I don't know if I've ever met anybody whose band had a cooler story than Youngblood Brass Band. I ran into Joe Goltz at a party last summer, and ever since then I've thought that I should tell somebody about YB, which is a nine-piece horn band that pretty much defies any further description. I'll just post a few links so you can see (well, and hear) for yourself. I don't really even know if they're nine-piece; I can't ask Joe because it took me so long to write this article that they all left the country. They do that every year, because their completely unprecedented approach to brass-driven music is radio-ready, sell-out material all through their European tours.
Dan Agosto was at Heart & Soul Studios all last week completing the mixing and mastering for an exceptional debut EP by Black Light Saints, and even though he only delivered the masters on Sunday, there's already a great review on the EP out of the UC Berkeley paper The Daily Californian --- but more on that in a minute. I can't post the link to the review until I explain a couple of things, even though it was pretty amazing. "In Impossible Picks, Black Light Saints know what the electronic genre begs for and deliver it in 27 minutes of hypnotic synths and infectious bass" is the way Daily Californian writer Cynthia Kang closes the first paragraph of her well-written review, and she goes on, even more enthusiastically.
Black Light Saints:
Excerpts from "What Happens Next", "Baby Girl" and "Cattle Skull"
from Impossible Picks
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We're following a band from Philadelphia called Blackened Blue, and we've just posted a recent recording of one of their newer tracks, "High Tide", in our On The Side section. Blackened Blue's music is unique in a way that will often stay beneath the media radar for awhile. They're unusual, and unusually musical, but not in any of the ways that will usually attract immediate media attention. One of the really unique qualities they bring to their original music is that their song arrangements showcase a vibrantly creative respect between the four musicians. It allows them to put tracks together that are precisely crafted, but that move effortlessly --- and often surprisingly --- across a range of musical boundaries. You wouldn't usually hear a blistering metal passage as part of a groove-based song, or a lyrical passage in the middle of hard alternative track, but Blackened Blue go wherever they want to go, and somehow take you with them. It's not so much that they defy established conventions, it's more like they just see right through them, ignore them, and move on. There's much more to hear and see about Blackened Blue at blackenedblue.com, and their album A Brief Moment Of Clarity is available at Amazon, Last.fm and iTunes.
There's not too much that's more real than walking onto a small stage in a club you've never been in before to play your guitar and sing your songs. Not a lot of room for posing, nowhere really to hide, an acoustic set is usually just you and a cafe full of strangers, and hopefully a few friends who came too. It's a hopeful, challenging, intimidating chance to do what you love and find out if anybody else loves it, likes it, or even watches it when there's a TV over the bar they can watch instead. Last week I saw Sammy Tenuta and Allison Wonderlin trade sets in a friendly place called Club Amore (how can you not love that name) and take turns making everybody in the place stop everything else and wait for every word, every note.
You wouldn't usually get the chance to see such a study in complementary differences. Sammy comes out of successful Chicago rock bands that headlined the biggest rooms in Chicago in the nineties, returning after ten, fifteen years with his originals and favorite covers, doing them just to do them, playing and singing just because he's so good at it. He doesn't seem to care that he can command the undivided attention of everybody in the place, that he can move easily from tracks he wrote to songs everybody knows without leaving anybody behind. He just starts at the beginning and leads everybody along, from song to song, with nothing but his voice, his guitar, and a musician's attention to all of the details that make non-musicians keep listening.
Allison is from the opposite end of the world. She's just starting out, except like those few artists who are completely immersed in really unusual talent, she seems like she's done it a thousand times. She doesn't seem to care that she can inspire surprised admiration from everybody in the place, that she can move effortlessly from songs she's written to tracks that everybody knows and get everybody to go with her, she just walks up on to a small stage and takes the whole room wherever she wants to go, until it's Sammy's turn again.
Just got confirmation from Rajah about the show with Stanley Clarke’s new group SMV at The Country Club Hills Theater: It’s Saturday, June 20. The Country Club Hills Theater is a 5000 seat outdoor theater that has become a major venue for some of the best national R&B and Jazz tours. This summer’s schedule includes shows by Babyface, After 7, War and Lalah Hathaway, to name a few. I thought this would be the ideal time (and person) to launch a new series called “3Q” that will serve as a little introduction to some really good people to know about.
Always a good day when you hear some great news from an old friend. I heard from Reggie Rajah Helm, who fronts a driving, jazz influenced / R&B group as RAJAH, about a really high-profile show they've just been booked for in late June, which he won't let me release details of until the promoter has announced it. That should be soon --- stay tuned. The group is Rajah on Sax, Phil Seed on Guitar, John Owens on Bass, Derek Henderson on Drums, and Brandon McCune joining them on Piano.
It might be surprising for some to hear that a lot of the most talented musicians never really get around to writing, let alone releasing, their own music.
Why is that?