The jazz singer who cut his teeth in San Quentin and Folsom prisons and released his first record at the age of 78 returns a year later with a sturdy sophomore album of smooth, romantic, crooner jazz. What Reed lacks in precision and range he makes up for in tone, depth, and sincerity, especially with the warm Peck Almond Sextet behind him.
Esteemed avant-garde percussionist Moe! Staiano masterminds this dramatic collage of dogged noise and occasional chaos interlaced with snippets of so-called melodies. Individual songs could be encapsulated film scores to tense, unsettling shorts - like car crashes, train derailments, and bar fights. Still, there's something beautiful about it all.
While it's easy to see where they're going with this, something's not quite right. What the Young Moderns do well is fold nostalgic '80s new wave memes into a clear affinity for late-'70s pop-rock from the likes of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. The result is loyal, but spotty execution and unconvincing vocals may limit its appeal to kitsch.
You know he's local because he raps about drinking at Blake's on Telegraph with friends - friends like emcee Ashkon, soul vocalist Latrice, and mixer/masterer Jim Greer (the Rondo Brothers), all of whom lend a hand here. Poach's apparent motto "Quit Werk Make Music" inspires even when his songs don't, but the album is at least consistently enjoyable.
Oakland neo-folk outfit Faun Fables features vocalist and songwriter Dawn McCarthy alongside Nils Frykdahl of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, plus newcomers Meredith Yayanos (violin and theremin) and Kirana Peyton (harmonium and percussion). McCarthy's brilliant vocals round off a spectacular, theatrical package that's bound for the stage.
Not only is Rahsaan Patterson the undisputed champion of the crazy-ass R&B bridge, the funky breakdown, and the Michael Jackson wail (Yes, yes, that hee-hee), he's also a consummate bandleader with an amazing band. Bassist Eric Smith (famous both for being Rihanna's music director, and for holding court in Oakland blues-rock band Legally Blynd), backup singer Trina Broussard, and keyboardist Kenneth Crouch are all stars in their own right. Their Thursday night show at San Francisco Yoshi's (kicking off a run that ends Sunday) opened with Patterson's "Oh Lord: Take Me Back," a Sly Stone-ish number with prominent organ and Gospel harmonies. With the combination of two sensitive background singers, a four-man rhythm section comprising some of the best instrumentalists in the R&B circuit, and Patterson's theatrics (His breakdowns included lines like, "My heart is beating repetitiously for you" (from a lyric in "The One for Me"), "I have a tendency to get lost and lengthy" and even the obvious: "As you can see, I like to break it down."), this group had all the wallop of an A-list rock band.
The group played cuts from Patterson's entire oeuvre dating back to 1997 including last year's "Feels Good," in an arrangement similar to the album version, except the chorus harmonies sounded a little more textured. Patterson also did a fierce cover of Sade's "Love Is Stronger Than Pride." The highlights, above all, were Crouch's two organ solos he played a real Hammond B3 and used the spaces between notes in much the same way as famed pianist Ahmad Jamal and Patterson's stage presence. Not only is he a singer of incredible depth and range, he's also an animated balladeer. Whilst singing, Patterson would pantomime the guitar parts, raise his head to the ceiling, issue commands to his back-up ("Take it to a whisper, please") and even look askance and the askance look is hard to pull off while your singing into a microphone. But overall, he was killing; my only criticism was that the band needed a little more bottom (Smith might have had a cramp that night, because you could see him rubbing his wrist between songs) and that Broussard could have been in the spotlight a little more. But man, that gig was well worth the price of admission. Tonight's show is most likely sold out, but you might still snag a ticket for Sunday. Yoshis.com
Rahsaan Patterson's music video for "Feels Good":
There's an incredible mystique surrounding Ivory-Coast singer Dobet Gnahoré, whose oft-repeated biography always begins at the best part, when she dropped out of school at age 12 and began her self-education as a musician. Apparently it was a wise decision: she fell in love with a French backpacker, resettled in France to raise a family, and became the brightest emerging popular musician in Africa. Gnahoré descended on Oakland Yoshi's Thursday for a one-shot-deal, to promote her sophomore album, Na Afriki. If you caught it, consider yourself lucky enough to have witnessed one of the best young singers in the world. (Yeah, I said it. The world.). If you missed it, let's just hope Yoshi's brings her back next year.
Tall and svelte, with Africa continent earrings, electrifying face paint, and well-sculpted biceps, Gnahoré cuts a striking figure. She looked statuesque, taking the stage at Yoshi's with a small but powerful band, featuring French guitarist Colin Laroche de Feline, Tunesian bassist Nabil Mehrezi (who also sang, in a vibrato, ululating style similar to Gnahoré), and phenomenal Togolese drummer Boris Tchango . Each is a consummate musician in his own right. Tchango played a crazily tricked-out trap set that included conga, snare, a clave that he hit with his left foot, a large dome-shaped instrument that looked like a hand-painted tortoise shell (he hit it with brushes), and cymbols he beat with the palms of his hands. At one point he and Gnahoré played a complex West African polyrhythm in tandem. She was sitting far away at stage right, rapping on a gourd; he was playing a whole battery of drums at one time.
And no mere Afrobeat, this. The set was a phenomenal mix of melodic guitar tunes with loose percussion, and subtle harmonies, sung in French and various African dialects (a veritable polyglot, Gnahoré speaks or at least dabbles in roughly a dozen languages; Na Afriki includes no less than seven). Laroche de Feline switched from world-beatish vamping to a distorted wah-wah funk that sounded a lot like the Meters. Tchango's complex rhythms opened endless possibilities for his fellow instrumentalists. He might have been show's main star, had Gnahoré not been such an arresting performer. Seemingly indefatigable, she would sing a chorus and then dance through an extended breakdown and this woman could dance. She would begin with a limber full-body shuffle, dart around the stage, crouch dramatically, leap in the air, grab her toes, and land in a freeze-framed, combat-ready pose as though she were sparring some imaginary opponent in a B-Girl or martial arts battle.
Yet, the best part of the show was Gnahoré's vocals. She sings in a lush, reverberating vibrato that must come from the back of her throat, and spans several octaves. She could shift adeptly from a jeremiad to a bruising lament. "My English is bad," she said early in the set. "Parle vous francais? Oui? You are ready to sing together, yeah?" Then she attempted to lead the audience in a call-and-response that showed just how impossible it is to replicate her singing. Ghanoré is just raw talent: She can intonate high notes in a style that's half-coloratura soprano, half-howl, but she always stays on key. When audience members tried to imitate it, their slovenly vocals made the star flinch.
Gnahoré sang several songs in French, and the lyrics, roughly translated, sounded fierce (I'm tired of being suspended between life and death.), brooding (The dead are not dead, they are in our thoughts, in our dreams), and vulnerable (Momma, why war?). Despite the tenor of these statements, most of the songs sounded pretty upbeat, with funky break-downs and grooves that inspired Gnahoré's amazing dance moves. But she was also poignant when the occasion called. Gnahoré sang the Why war? lyric as an extended, quivering wail that could have broken apart at any second. It sounded like she was on the verge of tears.
Dobet Gnahoré singing "Djigenue":
A collection of sleepy modern folk and light country with few selling points beyond notable players pedal steelist Peter Siegel (Commander Cody) and guitarist Larry Otis (Ike & Tina Turner). Beyond that it's a low-profile, all-professional affair with the right pieces in the right places.
Afro-Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry Cabrera is one of the hottest alto players in the game, partly because of congenital talent (his father Eladio "Don Pancho" Cabrera is a violinist and consummate Chekeré player in Cuba; his brother Yunior plays bass and composes), and partly due to the breadth of his knowledge. He studied in Cuban conservatories before immigrating to New York in 1999 to play with the likes of Eddie Palmieri, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Roy Hargrove, and Avashai Cohen. He knows African folkloric music and the American Songbook; he can quote a Charlie Parker in the middle Latin tune, or set modal, downtown-sounding changes against a bustling son clave rhythm. Thus, his 2006 album Metamorphosis which features Cohen on trumpet and Watts on drums is a fantastic example of that protean style that every contemporary jazz artist seems to be shooting for. On songs like "Subversive" an homage to New York that features a dynamic sax head played over a really hip chord progression "Transito" which couples the Manhattan hard-bop sound with Latin percussion he combines modern influences with folkloric source material, to wonderful effect.
This weekend Cabrera graces the Bay Area with a series of events launched under the banner Yosvany Terry: Yedégbé The Afro-Caribbean Legacy Project. It kicks off Friday (July 18th), 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley), where Cabrera will play alongside local heavyweights John Santos, Jesus Diaz, and Michael Spiro. (What! Now that's a show for you). At $12 ($15 at the door) it's an absolute bargain, trust me. Cabrera will perform at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival the following day (Sat., July 19) from 1-3 p.m., and at the Stanford Jazz Festival Sun., July 20th at 7:30 p.m. This time he'll bring a quartet featuring Yunior on bass, Osmany Paredes on piano, and on drums, the exciting Justin Brown, a young Oakland native who's proved to be a monster of a musician.
Yosvany Terry Quartet playing "Subversive" at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles:
Calaveras' jam-friendly folk would sound best from the lawn of a sun-soaked outdoor festival. On record, the experience is somewhat muted - but not lost in translation. The Lafayette trio plays with plenty of spirit, especially on a song like "Club Paradise," though subsequent track "Driving Him Away" is overly mellow and melodramatic.