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Apr 27th
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Music - Features

Out of Africa

Out of Africa

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars survived war and bring the spotlight home
It’s a peculiar thing how it’s often those in positions of the greatest suffering who find the means to extol higher spiritual powers, radiate the brightest light, and dance as though there lies no problem at their feet. Take for example the spiritual songs of slaves, the hymns and folk songs of America during segregation and the anti-war era, or the political songs of South Africa during Apartheid. Music doesn’t just move, it can bolster a movement. So while you might be modest in your socio-economic standing, you can always remain brazenly rich when it comes to melody. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars know this well.

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Music - Features

Wisdom without Words

Wisdom without Words

Red Sparowes give history lessons through instrumental music
Post-rock is challenging music. It’s not exactly jazz, and it doesn’t take the same kind of abstract understanding to wrap one’s head around; but still, instrumental music can often initially be outside of the comfort zone of many rock faithful who eventually gravitate from the softer croons of Death Cab towards the drifting soundscapes and sludgy guitars of acts like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky.

Moreover, there’s the confusing issue of how music without lyrics is used to express specific thematic elements that a vocalist might directly address. If Explosions’ “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean” is about a sunken Russian Submarine, do specific movements in the song correlate to specific happenings on board? Or is it a more general inspiration?

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Music - Features

The Great Liberator

The Great Liberator

Is Stanley Clarke the Rosa Parks of the electric bass?
With all the Victor Wootens, Michael Manrings and Marcus Millers out there, it’s easy to forget that not so very long ago, the electric bass was relegated to the back of the musical bus: While the lead instrumentalists frolicked in the spotlight, the bassist’s job was to do little more than keep time with the drummer and lay down simple grooves.

Then came Stanley Clarke. With the possible exception of Jaco Pastorius, no musician has done more than Clarke to help establish the bass guitar as a lead instrument in its own right. In the early ’70s, Clarke—previously known for his work with the fusion group Return to Forever as well as with jazz players like Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Art Blakey and Pharoah Sanders—took flight as a solo artist. Though it was almost unheard-of for a bass player to act as the leader of a band, Clarke’s undeniable skills made short work of the naysayers’ prejudices. 

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Music - Features

Metal Machine Music

Metal Machine Music Pat Metheny’s robot band rocks the Civic
In the music documentary film Dig!, a member of the neo-psychedelic rock band The Brian Jonestown Massacre comments that the group’s vocalist, Anton Newcombe, would love to be able to clone himself so as to be able to play all the instruments himself. Science might have a little way to go before such a scenario can be actualized, but the ever-inventive Pat Metheny, a pioneering jazz guitarist who’s won no less than 17 Grammy Awards in 12 different categories, has done the next best thing: He’s created the “New Orchestrion,” a device that uses the technology of solenoid switches and pneumatics to control instruments such as vibraphones, percussion, keyboards, glass jugs and a “guitar-bot” with four single-stringed necks. By commanding his robot army via a MIDI-equipped guitar and programmed computer sequences, Metheny has the enviable ability to be his own backup band.
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Music - Features

Deer in Spotlights

Deer in Spotlights

Rhode Island’s Deer Tick works hard, plays harder
There are certain bands which just beg to be played in a raucous drinking establishment: glasses banging, cigarettes glowing, hips shaking. With its worn-in sound, dusty country aura, and vocalist John McCauley’s raspy drawl, Providence, R.I.’s Deer Tick is the kind of act which could challenge The Hold Steady for the title of World’s Greatest Bar Band.

Coming around to the Crepe Place on Saturday, April 24, Deer Tick has already made waves with its rick-rollicking live show, which—as attendees at their March show at San Francisco’s Independent discovered—may or may not include male nudity.

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Music - Features

Music for the Future

Music for the Future

Two worlds collide for PremaSoul’s universal appeal
What do you get when you combine Southern soul music, jazz rhythms and Hindu devotional chanting? It could be called universal love. In fact that’s what Sheela Bringi and Clinton Patterson call their band: PremaSoul. “Prema is a sanskrit word that means universal love,” says Bringi, whose parents moved to the United States from India in the ’70s. She explains further, “My first love of music came from devotional singing, or bajans. It’s infused into everything I do musically. I love to take these old melodies and play them in new ways, in new settings, for new audiences.”

PremaSoul combines Bringi on vocals, flute and harp, with Clinton Patterson singing, playing keyboards and trumpet. The band also includes a divine rhythm section of bass, tabla and drumkit. PremaSoul will be performing that unique blend in a concert to benefit Haiti relief efforts at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 24, at Kuumbwa Jazz. Tickets are $20 in advance and available at Gateways Books. All proceeds will help fund a new orphanage for Haitian children whose parents were killed in the recent earthquake. For more information about humanitarian efforts in Haiti and worldwide by Amma and the MA Center, see embracingtheworld.org.

How did Bringi, an Indian flute player from Colorado, meet Patterson, a jazz keyboardist from Georgia? Both were students at California Institute for the Arts in Southern California. “I was playing music at a Thai restaurant,” Clinton reminisces. “I played music there for two years and one evening Sheela came in and we started talking. Eventually we got together and started playing music.” Their first album was titled Sound Travels and their new EP is A Shrine to All Things.

“I’ve always been interested in pulling music together from different places.” says Clinton. “A vast majority of significant things in American music have come from Black American culture, or people’s perspectives on that culture. I’m bringing my own personal connection to blues, rock ’n’ roll and R&B.”

“PremaSoul is about breaking down boundaries,” adds Bringi, who studied piano and classical Indian vocals as a child. “Early on my mom and dad encouraged me in any kind of artistic pursuit that I wanted. I began piano lessons when I was 4 or 5. Later I took flute lessons and fell in love with Indian flute. In high school I played piano in the jazz band.” She also honed her musical skills at Mills College in Oakland. “It just blew my musical world right open,” she remembers. “I came into contact with so many great musicians, like Fred Frith and Cecil Taylor. It was all based in improvisation. It got me in touch with a musical sense that can only happen when you get together with a group of people and don’t know what you’re going to create, but do it in the moment.”

Playing a concert to benefit children in Haiti seems perfectly in sync with the deeper meaning of PremaSoul. “I was excited when this opportunity came up for us,” reflects Bringi. Patterson agrees; “When things are happening anywhere in the world and people need support, there is no difference between helping someone in Haiti or helping someone that lives next door. That’s also the way that I think about making music. I try to ignore artificial barriers between different musical cultures and traditions.”

Bringi concisely explains her motivation for creativity: “I express my love for the world through music. It’s a way of opening the heart, expressing devotion and calming the mind.” Patterson, her musical partner, adds, “PremaSoul is a way of taking things I really love, putting them together and hopefully making something new, making some progress. It’s music for the future.”


PremaSoul performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 427-2227. John Malkin is a local writer, musician and host of The Great Leap Forward each Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Free Radio Santa Cruz, 101.1 FM and freakradio.org. Read about the poverty and political instability contributing to the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti in Paul Farmer’s The Uses of Haiti and Noam Chomsky’s forthcoming Hopes and Prospects (Haymarket).

 
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We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Dark Magic

40 years on the movie beat in Santa Cruz
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