It is Latin Music Day at Music Friday Live! We talk with the go-to producer for global stars like Ricky Martin, Selena, Santana and m who is now producing the next generation of Latino musicians, like Ozomatli. And we feature a surging Latina artist, the electric guitar wizard, singer songwriter, Eljuri, who blends Spain, Lebanon, New York rock and pop into wild rhythms and powerful songs in English and Spanish.
Militia Vox's ISOSCELES is a 3 song pre-release to her upcoming full-length album THE VILLAINESS, boasting an array of her styles and tremendous sonic palette which includes progressive metal, gothic/industrial and psychedelic rock. ISOSCELES will be available via digital download and streaming, as well as on CDs- the first time that digital singles "VOW" and "BORN OUT OF DARKNESS" will be out on disc, remastered. For fans of Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative and Siouxsie and the Banshees, ISOSCELES is a trio of dark and dangerous delights.
Each of the three songs is a unique adventure for your ears and for your mind. VOW is a personal pledge for self-reliance with the lyrics "I promise to myself that I can stand alone and use every ounce of angst to rise above this, drown my sorrows and then part the sea, and if I crash and burn at least I am free."BORN OUT OF DARKNESS" is the story of an outsider embracing her edge. "Born Out of Darkness but I'll make it right, I'm the great American outcast with hell on my side. "THIS IS SHE" is the latest deep, dark anthem that Vox is so famous for. She describes the song as "The personification of the complexities of female sexuality" with lyrics: "A woman's design, is ripe with secrets, so don't deny what you can't refuse." I will leave that to the listener, but I do warn, if you listen to it on earphones with your eyes closed, you may not come back.
ISOSCELES is available digitally and on cds via Bandcamp at http://militiavox.bandcamp.com/, and at CdBaby, Amazon, iTunes and everywhere music is sold online. You can Stream ISOSCELES on Soundcloud now at http://soundcloud.com/militiavox/sets/isosceles. Check out Vox at www.MILITIAVOX.com
In a world where both audiences and musicians think nothing of showing up at a club in ragged cutoffs and old t-shirts (I actually saw a major British pop singer introduce herself for the first time to LA a [ludiences wearing exactly that) it was refreshing and exciting to experience Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social concert at Sayers Club Thursday night. With an attention to detail in both music and style and an unwavering demand for quality, she and her team of band members, guest performers and dancers put on what is undeniably the best live performance in the Los Angeles club scene, if not the nation.
The performance at the Sayers Club was a perfect example of how good they are, and how unique. It was a short set, only five songs. But in those five songs, they got a packed elbow-to-elbow crowd on its feet cheering and singing as if it were an arena concert by a global star. I have seen Parlor Social three times and each time my response alternates between just movin’ and groovin’ to the great fun music and appreciation of the talent, design and hard work the group puts into giving an audience a 1000% all around immersive performance.
They started off with their trademark ‘Let me hear you say hep hep” designed to get the audience off their cell phones and paying attention to the what is going on on stage. What was going on onstage were the dancers of Parlor Social, Assata Madisson and Anissa Lee, sexily resplendent in glitter-enhanced black leotards who danced their way on stage with DiLauro. Once there, DiLauro launched into “Hep Hep” and the call and response resounded through the room as people locked in on the stage.
Without missing a beat, DiLauro introduced Parlor Social and moved into the rap-driven “Bringing It Back” it back with Madisson and Lee gyrating around her and the band moving like a single living organism. She then slowed the tempo down and showcased her golden voice that ranged from ragtime to romance in “It’s Complicated”. By then she had the audience transfixed -- mesmerized by her futuristic leather costume, her waist-length golden braids, the complex lighting ranging across the stage and the house, and the pure, emotion-laden “bye-bye” lyrics and the impossibly high notes she hit throughout the song.
Without a doubt the high point of the evening, if it could possibly get higher, was the introduction of the night’s guest star, Teddy Riley -- new jack swing pioneer and producer to stars like Michael Jackson, Usher and Bobby Brown. Appropriately, they played “Higher Place” which is exactly where they took the audience for the next 5 and a half minutes. A historic event recorded on the forest of cell phones aimed at the stage.
DiLauro finished up with a flourish, singing “No Diggity” and brought the house down. My only regret was that there was not more time and that the restricted stage space didn’t allow Madisson and Lee to tap dance. Hopefully, Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social's next performance will include both the space and time they had at their Edison Club performance last week, combined with the lighting, sound quality and ambiance of Thursday night’s show at Sayers.
DiLauro’s ''Feathered Fro-hawk Futuristic Art Deco Centric Harlem Renaissance Hep Music'' – sometimes abbreviated to “Neo-Ragtime” from her 2013 album This is Neo-Ragtime -- has been incubating since before she launched her first EP in 2004, A Study of A Woman’s Soul. After touring with Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium as a featured singer in major arenas in North America and Europe from 2006 to 2008, Di Lauro moved to Los Angeles and began working on new music.
Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social is backed by a band and horn section led by her musical director/pianist and husband Ric’key Pageot, who has toured since 2008 with Madonna on her Sticky & Sweet and MDNA World Tours. In 2010, the Di Lauro/Pageot power-couple released their first neo-ragtime single and music video, “Why U Raggin” which won two Hollywood Music in Media Awards, including Best R&B/Soul Song of the Year. The following year, Di Lauro was nominated by respected Soultracks.com Readers’ Choice Awards as Female Vocalist of the Year.
Those awards, and the others that are sure to come, confirm that Dessy DiLauro and Parlor Social produce the best live performance in LA and perhaps nationwide. Dessy Di Lauro and Ric'key Pageot as Parlor Social has it all – voice, moves, style and a connection with her audiences that borders on adoration.
I can ride 40, maybe 50 miles if the hills are not too bad. But across the country? It took me 6 days to ride from SF to LA and it about killed me. How Joanna Wallfisch does it carrying a ukelele and loop pedals and clothes and etc. I cannot imagine. And play music at clubs along the way. Wow!
As you know I love Latin fusion. Mostly I play and interview ALM bands American Latino Music) from Latin America and Los Angeles. But there is all that Latin music with Cuban and island and this week we talk with Locos por Juana, a bilingual Grammy and Latin Grammy--nominated jam band that has performed for over a decade in its hometown, Miami. Jus. Pure. Fun.
Saw Blake and Janita live at Hotel Cafe - my guests this past Friday. Wow. I decided to post my review here while we wait for my outlets to post. I want to get the word out about their tour. They are two diamonds in the stage lights.
If you live in any of the cities where Blake Morgan and Janita are performing on the remainder of their West Coast tour you should cancel what you are doing and see them live. If not, buy their albums and play them in headphones with your eyes closed. Either way, the experience is transformative, as it was Saturday night on the Second Stage of Hollywood’s renowned Hotel Café. Blake’s bell-pure voice, stunning guitar chops and poetry-in-music lyrics made the outside world disappear. When teamed with Janita, the effect was far more than the sum of its parts – it was magic; it took both your breath and your cares away.
Both Morgan and Janita are stunning singer-songwriters and experienced at-ease performers who kept an almost full house mesmerized for two hours, with Morgan opening and delivering nine songs, some new and some from his albums, and Janita doing the same in the second set, accompanied by Morgan on the guitar and vocals. The songwriting was inspired and the passion that drove the singing, especially by Janita, was palpable.
But despite the musical fireworks, both performers were utterly unself-conscious and happily connected with the room at both a music emotional level and a friendly get-to-know-us level. Morgan introduced “Forgetting to Remember You” from his Diamonds in the Dark album with the story of how he co-wrote and produced it with his rock and roll god mother, Lesley Gore and how the success of the song impacted both of their careers. He introduced another song, “Suspicious Bliss” with a story about his ex-girlfriend leaving a note on his chair saying that maybe if she talked in her sleep she could tell him how much she loved him and his wondering why she had to be unconscious to express her love.
Both artists bring not only unique talent, but unique experience to a stage and to the studio. New York native Morgan is a recording artist, record producer, and the founder and owner of ECR Music Group, a global music company. That he is touring with one of his artists is unusual in itself, although not for him. He operates ECR under the under the unprecedented principle that all of its artists and labels own one-hundred percent of their master recordings. This aligns with his moral and political stance that artists deserve to be paid. This ethic powered his founding of the #RespectMusic movement that has gathered nationwide support and resulted in, among other things, the introduction of legislation to achieve that goal.
His touring partner – who noted that the sign on the venue listing her as Janita Morgan” was in error and that they are not married -- is a Finish-American singer-songwriter who has released nine albums in Finland and three in the US, the most recent, Didn’t you My Dear, through the ECR Music Group. The Daily Telegraph called her “Finland’s biggest popstar” while she was still a teenager. Now based in Brooklyn she records and performs to rave revues and joins Morgan in the #RespectMusic campaign lobbying in Congress for legislation to force broadcast companies to pay fairly for music.
Refreshingly formally dressed in dark jeans, dark tie and jacket, Morgan exuded the confidence of an artist thoroughly comfortable with each song and delighted to be giving them to an enthusiastic audience. The feeling was mutual.
From the urgent melodies of “This One Wins” to the up-tempo “My Love is Waiting”, each of Morgan’s songs was delivered with precision and power – a cathartic hypodermic mainlining emotion into your heart. And then Janita got onstage and upped the dosage, first backing Morgan in the dreamy “Don’t Want to Let you go” and then in nine songs in her set, most from her new album, Didn’t You, My Dear?
Opening with the high altitude “Beautiful You Are” Janita instantly alerted us to her wide-ranging voice and superb guitar talent, carrying us along like a zephyr wind over white caps. Giving us a breather from “Beautiful You are” she brought a chuckle with the introduction to the melodious but introspective “Easing into Sanity” and another as she moved into “No Excuses”. But she quickly elevated the power and emotional demand and the set unfurled. The guitar tapestry she and Blake wove – she on a Fender and he on a beautiful silver Gretsch – scaffolded her soaring voice and highlighted the urgency of the lyrics. A tidal wave of notes and love and grief and history washed over the very, very quiet room.
After the haunting “Traces Upon Your Face”, illustrated in a disturbing but fascinating video, she let her inner blueswoman out with Tom Waits’ “Clap Your Hands”, and then moved back into the deepest part of her heart with “The Meaning of My Silence”. A bolt of electricity shot through the room as she launched into the hard driving Who’s Gonna Tell the Wolf She’s Not a Dog” . She then closed the evening with “Start From Scratch” to a cheering, whistling ovation.
The pairing of the producer/executive/artist Morgan with the produced artist Janita clicked beautifully. The contrast in their songs is apparent, but so are the similarities. They both imbue their music with a sense of urgency – the style is different, but the emotional response they created are similar. They both conjure a feeling of inner space, but it’s our space, not just theirs. It is deeply personal but not private. And while it is personal, their music both separately and together is universal and welcoming - open like the arms of the spiral nebula, and irresistible like the black hole at its core.
Either could tour on their own and have. Blake is a master of guitar, storytelling, and urgent, passionate song. Janita is mesmerizing, powerful, edgy and addictive. Together they weave a performance worthy of the Hollywood Bowl or Carnegie Hall. Maybe next tour. I’ll be there.
I am so excited to have the duo of Spark and Whisper on this Friday. Although they are relatively close - 400 miles, which is not much in California, I have never seen them live., that I have to fix. Meanwhile, we talk this Friday.
Seems like i just can't get away from my home state of Texas. This week we have that unusual combination, Texas feeling and folk and Americana. Dave Martinez is stirring up the natives in Texas with his fresh approach and we will find out why and how this week. And he is from my hometown, Corpus Christi!
Raising her drumstick high above her straw hat-topped head haloed in electric blue light, drummer/vocalist Liliana Conde proclaimed “We can be together, we can come together right here with music”, and loosed the joyful demon players of the moving, grooving magical music machine, M.A.K.U. Sound System, who exploded onstage with the most infectious people-in-motion dance music this side of Colombia at LA’s Skirball Cultural Center.
Known as an “immigrant band” because most of its members are from Colombia, M.A.K.U. Sound System is currently on a national tour which brought it to the Skirball Center straddling the hills separating west LA from the San Fernando Valley, packing it with a diverse audience from all over this vast city and baking them into a single pulsing, dancing organism. Out of their seats and onto the brick plaza under flashing LED lights on a cool summer night, there were break dancers, cumbia dancers, salsa dancers, rock dancers and just plain old jumping up and down dancers bumping into each other, applauding each other, hugging each other. It was truly the United State of Dance that M.A.K.U. Sound System jubilantly evangelizes.
Playing tunes from their new album, Mezcla, (Glitter Beat records), like “Agua” and “La Haitiana”, M.A.K.U. demonstrated why they are one of the best Latin fusion bands in America today and certainly the most joyful. The eight members of the band – Andres Jimenez on drums, Filipe Quiroz on keys, the non-stop Juan Ospina on bass and vocals, Camilo Rodriguez on electric guitar, Moris Cañate on percussion, locals Stephen Szabadi and Ido on trombones, and the irrepressible Liliana Conde on percussion and lead vocals - are precisely practiced and wonderfully wild.
Each song from the stage, and on the album, is an exultant blend of Afro funk, punk, rock, cumbia, jazz and a message of peace, unity and community. The band explicitly reaches out to the Everyday People of all races and backgrounds, especially those who face the hardships of a nation that does not always welcome them, despite the words on the base of the Statue of Liberty, and demonstrates through its music why the arts are the salve that heals us and the glue that holds us together. Not only do you dance until you drop at a M.A.K.U. Sound System concert, you meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet, dance with them, talk with them, even hug them -- and most important -- for a brief hour or two, you understand your commonality with them.
Guitarist Camilo Rodriguez founded M.A.K.U SoundSystem and created the group’s name from the Nukak Maku tribe indigenous to the Southern part of Colombia that has been exiled from its territory and persecuted, forcing it to abandon its traditions and adopt a western way of life. The word “Maku” means ‘low class person’ in the indigenous languages of Southern Colombia. ‘Sound System’, refers to the huge public parties thrown in the streets of Colombia and Jamaica in the 60’s and 70’s, so the band’s name M.A.K.U. SoundSystem means “a party for the people”- which is exactly what they do.
Anytime you can see the M.A.K.U. Sound System live, join the party in the meantime, Mezcla or any one of their other three albums at high volume is a great substitute.
I often say that poetry is not dead, it is all around us but we just call it lyrics now. That applies in spades to Black Wings, the new album released this week by essence, the San Francisco-based Americana/folk/blues/rock/pop singer who goes only by her first (and given) name. Back Wings is a deeply poetic and musically addictive quarrying of the dissolution of essence’s decade-long marriage. Listening to it is like orbiting the dark side of the moon: you are blissfully lost in the eternity of the universe, but you are tethered to the shadows of the reality below. Either way, the experience is mystical and forever memorable. It is no wonder that essence won the grand prize in the Lilith Talent Search and came in second, ahead of 20,000 other entrants, in the International Songwriting Contest.
Black Wings is a dozen songs that excavate the intimate agonies and lingering fossils of essence’s divorce. The songs are not in chronological order – they don’t proceed from discovering her man’s unfaithfulness and the stages of pain to its finality. Rather it mines her heart, following first this vein of pain and then that of determination and then the another of shock. It is not a story as much as it is an epic poem told in folk, blues, rock and an echoing voice that ranges from belt to melancholy.
It is this quality of Black Wings that makes it so powerful – the music separates us from the cold logic of a narrative so we can live the journey of a devastated, but resilient woman. “There goes the last piece of my heart” she sings in the first song, “1000 Pieces” warning us as we start this journey, “don’t ask me how/it’s all gonna end/the only thing/I’ve ever been sure of/ is closure’s just/another Hollywood trend”.
The title song, “Black Wings” opens the gateway to her – and many others’ – downfall: “I’m falling down hard for you…you are fucked up enough for me”, letting us know that she, like so many other women, are attracted to men who “are like cactus” but fulfill a need. She repeats the plea in “Camels and Diesel”, pleading “I’ll walk across the coals to you/but you won’t do the same/give me some fire”.
She delivers these pieces of her heart in a feast of musical styles. “1000 Pieces” is perfectly pitched folk pop carried with a brush drum beat, laced with organ flourishes and colored with echo. “Black Wings’ injects its emotional payload with a simple high-end plucked string that frames her voice like Carolyn Cardoza’s electrified ukulele does with the vocals of jazz singer Irene Diaz. Clean and powerful.
Then essence dives into deep blues-rock with “Camels and Diesel” led by a metal body resonator guitar, howling electrics and full drums pounding out a heartbeat, all scaffolding her urgent voice.
Later in “Fossils”, partially written with her four-year-old son, the big rhythm guitar comes out to drive home determination as essence proclaims she will love her husband “when you’re dust/ and when your fossils turn to gasoline…but I will love you most when that car runs out of gasoline”, a point she emphasized earlier in “Camels and Diesel”: “I think it’s time/you done give/back what you/stole” .
For me, the musical high point of the album is “Headed North”, her escape maybe into heaven, maybe into hell, but it is what women all over the world do when the relationship they are in becomes unbearable. This is blues rock of the highest order; “Headed North” pierces you with urgent, desperate guitar riffs as essence’s voice soars and she cries, “heading north/don’t try to find me…sky hangs low overland/ smoking like a gun”. You pound your knee, snap your fingers and understand.
But as powerful as “Heading North” is musically and emotionally, it is “Over My Head” that stops you in its tracks and makes you hit “repeat”. Bracketed almost whimsically with rhythm guitar and light, sophisticated percussion, essence sings from inside the hallway of her memory of the time she encountered the woman that caused her the pain. “I walk the same steps as you/faded velvet corridor/I steal the smile from her face/the one meant for you….I don’t want to know/what happens next…who’s been lying in my bed”.
As you absorb that, essence takes you back to her childhood in “Roots”, a history with divorced flower child parents who moved her so much she was in 14 schools by the 4th grade. But somewhere in that childhood, she got the advice of her life and she tells us in the hard blues rock song “She Said” that spools out the words of a wise old woman and why she is strong enough to leave when she has to.
The album closes with the down and dirty piano-pounding folk blues rock “So Much Hell” which could be pulled from today’s headlines. “So much hell/in the world… now all I want is/one decent heart/to lie beside/while I fall/apart”. Don’t we all.
Back Wings is essence’s fifth album, including the children’s album A Dog Named Moo and His Friend Poo which features the delightful song “Everybody’s Gotta Butt”. Each one mines her heart and quarries the emotional fossils built up since the Summer of Love of her parents' meeting. Becoming a single mother of two, still dealing with her children’s father, and succeeding in a music business so tough that many fail, is a testament to her determination, her resourcefulness and above all, her gift of poetic lyrics and musical skill to convey them, nurtured through darks days and light.
The product of this determination, resourcefulness and gifts is one of the outstanding talents of our time, not just in folk and Americana, not just in rock and blues, not just in pop and children’s songs, but in the words that make us human. That is what Black Wings does: it reminds us why we are human.