Music

Music: The Naukabout Music Festival

By Scott McLennan   |   Friday, August 10, 2012
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August 10, 2012

Ryan Monbleau Band

The Naukabout Music Festival in East Falmouth is testament to how fertile our musical fields are here in the Bay State.

First there is the festival itself, which has blossomed over the past five years into a nice regional attraction, boasting two stages of music, tie-ins with other Cape Cod cultural organizations, such as the Woods Hole Film Festival and Little Beach art gallery, and a growing roster of affiliated musicians.

Ryan Montbleau has been there just about every step of the way. Like the festival itself, Montbleau has made artistic leaps over the past five years. He is now a well-qualified Naukabout headliner, taking on the role for the second straight year.

“Now it’s like family. I think I’m grandfathered in,” says Montbleau, laughing when asked if he would be offended if the festival didn’t call. “It feels good to see how they’ve grown as we’ve grown. It’s a great vibe every year.”

The Naukabout Festival takes place Saturday, August 11, at Barnstable County Fairgrounds in East Falmouth. In addition to the Ryan Montbleau Band, the festival features John Brown’s Body, the Adam Ezra Group, Dune Billy All-Stars, Will Evans of Barefoot Truth, Will Dailey, Tall Heights, Jeff Conley Band, and Baker Thomas Band featuring Danielle Miraglia; in other words, it’s a smorgasbord of Mass-bred rock with reggae, folk, chamber-pop, funk and R&B coloring the mix.

“In past years we had Bela Fleck and Rusted Root come in as headliners, but we really want to showcase what’s happening right around here,” says Peter Murner, one of Naukabout Festival’s directors.

Naukabout is a Cape-based lifestyle brand responsible for both the festival and a line of craft beers. One of the festival’s green initiatives this year is the use of solar energy to power the side stage. The second stage was previously more of busking enclave on the fest grounds, but this year will it have a bit more juice to amp up sets by Evans (OK, he’s from Connecticut, but has certainly been lighting up local stages with Barefoot Truth in the past few years), Conley, Tall Heights, and the Thomas band.

Montbleau arrives at Naukabout with the new album For Higher in tow. It’s a project he recorded in New Orleans with some of that city’s hottest players, including guitarist Anders Osborne, keyboard player Ivan Neville, drummer Simon Lott and bassist George Porter Jr. from the legendary Meters.

“I was dancing in the vocal booth,” Montbleau says. “I’m just a kid from Peabody. What am I doing in New Orleans making a record with a member of the Meters?”

Well, for one thing, capitalizing on a ton of hard work. The Ryan Montbleau Band has been a grass roots phenomenon, getting better every year at honing its funky, R&B pop tunes. Word-of-mouth raves fuel the fan-base expansion, which really revealed itself when Montbleau made an online appeal for funds to make For Higher. Montbleau reached his goal 30 days into a 60-day PledgeMusic campaign.

For Higher sprung from Montbleau’s songwriting contributions to a Trombone Shorty album produced by Galactic’s Ben Ellman. Ellman then lined up recording sessions for Montbleau and some NOLA elites, knocking out two days of studio work after the 2011 Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

Montbleau says his regular band was supportive of the solo project and it is interesting watching the tunes take new shapes now the he is playing them with the guys he has been with for years.

“We have something I couldn’t just pull off on the fly,” he says. “We’re digging deep into this material, and we’ve started working on new stuff too.”

So when Naukabout checks in for year six, Montbleau will likely be ready with fresh goods.

Tickets are on sale at www.naukabout.com for $29 and will be $39 at the gate. Kids under 12 and with an adult get in for free, and there is a whole area of kids activities at the fest, which runs noon to 10 p.m.

Music: The Heart of Metal Beats in Worcester

By Scott McLennan   |   Thursday, August 9, 2012
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August 10, 2012

Cannibal Corpse

There was a palpitation in the Heart of the Commonwealth when it looked like not just a great old building but a whole thriving musical subculture faced the wrecking ball.

Aggravated by a sharp increase in their property taxes, owners of the Worcester Palladium began the process of seeking demolition permits to take down the theater erected in 1928 as part of the E.M. Loew’s chain. The Worcester Historical Commission in July refused to fast-track the process, citing the Palladium’s historical and cultural significance to the city.

And why the Palladium matters so much will be on display tonight when the Summer Slaughter tour rolls into the building with nationally touring acts Cannibal Corpse, Between the Buried and Me, The Faceless and others, plus a whole second stage of heavy metal bands from Massachusetts and neighboring locales. It’s classic Palladium, turning a tour into an event, one that brings in bands defining a genre–in this case extreme heavy metal–and nurturing the ones who are constantly reshaping the genre. It’s a dynamic no different than the one I saw last week at the Newport Jazz Festival.

It’s an especially interesting time for aggressive music right now, as the gunman accused of opening fire this week in a Sikh temple has been identified as being part of the “hate metal” movement. Metal of all stripes is brutal, aggressive music. However, I have never seen outright “hate” pouring from the stage or stewing in the crowd as I’ve covered the metal scene for nearly 20 years. The metal world is certainly a bit removed from mainstream cultural spotlights, and it’s easy to see how bad things can foment in those shadows. Yet hate is not an aesthetic value among serious musicians, and the metal mavens driving the genre are as serious as the musicians working other types of purer, less commercially conscious strains of music, from jazz to folk.

In the mid ’90s, the Palladium underwent a rebirth when independent concert producer MassConcerts set up shop in the building. At the time, Boston venues ignored metal bands, focusing instead on the various waves of grunge and alternative rock that were far more popular. A casual observer would have surmised that metal was dead.

But there is no killing this beast as long as there are guitars that plug into amplifiers and people who like to vent. MassConcerts worked closely with metal bands, bringing them into the centrally located Palladium and slowly fostering a scene that blossomed into the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, an annual barometer of all things heavy, which draws an international audience to the venue. This year alone, I met fans from England and Australia.

Nobody travels that far for hate. They come for release.

Heavy metal music fans at the Palladium (photo by Sam McLennan.)

Sure, Cannibal Corpse sings horrifying lyrics, but the presentation is akin to a horror movie, not a manifesto. Musically the metal bands are forever pushing the boundaries. Between the Buried and Me plays the sort of intricate, multi-tiered music that pulls the Berklee kids to the edges of the mosh pit.

And, yes, those slam-dancing DMZs at a metal show do look dangerous, but again, it’s a controlled aggression. Bodies collide, but punches are rarely thrown, and when it does look like something is turning into trouble, fans themselves inevitably step in to stop it. I’ve seen a singer dive into the crowd, lose his wallet in the process, crawl back to the stage, sheepishly ask if someone found it, and get it returned a few minutes later.

My falling into the metal world still perplexes those who knew me back when I blasted Grateful Dead all day and all night (still much love for Jerry and the boys). But covering music for a newspaper in Worcester for so long unwittingly led me into one of metal’s primo cauldrons. It did not take long to find the brains and beauty belied by the outwardly brawny and thuggish characteristics of the music. It’s almost like the music taunts you to turn away, unless you are willing to really listen to what’s going on¬–the writing, the arranging, the technicality of it all. And like any good art form, those willing to take the risk are often met with a satisfying reward. This reward here just happens to be very loud.

Summer Slaughter begins at 2:00 p.m. today. For ticket information, go online to tickets.com.

Music: Jaimoe, Jazz, and The Allman Brothers

By Scott McLennan   |   Tuesday, August 7, 2012
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August 7, 2012

Jaimoe with The Allman Brothers Band (l-r: Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes,
Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, Jaimoe, Marc Quiñones, and Oteil Burbridge.)

When 20-year-old Jai Johanny Johanson was living in California working as a drummer in singer Ted Taylor’s band, he returned home one day with an armful of records.

“They were all records by sax players, and my friend asked, ‘Where are the drummers?’ and I told him, ‘On these records.’ It was like a surprise to him; he thought I would be listening to just drummers, but I’ve never been like that,” recalls the man now better known as Jaimoe.

Sure he’s an unflappable and slinky rhythm keeper, etching little sonic flourishes into the Allman Brothers Band’s music since its founding in 1969, but Jaimoe is also an outright musical omnivore. He’s the guy who instructs young Allman Brothers Band recruits to study Miles Davis’ “All Blues” if they wanted to understand the ABB’s own composition “Dreams.” And he’s the 68-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who still feels compelled to lead his own group, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, whenever the Allmans are off the road.

This summer, we get a Jaimoe double shot. First, he pulls into the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston for a two-night stand with the Allmans on August 7 and 8. Then Jaimoe returns with the Jasssz Band on August 18 for the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival, a free two-day event at the Willows.

Those who’ve seen Jaimoe at work know that he does much with little. Unlike many rock drummers, he keeps a simple kit and a few percussion instruments. Working with fellow drummer Butch Trucks on the Allmans’ signature duel-drummer sound (and since 1991, triple-drummer sound with the addition of percussion player and salsa vet Marc Quiñones), Jaimoe adds the nuance while Trucks forges the grooves. Jaimoe says he first modeled his role after that of an orchestra’s percussion section.

Jaimoe (photo source: www.jaimoe.com.)

Four years ago, he branched out with the Jasssz band, which took shape when Jaimoe met blues guitarist Junior Mack. The Jasssz Band was fleshed out with the addition of keys and a horn section, and late last year released its first studio album, Renaissance Man. The disc is a nice blend of seven originals and fresh arrangements of “Rainy Night in Georgia,” “Leaving Trunk” and the Allmans staple “Melissa.”

Jaimoe, who makes his home in Connecticut, says that Boston embraced the Allman Brothers Band ever since the group ventured from its Georgia base in the early 1970s. At the time, the band’s interracial lineup was as radical as its sound, and Northern outposts such as Boston and New York City were important incubators and remain strongholds.

Jaimoe, who began his career on the R&B circuit working with the likes of Otis Redding, says that contrary to popular belief, he did not leave his native Mississippi because of racial strife.

“It had nothing to do with ‘back of the bus stuff.’ I was actually making $500 a week in Mississippi, which was great money back then. But all of my friends were leaving for one reason or other. A lot went to Vietnam. One guy told me I should check out Duane Allman who was working at Muscle Shoals [studio in Alabama].” And that is how he encountered the guitar hero who later died in a 1971 motorcycle crash.

And that initial meeting locked in one piece of the puzzle that became the Allman Brothers Band, which today includes founders Gregg Allman, Trucks, and Jaimoe with guitarists Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, bassist Oteil Burbridge and percussion player Quiñones.

The ever spry Jaimoe says he and the other old-timers in the group will keep playing as long as they have the drive to do so, and he likes to remind people of how he broke into the business.

“People today say, ‘Oh man, you guys play such great shows and the music is so intense,’ but with all due respect to Warren, Derek and Oteil, we used to do that three times a day,” he says, letting a little chuckle punctuate the reminiscence.

Ticket information for the Allman Brothers Band’s concerts is available online at www.livenation.com. Information on the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival is available at www.salemjazzsoul.com.



Music: Boston Landmarks Orchestra Aims For 20/20 Musical Vision

By Kris Wilton   |   Thursday, August 2, 2012
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August 2, 2012

Boston Landmarks Orchestra (photo courtesy of Harron & Associates.)

As familiar as I am with the arts scene here in Boston, I’m always impressed how many free offerings there are to take advantage of, and how many include educational or outreach components.

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra [BLO] is a perfect example. A professional orchestra, the ensemble exists to maximize accessibility to music. This year, in addition to its regular series of free performances at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, many of them collaborations with other area ensembles, the orchestra is premiering “Notes in the Neighborhoods,” an initiative that dispatches musicians to summer programs and camps in the city’s various neighborhoods, bringing kids to concerts there or at the Hatch Shell.

The goal is “20/20 Vision”: “By the year 2020,” music director Christopher Wilkins writes on the orchestra’s site, the BLO “will provide all residents of Boston’s 20 diverse neighborhoods opportunities to be involved in its programs both at the Hatch Shell and in the neighborhoods.”

On Friday August 3, Wilkins will take students at the Yawkey Club of Roxbury on “a ‘Caribbean Cruise’ through the culture of several Latin American nations,” he told me, giving them “the opportunity to play percussion instruments while exploring countless features of rhythm in music.” Among the works on the program is a commissioned work by Gonzalo Grau called Viaje (Voyage).

“We know that in many cases we are collaborating with children who have no formal musical training,” Wilkins told me. “The wonderful thing about Viaje is that it invites children to bring their own experiences to the music. Some sing, some dance, some play musical instruments. Some are of Dominican or Puerto Rican descent, and know these traditions from their upbringing. And every child can relate to the joy and vitality of these songs and dances, which are now popular throughout the world.”

The Maestro Zone led by Benjamin Vickers
(photo courtesy of Harron & Associates.)

Meanwhile, the regular programming continues. Next Wednesday in the Hatch Shell is a co-production with the Boston Lyric Opera, Around the World in 80 Minutes.  A “sweeping operatic journey” with stops in France, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and Sri Lanka, the concert features excerpts of works by Puccini, Wagner, Mozart, and Bernstein, many drawn from the Opera’s upcoming season.

On August 15, the orchestra joins with the Longwood Symphony Orchestra for an all-Mozart program; August 22 it will highlight its own musicians as soloists; and August 29 it will present Symphonic Shakespeare, in which Shakespearean actors perform excerpts from Henry V, Hamlet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to music composed for those plays.

For a full concert schedule, go to http://www.landmarksorchestra.org/.


Music Preview: Newport Jazz Festival Flaunts Today's Talent

By Scott McLennan   |   Wednesday, August 1, 2012
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August 1, 2012

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi: Tedeschi Tucks Band

At first blush, the venerable Newport Jazz Festival ostensibly looks like a guitar-lover’s dream. Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, and Derek Trucks, three of the planet’s finest guitar players, are prominently featured at this weekend’s fest.

But in a conversation with Danny Melnick, one of the festival’s producers, he has us rethink the programming, pointing to pianist Jason Moran, drummers Dafnis Prieto and John Hollenbeck, bassist Christian McBride, saxophone player Rudresh Mahanthappa, and singer Kurt Elling.

“We have the legends like Pat Metheny and Dianne Reeves, who are still pushing the boundaries. But we also have many young people, musicians in their 20s through 40s, who are composers, band leaders, and great players. They are bringing their perspectives into what jazz is today,” Melnick says. “The Newport Jazz Festival wants to endorse and embrace what is happening in jazz today and show other venues and festivals that these are the artists that deserve a spot on the big stage.”

The Newport Jazz Festival begins Friday evening in the International Tennis Hall of Fame with a concert featuring New Orleans greats, Dr. John and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, plus their respective guest artists. The action then moves to Rhode Island’s Fort Adams State Park for programs on Saturday and Sunday that run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Three stages are at the fort, with the main stage facing out toward the ocean, a tented “Quad Stage” inside the fort which mimics a concert hall, and the intimate “Harbor Stage” designed to replicate the night-club vibe. And the cool thing is that artists are creatively distributed among the stages. There are no real pecking orders in play-- you’ll find titans such as sax player Joe Lovano playing on the Harbor Stage and the legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette celebrating his 70th birthday with an all-star band on the Quad Stage, while young gun Darcy James Argue brings his Secret Society big band to the main stage.

Melnick says that assembling the weekend’s jazz jigsaw puzzle takes into account several factors: What kinds of energy do you need on the main stage? Where is the best place to accommodate the big bands? Which bands will benefit from fans packed in close to the stage?

The festival is also rolling the dice, not only having the Tedeschi Trucks Band headline on Sunday, but also giving them a full two-hour set. Led by the husband-and-wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, the 11-piece TTB is a juggernaut more commonly found on the jam-band and rock circuits. But there is no mistaking the jazz elements in the Tedeschi Trucks combo, which cushions Trucks’s guitar work in a smartly arranged horn section and features sumptuous vocal parts, led by Tedeschi.

“Derek is one of the great improvisers, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about,” Melnick says, noting that George Wein, who founded the jazz festival in 1954, has been championing Trucks’s career and was hoping to land the guitar firebrand at jazz fest. “Derek and Susan met George at his apartment and when they found out he wanted them for Jazz Fest, they called the rest of the band and they couldn’t believe it. These are musicians immersed in jazz and excited to be at a jazz festival.”

Newport Jazz’s close cousin, the Newport Folk Festival, has seen a nice rebirth in recent years with younger crowds and younger bands claiming the historic event as part of their own culture. Newport Jazz seems poised to do the same.

Newport Jazz Festival runs August 3 - 5; ticket and schedule information is available online at newportjazzfest.net.

Summer Arts Weekend: Poncho Sanchez Brings Latin Soul to Boston

By Bridgit Brown   |   Thursday, July 26, 2012
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July 26, 2012

Poncho Sanchez (photo: ponchosanchez.com.)

Poncho Sanchez is known as "El Conguero," or as he puts it, "The guy who plays the congas." His ensemble takes the stage at the Boston Summer Arts Weekend on Saturday evening. For nearly 40 years, Sanchez has performed on numerous stages throughout the world, earned a Grammy, and has even given birth to his own form of jazz, which he calls "Jazz soul." In a telephone conversation this week, he spoke with me about the fundamentals of Latin jazz, how to properly play the congas, his concerns about the future of jazz, and what to expect at his performance in Copley Square. He also discussed the inspiration for his latest CD, Chano y Dizzy, a tribute to two of his influences, Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie.

What makes Latin jazz what it is?

Latin jazz involves Latin percussion instruments. It involves the conga drum, the timbales, the bongos, the maracas, güiros, and all other Latin instruments. It has Latin rhythms but it also has an American jazz influence. In my band, for instance, I play conga, and I have a bongo player, a timbale player, and when I sing I play the hand percussions, like the maracas and the güiro, and the shakers to give it that Latin flavor. When we play a number, usually a mambo, cha-cha-cha, bolero, or a meringue, we do it with Latin rhythm and Latin dances. I also have three horn players in the band, a trombone player, a trumpet player, and a saxophonist. We do a lot of jazz melodies with a Latin rhythm underneath.

What does the future of jazz look like to you?

That’s a tough question. Jazz, I’m very proud to say, is our music. If you were born in the United States of America, this is your music. It was born right here. Latin jazz was also born in the United States of America, when Chano Pozo met Dizzy Gillespie in New York City. I’m glad that it’s ours.

For me, jazz is music that you have to really listen to and you have to know something about it to understand what we’re doing up there, because we’re actually playing a little more sophisticated chord changes, and melodies, and harmonies, and all of that. So it’s a little more advanced, I would say, and there’s plenty of room for more fans.
We also play salsa. Salsa involves singing in Spanish and dancing, so there’s a lot of Latino people who come out to our concerts and they dance and enjoy our music. AND, with the fact that I grew up in Los Angeles in the 50s, I love soul music, and I have adapted soul music to our Latin jazz, which I call “Latin soul” music. I do some James Brown songs, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding songs, but with a Latin groove.

What can we expect to hear at your performance at the Boston Summer Arts Weekend?

We will play some of the songs from Chano y Dizzy, my latest CD. I also always like to reach back and do some of the older tunes that people always request. There are some standards that people always ask for every time I play, like “Watermelon Man,” which we recorded twice. We’ll do a combination of our older favorites and some of the new tunes also.

I interviewed Terrance Blanchard last year, when Chano y Dizzy was first released. I love this CD. How did it come about?

That CD came about when my manager suggested that I do a tribute to Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie. Chano was a great Cuban conga drummer who was also a good writer. He and Dizzy got together in the early 40s in New York City and they started writing songs together. Chano was only on the American scene for about three years because he was murdered in the Rio Café in Spanish Harlem in the early 50s. There are many songs he wrote that I knew he had left us, and there were many songs that Dizzy Gillespie had written and became jazz standards, like “Night in Tunisia,” which I recorded before, and “Manteca,” a song that Chano and Dizzy Gillespie wrote together. They also wrote a song called “Tin Tin Deo.” I also do the medley of that on Chano y Dizzy, which includes all of the above as well as the very famous “Guachi Guaro” that Cal Tjader wrote. So I basically play the part of Chano Pozo on the CD, and when they asked me who I wanted to play the part of Dizzy, they started naming all of the great trumpet players in the United States. Then Terrance Blanchard’s name came up, and he had recorded with us before and had been our guest on other dates. I knew him and I knew that he was a great trumpet player and a great composer and writer.

What do you do when you’re not performing?

For me, nowadays, I love to be at home with my family in Los Angeles. I’ve been doing this for close to 40 years, and so when I have time off, I enjoy swimming in the pool at home and I also go deep sea fishing from time to time.

Poncho Sanchez’s performance begins at 5:45pm on Saturday, July 28, 2012.

About the Authors
Scott McLennan Scott McLennan
Scott McLennan is a music correspondent for the Boston Globe and former entertainment columnist for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. His work as taken him from the Newport Folk Festival to the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival and many musical points in between. Scott also writes about skiing for Hawthorn Publications.
Kris Wilton Kris Wilton
Kris is a freelance arts journalist who has contributed reported pieces and reviews to outlets including the Huffington Post, Slate.com, Artinfo.com, Modern Painters, Art+Auction, Art New England, New England Home, Entertainment Weekly, the Village Voice, Bostonist.com, ARTnews, Philadelphia Weekly, Emerging Photographer, Photo District News, and RL Magazine.
Bridgit Brown Bridgit Brown
Bridgit Brown is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Emerson College ('98). She was a Fulbright Lecturing and Research Scholar in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, and her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Bay State Banner, Color Magazine, BasicBlack.org: Black Perspectives Now, Colorlines of Architecture, Exhale Magazine, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and Somerville Review.

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