I'm incredibly excited about this week's musical selections, because all of these releases are extraordinary. I have plenty to say about all of them so let's get right to it.
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges - Texas Sun EP
No need to go into great detail about these two acts because as a KCRW fan you're already quite familiar. I talked about this Texas two-step release in my post a couple of weeks ago as one of the most anticipated releases of 2020 and my man Jose Galvan featured the latest single in his post the following week. He also accurately declared that we are all clearly excited about this project. Well, as of today, it's finally here! And just as you expect, it does not disappoint. I highly you encourage to dive in to the whole EP, in the meantime enjoy this intoxicating groove they call "C-Side". Texas Sun EP is out today.
Ben Williams - I AM A MAN
Bassist and DC native, Ben Williams, is a Grammy award winner (2013) and also won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2009. His name may not be familiar but his sound, talent and title of his latest record certainly is. I AM A MAN is a reference to Memphis' historic 1968 sanitation worker's strike, during which many African-American men marched through the streets with picket signs that read, "I Am A Man." You may have seen these signs in old photographs from that time or perhaps even more recently as a t-shirt sported by the aforementioned Leon Bridges.
In an interview, Williams explains, “The image of this long line of men, holding the picket signs, all saying the same thing – there’s something powerful about seeing this message over and over again,” and it reminds him of our use of hashtags today to inspire activism such as Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements. The spirit of I AM A MAN is perfectly complemented by its sound. Fellow Thelonious award winner and keyboardist Kris Bowers, guitarist David Rosenthal, bass clarinetist Marcus Strickland, trumpeter Kenyon Harrold and drummer Jamire Williams are all featured on the album. The alchemy created by these masters of their craft has produced a soulful soundscape that weaves jazz and hip-hop grooves with cinematic melodies and acrobat-tinged R&B. Well done Mr. Williams and crew!
A couple of weeks ago, Williams released a haunting rendition of the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is also featured on I AM A MAN which is out today.
Robert Glasper – Live on KCRW
I had the great pleasure of hosting an Apogee Session with Robert Glasper — which we recently aired live on KCRW — and though I don't normally highlight live sessions in these features, that night was exceptional. I've hosted several Apogee Sessions and have attended even more, however that night was different. Immediately upon crossing the threshold of the Apogee studio door that evening, I felt that this night was going to be different. I couldn't explain it and even all these weeks later, I still can't articulate what it was but I heard from several in attendance that they felt "it" too.
I proceeded to walk around and take in this nebulous energy, eventually making my way to the green room to say ‘what's up’ to Glasper and the band. This is well before they hit the stage and a typical routine whenever I host. What was not typical was the atmosphere in the green room. It was a straight up party! And I was immediately put at ease by Glasper and co (including his friends in attendance like Thundercat). For those of you that don't know me, that's my natural disposition. I mean my favorite word is tranquilo, the Spanish word for tranquil.
About an hour and several drinks later, Glasper, drummer Chris Dave, bassist Derrick Hodge and DJ Jahi Sundance hit the stage and transmuted this palpable, formless energy in the room into a sonic rapture. Kicking the set off with a nearly 15 min version of Radiohead's "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box", then moving to a version of Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," and eventually making his way to tracks of his latest album F*** Your Feelings. The performance of the title track, along with “This Changes Everything” included special guests like Terrace Martin, Yebba, PJ Morton and Denzel Curry. Everyone within earshot of these auditory vibrations was seduced into a harmonious trance.
Squeezed into the middle of this musical magic, Glasper and I sat down and had an in-depth, revelatory and humorous conversation. We discussed everything from his rhyming skills to the murder of his mother and her influence of him being a musician, to the necessity of Black Americans to create in order to survive and everything in-between. Like I said, it was an exceptional night. You can check out the band's version of "Butterfly" with Terrace Martin below.
I must say I'm particularly proud of this one so I hope you take the time to immerse yourself and check out the full interview and performance. Enjoy and let me know what you think!