I’ve missed a couple of my #photowednesdays and #musicthursdays posts lately due to life. Oral surgery, fumigation, work trip, sleepover—and that’s just what went down last week. But when I was on the road for my work trip on Monday, this ray of light came on through a playlist I had synced to my phone. Many are now familiar with Robert Glasper from his Black Radio album, but his earlier, more straight-ahead stuff was pure joy to my ears. I hope it lifts you up as much as it did for me in a moment when I really needed it.
The Brandenburg Concertos by J.S. Bach are among the most famous pieces of music, ever. As a trumpet player, No. 2 is up there as one of the most revered and feared pieces in the repertoire. I have never played it (nor could have, even in my heyday) and there are many great trumpet players who just don’t even attempt it. What’s interesting about this recording is that the players are playing on period instruments, so that’s why some of them may sound different, and certainly look different, from the instruments you may be more familiar with. In particular, notice the trumpet—no valves! This means all the trills are mostly done using the lips alone, and many of the note changes are made similarly to a woodwind, where you cover holes. I think this is an excellent interpretation by the Freiburger Barockorchester (Baroque Orchestra) of a truly monumental piece. Enjoy.
First heard S.T.S. on The Roots’ How I Got Over album and I was sold. Originally a beat poet, he brings that wit along with the more “traditional” hip-hop that I grew up with (which is probably why I like him). In the video above, he really nails it around 2:51. He’s got a few mixtapes out there that are worth checking out too, especially The Illustrious.
Led Zeppelin! On xylophones! By middle schoolers! What’s not to love? Well, if it sucked, then yeah, but these guys are on it and it’s a decent arrangement. Give it up for the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.
Well, what’s there to say? Beethoven’s 3rd movement of his Sonata in C# Minor—the “Moonlight” Sonata—on electric guitar. My mom (yes, my mom!) turned me on to this beauty, and sure, it’s cheesy as hell, but this guy absolutely nails it. I don’t think it’s note-for-note with the actual piece, but it’s close. And what the electric guitar lacks in dynamics and nuance, is more than made up for by hair flips and whammy bar. Yes, only true music geeks will appreciate this one.
Jazz has played an important role in my life on a lot of levels, but for whatever reason, I haven’t shared much of it here. It’s definitely a genre I’m drawn to on my own, musically, but it’s just so damn daunting, which sometimes makes it hard to explore (and enjoy). This guy though, Ambrose Akinmusire, grew up in Oakland, CA and attended Berkeley High (a school known for its jazz program). I grew up somewhat nearby and was always astonished by what the Berkeley High kids—kids my own age at the time—were capable of. Blew me right out of the water. Still does.
Anyway, Akinmusire is pretty much everything I love about a great trumpet player: beautiful tone, flexibility on the instrument, with a knack for writing pieces that I’m drawn to harmonically. This recording won’t be for everyone—and unfortunately, it gets cut off at the end during the tenor solo—but it’ll give you an idea of what he’s about and it definitely gets deep in the conversation happening on stage between the guys in the band.
To go along with #photowednesdays, I thought I’d just get crazy and do #musicthursdays. Every Thursday I’ll try and share music I’ve been enjoying and hopefully you all will chime in with comments and what you’ve been grooving to lately, too.
I just discovered Rubblebucket thanks to the always-fantastic Tiny Desk Concerts via NPR. With their catchy, uplifting, fun tunes, and sometimes serious/inspiring lyrics, I was immediately hooked. I could also tell they really knew what they were doing. Between their multi-instrumentalism, harmonies, and rhythmic/melodic variety, there was a lot to enjoy and pull apart. Turns out the two leaders, Alex Toth (trumpet, flute, vocals, band leader) and Kalmia Traver (vocals, flute, saxophone), met as music majors at the University of Vermont, so there you go. Music geeks gone alt/mainstream and holding it down for all of us to enjoy. I really dig these guys and I hope you do too. Oh, and I have to say, I like these raw versions of their songs better than their polished recordings, but those are worth checking out too.
I am by no means the biggest Pixies fan. I was first introduced to them in college, many moons ago, and I have fond memories of rocking out to Surfer Rosa while driving (maybe a little too fast) over Hwy 17 (a very windy road), from Santa Cruz to San Jose. They are unique in a sea of blah and have influenced so many great bands along the way. I once read an interview with Kurt Cobain where he said when he wrote “Smells Like Teen Spirit” he was just trying to write a song that sounded like the Pixies (and he followed by saying he failed). I do hear the Pixies in Nirvana—and maybe that’s the part of Nirvana I like(?)—but still, the Pixies are really on a plane of their own.
This video is from their appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, February 3, 2014. I particularly like how Francis just stares stoically into the audience between numbers and at the end.
This dude makes a “keytar” out of a fully functional Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and proceeds to play the Game of Thrones theme (in its entirety!), complete with lasers and smoke in the background. Um…what else is there to say? Be sure to listen through to the end for a super-classy finish. (Originally discovered via Engadget.)