Category Archives: Music

MATINAE Music Live: MOONCHILD

April 9, 2022, Buckhead Theater, Atlanta GA

The opening act Austin Antoine, appropriately describes himself as a performance artist. Antoine sang, rapped including a freestyle, and performed the famous Kid n Play House Party dance sequence with his cousin who came out for a few numbers, all while providing his own musical accompaniment (by laptop). The performance was fun, Antoine was engaging, and the audience, self-included, seem to have enjoyed the performance. Antoine’s music is available on all streaming platforms.

I missed the second act due to an unfortunate hot flash incidentūüĒ•. From what I could gather, a presentation and video from/about a local charity supported by the headliners was shown. Having properly cooled off I resumed my seat and soon raucous applause and cheers began for the headliners, Moonchild.

I first heard the group on Twitch some time in 2020, so the group is new to me. Nevertheless what I heard and subsequently added to my collection was enough to make me want to see them live. Moonchild is comprised of Amber Navran, Andris Mattson and Max Bryk. They were also joined by Efa Etoroma, Jr. on drums for the Atlanta date.

The band is tight. The three principles are all multi-instrumentalists which I would say lean toward soul and jazz. The set list included:

  • Too Much to Ask
  • The Other Side
  • Cure
  • The List
  • Run Away
  • Tell Him
  • Love I Need

and more. Love I Need was a funky banger. The album version features Rapsody, the live performance briefly transitioned into Anita Baker’s Caught up in the Rapture which was a joyful sing-a-long before returning to the funk.

The audience sang along throughout the band’s performance and whenever Navran stretched out of her normal vocal style just the tiniest bit, the audience went bananas and started shouting SANG AMBER! Navran’s vocals have been written about plenty, all I could add is that I would love to see her stretch a bit beyond her signature sound beyond the teasers she displayed in the live performance.

Seeing Moonchild was an enjoyable experience. Anyone who likes a soulful, jazzy type sound is encouraged to attend this show when it comes to your city, if it is not already sold out.

For more information on the charitable organizations that Moonchild partners with, please see their website.

Photos: MsThorns

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MATINAE Music Live: Tank and the Bangas

The show was on 3/27/2022. I have been sitting on this for two weeks because a conclusion just could not be reached until now.

First I want to thank the parking gods and the cleaning staff of Buckhead Theater in Atlanta. The parking was easy and the theater Pristine. I had a seat in the balcony because my days of standing through a show appear to be over.

The opening act was Cory Henry and his band The Funk Apostles. If funk is in it, I’m here for it and Henry did not disappoint. He is a high energy keyboard master, vocalist, performer, minister of music. At times I heard Sly, Herbie and our beloved Prince. They seem to be his influences but his sound is his own, maybe a funk-jazz-gospel-rock??? I heard it all in his playing. The Funk Apostles band, instrumental and vocals were tight. Highlights were:

‚ĖĽ Days – a bouncy, danceable groove, a bop
‚ĖĽ Trade it All – this GOES, Henry’s solo was outstanding on this
‚ĖĽ GawtDamn – he killed this, soulful, shout-worthy LAWD
‚ĖĽ Alone – Henry described as the introverts anthem, was a jam with clearly inspired by early Prince.

I really enjoyed the performance and Henry and his band seemed to enjoy it as much as the audience. His music is streaming on all platforms, you need to see him live though, for real.

and now…

Tank is the technicolor dreamcoat. She is multi-faceted, vocalist, spoken word artist, playful all of the things, the Group plays all genres and do it well. However, I did not stay until the end because…

I am old.

As an old, Tank and the Bangas were a lot to take in, the colors , the baby-voiced, squealing thing Tank does was too much for me. The youngins LOVED it! Screaming, dancing, singing along, giving all the audience participation. My thoughts of the show, were the same as those when listening to the recorded music. This chile is TALENTED but wooooo it was too much for me.

To be clear, I was out of place, not the band, not the crowd. I liken the experience to the way my parents talked about hip-hop in the beginning. They thought it was loud, noisy, too-much going on. Later, they came around, my dad in fact is now a Snoop Fan.

Would I recommend this show? Absolutely, I enjoyed the reaction of the crowd, I enjoyed the vocals and the spoken word and the band, the baby-voiced squealing was a bit much for me. Oh, and the chicken wings the young ladies were eating next to me smelled and gave me a headache.

Would I go to see them again? Absolutely. A funny thing happened for me to arrive at this conclusion, the NCAA National Championship. I heard her before I saw her, singing the national anthem in all her glory and in New Orleans tradition. It was dope.

Photos: MsThorns

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MATINAE Music – Colman Brothers (self-titled)

I was introduced to Bandcamp fortunately for my ears and unfortunately for my pocket by a fellow music lover I met through DJ Spinna’s Twitch stream. Upon landing at Bandcamp I selected genres of interest and received in my recommendations The Colman Brothers self-titled debut album released in 2011.

Hailing from the UK, brothers Mat on trombone and Andrew trumpet/flugelhorn create a rhythmic, horn-infused danceable latin-jazz release. The album opens with Mr. D. G., a swinging tune that gives visions of the dance floor and is followed by Another Brother which begins at a furious pace that does not let up. Towards the middle of the album the Brothers slow things down with a surprising remix of a song called She Who Dares, sounding very hip-hop, which reminded me of KRS One’s MCs Act Like They Don’t Know. Also featured on the album is Mat and Andrew’s sister, Sara Colman as the vocalist on on Some Other Wonder. Her performance is smooth and smoky and gives the visual of Ms. Colman blessing the mic of a jazz club.

The Colman Brothers came out blazing on their debut release. Aside from a remix album of their own and appearances on compilations from their label, I was unable to locate any additional recorded work from the Brothers, which is a shame. This album was too good for our ears not be graced with additional music. Hopefully soon, we will hear more from them. ūüíŅūüíŅūüíŅūüíŅūüíŅ

Photos: MsThorns

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MATINAE Music Live –¬† Abstractions: Zo!, Tall Black Guy & Deborah Bond

I think what I heard Wednesday night was joy. That joy leapt off the stage and into all of us in attendance at the Abstractions tour stop at City Winery Atlanta, February 9, 2022.

I had a seat in front of the stage and saw up close the interplay between these talented musicians, Zo!, Deborah Bond and Tall Black Guy, accompanied by some really tight musicians from Atlanta on bass and drums.

Zo! was musical director,¬† pianist and emcee and played each role with ease and a virtuosity. Tall Black Guy put in work! I don’t know what all those things were called that he was playing but, he brought in music, effects, sly commentary and kept the music moving. Last but not least was Ms. Deborah Bond. She is a petite fleur with a big voice who can sang sang! She sang songs that Phonte, Carmen, Joi, Darien etc. etc., were featured on in Zo!’s discography as well as selections from TBG’s Remixes and Tings Vol. 1. and others, beautifully. She is a fire dancer as well!

All selections were outstanding and I particularly enjoyed Hold My Hand, Connected, I Know You, I Live You For Sure, and a Go-Go style Prototype by Outkast. This show is the best I’ve seen in the pandemic era, and one of the most enjoyable, fun shows I have been to in years. The key word again is joy. These musicians bring a joyful noise and clearly enjoy playing together.

If Abstractions comes to your city, DO NOT MISS IT!

Photos: MsThorns

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MATINAE MUSIC – Meshell Ndegeocello, Variety Playhouse, Atlanta

A SLOW BURN

I purchased tickets January 2020, then the pandemic hit and shut down the world. Atlanta for the most part was not shut down, however live performances were cancelled or postponed, this show fell within the latter. Originally scheduled for March 2020, the performance was postponed twice when finally on September 2, 2021, I was able to use those tickets, along with proof of vaccination (or negative covid test) and with mask in place, I was able to experience in person, Meshell Ndegeocello.

Though described as a rapper and bassist which are at best limiting descriptors, I entered the show knowing I would experience much more than that given the magnitude of her talent. I did, but not in the way I expected. Her performance was subdued, with her band providing the instrumentation on drums, bass, guitar and keyboards. Her guitarist in particular was outstanding. Ndegeoceollo picked up the bass, twice, played keyboards a bit, but mostly gave the audience a slow burn of songs through the rhythm and tone of her voice whether it was singing or speaking.

She performed several songs from “Ventriloquism”, a release of covers performed in only the way that she could. She performed Night and Day (Al B Sure!), Waterfalls (TLC), Tender Love (Force MDs), and the standout of the songs performed from the album, I Wonder if I Take You Home (Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam), which was in short a groove. Her rendition of Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Nina Simone, The Animals) was also outstanding. But the *close your eyes and feel it* song of the night was Outside Your Door from her first album “Plantation Lullabies”. Her vocals, the band, the musicianship was faint-worthy and there were plenty of Woos! from the audience to affirm the sentiment.

When leaving the performance I felt disappointed that I did not get to experience her virtuosity on bass, but checked myself for a few reasons. First, we are in a pandemic still, regardless of what is displayed in the media, things are not “back to normal”. I should and will expect live musical performances to feel different as I believe we are all in a different space now. Secondly, Ndegeocello celebrated her 53rd birthday on August 29th, for which she displayed gratitude and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, she announced the recent transition of her mother. All of these factors I believe had an impact on this performance, which nevertheless was still exceptional.

Overall I loved the performance. The understated nature of it was much appreciated during this time of high emotion and divisiveness. Atlanta was just her third stop on this tour and as the tour continues, her performances may be completely different from what we experienced here. Whether subdued or in full out rock, jazz, funk and all the genres she’s fluent in mode, Meshell Ndegeocello in any form is highly recommended.

One more thing on the description of Ndegeocello as bassist and rapper. She is an artist, a complete musician who sings, speaks, exhorts, announces, whispers and demands but rap, she does not.

Thanks SS for joining me.

Fuzzy photos: MsThorns

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Spiritual Music

Will start with this:

Spend some time with this:

And end where the spirit leads me.

94 today.

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So DOPE!

In the years following that first party, I always asked who was the DJ and there was one who was the dopes of all. His name was Jose. If I heard Jose was DJing, I was cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, DOING ALL THE THINGS so I could be there. Back in those days it was the DJ not a corporation or some A&R cat, who broke records. Two that Jose broke (for me), I remember vividly, though several years apart, were Rapper’s Delight and She Blinded me With Science at a club where I definitely was not supposed to be (LOL!). This dude was so dope and if you knew where I was from, you’d be shocked that we got down the way that we did.

I think of Jose now because of our current collective situation, under stay at home, shelter in place or quarantine. Covid-19 has us in the house, some have been home upwards of two months. There would be no concerts, no clubs, no DJs in our lives for the the foreseeable future until there was.

You see, Instagram (Twitch, YouTube) became the new Club 112 (only old Atliens know about that). It was on IG that the DJs saved our lives. Music fans had access to the best in the world. In the former time, most of us would never experience one of their sets. Now we’ve seen some of the best and youngest in the world. I was on Questlove’s IG the night Stevie Wonder called in, and was a regular at D-Nice’s club quarantine. I caught DJMaseo one morning playing Teddy Pendergrass and was hooked thereafter and twerked (allegedly) to Mannie Fresh. I watched the Rza v DJ Premier Verzuz battle, viewed in amazement the skills of DJs Amira & Kayla and every Saturday post his own recovery, I danced and sweated to the illest of all time (imo) DJ Jazzy Jeff.

These men, women and young women DJs saved and gave us our whole lives during a time that has been hella difficult. I love, thank and appreciate them all for sharing their love and their art with us and I thank Jose, for making me fall in love with the art of DJing.

Postscript: This post was originally drafted during early May. Since that time there has been an apparent DJ shutdown on IG over alleged publishing violations. Just so you know, this some b*((*$!t !

Images: Ms. Thorns

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Fragility

This was originally written right after Roy Hargrove’s passing.¬† I needed some separation from the time of writing until now.

Hargrove -20181104 -2

Woke up this morning with my mind staid on Jesus but wasn’t about to go to church while fending off the vestiges of some cold/sinus/whatever this thing is I have going on. So I’m home, in the bed writing those inconsistent morning pages and I started thinking about the foolery that is my life as I currently live it. I generally do this life assessment thing when something jarring happens. The jarring this time was the untimely death of the trumpet great Roy Hargrove. This brother just turned 49 and now he’s gone.

I didn’t write when Prince passed. Though I loved him the majority of my life, there was nothing to say, too much grief,¬† too many well known, highly talented, music writers and cultural critics filled that¬†space. Besides, I’m just a fan.¬†The same holds true in this instance as well but something mundane happened this morning that put my thoughts about Hargrove and life in perspective. I broke a bowl into a million pieces.

Hargrove’s death is personal. When I discovered his music, all I lived, breathed and¬† spent money on was jazz. This was the early nineties. I heard everything,¬† I knew what was hot, I was down for sure but my genre of choice was jazz and as far as I was concerned,¬† Hargrove was the hottest with his cool. What I loved about him was that he wasn’t trying to blow up the trumpet,¬† the mic or my ears. His tone, his phrasing, his technical aptitude, his respect for the artform was all I heard and it was beautiful.¬† The brother was a hard bopper, a balladeer, a funkateer, soulful and hip-hop. He did it all. He was the soundtrack for my life, his music felt good.

Whenever he dropped something I was on it. When he dropped Habana? It was over. People often talk about seminal recordings, landmarks what have you, Habana was it for me. As I write this I hear the opening cut O My Seh Yeh clearly. I felt the music, I felt him, the musicians, Cuba and the continent of Africa.¬† This was soul music, for real. And I’m thankful for having experienced it.

I listened to it all, his quintet, fronting a big band, the Soulquarians, absolutely bumpin’, always stellar. I kept Hargrove on my hotlist of artists to see. I saw many that he collaborated with from Herbie Hancock to Erykah Badu, but I never saw him. When I heard he was gone I literally clutched my heart, it was broken. As I read about his death I learned that he was broken, fragile. He had kidney disease, was on dialysis for years. He had some ups and downs, but he was still playing, still recording, still working though he was clearly ill.

Maybe that’s what I’ve gotten from his life, his work. He didn’t have it all together anymore. He was fragile, yet he continued to keep it moving. He continued to inspire and mentor, he continued to do the work that he loved regardless of his fragility. So I say,¬† thank you Brother Hargrove for sharing your art with us. May your trumpet sound all the more beautiful in eternity.

Hargrove -20181213 -1

Photos: MsThorns
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Not a Music Critic Benefits from the Robert Glasper Experiment

Thanks to WCLK I learned of the Schemes and Dreams Foundation benefit concert on May 5. The featured performer for the evening was the Robert Glasper Experiment.   At last I would finally get to see Glasper and the group in action after missing the opportunity to do so at Jazz Fest last year.

About the Benefit
Schemes and Dreams “is a 501(c)(3) based in Atlanta, Georgia that teaches our youth the value of nourishing their creative outlet while also creating a path to wellness and personal success. We provide programs for at-risk youth that avidly support them in formulating progressive schemes to follow and become their dreams.” The audience was able to enjoy the fruits of the foundation’s music program in the form of Jazz Future, a group of high school students.

Openers
20130505_195825Jazz Future played a short set featuring a few standards and closed with a lively take on Roy Hargrove’s Strasbourg/St. Denis. Following Jazz Future were the Be-Hip All Stars. A collective of musicians who are all artists on Be-Hip Records. Standout performances from the collective came from Akeem Marable on saxophone and Lester Walker on trumpet. The collective closed with a nice rendition of Donald Byrd’s Alter Ego.

The Closer
20130505_214129The Robert Glasper Experiment entered the stage with Glasper thanking the audience for supporting Black Radio while making jokes about his belly, the Best R&B Album Grammy awarded to the group for the album, and how people think that he has all the artists that appeared on the album in his pocket. What we found out on this evening, was that it doesn’t matter who this group has in its company, it can play with anyone and play anything.

Set List (as I recall it)
All I Need (Radiohead)
Think Twice (Donald Byrd/Erykah Badu)
No Church in the Wild (Jay-Z, K West, F Ocean)
Cherish the Day (Sade)
I think I’m In Love (Unknown title and artist)
Onstage Intermission
Ah Yeah (Glasper/Musiq/C Michele)
Solo
All Matter (Glasper/Bilal)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Letter to Hermione (D Bowie/Glasper/Bilal)
Encore -Say Yes (Floetry)

This set list is an excellent representation of what the Robert Glasper Experiment is about, a cross genre musical exploration, with a jazz foundation.  All the songs were at once recognizable, but were interpreted to be more funky, more mellow, more jazzy or more striking than the original.  I loved every single minute of the performance but was particularly enthralled with their interpretations of  No Church in the Wild, Cherish the Day and Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The Solos

Drummer Chris Dave is THE Funky Drummer that James Brown sang about it. Bassist Derrick Hodge has some bass virtuoso chops and is newly signed to Blue Note Records.¬† Saxophone, Flautist, Vocalist Casey Benjamin can do everything.¬† I’m not much of a vocoder person but Benjamin is GIFTED, he makes it sound sweet and there was all manner of swooning going on during Ah Yeah and Say Yes.¬† Then there’s Glasper.

20130505_223904Glasper sat alone on stage under a red light. His playing, I’d like to describe as¬† waves of sound.¬† Not crashing waves, but continuous, consistent ones.¬† These waves are produced on what sounds like five pianos/keyboards at a time.¬† I did not recognize the songs that he played, what I did recognize was his technical prowess and his touch — waves.

Wrap-up
This Experiment is successful. The versatility, skill and musicianship of the band was on full display as evidenced by the set they played.   The performance was seamless with some playful bits from Glasper interspersed.  What I really enjoyed about this show was that the music was the star.  As great as Glasper and his band mates are, the music they played moved the crowd and at the end of the day what else can you ask for.

If the Robert Glasper Experiment comes to your town, queue up for a ticket if you want to hear and experience something that will stretch your musical sensabilities.
For more information about the Robert Glasper Experiment and upcoming tour dates please visit the website.

(Note: Black Radio 2 is complete, some of the artists on the next release include Brandy, Faith Evans, Jill Scott and Dwele.  Stay tuned.)

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Not a Music Journalist Rolls with McBride

So this is how it went down. I found out that a certain artist whom I love coming to town. I really wanted to go but being a “solo artist” the venue wasn’t a good choice for me. ¬†As it turns out another supremely talented musician was coming to town the same week. ¬†I first heard this musician back in the 90s as a part of Joshua Redman’s band. ¬†Since then HE has been on a trajectory as a leader/musician/composer that has crossed genres, but to me he is a jazz man, that likes to make it funky. ¬†After some crowd-sourcing and a reality check ¬†I got a ticket to check out super-bassist/composer/band leader¬†Christian McBride, this time as leader of a trio of the same name on November 3.

The Scene

I’ve been to Clayton State several times but this was my first time at Spivey Hall. ¬†There was an immediate fail upon arrival as the lights in the parking lot were out. ¬†It was completely black, no security and no police on site. ¬†There were officers on site after the show, to the University’s credit. Spivey is an older, but beautiful facility. ¬†The concert hall is small and intimate with some great architecture. ¬†They have a strict no photo policy so I only managed to snap a few photos on the sly of the stage area. ¬†I dare not take any of the artist though I did see one guy get one after the show.
Having come fairly fresh off another jazz show, this crowd was a bit different.  From what I could tell this was more of the jazz aficionado crowd.  Older, decidedly un-trendy and whiter than the last show I attended.  Atlanta (I think) has gotten better in terms of African-American attendance at jazz shows.  This is a hip-hop town after all, but from what I can see we have gotten a bit better than when I first started going to shows here in the early 90s.  My folk are giving me hope.  Additionally there were very few late arrivals at this show (thank God).

The Band
Christian McBride – Acoustic (upright) bass
Christian Sands Рpiano
Ulysses Owens Jr Рdrums
McBride started young and in Jazz years he’s still young, 40 but his trio mates are even younger, the pianist Christian Sands is 23 and a virtuoso. ¬†The drummer Owens, didn’t look to be yet 30 himself but these dudes played their tails OFF. ¬†They had tremendous energy and looked to enjoy playing together. ¬†The interplay between the three was so natural and there were plenty of smiles. ¬†In my years of observation, jazz musicians are oh-so serious. ¬†These guys were playing serious music, they certainly had “the look” from time to time but when they were riffing off each other it was all fun and a joy to watch. ¬†McBride is a master of his craft AND proved to be a master showman as well at times charming and witty and quite engaging.

The Music
The music was the star of the show and in a word was absolutely OUTSTANDING. ¬†Here’s the set list (as I recall it).
  1. Duhty Blues – it’s named blues but this tune was swinging. ¬†We were treated with our first taste of Sands and Owens via solo.
  2. I Mean You – immediately recognizable though I couldn’t recall the name. ¬†A very uptempo and fun interpretation of Thelonius Monk’s composition.
  3. I Guess I’ll Have to Forget – This tune had a distinct beginning, middle and ending. Slow in the beginning, uptempo in the middle and slow at the conclusion with the piano featured.
  4. The Most Beautiful Girl in the world – the drummer, Owens went off on this one, an outstanding solo.
  5. My Favorite Things – had us pretty much whipped into a frenzy. ¬†The way McBride flipped this was incredible. ¬†It started off sweetly with Sands’ piano and moved into the tune that we all know. ¬†The song progressed into a sort of futuristic feel as we heard and watched the drummer and pianist play their instruments in unconventional fashion. ¬†The drummer using elbows and a variety of brush sticks and other things I can’t name. The pianist placed a towel on the inside of the piano and played the inside of the piano. ¬†McBride grounded the future and sent it into funk mode which he does WELL. ¬†The song ended in the same sweet fashion it began in.
  6. Easy Walker – a Dr Billy Taylor composition
  7. I Have Dreams Рfrom the King and I.  This one was all McBride with him employing a bow on the bass, it was really beautiful.  I just closed my eyes remembering it.
  8. Who’s Making Love – McBride made no bones about being a funk guy and from this selection a blues guy, letting us know that the muse for the Trio is Johnnie Taylor. ¬†The band got DOWN on the last tune of the set. ¬†I thought at any minute the show would turn into a blues show, with all the head nodding and lip-syncing. ¬†McBride and the guys didn’t stop however they mixed Michael Jackson’s Shake Your Body, the Gap Bands Shake in which we were treated to a bit of scatting and singing from McBride. ¬†Nobody wanted this to end and it didn’t.

Encore
A dear friend and former classmate of McBride’s was in the audience. ¬†This friend was called to the stage and blessed us with My Funny Valentine and brought me nearly to tears. ¬†Who was it? Ms Avery Sunshine. ¬†Some of the crowd didn’t know who she was, us soul heads knew and she killed it. I even heard folks leaving commenting on how great the encore was.

Final Impressions
Christian McBride/The Christian McBride Trio is the absolute total package. McBride’s talent is incomparable. Just watching his hands put in work was amazing. The two young musicians rounding out the trio bring great energy (not that McBride needs it as he is quite lively) and a level of talent that is really awe-inspiring. ¬†As stated earlier, these guys work well together and it showed. ¬†If the Christian McBride Trio makes a stop in your city, just hit the submit button, make the phone call or run, not walk to the box office to get a ticket.
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