dates scheduled for this summer. Something tells us he won’t be stopping there either and there is probably lots more new music to come.

Fans of the Sea And Cake and Gastr del Sol will be pleased, and whether your a musician, music fan, or Math nut, Three Hands Tall will most certainly intrigue.

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Graded on a Curve: Roland Kirk, The Limelight/Verve Albums

If one endeavored to compile the names of the last half century’s most enduringly popular jazz figures, multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk would land on that list with ease. In converting new listeners to his chosen musical field the bandleader’s right up there with Miles, Coltrane, Mingus and Monk. As Mosaic Records’ new 4LP box set The Limelight/Verve Albums illustrates, Kirk’s achievement was sustained through a rare combination of pure skill, purposeful showmanship, uncommon range, sincere eccentricity and ceaseless ambition. And don’t forget the blues.

It was during the tail end of the 1980s that I made my initial attempts at diving headfirst into the immense landscape of jazz history. And I stress attempts, for while the music’s long narrative was easy enough to absorb through the numerous books on the subject, securing the all important listening material often proved quite tricky.

Certain crucial recordings, and indeed the prime works of many key players, were languishing out of print, and all but the most righteously stubborn of shops were choosing to whittle down shelf-space for non-pop/rock-related product to a relative sliver. Of course, an economic upsurge and ensuing compact disc boom was just around the corner, but in 1989 those trying to explore jazzdom (outside of major urban areas, anyway) often felt like they were navigating an enormous block of Swiss cheese.

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It’s International
Jazz Day 2014!

The Vinyl District is delighted to have been designated as media partners for the 3rd Annual International Jazz Day which is today—April 30!

Streaming live from Osaka, Japan is the International Jazz Day Global Concert featuring Herbie Hancock in tandem with a world class assemblage of musicians to celebrate the jazz idiom in all its hues and colors. If you miss the live, international broadcast, we encourage you to catch it on demand from home, in your office cubicle, or in classrooms across the world.

Over the course of the past month, we turned our own editorial eye to a wide breadth of jazz releases with a spotlight on some favorites from our own shelves, and in the spirit of Dave Brubeck’s seminal “Take Five,” we’ve asked International Jazz Day’s musical director, John Beasley and the one and only Mr. Wayne Shorter to compile 5 LPs that initially inspired their passion for all things jazz—and which still inform their thinking to this day.

“When IJD was voted for by 135 countries, championed by Herbie Hancock and the Monk Institute, I felt a very personal feeling of appreciation that the world is recognizing ‘jazz,’ this music I play every day of my life, as this significant art form.

I have the fortune to be the music director for the annual concert which brings together over 30 international artists to perform, talk about, and celebrate jazz. The annual concert is streamed live so whether you live in Australia or Zimbabwe, jazz lovers everywhere can listen collectively—swinging, tapping at the same time…imagine that.

This is a mind-blowing thought. This reminds us that music, jazz, can bring beauty in our lives for a moment, break down barriers, and give us a chance to stop and go outside of ourselves.

Listen up for year 3 and a lively show streaming from Osaka.
John Beasley, International Jazz Day Musical Director

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TVD Live Shots:
The Corcoran Ball, 4/25

After the lovely and gorgeous Corcoran Ball last Friday, M.H. & His Orchestra took the stage for Club Corcoran, the ball’s after-hours event. 

Thrown by the Corcoran Women’s Committee, the annual gala draws a crowd of art collectors, socialites, and political figures. This year, the ball was a fundraiser for Corcoran Access, which will digitize the Corcoran’s collection.

Some guests were uneasy that this would be the last ball due to the Corcoran’s new partnership with George Washington University and the National Gallery, but surrounded by beautiful artwork, they set aside their concerns and danced to M.H. & His Orchestra’s brassy beats.

Although the Women’s Committee has already scheduled 2015’s Corcoran Ball, if for some reason this year is the fête’s last, at least it will have gone out swinging and dancing to the croons of Max Holiday and his expert musical troupe. —Ed.

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TVD Live: Margot and The Nuclear So and So’s, Empires, Kate Myers at the Grog Shop, 4/27

PHOTOS: JARED PERRY | On a show where the majority of the acts provide a quiet, more introspective journey into a songwriter’s mind, it takes a complicit audience to make the experience perfect.

While all three acts on Sunday night’s bill showcased great material, and played it well, the entire audience wasn’t fully along for the ride.

Let’s start with singer/songwriter, Kate Myers. I really felt awful for the amount of noise she put up with during her set. I wasn’t familiar with her work before the show, but she has an incredible voice and some really interesting songs to put with them. However, she was put in the shitty spot of being an opening act (as a solo singer/guitarist) on a show with three bands. First acts have a long illustrious history of being pissed on by inattentive audiences, but she didn’t deserve this.

The middle act on this tour, Empires, didn’t really have this problem because they were a full on rock outfit and never really took things down a notch. Kind of a later era Killers meets early Coldplay thing happening. I wasn’t really feeling their stuff, but I could understand why people would. It was cool and I’m not mad at them. Do your thing, Empires.

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TVD Live Shots: The Dandy Warhols at the Independent, 4/23

I remember the first time I heard the Dandy Warhols back in 1997. A promo rep from Capitol Records came into the record store I was working at with a stack of promo CDs. There was a black and white advance copy of The Dandy Warhols Come Down piled in between Starsailor and a few other bands that were supposed to be break out artists around that same time. I remember the Dandy Warhols for two reasons—one, the rep didn’t say anything about the band (which usually meant no hype) and two, it was due to be released on July 15, my birthday.

I remember putting this record on the overhead sound system in the store and hearing “Be In” for the first time blasting straight into “Boys Better” and I was hooked. It was pretty surprising to hear “shoegaze ” happening in the late ’90s, let alone “pop shoegaze,” as I call it.

It was as if ELO had a bastard child with Sonic Youth and a fetish for pop culture icons while deciding to kick the current Dave Mathews Band obsessed music scene right in the nuts. This would quickly become my favorite album of the entire decade and begin my 17 year love affair with the band—and to this day I still celebrate the Dandy’s entire catalog.

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The Fire And I,
The TVD First Date

“So, let’s go back to Mexico City in the 1990s—I remember the piece of quiet simple furniture, that turned into a loud creature!! At the sides there were 2 doors, one full of vinyl and the other with a couple of CDs. I can recall my dad taking me to the market where he bought me a couple of second-hand records by a Spanish children’s group called Parchis and the Mexican children’s songwriter called Cricri…”

“I remember being fascinated with the fact that there was music coming out of the actual record—this thing must have a SOUL! It’s like the record’s soul talking, whispering all the truth—and it’s always there, you know it’s there, even if the volume’s on 0. You could spin the records either way—bendable sound!—and they would still sound good. I remember doing it more often on Saturday mornings while my parents were still at work. I got into real trouble for breaking a couple of them needles or scratching the vinyl.

Then we moved. I remember the previous owner leaving his record stereo player, and there was this one record—green, see-through… no lyrics, no letters. For years, in fact all my teenage years, it was the only vinyl I had—I mean the things were just so rare. I remember taking my green vinyl along with a tie iron to the school fair of antiques to exhibit them.

Often I was at my Grandma’s at big parties where people would dig into her collection to play things like Elvis and Richie Valens, Pedro Infante, and Agustin Lara. I remember also a record where my Uncle Luis was on the cover, I was like wow!

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TVD Live: Jazz Fest,
the First Weekend

After all the bad weather last year, it was great to have three rain-free, albeit a little warm for the season, days at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Here’s a look at some highlights.

I started each day with the Mardi Gras Indians. The Commanche Hunters were impressive on Friday, but the Creole Wild West (pictured at top) on Saturday brought the biggest tribe including numerous precious children in suits playing Indian with guileless joy.

Larry Bannock (pictured above on left in hat), the Big Chief of the Golden Star Hunters, has been in ill health lately and I wondered if he would make it to the Fairgrounds this year.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Harvest Ministers,
You Can See Everything from Here

For some, discovering The Harvest Ministers’ association with Sarah Records will be all the info required to inspire a journey to their friendly neighborhood wax shack. Of course, fans of that august label will likely be long cognizant over the Dublin group’s indie-chamber-folk-pop. In reality, music connoisseurship is only occasionally this tidy; for those non-conversant with the Ministers’ considerable back-story they’ve compiled You Can See Everything from Here, a 500 vinyl copy primer available only from their Bandcamp page. It does an exceptional job detailing the richness of their history.

Led by lyricist-vocalist-guitarist Will Merriman, The Harvest Ministers have been in existence for over 20 years, but it’s only recently that I’ve gotten hip to them. On learning of their relationship with Sarah Records, I was immediately anticipating a variation upon a certain sound, specifically sturdily-made non-trite indie pop, and was pleasantly surprised when my expectation was not only met but substantially exceeded.

The Harvest Ministers began in 1991 by issuing their first 45 “You Do My World the World of Good” b/w “Grey Matters” on their own Crayon imprint. In 2000, post-Sarah and their subsequent label home Setanta, Crayon was revived for the “Embezzling Kisses” EP, with the Ministers self-releasing ever since. And while the whole of You Can See Everything from Here does serve retrospective function, the thoughtful assemblage of the LP’s 13 selections greatly transcends mere documentation.

Opening the album is the a-side to the 7-inch debut, and it finds the violin of Aingeala de Burca halfway between a sitting room and a haystack, with her tone helping the song to avoid both an overly twee air and any hollow gestures toward authenticity. Furthermore the song’s possession of a warm vocal duet with Gerardette Bailey is unexpected and welcome; it’s quickly ascertainable why Sarah snapped up the tune for rerelease in 1992.

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TVD Live: We Are Scientists and PAWS at the Grog Shop, 4/23

PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | There’s something shocking about bands that actually get along and smile on stage. 

It all seems so counterintuitive because being a musician for a living should be kind of awesome and fun. To us working stiffs, driving around to play shows and have beers every night in different cities sounds pretty damn cool.

However, many bands put up emotional barriers, not only from the audience, but from each other. I don’t know if it’s for the sake of looking cool, or just a general disdain artistic types have for people around them, but it’s jarring to see people actually have fun while playing music.

For indie scene vets We Are Scientists and their opener, PAWS, that joy is still there.

Both bands openly chatted, at length, with both themselves and the audience while on stage. Were the jokes sometimes corny and silly? Sure. But we’re at a rock show not a comedy show, and it helped the audience identify with the bands and who they are at their cores.

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Copper Lungs,
The TVD First Date

“I only really took interest in vinyl recently, mostly due to getting a job selling records online. I’m not from a particularly musical family, so all that was really around when I was younger was a couple of Whitney Houston cassettes and then some Now CDs when they came about, so my knowledge of records was very limited; I only recently learned how to work the damn player.”

“About a year and a half ago I started working with a company that sells vinyl online, and due to the recent increase in sales this meant that there was a lot more records coming through than usual. It’s pretty much from here that I took a real interest in it, with picking up some of my own for the first time.

I think it comes down to two things; the physical attraction to a cool sleeve and vinyl design and that the quality of music that they create. It’s good to hear music the way it’s meant to be heard, away from shitty Mp3 quality songs out of a laptop speaker.

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TVD Video Premiere: Aloud, “It’s Got to Be Now!”

The authenticity of Aloud’s Jen De La Osa’s embrace of all things vinyl was quite evident when we invited the Boston band on a First Date last February, and seemingly true to form, the video for the title cut of the band’s fourth full-length, It’s Got to Be Now arrives with a similar tone intact.

With art direction, illustration, and animation from Treebeard Media’s Erin Genett and Stephen LoVerme, “It’s Got to Be Now” teems with cleverness, originality, and hits a few familiar chords with us here at TVD. Not to mention, you’ll have the track wedged in your noggin all day.

Want more? If you’re in NYC this very evening (4/28), Aloud plays the Bowery Electric tonight at 8:30!

“More than anything else vinyl is a ritual for me. Sifting through your shelves for the right album, the feel of the cardboard, setting the needle on the groove. So much care goes into filling the room with my favorite music. How wonderful that so intangible a thing has some physical form to ogle!

If vinyl is the idol then record stores are the temples. When I’m on tour I’m always on the look out. Few are the times I have left a store empty-handed. I don’t typically have the patience to spend hours shopping except at the record shop (though I do appreciate things being organized, so I can find what I’m looking for.)

I’ve had excellent conversations with staff at most of these places too. They’re like me and most of you reading this I gather. We’re all in there because we love music and we get the most from it while listening on vinyl. I’ve met some crabby record store owners, but for the most part they’ve all been welcoming and have shared loads of recommendations with me. These gatekeepers are essential.

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Chris Robinson:
The TVD Interview

Unashamedly psychedelic, proggy and weird, retro yet modern, Chris Robinson is a latter day icon of that place and time where cosmic rock began. His latest album with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Phosphorescent Harvest, is his third in two years, following hot on the heels of a 2013 Black Crowes reunion tour and coinciding with that iconic band’s 25th anniversary. It’s true that Robinson is best known as the frontman for the Black Crowes (who are again on hiatus), but his is the kind of relentless energy that keeps him from locking into any one band or project or sound, and making sell-outs (by default) of many of his peers. 

So, you haven’t seen or heard of the Brotherhood? That’s all right. Their latest tour officially kicks off on April 29, coinciding with the release of Phosphorescent Harvest. (You can hear new songs from the album before its official release via Billboard and Rolling Stone.) In other words, this is the perfect time to get acquainted with the band who, somehow, make the acid-rock music beloved by so many sound fresh and electrifying.

“The best perspective I have on what’s going on in my life—good and bad—is what comes out in the songs,” says Robinson. When we talked with him, Chris was standing outside of yet another venue, tour manager tapping his watch as he talked vinyl, the Brotherhood, and the state of music as he sees it. The rocker is perpetually on the road, logging 230 Brotherhood gigs since 2011. Yet his enthusiasm about his music and his connection with his band and his fans is what’s at the core of his prolonged popularity, and is what makes the California band a rootsy, trippy, utterly magnetic live act. 

Hey, are you The Vinyl District with the record store app?

Yes, we’re one and the same! You like it?

I really do like the app. I mean, you know, once you’ve been going to record stores for a long time, you can pretty much figure out… like, I know which ones I need to go to and which ones I don’t need to go to.

The one and only time I’ve seen you live was with Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes. I caught one of the only tour dates before he cancelled for some reason – hurt his back or something?

No… When we made the record, that was only like a handful of dates. We did the whole South and East Coast and Midwest; we did a lot of shows. It was just that last leg that we didn’t finish—I think! I could be totally wrong about that—I don’t know! [Laughs]

You’ve always seemed like a rock star from a different time. More accurately, you seem like you’ve always been really “into” music—like someone who spent afternoons looking for obscure records.

Yeah, I was always more into music than being a rock star. You think you’ve entered some exclusive thing, and then you look around and you’re like… “Oh, there’s a band called Ugly Kid Joe,” you know what I mean? They had a one-hit record. Anything that was more about money or being cool or whatever, and less about music, was not interesting to me. I was not interested at all. I was that way as a kid. That’s the only thing from my useful self that I reminisce about. [Laughs]

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