Friday, August 24, 2012

2 New Rap/Hip-Hop Videos from 5ive Star & Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson “The Art Of Rap”

The Art of Rap

Ice-T's directorial debut, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, on DVD & Digital 9/18

Viewers are taken on a personal journey into the craft and skills of rap, and what goes on inside the minds and erupts from the pens of rap legends, when Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, Ice-T’s critically-acclaimed film, debuts on DVD, Digital, and Video on Demand on September 18th. Directed and hosted by rap legend Ice-T, the release of The Art of Rap on DVD follows the documentary’s premier at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and successful theatrical runs in the United States and England.
A performance documentary about the runaway juggernaut that is hip-hop, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap features some of the genre’s biggest talents, including Chuck D, Grandmaster Caz, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Melle Mel, Q-Tip, Redman, Mos Def, Afrika Bambaataa, B Real, Immortal Technique, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Nas, Dr. Dre, KRS One, Common and Kanye West.
The film has won raves from hip-hop specialists and more mainstream media alike.’s Tim Sanchez wrote, “Ice-T has produced one of the finest and most detailed film documentaries about Hip-Hop in existence…a source of inspiration and education for all Hip-Hop fans young and old.” Time Out London’s Tom Huddleston wrote, “On the big screen, the sheer force and energy of these poets is extraordinary. These guys are legends for a reason.”

“The Art Of Rap” Historical Perspectives–Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson

“Rap is an American art form and it needs respect,” Ice-T said in a recent interview with Hip-Hop Weekly. “I wanted to do a film that makes people totally understand how great it is to me. Rap saved my life. So I called my friends up and asked if they’d be in my movie: ‘I’m not gonna ask you about the money, the cars, the jewelry, the beef. I just wanna ask you about the craft.’ It was a labor of love.”

  • CO-DIRECTOR: Andy Baybutt
  • LANGUAGE: English
  • GENRE: Documentary
  • RUN-TME: 111 Minutes
  • STUDIO: Indomina Releasingart of rap



  • Commentaries by Ice-T and producer Paul Toogood
  • Outtakes featuring Dr. Dre, Eminem, Ice Cube, Kanye West, KRS-One, Busy Bee, Craig G., Jim Jones, Too Short, Diabolic, CNN, Trigga Da Gambler and Smooth Da Hustler, Just-Ice, Freddie Foxx, Tash of Tha Alkaholiks, King Tee.
  • “The Making Of Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.” A Historical Perspective with Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson, Assistant Professor, Black Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • QR Code inside packaging unlocks additional bonus features online.


5ive Star recites a spoken word tribute titled, "Katrina" on the 7th solemn anniversary of the hurricane that devastated New Orleans in 2005.

5ive Star–Katrina

“Making music is as natural to me as breathing.  It’s the result of realizing my true self,” says the multi-talented 5ive Star. The gifted vocalist, songwriter and lyricist is on the verge of mainstream success. Raised in South Florida but born in Cali, 5ive Star delivers hardcore grit with crossover appeal, destined to penetrate the music industry with his innovative and fresh sound.  Only 25, he is an artist that defies labels, refuses to conform to clichés and set to wow the world. 

His humble beginnings began in South Florida, first gaining notoriety as a spoken-word artist for major franchises such as Nike and McDonalds.  He captivated audiences with introspective lyrics and memorable performances.  5ive managed to give Nike and McDonald’s some soul. 

In case you missed it - check out 5ive Star's new music video "What They Think". Featured on,,,,, & more!

“What They Think” Official Video

"This was something I came up with as a concept to say just be yourself. I wanted to confront stereotypes and really make people feel uncomfortable in a way - as many feel about me doing me. It's a statement on individuality and being comfortable with who you are as a person, enough to show yourself to the world regardless of what people think about you." - 5ive Star

But 5ive’s true calling was music, picking up inspiration in every corner of America, a testament to his diverse upbringing. In his sound, you hear the rock and soul of Prince, the aggression of Notorious B.I.G. and the smooth R&B of Aaliyah. Making his rounds on the mix-tape circuit, his first single release, “Get To Know U,” produced by Jimi Kendrix (Jay Z, 50 Cent), sparked a buzz.  With no major label support, tracks like "Club To The Bedroom" and "SOS,” were featured on radio stations across the country, further establishing his universal appeal.

5ive’s breakthrough moment was catching the ear of seven-time Grammy winning producer Ken Lewis (Kanye West, John Legend), who worked on the upcoming album I AM…5IVE STAR.  “The album is about making great music!” stresses 5ive.  “It’s for all music lovers. I AM…5IVE STAR represents a blend of music and styles that are totally original.” There is no better example of 5ive’s diverse musical talents than in the current single “What They Think.”  The head-nodding track is infectious on the first listen with its catchy hook and pitch-perfect harmonies.  5ive Star playfully warns, “I think everyone better brace for impact!” With a concept-heavy video, the movement surely has begun.


5ive Star stands for five elements of artistry:  emcee, singer, songwriter, spoken-word artist and producer. 2012 is the year of 5ive Star; his originality and passion will top the Billboard charts. “It’s time to lead music into a new direction,” says 5ive.  Although rooted in hip-hop, he is an artist who represents the new model of music. Gone are the days when music was regulated to black or white, East Coast or West Coast.  5ive Star is the future, a unification of rock, pop, hip-hop and soul.

For More Information:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review : “Brenner And God” by Wolf Haas


Brenner and God (Melville International Crime)

If you haven’t heard of the insanely talented and clever Wolf Haas, it’s probably because you speak English and live in America. One of the best selling crime fiction authors in Germany and other German speaking countries, as well as Europe, he is best known for his books featuring Simon Brenner – think of Brenner as the German Adrian Monk…sort of – three of which have been made into films ;Komm, süßer Tod (Come Sweet Death), Silentium! and Der Knochenmann (The Boneman). He has won several prizes for his works, including winning the German prize for crime fiction (Deutscher Krimipreis) three times.

Brenner and God is the seventh in the series and the first of his books translated into English. Haas’ protagonist, private-eye Simon Brenner, shows strong similarities to the lonely hero of the hard-boiled novel of Chandler and Hammett. Structurally, Haas also follows the model of the hard-boiled thriller. In contrast to the analytical detective story of Sherlock Holmes and the ‘cozy’ English  style of Agatha Christie,which emphasizes the power of logic and deduction, Brenner’s method of investigation involve him deeply into the criminal activities suggesting that crime is not the exception in society but rather the rule. The conjunctive relationship between crime and crime scene also emphasizes the novels’ critical agenda, and a satirical and cynical criticism of Austrian and German society is very much a part of the plot, just as Chandler, Hammett and the other great American hard-boiled writers had an indictment of our society at heart.

Read an excerpt

Brenner and God finds Brenner, an ex-police investigator now a burned out shell of a man seeking a peaceful career as the personal chauffeur for two-year-old Helena, the daughter of a Munich construction giant and a Viennese abortion doctor. Brenner, who never thought of himself as a man who liked small children finds himself during the long commutes with Helena growing quite fond of her and even looking forward to, and cherishing his duty. Then one day, he finds himself, uncharacteristically unprepared for his simple job as Helena’s driver. He starts the long commute low on gas and with no treats for his charge.  At a gas station, while Brenner’s attention is diverted by the usual losers that hang out at gas stations and by picking out a chocolate bar for Helena (Brenner’s private, and as he sees it, harmless rebellion against the wishes of Helena’s parents. Helena is forbidden chocolate and sugary treats). The little girl gets snatched from the car – kidnapped. And with very few clues as to the kidnappers motive or identity. Her father is not the most popular man as he has made many enemies rising to the top of the construction and business world – environmentalists, competitors, bankers and politicians. Then again, Helena’s mother has drawn the ire of the anti-abortion crowd.

Now out of a job, Brenner decides to  investigate her disappearance on his own. Dreading his re-entrance into that world of investigating he thought he’d left behind, he has to come to grips with his own reluctance as well as the low-life’s and dangerous, mean streets he must walk. Unraveling both parents lives, and their myriad array of enemies, Brenner enters a world of high finance and religious zealotry. Along the way he encounters a dubious and quirky cast of  characters: there are Viennese politicians, bankers, and real estate magnates, anti-abortion protestors, angry landlords, cheating wives and husbands and enough spousal secrets to fill a cast in many soap operas and they are all implicated in the kidnapping.

Told in a playful and humorous style reminiscent of Fredric Brown in novels such The Screaming Mimi, where the story is told in a very droll, off-handed voice by an unidentified narrator who speaks with a wry sense of humor and in a detached, conversational way that has won the admiration of readers around the world and has thankfully now come to the American reader.

Wolf Haas

Haas writes with a dark humor that leaves no character, including Brenner, unscathed. Brenner, once respected as a top notch police investigator, struggles through the many noir-is motives, settings and characters and often wanders down dangerous dead-ends, which Haas uses to display the social issues of a now multi-ethnic ‘Euro-zone’. They are surprisingly, many of the same issues familiar to the American reader.

Melville House International Crime, who supplied this review copy, has done a wonderful job bringing the treasures of International crime writers to an American audience. Wolf Haas, along with fellow International super stars such as Manuel Vazquez Montalba, derek Raymond, Andrey Kurkov, Jakob Arjouni and Mukoma Wa Ngugi are much welcomed additions to the crime fiction reader and serve to show that crime, and the social issues that surround it are not an American exclusive.

  • Paperback: 224 pages Publisher: Melville International Crime; 1st edition (June 26, 2012) Language: English ISBN-10: 1612191134 ISBN-13: 978-1612191133

Article first published as Book Review : Brenner And God by Wolf Haas on Blogcritics.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Book News : Two things…by Lawrence Block

Open Road media has contrived to make Lawrence Block the Kindle Daily Deal for today, August 23.

Lawrence Block - Daily Deal

Thus the following eBooks have been reduced in price for one day only to $1.99: Killing Castro, The Liar's Bible, Lucky at Cards, A Diet of Treacle, and Writing the Novel From Plot to Print. Regular prices on these run as high as ten bucks and change, so if you can use any of these, well, the price is right.


Nooksters take note: B&N has matched prices on these five books, so you're not being left out of this one.

Mr. block continues:

“ I'll be on Leonard Lopate's radio program on WNYC this afternoon, from 1:00 to 1:20 pm Eastern time. You can catch it live on the radio or listen online then or later I'll be appearing with Jonathan Santlofer, and one of our topics will be the Master Class I'll be offering September 19 at the Center for Fiction.

That's all for now. Feel free to snap up a bargain, or tune in and listen. Or not. I'm going back to bed.



Having read three of the five, and countless, if memorable other books from Lawrence Block I can tell you that whether you are a long time fan or new to his work, Lawrence Block is a natural treasure. He started his career as an author during the late ‘50s during the “paperback era” when genre books would be published straight to paperback. During the ‘60s he started writing his first ‘series’ character, Evan Tanner, an adventurer and accidental revolutionary who, as a result of an injury sustained in the Korean War, cannot sleep.

Starting in 1976, he hit upon his iconic character, Matthew Scudder. Scudder was first introduced inThe Sins of the Fathers as an alcoholic ex-cop working as an unlicensed private investigator in Hell's Kitchen, new York City where most of blocks works are set. His other most notable series character, showing a humorous and much lighter in tone set of stories, relating the misadventures of gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr. The series is rich in sophisticated, witty dialogue.

Block has also written some of the best “writers books” to be published to date, The Liars Bible & Writing The Novel are two featured in this Kindle Daily Deal.

A long time friend and sometime collaborator of the late Donald E. Westlake Block shows no signs of slowing down, looked up to by many crime fiction writers today as a sort of chairman of the board, Block was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1993.

Take advantage of this great deal and feed your reader today.


The Dirty Lowdown

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rock/Pop CD Review : “The Light The Dead See” by the Soulsavers


The Light The Dead See

Mastered at Abbey Road, this is the follow up to 2009’s critically acclaimed album Broken, with collaboration from Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode) . The Soulsavers' downtempo electronica sound incorporates influences of rock, gospel, soul, and country and is the production team of of Rich Machin and Ian Glover.

Invited to support Depeche Mode on the European leg of the band’s vast 2010 Tour of the Universe. Here, the seeds of The Light The Dead See were sewn. With Gahan penning lyrics for the music and recording his own vocals in New York, then Machin building up the results into fully-formed and arranged epics, the international project was a case of “chemistry working”. The album was mastered at Abbey Road earlier this year. The result is a type of psychedelic Moody Blues electronica, a perfect pairing of what the All Music Guide called, ‘an exciting meeting of troubled minds’.

Soulsavers Interview Part 1

The effect of the album is a sweeping epic evoking a majesty of aural foreboding that somehow manages to avoid being over the top. There’s a darkness, a soulful earthiness that closes out everything else around you and invites you to sit and listen to these ballads and hymn-like songs.

“There was no real script,” says the Rich Machin of the extraordinary fourth album The Light The Dead See, a set of songs of majesty and momentum. “It just rolled and rolled; it was effortless.” Joining forces with Dave Gahan it immediately became clear that this was going to be something very special. “We realized we were coming from the same place in so many ways,” adds Machin. “He’s really laid himself bare on this record, his contribution is astonishing.” Says Gahan, “Everything about it was relatively unplanned, surprising: a magical thing. We were a perfect match and I’m very, very excited about this record.”

Soulsavers–Dave Gahan “The Longest Day” from The Light The Dead See may 2012

The music is by turns stirring, seductive, soothing, languidly sexy or startling. Having built a steady following since the first Soulsavers (also known as The Soulsavers Soundsystem) album 2003’s debut Tough Guys Don’t Dance. 2007’s It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land brought their dark flair to a wider audience. The inimitable Mark Lanegan served as primary singer, though there were also vocal contributions from Will Oldham and Jimi Goodwin. In 2009, third album Broken confirmed that Soulsavers were moving away from early electronica to earthier guitars, use of space and what Machin described as “a soulful twist.”

The pair are also making headway as film score composers, with a portfolio of work that includes the feature documentary BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge produced by the Guerrilla News Network. Their song "Revival" was featured on the November 22, 2007 episode of Grey's Anatomy, titled "Crash Into Me" part 1. The song was also featured on the December 10th episode of Friday Night Lights, titled "Giving Tree". It is also featured in the snowboarding movie That's It, That's All. Revival also featured in the trailer of the 2011 film Machine Gun Preacher. "Kingdoms of Rain" featured in the Lie to Me episode "Truth or Consequences," which aired on October 5, 2009.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Rock CD Review : “The Russian Wilds” Howlin Rain


The Russian Wilds

This one fell through the cracks, bad MP3 download, lost media in the mail, a trip to the hospital and my dog ate it….I know, I don’t have a dog but you don’t know that…anyway it is powerful enough to have clawed its way back up and that is a very good thing. Howlin Rain is the power quintet that calls San Francisco home they play a bluesy heroically conceived and executed type of rock music that some have consigned to the golden ages of yore. Recorded at the historic Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, the pedigree is there and toss in  uber-producer Rick Rubin and make the band an off shoot of new-psych innovators Comets On Fire and all the ingredients are there…and here it is, a sprawling, extravagant, Pynchon-esque  emotion packed feeling-filled catalyst for hungry minds.

Led by singer-guitarist Ethan Miller the result is a melodic masterpiece of bombastic rock; a kind of Electric Ladyland, meets Gaucho and two-times it with Darkness On The Edge of Town, its got grooves like Steely Dan if Felix Cavaliere had sung lead with them (with some horns back there too) and long, blues jams of Ladyland and the vocals are in your face and belted out there like The Boss although the voices hark back to the arena rockers of the ‘70s/’80s. Throw in some surreal psychedelic meandering keys and effects and you have The Russian Wilds.

Howlin Rain

Howlin Rain comprises Raj Ojha (drums, percussion), Cyrus Comiskey (bass), Joel Robinow (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Isaiah Mitchell (guitar, vocals) and the aforementioned Miller leading the unit. Clearly a classic rock inspired band but to differentiate themselves from the myriad array of classic rock bar bands populating the great American wilds they  stretch and reshape the sound to more arcane and ambitious ends. The results are a  unique aural treat that expresses the fantastical and the practical in equal measure, resonating quite nicely with the work of kindred spirits such as Chris Robinson Brotherhood , et al.

These guys would have been a welcome addition to venues such as the Fillmore and Winterland  with their song-centric psych-touched, emotionally charged boogie and blues. Jefferson Airplane would have sounded right at home next to them, CCR, Quick Silver Messenger Service, Blues Magoos, you get the idea… and they carry that torch of the great bay area bands that put the San Francisco Sound into the vernacular of the great American listening public.

Howlin Rain Teaser

They even add a soul groove reminiscent of early funk masters from neighboring Oakland. This come through in the pinch of blue-eyed soul and a penchant for deep soulful grooves that conger the Steely Dan/Felix Cavaliere moments. The vocals, despite at first conjuring arena rock, are on a closer examination surprisingly sophisticated and melodic. Miller’s a blues shouter, ala Robert Plant on the early Zeppelin offerings but he bends and harnesses his voice to the backing support of the rest of the band to great effect.

Howlin Rain has performed at major festivals in the U.S. (Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Bumbershoot) and in Europe (Green Man, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Azkena), and has toured with The Black Crowes, Queens of the Stone Age, and Black Mountain, as well as sharing bills with Mudhoney, Roky Erickson, Terry Reid, Okkervil River and The Meat Puppets. After their period of intense woodshedding over these past few years, Howlin Rain is looking forward to seeing this new music blossom on concert stages around the world!


Rubin worked closely with Ethan for over a year and a half as he shaped and perfected the material being written for The Russian Wilds. Finally, the band entered the studio with producer-engineer Tim Green (The Fucking Champs, Nation of Ulysses), tracking at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, as well as at Trilogy Studios and Hyde Street in San Francisco, recording most of the overdubs at Green's Louder Studios in SF, where Tim mixed the album with crucial input from Rick.

The band is currently playing a few gigs in the Bay area before embarking on a UK & European Tour. Check their web site for more information. You can also follow the band on Facebook, Twitter and their YouTube Channel. it’s a pleasure to hear a band with this much talent still making classic rock, and with an original flare.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

  • Audio CD (February 14, 2012) Original Release Date: 2012 Number of Discs: 1 Label: COLUMBIA / DMZ ASIN: B006MVG9RO review Copy Supplied by SIDEWAYS MEDIA 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review : “Stranger In The Room” by Amanda Kyle Williams

stranger in the room

Stranger in the Room: A Novel

Avoiding the sophomore jinx, Amanda Kyle Williams’, Keye Street remains the most interesting, cynically funny and smart series detective today. Keye entered the arena in last years knockout debut, The Stranger You Seek: A Novel (reviewed here). Recovered from her, and her lover’s (Atlanta PD Detective Lieutenant Aaron Rauser), near fatal battle with the serial killer known as “the Wishbone Killer”.  Keye and her employee, the perpetually red-eyed high  computer guru Neil,  have settled back into the life and work of a private detective. Serving processes, arresting bail jumpers and keeping the local Krispy Kreme in business.

Life is good and if not quiet, it is at least a time for Keye to spend time navigating the mean streets of a romantic relationship with the obsessive and always on the job Rauser. They seem to pass in the night, him coming in at 3 a.m. fresh from a murder scene or a stake out, her wishing for more face time not to mention sack time, but as an ex-FBI psychological profiler understanding the pull of the job she is content for now. Besides, Rauser has just come from the scene of a senseless murder of a young, gifted teenage athlete. Strangled and staged just steps from his home.

Then Keye’s cousin, the sometimes suicidal, ever brilliant and sought after celebrity photographer, Miki Ashton intrudes into Keye’s life, bringing baggage that challenges Keye efforts to remain sober and drives a wedge between her and Rauser . Miki seems the polar opposite of Keye. She is a practicing alcoholic, drug abuser and psychologically dizzy black sheep party gal.  When Miki returns home from a wild drunken night on the town and spots a masked stranger in her living room, she turns to Keye for protection. Keye and Miki have shared many childhood memories and remain as close as sisters, so Keye takes her in. After all, the police don’t take Miki’s report of an intruder serious as Miki has a habit of reporting stalking incidences that have little evidence they actually took place and the fact that Miki is obviously drunk and or drugged up do not help with her credibility. But Keye, out of familial obligation, gives her a bed and promises to check out ex-boyfriends, of which there are many, and to give Miki the space to calm down and maybe sober up.

“Stranger In The Room” by Amanda Kyle Williams available August 21, 2012

When Keye and Neil go out of town to investigate and gather evidence for an Atlanta attorney with a possible big money civil suit in the works. The suspected provider of the golden goose is  a crematorium that has delivered the ashes of a loved one that turn out to be a mix of cement and chicken feed. It seems the perfect opportunity to escape the heat of Atlanta in July and the turmoil of Miki’s life, if only for a little while. Not to mention a little harmless fun checking out a darkly comic screw up with a profit for a punch line. As an added bonus, it’s also the perfect opportunity to avoid a family 4th of July celebration with Keye’s adopted mother and father. But when a second set of fake ashes are discovered, the case seems to turn into more than a civil suit and when Keye and Neil uncover a gruesome and illegal tissue harvesting operation, any thought of a light-hearted get away are dashed. Then,  Keye is called back to Atlanta when Miki, probably drunk, probably high and always self-absorbed and irresponsible, lets Keye’s cat out. Keye decides to deliver Miki back to her own home only to find a corpse hanging from a doorway. Soon the  similarities between the murder of the man hanging in Miki’s house and the teenager start to becomes clear. Could it be another serial killer? And he or she seems to be able to get uncomfortably close to Keye and her family while stalking Miki. This stranger seems to, at will and without being recognized, stalks Miki and leave tantalizing clues, but for what purpose?

As Keye, now called in as a consultant on the case, along with the taciturn Rauser,  try to make sense of the bewildering case and find the common thread between the victims they will have to overcome the heat of a Georgia July and the turmoil of their own relationship, the media, there own doubts and most importantly the stranger who seems to be able to enter the room unnoticed as the next victim is cut from the pack right under the nose of Atlanta’s finest.

Williams seems to effortlessly be able to write engaging multi-threaded hardboiled mysteries and balance a deeply examined psychological plot with a light hearted banter and complex, very human characters. She has shaken up the perfect cocktail of police procedural, hardboiled detective story, noir-ish villains, and thoroughly modern and oh so original stories. The tension buzzes like cicadas on a hot Georgia night and the pace is relentless. It all makes for thrilling explosive action to rival a 4th of July fireworks display.

Where the first novel had the added attraction of a sexual tension as Rauser and Street came together romantically, Stranger replaces that with  Keye’s struggles against her addictions and the psychological scars that delving so deeply into the gruesome results of greed and obsession, of deranged killers, and the marks these leave on her psyche. This ability to shift the tension to another level shows a maturity in not just the authors writing ability but the ability to grow the depth of her character. Keye Street is no one trick pony and certainly no one hit wonder.

Amanda Williams

Williams was recognized as joining the front of the pack with Karin Slaughter and Patricia Cornwell in the ranks of female detective thriller writers. With Stranger in the Room she is ready to drop the gender qualification and run with the big boys to the the top of the best seller lists. Her sense of place will make you salivate for some downhome cooking and her dialog is some of the best in the craft. A perfect balance of a hard exterior and a miles deep introspective personality mark Keye Street as one of the most well developed protagonists in the genre since Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. There is simply not a single weakness in Williams writing. Not a one.

  • Hardcover: 320 pages Publisher: Bantam (August 21, 2012) Language: English ISBN-10: 0553808087 ISBN-13: 978-0553808087 Review Copy Provided by Random House Publishing Group

Article first published as Book Review : Stranger In The Room by Amanda Kyle Williams on Blogcritics.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jazz CD Review : Arturo O’Farrill “The Noguchi Sessions”

Noguchi Sessions

Noguchi Sessions

I think the secret is out of the bag. I like Arturo O’Farrill. I think I have covered three or four CDs, concerts, projects and the like in the past six or eight months that the  GRAMMY® Award winning pianist, composer and educator has either led, contributed to or organized. From his work with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to his involvement in "Música Nueva 5, Prez Fest 2012 Celebrating Dizzy Gillespie and his regular sideman, trumpeter and flugelhornist Jim Seeley, participating in Celebrando” by Hendrik Meurkens, Gabriel Espinosa with Anat Cohen & Antonio Sanchez which I reviewed back in May (follow the links).

He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere. And for good reason. The man is a monster on the piano. Surprisingly, this is his solo Piano Debut. And what could be more natural for O'Farrill, Mexican born to a Cuban father and a Mexican mother but raised in New York than to draw inspiration from Japanese-American Artist Isamu Noguchi?

“The Noguchi Sessions” Arturo O’Farrill

It's not by chance that O'Farrill chose The Noguchi Museum (in Long Island City, NY) as a setting for perhaps his most personal and challenging project to date: a recording of solo piano. "I have waited to record solo piano. It is the scariest thing a pianist can do. In Noguchi's multifaceted approach to his work -- painting, drawing, sculpting and designing furniture, lighting, and public spaces -- he found a kindred spirit. O'Farrill has not only performed as a soloist, and led and composed for small and large ensembles but also created his own organization. The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance is a non-profit organization committed to advancing the performance and educational aspects of the music -- just as Noguchi created his own museum.

O'Farrill simply set up his piano in one of the galleries of the Museum after closing time and played, recording the whole album in one sitting. The recording took place in what is known as Area 3 here.

"I had been working on some of these pieces for the past two years at the Puppet's Jazz Bar, a little club here in Brooklyn where I played every Wednesday. Sometimes I'd have 20 people, sometimes there would be two people," recalls O'Farrill. "It was a very interesting experience. By the time of the recording I had things all worked out. But when I sat down to play, I kind of abandoned the game plan I had and entered a very exposed and vulnerable, truly improvisational space."

The results are not just technically impressive but deeply affecting. the opening track is an elaborate, very busy and involved improv,  he calls "The Sun at Midnight," which blends elements of classical music, Cuban jazz, post-bop, and more into a awe-inspiring performance. Track two was an inspiration, it’s “"O' Susanna", the old minstrel tune that is harmonically bubbling over and made me think of Art Tatum in the way the song was taken from a simple little ditty and turned into a show stopping jazz piece.ArturoOFarrill_promo_1_6x8

All through the album you’ll find standards mixed with O’Farrill’s own compositions, many given O’Farrill’s African-flavored  personal stamp, mixing Cuban accents into the basslines while retaining the heart of the pieces. He gives us Cuban classical composer Ernesto Lecuona's "Siboney" , "Once I Had a Secret Meditation" is a wonderful and inventive re-working of the standard "Secret Love," to dramatic and shimmering effect.

O’Farrill dares to enter hallowed ground with an Art Tatum trademark, "Oh Danny Boy" but he gives it a Latin-Jazz  interpretation which claims it as his own.  maybe my absolute favorite, being a bass player, is a playful take of Charles Mingus' "Jelly Roll," you don’t hear this piece often, even on Mingus Tributes and compilations.  O'Farrill's rendition starts out smooth and filled with grandeur but soon turns playful. It’s a real delight and sure to bring a smile to the face of both musicians and fans alike.

There are several instances in this recording in which certain themes or ideas are revisited in different pieces creating intriguing pairings: "O' Susanna," and "Jelly Roll," suggest two views of America; one is "a song .. with grotesque stereotypes," the other, a celebration of an open, inclusive country. "The Delusion of the Greedy," and "Oh Danny Boy," look at a place of deceit but also, on that September 11, 2001, a place of heroism and ultimate generosity.

"Alisonia," and "Mi Vida," the latter written to commemorate the fiftieth wedding anniversary of his aunt and uncle, offer two views on couples and relationships. And in "In Whom," and Randy Weston's "Little Niles," two fathers address their sons.

The strategy suggests O'Farrill circling around a certain subject, not unlike one might circle around a sculpture, illuminating it from different sides. Perhaps significantly, this was unplanned.

Sun At Midnight

Or was it? A couple of fully improvised pieces ("Once I Had a Secret Meditation," which grows out of "Once I Had a Secret Love," and "The Sun at Midnight," inspired by a Noguchi sculpture of the same name.

It just happened," he says. "But serendipity is less of an accident than we think."

And if O'Farrill's playing in The Noguchi Sessions has a certain indefinable quality, intense yet lyrical, consider it part of the pianist's response to Noguchi's work. "There is a thickness, a kind of dense quality to his work," says O'Farrill. "But I find that's one of the magical things about Noguchi's work: some of his pieces weigh tons, they would crush you if they fell on you -- yet they seem to soar. So when I sat down to playing, I tried to capture that density, that weight -- but also the lightness." 


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Jazz CD review : “Funkengruven:The Joy Of Driving A B3” by Kevin Coelho


Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3

A lot of kids get interested in music. Some of those even get so interested they might take up something other than rock ‘n’ roll…like jazz. And, some of those might get so enamored they embrace an instrument; saxophone, piano, guitar, usually something that will let their urge to be an out front star out to play. But when  a young person embraces a ‘vintage’ instrument; an instrument that rarely these days translates from one genre to another, it’s a rare day indeed. Then when he masters it, grabs the attention of acknowledged masters of that instrument like 16 year old Kevin Coelho has with the Hammond B3 Organ and his personal “Yoda”, renowned master of the B3: Tony Monaco well, fans sit up and take notice.

I have to admit that I was skeptical. Jazz Organ was the instrument that first hooked me into being a jazz fan when I was very young. It started with my mothers love of Ray Charles. Along side of being great piano player, Brother Ray on occasion played the organ and it was on one of mom’s Ray Charles albums way back in the early 60s that I first heard the organ in pop music. The tune was “Chitlins and Candied Yams” , an instrumental.

Ray Charles–”Chitlins And Candied Yams”

From there I searched out jazz organ - first Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and others. Then I started noticing the instrument in rock ‘n’ roll, especially Booker T, Stevie Winwood with The Spenser Davis Group, Alan Price with The Animals. Eventually, I was to learn that the Hammond B3 Organ was to organs what champagne was to wine. The best of the best, the Steinway of the organ class.

When I first heard tell of Kevin Coelho and he was being expounded as the new genius of the B3, I admit, my attitude was a bit “show me”. So, I asked Jon and Braithwaite & Katz, the great jazz PR group that rarely steers me wrong, to send it along.

First thing I did when the CD arrived, naturally, was to peruse the track list. The kid’s ambitious, I thought to myself and may have even mentioned to the cat, goo Goo Barabajangle,  who’s an especially hard jazz critic, being a finicky Persian;  Otis Redding's  "Dock of the Bay" and Herbie Hancock's soul-jazz smash "Cantaloupe Island.", Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Play It Back”, the Miles Davis bop classic "Donna Lee". These are the Organ jazz Mecca tunes. Then, I looked for the supporting players. You need some strong cats to ride with Organ jazz. And he got ‘em; Tony Monaco, who not only helmed the sessions but also lent Coelho the players from his hot touring trio: guitarist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Reggie Jackson. Okay, he should b at least passable with these experienced organ trio cats on the session.

‘Cantelope Island’ by Kevin Coelho from the album “Funkengruven–How To Drive a B3” July 2012

So, I put it on. I was intrigued by the first track which also lends its name to the CD. “Funkengruven” is just that, a funky groove tune and an original composition. His left hand bass is very impressive. Coelho describes his "Funkengruven" title tune as "a riff blues over a set of non-standard changes, something that's funky and grooving but also swings. Those are tricky things to reconcile, funk and swing, not a lot of players can do it.

Next up was Herbie Hancock’s masterpiece “Cantaloupe Island”. Turns out that Coelho is a classically trained pianist and really studied this piece. He turns it  into a funk tune by changing the beat and putting a James Brown bass lines underneath , then did some arranging on the chords at the end, and voilà, he has managed to make the tune his own. I was more than impressed.

“Dock Of The bay’ is faithfully rendered as the smooth, mellow R&B and shows Coelho’s ability to not just swing some funky jazz, but to tackle a soulful pop tune. He gets some great help on the guitar from DiCenzo throughout and Reggie Jackson can drive the beat with the best of them. Jackson’s trips around the skins in the title track are so damn smooth, you have to wonder how he did it. Jackson is "a human metronome, his time beyond solid," says Coelho. He’s intense to and takes the music to the highest possible energy level.

“It's all about soul and energy”

There are a couple of tracks included that are written by Randy Masters who may not be a household name, even among jazz players, but he is one of the finest trumpeter-composer and theoretician’s out there. He’s also Coelho’s prime teacher. The two compositions are “Take A Stand”, a bluesy slow tune that’ll make you want to take your partner across the floor. Then there is the hidden gem of the album, another Master’s composition, “Chagalu”, it’s a Latin jazz tune that allows Coelho to further show off that he is no one trick pony. It’s got a hook and is so catchy, it’ll be right at home on the radio. I can see this one taking off on not just the jazz stations but crossing over to other formats. "Randy is an incredible composer - his pieces are deeply musical and playable, with wonderful lines," Coelho says.


Coelho’s own "McJimmy" is another song that lets the young organist explore yet one more subgenre of the organ jazz arena. It's a homage to the uplifting gospel sound of B3 idol Jimmy McGriff.

One of my absolute favorites is Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Play It Back” which really allows Coelho to stretch out and display his virtuoso talents both hands are amazing in his dexterity and touch. Then, too, he displays his “old soul”, digs way into the pocket, where the B3 really shines at creating tension in all the right spots and allow the tune to just drip in soul.

“…the dynamics of the B3 coupled with the soul and energy of a razor sharp trio…

Kevin Coelho is the sort of teenage phenom that the Hammond B3 organ hasn’t seen in decades. He has already studied an enormous amount and has a great grasp of what and how he wants to play. His arrangements are ingeniously funky, deeply soulful, swing in all the sweet spots and make you forget, continuously that you are listening to a kid that is barely old enough to drive, but drive the B3 with the best of them.

Kevin is poised to be the B3 master of his generation. He’s got the talent. he’s got the vision and he’s got the right ‘guru’s’. "I'm still developing my own sound, of course. I'm concentrating on trying to re-create in my own way the soul and energy of those old records I love”, Coelho says.

Along with Randy Masters and Tony Monaco, his jazz teachers include noted Bay Area Hammond B3 player Wil Blades. The young musician has also had master classes with Larry Goldings and Bennett Paster, among others. In 2010, Coelho attended and performed at the Eastman School of Music Summer Jazz program as a rare freshman to be admitted. He has participated in and performed at the Stanford Jazz Workshop for the past five years, winning the Outstanding Soloist award multiple times as well as being honored with the prestigious Shape of Jazz to Come award. With his group The Groove Messengers, Coelho performed at the 2011 San Jose Jazz Festival, and he also played the 2011 Stanford Jazz Festival, as well as at clubs and corporate events across the country in groups with such professional musicians as Charles McCarthy, Akira Tana, Jason Lewis, James Witzel, Ray Scott and Rob Gibson, among others. Coelho attends Los Altos High School in California, where he is a straight-A student.

Lonnie smith B3Well, this skeptic is ready to give him a gold star, and I’ll even let him drive the car.

  • Audio CD (July 10, 2012) Original Release Date: 2012 Number of Discs: 1 Label: ALLEGRO CHICKEN COUP ASIN: B0087OULDM Review Copy Courtesy of  Braithwaite & Katz, Jon Muchin


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 18, 2012

CD Review: “The Dark Knight Rises” Original Motion Picture Sound Track

Composer Hans Zimmer Teams With Christopher Nolan For The Conclusion Of The Dark Knight Trilogy


The Dark Knight Rises: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

I don’t go to many movies, after all I am legally blind so if I want to ‘hear’ a movie, I usually wait for the DVD release. But after the Aurora shootings, I don’t know. I think I wanted to reaffirm my right to go freely, anywhere in this country, and not fear for my life or safety. So, I made it a point to take a cab and walk into that theater in Lake Oswego. It felt good, and I actually got a seat about five rows back from the screen, so I could actually see most of the film. I also felt somehow proud to, at least in my mind, confront the stigma this film had and has for a lot of people all because of one deranged monster in Aurora. Another good thing that came out of this is I was reviewing a catalog of books being offered for review and one of those books was published by The University Of Colorado Press, so I made it a point to write the editor and offer to review the book (you’ll have to wait for the book review) and it was good to talk to someone who could still keep the beautiful things in the front of their mind after the tragic event.

First thing that I noticed, almost naturally given my limited vision and my back ground as a musician and eclectic fan of many forms and genre of music was the sweep and drama in the sound track. Like the previous Dark Knight film, this one was scored by the Academy- Award® winning composer Hans Zimmer. He teamed writer/director Christopher Nolan to create the music for the final installment of his Dark Knight Trilogy.

“Official Trailer”

From the opening track, “A Storm Is Coming” it is apparent that this is no ordinary soundtrack. This isn’t just pretty, sanitized sound to fill in the silent or transitory spaces in the action. As a musician, I could hear that Zimmer wasn’t playing it safe. The music was daring and at the same time beautiful and masterfully composed as a “whole and necessary” part of the film. Nolan had this lesson he says he learned from working with Zimmer, “the real risk is in playing it safe,” and that is the beauty to be found in this album.

The CD version of the soundtrack will contain an exclusive link to unlock three bonus tracks, while a deluxe version of the soundtrack, with three additional tracks, will be available digitally. A limited edition vinyl configuration is set for release on September 4. Following the success of his experiential app for Inception, which boasted 5 million downloads, Zimmer is preparing to unveil a new iPhone app for The Dark Knight Rises that will provide fans with a more immersive musical and sonic experience into the world of Gotham City. Details for the new Hans Zimmer app will be announced soon.

“Exclusive Nokia HD Trailer”

Hans Zimmer has scored over 100 films, grossing more than 19.6 billion dollars at the box office worldwide. He has been honored with the Academy Award®, 2 Golden Globes, 3 Grammys, an American Music Award, and a Tony Award. In 2003, ASCAP gave him the prestigious Henry Mancini award for Lifetime Achievement for his impressive and influential body of work. He also received his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in December 2010. Some of his most recent works include Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Besides some breath taking music, and to aurally remember this fantastic film, I think owning this sound track is an effective way to honor the victims and survivors of the murders that happened in Aurora. A way  stand up to the fear that monsters like this generate. By overcoming that fear, we defeat the monsters and display the hero in all of us.

  • Audio CD (July 17, 2012)  Original Release Date: 2012  Number of Discs:Format: Soundtrack Label: WaterTower Music  ASIN: B008645YEE Also Available in: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Music Review copy Provided by CineMedia Promotions

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved



Life Begins At Rewirement

Set in the near future, which is a piece of irony in and of itself since the band Soviet was conceived in the near past - LIFE BEGINS AT REWIREMENT follows Simon Ender on the day he checks his 100-year-old mother Jessica, into a memory care facility that uploads elderly minds into data banks. Simon must grapple with the difficult decision of what is best for his ailing parent as she descends further into dementia. The strained relationship of mother and son is put to the test as Jessica transitions from her aging body into a hard drive with infinite access to every memory and experience. Simon comes face-to-face with feelings of guilt, insecurity and ultimately, love, when the two are reunited.

“Life Begins At Rewirement” Futurestates Trailer

The film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and appeared as an episode of the PBS series Futurestates earlier this year. Director Trevor Matcek describes the genesis of the film this way, “As my parents grow older, I think about what I will do when they can no longer take care of themselves. Put them in a home? Have them live with me? It’s a gray area with no right or wrong that many must deal with at some point in their lives.

I am a huge fan of science fiction and most of my projects fall within the genre. I also come from a middle-class suburban background. It’s what I know. So I’ve found that I gravitate towards “suburban sci-fi” and telling stories as real as possible. How the kid across the street will deal with technology, rather than heroes in a galaxy far, far away. It is this familiar world where I set Life Begins At Rewirement , on an afternoon that many people from all walks of life, must come to terms with.

At heart, the film is thought provoking. Technology seems to advance by leaps and bounds and those leaps are really amazing. Amazing to the point that it is nearly overlooked in these modern times. We come to expect that which just a few years or months ago was unimaginable. Its only natural to eventually wonder how that technology can affect our mortality. And, perhaps the morality behind those effects.

About The Band : Soviet was born out of junk piles. It was born in pawnshops in the section for cast off musical instruments; Synthesizers . The earliest electric musical instruments was invented in 1876 by American electrical engineer Elisha Gray, who accidentally discovered that he could control sound from a self-vibrating electromagnetic circuit; in doing so, invented a basic single note oscillator. Frankly, this instrument was a remote electromechanical musical instrument using telegraphy and electric buzzers, without any other sound synthesis function. However, some people tend to call it "the first synthesizer". But by 1915, we had the first electronic piano thanks to Lee De Forest. 1920 brought the Theremin into existence, named for its creator Leo Theremin. By the ‘30s electronic organs were commercially available. Other odd electronic instruments came into being, if they didn’t find a wide audience ; the Ondes Martenot, the Trautonium. But these weren’t ‘truly’ synthesizers – there are varying definitions of the term "synthesizer". There is often confusion between sound synthesizers and arbitrary electric/electronic musical instruments. However, the synthesizer is defined by its ability to imitate sounds, sounds of real instruments.

Robert Moog released the first commercially available modern synthesizer in 1965 and these Moog Synthesizers are usually what are heard on the first pop records use of synths. In the late 1960s to 1970s, the development of miniaturized solid-state components allowed synthesizers to become self-contained, portable instruments, by the early 1980s companies were selling compact, modestly priced synthesizers to the public. This, along with the development of  MIDI, made it easier to integrate and synchronize synthesizers and other electronic instruments for use in musical composition.

Micky Dolenz of The Monkees bought one of the first Moog synthesizers. The band was the first to release an album featuring a Moog with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. in 1967. A few months later, both the Rolling Stones' "2000 Light Years from Home" and the title track of the Doors' 1967 album Strange Days would also feature a Moog.

“2000 Light Years From Home” by The Rolling Stones

The sound of the Moog also reached the mass market with Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends in 1968 and The Beatles' Abbey Road the following year; hundreds of other popular recordings subsequently used synthesizers. Beaver and Krause, Tonto's Expanding Head Band, The United States of America, and White Noise reached a sizable cult audience and came to almost define, or refine “psychedelic rock” with the use of the instrument as ‘sound effect’ machines. Then progressive rock musicians such as Pink Floyd, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer composed music for the synth – as opposed to using it as sound effects. Stevie Wonder created a brand new realm of pop music by his early compositions which took soul/funk/R&B and pop music into a realm the earlier musicians hadn’t. But, by the ‘90s the use of these instruments was becoming old hat and falling out of favor as the guitar god bands of the ‘90s re-emerged.

Soviet’s story begins in NYC during the late 1990s--Keith Ruggiero purchased all manner of the vintage synth gear that had fallen out of favor with the guitar-heavy indie rock bands of the time. Armed with his new gear, picked up for “ song and a dance’ in pawn shops and armed with a four-track recorder, Soviet was born. In 2001, Soviet released their first record, "We Are Eyes, We Are Builders" to rave reviews, capturing the essence and excitement of a burgeoning Electroclash scene. The follow-up, "Spies In The House Of Love", was released years later, during which time Ruggiero moved to Los Angeles to begin his career as a commercial composer and sound designer. It was also during this time that Ruggiero met director Trevin Matcek, with whom he found a shared taste of music and film.

Composed by Ruggiero, Life Begins At Rewirement’s score has been described by the film's director as "the heartbeat" of the film; striking a "hot and cold balance by mixing analog and digital." Says Matcek, “The result is synthetic, but never artificial. It's warm and earnest, with a layer of loneliness just below the surface. Keith summed up the feeling it creates with a single word: chills."

Trevin Matcek on the making of “Life Begins At Rewirement”

The soundtrack is one of few that interested me just because of this effect. As you watch the film, the vintage instruments and Ruggiero’s compositions really do pull you into the film, and almost as much as the fine scenery, the thought provoking subject matter and the fine acting, the sound; the songs set the mood and issue the pulse for the film.

Give it a listen.

  • Audio CD (August 6, 2012), Number of Discs: 1,Format: Soundtrack
  • Label: Sounds RED, ASIN: B008S1ELU8, In-Print Editions: MP3 Music Review copy provided by OJET Records via Riot Act Media.


The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved