Author Archive

Nick Blaemire & The Hustle EP, “Headturner” Video

Tracked a new record with Nick Blaemire & The Hustle that comes out this Monday. Vocal driven with thick grooves and red hot horn charts by Jesse Vargas, we’ll be playing a CD release party this Monday 3/12 at the Mercury Lounge in NYC, and Nick (also of Godspell infamy) just released a video of the lead-off track, “Headturner“:

Next Tuesday, I head down to Austin, Texas to rock South By Southwest with The Morning Code, and then I hop on over to Miami to play at PAX with Del Exilio, followed by a stop in Atlanta. Looking forward to a good dose of Southern air and some great music in all three spots!

Bri Arden: “Domino” Jessie J / Van Morrison mashup

Last week I joined Bri Arden at Dubway Studios to record an acoustic cover of both Jessie J‘s “Domino” and Van Morrison‘s classic tune of the same name, with a little King Harvest mixed in for good measure. After all, the only thing better than a Dr. Luke creation is a Dr. Luke creation chewed up and remixed.

Bri’s new record Awake, produced by John Hampson, comes out next week and we’ll be celebrating with a big show at Rockwood Stage 2 on Thursday, Feb 1.

Mariachi guitarrón

Photo credit: Matt Stine

For a limited time, you can grab the track free by tweeting about it at this link.

Also featured on the track– Mexican guitarrón!

Actually, this photo is from the sessions for the upcoming Curtis & Reinhard album At The Pigeon Club that we recorded in December. The sombrero is critical for additional low-frequency resonance.

“Una Passeggiata” Available (Again)

The internet sure has changed a lot in just a couple years. When I released my live world-fusion album Una Passeggiata in 2008, it was available on SnoCap via Myspace… neither of which seem to be functioning very much these days.

Thanks to the great response when the album came out, and those who’ve bugged me to make it once again available, I’m re-releasing Una Passeggiata as a free audio download, and, for now, bundling it with sheet music of my original compositions from the album.

Download Una Passeggiata Free

You can stream and download, watch, share, and read more about the experiences and musical strains that went into Una Passeggiata and the Subdiversity Band at the link above.

Bass & Drums: Muscle Shoals on The Staple Singers’ “Name The Missing Word”

David Hood and Roger Hawkins, bassist and drummer of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section lay down some of the tightest funk there is on the “more than 75 gold and platinum hits” recorded at their former studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I’ve been glued to their playing on several records, including Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude, Etta James’ Tell Mama and The Staple SingersBe Altitude: Respect Yourself.

Muscle Shoals Sound - "The Swampers"

The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section: (from left) Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Jimmy Johnson

Here’s a nugget from the latter, the album cut “Name The Missing Word”. These guys give and take, pulsing and let the groove breath. Check out how in the verse, they link up on the kick pattern and on the “push” on beat 2+; but then Hood cuts off his sustained note right on beat 4+, leaving a gap for Hawkins’ tom fill.

They’re incredibly restrained and unshakingly consistent, even down to the drum fill that Hawkins plays at the end of each 4-bar phrase in the verses. His consistency allows Hood to double him leading up the V chord in mm.14.

David Hood & Roger Hawkins/Staple Singers - "Name The Missing Word"

Click for Free Download



Some other goodies to look out for:

Check out the rhythm guitar in the right channel. Not even notes, just muted chunks in the verses, and a buried rhythmic counterpoint to the drums in the intro.

When Hawkins finally starts to open up on the drums in the outro at 3:32, he wastes no notes. He creatively begins to combine the verse groove of mm.6 with the [B] groove of mm.14 with the snare on all 4 beats, still catching the motif he previously established on the toms that has now been taken up by horn stabs.

Note: The download link to the left will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free.

Watch them at work in the studio in this great video:

And check them out in this interview talking about Duane Allman’s disdain for studio work.

You can hear Duane dish it right back in this video.

By request: Oud Transcription– Marko Melkon’s “The Little Refugee”

Thanks to Mark Marshall from Toronto, who wrote in asking for a transcription of this gem of an old rembetika recording: Markos Melkon‘s “Το Πρόσφυγακι” (To Prosfygáki, “The Little Refugee“).

The following bio is freely adapted from an excellent article in Greek by Constantine Kopanitsános and Giannis Zarías published this month.

Melkon was born Marko Alemsherian in 1895, an Armenian in Ottoman Smyrna (now Izmir, in Turkey). To avoid being drafted into the Ottoman army, he fled to Athens in 1912 before making his way to New York in 1921. His popularity as an oud player and singer, particularly among the Armenian-American community, grew in the 40’s and 50’s as he toured throughout Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and the Catskills, and through his entire life worked steadily in the “oriental” music scene centered on New York’s 8th Avenue, in clubs like Port Said, Britania, Egyptian Gardens and Grecian Palace Cafe, places that luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein, Melvin Douglas, Ann Sheridan and Dave Brubeck would frequent.

Melkon was a crowd pleaser, remembering the names of all the regular audience members as well as their favorite songs, adapting his selections to his setting. In reference to Turkish oud virtuoso Udi Hrant from Istanbul, who played for Melkon in his home one time, Melkon commented, “I don’t play that kind of music. I make the people dance.”

Marko Melkon

Melkon spoke and sang in Greek, Armenian and Turkish, and appeared on recordings from numerous Mediterranean musical including Arabic and Sephardic music, and possibly Bulgarian and Albanian as well. He left 56 recordings as a singer and around 200 as an instrumentalist, including 10 solo taxims, all in different eastern modes. His 1937 interpretation of the well known Turkish song “Oğlan Oğlan” was a hit nationwide.

Here you can find an excellent discography in Greek, and some interesting covers of To Prosfygaki on YouTube including one by Soúla Vazoúra and this one by a large Ottoman-style ensemble.

Markos Melkon "To Prosfygaki" Sheet Music

Click for Free Download

At one of his last recording sessions, he cut “Asia Minor“– a Latin-flavored track for oud with Roger K. Mozian’s orchestra, unreleased until the 1996 compilation Marko Melkon. Another compilation worth checking out is Armenians On 8th Avenue (both records from Traditional Crossroads, 1996) featuring 8 of Marko’s tracks alongside his contemporaries.

Note: The download link above will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

More music transcriptions

Year-End 2011 Best Albums List

I’m notoriously slow on the uptake so some of these records may have seen the light of day prior to 2011, but here is some music that that I’ve been digging on this past year:

Becca Stevens Band - Weightless

Becca Stevens Band – Weightless
Beautiful, out, sophisticated original vocal melodies and creative covers with subtly textured vocal and instrumental arrangements. She’s a bit of an open secret in New York and probably won’t stay under the radar for long.

Punch Brothers – Antifogmatic
Chris Thile’s new project, produced by Jon Brion. All of the gritty bluegrass and sophisticated/out harmony of Thile’s old band Nickel Creek, without the slicker pop melodies. It’s weird, and great.

Shusmo – Mumtastic
I love this New York cross-cultural fusion group. This follow up to their EP One features the same ensemble with a few more breakbeats and a dirrrrrrrty sound for Tareq Aboushi’s buzuq. Until tomorrow, they’re running a holiday promotion where you can download the album for only $5. Well worth the bandwidth.

Fayvish – YIDDPOP
A German group singing contemporary, original Yiddish music. Sounds something like Soul Coughing– vaguely jazzy, bare but colorful. Check out “Akhtsik er, zibetsik zi”.

Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator
Combining some of the best blues singing and guitar playing there is out there with 9 other incredible musicians culled from Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks’ respective bands.

Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone
Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Mavis’ voice still chills to the bone. Organic, traditional sounding and awash in tremolo.

Bon Iver (Self-Titled)
Bon Iver managed to follow up his successful For Emma, Forever Ago with a record that maintains the vibe of its predecessor but greatly expands on its sound. It’s organic and electric, intimate and vast.

Meshell Ndegeocello – Weather
What can I say, I’m a devotee. Groovy, vibey, sometimes crunchy, and surprisingly hooky. If you go into a Meshell record without expectations, you’re bound to come out the better for it.

Clinton Curtis – 2nd Avenue Ball
In full disclosure, I’m lucky enough to play in Clinton Curtis’ live band. 2nd Avenue Ball was made before my tenure, however, and I think the 15-track record is quite a masterpiece front to back. I’ll leave it at that.

Erin McCarley - Love, Save The Empty

Pomplamoose – VideoSongs
Nataly Dawn is one of my new favorite bass players, for the weird, angular lines that she lays down on these and other Pomplamoose tracks. Her other half, Jack Conte, is a brilliant producer combining an ear for creating sounds with incredibly interesting uses of electronic music techniques. Apparently this album is from 2009, so I’m just catching up to the party.

Erin McCarley – Love Save The Empty
Jamie Kenney‘s production takes the best of Fiona Apple/Jon Brion collaborations without quite so much brooding. The first three tracks alternate quirky verses with Coldplay-style epic hooks.

Sara Bareilles – Kaleidescope Heart
Super piano-poppy and awesome. This is how you write a pop song. Producer Neal Avron, who made his break with Everclear’s So Much For The Afterglow, sets the standard for textured but efficient arrangements, and ubiquitous LA session rhythm section Matt Chamberlain and Justin Meldal-Johnsen are so damn tight.

Maxwell – BLACKsummers’night
Already a couple years old, but this is the gift that keeps giving. An unbelievable soul/r+b record combining a tight live band with careful programming and production.

Any albums that should have been on this list that I need to hear? Let me know in the comments!

Search & Restore gunning for more jazz in 2012

My college buddy, saxophonist Adam Schatz, had a crazy idea a few years back to start booking and promoting up-and-coming jazz shows with the energy and DIY vibe of the New York indie scene. 4 years later, he’s made more than a mark, and last year Search & Restore raised $75,000 on KickStarter to document and promote the jazz scene with hundreds of live videos. Those videos are now up on their newly renovated website, and this year they’ve raised their mark to $200,000.

New Ryan Amador video: In A Little Room

Ryan Amador just posted a great video directed by David Baloche for “In A Little Room“, one of the tracks off his Symptoms of a Wide Eyed Being EP from Funky Butter Productions, released earlier this fall.

You can grab the record on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify or from Ryan’s website. Kudos to Kate Ferber and Jordan Perlson who performed on the track and Shaina Taub who co-produced it.

Language Revival: Native American tribe relearns their lost language

An old friend hipped me to Anne Makepeace‘s beautiful documentary which recently aired on PBS: “We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân.

Celebrated every Thanksgiving as the ‘Indians’ who saved the Pilgrims from starvation and then largely forgotten, the Wampanoag communities of southeastern Massachusetts are reviving their native tongue, a language that had been silenced for more than 100 years.

Some words of the language will sound familiar to those familiar with Massachusetts and particularly Martha’s Vineyard geography. In addition to the inspiring story of how Jessie Little Doe Baird took on the task of reclaiming and teaching the language throughout the community, with her 3-year-old daughter as the first new native speaker, PBS also maintains an excellent site with supplementary material covering Native American language revival throughout the US and some striking testimonials from Noam Chomsky and others. In one clip, Jean O’Brien, a scholar of Ojibwe waxes poetic on language and identity:

“I think people are passionate about language because it’s about sovereignty and nationhood. It’s about a core expression of your own nation, your separate existence as a people that stretches into the unknowable past. … It’s about identity, it’s about place, it’s about marking yourselves as a different people in really fundamental ways. … Culture and language are inextricable.”

She then gets super heady about the worldview distinctions present in Ojibwe, including counter-intuitive distinctions between animate and inanimate entities. My kind of fare.

The full story, for those who missed the film, is also available in this article from MIT.

I can’t help but wonder how Ghil’ad Zuckermann would feel about a revived Wampanoag. In the above link, he asserts that the native Yiddish and Russian of Modern Hebrew‘s founding speakers had a profound and fundamental affect on the revived language. (Duh.) His conclusions are inevitably political, but his evidence is fascinating regarding the only large-scale successful revival of a dead tongue that I’m aware of.

What a gift– and burden– it must be for Jessie’s daughter Mae, the Wampanoag language’s Itamar Ben-Avi. But if We Still Live Here is any indication, Mae will have more that her parents with whom to speak her people’s language.

Bass transcription from Meshell Ndegeocello’s new record, “Weather”

Meshell Ndegeocello has a new record coming tomorrow, and we get a tantalizing preview with a free track she’s leaked on her website, “Dirty World”. I couldn’t help but transcribe the hairy broken drum and bass groove played by her and Deantoni Parks. Check out the track and sheet music below, and for good measure, I cleaned up and threw in her excellent bass grooves from Comfort Woman and The World Has Made Me The Man of My Dreams that I posted here some time ago.

Note the broken drum feel, and which notes Meshell plays short versus which she slides into. The two make a monster rhythm section and give a simple two-bar loop an instantly recognizable flavor.

Bass transcription of Meshell Ndegeocello's "Dirty World"

Click for Free Download

Note: The download link above will open a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

We get a preview of the entire record on NPR’s review of Weather. You can grab the CD tomorrow, and she’s also soon to be on tour.