Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Mamarazzi’s Bewilderness Gets the Party Started

Brooklyn band Mamarazzi’s latest album Bewilderness has a completely original sound: a mix of funk, Afrobeat, hip-hop and a little salsa. A lot of this is totally psychedelic in an early 70s Isaac Hayes or Roy Ayers kind of way, and everything here, even the occasional slow jam, is danceable. The tunes are catchy; the hip-hop interludes are mostly party jams or guy-meets-girl scenes with the boudoir just a few feet away.

The opening track, Sobobo sets cheery sax floating over Andrew Aprile’s circular Afrobeat guitar. Boo Lynn Waltz is a deliciously suspenseful mini-suite, shifting unexpectedly from tense new wave funk to a chill organ interlude with mysterioso sax that morphs again into a vintage soul groove with sweet, jangly guitar and horns. The third track, a straight-up funk tune with a hip-hop bridge, features biting tenor sax harmonies from Tacuma Bradley and Sam Franklin. They follow that with a boudoir theme that leaps into an Afro-funk vamp – it sounds like it was written as a launching pad for audience participation. Gypsy Delight is actually a salsa song, with some joyous Cuban swing piano from Rob Cohen, with another oldschool soul interlude before the dance beat kicks in again.

The next couple of tracks are slinky psychedelic funk. Nu Dutch starts out with ominous wah guitar and timbales and builds to a lush, anthemic vibe, sax anchoring the fat, reverb-toned guitar. Seeds sets the bass against the hypnotic percussion of Tavi Fields and Sam Bathrick, with some tasty, breezy sax as it picks up. Packed with tricky, unexpected tempo and dynamic shifts, Grapefruit kicks off with a blaze of horns, slows down to a woozy sway with electric piano and guitar before it explodes. The way the trombone and sax converge over galloping Rhodes piano as it reaches boiling point is one of the high points of the album. Sunday Night Chicks could be the best song here, beginning as a pretty, summery theme with Eric Herman’s sliding bass carrying the melody in a Little Wing-style Hendrix kind of way. It gets apprehensive and then funky, hits an interlude where the sax pairs off against Jeremy Noller’s drums, followed by a blippy, trippy organ solo and then goes out the way it came in. The album winds up on a surprisingly quiet note with Gangster, a cautionary tale for a bad guy, with a trick ending and an outro that might or might not be part of the mystery. Mamarazzi are at Drom on 4/30 at 10ish on a great bill opening for ferocious gypsy bands Karikatura and Bad Buka.

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April 29, 2011 Posted by | funk music, Music, music, concert, rap music, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thunderball Gives You a 12 Mile High

With a nod and a wink to Isaac Hayes, Gamble and Huff, Manfred Hubler (the Vampyros Lesbos soundtrackmeister) and Herbie Hancock circa 1971, Thunderball’s latest album 12 Mile High is blissfully over-the-top psychedelic chillout music. A lot of it, especially toward the end of the album, is trip-hop; if you like it slow and slinky, you can dance to this. There’s some bhangra, plenty of funk, a little disco, some spacey dub and a lot of cinematics. Each of the dozen instrumentals here is a mini-movie, many of them basically bedroom scenes through a thick ganja haze.

The party starts with a gorgeous sitar melody ringing out over a layered tabla groove. The title track keeps the sitar, adding bass and blippy synth over a midtempo disco beat. Make Your Move climbs from an ambient, suspenseful intro to a soul/funk trip-hop song with falsetto vocals: Sylvester on the DL. A couple of reggae tunes shift from sly dub and a repetitive refrain of “herb, sinsemilla” to an ominous one-chord jam driven by swooshy organ, with a wary vocal that sounds a lot like Luciano.

There are latin interludes here as well. Low Down Weather is a slinky latin funk vamp with casually animated blues guitar pairing off against echoey Rhodes electric piano, and a hilarious sample on the way out in case you didn’t see it coming. Ritco Ritmo, with its Brazilian-tinged guitar, sounds like Os Mutantes one generation removed; Rio Mescalito is a jaunty acoustic blues guitar shuffle that grows woozier as whatever they’re smoking starts to kick in. There are also a couple of boudoir themes with laid-back sax and girlie vocals (which get old fast), a funky one that could be Sly Stone on good acid, the trippy mystery tableau To Catch a Vixen, and the lush, blues-toned one-chord jam Penthouse Soul that takes the album out on an especially hypnotic note. There are so many layers oscillating and moving up and through the mix and out and back again that it’s impossible to keep up: which is why these tracks are so successful. Always leave them wanting more, or so they say.

November 22, 2010 Posted by | funk music, Music, music, concert, reggae music, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 8/29/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #884:

Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul

Pretty much the ultimate psychedelic soul record. Other soul singers in the 60s – Lou Rawls for one – were giving their songs long spoken-word intros. And stretching out a hit single onstage with a long vamp has been a popular device ever since soul music began. This was the first studio album to do that. Hayes had been a Stax Records producer (and Booker T. Jones’ double on organ in the duplicate version of Booker T. & the MGs, who toured when Booker T., or even the whole band, were busy elsewhere) since the early 60s; this was his second album. There are four tracks here. A sprawling fuzztone guitar version of Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By – a smash for Dionne Warwick – clocks in at twelve minutes. The extended wah funk groove Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic goes on for almost ten and has been sampled by a million rappers. Side two has the gospel piano-driven One Woman and a practically twenty-minute version of Jimmy Webb’s By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Millions remember Hayes as the voice of Chef on South Park, or for the Shaft soundtrack, but was his finest moment – and a bedroom album that predates Barry White by a few years. Here’s a random torrent.

August 29, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Egypt Noir

This isn’t a guy in a black trenchcoat stalking his way down a grey Cairo back alley in 4 AM drizzle – but it is definitely an urban album. When Cairo was flooded by Nubians from the countryside in the 1960s and 70s, it was something akin to the northward journey of American blacks to cities like New York and Chicago – they brought their music with them. The resulting collision between their rural music, the levantine sounds popular in the big city, and late 60s American R&B produced just as auspicious a hybrid as American blues. The brand-new Egypt Noir compilation arrives just in time for summer – it’s party music, perfect for dancing your way across the rooftop, or the lawn if you’re somewhere where there are lawns. Most of these songs rattle along with a hypnotically swaying, clickety-clack beat, part snake dance, part Bo Diddley.

Ali Hassan Kuban, popularly known as the godfather of urban Nubian music, is represented by a duet with Salwa Abou Greisha (who also graces the album with a viscerally wrenching vocal improvisation on another track), and by a long, slightly Fela-esque jam whose blaring string synthesizer threatens to push the rest of the band off the rails. Kuban’s Alnubia Band mine this same vein with a wah guitar-and-horns-driven Afrobeat jam. With its oompah-style horns, Hager by Fathi Abou Greisha (father of Salwa) takes on an almost gypsy feel; Yanas Baridouh, by Salma sounds like Booker T & the MGs teleported back in time to a Zanzibar taraab bar circa 1930. The single best song on the compilation is by Sayed Khalifa, whose Samra Oya stretches out a hazy world reggae groove remarkably evocative of Corner Soul by the Clash, bubbly Hammond organ and American soul vocal inflections. And Hassan Abdel Aziz’ Elleya Misafir could be a Bill Withers or Isaac Hayes jam with that clattering beat and vocals in Arabic. Definitely music to free your bootay – your mind will be close behind. It’s just out on Piranha Musik.

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Jump Back Jake – Brooklyn Hustle/Memphis Muscle

Damn, this is a good album. With their first release in decades, Ardent Music, the newly reactivated Memphis label that launched Big Star has definitely got back on the good foot. On their debut cd, retro funky soul band Jump Back Jake will win fans from the camp that discovered soul music from people like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Eli “Paperboy” Reed or Robert Cray as well as anybody lucky (or old) enough to have discovered this stuff the first time around. Fans of the Bar-Kays, Howard Tate, James Brown and Isaac Hayes’  Hot Buttered Soul album are in for a treat here. These guys really know their stuff, moving effortlessly from slinky Booker T organ groove to jangly Curtis Mayfield balladry to straight-up 60s funk, with a more aggressive, early 70s style blues guitar edge. The horn arrangements are gorgeously, sparingly retro, bringing out every bit of longing or bravado in a sax or trombone line. Frontman/guitarist Jake Rabinbach (who also mystifyingly moonlights as a sideman in one of the suckiest bands on the planet, 80s top 40 imitators Francis & the Lights) plays with soul and swing, unafraid to light up a song with a big incisive crescendo but never sinking into whiteboy wankiness.

The cd’s first track works a vintage Steve Cropper style guitar vamp with a nasty blues touch, setting the tone for the rest of the cd. The single best cut on the album is the second cut, The Flood, a slow, slinky organ groove that jumps to doublespeed and then brings it down to a sweetly dark horn chart, adding voices at the end before gracefully taking it down to just the trombone. Attempts at a beautiful, jangly, midtempo Curtis Mayfield soul ballad and a late 60s Charlie Rich country shuffle are rousingly successful. The big 6/8 kiss-off ballad teleports Blonde on Blonde to 1974 with more aggressive blues guitar: “You can be queen of the ice and snow,” Rabinach snarls. With its rapidfire, aphoristic vocal line and clever lyrics, the upbeat Pay Out on the Front End beautifully mines a late 60s vein. There’s also a ballad that builds to a big gospel vamp, another one that sounds like a rewrite of She Caught the Katy and a big, rousing number wherein Rabinach mysteriously goes on and on how he wants to be like Samson, “And I would give everything to the ladies like Delilah downtown.” The album ends on a radically different note, proving the band equally adept at early 70s Badfinger-style powerpop, right down to a neat George Harrison-esque guitar solo. The only miss here is aptly titled Terrible Mistakes, proof positive – as if you really need it – that vintage soul and the Jonas Bros. don’t mix.

It seems there are two Jakes in the band, Rabinbach recently off on the road with the other band, although all indications are that this will be a brief hiatus. In the meantime, the band continues to tour as a trio. They have all sorts of goodies available including free live mp3s from a recent Minglewood Hall show. Watch for this on our Best Albums of 2009 list at the end of the year.

May 20, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment