Gunning for You 

Trumpeter Russell Gunn and Ethnomusicology bounce into Yoshi's.

The woods are full of musicians and rappers sampling classic jazz tunes and trying to bridge the gap between hip-hop and straight-ahead jazz. And then there's Russell Gunn. The New York-based, East St. Louis-born trumpeter ("Miles was always the man; I am just proud to be from the same hometown") doesn't just dabble in ancient grooves, he redirects them, then springboards off them into his own private America -- warts and all.

Take his superb new CD Ethnomusicology Volume 3 (Justin Time) and its meditation on Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit." First, vocalist Jodi Merriday and the band run through the original lyrics -- the stark, bitter condemnation of lynching -- in an electronic-based reworking. Then comes Merriday's "Stranger Fruit," a contemporary spoken-word piece set to beats by Gunn, which leaves no doubt about who's to blame. Says Gunn about the song: "I will never lose the consciousness of what my people had to and have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I make real music for real people that live in the real world." He may be angry, but that doesn't mean he's unsophisticated.

Gunn's ultra-ambitious Ethnomusicology series is rich, dense, political music, reminiscent of Charles Mingus and Max Roach in its complexity but always pointed to the future. And the future is hip-hop. "I am influenced by a wide variety of music," he notes. "Those who really check out hip-hop and R&B can find countless references to classic hip-hop and R&B songs in the music. What turns me on now are the beats of the hip-hop producers of the South. It's becoming more popular these days, but you have to live in the South to get a good dose of 24/7 'bounce.' Bounce is a term used like 'swinging' or 'funky.' It's exactly what you do when the track is 'bouncing.' The creativity of these Southern beats is unreal. Definitely the future of black music."

Gunn, backed by a five-piece band including SF's DJ Apollo, comes to Yoshi's next Tuesday, May 27 for a two-night stand. Visit for details.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Culture

  • How to Party Properly on New Year's Eve

    Whether you want to dance till morning or be in bed by midnight, we've got the rundown on the best events happening this year.
    • Dec 19, 2012
  • The Year of the Lounge

    Oakland's new nightspots incorporate a homey feel.
    • Dec 22, 2010
  • World of Punch Lines

    Comedy is the new way to diversify your hipster portfolio.
    • Dec 22, 2010
  • More »

Author Archives

Special Reports

Holiday Guide 2016

A guide to this holiday season's gifts, outings, eats, and more.

Taste, Fall 2016

Everything you need to know about dining in and out in the East Bay.

© 2017 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation