Allmusic.com included Come to Life, the latest from Memphis rapper Cities Aviv, among its featured releases for the week. Congratulations.
For this week's Flyer, on newsstands today and online tomorrow, I wrote a story about the Hold Steady's upcoming show at the Hi-Tone (Wednesday, January 29th, 8 p.m.) and the impending release of the band's 6th album, Teeth Dreams (March 25th). Last week I conducted separate phone interviews with Hold Steady lead singer Craig Finn and guitarist/Memphian Steve Selvidge. As is the case sometimes with print, there was a lot of material from the interviews that didn't make it into the story, or that can be given some room to breathe with greater context. Yesterday I posted the Q&A with Finn. Today, Selvidge is on tap.
Memphis Flyer: What part of the world are you in right now?
Steve Selvidge: I'm on the phone from Brooklyn. We're taking a week to rehearse. We recorded Teeth Dreams last summer, played some shows in the fall, and took the holidays off. Now we’re getting together and playing all the songs on the new record we haven’t played since we were in the studio.
How does everything sound live?
Great. It’s going really well. We played Monday [January 13th] and we took all day Tuesday [January 14th] for photos and played again Wednesday [January 15th] and it still sounds good.
Before the show in Memphis, will you do some rehearsing down here?
We’ll do 3 or 4 days in Memphis working on stuff, then we’ll do the soundcheck at the Hi-Tone, play on the 29th, and go on a 10-day run from there.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I sat down for breakfast at the justifiably heralded Boulette's Larder. The place is the jernt when it comes to breakfast: crazy view of the Bay Bridge and food on the highest order. I was the first person in the door. If you don't know already, you should wear a goddamn Stax hat everywhere you go. Everywhere. Here's why:
When I sat down and ordered black quinoa with chickpeas and poached eggs (best breakfast I've ever had), my waiter casually mentioned that he had been Isaac Hayes' personal vegan chef. Holy freaking smokes.
Elijah Joy is a vegan food power house. He's cooked for the Hot Buttered Genius, for Moby, and for B.B. King's Blues Clubs. It's no wonder to find him at Boulette's, which could not be any better. Joy and I discussed how important Isaac was to the world and how saddened we were by losing him so early and unexpectedly. Here is his Wikipedia page, which you may read after you've finished all the Flyer copy and patronized a handful of advertisers.
Memphis moves in funky ways, even on the west coast.
Think that's enough? WRONG!
Later that day, a Flyer colleague and I took a cab to the Flower Conservatory. On the way, the cabbie was listening to a wicked soul station. Carla Thomas came on the radio. I mentioned that we were from Memphis, and the guy lit up like a Chicks Stadium fireworks display. He CARED about Carla. Our music is a precious export and something for which I will always have unlimited pride.
Memphis Flyer: Have you spent any time in Memphis preparing for the tour and album?
Craig Finn: We will be there rehearsing for the four days leading up to the show. About two years ago I was doing some touring on my solo record [Clear Heart, Full Eyes], and [the rest of the band] went down to Memphis and wrote some songs that ended up becoming part of the record. So there’s definitely some Memphis in there, and obviously with Steve [Selvidge] in the band.
What's the flavor of those songs written in Memphis? How does Memphis bleed through in them?
I’m not sure, other than the fact. It would be hard for me to know. The big thing is having Steve, a born and bred Memphian, in the band. He was a really strong addition. One of the big things with the next record is that it’s the first one where Selvidge is involved in the writing and recording. He came in in the process of touring for the last record. That’s a big part of [Teeth Dreams].
Ladysmith Black Mambazo will perform this Friday, January 24th, at the Germantown Performing Arts Center.
If you only know them through Paul Simon, there’s lots of great music in the South African tradition that you may find even more compelling. Let’s look at LBM in context for a wider appreciation of this form.
Mbube means “lion” and is the Zulu vocal tradition that grew out of the mining culture of South Africa. Zulu workers sang four-part harmonies in the loping style that most will recognize from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens, which is sort of the Pat Boone version of mbube. Pete Seeger didn’t really help things either by goobering it up with folkiness. Like most culturally based music, it’s work finding the source.
Solomon Linda is the Bill Monroe of mbube. That is, he’s the man who invented the form. His recordings from the late 1930’s epitomized a style that later became a form. The subform isicathamiya is the basis of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s choral sound.
Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds:
Miriam Makeba’s version of “Mbube” demonstrates the durability of the form.
The economics of the mines are unchanged and the tradition continues to this day. Here is footage from a workers’ hostel where the choral and dance traditions are still alive.
Bobby Rush was the first blues man to play the Great Wall of China. He also wrote "Chicken Head," which is below. So it is genius of Rhodes to make him the Curb Visiting Scholar in the Arts. Rush will be on campus this week and later in April to share his unique perspective on blues and R&B. Rush will also play at Elvis' old house on Audubon in March and perform with the Rhodes Jazz Band in April. That's just how he visits scholastically.
The Mike Curb Institute for Music at Rhodes College was founded "to foster awareness and understanding of the distinct musical traditions of the South and to study the effect music has had on its culture, history, and economy."
Rush is the first visiting scholar. For more about Rush, see Preston Lauterbach's history of the Chitlin' circuit.
I'd hate to insinuate that Rhodes students ever smoke weed. So, they do. I've seen it. To commemorate that, here's this one:
Which leads inevitably to this:
Songwriter guitarist Andrea Carlson will play at the Howard Vance Guitar Academy on Friday evening. Get out there and check out the place. While you're out there, sign up for lessons and make the world a better place.
Chet Baker is one of the saddest figures in jazz history. As a result, his story and his music pulse with romanticism and pathos. Plagued by drug addiction, the once handsome Baker seemed bent to squander talent and looks on a cheaper, deadlier muse: heroin. After a promising rise in the early 1950s, the trumpeter fell on hard times. He did jail time and was beaten so badly that he lost his teeth, which are essential to forming notes on the trumpet. By the 1970s, Baker had stabilized a little and with the help of dentures embarked on a rebirth. During this period, he recorded for the small, Danish label Steeplechase.
Memphis jazz heavies Joe Restivo, Marc Franklin, and Sam Shoup will mine this period of Baker's career for a sort of tribute tonight at Le Chardonnay. Don't miss it. The music starts at 9:30.
Everybody else: The Oscars nominations will be announced tomorrow morning! (!!!!!)
Back in August I predicted what the Best Picture category would look like.
2014 Best Picture Oscar Nominee Predictions 2.0 (In order of certainty):
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Saving Mr. Banks
Inside Llewyn Davis
Dallas Buyers Club
Other three I can't pull the trigger on:
August: Osage County
Note that the Academy could nominate between 5 and 10 films for Best Picture.
The nominations will be announced Thursday, January 16, at 7:38 a.m. on ABC.
UPDATE: The Academy only went nine deep in the category. (Which is stupid; since the awards are just another marketing tool for movies, maximize the exposure you can provide.)
I missed on Inside Llewyn Davis and Saving Mr. Banks, and Philomena made it in when I thought it wouldn't. I had it ranked 11th.
The Oscars air Sunday, March 2nd, on ABC. (Squee!)
New Orleans Jazz Fest 2014 lineup went public today. It runs from April 25th through May 4th. There is usually some important overlap between the venerable Jazz Fest and our own Beale Street Music Festival, the lineup of which has not been announced. There's usually some good handicapping to be done about who plays BSMF on the "festival circuit." Heck, let's all engage in rampant speculation.
Here's the Jazz Fest 2014 lineup. Get your extra-bad self back over here for everything Beale Street Music Festival.