Under the Stars is an almost weekly column that features new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and a number of other adjacent items. We continue to evolve with the changes, thinking outside the margins.
We remain very excited for BART to pass half price for the month of September, attending this year’s Sun/4 45 sessions in conjunction with Hiero Day, where legendary hip-hop producer-executive Dante Ross, will end up behind the decks. We’re also looking forward to popping over to Bottom of The Hill on Thursday the 1st, to enjoy the flowing style of prolific Queens-born rapper Homeboy Sandman. Bandcamp Friday resumes on Friday/2, so we have some suggestions for you there as well.
OK, let’s go !
MARCUS SHELBY AT YERBA BUENA GARDENS, SAT/3
Bay Area-based artist Marcus Shelby wears many hats. A composer, educator, artistic director of Healdsburg Jazz and artist-in-residence of the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, he is a jazz institution in San Francisco on his own.
Long ago, I was aware of an intimate rehearsal for an upcoming North Beach Jazz Festival where Shelby, on bass, was accompanying Pharaoh Sanders, the master saxophonist of “sheets of sound.” The second track they rehearsed was “Naima” by John Coltrane. The rendering was so soft, full of grace and presence, that once finished, there was not a dry eye among the prying eyes.
This installation will be at work for Shelby’s latest project Blues in town. He collaborates with San Francisco Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin and a stellar new ensemble of musicians, examining how the city’s most vulnerable citizens – the homeless, the poor, and BIPOC communities – have been drastically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The original sequel is keyed to Nina Simone’s directive: “An artist’s duty,” she said, “is to reflect the times.” The event is free to the public and takes place on the Esplanade of Yerba Buena Gardens.
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BLONDIE: UNEXPECTED 1974 – 1982 GROUP NUMBER
In the fall of 2018, an EP of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, fronted by Chicago band Numero, looked at the emergence of post-punk and disco, as well as the influence of reggae on the beginnings of hip-hop and, in turn, how Blondie spat it out into the band’s music. The resulting effect is similar to the collage-like elements that would make up a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat – to name another rising talent from the time and town Blondie hailed from. In fact, the band’s lead singer, Debbie Harry, who eventually decided to use vocal muse Donna Summer to introduce the song’s lyrics, would feature Basquiat in the band’s music video for “Rapture” later in 1981. .
“Heart Of Glass” charted at No. 19 on the 1979 Billboard Hot 100 list, alongside Paul McCartney doing disco moves with Wings via the hit “GoodNight Tonite.” Many artists from earlier eras were also doing things suitable for the dancefloor to stay contemporary. Yet Blondie, the only band on this list among New Wave glitz, incorporated four emerging genres that would dominate the musical landscape to come.
Now in 2022, Numero Group has released Blondie’s first archival presentation of those pivotal years. It includes four outtakes and rarities recordings, a liner note book containing interviews with each band member, a 120-page annotated discography, and other “super fan” extras.
Is it too much? Go listen to their evergreen hit “Dreaming” and make the fucking purchase.
The version is available in a huge range of formats available here.
BANDCAMP FRIDAY CHOICE
WAAJEED, HI-TECH JAZZ MEMORIES (TREASURE)
Waajed’s Memoirs of Hi-Tech Jazz is intended for pleasure. It’s described as “a respite from the Midwestern work ethic and a reminder to ground yourself in the pleasures of your body and the earth” in its Bandcamp liner notes. The album’s lead track “Motor City Madness” features a snapshot complete with yesterday’s jazz horn accents and contemporary electronic footwork.
Listen everyone, Waajeed is a gift. Period. His 20 years of producing contemporary soul music include co-founding Slum Village with the late J Dilla, leading Platinum Pied Pipers, and collaborating with Carl Craig, Theo Parrish and Underground Resistance. He’s always rehearsing, soul controlling from an unapologetically dark rhythmic point of view that defines Detroit, past and present.
If he wants us to join him in celebrating “Black leisure and play; worldly joys that endure despite the exhausting realities of the world,” I would accept the invitation.
PHANTOM FUNK ORCHESTRA, A NEW KIND OF LOVE (COLEMINE RECORDS)
If the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs a boost in getting new people to sit down for the next wave of movies, they should hire multi-instrumentalist Seth Applebaum to score that shit. He’s the brainchild and leader of the cat wrangler of Ghost Funk Orchestra, a psychedelic band from New York that I can’t get enough of.
He and his group of 10 stars have that chi. For example, take the music seriously, but not yourself.
With excerpts from David Axelrod, using a Williams S. Burroughs “cutting” method to score brassy horns to navigate through stoner rock, lounge, jazz and funk – the most identifiable genres in this amalgam.
They brought the fun back to funk.
Unfortunately, I missed them in March at the Zeitgiest in San Francisco, but the album A new kind of love due out in October. “Scatter”, their new single, is an Applebaum classic, ignoring pop orchestras, featuring Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and the enthusiasm of Antibalas. GFO never fails to deliver.