Category: Articles

In Mississippi, America’s most revolutionary mayor

Al Jazeera America, September 19, 2013 JACKSON, Miss. — On July 1, Chokwe Lumumba, an attorney with a long record of black radical activism, took office as mayor of Jackson. His inauguration took place in the gleaming convention center that sprang up four years ago in the state capital’s mostly deserted downtown. A crowd of […]

Sarod master reimagines the raga

Boston Globe, September 13, 2013 Indian classical music is ancient, codified, rigorous, and refined, yet its spirit dwells in the inspiration and personality of individuals. Because ragas are at once systematic — each is built on a signature ascending and descending scale — and improvised, every performance adds to the body of knowledge, yet no […]

Jorge Drexler puts his music in his listeners’ hands

Boston Globe, September 7, 2013 The singer Jorge Drexler is known for his skill at combinations. Like Caetano Veloso, one of his idols, he combines South American folk with the great modern songwriting tradition of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. He started as a doctor in his native Uruguay but is now, at 48, an […]

“Learning to Listen,” by Gary Burton (book review)

Boston Globe, September 4, 2013 In the mid-1980s, Gary Burton was just entering middle age, but he’d had experiences as a jazz player to fill several lifetimes. Duke Ellington had treated him with kindness, Milt Jackson with suspicion, Miles Davis with a death threat. He’d endured the mercurial tendencies of Stan Getz, in whose band […]

With new album, Marc Cary pays tribute to his mentor

Boston Globe, August 22, 2013 NEW YORK – A solo recording is a watershed event for a jazz musician, one that usually comes many years or even decades into one’s career. It marks a commercial risk, as record labels and concert bookers often hesitate to back a solo project. More than that, it represents creative […]

Nathalie Pires: the fresh face of fado

Boston Globe, July 25, 2013 NEW YORK — “When I’m in Portugal, I’m an American,” says Nathalie Pires. “And when I’m in America, I’m Portuguese.” It isn’t a complaint about being caught between two worlds. Rather, for the 27-year-old fado singer from Perth Amboy, N.J., it’s a statement of fact that captures her memories all […]

Ravid Kahalani’s musical journey returns to his roots

Boston Globe, July 4, 2013 In retrospect, it was a narrow escape. Ravid Kahalani, singer and multi-instrumentalist, kinetic performer, restless explorer of genres and traditions, and an Israeli Jew from Tel Aviv, could have stayed on the path he embarked on a few years ago, and become a virtuoso performer of Serbian Orthodox liturgical singing. […]

Emeline Michel sings of healing for Haiti

Boston Globe, June 27, 2013 NEW YORK — The souls still hover, not yet fully mourned, no great cathartic act of government to honor them in public, speed their journey home. The list of names of the lost will never be complete. Their final number — 230,000 by some estimates, 300,000 by others — will […]

Carmen Souza gives Cape Verdean sounds a jazz twist

Boston Globe, June 13, 2013 As a child growing up in Lisbon, Carmen Souza only visited her family’s home nation of Cape Verde once, for a short trip when she was 10. But that did not stop the singer from having a quintessentially Cape Verdean upbringing. The family spoke Cape Verdean Creole at home. They […]

Letter from Delhi: A Bookstore of Safety

New Yorker, May 24, 2013 For the past four years, the best alternative bookstore in Delhi has crouched in an awkward, elongated space in Hauz Khas Village, a warren of narrow pedestrian lanes that dates back to the thirteenth century and has become one of the capital’s bohemian—and increasingly gentrified—enclaves. Parks, medieval monuments, and a […]

A Tribe Called Red reinvent the Powwow

Boston Globe, May 18, 2013 Every summer all across North America, Native Americans get together for powwows. At these intertribal social gatherings they sing, dance, discuss, and celebrate their traditions and their survival. Every weekend in cities across the land, youth assemble in nightclubs for their own intertribal communion. Electronic music, built of massive bass […]

Multifaceted Mvula experiences a swift rise

Boston Globe, May 16, 2013 Laura Mvula is only just catching up to what she’s done. Twelve months ago the 26-year-old singer was basically unknown, except in a few corners of the Birmingham, England, music world: the gospel a cappella group with whom she first performed, the conservatory where she studied composition, and, if you […]

Hugh Masekela works to preserve the heritage of South Africa

Boston Globe, April 18, 2013 He turned 74 a few days ago, and Hugh Masekela — the South African trumpeter, flugelhorn player, singer, jazz pioneer, folk music reviver, cultural activist, master entertainer, and all-around irrepressible spirit — is fairly bursting with energy. At the helm of his working band of the last four years, a […]

Book review: “I Would Die 4 U,” by Touré

Boston Globe, March 21, 2013 “A woman who was in a relationship with Prince years ago told me that when he gave women baths he took total control.” This nugget exemplifies what’s engaging about “I Would Die 4 U,” Touré’s study of the protean pop star’s meaning and appeal. It’s gossipy and a little prurient; […]

Legendary saxophonist Lloyd finds new life in new quartet

Boston Globe, March 16, 2013 Who is Charles Lloyd? If you were around for the flower-power era, you may remember Lloyd as a firebrand saxophonist who led avant-garde jazz groups in the 1960s, had a crossover hit with the Woodstock crowd, went off to play with the Beach Boys, then burned out and vanished from […]

Ana Moura explores the possibilities of fado

Boston Globe, March 15, 2013 Fado, the elegant Portuguese song form that is enjoying a great renewal, was never quite as rigid as it appears. Its austere setup, with a singer backed only by acoustic guitars, and its constant reverence for fadistas of the past conceal its openness to new ideas. Amália Rodrigues herself — […]

Terror across the river: Letter from a Congo literary festival

New Yorker, March 6, 2013 Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, is an agreeable city with a frayed, low-rise commercial downtown, a hilly upscale district of hotels and embassies that stretches to the airport, and, radiating out in three directions, busy working-classquartiers where life goes on out of doors along rutted, unpaved side […]

Book review: “98% Funky Stuff” by Maceo Parker

Boston Globe, February 28, 2013 By his own account, 1974 was a good year for Maceo Parker. The saxophonist was riding high in his third stint with James Brown as a star soloist and the band’s MC, and also as leader of his own side projects, a hard-won privilege in Brown’s regime. He was earning […]

Miguel Zenón’s rhythms follow a changing culture

Boston Globe, February 21, 2013 The saxophonist Miguel Zenón came from Puerto Rico to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music in 1996, and fast emerged as a major creative voice in jazz, with a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2008 to attest to it. In his young but prolific career, he has made […]

A singer at the busy crossroads of soul and jazz

Boston Globe, January 24, 2013 The singer José James grew up in Minneapolis and studied jazz in New York, but he’s made his career mostly out of the American mainstream eye: recording for overseas and indie labels, living a few years in London, working with recherché producers like Gilles Peterson and Flying Lotus. His recordings, […]

Neba Solo carries forth musical traditions of Mali

Boston Globe, November 24, 2012 Ingrid Monson, a Harvard jazz scholar and ethnomusicologist with the lofty title of Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music, owns a collection of balafons — the West African instrument that looks like an oversized, rustic xylophone, with gourds fixed under the wooden keys to supply resonance. They come from her […]

“Afropean Women” a mélange of sounds and styles

Boston Globe, October 25, 2012 One is a glamorous, worldly vocalist who’s as brilliant a dancer and drummer as she is a singer. Another is a songwriter on the rise who’s concerned with the environment and social uplift. The third is the former bass player for a world-renowned funk band. All three — Dobet Gnahoré, […]

NYC rapper Le1f brings a new vogue to hip-hop

Boston Globe, October 1, 2012 NEW YORK — Let’s be real: There’s been queerness in hip-hop for ages. There’s the homo-thug underground; the bawdy drag of New Orleans sissy bounce. Videos full of imagery that overflows their ostensibly heterosexual frame; the disclaimer “no homo,” with its protest-too-much reek. Just last week, a Harvard conference on […]

Trumpeter Christian Scott gives jazz much-needed stretch

Boston Globe, August 9, 2012 NEW YORK — The trumpeter Christian Scott terms “stretch music” the big, open-minded sound that he seeks, for his own band and for jazz in general. On his brand-new album, “Christian aTunde Adjuah,” Scott stretches more than just rhythmic and harmonic conventions. The album itself is a sprawling double CD, […]

Congolese guitarist Diblo Dibala

Boston Globe, July 12, 2012 NEW YORK — A corner apartment in Harlem: air conditioning on high against the blazing heat outside, African art objects and concert posters on the walls, incense wafting through the living room. This is the temporary command post of Diblo Dibala, Congolese bandleader and guitarist extraordinaire, as he readies for […]

Nona Hendryx balances soul, conscience

Boston Globe, July 8, 2012 NEW YORK— Let’s say you formed your first band as a Trenton, N.J., teen in the ’50s. You helped invent funk in a trio, LaBelle, that found cult status in the ’70s. You pioneered sci-fi themes before George Clinton. Later, you forged ahead as a solo artist and in collaborations […]

Brazilian’s road album draws from touring, tradition

Boston Globe, June 25, 2012 The Brazilian singer Céu calls “Caravana Sereia Bloom” — her third CD, which came out earlier this year — a road album. It is meant to capture, she says, “many aspects of the road,” a topic she’s had ample time to reflect on as a touring artist. “Since my first […]

Singer Curumin is a shining star in Saõ Paulo

Boston Globe, June 25, 2012 “São Paulo is a huge city, but we don’t have a lot of music tradition,” says singer Curumin, speaking of Brazil’s commercial metropolis, with its area population of 20 million. “Samba belongs to Rio, maracatu belongs to Recife — in Brazilian musical history, we don’t have a lot of people […]

Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna finds a home away from home

Boston Globe, June 8, 2012 Yuna didn’t have to come to America. Things were going just fine for the young singer-songwriter back home in Malaysia three years ago, when a Los Angeles artist management company started courting her on the strength of the songs she’d posted online. She had parlayed MySpace popularity into a budding […]

Is Islamic Punk Dead? How Taqwacore Came, Went, and Left A Bittersweet Trail

MTV Iggy, May 28, 2012 EXCERPT: The first problem you face when trying to catch up with the Taqwacore movement—sometimes, if erroneously, summarized as “Muslim punk”—is that the man most closely identified with it really, really doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. “I’m tired of talking about Taqwacore,” says author Michael Muhammad Knight. “I […]

Boston singer Marianne Solivan’s NY move pays off

Boston Globe, May 25, 2012 NEW YORK — This city may boast the nation’s highest concentration of jazz musicians, venues, recording opportunities, and cover-charge-paying aficionados, but that doesn’t mean you can just show up here and get a gig. Just ask singer Marianne Solivan. When she first got here in 2007, with enough money for […]

With jazz trio Pilc Moutin Hoenig, anything can happen

Boston Globe, May 18, 2012 When pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, bassist François Moutin, and drummer Ari Hoenig play music together, whether in concert or in the studio recording an album, the plan is always the same: There is no plan. No sheet music. Nothing discussed in advanced. Only improvisation. “We go on stage and we don’t […]

Tessa Souter adopts classical airs

Boston Globe, May 14, 2012 The jazz vocalist Tessa Souter, who released her fourth CD, “Beyond the Blue,” last week, has always had an eclectic, even adventurous, approach to repertoire. Alongside songbook standards and Brazilian classics like “Manhã de Carnaval,” she’s delivered scintillating takes on spiritually intense works like Pharoah Sanders’s “The Creator Has a […]

For singer-songwriter Morley, it’s all about connections

Boston Globe, May 11, 2012 NEW YORK — There are lots of birds in the lyrics of Morley, the singer-songwriter who’s found an original place for herself at the intersection of the jazz, folk, funk, and world-music scenes here, and who flits between these worlds with the grace and ease of the winged creatures that […]

Star Slinger finds sweet spot between headphones, dance floor

Boston Globe, May 6, 2012 Even by today’s accelerated standard of Internet-amplified music fame, this one happened pretty fast. Two years ago, the producer Star Slinger was just Darren Williams, age 24 at the time, another provincial British kid messing around making beats, albeit with a degree in music technology from a college in Leeds. […]

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire makes a jazz life on his own terms

Boston Globe, May 4, 2012 NEW YORK — Ambrose Akinmusire — young trumpeter, recent signee to the hallowed Blue Note label, and author, with his quintet, of one of last year’s best-received jazz albums — is a creature of habit. “Annoyingly so,” he says, laughing. He wakes every day at the same time, and makes […]

Rapper Big K.R.I.T. serves rhymes caught in a time-honored tension

Boston Globe, April 29, 2012 There’s a juxtaposition you sometimes hear in hip-hop, a mood swing that throws the listener from heights of hedonistic excess to the depths of an artist’s soul-searching on life, loss, and the meaning of it all. Strip-club anthems might give way to raw expressions of despair, even laced with evocations […]

Atlas Soul makes worlds collide—and party

Boston Globe, April 27, 2012 WATERTOWN – As Anwar Souini describes it, he was browsing the North African section in a Central Square record store in Cambridge one day in 2006, when he came across a CD that intrigued him, by a group called Atlas Soul. That the shop even had a North African section […]

Modeselektor capture the varied sounds of Berlin on ‘Monkeytown’

Boston Globe, April 13, 2012 There’s a track called “Berlin” on “Monkeytown,” the new album by German electronic music duo Modeselektor. Considering that the pair of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary grew up in Berlin, and are among the top ambassadors of the city’s vibrant arts scene — with three albums, their own record label, […]

Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett puts Motor City in his sound

Boston Globe, April 6, 2012 When speaking about jazz, it is established custom to identify a musician’s city of origin, even if he or she left it long ago. This recalls the time when culturally specific scenes thrived in different cities, with distinct idioms and influences, exporting players in this mold onto the national stage. […]

CD review: Filastine, “Loot”

Boston Globe, April 3, 2012 A found-sound quality pervades “Loot,’’ the third album from Filastine, a Los Angeles-raised, Barcelona-based musician-activist who wanders the globe from warehouses to squatters colonies to ecological danger zones, forging ties with fellow dissidents along the way. Pushing a shopping cart rigged with microphones and speakers, he makes and manipulates field […]

No masking his minimalist approach

Boston Globe, March 30, 2012 It’s never a bad idea to strip the clutter away. Valid from home upkeep to personal relations, the principle holds equally true in pop – particularly electronic music, where layers of effects and flurries of adornments threaten dissipating the signal into noise. This has been an issue of late, as […]

Spoek Mathambo brings the future sound of South Africa

Boston Globe, March 23, 2012 “It would be nice if you call me Nthato. It’s how I introduce myself.’’ Nthato Mokgata is trying hard to manage his identities in the face of his blossoming fame. By day he’s Nthato, the low-key, well-spoken 26-year-old from Johannesburg who dropped out of medical school to make his career […]

Riffs on riffs: Rick Moody’s “Adventures in Listening”

NPR Books, March 21, 2012 “There’s something about a naive apprehension of art that makes it that much nobler to me,” Rick Moody observes in “Two Weeks at Music Camp,” one of 13 essays collected inOn Celestial Music. He’s at an artist colony, listening to the history of a few sculptures — and finding himself […]

Zakir Hussain’s conversation of forgotten rhythms

Boston Globe, March 16, 2012 It was only a few weeks ago that Zakir Hussain, the world-famous drum virtuoso and master of the Indian tabla, was making the latest of his discoveries of obscure percussion styles in his home country. Driving through Maharashtra state, his party stopped for a roadside break by a temple in […]

Raga concert explores ties between Indian and Afghan music

Boston Globe, March 9, 2012 NEW YORK – Music is rarely the subject of news from Afghanistan. War, terrorism, corruption, and other such topics have dominated the headlines. And if the Taliban – who outlawed all music save religious chants during their rule from 1996 to 2001 – had had their way, there wouldn’t be […]