Jon Batiste and Celeste

Jon Batiste, who many of us know as musical director and band leader of Stay Human on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, just won and Oscar. Collaborating with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Batiste won Best Original Score for his work on Pixar’s Soul. In addition to writing original jazz pieces for the movie, Batiste arranged a number of covers. One of those covers, that plays during the end credits, was chosen for an additional rendition released as a single. “It’s Alright” features Batiste and singer/songwriter Celeste.

The song was originally written by Curtis Mayfield in 1963, when he was with The Impressions prior to launching his solo career. Here is Mayfield performing the song in 1989 with an all-star backing band that includes David Sanborn on saxophone, Omar Hakim on drums, George Duke on piano and more. If you want to skip past the interview by Sanborn jump to 2:25.

Celeste was in the running for her own Oscar, having co-written and performed Best Original Song nominee “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7. Here she is performing it on Academy Awards broadcast.

Rolling Stones’ Pandemic Production

In April 2020, weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rolling Stones released “Living in a Ghost Town”, with lyrics and video apropos of the time. The song actually came out of a 2019 recording session, and the band finished it off remotely when it became more relevant than they could have anticipated. The song also represented the first new, original song the Stones recorded since 2012.

While in lockdown, the Stones finished off work on the re-release of 1973’s Goats Head Soup. The update featured three previously unreleased songs including “Criss Cross”. A very sexy new video was made for the song’s release, based on shoots that director Diana Kunst had done over a period of a few years with Spanish model/actress Marina Ontanaya.

And on April 13th, Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl released “Easy Sleazy”, a hard rocking look back at lockdown – definitely from the perspective of guys who haven’t had it too bad. Let’s pray the whole world will feel ready to join Mick’s and Dave’s upbeat spirit soon.

DOMi and JD Beck

While we are still mourning the passing of jazz innovator Chick Corea, it is awfully reassuring to see a new generation of young musicians dedicated to keeping jazz – and the chops that go with it – alive. French keyboardist Domitille Degalle, stage name DOMi, and Texas drummer JD Beck are both in the prodigy vein of musicians – she is now 21, he 17. Their paths crossed a few years ago, and they have been collaborating ever since. Thanks for the heads up on these two, Barry!

Here are a couple of videos from a set of studio duets they performed last year. The second is their renamed riff on the John Coltrane classic, “Giant Steps”.

This performance features JD, with DOMi playing as part of Ghost-Note, a collaborative of musicians worthy of their own post. Learn more here until I get around to that. Fast forward to about 1:20 if you want to bypass the chatter.

Merry Clayton Now and Then

Merry Clayton, she of the iconic backing vocals on the Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter”, released an album of her own, Beautiful Scars, this past Friday. Thanks for the tip, Helga! In the 50 years since she sang on the Stone’s track, Merry not only sang backup for many famous artists and on other famous songs (including improbably Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”), but released albums of her own, acted on TV and on stage, and was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom.

The title track for the new album was written especially for her and for this project by uber-songwriter Diane Warren. The final track is a medley that includes pieces of 1969’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and 1970’s “O-o-h Child”.

While Tina Turner performed the role of the Acid Queen in the 1975 film of the Who’s Tommy, Merry preceded Turner, singing the role on a 1972 album by the London Symphony Orchestra that also featured vocal tracks by Rod Stewart, Richie Havens, Steve Winwood and Ringo Starr.

And here’s Merry and Mick telling the story of “Gimme Shelter” from “20 Feet from Stardom”. Merry had already spent a couple of years as one of Ray Charles’ Raelettes, and was the kind of person you dragged out of bed in the middle of the night when you needed a crack vocalist.

Obviously – Lake Street Dive

I wrote my first post about Lake Street Dive in 2013, and a few more since. This past Friday they released their new album, Obviously. The band is celebrating fifteen years together, and throughout that time has defied categorization. Whatever buckets they jump between, the constants are the incredible voice and vocal stylings of Rachel Price, backed by a very talented and tasteful set of writers and musicians.

The lead single from the new album, “Hypotheticals”, has been rattling around the web for a few weeks. They performed it on The Late Show last week (thanks for the heads up, Barry), and here’s a studio video version that seems to have Bridget Kearney’s great bass work tweaked up a bit in the mix – put those good headphones on!

Here’s Rachel performing an unplugged version of “Nobody’s Stopping You Now”, from a livestream last summer.

In addition to working on Obviously, the band fit in time to have some fun during the COVID times. Carole King’s Tapestry was released in February 1971, and I’m sure she appreciated this cover of “So Far Away”. Enjoy Rachel’s voice and, again, Bridget’s exquisitely tasteful backing.

And here’s the band on a Brooklyn rooftop reprising the Beatles’ iconic performance, complete with outfits and facial hair. Not quite the energy of the original, but where did Rachel find that coat?