Archive for the ‘Artist Spotlight’ Category

Introducing Sexual Chocolate!

Introducing Sexual Chocolate!

With the release of the Jam Cruise line up yesterday, I can’t stop thinking of the artist and how they impact our time on the boat.  Running into them in the elevators, having them knock on your cabin door when they hear the pop of a champagne bottle or laying down their food tray to have a leisurely meal with a fan in the dining hall.

As I looked at the line up, I noticed the familiar names.  There is always a George Porter project, an Eric Krasno project, a Karl Denson project.  The latter is the artist I have been thinking the most about.   I just missed two nights of a 3-set GreyBoy Allstars show at the Brooklyn Bowl due to being in the hospital taking care of my boy toy, Josh!

I met Josh at the Karl Denson Tiny Universe shows just about a year or so ago.  During Bowlive 2010, Josh and I actually got a chance to speak to him and thank him for helping us meet.  His response to us: “Just make sure you show me pictures of the children.” Classic Karl. Needless to say, he holds a special place in our hearts.

Karl’s name is yet again plastered as a Jam Cruise headliner, leading his project Karl Denson Tiny Universe.  It was on my first Jam Cruise, Jam Cruise 8, that I truly got to experience Karl Denson in all his glory.  But not as a member of The GreyBoy Allstars, not as a member of The Tiny Universe.  No, this project was called Sexual Chocolate.

Karl Denson rockin his wig!

Karl Denson rockin his wig!

With outstanding talent, worth ethic and enthusiasm, Karl Denson is one of the most respected men in the Funk music community.  Amazing us with his saxophone and flute skills, among other instruments, Karl Denson fronts bands such as Karl Denson Tiny Universe and GreyBoy Allstars! But have you ever heard of his involvement with Sexual Chocolate?

If you haven’t already watched it, go rent Coming to AmericaEddie Murphy plays many rolls throughout the movie but the best role was as the band leader of Sexual Chocolate. And who’s playing saxophone for this gnarly band?  None other than our beloved Karl Denson.

Jeff Coffin and others

Jeff Coffin and others

For many years Sexual Chocolate was out of commission but lucky for us, Karl Denson decided to breathe life into this fictional band by performing a funky Sexual Chocolate set on Jam Cruise 8 in January of this year.

Backing Karl on stage was an Allstar cast consisting of the members of KDTU, Debrissa McKinney (Josh Phillips Folk Festival), Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones), Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Jans Ingber and Liza Oxnard (The Motet).  A super special surprise came when legendary harmonica player Lee Oskar (WAR), a guest on the boat, came out on Galaxy, an actual WAR cover.

Lee Oscar, famous Harmonica player/designer

Lee Oskar, famous Harmonica player/designer

Please enjoy these funky and jazzy tunes which can be downloaded below!

Download music set here!

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe ~ 01-07-10 ~ JamCruise 8 ~ Theatro Carlo Felice ~ MSC Poesia

1. …banter… (2:01)
2. Front Money (5:57)
3. Galaxy  (13:25)
4. Groovy Thing (5:15)                                                   
5. Fallin’ (6:06)
6. Flute Down (8:54)
7. Mighty Rebel (9:23)
8. Groove On (9:31)

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When asked to think about musical groups who laid the fundamental foundation for Funk, the same names tend to pop up in people’s minds. George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, Maceo Parker & Fred Wesley, Sly and The Family Stone, Graham Central Station, and Earth Wind and Fire.  However, one of the most underrated groups to have played a roll in defining the funk genre emerged from Brooklyn, NY in 1968.  Calling themselves Mandrill, a trio of brothers, Carlos Wilson (trombone, vocals), Lou Wilson (trumpet, vocals) and Ric Wilson (sax, vocals), would join their collective multi-instrumental forces to make up  the backbone of a group that would come to be one of the most important pioneers of World Music and one of Funk and R&B’s most progressive bands. 


Over the years Mandrill has rotated through members included Bundy Cenas (bass), Neftali Santiago (drums, percussion, vocals), Juaquin Jessup (lead guitar, percussion, vocals), Charles Padro (drums), Claude ‘Coffee’ Cave II (keyboards, percussion, vocals) and Fudgie Kae Solomon (bass) and Omar Mesa (Guitar).

Still touring the U.S. and abroad, the Wilson Brothers remain the driving force behind Mandrill.  Their current band is fueled by a new generation of multi-talented musicians including Marc Rey, Arlan Schierbaum, Keith Barry, Michael Beholden, Gemi Taylor and Stacey Lamont Sydnor. However, it was the first generation of musicians that made the greatest impact on what Mandrill stood for and how it helped shape our musical culture.

Mandrill ‘s reputation as a World Music group began with their self-title debut album.  This first record is considered one of the truly great opuses of the late 60’s hippie scene recorded at the then brand new Electric Lady studios in New York.  Containing the raging composition titled Peace and Love, it would eventually be sampled on Kanye West’s Two Words with Mos Def, Eminem’s On Fire, and Vinni Paz’s No Spiritual Surrender.

The Wilson brothers, whose melting-pot background of Caribbean culture blended with the sound and heart of urban America, would make up the brass section while they found their groove with drummer and percussionist Neftali Santiago, keyboardist Claude ‘Coffee’ Cave II , guitarist Omar Mesa and legendary bassist Fudgie Kae Solomon.  These seven players played over 20 instruments and would fuse their Latin and jazz roots  with gospel, blues, soul, salsa, psychedelia, straight up rock and funk.  Tackling every genre with ease and combining them seamlessly, by their third album, Composite Truth, Mandrill’s focused combination of percussive instruments and funk had defined their trademark sound.

Many argue that Mandrill was actually the first funk band to actually make an impact on the charts, beating out Kool and the Gang by a year or so. Over the years, they performed on Don Kirshner’s In Concert and the Rock Concert television series. On numerous occasions they appeared on Soul Train with Don Cornelius and Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack. They were also featured on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television program Soul!.

Neftali says; “I remember playing drums, and it used to make me uncomfortable (with) George Clinton and Maurice White sitting right in back of me taking notes! Then all of a sudden Earth, Wind and Fire gets a horn section, and Funkadelic starts adding horns, percussion and become Parliament, and it’s like hmmm that’s interesting.”

As one of the most sampled groups by this generation, Mandrill’s songs have been sampled by hip-hop acts such as Johnny D, Public Enemy, Shawty Lo, Big L, Kanye West, Jin, Eminem, and 9th Wonder.  You can hear their worldly funky sound on Brandy’s single Talk About Our Love, Shawty Lo’s’ Dey Know, KRS One’s For Example, Black Eyed Peas Weekends, Floetry’s Have Faith, Wyclef Jean’s You Say Keep It Gangsta, Tweet and Missy Elliot’s We Don’t Need No Water, Kindred’s If I, Public Enemy’s By the Time I Get to Arizona, and Nas’ U Gotta Love It.  As well, some of their songs have been used in the soundtracks of movies: The Greatest (1977), The Warriors (1979), a personal cult favorite of mine, and Civil Brand (2002).

Mandrill is not only an underrated group, they are practically impossible to duplicate and hardly any band has come close.  Today, it’s virtually impossible to pick an entire group that embodies what Mandrill embodied in their prime.  California’s Breakstra is one group that comes close as well as the wonderful Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings.  The Mighty Imperials, actually under the Daptones Record label, is another group who attempt to reach to the amazing levels that Mandrill accomplished. And even then, these aforementioned groups only hit on an extension of their sound.  Toubab Krewe must also be mentioned for their fusion of of rock and African rhythmic patterns.

Mandrill is one of those groups who plowed their way through numerous genres, seamlessly flowing through one into another in a single song.  Their music has been sampled by numerous musicians yet hardly anyone has come close to fully duplicating their energy and sound.  Mandrill was a group who let it all hang out and stood in the forefront as a pioneer in all of music, yet hardly anyone has heard of them. It is my job to spread the word 🙂

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8th Annual NYC Musical Saw Festival

A concert & art exhibit revolving around 300 year old art of playing music on a carpenter’s handsaw will take place on Saturday, August 7th, 2010, 2pm.

The art form of making music with a carpenter’s handsaw has been around for 300 years.  For the past 8 years, Astoria, Queens has become a pilgrimage spot for musical saw players from all over the world.  Last year, the festival got into the Guinness Book of Records for the ‘Largest Musical Saw Ensemble’ with 53 players playing together, beating the previous record from Poland (28 saw players).

2010 Musical Saw Festival

2010 Musical Saw Festival

This years festival includes world premiers of music written especially for the musical saw to including a piece written for a trio debut.  As well, the Chorus of the Saws – all the musical saw players playing together.

There will also be musical saw solos & ensembles, performing many music styles to include jazz, classical, pop, folk, show-tunes and more.  All to to be performed by musical saw players from all over the world.

Finally, ‘Ameriklectic’ – a 10-piece jazz band featuring the musical saw of Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz, as the lead instrument will be debuted.

The festival is made possible by the Queens Council of the Arts with public funding from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the NY State Council of the Arts.

Where: Hellenic Cultural Center, 27-09 Crescent Street (corner of Newton Avenue), Astoria, NY 11102

Trains: ‘N’ train to 30th Avenue

Admission: $10

Info: Musical Saw Festival

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Big Sam’s Funky Nation…Surrender Your Dance Floors

(By: Brett B.)

Big Sam's Funky Nation (cd release) @ Sullivan Hall

Big Sam's Funky Nation - Sullivan Hall, NYC 4/16/10

Full Rager!

Full Rager!

How seriously do I take funk and soul music?  Ask my kids what the greatest song ever written is and they will tell you without hesitation, “Isaac Hayes. ‘Theme from SHAFT‘.  I have the STAX record label tattooed on my arm.  And I skipped my high school prom in 1978 to see Earth, Wind & Fire, The Commodores and LTD at the San Diego Sports Arena.

For a white guy from the suburbs of Virginia, I don’t fool around when it comes to soul music. So, when I say to you I have seen the future of funk and his name is Big Sam Williams, you might want to take a moment and listen to what the man has to say.

Hailing from the magical city of New Orleans, Big Sam’s Funky Nation has spent the last few years bringing their Gospel of Boogie to every stage they can find. Like a soul-fueled juggernaut of tight horn charts and make your ass sweat on the dance floor bass beats, the Funky Nation is the kind of rhythmic unit that used to back greats like James Brown, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett.

Say Hi to Big Sam

Big Sam is King

But it’s truly all about the Big Man. From the smile that hypnotizes to the dapper hat that makes him the envy of any haberdashery fan around to his skills on the trombone, he is the “total” performance package.

But then he starts to move. And I mean he moves like liquid mercury bopping and popping to the heat from the Funky Nation behind him. And I would be remiss in not mentioning the Nation:

Takeshi Shimmura – Guitar
Eric Vogell – Bass
Drummer Boy Milk Williams – Drums
Andrew Da Phessah Drew Baham – Vocal/Trumpet

This band follows Big Sam wherever and whenever the Cat In The Hat leads them. Whether it’s a water park in New Jersey or a gospel set in a hundred degree heat in a tent at Bonnaroo.

Once upon a time there were bands with horns who sang songs of positivity and hope. Who played songs that made you dance the night away. Songs about love not just about sex. These were bands like Earth, Wind & Fire, Chicago, Sly & The Family Stone and The Commdores.

Big Sam's Funky Nation

Big Sam's Funky Nation

So, it is fitting that the band who most truly seems to follow the philosophies and putting forth the same messages of love and enjoying life to the fullest named their most recent album, KING OF THE PARTY.

Because for the citizens of Big Sam’s Funky Nation the party never stops and the cry of “Long live the King!” will be heard as long they can dance.

Read about Big Sam’s Funky Nation Album “King of the Party” Release Party @ Sullivan Hall (04.16.10)

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(By Brett B.)

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

I have 3 kids. Yes, even people like me are allowed to breed unabated in America. Deal with it. I have 2 boys and a daughter. Love them all. May not always like them but I will always love them. They’re kids. It is their moral imperative to annoy, aggravate and piss off their parents. We did it to ours, now they do it to us. Hakuna matata.

I , like many fathers, am constantly being told that I do not show my daughter enough attention. That she feels like I don’t do things with her like I do the boys. Fine. We’re playing ZOMBIE BLOODBATH on the Wii. Grab a controller and join the farting contest already in progress. OK, not exactly what a 9 year old girl wants to spend her evening doing. I get it.

So, her birthday was last week. Turning 10. A big birthday. Going from single digits to double. Here’s my chance to look good to the kid. Coincidentally last week Taylor Swift was doing 2 sold out shows here in Jersey. Of course, both were sold out. How else would I be able to have to resort to StubHub and pay $400 for 3 $75 tickets?

Prudential Center, NJ

Prudential Center, NJ

Now here is where we discuss my kid and her taste in music. If she had her way her iPod would be full of Lady GaGa, Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana. Since I control the downloads in the house, her iPod loaded with stealth cuts from Blondie, The Go-Gos, The Detroit Cobras and Aretha Franklin. And Taylor Swift.

We get to the Prudential Center and the kid has no idea where we are or what is going on. It was a total surprise. Ten feet from the door I give her the tickets and watch her eyes pop out of their sockets and she begins to squeal like someone is deflating a balloon. Very cute and over the top. She is if anything dramatic. We go in and she then finds out that Daddy Cool got her VIP Box seats. All you can eat buffet. Full bar. Sundae station. The whole 9 yards. ‘Cuz that’s how Daddy Cool rolls. Plus, it was all for the kid.

At one point my wife leaned over to me and said, “Little out of your element here, huh?” Understatement of the evening. Taylor Swift’s audience is 90% screaming tweenage girls dressed like they are 21 and on spring break, 3% young teenage boys just beginning to grow hair in strange places with confused feelings for girls and 7% parents who got dragged into driving the other 93% of the crowd to the arena.

But the best part of the evening? Taylor Swift puts on one of the best concerts I have ever seen. I mean totally gives her audience the show it came to see. Songs with great hooks. A dazzling stage show. And a truly sincere enjoyment out of what she is doing. You cannot ask more from any performer.

Sure the songs are written by a starry-eyed 19 year old who still believes in Romeo & Juliet and writes songs about her first kiss.
But you know what? Those are the kinds of songs I want my little girl to hear.

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