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.

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?

Duets in Love

Over the past couple of years, couples have been recording duets across the pop music spectrum.

In 2019 Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes recorded “Señorita” and dished up a couple of steamy performances at the MTV Video Music Awards and at the American Music Awards. The two became a couple around the time they recorded the song and remain so.

Halsey and Yungblud covered Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” when they were dating in early 2019. They broke up later that year, but the chemistry in this video is clear. Halsey wrote my favorite song of her’s, “Finally / Beautiful Stranger”, about their relationship. See that video on my Lizzo, Dua and Halsey post from last year.

Finally, and more recently, rapper turned rocker (at least at the moment) Machine Gun Kelly released this video of “Bloody Valentine” featuring his girlfriend, Megan Fox. Travis Barker of Blink-182, co-wrote, produced and played drums on the track, and the song – as well as much of Kelly’s Tickets to My Downfall album, reflect the influence. OK, this isn’t technically a duet – they just fake it – whatever.

Acoustic Guitar Innovators

With a few guitars sitting on the other side of the room, and decades of watching and listening to acoustic guitar players, I thought I had some notion of the boundaries of how one could play the instrument. I was so wrong.

Topeka, Kanas born Andy McKee incorporates a wide range of tapping and percussive techniques into his work, and check out the slanted scale on the guitar in this video! He’s released a number of albums dating back to 2001’s Nocturne, and he’s the first artist signed to the record label of guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel. In addition to his own records, he’s contributed to albums by Lee Ritenour and Josh Groban, and he toured with Prince. McKee blew up on the internet in 2005 with videos from his third album, Art of Motion, including this song “Drifting”.

Jon Gomm’s career has been very independent, self producing and crowd-funding his albums, playing local venues in England, while also touring the world and playing guitar festivals. In all my years of watching guitar players, until this video I’d never seen anyone play melodies by tuning the strings. If you want to see more, here’s a link to the video that put him on the map, 2011’s “Passionflower”.

This video by 23-year old Russian, Alexandr Misko incorporates the tapping, percussion and tuning effects used by McKee and Gomm, and he throws in an Eminem rap on top. His internet launch began in 2016 with his cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”.

If you want to explore this vein of acoustic guitar playing further, apparently the godfather of these techniques is the late Michael Hedges, followed by Preston Reed.

Merry Christmas!

I’m proud of the Christmas music collection I’ve curated over the years – dozens of albums covering all the classics and spanning every conceivable genre. But there are a few songs in the collection, my “alternative classics”, that I need to hear for the season to really be complete. Hope you enjoy them. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

At the top of the list is “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” by James Brown. The song is from the Funky Christmas album, an incredible set all around from the Godfather of Soul, full of great grooves and great lyrics.

The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” is a bouncy piece of fun that hooks you, ’cause you just have to hear how the story ends.

The special harmonies of the Beach Boys make for creative takes on Christmas classics. But if you live in a cold winter climate, like I do, and wonder how Christmas feels when palm trees are outside you window, “Little St. Nick” by the Beach Boys is what I imagine.

And finally, the most bizarre Christmas song every recorded, “Christmas at K-Mart” by the late Root Boy Slim. K-mart sued to keep this song off the radio for many years, though it’s 7-11 that really takes it on the chin in the lyrics. And if this is your first exposure to Root Boy, do root around on YouTube to hear his madness and political commentary, 70’s style, with tremendous backing musicians.