Space is the place and other concert reviews

‘If you find earth boring, just the same old same thing. Come on sign up with outer space ways incorporated‘-Le Sony’r Ra

The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing at SF Jazz center's summer festival

The Sun Ra Arkestra Performing at SF Jazz center’s summer festival

It’s hard to imagine the year is already in the back stretch. There have been quite a few good concerts in the bay area this year, including the Sun Ra Arkestra on August 6th at the SF Jazz center. The concert we caught was the final night of a 4 night stretch which boasted different compositions each night. Led by longtime alum and maestro, Marshall Allen the Arkestra once again made good on their word to take every member of the audience to outer space.

 

SFJazzCenter

Maestro Allen has transcended above any doubts fans might have had of whether he and the Arkestra would be able to adapt to a world without Sun Ra himself still in it. In fact, Sun Ra‘s very presence seems to be now somehow channeled through Allen as their compositions continue to inspire and evoke communication and the culture from some distant planet. Throughout history, many musicians and cultures have longed for an extraplanetary connection only to seem destined to fall short of such communications. The Arkestra has quite a track record for such a connection, not unlike the Dogon tribe in Mali.

 

 

 

8.6.17 The Sun Ra Arkestra performing their fourth night in SF

8.6.17 The Sun Ra Arkestra performing their fourth night in SF

Sun Ra was well known for his compositions and improvisations as well as his ability to draw the Arkestra‘s talented and devoted group members. It does appear that Maestro Allen also serves as an inspirational musician who plays alto saxophone, flute and EVI. The EVI is an electronic wind instrument which Allen uses in a way not dissimilar to the way Sun Ra utilized synthesizers to explore sounds that enter our auditory realm from outer space while the band rhythmically swings and bops and paints auditory landscapes. Joined by saxophone, bassoon and flutist Danny Ray Thompson, alto saxophonist and singer Knoel Scott the group performed a wonderful version of the Sun Ra classic ‘Dreams come true’.

 

 

 

 

Farid Baron, Tara Middleton, Marshall Allen,  James Stewart, Knoel Scott and Danny Ray Thompson

Baron, Middleton, Allen,Stewart,Scott and Thompson

Michael Ray is also a longtime trumpet player and member of the Arkestra is also know for his work in Kool and the Gang, his own group Michael Ray and the Cosmic Krewe and other groups as well. The band also included singer Tara Middleton, percussionist ElSon Nacimento, Cellist Kash Killion and guitarist DM Hotep. Pianist Farid Abdul-Bari Barron plays in a wonderful barrel house style that fits in so well with the Arkestra and he is a wonderful spirit to have in the group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For another take on the Arkestra and on Sun Ra, please have a look at my first vlog here.

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Vanessa Silberman, Reed Mullin and Mikey Ross at the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, July 25, 2017

Vanessa Silberman, Reed Mullin and Mikey Ross at the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz, July 25, 2017

On Tuesday, July 25th L.A. based guitarist songwriter Vanessa Silberman brought her tour to the Blue Lagoon in downtown Santa Cruz. Her band included Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity, Reed Mullin Music) on drums and Mikel Ross (Dreamstar Productions, Lucky Recording, Inc.) on bass. Playing a short but blistering set the trio played loud and fast, supporting her 2016 self titled EP. The edgy rock written by Berkeley born Silberman likens back to post punk era 90s such as Scrawl and Nirvana. Those folks put on an amazing set and brought along Boston singer songwriter Carissa Johnson as an opener.

 

 

 

 

 

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On Monday June 19th the one and only Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry performed at the Catalyst atrium in Santa Cruz with NST & the Soul Sauce from South Korea. It was one of two bay area shows, performing at the Mezzanine in SF and at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival. Performing alongside the dub pioneer was Subatomic Sound System, a Brooklyn based band who toured exclusively with Mr. Perry around the US performing the classic Upsetters record Super Ape, from 1976.

Lee 'Scratch" Perry at the Catalyst Club on 6.19.17

Lee ‘Scratch” Perry at the Catalyst Club on 6.19.17

Lee Scratch Perry with member from Subatomic Sound System performing in Santa Cruz

Lee Scratch Perry with member from Subatomic Sound System performing in Santa Cruz

 

 

This year’s incarnation with Noah Tha Riddum Doktor and Subatomic performed the single they cut with Scratch entitled ‘Black Ark Vampires‘ as well as well know including ‘Zion’s Blood‘ and ‘I am a madman‘. Perry tours extensively and the 81 year old singer, producer and inventor of Dub music has a storied career with his years at Studio One, the Black Ark, with producer/engineers Adrian Sherwood, the Mad Professor and others.

 

 

 

 

Inventor of Dub Lee Scratch Perry performing one of 3 West Coast shows in Santa Cruz

Inventor of Dub Lee Scratch Perry performing one of 3 West Coast shows in Santa Cruz

Originally born in Kendal, Jamaica, Perry‘s mother was of Nigerian ancestry. He now lives in Switzerland and tours Europe extensively performing with Sherwood and Mad Professor in England, Pura Vida from Belgium, and has a new release with Cookie the Herbalist  from Switzerland entitled Ease! The master of dub proves that he is still a force to be reckoned with his quirky style and energetic shows. Wonderful sets from Perry and NST & the Soul Sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A-Plus from Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief and Knobody are part of Grow Theory

A-Plus from Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief and Knobody are part of Grow Theory

On Sunday, April 30th, Adam Carter AKA A-Plus from Souls of Mischiefand Hieroglyphics brought his Spring Cleaning tour from Oakland to the Blue Lagoon in Santa Cruz. With a set that included Hiero classics such ‘You never knew‘ as well as the Souls of Mischief hit ‘93 til Infinity‘, and music from his solo career including Patna Please.

Joined by Producer Jerome Foster AKA Knobody,  A-Plus performed with DJ Nocturnal and refers to this group as Grow Theory. Their anxiously awaited record is in the works and will be yet another group coming from the Hiero Emporium record label from the sunny side of the bay. Nothing but fun times every time I make it out to see any Hiero member and certainly they make the bay an exciting mecca for fans of old school hip hop.

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The night prior to that stellar night of Hip Hop was Saturday, April 29th and we had a wonderful opportunity to see Oakland saxophone legend David Murray performing with Chicago native  and AACM member Kahil El’Zabar at Don Quixote’s International Music Hall in Felton, Ca.

David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar Duo

Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray Duo

David Murray and Kahil El'Zabar at Don Quixote's International Dancehall in Felton, Ca.

Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray at Don Quixote’s International Dancehall in Felton, Ca.

 

 

In addition to being a band leader and session artist Murray is well known for being a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet. He has received many awards including the Village Voice magazine’s ‘Musician of the Decade’ in 1980 as well as winning a Grammy in 1989 for his band’s recording ‘Blues for Coltrane‘.

 

 

 

 

 

David Murray was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show!

David Murray was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show!

 

 

Kahil El’Zabar performed with many legendary musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderly, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder. El’Zabar is known for his bands including the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Ritual Trio, TriFactor, JUBA Collective as well as being the recipient of the 2012 International Ambassador’s award in the Arts from former President Barack Obama.

Soulful and rhythmic with infusions of dance, spoken word are some of the memories this wonderful concert left on me. The Duo has three recording out together and they played efforts ‘We Is‘ and a number of other repertoire songs that captivated fans and audience members.

 

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The Upsetter: Lee “Scratch” Perry performs his dub masterpiece Super Ape at Moe’s Alley

Rainford Hugh Perry goes by many names such as The Upsetter, Pipecock Jackson, and Lee “King” Perry but most of those in the world of Dub know him as Lee “Scratch” Perry. Scratch, the living legend, has an illustrious history as both the creator of Dub as well as having been the famous producer who helped Bob Marley and the Wailers craft their authentic sound when Reggae emerged from the roots of Ska and Rocksteady from the 50’s and 60’s in Jamaica.

£ee $cratch Perry performing Super Ape at Moe's Alley 9/4/14

£ee $cratch Perry performing Super Ape at Moe’s Alley 9/4/14

Perry’s studio was the infamous Black Ark where some of the greatest names in Reggae and Dub performed such as Max Romeo, Junior Murvin, the Heptones and the Wailers. Scratch’s studio band was referred to as “The Upsetters” and were the session musicians for many of these legendary recordings.  It was in the Black Ark where Perry recorded what many consider the first Dub recording in 1976 on Perry’s own Upsetter record label, Super Ape. Super Ape was released internationally on Island records later in the same year. The use of reverb on percussion was key in creating the impression of a different plane in which the rhythm bounced and shook as if in some sort of vacuum.

£ee $cratch Perry performing at Moe's Alley

£ee $cratch Perry performing at Moe’s Alley

Perry also implemented a variety of sounds that were samples of recordings simulating exhaust, bubbling laboratory experiments and other mind expanding sound effects to give his music an otherworldly element.

Blessed also with an eccentric flair for the strange, Scratch has a wardrobe that gives him the aura of a mystic. On Friday, September 4th, the founder of Dub proved he had more energy than anyone in Santa Cruz including his collaborators, Subatomic Sound System, a band from Brooklyn who help pull of the performance of Super Ape in it’s entirety. The 79 year old icon performed for well over 2 hours endlessly streaming together his quirky rhyming lyrics that are characteristic of his signature sound.

The Upsetters at Moes Alley

Pipecock Jackson with Subatomic at Moe’ Alley in Santa Cruz

Perry’s legacy doesn’t stop as the creator of Dub. In the 80’s Scratch continued to develop his futuristic and Dub sound for the space age while working with On-U Sound producer Adrian Sherwood. The team worked together originally with The Dub Syndicate. In 1990 Perry teamed with The Dub Syndicate to record From the Secret LaboratoryThe collaborations between Perry and Sherwood have continued (though infrequent) and are another important component of The Upsetter’s amazing career. Perry and Co. performed the song Inspector Gadget from the aforementioned Secret Laboratory release in Friday’s performance.

Lee Scratch Perry with Subatomic on 9/4/2014

Lee Scratch Perry with Subatomic on 9/4/2014

After moving to Switzerland, Perry teamed up with 1/2 of the electronic group Yello on the 1997 release Technomajikal on Reachout Interntional Records (ROIR). Other notable collaborators includes a longstanding collaboration with Mad Professor as well as with Bill Lswell aon the 2011 release Rise AgainReleased on M.O.D. Technologies, the recording features Perry’s rhyming dub poetry over the musical stylings of a Reggae inspired grouping of Laswell’s group Material, with many recognizable associates from his Axiom and Celluloid record label days.

“Super Ape” performed at Moe’s Alley 9/4/15

“Three in one” from the album Super Ape performed at Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz