EAST LANSING, Mich. — The trumpeter Etienne Charles stood in a Michigan State University classroom on a recent Tuesday evening — about 2,000 miles north and 50 degrees Fahrenheit south of his native Trinidad — and spoke to the undergrad big band that he directs here. The horns were having trouble nailing the inflections on “Chega De Saudade,” the bossa nova standard, so Mr. Charles sang the lines out loud, vocalizing a kind of hand-drum pattern. Then he told the horns to play back their parts, this time with the syncopation sharpened up. “Right now we’re a little too far on the straight side,” he said. Emphatic rhythm has always been the engine oil of a jazz big band, but Mr. Charles has original ways of addressing that history, inherited from his own homeland traditions. His earliest instructors taught primarily by ear, and built from the rhythm up. “Whatever songs we were singing in the choir — whether it was a Caribbean … [Read more...] about For Etienne Charles, Jazz and Caribbean Music Are One and the Same
Big band bossa nova
The Mavericks, “Brand New Day” (Mono Mundo Recordings) The Mavericks’ “Brand New Day” is skillfully paced for the dancefloor, straddling the southern American borders and shores with a spinning wheel of styles and rhythms. Led by rhapsodic vocalist Raul Malo, the band displays its usual high standards on tunes brimming with Tex-Mex accordions, Cuban rhythms, sophisticated 1960s pop, sensitive ballads and swirling bossa nova. Opener “Rolling Along” contains the leitmotif of the band’s first album on their own independent label — “Don’t fix what ain’t broken” — and suggests a distraction from some of life’s many difficulties that, as of press time, is legal only in a handful of states. The title track sounds like a long-lost Motown classic produced by Phil Spector in the 1970s and if “Easy As It Seems” doesn’t inspire your inner Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, check if you still … [Read more...] about Review: The Mavericks ‘ new CD is a spinning wheel of styles
The past is a foreign country. Only 20 years ago the World Wide Web was an obscure academic thingamajig. All personal computers were fancy stand-alone typewriters and calculators that showed only text (but no newspapers or magazines), played no video or music, offered no products to buy. E-mail (a new coinage) and cell phones were still novelties. Personal music players required cassettes or CDs. Nobody had seen a computer-animated feature film or computer-generated scenes with live actors, and DVDs didn’t exist. The human genome hadn’t been decoded, genetically modified food didn’t exist, and functional M.R.I. was a brand-new experimental research technique. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden had never been mentioned in The New York Times. China’s economy was less than one-eighth of its current size. CNN was the only general-interest cable news channel. Moderate Republicans occupied the White House and ran the Senate’s G.O.P. caucus. Since 1992, as the … [Read more...] about Kurt Andersen: From Fashion to Housewares, Are We in a Decades-Long Design Rut?
Feb. 7, 2019, 8:25 PM GMT By Two words sum up the music trends leading up to this year's Grammys: “Shift happens.” In the last couple of years, hip-hop and R&B edged out rock as the most popular music genre. At the same time, Latin artists known for their reggaeton beats broke global charts, especially J Balvin, from Colombia, with his critically acclaimed hit album "Vibras." YouTube's most watched artist last year was the Puerto Rican-Dominican artist Ozuna, unseating Justin Bieber. So it did not go unnoticed that not one reggaeton album was nominated for a 2019 Grammy at a time when the genre has dominated streaming and the global music scene. A better year for women, Latino artists? Last year, critics and fans questioned how the Grammys failed to award the most streamed song of all time, “Despacito,” by the Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, though they previously won four Latin Grammys. The president of the Recording Academy, Neil … [Read more...] about Despite Grammy’s reggaeton snub, these Latino artists could take home a win
I’m going to borrow a page from my friend and colleague Mark Hinson’s playbook this week and reprise a column intro that ran just before the winter solstice and Yule celebrations in 2016. In fact, it’ll be a little mash-up of the solstice column and subsequent Christmas column from that year. This year, they fall so close together I have to cover both bases in one column. Bright blessings to you all — the winter solstice is nigh. I always go a bit feral this time of year, when time seems to both slow down and speed up — a solstice paradox. I need to stamp my hooves and shake my mane and stand in the moonlight listening for the thin, high song of winter, the sound of glass singing, of the year winding down. It’s the pagan in me, I reckon. This is the time of year when the long nights hold us suspended in the amber of dreams, where time, if it exists at all, follows its own skewed logic. The short days are full of hustle — get the tree up, wrap … [Read more...] about For a solstice/Christmas mash-up, give us hope, friends and music