Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mais Verocai

I was mentioning in my Arthur Verocai post that Carlos Dafe killed it on "Pelas Sombras" and a recent email from Mochilla put that video in my inbox.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

After Hours Brazilian Jazz

The funny thing about eBay is that sometimes a search will lead me to a seller who has other interesting records that I wouldn't have thought to search for, but I put them in my "watched items" satchel and see what happens. In this case, I lost the auction that brought me to this seller and ended up getting another record from the same seller. The record in question was Manfredo Fest's "After Hours" on Daybreak Records from 1972. Loronix has the full rip here (but let me say I thought the rip to be sub-par, which is why I re-ripped my favorites and am posting for your listening pleasure below)

You might remember the blind Brazilian keyboard player from his solo records in brazil or maybe his stint in the Sergio Mendes mentored group Bossa Rio (I did a post a while back where you can hear Manfredo's organ go head to head with Joao Donato's piano). After Bossa Rio Manfredo settled down in Minneapolis and struck out on his own with "After Hours." He had a couple more solo albums in the 1970s-1990s and passed away in 1999. You can find seven of his albums on Loronix and a full biography here.

I was really pleasantly surprised by this album as it grooves along nicely with solid Brazilian touches, but doesn't try to too hard to come off as authentic. Manfredo's playing is excellent as he switches between Fender Rhodes, Hammon B-3 and acoustic piano. The only original is the killer "Bossa Rock Blues" and the other two are from soundtracks, I believe. Enjoy!

Manfredo Fest - Amanda
Manfredo Fest - Bossa Rock Blues
Manfredo Fest - Moondust

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lounge Music for Hipsters

It's not easy to peg Gary McFarland's music. At first glance he's an arranger and occasional musician or soloist, but chancing upon his 1969 album on Skye Records (he was a co-founder with Gabor Szabo and Cal Tjader) you get an entirely different view of the artist. This album lands somewhere in between light jazz, lounge music, bossa nova and jazz renditions of pop hits, but even that fails to capture the texture of most of this album. The arrangements call just as much on Smile-era Beach Boys as they do on middle of the road sixties exotica. He dares to take on Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" a challenging tune to cover to say the least. He also taps the recent musical immigrant, Airto Moreira, to solo with the traditional Brazilian percussion instrument, the berimbau, on the tune by the same name. After listing to the album obsessively for the past few months I have come to the realization that this must have been cool-out music for the sophisticated jazz hipsters. This is no Martin Denny, but its still just as passive in that it makes for great background music. But every now and then a particular movement, vocal harmony or percussive breakdown reveals its true complexity.

It's this complexity that is McFarland's lasting legacy. On the surface he didn't appear to be making music that was that different from his peers, but repeat listens reveal a depth of understanding of musical textures, memorable melodies and subtle, yet excellent musicianship. I'm still exploring McFarland's output, but this particular album is a special one for me. There are a number of cool songs here, but the following three selections really stand out. McFarland's story is a tragic and bizarre one as the story goes he was dosed with liquid methadone while drinking with a friend at a New York City bar and died instantly. One can only imagine in which direction he would have taken his music, had he survived. You can check out Doug Payne's excellent tribute here.

Gary McFarland - Because

Gary McFarland - Suzanne

Gary McFarland - Berimbau

Friday, May 08, 2009

Disco Monster #7 & #1 redux

Cameo - I Just Want To Be
Most of you will recognize the opening guitar riff from its appropriation in the Beastie Boys' Paul Boutique album. I can't believe I didn't have this song before getting this 12" EP. I gotta catch up on my Cameo . . . Word Up!

Brenda & the Tabulations - Let's Go (All The Way Down) Danny Krivit re-edit
The very first Disco Monster was the album cut of this very song. I have to say finding this Casablanca 12" EP reaffirmed my love for this song as none other than the Mr. K gave it a tasty re-edit back in 1985. I remember thinking there should be a 12" version and my initial research didn't turn anything up, but a little dig in the junky-ass flea market on San Pablo Ave. in Oakland proved the internets wrong.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Sound of a Phenomenal Band Clapping

It's cool to be able to observe a band's development from their beginnings as they plot and plan and record and gig and generally just try to make it in this crazy music industry. My good friend Sean is one part of the Embassy Sound Productions duo which is the nerve center of The Phenomenal Handclap Band. I remember Sean talking about everything from recording sessions, songwriting and label shopping so its great to see them getting some attention lately.

One thing I can say about PHCB is that they are not one of those, 'oh, we were just jamming one day and decided to form a band' kind of groups. No. Daniel Collas and Sean Marquand started with a vision, a sound and they built their band to play the songs and to project the aesthetic in mind. Now, I'm sure there have been changes along the way, but its refreshing to see a musical and aesthetic vision being fleshed out in real life. Sure, you might be saying, most "pop" music starts with a concept and then the evil record companies hire songwriters and pretty faces to embody the concept. These guys are way more old-school in that respect, more like Phil Spector or Motown's "The Corporation" - they have a musical vision and have pulled together the best team they could to make it sound and feel just the right way.

Listening to their soon to be released album (June 23, 2009) there are lots of different styles represented and unlike other old-school styled bands (Sharon Jones, El Michel's, etc) these guys don't stick that closely to tried and true genres. Some songs have a Brazilian flare (Sean is one part of the Brazilian Beat Brooklyn DJ duo and also produced, with Daniel, the Banda Uniao Black "comeback" album from a few years back), some chunky & funky seventies rock (think James Gang, Three Dog Night or Doobie Brothers), dance-floor funk (think Sly & the Family Stone), soundtrack moodiness and quirky soul music (think The Sylvers). Visually they have a coherent presentation in the couple shows I've seen with everyone dressed in white and a nod to Sergio Mendes' combos in their twin female vocalists. It's really something impressive to see.

The Phenomenal Handclap Band - Baby
YOU MUST CLICK ON THE ABOVE PLAYER TO LISTEN TO THIS TRACK - the Yahoo Media Player won't play this one.
This is their first single released stateside on Truth & Soul. I had the good fortune to see the core band members play this one at Sean's wedding last summer. I've ordered mine, have you? You can buy this single on Truth & Soul's website.

Another standout track ("15-20") has been released in the UK in limited supply, so grab it now before it's gone.

Some videos of them in action:
"You'll Disappear" - Live at The Rivington Lounge in New York City

"I've Been Born Again" - Live at SxSW and captured by NPR Music

Here's some great press they've gotten lately:
Playboy's 10 Bands To Watch For.
PHCP on Radio 1
The Phenomenal Handclap Band on MySpace

The Band's blog