Tuesday, October 15, 2013

John McLaughlin ... Risk, Magic and Mystery

John McLaughlin Fusion World Music
John McLaughlin

He’s probably the greatest musician-to date. One of fusion's most virtuosic guitar soloists, John McLaughlin placed his blazing speed in the service of a searching spiritual passion that has kept his music evolving and open to new influences. Whether shredding on electric or simmering quietly on acoustic, McLaughlin's intensity and underappreciated versatility have nearly always kept his playing vital, and his best moments -- whether as a solo artist or band member -- represent some of fusion's greatest recordings.

McLaughlin was born January 4, 1942, in Yorkshire, England, and began playing guitar at age 11. Initially attracted to blues and swing, he worked with British artists like Georgie Fame, Graham Bond, Brian Auger, and Ginger Baker. McLaughlin formed his own band in 1968, and recorded the excellent debut Extrapolation in early 1969. Later that year he moved to New York to join Tony Williams' groundbreaking fusion band Lifetime, and appeared on the classic Emergency! Through Williams, McLaughlin was invited to join Miles Davis' band, and became an important part of fusion landmarks like In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. In 1970, wanting to explore acoustic and Eastern music, McLaughlin recorded the classic My Goal's Beyond; he soon left Davis, and after one further solo album, Devotion, McLaughlin spent some time woodshedding.

He re-emerged in 1971 as leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a seminal band that did much to define and popularize early jazz-rock fusion, as evidenced by the albums The Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire, and Visions of the Emerald Beyond. Pausing to record Love Devotion Surrender with Carlos Santana in 1972, McLaughlin led Mahavishnu until 1975. Returning to spiritual preoccupations on My Goal's Beyond, he then formed Shakti, which fused acoustic jazz with Indian music over the course of three albums. McLaughlin returned to his solo career in the late '70s, forming a backing outfit called the One Truth Band, and also recording the guitar trio albums Friday Night in San Francisco and Passion, Grace & Fire with fellow fusion burner Al di Meola and flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. As the '80s went along, McLaughlin experimented with classical-jazz hybrid composing; there was also a short-lived Mahavishnu reunion in the mid-'80s.
In the 1990s McLaughlin continued to record steadily in both electric and acoustic groups. He signed to Verve, where he would remain for 13 years. Some of the more notable albums from that period include the acoustic Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans in 1993; After the Rain with Elvin Jones and Joey DeFrancesco in 1995; and 1996's The Promise, which featured the guitarist in a number of settings, including a reunion with his acoustic trio partners di Meola and de Lucia, and a trio with DeFrancesco and drummer Dennis Chambers. The drummer was also a part of McLaughlin's final album of the decade, Heart of Things, a furious bout of electric jazz.

The 21st century found McLaughlin in another nostalgic mood, releasing Remember Shakti: The Believer, a live set featuring the guitarist (playing electric guitar) with electric mandolinist U. Shrinivas, kanjira and ghatam player V. Selvaganesh, and legendary tabla player Zakir Hussain. While it wasn't a Shakti album proper, it nonetheless echoed that group's intricate and amazing rhythmic and harmonic breakthroughs. The group toured and released Saturday Night in Bombay a year later. McLaughlin's Euro-classical-leaning Thieves and Poets appeared in 2003. In 2004, WEA in Germany issued the massive 17-CD box set of McLaughlin's Montreux Concerts, which featured performances recorded between 1974 and 1996. Industrial Zen, released in 2006, was a mixed-bag recording where the guitarist's ambitions ran wild. It was his final album for Verve.

John McLaughlin World Music Guitar
John McLaughlin

In 2008 McLaughlin issued Floating Point, an extension of many of the concepts on Industrial Zen, on the Abstract Logix imprint. The final track on that album was entitled "Five Peace Band"; it served as the name for a super group assembled by McLaughlin and Chick Corea for a one-off world tour. The other members were saxophonist Kenny Garrett, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and bassist Christian McBride; an album of the same name was released in 2009 on Concord. To the One, a studio album with his 4th Dimension band was released on Abstract Logix in the spring of 2010. McLaughlin resurfaced two years later with Now Here This, featuring new 4th Dimension drummer, Ranjit Barot.

"I'm a guitar player that's what I am primarily, that's what I'll always be," McLaughlin has been quoted as saying. "(And) I'm an eternal learner. I don't want to stop learning because I feel that no matter what I've done, I'm really just beginning again. I don't think I'll ever stop learning."

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Zakir Hussain - Hands that Speak

Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla maestro
Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla Maestro

He needs no introduction. He is, undoubtedly, the best tabla player in the world. With numerous national and international awards and accolades to his credit, he is a national treasure, not only in India, but worldwide. His consistent and brilliant performances mark him as India's greatest classical musicians. This genius is Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla maestro who has contributed largely to the field of percussion and music at international levels. Being the youngest percussion to be honored with civilian awards from the Indian Government, this exceptionally talented and highly celebrated musician is a music encyclopedia in him. Since childhood, Zakir Hussain has continuously imparted his formidable knowledge and study to the music world, and has not let it rest till date. Along with his legendary father and teacher, Ustad Allarakha, he has elevated the status of his instrument. A favorite accompanist for India’s leading classical musicians and dancers, Zakir is also widely recognized as a chief architect of the world music movement with his many historic collaborations, including Shakti, Remember Shakti, Diga, Planet Drum and his ever-changing musical feast, Masters of Percussion. In summer 2012, Zakir was named Best Percussionist in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll.

Early Life

Zakir Hussain was born in Mumbai, Maharashtra, to the legendary and established tabla player, Alla Rakha, and Bavi Begum. He attained his schooling from St. Michael's High School, Mahim and later completed his graduation from St. Xavier's, Mumbai. Being a born prodigy, Hussain started touring the world for his tabla performances, ever since he turned 12. His international career began in 1970 from the United States, wherein he had over 150 concert dates a year to handle.

Career in Music
Zakir Hussain has worked with many western and Indian artists but out of the most notably known productions of his, the highly celebrated are the Beatles. After he set his footsteps on foreign lands in 1970, there was no looking back for Hussain. In 1971, he collaborated with the American psychedelic band called Shanti to produce an album. He even made an appearance on George Harrison's album titled 'Living in the Material World' in 1973. He joined hands with John McLaughlin to form the band Shakti and work on Indo-Jazz projects, which proved fruitful. This partnership resulted in the production of several albums, namely, 'Shakti' (1975), 'A Handful of Beauty' (1976), and 'Natural Elements' (1977). Hussain has even worked with the eminent musicologist and drummer Mickey Hart on various projects, beginning with Hart's first solo album 'Rolling Thunder'. This partnership worked well, which was evident from the numerous albums they created together, like 'Diga', 'At The Edge', 'Planet Drum', 'Mickey Hart's Mystery Box', 'Supralingua', 'Spirit into Sound', and 'Global Drum Project'.

The honor of Padma Shri, one of India's civilian honors, made Hussain the youngest percussion to be awarded with this prestigious title. In April 1991, Hussain became one of the youngest musicians to be felicitated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the President of India in recognition from India's governing cultural institute. Besides, Hussain is also fortunate to have been associated with several bands of Hart, including 'Diga Rhythm Band', 'Planet Drum', 'Bembe Orishas', and 'Global Drum Project'. The first album released by Planet Drum went on to win the first Grammy Award in the category 'Best World Music Album' in 1992. After a break of about 20 years, Hussain rejoined again with McLaughlin in the band Remember Shakti; thus, coming up with prolific and highly acclaimed albums - 'Remember Shakti' (1999), 'The Believer' (2000), 'Saturday Night in Bombay' (2001), 'Live at 38th Montreux Jazz Festival' (2004), and 'Live at Miles Davis Hall'(2004). In 2002, Hussain was yet again felicitated with the third highest civilian honor, Padma Bhushan.

Ustad Zakir Hussain, the legendary tabla maestro
Zakir Hussain tabla maestro

Career in Films
Apart from delivering live performances and recording music albums, Hussain has also gained fame in the field of films. He starred and composed music for the 1983 film 'Heat and Dust'. This was followed by composing, performing, and acting in the Malayalam film 'Vanaprastham' as an Indian music advisor, in 1999. The same year, the movie was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI Fest). The film went on to win awards in 2000 at Istanbul International Film Festival (Turkey), Bombay International Film Festival (India), and National Film Awards (India). He has composed soundtracks for 'In Custody', 'The Mystic Masseur', and 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer', apart from playing tabla on the soundtracks of 'Apocalypse Now', 'Little Buddha', and many others.

Personal Life
Zakir Hussain has been married to the distinguished Kathak dancer and student of Sitara Devi, Antonia Minnecola, an Italian American. The couple has two daughters, Anisa Qureshi and Isabella Qureshi. Anisa is a graduate from UCLA and works as a filmmaker and video producer. His younger daughter, Isabella is doing her majors in dance in Manhattan. Hussain has two younger brothers, Fazal Qureshi and Taufiq Qureshi, both noted percussionists, and a younger sister, Khurshid Aulia nee Qureshi.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Al Di Meola - The Elegant Gypsy

Al Di Meola gypsy guitar
Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola (born Al Laurence Dimeola, July 22, 1954 in Jersey City, New Jersey) is an acclaimed American jazz fusion and Latin jazz guitarist, composer, and record producer of Italian origin (from Cerreto Sannita). With a musical career that has spanned more than three decades; he has become respected as one of the most influential guitarists in jazz to date. Albums such as Friday Night in San Francisco have earned him both artistic and commercial success with a solid fan base throughout the world.

"If you don't advance creatively," Al Di Meola once told Guitar Player's Jim Ferguson, "then all you have left is playing Vegas." From his stunning arrival on the scene as the fiery virtuoso in Chick Corea's jazz fusion group Return to Forever to his international acclaim as the member of an acoustic guitar trio, to his championing of the musical legacy of tango master Astor Piazzolla, guitarist Di Meola has held firm to this credo. Passionate, opinionated, and immensely gifted, he has covered more musical terrain in his 20-year career than many artists have in a lifetime. Di Meola's accomplishments are made all the more remarkable by the fact that he has achieved them on both electric and acoustic instruments. Outwardly the electric guitar might seem similar to its acoustic counterpart talented performers on the two instruments have emerged from time to time, but few other artists have shown such a mastery of both or have been able to use them in such a wide variety of musical contexts.

As a youngster in the New Jersey town of Bergenfield, some 20 minutes away from New York City, Di Meola's first musical experience was on drums. However, when he was eight he began taking lessons from a local guitarist named Robert Aslanian who introduced him to a wide variety of music. Di Meola's exposure to many different musical repertories would continue to inform his development as a guitar soloist.In the early 1970s Di Meola studied instrumental performance at Boston's Berklee School of Music and performed with keyboardist Barry Miles. It was a call from keyboardist Chick Corea in 1974, though, that truly set his career in motion. Corea, who a year earlier had founded a second version of his influential fusion group Return to Forever, heard tapes of Di Meola performing with Miles's group and found him a worthy replacement for Bill Connors, who had recently left the band. After only a few days of rehearsal, Di Meola made his Carnegie Hall debut with Corea's group, and the following night Return to Forever played for a crowd of 40,000 in Atlanta.

Over the next two years, Return to Forever continued to tour successfully and released three albums. When the group suddenly dissolved in 1976, Di Meola, who had just released his first solo album, Land of the Midnight Sun, was momentarily disoriented by the group's disbandment but decided to use the opportunity to pursue a solo career. Elegant Gypsy followed in 1977, and the album became Di Meola's first major commercial success, ultimately selling nearly a million copies.With Di Meola's developing popularity as a soloist came a certain amount of negative press. Though most writers agreed that Di Meola was a phenomenal technician on his instrument, a few felt that his pyrotechnics masked a lack of emotional content. The controversy reached a head when Di Meola first teamed with acoustic virtuosos John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia for a world tour and a live album, recorded in 1981. Though the album, Saturday Night in San Francisco, was hugely successful and won several awards, Stereo Review critic Joel Vance commented that the trio was so intent on displaying their virtuosity that "not one moment of real emotion is allowed; with all the dazzling zip, the result is sterility."

Al Di Meola
Al Di Meola

 After his second recording with Lucia and Mclaughlin in 1983, Di Meola began another important new phase of his career in 1991, when he founded the acoustic ensemble World Sinfonia. World Sinfonia included Dino Saluzzi on Piazzolla's own instrument, the bandoneon--a type of accordion--and sought to capture the intense emotion of Piazzolla's music in a fresh new setting. During the early 1990s the group toured extensively and recorded two critically acclaimed albums, the first featuring what Down Beat's Jon Andrews called Di Meola's "strongest acoustic work and most imaginative arrangements to date." World Sinfonia proved another intriguing chapter in a rich and varied career, and it seemed likely the future would find Al Di Meola following other musical paths with similar passion and vigor.

"I'm doing the music I like and it's a great high," Al once said. "I've established a following and now I want to reach more people." The excitement and challenge of his music in both acoustic and electric styles is proven with each new project he takes on, as every performance is, indeed, a tour de force!

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mickey Hart - Born with Drumsticks in his Hands

Michael Steven Hartman Mickey Hart
Michael Steven Hartman, best known as Mickey Hart

On September 11, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Steven Hartman, best known as Mickey Hart, was welcomed into the world by his mother, Leah. Mickey’s father, a drummer named Lenny, had left the picture by the time Mickey was born. Mickey was raised solely by his mother, also a drummer, but seemed to inherit musical talent from both of his parents. Mickey Hart soon made the move to California with his family. In 1965, after Hart was discharged from the Air Force, he went back to New York to look for work as a studio session drummer. Not long after, Hart received a letter from his father, inviting him to work in Lenny's drum shop. This combined with a chance encounter with a world-famous percussionist, fueled Hart’s love for the drums. While attending grade school, Hart and the other children were treated to a special performance by famed Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji. As was the norm for many of Olatunji’s school performances, the drummer allowed the children to come to the stage and try out the drums. Hart was one of the kids that took Olatunji up on his offer, and he was never the same again. Mickey Hart is best known for his nearly three decades as an integral part of an extraordinary expedition into the soul and spirit of music, disguised as the rock and roll band the Grateful Dead. As half of the percussion tandem known as the Rhythm Devils, Mickey and Bill Kreutzmann transcended the conventions of rock drumming. Their extended polyrhythmic excursions were highlights of Grateful Dead shows, introducing the band’s audience to an ever-growing arsenal of percussion instruments from around the world. Exposure to these exotic sounds fueled Mickey’s desire to learn about the various cultures that produced them.

His tireless study of the world’s music led Mickey to many great teachers and collaborators, including his partners in Planet Drum. Planet Drum’s self-titled album not only hit #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, remaining there for 26 weeks, it also received the Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1991– the first Grammy ever awarded in this category. Planet Drum is one of twenty-nine recordings released on Mickey’s the World Series on Rykodisc. The WORLD offers a wide variety of music from virtually every corner of the globe with releases like Voices of the Rainforest from Papua New Guinea and Living Art, Sounding Spirit: The Bali Sessions. In 2002, Mickey established The Endangered Music Fund to return royalty payments from many of these recordings to the indigenous people that produced them, and to further the preservation of sounds and music from around the globe.

Mickey’s experiences have paved the way for unique opportunities beyond the music industry. He composed a major drum production performed by an assembly of 100 percussionists for the opening ceremony of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Additionally, Mickey has composed scores, soundtracks and themes for movies and television including Apocalypse Now, Gang Related, Hearts of Darkness, The Twilight Zone, the 1987 score to The AmericaÍs Cup: The Walter Cronkite Report, Vietnam: A Television History, and The Next Step. In 1994 Mickey was inducted with The Grateful Dead into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Michael Steven Hartman Mickey Hart
Michael Steven Hartman Mickey Hart
Mickey has written four books documenting his lifelong fascination with the history and mythology of music. These include Drumming at the Edge of Magic, Planet Drum, Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music, and Songcatchers: In Search of the WorldÍs Music.Long a social activist, Mickey appeared in August, 1991 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, speaking on the healing value of drumming and rhythm on afflictions associated with aging. Since joining the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Hospital in 2000, Mickey is continuing his investigation into the connection between healing and rhythm, and the neural bases of rhythm.In 1999, Mickey was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress where he heads the sub-committee on the digitization and preservation of the Center’s vast collections. In October of 2000, the Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters upon Mickey for his work in advancing the preservation of aural archives.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jai Uttal …Music that creates bridges

Jai Uttal World Music
Jai Uttal

Jai Uttal is a pioneer in the world music community.  His eclectic east meets-west sound has put his music at the forefront of the world fusion movement. Jai Uttal's musical roots embrace a rich variety of cultures and traditions that span the globe and the centuries.  From the hillbilly music of the Appalachian Mountains to the passionate strains of Bengali street singers, from the haunting rhythms and melodies of ancient India to contemporary electric rock sounds, Jai's music distills the essence of diverse musical forms. Born in New York City in 1952, Uttal grew up in the music business -- his father worked for a record label, Jai's home was filled with music.  He began studying classical piano at the age of seven, and later learned to play old time banjo, harmonica, and guitar.  His musical interests encompassed a wide variety of styles, and over the years he experimented with many forms of musical expression. But his true spiritual epiphany came when he was 17 and first heard Indian music, which "touched my heart like sounds of my home," he said. "Then I got all the Indian albums I could, and jammed along on guitar with Ravi Shankar records.

Eventually this led him to the work of India's National Living Treasure, Ali Akbar Khan.  At the age of 19, Jai moved to California to become a student of Khansahib for traditional voice training and to learn the sarod, a 25-stringed Indian instrument.  Later he traveled to India where he was deeply inspired by the Bauls, the wandering street musicians of Bengal.  Jai settled among them, communicating only through music, which ultimately helped establish his unique style. During these early visits to India, Jai also met his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and spent time with many great beings of both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  He became deeply absorbed in the practice of kirtan, the ancient yoga of chanting, or singing to God.  This form of prayer became the core of his musical and spiritual life. When Jai returned to the US, his music had been transformed.  He continued to study Indian music diligently while also performing in reggae, motown, punk, and blues bands.  He also began leading kirtan groups all over the country.  The combination of Jai's exceptional vocals and exotic instrumentation produced a new and captivating sound.

In 1991 Triloka Records released his debut album, Footprints, featuring world music innovator Don Cherry and Indian vocalist Lakshmi Shankar.  The album received critical acclaim and led Jai and his band, the Pagan Love Orchestra, to international prominence.  By the time his second album, Monkey, was released in 1993, Jai and the Pagan Love Orchestra had an enormous fan base with a top ten record on the world music charts. In 1994, Beggars and Saints was released, a tribute to the Bauls of Bengal, and again the album received international recognition, solidifying Jai Uttal's position as world music visionary.  During this time, Jai also produced two CD's for his teacher Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.  Combining the brilliance of Khansahib's playing and composing with Western orchestration, Journey and Garden of Dreams became extremely popular in the Indian community.

Jai Uttal
Jai Uttal

Jai's fourth release, Shiva Station, was another leap forward. Capturing the raw urgency of his live performances with the Pagan Love Orchestra, and adding the mixing wizardry of veteran producer Bill Laswell, Shiva Station presented traditional chants in a totally new way.  The concerts at that time united the temple and the nightclub, the sacred and the worldly; emphasizing the underlying theme that spirituality and devotion can pervade all aspects of life. Meanwhile, with the rise of interest in Yoga, Jai was receiving more and more requests to lead kirtan workshops and concerts all over the world.  In the last few years, chanting has brought him to Israel, Fiji, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland and India.  Jai released a live kirtan CD entitled Nectar to begin to chronicle these powerful events. Finally in February of 2002, Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra released Mondo Rama on Narada Records.  The product of several years of deep musical and self-exploration, Mondo Rama has been called Jai's most personal expression to date.  Combining Brazilian influences, Hebrew prayers, Appalachian Blues, Beatles psychedelia, and, of course, Indian music and chants, Mondo Rama explodes from the speakers in celebration and rebirth.

"I went through many difficult heart-wrenching transformations in the last year", says Jai, "and I decided to put it all into this CD.  The anguish, the pain, the joy and the redemption. "Mondo Rama" means the World is Rama or Everything is God.  This CD is an attempt to express that feeling, and the sense of surrender and gratitude that I try to remember everyday". Mondo Rama went on to be nominated for a Grammy as “Best New Age Album” of 2002. Jai adds, "World music is music from everywhere.  Music that creates bridges.  Music that unites hearts and cultures.  Music that brings peace."

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Billy Cobham … Fusion’s Greatest Drummer

Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham

William C. (aka BILLY) COBHAM was born on May 16th, 1944 in Panama and moved to New York City when he was just three years old. When one looks at Billy's credentials (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, George Duke, Peter Gabriel and many more) it is easy to see he has been one of those important component in many musical situations. Flirting with congas and steel drums at the early age of five, Billy started his musical career. Ever since his breakthrough in the early 1970s-as a founding member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and as a drummer/leader whose recordings (such as Spectrum) and powerful, complex style of play exerted a strong influence on the course of jazz and jazz-fusion-Billy Cobham has remained a tireless musical explorer. He played his first gig with his dad when he was just eight, in New York, 5 years after moving from Panama in 1947.Beyond already having a superb musical ear and dynamic technique, he refined his musical education in the New York's High School of Music and Art, in which he learnt more drumming techniques and music theory. Panamanian by birth, a New Yorker by upbringing, and a resident of Switzerland for more than 25 years, Cobham has pursued an ever-broadening, ever-deepening engagement with the world not only as a master drummer and percussionist but as a composer, producer, educator, and clinician who gives service through music even as he constantly expands his personal creative expression.

His career as a jazz rock artist started with no other than the most talked-about jazz musician of the time: MILES DAVIS. He recorded five albums with Miles, including "Bitches Brew" (in which he was uncredited). After military service, during which he played in the U.S. Army Band as percussionist (1965-68), Cobham began working in Horace Silver's band. (While on a European tour with Silver in 1968 he became one of the first percussionists, along with Max Roach and Tony Williams, to use the Electronic Drum Controller made by the Meazzi Drum Company in Milan.) He also performed with Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott, and recorded with George Benson. In 1969 Cobham co-founded the fusion group Dreams, which also featured Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, John Abercrombie, Don Grolnick, Barry Rodgers, and Will Lee. The following year he was invited to join Miles Davis's group and contributed to four pivotal recordings by the trumpeter, including Bitches Brew (where he collaborated with guitarist John McLaughlin) and Tribute to Jack Johnson.

Mahavishnu Orchestra was formed by McLaughlin in 1971 with Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, and Rick Laird. They released three acclaimed albums (beginning with Inner Mounting Flame) before the band was dissolved and Cobham chose to launch his solo career with Spectrum, one of the definitive albums of the jazz-rock era. During the 1970s and '80s, he recorded steadily as a leader for Atlantic, CBS, Elektra, and GRP, collaborating with artists ranging from George Duke, John Scofield, and Tony Williams to Jack Bruce and the Grateful Dead, both on stage and in the studio. Cobham was engaged by UNICEF in 1992 to work with autistic outpatients and street children in Santos (near São Paulo), Brazil, in a musical project of several years' duration.

Billy Cobham Drummer
Billy Cobham Drummer
He has performed on hundreds of records with his own groups and with some of the music's most luminary artists, and his trademark - biggest, fastest, explosive drumming - has energized the international stages of concerts, symphonies, big bands, Broadway, festivals, television and video. He has been a teacher of his artistry, giving drum clinics, conducting workshops and symposiums throughout the world. His stylistic influence, which has literally created a category of music, is an outstanding part of the history of modern music.

Generally acclaimed as fusion's greatest drummer, Billy Cobham's explosive technique powered some of the genre's most important early recordings — including groundbreaking efforts by Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra — before he became an accomplished bandleader in his own right. At his best, Cobham harnessed his amazing dexterity into thundering, high-octane hybrids of jazz complexity and rock & roll aggression. He was capable of subtler, funkier grooves on the one hand, and awe-inspiring solo improvisations on the other; in fact, his technical virtuosity was such that his flash could sometimes overwhelm his music. Only a few times in history has a musician been singled out as the world class master of his instrument. Billy Cobham is one of those few artists. For over 30 years, he has received international acclaim as the total consummate percussionist. The legendary Billy Cobham, with his matchless, dazzling, ambidextrous skills as a drummer, has applied the same insistent fervor to his long list of monumental achievements.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bonobo… Beyond the borders of an emotional Soul-Jam

Simon Green Bonobo
Simon Green Bonobo

Simon Green, aka Bonobo, is an artist very much at the peak of his significant powers. His 2010 album Black Sands was the high watermark of his career to date; a masterful record, marrying Green's inimitable melodic genius to cutting edge electronics, bass and drums. Black Sands went on to sell over 150,000 copies worldwide, and since its release, Bonobo has toured the world with his live band, wowing audiences of thousands at a time with the hypnotic, extended live versions of the album's tracks. The beauty of Bonobo’s material lies in its ability to translate emotion into a music score, regardless of instrument, tempo, lyrics, or influencing genre. He is an artist and producer with his sights set on much higher prices than to rule any dusty subgenre of dance music.  Green understands composition and arrangement of live instruments (most of them also played by him) as well as his complete mastery of the tricks and techniques of the digital age has made him a house hold name in the industry.

All this comes as the result of over ten years hard work, and five albums that have honed Green's skills. A born musician, Green - like many artists - expresses himself most articulately via his music. The result is that his work is always keenly felt, and always feels imperative. There are no wasted moments, and always myriad great ones. It's tempting to relate Green's yearning, emotive aesthetic to his upbringing in rural Hampshire. His move to Brighton is also an influence; his skill at drum programming perhaps harking back to his days DJing and producing in the small, musically fertile town. Under the initial guidance of Tru Thoughts' Rob Luis and at nights such as Phonic:hoop, Bonobo found an early education in music.

His first album - 2000's Animal Magic - was released via Tru Thoughts before being picked up by Ninja Tune. It announced him as a serious talent; able to bring a true musician's edge to electronic music, with all the freedom that skill allowed. His subsequent albums for Ninja, Dial M for Monkey and Days to Come, developed his sensibility, won him fans across the globe, and saw him develop his live show into a mesmeric re-working of his records. “Days To Come,” has become one of Ninja Tune’s biggest artists worldwide, with over fifteen million plays on Last.FM and a series of sell out tours with his live band which have moved from venues such as the Luminaire to the Kentish Town Forum and the Roundhouse. This combination of superb live shows and studio wizardry means that he is now perfectly placed to push on into a yet bigger league. With “Black Sands,” Bonobo has made the progressive record to achieve it. He also worked hard as a DJ, a part of Green's arsenal that perhaps truly came into its own at the same time as Black Sands was generally welcomed as his best album to date. 2012 saw Green take the up-tempo, club re-edits of Black Sands from a seminal Boiler Room performance in London to dance floors across the world, and unveil a new light show that further enhanced the impact of these stunning songs. A remix album was released featuring reworking’s by fans and peers such as Machinedrum, Floating Points, Mark Pritchard, Lapalux and FaltyDL.

Simon Green Bonobo
Simon Green, aka Bonobo
Later the same year, he finally settled down in his New York studio to write his fifth studio album. Now, in 2013, he stands ready to take things up yet another notch. The North Borders is another long stride forward - both a natural evolution and a continuation of the electronic palette of Black Sands. Thematic, resonant, addictive and perfectly formed, it's a thrillingly coherent statement piece. With vocal features from no less than Erykah Badu, as well as Grey Reverend (Cinematic Orchestra) and Cornelia (Portico Quartet) it's another finely balanced body of work, leaving room for the beautiful, rich productions themselves to breathe and shine. Bonobo has a long history of unearthing new talent (Andreya Triana, Bjaika) and The North Borders sees him do so once again. The startling vocals of new collaborator Szjerdene are sprinkled across The North Borders, and Green has yet again found the perfect voice to enhance where he's at. With a huge run of international tour dates set to commence shortly after the album's Spring release date, plus a host of weighty press and radio campaigns and a bleeding edge online campaign, 2013 looks set to be Simon Green's year, which is very good news for the rest of us, too.

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