With People’s Champs
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn
July 7, 2017
Article and photos by Ernest Barteldes
A near-capacity crowd filled the Prospect Park Bandshell as Brooklyn-based People’s Champs took to the stage with a selection of Afrobeat-inspired, funk-driven original material that blended organic tunes with electronic elements – several of the bandmembers switched instruments while the two vocalists alternated tunes. At one point during their set they delved into contemporary soul and reggae, moving the crowd that was mostly there for the evening’s top-billed artist.
I was surprised to see that Musiq Soulchild came on with a very small backup band – just bass, guitar and drums (even though the bassist often went into the keyboards). Soulchild seemed proud to keep things simple, and early in the set he mentioned that he had “no backup singers,” and told the audience that they would be handling those vocals instead.
Early into the set heavy rain began pouring but the audience – some with no umbrellas – did not move as they were already involved with the music. He alternated the songs between more mellow neo-soul material to more uptempo tunes. One of the audience favorites was “Don’t Change,” a gentle ballad about the unchanging feelings of a man towards his lover as time goes by.
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The backing band was solid – the rhythm section kept the sound solid, allowing the guitarist to slightly improvise around the melodies. Soulchild had great command of the stage, and got the audience to sing along with his hits – especially the ballads.
It was a highly enjoyable set, which was only dampened by the heavy rain and the fact that he did not return for an encore – something almost unheard of at Celebrate Brooklyn.
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Article and photos by Ernest Barteldes
Jon Batiste & Stay Human
Prospect Park Bandshell
Friday, July 22nd 2016
After two opening acts that included a brilliant saxophone trio formed by three very young musicians aged from 12 to 16 years of age, bandleader and evening curator Jon Batiste took to the stage on the melodica backed by an 8-piece band of multi-instrumentalists, kicking off the show with a marching band-style take on the Christmas standard “My Favorite Things” that was blended with “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” He then went to the piano for an instrumental version of blues standard “St. James’ Infirmary” where he showcased his dexterity on the piano.
Stay Human have great chemistry together, responding to the bandleader’s grooves with expertise, even when he went off with some improvised moment – I guess that tightness comes from performing on a nightly basis on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS (I compare with the last time I saw the band at The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival two or three years ago).
Young Sax Trio
Batiste is open to many genres – at one moment, he is playing a boogie take on the “Star Spangled Banner” and the next going into a full rock mode and then drifting into a personal take on “Pour Elise,” which featured a bass solo. The set included covers of The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” with the bassline played on the tuba, which preceded included a tuba battle and a full French Quarter-style marching band tune in which the ensemble walked into the audience.
It was a great opportunity to see Batiste outside of the constraints of a TV studio setting, where he stretched the music and improvised freely – I heard some folks in the audience hoping Colbert would make an appearance (considering his recent vocal performances) but that did not happen – instead, the audience was taken to an amazing musical journey under the direction of an amazingly talented bandleader who we all hope to hear again – on stage – soon.
By Ernest Barteldes
Guitarist Romero Lubambo, drummer Duduka Da Fonseca and bassist Nilson Matta are all accomplished bandleaders in their own right, but when they get together as Trio da Paz there is clearly some extra musical magic going on. The three musicians have fantastic chemistry together, and that can be heard not only on a live format but also in the studio.
The group began via informal rehearsals the three musicians did together before officially creating Trio da Paz, which now celebrates its 30th anniversary with 30 (Zoho), a record containing mostly original material written individually by Lubambo, Da Fonseca and Matta. The album kicks off with “Sampa 67,” a Matta composition that honors the city of the bassist’s birth (not to be confused by the similarly titled Caetano Veloso tune). The track is centered on the bass and drums with guitar riffs. They revisit Lubambo’s “For Donato,” a tune played around a bassline that is reminiscent of Dorival Caymmi’s “Samba da Minha Terra” but then goes into a completely different direction.
The song was previously recorded by its composer on 2002’s Rio de Janeiro Underground, but here the arrangement is markedly faster than the original recording, focusing on all three band members. Also revisited is Da Fonseca’s “Flying Over Rio,” a song previously featured on the drummer’s quintet album “Samba Jazz” (Anzic, 2013). The Trio da Paz version is more stripped down, focusing on Lubambo’s nuanced guitar playing.
The trio also pays tribute to the late master guitarist Baden Powell with a cover of his “Samba Triste,” here played as an antithesis of its title – instead of being a “sad samba,” it appears as an up-tempo melody that showcases the band members’ individual chops. It is notable that Lubambo recorded a handful of tracks using electric guitar (something I have never heard him doing with Trio da Paz) – “Outono, “a slow bossa that features a melodious solo from Matta, and also the aforementioned “Flying Over Rio.”
As someone who has seen this trio perform live many times in the past decade, I cannot wait to hear how they will treat these tunes on stage. I have been in awe of their music ever since I heard them for the first time at the Jazz Standard in 2005, and I hope they stick around for a very long time.
Cover art for “Inner Bossa”
By Ernest Barteldes
On a recent post I mentioned that many independent West Coast musicians have often reached out to me for reviews on Music Whatever. I am not sure why this is happening, but I am not one to complain, since this gives me a new path of discovery that takes me out of my New York-centric environment.
On her third EP release, Los Angeles-based Mineira singer-songwriter Fabiana Pessoni comes up with a five-track album that includes original songs mostly songs in English. All have a bossa nova feel without trying to be pretentious. Unlike most discs of the genre, the guitar is not at the forefront of the instruments – instead, the bass and percussion stand out, framing each tune to the singer’s voice.
The first that stood out for me was the Portuguese-language “Pele Ao Abraçar,” an up-tempo tune that features some great saxophone accents and solos. “Mouvance” is a more traditional bossa with a Jobim-influenced piano base (the intro is reminiscing of “Tinha Que Ser Com Voce,” recorded by Elis Regina and Jobim on the legendary Elis & Tom). Pessoni sings in English and Portuguese, giving more intensity to the vocals on the former and giving more of a bossa feel to the latter.
There is also a cover of Spandau Ballet’s 1983 hit “True,” a tune that has become bit of a staple in Brazilian oldies stations. Pessoni’s delivery does not have any of the drama from the original recording, instead giving it a more subtle direction.
It is odd that this is the first time I hear her music, considering how attuned I have always been to the work of expat Brazilian musicians (and also those in Brazil). After listening to Inner Bossa, I am sure to keep my eyes and ears opened to her work – and now I am becoming more and more convinced to personally check out the music scene in the other side of the coast.
Check her out at http://fabianapassoni.com
By Ernest Barteldes
It is interesting how social media works – for quite some time, I have been “sharing” my published works on various portals (including Twitter and Facebook), but it was only after I decided to go out on my own and start this music blog that some people began to notice. A few days after publishing my review of Alex Conde’s “Descargas For Monk” I received a message on Twitter from San Francisco-area bassist Chris Trinidad asking if I would consider reviewing his album, which also featured Conde on piano. I was intrigued and said yes, and I am glad I did – the album is a work of art that I have been carefully listening to for the last few days, and when I spun it at the end of a dinner party at home, a musician friend asked me if I was planning to review it since he too enjoyed what he heard.
“Certain Times” (Iridium Records) showcases Trinidad’s chops both as a bassist and as a composer as the music goes into various different directions without losing its essence. “Inevitable Evolution” has a contemporary sound that allows for lots of improvisation, but the bandleader seems to step back and let his bandmates take over – and that is especially true for Conde and drummer Aaron Kierbel, who use the tune’s open spaces to masterfully play against each other, and that continues even during Charlie Gurke’s melodic baritone solo. “Something New In The Familiar” has a funk-inspired feel that also allows for a lot of freedom. On the track, his electric bass has a deep but also clear sound (according to the liners, he never changed the strings since he acquired the instrument, which I find astonishing – when I was gigging regularly in Brazil I had to change them at least every six months due to sea air damage). “A Reading In Retrospect” has more of a syncopated feel – Conde and Trinidad play tightly with each other, and Kierbel provides a dexterous solo as Gurke joins the bass line. Another highlight is “Priority,” a tune that starts out as a samba but then switches into a straight-ahead mode and then back to samba for the more improvised moments.
Not having been much exposed to West Coast jazz lately (being in New York, there is so much going on here that a lot gets lost in the shuffle), I must say that I am quite impressed by what I have heard in the last few weeks. Maybe I should accept that invite I got via Twitter – time to check out what is going on out there.
Check Trinidad’s work http://www.christrinidad.com/