Friday, August 16, 2013

Five Acts at Long Beach's Buskerfest - OC Weekly

Mary Bell
Good crowd for busking.

Buskers are few and far between on the sidewalks of Long Beach but for one day only, a handful of bands have the approval of the city and a few electrical outlets at their disposal. There seems to be an unintended theme of family bands this year, real and fake, whether that means siblings in harmony or a lingering generational legacy hovering just above the fretboard. Buskerfest is the culmination of Long Beach's stellar outdoor concert series and they are closing out 2013 with a roster loaded with some local bands. Support your neighbors. Here's a group of bands that you should be sure to catch.
Mary Bell
Brother C and Sister J
Who'd have thought the heyday of guitar/drum duos that play an unhinged Bo Diddley rumble would last so long? Brother C and Sister J took their cues from that Detroit duo that pretended to be siblings in the early '00s. Brother C even has the tight pants and vocal quaver that drives all the girls crazy. The differences come in the little things. His guitar sound digs more into a Texas blues with a funky twang that keeps things moving and Sister J is a much more capable drummer than that other disbanded group. She pummels an even tempo and does more than just let her hair blow in the wind. This set will likely have a lot more heavy riffs than the other.
Eric Stoner
Hedgehog Swing
Gypsy jazz instantly makes anything Woody Allen writes twice as madcapped. That's a cinematic fact. So perhaps when Hedgehog Swing hits the stage you'll receive a text from someone having an affair on a boat or maybe just Alan Alda. Guitarists Luca Pino and Gage Husley have clearly been studying the Reinhardt handbook. Their strum and swing is nimble and tasteful. The addition of a clarinet to that sound sometimes takes things a little too far into the Klezmer corner but that can be forgiven. This is a nice alternative to the more rocking offerings on the bill.
Carly Ritter
Carly Ritter
The newest generation of Ritter kids are mostly recognized for being the children of John (Three's Company, Problem Child) but it is often forgotten these days that John was known to many as the son of Tex. The singing cowboy had a string of hits in the 1940s and his granddaughter Carly is returning to those roots. The gentle songstress has a patient lower register and penchant for love songs with an easy going band that combine a pleasant early evening sound. Maybe she'll even cover grandad's "I Dreamed of A Hillbilly Heaven."
Martin Vielma
The Fling
These scruffy, plaid-clad rockers have a Mersey Beat-friendly vibe with a hay-flecked tinge and three members with names ending in "ustin." Their thoroughly modern rock sound features democratically dispersed lead vocal duties and spacey guitars. It is kept grounded by a steady backbeat swaddled in soothing dynamics and rich harmonies. With a new album in the can, the Fling are poised for radio domination.
He's My Brother, She's My Sister
He's My Brother, She's My Sister
This vibrato-riddled, sibling-led band has a good time vibe that should make for a nice closer. The thrift store ensemble features a greaser bass player (completely with spinning bass), slide guitarist and a percussionist who stands atop a bass drum outfitted with tap shoes. The raucous, full-throttle band lives up to that sort of instrumentation with a perpetual stomp. They seem like the kind of group that might rattle the top of your head with a pair of mallets if they thought it would get a nice, hollow sound and you'd probably smile while they did it.

Brian Charette - DownBeat

Brian Charette
*** 1/2

Few people can get away with playing solo organ. Churches and ballparks will hire someone to employ all their limbs for the congregation but it's a rare sight to get a jazz organist alone. Brian Charette, on his first solo organ album, tackles a lot of the standard repertoire but doesn't hesitate to throw a few curveballs into the mix. Many of those old chestnuts can get a little hokey, unable to slip out from the inherently loungey trappings of the instrument. Numbers like "Tico Tico" and "Girl From Ipanema" carry on with all the components of that organ grinder sound, hanging just this side of Walt Wanderley but Charette seems well aware of those songs' reputations and not particularly concerned about liberating them from their populist history. When he slows the pace and lets the instrument resonate, there is an undeniable sweetness to his sound that goes beyond any cultural context. "Georgia" and "Body and Soul" take on a smooth, bluesy hum that shows off the instrument's relaxed capabilities while a blistering ride through "I Got Rhythm" showcases Charette's quick-fingered mastery of the instrument. The unexpected numbers however have a weight far more than one might think they are deserving of. Hall and Oates' "Sara Smile" gets a soulful slide while Bond theme "You Only Live Twice" plays with the multi-tasking aspects of the hulking keyboard for a soaring mediation. But it's the title track that takes the biggest cojones. There can't be that many straightahead jazz albums named after a Madonna song, so cheers to Charette for taking it there. The performance of "Borderline" works. The bouncy interaction between the basslinea nd melody are seamless, coupling recognition and disbelief in the same measure, while seemingly opening up a largely untapped musical corner for playful improvisation.

Charette @ DownBeat

Dan Tepfer & Ben Wendel - NYC Jazz Record

Dan Tepfer/Ben Wendel
Small Constructions

From the front of Small Constructions a couple of cleancut,
barefoot dudes rest on top of a rather expensive
musical instrument surrounded by the many other
expensive musical instruments they used to create this
album. Those 20 fingers and four ears managed, in just
four days, to record a dozen tunes testifying to their
telepathic sense of understanding and mastery of the
studio. The approach employed by pianist Dan Tepfer
and saxophonist Ben Wendel is quite a sound,
generating a two-man orchestra in minutes.

Wendel and Tepfer penned four tunes apiece while
the final track, “Oblique Strategy”, is a collaborative
party trick that transcends the idea. The duo trade
instruments for a reflective ballad, an appreciated
closer for a whirlwind recording, fitting perfectly into
the scope of the album.

A pair of Monk tunes, “Pannonica” and “Ask Me
Now”, highlight their respectful interpretations with
sensitive, straightforward readings. On “Line Up” the
duo simultaneously channels Wendy Carlos Williams
and Lennie Tristano, launching into a dizzying display
of technique and production that can leave the listener
breathless, never mind the musicians. It’s a remarkable
display that warrants countless listenings and no
doubt many failed attempts at recreation in basement
practice spaces. A similar vibe penetrates Tepfer’s
“Nines” as an ominous oscillation fills every beat,
Wendel dropping cartwheels over the tension.
“Gratitude” slows the affair with a rich layer provided
by no less than six horn overdubs and a stretched
melodica resembling high strings. The duo even digs
into some Handel with “Variation 1 in D minor”.
Wendel sets up a seamless four-part harmony, his
bassoon holding down the gentle sway, as Tepfer
conjures his own slow and swinging Baroque phrases.

There is a natural apprehension to overlyproduced jazz
recordings but Wendel and Tepfer have created a winning
combination of studio magic and musical wizardry.
When they dig into a pocket symphony, every sound
is essential while they frequently focus on their two
live voices interacting. The result is rich and impressive
and thankfully still deeply rooted in spur-of-the-moment

Dan Tepfer/Ben Wendel @ NYC Jazz Record

Alan Ferber - NYC Jazz Record

Alan Ferber
March Sublime

The concept of a sublime march sounds a little
strenuous. Most organized walking isn’t that great but
maybe it’s a reference to the month. Whether
trombonist Alan Ferber is enlisting in the army or
awaiting the change of seasons, he has brought along a
tremendous group of musicians to join him. Ferber
composed more than half of the tunes, nearly all of
which provide ample space amid the arrangements for
the limited solo count to maximize exploration.

His take on Bj√∂rk’s slow-burn “Hyper-Ballad” is
much less restrained than the Icelandic original. Horns
rise over a quivering synthesizer before drummer
Mark Ferber adds a militaristic groove. Keyboardist
David Cook is gradually left alone to build the tension
before a smattering of brass dances over aggressive
handclaps. The manic swell leads to an engaging
exchange between trumpeter Alex Norris and
trombonist Ryan Keberle. “Wildwood”, an homage to
the site of Ferber’s Northern California wedding, gets
a designated intro track, then launches into the rich
ballad. The horns move cautiously before guitarist
Anthony Wilson takes a quivering solo over the
deliberate rhythm section. The title track is regulated
by Mark Ferber’s snare drum. Trumpeter Taylor
Haskins caws with a persistent echo effect before the
band bounces in on an uptick. Alan Ferber takes a
mournful solo, sighing like stardust above Cook and
bassist Matt Pavolka’s prodding. Haskins closes the
tune with a hazy return. Ferber’s “The Compass” flies
in within a straightahead horn blast. Tenor saxophonist
John Ellis builds up to a rousing horn accompaniment
while trombonist Josh Roseman summons the
Framptone for a muted solo, which converts that
human-like trombone quality into a vocoder. It’s a
unique effect eventually abandoned for a well-spaced
rip alongside the band.

On this record, Ferber has presented a modern big
band with modest touches of the strange and electrified.
Ferber can bend and mold many voices into an
engaging whole and he seems happy to share his forms
with a talented array of instrumentalists.

Alan Ferber @ NYC Jazz Record

Ivan Lins & SWR Big Band - DownBeat

Ivan Lins & SWR Big Band
** 1/2

This project is a combination of a lot of phone calls. Brazilian vocalist/composer Ivan Lins is joined by the Germand SWR big band and, briefly, a South African choir. The 13 dense tracks were recorded in five different recording studios on four continents. Those passport stamps are clearly reflected within the first 30 seconds of the album when Themba Mkhize's choir kickstarts the proceedings before a wailing saxophone joins the fray of spiraling keyboards and a sputtering horn section. Eventually Lins joins with his sleek tones and pop sensibility. This doesn't feel so much like a big band album as a Brazilian pop record with a lot of instruments. SWR moves primarily as a unit, offering bright brass throughout but with not enough emphasis on solo opportunities. Squiggly laughter and other sound effects dot the landscape, adding a playful vibe. "Todo Mundo" has an enthusiastic bounce complete with Carnival percussion while "Roada Baiana" has a stop-start hi-hat that is refreshingly disjointed and pleasantly upbeat. But a sort of sameness pervades large parts of the recording, a formula that gets a little predictable as the album moves along as though every musician should be on every track. SWR is an immaculate big band that moves seamlessly through their arrangements and Lins is a sensitive vocalist, but it reaches an over-saturation point early on and never lets up.

Ivan Lins @ DownBeat

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Daddy Kev Interview - Funnls

Hip hop producer Daddy Kev has been transfixing audiences since the late 1990s and has been attracting well-deserved attention for his weekly party night Low End Theory since 2006.
The Wednesday party has lured artists like Daedelus and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to their small space and has recently expanded into Japan and New York.
The multi-tasking impresario also keeps himself busy during the daytime by running Alpha Pup records, operating a distribution company that includes fellow 21st century psychedelic soul-man Flying Lotus’ imprint Brainfeeder and maintaining a rigorous schedule in his own studio mastering and recording some of Los Angeles’ best and brightest MCs.
Between countless phone meetings and a rapidly swelling inbox, Daddy Kev took some time to talk to Funnls about how he manages to keep his businesses profitable and gratifying while also trying to maintain his sanity and raise a happy family.
You run a weekly DJ night, a record label, a distribution company, a mastering studio and you still make your own music. Do you have trouble keeping up on every aspect of your career? How do you prioritize?
It’s definitely hard but I think that it has gotten easier for me. I reached a point where I prioritize things one of two ways: high priority or low priority. I don’t have any medium priority. Unless you have clearly designated priorities, then you have no priorities. It undermines the meaning of the word. I have gotten better at telling people “no.” Saying “yes” is easy and it’s expensive. I have really developed my ability to only say “yes” when things make sense for what our company needs or what our label needs or our partners. I try and keep all that in mind with every endeavor I take on.

Are there a lot of projects you regret taking on?
Absolutely. 20 percent of the artists I’ve signed. Considering it’s the music business, we have a good batting average but for most people things go badly more often than not. Behind the scenes doing label stuff, there is a lot of disappointment especially when doing a big campaign. The public see a Pitchfork review or an LA Times premiere but what they don’t see are the five or ten other things that didn’t happen at all. It definitely takes a toll.
When you are communicating bad news to people, especially when dealing with artists, they do not like any negative feedback. To be on this end where you are trying to do a big campaign globally, you are going to get a lot of rejection. No matter how big the artist is, there will be people who don’t like it.
“You know that idea we had for xyz magazine? Guess what they hated the record.” Having to do that on a regular basis definitely stresses relationships. I have a thick skin about it. Nothing is going to get my blood boiling but especially for new artists, they are looking at this through a microscope. That kind of pisses me off sometimes, having to sugarcoat stuff.
Music marketing is mechanical and what we do is academic. I try not to get too emotional about it. I’m always happy when good stuff happens but when people pass on stuff I don’t take it personally. Sometimes the campaigns don’t go well. To be honest, a lot of those results are based upon the record.
When artists are hounding me, sometimes I got to tell people straight up: “maybe your record isn’t good enough.” I mean I like it but that doesn’t really mean shit. It is about how it is received by the public. Having to explain that to an artist can be frustrating.
These days, I am beyond sugarcoating unless it’s for my kids. We’ve had artists leave the label. Some artists really want to be babies. They want to be idolized and romanced.
How do you strike a balance between family life and business life?
To be honest, when it all first started happening I felt like my world was collapsing. My wife and I don’t have a lot of help. We’re raising these kids ourselves. It was the reality check of a lifetime, trying to be present and be around. It’s not just about having kids on but actually being an active presence in their lives. I tell people I’m a full-time dad and part-time everything else.
That’s been the hardest thing, balancing my responsibilities as a father with my responsibilities as a business owner. Nowadays, I’m trying to think about having money put aside for my kids. Before having kids, I didn’t value my time like I do now.
Before having kids we had the business going we just kind of took it for granted. Nowadays, there is no free time. That has made it easier for me to prioritize stuff. It is ultimately about balance and making sure all these things are being addressed in the right ways.
I know some people go overboard with their kids. These days I maybe sleep five hours a night. Sometimes less.
What are the aspects of business ownership you like?
Definitely the biggest thing is being able to make your own schedule but it’s a double-edged sword. With that freedom comes tremendous responsibility. You have to pace yourself correctly. Have time set aside when you are doing real work. I definitely have a pretty structured work regiment. I try to fit it all in.

What do you loathe?
Unrealistic expectations. Any time I’m dealing with a new artist or label I try and be conservative about how things will go. With the music business, the artists’ conception of things is very, very grandiose. They’re often way bigger than things actually end up.
I hate the idea of being discouraging to people. One of the things I love about the music business is the youthfulness and optimism. I’m all for healthy optimism but definitely not absurd grandiose thinking which is often what I overhear.
People say the craziest stuff to me sometimes while I’m thinking we are doing indie music here. Expectations should be fairly low. When I hear indie artists say “going platinum” I’m thinking to myself alright there is really one record that has gone platinum of all the records released this year. Let’s be realistic.
Was there someone that you modeled your career off of? Did you have a mentor?
My original mentor would be Raymond Roker from URB magazine. When I was in high school I got an internship at URB. That’s where I cut my teeth as a designer. It all began right there. He was an independent business owner and very hands on. He was a database architect for the whole company.
I work with a lot of data. He was a great mentor to me. He showed me that at the end of the day running a business is all about numbers. With 20/20 hindsight I think now I should’ve gone to business school. I had to learn a lot about business as I went along.
That said, I’ve got a billion books on finance management and business management. You could say I went to Amazon business school. Way less debt going to Amazon business school. It has given me a great insight. It has been huge for me because I didn’t study that stuff in school. I was a philosophy major and nobody is hiring philosophers. Maybe 1000 years ago.
Where do you see your business in five years?
Wow. I really don’t know. I want to say people will still be buying records. We’ll still be making our catalog available. I’m always looking to acquire new catalogs. I assume our catalog size will have grown. Hopefully we’ll have a more streamlined operation on some fronts. I always like the idea that we can be doing things more efficiently.
Streamlining royalties and marketing are important. I think that’s hopefully what will be going on. Man, the music business is so crazy and so hard to kind of call it sometimes that I wonder what will have changed. My great hope is that we’ll finally get a social network that was as cool as Myspace. My hope is that people will start discovering music again. Facebook sucks for musicians.
I’m really hoping that that’ll be better. It is tough. The record business has been contracting for ten years now. For most people their sales keep going down and down and down and down. My hope is that we kind of hit the bottom at some point soon.
To be honest in five years if all goes well, I’ll have acquired a venue or two and that’ll become a big part of the business I’m operating. That’s my hope.