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Archive for the ‘Karriem Riggins’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AUGUST GREENE-Tiny Desk Concert #709 (February 21, 2018).

A collective of artists is at the core of August Greene: Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn), keyboardist Robert Glasper and drummer Karriem Riggins have known each other for a long time.

The blurb says

August Greene was born at the White House in 2016 during a special Tiny Desk concert. It was during that unprecedented performance that the then-untitled ensemble premiered the powerful “Letter to the Free,” an original song for Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary 13th that eventually won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics.

Common says they came together to be an inspirational collective who wanted to foreground women and put women in the foreground.  It is unfortunate, then, that the first song features all men.  But their hearts are in the right place “That’s important in hip-hop, which has long been dogged by an old-line adherence to misogyny, as it lays claim to the world’s most popular genre.”

For the trio’s first visit to NPR headquarters, they brought some special guests: vocalists Brandy, Maimouna Youssef and Andra Day. The band performed four tracks from its upcoming self-titled album (out March 9 on Amazon Music), an impromptu freestyle, and Day’s Oscar-nominated collaboration with Common, “Stand Up For Something,” from the film Marshall. Common described the theme of the Tiny Desk as “Foregrounding Women,” alluding to the attendance of Brandy, Day and Youssef, as well as the spiritual presence of Glasper’s younger cousin, Loren, who passed just a few days prior.  [Common says she “transitioned” which I thought meant she was undergoing gender reassignment surgery–euphemisms are dangerous, people].

This five song Tiny Desk Concert is over half an hour and I enjoyed most of it.  I really like Common and his delivery.

August Greene’s latest single, “Black Kennedy,” connotes dreams of an African-American dynasty, the kind only a royal family assumes. The stark contrasts of disenfranchisement are highlighted by every wish expressed.

Common does the rap, which is solid (Common’s voice is so good) and Samora Pinderhughes sings the chorus. I’m rather surprised by how wimpy his voice is.  He sounds either nervous or like he can’t hit the notes he wants.  And yet somehow I find this charming and his part of the song to be very catchy.  I like the D Dummy is there scratching as well.

Up next is “Practice.”  Glasper doesn;t say much during the show, but he is hilarious when he does.  Common says Robert was playing these chords in the studio.  Glasper: “It was the best thing he ever heard” after some laughs, Common retorts: “I was like it’s a’ight.  Once we my raps, the song turned out right there.

“Practice” is how “Life takes work.  You gotta work on yourself and any craft, any relationship”  The song features one of the queens, Maimouna Youssef, we call her Mumu Fresh.  She sings backing vocals and then does a great rap

sometimes being a woman is like being black twice
i gotta shout fire instead of rape
and you tell me to act nice
look pretty stay slim don’t talk loud
don’t think, don’t feel, don’t act proud
but if I’m at my lowest how are you 100%
god made woman and man for the balance of it
so will the real men please stand up.

While Common is talking a phone goes off.  “So yo, who phone is that?”  ha ha

He talks about one of their favorite songs, “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness.  As a hip hop artist, I usually don’t do remakes, but as August Greene I can do what I want.

Common: Anything yo want to say rob?
Robert: Yes, i wrote your rhymes.  Just want everyone to know that.
Common: Yea that’s why on this song my rhymes are sub par cause her wrote them

Rob said we need to get brandy.  Brandy came in with that light.

With a buildup like  that I wanted to like this song a lot more than I do.  Even though Brandy’s voice sounds good, I don’t like her delivery. This was my least favorite song of the day.

He introduces: Burniss Travis on the bass; DJ Dummy, on the 1s and 2s; Karriem Riggins on drums

Common shows off a truly great freestyle.  There’s some great rhymes referencing previous tiny desk episodes, and lines like “rob g cant rhyme like me.”

Introducing that amazing “Stand Up for Something,” he says that people worried with this administration that the world is ending.  The world ain’t ending it’s just god bringing the best out of us.  What’s more important than standing up for something you believe in.  It is designed to inspire hope, to bring the message of Thurgood Marshall to a new generation: “it all means nothing if you don’t stand up for something.”

We had to bring in a revolutionary to sing it so we got the sister Andra Day here.  She jokes “I usually like to underpromise and overdeliver.” But she nails it.  She sounds amazing.  It is by far the best song of the day and a great song in general with a great old-school soul sound.

Common ends with this great rhyme

a president that trolls with hate
he don’t control our fate because god is great
when they go low when we stay in the heights
I stand for peace, love and women’s rights

Later, in “Let Go,” vocalist and August Greene collaborator Samora Pinderhughes sings of overcoming darkness within yourself and finding hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box. It’s about releasing the demons so the hands can hold the blessings.

Common says they first called it “Nirvana” because it reminded them of Nirvana “the group from the 90s who we all love.”  (I love that he had to qualify that).

Pinderhughes, sings “I need to let go.”  It’s such a nice sentiment with a groovy opening bass line and pretty keys at the end.

I love the idea of hip-hop rising to this terrible moment in our history and working together to make things better.

[READ: December 4, 2017] Pelé: The King of Soccer

When I was a kid, Pelé was the be all and end all of soccer.  He was the man like nobody else was.  So I have been surprised in the previous two decades or so to find that he is barely mentioned among the greats.  And I have a theory about that.

Most of the people who care about soccer are not from the States (this is changing a little).  And most of the people I know who support soccer are from Europe.  Pelé is Brazilian and, more importantly, he defeated a lot of Europeans.  Plus, and this is probably the real crux, Pelé was instrumental in introducing soccer to the U.S.–right when I was impressionable enough to fall for it.  My then close friend’s family was really into soccer and we went to a New York Cosmos game (I wonder when that was.  Did I see Pelé play?  I must have).

Anyhow, Pelé was a pretty amazing player, and I’m glad to have this book confirm that for me.  What’s interesting about this book, though, is that it also talks about his personal life.  He was amazing for the kids of Brazil, but a little less amazing for his family (I was surprised to see his terrible personal life in there, primarily because this is a kids book.  But it’s important not to gloss over that kind of thing, too).

I also realized that I knew absolutely nothing about Pelé.  Like, nothing at all.  So this was a great book to fill me in. (more…)

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snSOUNDTRACK: FORGET ALL THAT AND JUST WAIL: New Music That Orbits Around Jazz (compilation The Believer July/August 2013).

bel This compilation came as a digital download with The Believer’s 2013 Music Issue (you need to get a physical copy of the issue to get the download code). Ross Simonini, the compiler, explains that he used to like jazz, but that he really doesn’t anymore.  And he finds himself attracted to these pieces that hover around jazz but which really aren’t jazz.  You can read Simonini’s thoughtful comments about all of these tracks here).  I enjoyed this compilation quite a lot and am considering getting a  few of these discs, or at least investigating them further.  And that’s want you want from a compilation.

COLIN STETSON-“The Righteous Wrath if an Honorable Man”
Any compilation that opens with Colin Stetson is okay with me.  This track was my introduction to the man last year and I still love it, in all of its insanity.

KARRIEM RIGGINS-“Double Trouble” is only 2 minutes long.  It’s got flutes and vibraphones and is super cool and retro sounding.  I really like it, although this track ends abruptly and I can’t decide if the actual song does or if it was cut short for the disc.

THUNDERCAT-“For Love  I Came” has some echoey keyboards and some great bass lines and cool/cheesy keyboard lines (it all sounds so gloriously 70s).  When the vocals come in, the whole track feels like Yes if Yes were inspired by jazz instead of classical (and had no drums—until about 2 minutes when the drums kick in and the song takes off and bass solo makes it very Yes-like).

THE BEN MONDER TRIO-“Red Shifts” is a classic style jazz guitar workout—the echoed effect is very jazzy.  And yet there is something very angular about the playing that keeps it from sounding smooth.   It’s a great track (which once again seems to get cut off very abruptly).

DAWN OF MIDI-“Ymir” is another trio—piano bass and drums.  The piano is muted (the pianist puts his hand on the strings) which makes it sound like another percussive instrument while it is also creating  the melody.  It’s very cool.  And I like the way over the 8 or so minutes the melody changes slightly, giving it a new sound almost accidentally.

GLOWS IN THE DARK-“Up and Down” starts as a fast but quiet guitar piece with some cool subtle horns over the top.  It features a rap by Count Bass D which i do not care for (The “I’m pissed/L.L. Cool J” verse is really awkward).  This is the first track on the disc that i really don’t like, which is a shame because the music is really cool.

STEVE RAEGELE-“Traingle (Daedalus)” is a weird, cool experimental sounding track.  Sounds are overlaid on each other with a lot of echoing that gives it a very dense structure.  Whether or not this is jazz is hard to say but it’s very intriguing.

MARY HALVORSON QUINTET-“Sea Cut Like Snow (No. 26)” Halvorson is a guitarist and this live track features some of the most traditional jazz on the compilation.  The song has cool melodies and some nice improvsiing (on various instruments).  It runs a little long though (I wish this had been truncated rather than the earlier ones) but it’s enjoyable.

FLYING LOTUS-“German Haircut” this is an electronically manipulated pastiche of songs with a sax solos placed over the top.  It’s an interesting concoction.

CHRIS CORSANO-“Famously Short Arms”  This is one of the most amazing drum videos I’ve ever seen–it is so creative and original.  As an audio track it is basically a  drum solo, but watching him and what he does on the drums is really mind expanding.

MATANA ROBERTS-“lulla/bye”  I have this track as well (two tracks from Constellation here).  It’s full of saxophones and longing in the singing.  It’s hard to define but it’s very evocative.

MICROKINGDOM-“Peppermint Crab” This is a weird and wild piece.  It opens with some manipulated and spacey vibes and electronics and then gets assaulted by a wild and screaming sax solo that would make John Zorn proud.

DIAMOND TERRIFIER-“Kill the Self That Wants to Kill Yourself” This song opens with some simple keyboard chords and some odd unsettling sounds thrown over them (waves of static and squeaking saxophone). Then comes some wild soloing.

This is a solid compilation of jazz-like music.  It veers into more extreme forms of jazz and will certainly alienate some listeners, but it’s an introduction to what else is out there on the fringes.

[READ: August 8, 2013] Shakespeare’s Nigga

The artistic director of the Obsidian Theatre Company (which put on this play) explains in the intro that with a title like that, you’re going to get attention.  In fact he initially said that they couldn’t use that title, because it was too much.  But they changed their mind because it really was…right.

This story looks at the two most prominent black men in Shakespeare: Othello (the Moorish general who is ruled by violent emotion) and Aaron (a Moorish slave who is basically pure evil—in Titus Andronicus).  As the artistic development coordinator of the Obsidian Theater says, Shakespeare is the authority on writing characters, thus these two men have become entwined in Black masculinity.  Which is a shame because “Moor” could basically be anyone who did not live in Europe and because Shakespeare likely didn’t know any black people (except as slaves).  It’s not really a good sample.

Playwright Joseph Jomo Pierre doesn’t seek to rectify this or upend this or decry Shakespeare.  What he does is much more subtle and much more powerful.

There are five characters in the play: Othello, Aaron, Tyrus (an older black male), Shakespeare and Judith (Shakespeare’s daughter).  Shakespeare and Othello are comrades (I won’t say friends, but it seems like Shakespeare relies on Othello for protection and advice).  Meanwhile, Aaron has tried to escape from his slavery and is currently chained up and beaten (usually by Othello). (more…)

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