California native and acclaimed Jazz composer/saxophonist Donny McCaslin got a fairly big jump on his music career, performing with an ensemble of experienced musicians by the time he was 12. If there was any nepotism involved (the group was McCaslin’s father’s, a vibraphonist), the criticisms probably faded quickly as McCaslin started his own group in high school and managed to get them booked multiple years at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
The saxophonist studied intently and performed in youth orchestras that traveled the globe, all before earning a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He moved to New York City in the early ’90s and found work quickly, replacing Michael Brecker (a huge influence on the young musician) in the group Steps Ahead and going on to play with the Gil Evans Orchestra and many others.
By the mid-’90s, McCaslin — who had deeply explored the various aspects and possibilities of traditional Jazz — began to collaborate on more experimental Jazz projects, including the group Lan Xang and Ken Schaphorst’s big band (alongside John Medeski and other unique top players). McCaslin’s creative curiosity set the tone for his diverse solo albums, which have been widely acclaimed for the composer’s successful risk-taking.
When McCaslin plays the Blue Wisp Jazz Club tonight (with shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.), he’ll be supporting on of his most compelling releases yet, 2012’s Casting for Gravity. The album was inspired by McCaslin’s interest in Electronic music, an uncommon ingredient in most forms of Fusion. The album roams from textural, ambient explorations (particularly on a cover of Scottish electronica duo Boards of Canada’s “Alpha and Omega”) to quirky, funky meditations like the glitchy “Tension.”
It’s a recipe that shouldn’t work, but Casting for Gravity is a fascinating listen that makes one wonder if visionaries like John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman might not have pursued this direction if they were born 60 years later. It’s primarily a progressive Jazz album, with tasteful electronic flourishes. Instead of aping Electronic music nakedly, McCaslin seamlessly incorporates the arrangement spirit of Electro masters like Aphex Twin or more contemporary EDM artists into his own compositions.
Tickets for tonight's shows are $20 (students can get into the 9:30 p.m. show for $15). Here is a clip of the band performing the latest album's track, "Stadium Jazz."
• The husband and wife duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, better known as Shovels & Rope, were slated for an appearance at MidPoint Music Festival here in Cincinnati last fall, but an offer to open for Jack White convinced them to bow out of the fest.
Given the hardscrabble road the pair has traveled over the past five years, it’s hard to argue with their choice. Denver native Trent and Nashville-raised Hearst had been in several bands before crossing paths in Charleston, S.C. (they’d met on tour over a decade ago), eventually playing in each other’s bar bands and becoming friends.
In 2008, the pair formalized their friendship by writing and recording the album Shovels & Rope and releasing it under their own names.
The duo ultimately decided to name its group after the title of that debut album and released O’ Be Joyful last summer to ecstatic press notice, with frequent references to Johnny Cash and June Carter and John Doe and Exene Cervenka (although they’re just as quick to namecheck The Cramps and the visceral pairing of Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello). (Preview by Brian Baker)
Shovels & Rope's success continues to rise, as evidenced just last week by their network TV debut on David Letterman's show (see below). But even on a local level, their ascent was obvious — tonight's appearance at the Southgate House Revival was moved from one of the smaller rooms in the venue to the larger "Sanctuary" room after it was clear that they could fill it. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $12 at the door (while they last).
Last Friday at Bogart's, CityBeat and the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards presented a showcase featuring some of the best new local bands of 2012. (Check out some pics from the event here.) This coming week, four brand-new acts (featuring musicians from other established groups) will be playing their first shows ever. Here's a round-up of the new bands (possible nominees for next year's CEAs?) debuting.
• Joey Cook of Indie Pop greats Pomegranates has a new solo project called Danny and His Fantasy. Cook — who also headed up the side project Firs and has done a few solo shows with friends and bandmates — leaked the great track below via YouTube a couple of weeks ago. The piano-laden track "Too Out of Touch" is a great slice of dancey and wonderfully melodic Pop, highlighted by Cook's soulful falsetto, that wouldn't be out of place on an of Montreal record.
Danny and His Fantasy's debut show is this Friday at Mayday in Northside. Cook will be joined at the free show by Phil Cogley, the Indie Pop maestro from Columbus who performs under the name The Saturday Giant. Cogley's been making waves from our state's capitol, recently earning a slot on Columbus Alive's annual list of "Bands to Watch" for 2013. Locals Speaking Suns also perform.
• Also Friday, Pop Goes the Evil plays its first live show. The new crew debuts at MOTR Pub, playing a free show with Indiana rockers Left Lane Cruiser. Pop Goes the Evil is fronted by singer/guitarist Lucas Frazier, formerly of the popular, kick-ass local Rock outfit The Dukes Are Dead. The new group — rounded out by drummer Jordin Goff (also of The Yugos) and bassist Evan Roberts (organist for heavy local band Grey Host) — has issued a couple of great music videos, showcasing a swaggering, energized Pop/Rock sound that's not chasing any trends, opting instead for a more timeless appeal.
Here's the second single from Pop Goes the Evil, "Golden Apple."
The sixth season of TV One's entertaining and informative Unsung series, showcasing artists who did well but didn't quite reach the heights many expected, kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. with an episode about the late, great Soul star Isaac Hayes. Next week, on Jan. 30, the series focuses on a group that was formed at Kentucky State University and ended up calling Cincinnati its home base — Midnight Star.
The R&B/ElectroFunk nine-piece band was a major success in the ’80s, giving the music world massive hits like "Slow Jam," "No Parking on the Dance Floor" and "Freak-a-Zoid." But the band eventually splintered — due to "arguments over money and management," according to the Unsung synopsis — with Reggie Calloway and brother Vincent leaving and eventually forming Calloway (which had success with the smash "I Wanna Be Rich" in 1989).
Midnight Star carried on and produced a couple more albums that featured R&B chart hits before taking a break. The "hiatus" ended in 2000 and Midnight Star continues to this day, performing most recently at the Macy's Music Festival last summer. Click here to read up on the band circa 2013.
The Unsung series has a loose definition of "unsung" (as the Isaac Hayes episode suggests), but its profiles of various R&B/Soul, Hip Hop, Funk and Gospel artists are always fairly illuminating. The show has dedicated episodes to a wide range of successful artists, from The Ohio Players and Zapp to Kool Mo Dee and Big Daddy Kane to George Clinton, The Spinners and another Cincinnati-affiliated star, Bootsy Collins.
Unsung (Documentary) - Bootsy Collins... by GENERATIONDISCOFUNK
The rest of Unsung's season six includes episodes on EPMD, Lou Rawls, Eddie Kendricks, The Whispers, Mint Condition, Johnny Gill and a special two-hour look at the Disco phenomenon.
TV One is channel 217 for local Time Warner Cable subscribers (1217 for the HD channel).
Slanted Indie Pop crew Maps & Atlases formed in 2004 and, in 2010, released its breakthrough LP Perch Patchwork, the Chicago quartet's debut for the esteemed Barsuk label. Since Patchwork, the band has spent tons of time touring, which has included several dates in the Cincinnati area. The band's compelling latest release, Beware and Be Grateful, was issued by Barsuk last spring and is perhaps the finest example of the group's dynamic sound yet. M&A's sound is uniquely layered and structured, full of subtle, unexpected outbursts and song twists, yet still overflowing with magnetic melodies and spine-tingling harmonies.
The band performs tonight at Oakley's 20th Century Theatre with like-minded locals Archer's Paradox, who are readying for the release of their debut album a little later this year. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $15.
Here's the video for "Remote & Dark Years" from the latest M&A album.
• The end of The Grateful Dead, with Jerry Garcia’s 1995 death, didn’t do much to squash the band’s incredible popularity. To satiate some of that Dead thirst, various members from throughout Garcia’s and the Dead’s history have brought the legendary band’s spirit to that huge fan base on a fairly regular basis. Two Dead-affiliated artists have been sitting in with Chicago-based jammers Terrapin Flyer for the past few years for shows and tours. The band will be joined by Melvin Seals, who played Hammond B3 organ with the Jerry Garcia Band for 15 years, and Mark Karan, who played guitar with the post-Dead band The Other Ones and Bob Weir’s Ratdog, when they swing through Stanley’s Pub tonight for a 10 p.m. performance. Tickets are $20.
Here's some footage of the collaboration from last March, doing a version of Dylan's "Maggie's Farm," a Dead fave.
• Over a decade ago, Minnesotans Paul Sprangers and Scott and Evan Wells were integral parts of Hockey Night, a wildly eclectic Indietronic outfit that blended the lo fi Rock and snarky humor of Couch Flambeau with a next generation love of Electronica, Hip Hop and mad crazy sampling (remember "Battlestar Scholastica" from their 2002 debut Rad Zapping and "For Guys Eyes Only" from their 2005 swan song Keep Guessin'?). The band's ugly dissolution would have beaten the musical aspirations from lesser men, but Sprangers and the Wellses were made of sterner stuff and, after a brief hiatus, tapped drummer Nicholas Shuminsky to form Free Energy in 2008.
Free Energy, now based in Philadelphia, exploded into the wider consciousness when LCD Soundsystem¹s James Murphy produced the band's debut album Stuck on Nothing in 2010, causing UK music magazine NME to erroneously tout them as Murphy's new band. While patently false, the claim focused an extraordinary amount of attention on Free Energy and Stuck on Nothing; Spin and Rolling Stone cited the album and band among the year's best. With their just-released sophomore album Love Sign, Free Energy (now also featuring guitarist Sheridan Fox) reinforces and expands their new musical direction, a Classic Rock/New Wave Pop hybrid that enthusiastically references everything from The Cars to The Outfield to Cracker with equal amounts of affection and adrenaline. And in familiar ’60s Pop/Motown fashion, "Electric Fever," the album's infectious first single — originally leaked 10 months
ago — is the lead track on Love Sign. Free Energy might not be breaking any new ground but they go over the old territory with an ass-kicking intensity.
The band plays at Newport's Southgate House Revival tonight with Sweatheart and Homemade Drugs. Showtime is 9 p.m. and tickets are $8 at the door. (Preview by Brian Baker)
Click here for even more live music options tonight in Greater Cincinnati.
• Combining some of the idiosyncrasies of modern Indie Folk with uplifting Pop melodies, Chamber music arrangements and an Americana grab-bag of various other influences, the trio Plume Giant makes a glorious noise that is buoyed by the clever, collaborative songwriting, as well as the trio’s vocal chops, which add a slanted, colorful layer to the group’s sound via frequent and flawless harmonies. The threesome — which formed after meeting each other while attending Yale — makes this glorious noise with fairly spare acoustic instrumentation (Oliver Hill plays guitar guitar and viola, Nolan Green plays guitar and harmonium and Eliza Bagg plays violin, harmonium and various other instruments). But the sound of the group’s recent debut full-length, Callithump, is full-bodied and far from minimalistic. On the dynamic 2012 release, the trio explores traditional Appalachian music, swingin’ Jazz, Tin Pan Alley pomp and breezy Folk Pop, but all of it is filtered through Plume Giant’s distinctive vision, with hints of the avant-garde beneath the inescapable harmonies and lovely aura.
The now Brooklyn-based trio performs a free show tonight in Over-the-Rhine at MOTR Pub with like-minded Cincinnati-based Chamber Folk ensemble The Happy Maladies. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Here is Plume Giant's smile-inducing "We Got It Made" video from their debut LP, followed by The Happy Maladies' "New Again," taken from The Emery Sessions live music video series. The Maladies' song is the title track off their 2012 release, which was nominated for "Album of the Year" at the upcoming Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
• At the Southgate House Revival in Newport tonight, Indianapolis progressive Bluegrass group Flatland Harmony Experiment performs a free, 10 p.m. show in the venue's "Lounge." Formed just a couple of summers ago, FHE has toured the region regularly, found success on radio outlets and through online Bluegrass/Americana/Folk music channels and are seemingly on their way to becoming an even bigger presence on the national festival circuit (in June, the trio will compete at the 40th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition). The trio (Scott Nelson on upright bass, Kris Potts on Mandolin and Johnny Plott on banjo) uses the tools of traditional Bluegrass and the members clearly have a firm grasp on the music's rich history (not to mention some delicious chops and textured harmonies that'll send a shiver), but they let the songwriting go wherever their contemporary minds might take it. Fans of groups like Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon and The Infamous Stringdusters will love this Experiment.
Last year, the string band released its debut full-length, On Our Way. Here's the album's "Secret in the Seams":
Tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine, it's an evening of ethereal Indie Pop atmospherics as Columbus quartet Fever Fever joins Oklahoma-bred sibling duo Clemency for a free, 9 p.m. show. Both groups have sounds that are big-sky spacious and slathered with chiming, The Edge-like guitar echoes and passionate vocals. And both groups give it up to God, though they are refreshingly light on any kind of didacticism in their music. (Read more about the groups from this week's CityBeat here.)
Clemency was formed by Yukon, Ok., natives Jason and Paul Watkins, who would relocate to Nashville in 2005 to kick of their careers in earnest. After the 2008 full-length debut, Vapors, the duo released the 2012 EP, My Heart is on the Eastern Horizon, which featured a short film to accompany each track.
Fever Fever released its first album in 2009, followed by a pair of EPs, which helped earn FF some music placement deals (recently, the NFL used the below single for one of its shows). The band is currently putting the finishing touches on a new acoustic EP that's due for release soon. Here is the Fever Fever single "Beautiful Dream" from the band's 2012 EP, Kingdom (download the track for free here).
• At the Blue Wisp Jazz Club downtown tonight, Colorado's Funky Fresh Trio lays down its brand of melody- and groove-driven original modern Jazz Funk. The trio features bassist Patrick McDevitt and drummer Alejandro Castano, plus composer/saxophonist Josh Quinlan, one of the busiest people in the Colorado Jazz scene thanks to his work as a college Jazz professor and his roles at the Dazzle Recordings record label, the Gift of Jazz organization and the Telluride Jazz Celebration Educational Program.
The Funky Fresh Trio members combine their love of early Jazz Fusion, James Brown, Hard Bop, Bob Marley, World music and new-school jazzers like The Bad Plus and Medeski Martin and Wood to come up with a fresh sound that's contemporary, accessible and dynamic, yet honors their musical forefathers and is performed with such grace and effortless flair, you know the members have chops to spare.
The band plays the Blue Wisp at 7:30 p.m. tonight before participating in a music clinic for students of the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music on Friday afternoon. Admission to the Wisp show is $7.
Here's the trio performing in Denver late last year.
For even more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight, click here.
Detroit producers/Electro musicians Ryan Spencer and Adam Pressley formed its new project Jamaican Queens last year, following the demise of their previous band, Prussia. The pair bonded over a mutual love for Hip Hop production, something that would find itself central to Jamaican Queens winding sound. Together less than a year, the twosome's single "Kids Get Away" introduced the newcomers with a sound that blends EDM, Hip Hop sounds and rhythms and a somewhat psychedelic brand of Indie Pop.
The band calls its music "Trap Pop," a reference to the Trap style of Hip Hop that is something of a successor to the old Southern Crunk style. Still, you won't mistake Jamaican Queens' music for T.I.'s — JQ's unpredictable, fluttering style recalls MGMT's last two albums had the Electronic aspects of their music been more prominent.
Jamaican Queens' first full-length, Wormfood, is due in February and was mixed by Christopher Lazlo Koltay, a former Cincinnati musician who has been enjoying a successful engineering/production career in Detroit the past several years, working with artists like The Dirtbombs and Akron/Family. Here's the song that has garnered the band the most attention so far, "Kids Get Away."
Later this month, successful Cincinnati singer/songwriter Kim Taylor will be headed to Park City, Utah, but not as part of any kind of concert tour. Taylor will be attending the annual Sundance Film Festival, one of the world's most prestigious film events, along with the other actors and participants from the new movie, I Used to Be Darker. The film was co-written and directed by Matt Porterfield, whose previous work, Putty Hill, drew scores of rave reviews.
Despite it being her first foray into acting, Taylor has a leading role in the film, playing a musician named Kim whose marriage and relationship are falling apart just as her troubled niece shows up on her doorstep looking for a place to crash. Taylor's husband in the film is played by Ned Oldham, brother of cult music star Will Oldham and also a musician (along with solo work, he's the singer for the bands The Anomoanon and Old Calf).
Taylor knew the film's screenwriter, Amy Belk, from when she attended college in the ’90s in her home state of Florida.
"I met Kim Taylor in the ‘90s when we were both teenagers at Bible college in Florida, shortly before I got kicked out and she flunked out," Belk writes in the press materials for IUTBD. "She is the only person I still know from that strange, balmy with a chance of fire-and-brimstone time. I’ve followed her music career through the years, and shared her songs with Matt (Porterfield) when we started writing. He fell for them like I knew he would, particularly 'Days Like This' and 'American Child.' Even before Matt met Kim and had her read for the role, her music and grace informed the story we were crafting. In many ways, Kim was Kim from the start."
Taylor performs "Days Like This" (which was covered by Over the Rhine on their The Long Surrender album) and "American Child" (from her album Little Miracle) in the film. She and Oldham will be featured on the movie's soundtrack alongside tracks from several acts based in Baltimore, Porterfield's current hometown, including The Entrance Band, Dope Body and Dustin Wong.
I Used To Be Darker premieres at Sundance on Jan. 19 and screens multiple times throughout the fest. Click here for more on the film. Here's the trailer:
through her website here. Give it a listen below:
Taylor has completed her new album, Love's A Dog, which will include the Darker Mix version of "American Child." The album is tentatively scheduled for release in February or March.
• Bluegrass ensemble Hayseed Dixie began racking up fans upon its formation at the dawn of the 21st century thanks to its energized and entertaining live show and the contents of the band’s initial setlists and albums. Though all talented and experienced players, it was Hayseed Dixie’s novelty that initial drove attention its way. The group’s debut was a Bluegrass tribute to AC/DC, while subsequent albums have featured a wonderfully ridiculous array of the group’s Appalachian-spun Rock covers (they grass up everything from OutKast and Green Day to Neil Young and Motorhead). After wide exposure through musical- and comedy-world exposure, the Hayseeds began to introduce more and more original material (2008’s No Covers should be self-explanatory).
Hayseed’s members have individually gotten more busy with various interesting side projects while the main band takes a hiatus. As frontman John Wheeler works towards his more serious-minded debut solo album (scheduled for release early in this new year), banjoist Don Wayne Reno carries the Hayseed torch with his band Granny 4 Barrel, self-described as “Country music’s first and only shock Country Rock & Roll band.” If you thought Hayseed Dixie was outlandish, G4B takes it to the next level with their ridiculous outfits and a sound that retains Hayseed’s Rawkgrass attitude and turns the Rawk elements up to 11.
Granny 4 Barrel performs tonight at the Southgate House Revival as part of the opening for area visual artist Derek Toebbe’s “Urban Revival Art Show.” The event (which also includes DJ sets by the Devout Wax crew) is free and starts at 7 p.m.
Here's a sampling for G4B's crazy sound and stage show.
• Wildly entertaining (and wildly eclectic) ensemble The Duke of Uke & His Novelty Orchestra bring its self described "lyrical ukulele jazz-funk-motown popssical" sound back to Cincinnati tonight for a a free show tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. Drawing comparisons to artists as diverse as Tom Waits, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Amy Winehouse, the B-52s, and Captain Beefheart, the Urbana, Ill.-based septet has been winning fans all over the region with their energized, swinging live shows, which blend smart lyrics, four-part harmonies and diverse instrumentation (ukulele, violin, tuba, saxophones, Latin percussion). Read more about The Duke and Co. in Reyan Ali's preview in this week's CityBeat here.
Here's The Duke of Uke & His Novelty Orchestra's official music video for "Jump Back," a track from their 2012 album April's Empire.
• There were moments over the past few years where it seemed like bassist Nick Oliveri was on the brink of imploding, stuck in that weird, almost dreamlike universe (inhabited by the likes of Courtney Love and Katt Williams) where an entertainer’s fans ultimately just accept that there’s a good chance the performer might die any day. Oliveri’s ornery streak has been consistent but it started out manageable — just some usual Rock & Roll debauchery. Then, in 2004, Oliveri was kicked out of Queens of the Stone Age after Queens frontman Josh Homme suspected he had been physically abusive to a girlfriend.
Luckily for Oliveri, he had a few side-projects to fall back on, touring with his group Mondo Generator (who comes to Newport’s Thompson House Saturday night), as a solo acoustic act and with veteran Punk sensations Dwarves. But it wasn't enough to keep him out of trouble (click here to read more about Oliveri's various ups-and-downs over the past year).
But Oliveri seems to have rebounded, even reportedly making amends with his old bandmate Homme. Mondo Generator has been perhaps the most consistent part of Oliveri’s life since 1997. Blending the Hard Rock of his previous projects with more Punk Rock chaos, Mondo has built a strong cult following for itself. But, with the way things are going as Oliveri continues to rebound, it’s anyone’s guess if Mondo will go back to “side project” status at some point.
Mondo Generator performs Saturday at the Thompson House with Saviours, Wino, Bearer of Bad News and Mangrenade. Showtime is 7 p.m. and tickets are $18.
Here's Mondo Generator performing "Four Corners" live.
While not necessarily “weird,” when fans discovered that bad-ass, longtime local Blues artist Kelly Richey had started a side-business as a “life coach,” undoubtedly a few thought they misheard or misread. It’s not really a logical step from stunning Blues guitarist and vocalist to personal life coach for hire.
Likewise, when I first got an email about the new lineup of Richey’s band, I did a double take. Again, not that it was particularly unusual news — I just didn’t see it coming. (The music world could use a lot more moments like that.)
Joining Richey in the new version of KRB is experienced drummer Jyn Yates from Kentucky and Chris Sherman, the guiding force behind popular local Funk group Freekbass (and his new duo project, Freekbot).
While Sherman (who goes by his stage name, Freekbass) is best known for his huge Funk grooves, dabbling in modern EDM and rather flamboyant stage outfits at times, Richey’s sound skates the line between hard Blues and Rock; the most flash from her live shows come from out of her fingers as she plays and mouth as she sings.
On the surface, the pairing seems on par with Buckethead joining Bonnie Raitt’s band or Flea sitting in with Stevie Ray Vaughan. In other words, it should be quite interesting to hear what the trio comes up with. The first single, “Fast Drivin’ Mama,” offers a hint — the song is a rocking slice of riffing Blues Funk. It’s not drastically different from Richey’s usual sound, but the groove is appropriately huge.
Here's the debut single/video for "Mama":
The new KRB trio was assembled to record the next Kelly Richey Band album, which the musicians have been working on at Shangri-La Studios in Lexington, Ky. The album — Sweet Spirit — is scheduled for release March 1, followed by tour dates that will take them from Florida to Canada.
The trio’s debut show is Saturday in Northern Illinois (Mishawaka, to be exact), but local fans won’t have to wait long to check out the new KRB. The group performs on Jan. 11 at Legends Nightclub in Cheviot. Showtime is 8 p.m. and there is a $10 cover at the door.