Region can at times means as much to an art as its genre, so when one listens to eight-piece hip-hop/jazz group Monkier, Atlanta clearly comes to mind. The collective led by saxophonist, keyboardist, and emcee Zac Evans is reminiscent in vibe to some of Nicholas Payton's recent work (without the offputting rhetoric). It's cool and inspired like it's fresh from Atlanta's Castleberry Hill. The horns swing, the rhythm section is on point, the music swells in just the right times, and Evans has lyrical chops while keeping a good balance between his rapping and the rest of the music. The Kennesaw State alums worked diligently to meld the hip hop they love with the jazz they were playing while still in school, and they've pulled off the mix in spades. In essence, Monkier is a strong debut album that's definitely worth checking out at their SoundCloud and Bandcamp pages.
One of our favorite vocalists around here, José James, will be releasing While You Were Sleeping, his follow-up to 2013’s No Beginning, No End, on June 10. Whet your appetite with the first tune from the album, "EveryLittleThing". The sound is a surprise from past José James releases, though James has covered jazz standards, electronic music, soul, and R&B, so perhaps change is the only constant and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that James is covering new territory here with a sort of rock/electronic hybrid sound. James is joined here by Kris Bowers on keys, Solomon Dorsey on bass, Richard Spaven on drums, and Brad Allen Williams on guitar (Takuya Kuroda on trumpet and Corey King on trombone will also appear on While You Were Sleeping, but aren’t on this particular track). Listen to "EveryLittleThing" after the jump.
Next weekend is the Art of Cool Festival in Durham, North Carolina, which a whole bunch of folks have spent months, if not years, of planning putting this together and it's going to be amazing. I'm definitely looking forward to getting up there next week and taking this all in, so it would make good sense to give you a taste of what's to come in this week's Line-Up.
The Line-Up for 18 April 2014
I had the pleasure of hanging with drummer Brad Webb recently at Nextbop @ Art of Cool's Jazz for the Masses Party during this last SXSW. Webb, who plays in saxophonist Brad Walker's quintet, is cool people and has a vibrancy in his nature that translates well to his style of play at the drums. Walker's entire quintet has a chill vibe to them that doesn't drag deep into the somber weeds, so it would make sense that Webb's own project, Brad Webb's Making Faces, would have something close to that same feel. Webb's Making Faces EP released late last year conveys this.
It's the thrilling conclusion of the Guatemalan International Jazz Fest, and I'm back in my balcony perch in the Teatro Dick Smith in downtown Guatemala City to catch the Native Jazz Quartet. The star attraction of the band, other than their American-ness (a big deal in this country), is the presence of drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis (playing strictly the later for tonight.) Having a Marsalis, really any of them, on your bill is sort of the jazz equivalent of having a Renoir or Matisse in the collection; it just lends an air of legitimacy. Naturally, the place is packed.