As we know, roots reggae is imbued with the spiritual message of Rastafarianism, the Jamaican repatriative faith that adopted some of its theology from Ethiopian Christianity and a plethora of metaphors from Judaism, although the Torah (as well as the New Testament) is seen by believers as partly corrupted. In Rastafarian parlance, Zion is a Utopian vision of freedom and justice located in the land once and forever ruled by Haile Selassie. Still, common cultural reference points engendered an unsurprising affinity between Jewish and Jamaican musicians – a kind of Judeo-Rasta subgenre flourishes in the work of King Django, David Solid Gould and Matisyahu, among others.
Meanwhile, back in that other Zion, Tel Avivian producers Kalbata (Ariel Tagar) and Mixmonster (Uri Wertheim) spent a year sculpting instrumental tracks inspired by King Tubby and early dancehall. Traveling to Kingston, they invited an all-star cast of venerable singers and toasters, all of who came to prominence in the seventies and eighties, to flesh out their bare bones. Congo Beat the Drum is the intriguing result of this new-meets-old, red-green-gold Star of David session.
Following the sweet lover stylings of Puddy Roots and Little John, the leonine nyabinghi of the title track, chanted by digital dancehall star Major Mackerel, is absolutely ferocious. Now that we have your attention, dub poet Mutabaruka calls out the political and clerical elite on “Same Thing Every Day” before ceding the mic to Trinity and Jah Thomas, who are having “Trouble in the Dance”, despite the exemplary, minimalist backing propelling their call-and-response. On “Aim”, Tullo T shakes the pixie dust amiably and ambiently scattered by Kalbata and Mixmonster with a huge smile spreading wider and wider on his face. Finally, Echo Minott and the late Prince Jazzbo get down to brass tacks, the former plaintively pleading the case of the poor man on “Out a Road” and the latter pointing accusing fingers on the trickily titled “Voice Make a Joyful Noise”.
The thirty-seven minute album breezes by far too quickly, crying out for full-scale, extended dub versioning. The closing, lounge-y “CRB Version” of “Prisoner in Love” is a great start.
Source: LA’s Hammer Museum.
Hammer Presents: JazzPOP
Thursdays, August 4, 11 and 18
8 p.m. in the Courtyard – FREE
The Hammer’s “reliably excellent” (Los Angeles Times) annual summer festival of creative jazz and improvised music celebrates its 11th year with three FREE concerts featuring some of the most adventurous, inspired, masterful music happening on the West Coast. Curated by Lisa Mezzacappa.
August 4: Cathlene Pineda Quartet
In her extended work, Passing: A California Suite, pianist and composer Cathlene Pineda pays tribute to the complexities and wonders of the city of Los Angeles with music that is “airy, elegant and haunting” (Bakersfield Californian). Pineda and her close-knit quartet navigate the music’s emotionally rich and rhythmically dynamic landscape in a series of compositions inspired by the works of Los Angeles’ first poet laureate, Eloise Klein-Healy.
Cathlene Pineda: piano
Kris Tiner: trumpet
David Tranchina: bass
Tina Raymond: drums
August 11: Michael Vlatkovich Septet
“Vlatkovich…balances dramatic tension, a sly wit, and the wild card of unpredictability in his writing…” —Jazz critic Stuart Kremsky
Amazingly fleet for a group packed with so much thunderous low-end, trombonist Michael Vlatkovich’s Septet features many of Southern California’s most versatile improvisers, handling familiar musical genres with an irreverent and innovative playfulness. The band shapeshifts effortlessly through hard-swinging romps, brass band fantasies, and collective improvisation epiphanies.
Michael Vlatkovich: trombone
Andrew Pask: woodwinds
Bill Plake: tenor sax
Dan Clucas: trumpet
William Roper: tuba
Dominic Genova: bass
John Hernandez: drums
August 18: Sheldon Brown Ensemble
From the vast musical mind of Bay Area saxophonist and composer Sheldon Brown comes an expansive project connecting the rapturous voices of poets to the power of jazz improvisation. Brown’s superlative ensemble performs his thrilling, layered, asymmetrical compositions, built from the rhythms and speech melodies of Beat and Surrealist poets reading from their work.
Sheldon Brown: alto saxophone, clarinets
Lorin Benedict: voice
Darren Johnston: trumpet
John Finkbeiner: electric guitar
Jonathan Alford: piano
Michael Wilcox: electric bass
Alan Hall: drums
Jazz Right Now has been busy, first with a review of the debut of The Out Louds, then with a review of two Weasel Walter releases, and finally with a review of Matthew Shipp live at The Stone.
Wired writes about how neuroscientists don’t know why music sounds good.
Ars Technica writes about how people from non-Western cultures are more open to dissonant music.