Brief Thoughts on the Music Modernization Act Becoming Law

Let’s breathe deeply for a few minutes and put Kanye West’s rant aside for a moment (at least, you can relive most of the theatrics on a site that I regularly visit each and every weekday in Stereogum.com).

Thursday’s press conference inside the White House was indeed a watershed moment for the music industry in general and many artists, producers, and engineers in particular.  The rules that have been on the books for nearly a century are finally getting a major upgrade, and this is after many individual artists and groups through the decades have complained a lot about getting paid very low for all of their hard work at their craft.

Did you know, that every time you play any song done either by someone famous who appeared on Ellen or Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel or by a relatively unknown artist on any streaming music player from Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, iTunes, and Apple Music–those said artist(s) get very little in terms of compensation.

When Taylor Swift sent the letter to Apple via her Tumblr account on June 21, 2015–it sent major shockwaves across the music industry.

Once I read this quote in particular, these words really struck with me during Apple’s announcement of having fans stream Apple Music for 3 months for free.  Her words were relevant then and are just as relevant–three days after Taylor set the new record for most American Music Awards won in an career with 24, passing the old mark held for nearly three decades by the late Whitney Houston:

“This is not about me…This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success.  This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.  This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child.  These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.

I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming.  I think that is beautiful progress.  We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period…even if it is free for the fans trying it out.

Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing.  I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done.  I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music.  I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this.  We don’t ask you for free iPhones.  Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

Hope those artists who occupy Spotify and/or Bandcamp finally get the undue recognition that they so deserve.  And will “fair market value” actually show results?

 

 

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Master Composers: Laurindo Almeida Was A Legend With Interpreting Many Jazz Standards

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Image courtesy of discogs.com

From the 1930’s until his death on July 26, 1995–Laurindo José de Araujo was a master of many jazz styles.

Being self taught, Almeida learned the guitar by age 19.  When he turned 30, he moved from his native Brazil to Los Angeles, he is widely credited in some jazz circles when he teamed up with alto sax man extraordinaire Bud Shank (who was at time working with Stan Kenton) in creating the fusion between jazz and Latin rhythms that we know simply as bossa nova.

While working with film studio orchestra during the early 1950’s, he would also would be a part of over 100 recordings in later earning Grammy Awards in both classical and jazz performances.

The 1953 recording titled, Brazilliance No.1 and No. 2 take the listener on a journey in what author Tim Brookes mentioned in his 2005 book Guitar:  An American Life as simply “samba jazz.”

His solo career began in 1954 when he signed on with Capitol Recordings.  Among his standout recordings included the 1958 Grammy Award winning classical album, the crossover Duets with Spanish Guitar teaming up at that time alongside mezzo-soprano Salli Terri and flutist Martin Ruderman.  According to his Wikipedia page, even popular singer from the 1970’s and 1980’s in Linda Ronstadt became a huge fan of Almeida’s work.  Her aunt was a renowned Spanish singer by the name of Luisa Espinel.

He would end up claiming five Grammys throughout his legendary career.  In 1964, he joined the Modern Jazz Quartet on Collaboration.  The Atlantic Records label would be known in helping produce what we would call today as “chamber jazz” as jazz and classical music were mashed together for the first time.

He managed to return to the MJQ again in the 1990’s, a few decades after dabbling in movies and television shows such as making cameo appearances during the second iteration of A Star Is Born (1954) and on an 1959 episode from the Peter Gunn NBC crime drama titled, “Skin Deep”.

His name appears in performing credits from the likes of Good-Bye, My Lady (1956), Funny Girl (1968), The Godfather (1972), Unforgiven starring Clint Eastwood (1992), and finally briefly humming “The Girl From Ipanema” during The Cat in The Hat (2003).

This album from 1992 by Concord Records was filmed during a concert on October 5, 1991 from The Jazz Note club located in Pacific Beach, California.

The 1954 standard “Outra Vez” (translated on the cover of the CD as simply, “Once Again) leads off the 11 outstanding tracks.  “Blue Skies” and “Goin’ Home” pack a nice 4-5 punch, while even capturing Beethoven’s first movement of the Moonlight Sonata on Track 7 is something to behold.  Also worth a listen is the Antonio Carlos Jobim medley on the very last track.

Almeida was still recording, performing, and teaching right up to his passing from leukemia in Los Angeles on July 26, 1995 at the age of 77.

Fans can find his vast archives that are housed in the Library of Congress.  He will be remembered not only for his longevity in sticking to his craft, but the way he carried himself as a true professional both on and off stage.

As one time music critic for The Monterey Herald newspaper, George Warren mentioned simply in the back of the liner notes:

“Here contemporary jazz at its best meets not only the Latin classes of the Garoto period, but the classics of Western music in general…To Laurindo, there aren’t any musical boundaries worth mentioning, and it’d be boring to be stuck in only one idiom (for) the rest of your life.”

Back again in a few weeks with another cool Brazilian jazz album review.

Artists Worth Checking Out: Paula and Jaques Morelenbaum Bring Japanese Flavor to Brazilian Jazz

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Image courtesy of youtube.com

The husband/wife couple of cello Jaques and vocalist Paula Morelenbaum teamed up with Japanese pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto to form this very soothing album lasting just over an hour.

Released on September 4, 2001–the Sony Classical release also features two bonus tracks on the American release:  live concert renditions of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic standard “Samba Do Aviao” and “Improvisation”.

The regular 16 tracks feature many classics from “Sabia” (Track 5) and “Bonita” (Track 7), to “Tema Para Ana” (Track 13).  This would make a nice album if you were welcoming company over for a fancy dinner.  The pace is slow, but welcoming.  It should not bore you after a few simple listens.  Numerous B&W images of each of the three artists, plus their instruments at play in the studio compliment each of the Portuguese lyrics.  The traditional playing of key Japanese sounds come towards the end of the disk.

Later on this week or sometime next week, I will close out September with another cool album review–even though the outside air in most of the country still screams summer, with no sure signs of chillier autumn air on the horizon.

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In the meantime, I would be remiss to mention that many millions of people need money, food, clean water, the basic life necessities we all take for granted after Hurricane, later Tropical Storm Florence devastated over 2/3 of North Carolina over a four day period.  Please do what you can to contribute to the American Red Cross, plus other worthy charities both online and offline that you deal with in times of natural disasters.

I could only imagine the sheer horror of seeing many roads being impassable at almost every turn and major chunks of Interstate 95 looking like the Mississippi River.

Please keep those people in your prayers who have had to evacuate and also for the unfortunate few that did not leave in time that they all somehow, someway get the help they desperately need.

One Week After Brazil’s National Museum Went Up in Flames, The Loss Of Thousands of Major Artifacts Is Heartbreaking

Thanks to Marina Amaral and Slate Magazine for pointing out the sheer horror of Sunday night, September 2 in Rio via Twitter.

More than 20 million items that were housed inside Brazil’s National Museum were all destroyed, largely due to the fact that with their government for the better part of 40 years plus favoring such money for corruption–instead of what should have been done in having advanced fire protection systems in place to prevent such a colossal worldwide tragedy is devastating.  Firefighters had to use water from a nearby lake to help put the fire out, instead of using water droplets like we see each autumn during all California wildfires.

Several people on Twitter equated this to as if the libraries at the Smithsonian and at Alexandria, Virginia disappeared in an instant.  Sure hope they digitized a majority of the over 20 million items that were housed inside, including the oldest human remains found in the Americas in the skull of Luzia.  Scientists did grab a handful of artifacts that were housed near some side doors before it was too late.

The reason for the initial cause of the fire was initially unknown.  No question about it, as several people on Twitter said this past Monday and Tuesday–it is not only Brazil’s unspeakable tragedy, but it is also a tragedy in a global sense as well.  What can leaders learn from this is anyone’s guess.

Artists Worth Checking Out: Oystein Sevag Gives Off Very Soothing Rhythms, Almost Massage-Like Music

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Image courtesy of nmm.me

Born in 1957 near Oslo, Norway, Oystein Sevag as a kid took piano lessons in the early 1960’s.  By the time he became a teenager, he played bass in a local rock band but decided better of it to return to classical music instead.

What a wise choice it has turned out to be.

According to his Wikipedia page, Sevag studied flute, piano, and composition at a private Music Conservatory in Oslo.  By the time MTV was wrapping up its’ first decade, Sevag took a major liking to the development of the synthesizer and made his first album an all-encompassing electronic endeavor titled Close Your Eyes and See.

Windham Hall came calling shortly thereafter.  Link (1993) and Global House (1995) soon followed.  In 1996, he teamed up with English-Norwegian guitarist Lakki Patey on the ambient, but very soothing and calm album titled Visual.

After hearing the full 42 minutes late one evening, I can safely say that this album is perfect for anyone who wants to simply relax or maybe enjoy with their next massage.
As the back cover clearly states:

Visual is an ambient, meditative record that conveys a sense of nature and human moods.  It leaves space for listeners to form their own images.”

From “Painful Love” to “Here and Forever”, “Windwave” to “Rio Amazonas” and everything else in between–this disk deserves to be by your bedside when you go to sleep.

Personally, this album and their 2012 follow-up release Space For A Crowded World should go on a calm or soothing playlist alongside these independent pop/rock artists:

  • The Softies from Oregon
  • Passenger from the United Kingdom
  • Also hailing from the UK is Paper Aeroplanes, and their leadoff track “Cliche”.
  • Chicago solo artists heard on WXRT during the former Sunday night program Local Anesthetic during 2016 and 2017 in Jenny Bienemann and Chrissy Johnson (great listening during spring and summer, just fyi).
  • The new album Sculptor along with their older album Passerby from Lulac.
  • First Aid Kit, the sisterly duo from Sweden helps greatly in lighting up those rather cold and dark winter nights.
  • Briefly staying in Europe also great for relaxing albums include Poppy Ackroyd, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker of the UK, and the recently released Tomberlin with their excellent album At Weddings.

Next week, I hope to return with another cool album review.

Just before I go, I wish to salute loyal friends of this blog, Los Angeles’ own Complicated Animals who debuted a single at a recent Southern California wine tour stop called, “All You Are.”  The four minute plus single (including some instances where a gust of wind made Chad Alger’s guitar a bit difficult to hear) features Monica da Silva at her very best.  Hope you can check it out on their album’s Facebook page.

Enjoy your holiday weekend, for those of you in the United States and Canada.  Please stay safe, everyone.

Artists Worth Checking Out: Babado Novo Brings On So Much Energy

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Images courtesy of itdmusic2.blogspot.com (above) and clstar.webnode.com.br (below)

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Not much biographical information can be gained about Babado Novo, but I do know this for a fact:

She could give Ivete Sangalo a definite run for her proverbial money, as far as pumping up the tempo and the sound that speaks Friday night club atmosphere 24/7/365.

And it wasn’t just because I posted this blog early on a rainy Friday afternoon.

With a voice that bears a small resemblance to mid 1990’s Mariah Carey and a photogenic smile that might remind some wrestling fans of the very sexy Stacy Keibler.  Make no mistake, her songs are very credible and heartfelt.  Each of the albums profiled here are 14 tracks long, but one disk has more music on it than the other.

Please allow me to briefly explain what I mean.

The first album profile above exudes tons of energy, except on Track 13 being her only pure English song, the loveless romantic ballad titled “Never Can Say Goodbye.”  Even better, all of the liner notes–you can actually read without a magnifying glass!  I say, score one for fans with glasses on especially those who have nearsightedness.

The second album, Ver-Te Mar was released in 2007.  With a total playing time of nearly 48 minutes, it should be enough to satisfy even the pickiest beach comber.

This album also starts off with a very hurried, quickened pace.  But by the time you hit tracks 4, “Pedinho Um Pouco Mais” (translated meaning, “Asking A Little More”; 5, the title track meaning “See You In The Sea” and 7, “Abra Ai” (or “Open There”)–the vibe is much slower.  Think of smooth jazz stars John Legend or Dave Koz slow.

And yes, there is one more English sounding track again on Track 13, the Claudia Leitte written ballad, “Stay.”  Both albums also have plenty of summer time images throughout, including one pic where Babada herself pays a small tribute to one Bo Derek.

Both albums are available physically on Amazon, but only the first album listed O Diario de Claudinha is also available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music.  Fans can also check out her most recent works, including some live concert performances and an Ao Vivo session covered for Brazilian television.

Excellent disk for summer, they both deserve to have a special place in your Brazilian jazz collections.

Before I go, I have some important news that crossed my email late on Friday morning.

Familiar Brazilian Jazz MPB Releases New Album

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Image courtesy of torontoismytown.blogspot.com

I profiled Luciana Souza when this blog was starting out late in 2012.  I recall her having an online interview that was both pleasant and outgoing.  Her music exudes calm moods and soothing notes, just right when you are either had enough drama in the workplace or if the waves crash too harsh at your favorite beach.

This time around, according to the Allmusic website–Souza set out to cover ten short tracks as she pays tribute to the late Leonard Cohen’s works on his poetry and drawings.  The album is available for physical CD purchase on Amazon.  Look for the title, The Book of Longing.

My goal is to profile this album in early December, along with a pair of other albums that were or are yet to be issued here in 2018.  Since I have already profiled a majority of the important holiday albums in Decembers past, I devote December to spotlighting newer albums that should at least get a good listen.

Besides, everybody needs at least Bossa Break–and especially if your favorite radio stations decide to play nothing but Christmas Carols in early November?!

But it is best not to think way too far ahead of ourselves.  As I often think, the second half of any calendar year usually has more plots and drama than the first half–outside of the week leading up to the NFL’s Super Bowl, the biggest street party in the world as most of Louisiana shuts down for Mardi Gras, and of course, Rio’s annual gift to the world with the Sambadrome lighting up the Rio sky and these massive floats and sometimes outlandish costumes put on by many samba schools (not to be thought of places of learning, but simply dance troupes to you and me) bring on a flavor that speaks true carioca all year long.

Please have a great weekend.  Hope to be back next week with another cool jazz album review.

Artists Worth Checking Out: Nestor Torres

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Image courtesy of allmusic.com

Born in Puerto Rico in 1957, Nestor Torres began learning the flute at the age of 12.  He and his family moved to New York in 1975 to take up jazz and classical music studies at the Mannes College of Music in New York, as well as the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

After moving again this time to Miami in 1981, he gained his first major success on the smooth jazz charts with No Me Provoques.  In 1990, he nearly lost his life when an accident during a celebrity boat race left him with eighteen fractured ribs, two broken clavicles and a collapsed lung.  As a result, the Polygram record company dropped him from his contract, he and his wife ended up getting a divorce, and his home was nearly repossessed.

Eleven albums and a greatest hits compilation later, you can find Nestor on the faculty at Florida International University as both a visiting guest artist and according to his Wikipedia page, he is also the founding director of their School of Music’s first ever charanga ensemble (a vintage Cuban dance dating back to the 1940’s).

This week’s review is one of his other popular albums released in 1990 titled, Dance of the Phoenix on the seldom heard SGI record label.  The album was recorded in Los Angeles, and it was very clear throughout each track that each note from the flute he performed throughout the 52 minute album is simply priceless.  Joining him was Ronnie Foster on the keyboard, Harvey Mason on drums, either Abraham Laboriel, or Nicky Orta on electric base, Manny Lopez on electric guitar, Brian Bromberg on acoustic bass, and Luis Conte on percussion.

From the title track (Track 7) to “Rondo Del Sur” (Track 4) and “The Feel” (Track 11), there is a consistent rhythm and beat that not only screams summer, but this album definitely will put your mind at ease.  This is an excellent album to kick off your heels or shoes, sip something cold (preferably with an aluminum can to help out the environment), and just sit back to watch the waves go by.

The best buzzwords I can give this album are calm, soothing, and very bubbly.  Also a nice album to put on while at work, since there are absolutely no vocals and when I played this album while typing this blog–this music is enjoyable enough to keep your mind fully concentrated on whatever task(s) you are attempting to accomplish.

Overall, this album is an excellent and worthy addition to your jazz collection.  The physical CD is available for purchase on Amazon, eBay, and Importcds.com.

Speaking of more sizzling albums for the summer, I am planning to do a two-fer next week with beach bunny Babado Novo–at least from initial judging of her summer attire on the covers of her prominent albums.

Please enjoy the rest of your weekend, and stay hydrated as much as you can.  I will be grabbing myself another glass of water in my continuing quest to quench my thirst.  See you again soon.