Robert Randolph presents The Slide Brothers, with the Otis Taylor Band, Royce Hall

February 23, 2013   We’re all told to respect our elders, to learn from the generation before and to pass along tradition. Wise words musically speaking, and fundamental to any jazz or blues playbook where family legacies span generations and old sounds are regularly rediscovered and reimagined. Now, I hail from about as far from a Pentecostal upbringing as one would expect for a ‘60s kid raised in the relative comfort of a West Los Angeles lifestyle. But when I heard Robert Randolph for the first time, I was floored. I had no clue about the roots of Sacred Steel in the church tradition, but the Hendrix like intensity he brought to the pedal steel was pretty religious in my book and I’ve been a fan ever since. Randolph’s latest project, the Slide Brothers, pays homage to those roots. Randolph has brought together the “greatest living musicians who embody the Sacred Steel tradition” (as described on the Slide Brothers’ web site), a tradition that dates to Depression era times where steel/slide guitar and vocal melodies were all but interchangeable in church music. Calvin Cooke, Chuck Campbell, Darick Campbell and Aubrey Ghent are the Slide Brothers – a direct legacy to […]

3 Brave Souls, Kirk Douglas Theatre

February 8, 2013 Friday’s “3 Brave Souls” CD release event at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City is just one of many ongoing performances held by the Jazz Bakery as they await construction of their Frank Gehry designed new home next door.  John Beasley has been a familiar presence in the new year, with a residency at the Blue Whale encompassing big band, latin and more intimate motifs. The “3 Brave Souls” performance is a fitting cap to a busy January with this special collaboration of Beasley with Rolling Stones bassist Darryl Jones and Ronald Bruner, Jr. on drums (as well as vocalists Dwight Trible and Nayanna Holley). I had not been that familiar with Beasley’s career until this project, but the opportunity to catch two former Miles band mates in Beasley and Jones, with drummer Bruner, Jr. (who has been playing since he was 3, seriously), was too good to pass up. The “3 Brave Souls” project has been described as “ass-wiggling funk/jazz” and made the cut of top 2012 jazz CDs by Jazz Inside magazine. Me, I was just curious to see how resumes that spread from Suicidal Tendencies, Flying Lotus and Kenny Garrett (Bruner, Jr.), to […]

Billy Cobham’s Spectrum 40 Band, The Mint

January 26, 2013 Mahavishnu Orchestra is in the pantheon of jazz fusion pioneers. Black hole density, volcanic intensity and ridiculous virtuosity. I had never heard anything quite like John McLaughlin’s searing fretwork, Jan Hammer’s prog-funk sounds and Jerry Goodman’s violin thrown to the front of what truly seemed to be an inner mounting flame. Not for the faint of heart. Beneath it all was drummer Billy Cobham, who played at Mach tempos and time signatures with the necessary muscle to stir the mix. While Mahavishnu (especially in its original lineup for three brilliant albums) occasionally slowed down, more often than not, there was an avalanche of notes and spaces were usually avoided. The influence of McLaughlin’s Eastern spiritualism was very much present and the music omni-powerful. After Mahavishnu, McLaughlin turned away from the fire and the volume way down with his acoustic Indian trio Shakti, Jan Hammer went on to Miami Vice fame and blazed rock fusion territory with Jeff Beck, and Billy Cobham recorded his first solo album, 1973’s “Spectrum”. Cobham brought along Hammer, session master Leland Sklar on bass and guitarist Tommy Bolin (all of 21, before he went on to play with the James Gang and Deep […]

Greg Allman Band, Royce Hall

January 11, 2013 Gregg Allman’s life is a road well travelled for sure. As much thriver as survivor, his blues have the resume to match (40+ years on the road and hard knocks you wouldn’t wish on anyone). Last year’s T-Bone Burnett produced “Low Country Blues” is a seminal record that embodies the sum of Allman’s musical lives in roadhouse ramble, swampy Muscle Shoals drenched horns and his all the way at the bottom looking up vocals. You can feel the miles and hear the fight breaking out in the back. Like many of his musical peers, Allman has gone open kimono on his life and times with the autobiography “My Cross to Bear” released last year, continuing a trend of influential musicians (Keith Richards, Neil Young, Pete Townsend, most notably) sharing internal reflections, creative insights and the occasionally rowdy it could only happen to this rock star story. Sure, there are more salacious aspects one would expect in these memoirs (and, yes, Richards “Life” is hard to put down), but more powerfully, there is honesty and a peak behind the curtain from guys with less sand in the hourglass and their eyes on the clock. In Allman’s case (as […]

Dragon Smoke, The Mint

December 12, 2012 Certain celestial alignments skip decades, if not lifetimes, or at a minimum, involve covering great distances at greater expense. Think solar eclipses, Comet Hale-Bopp or if you get around, the aurora. Even then, there is the unexpected cloud cover that can scotch the most anticipated and well-planned events. While the intersection of talent that is Dragon Smoke may not operate on a celestial plane, the fact the band exists, let alone has endured for a decade, is pretty damn impressive. Comprised of the Galactic’s drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio, guitarist/songwriter Eric Lindell and funk master Ivan Neville on keys and vocals, the band is a potential one-off that never offed. The lineage speaks propulsive, jammy funk meets soulful vocals as one would expect with the Galactic rhythm section, stinging Lindell leads, swampy Neville keys and alternating Neville/Lindell voices. They deliver that and then some.   The demanding tour schedules of Galactic, Dumpstaphunk and Lindell, coupled with additional musical pursuits, make the right place/right time convergence of the four principals slightly more frequent than a Cubs post-season appearance, or at least cause for celebration. Yet, the band has been a fixture for 10+ years on the […]

Remembering Austin Peralta

November 25, 2012 Hearing the news of Austin Peralta’s passing, at just 22, is beyond incomprehensible. At 13, Peralta had already established himself as a jazz pianist bearing the burden of comparisons to giants like McCoy Tyner. At 15, he was playing alongside giants like Ron Carter. This kid, from West Los Angeles, this progeny of a surfer-skate legacy, was off the charts fucking unbelievable. I first heard him at my cousin’s urging in 2008 (he went to high school with his daughter). I couldn’t believe what I was listening to. His cover of Tyner’s “Passion Dance” didn’t just honor the composition, it elevated it. Like that was even possible. I saw Peralta live only once. Playing to a room of 30 or so mostly friends and family at the old Jazz Bakery on a weeknight. That the world did not know this guy was beyond me. He had been a fixture in town, playing fairly often at the Blue Whale and other rooms. I did not know Austin or his family personally, but knew friends and players in his orbit and I’m probably older than the sum of most of his early trios. That he even existed in this […]

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Wiltern Theater

November 2, 2012 Grace Potter and the Nocturnals played to a packed Wiltern in the midst of her Fall “all request” tour. The generous set was in the audience’s sweet spot with many sing-alongs that had GP working the front of the pit to connect with as many fans as she could. Potter and the Nocturnals are a force of nature and few artists can pivot as effortlessly between stripped down ballads and blustery blues jams. Extended excursions on rugged hooks underscored why Potter and the band are such great draws in the jam band scene and the festival circuit. Potter herself has a totally magnetic stage presence to go with killer chops, and when she takes center stage playing a Flying V, it’s impossible to look away.       The band had an electric rapport, with guitarists Benny Yurco and Scott Tournet trading and sharing solos like punches – punctuated by Tournet’s gritty dustbowl Telecaster tone. With “2:22” from 2006’s Nothing But Water, Potter prowled her way along the floor to the top of the mic stand and let loose from the top of her pipes – a bluesy chanteuse in full roar. When Potter proclaimed “tonight you’re sleeping next to me” in Stop the Bus (from […]

Voodoo Experience 2012

October 26-28, 2012 As an unabashed Jazzfest vet, I approached my first Voodoo with excitement and a hint of fear. The mix of rap, EDM, and the often indefinable, sprinkled with the best of New Orleans contemporary and traditional, on a bed of arena headliners, eclectic rockers, funk and blues artists, is uniquely Voodoo.  Look, I’m an old school guy who knows enough to be dangerous to himself. Not a banger, a mosher or a surfer. I know Skrillex drops bombs that turn your bones to jelly and have never been to a Metallica show in my life, but I approached Voodoo with anticipation and an open mind. After all, there was Mr. Neil Young touring with Crazy Horse for the first time in eight years. Gary Clark, Jr.’s, blues without boundaries and the omni-bluesusical Jack White closing it out. OK, so much for the obvious. How far would I go to connect with my inner Voodoo? Would I make it to Borgore (an Israeli DJ formerly of a death metal band), the total bizzaro of South African rappers Die Antwoord or Electric Daisy Carnival main stager Nervo (all three made “Rolling Stone’s 10 Must See Acts at Voodoo Fest”)? […]

Red Baraat, The Mint

October 4, 2012 Since I last caught up with Red Baraat in February, the self described “Brooklyn dhol’n’brass” by way of a second line, has been to the White House, played Bonnaroo and High Sierra, performed at the TED conference, toured Europe and the UK, and returned to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. This is a busy group of guys with over 100 dates this year. One listen and the attraction of the east meets west meets stomp on your face swing and brass is obvious. No surprise they get around because there is nothing that comes close to what they do and their musical imprint is rather indelible. I’m not saying that Red Baraat will bring us world peace, but its totally infectious sound and ‘tude, may just get us a little closer.   I extolled the band’s virtues when they played the Mint earlier this year and in my limited vocabulary, attempted to describe my take to the uninitiated. I’m happy to be coming back so soon. The fundamentals bear repeating, though. Traditional Hindi percussion led by singer/dhol player Sunny Jain backed by ridiculous brass including sousaphone, trumpet, bass trumpet, soprano sax and trombone, as well as a trap kit […]

Bombino, The Mint

September 18, 2012 Tuareg guitarist Omara “Bombino” Moctar was born in a nomadic encampment in Niger in 1980. Some 26 years later he was playing alongside Keith Richards and Charlie Watts in California. The here to the there and now is an amazing life of cultural and political conflict, creativity and inspiration that speaks to the global language at the heart of world music today.   As a younger guitarist, Bombino would emulate Hendrix and Knopfler licks from watching videos and his path as a musician was carved early, much to the consternation of his father. In 2009, film maker Ron Wyman, who knew Bombino’s music, found Bombino living in exile and brought him to the States to record what became the 2010 release “Agadez”. A truly amazing journey that has had Bombino appearing at major festivals, including this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where he absolutely tore up the Blues Tent (a set I unfortunately missed). A new project is on the way and he has played/is playing dates in California and the Southwest before starting a European tour later in the Fall.   His Tuesday night performance at The Mint transformed the seen it all history […]