Rock Feed

Talib Kweli (and friends) at Brooklyn Bowl

by Steven Pisano

  Talib Kweli

Brooklyn’s own Talib Kweli, a star in the world of hip hop for almost a generation now, brought his expanding hip hop universe to Brooklyn Bowl for two nights last week, spotlighting some of the talent now recording for his new independent music label, Javotti Media. As Kweli turns 40 years old this year, he clearly has plans to continue having an impact beyond his own recording career by supporting young, up-and-coming talent.

On Thursday, the music kept coming for four hours, so the sold-out crowd definitely got its money’s worth. First up was MK Asante, who rapped stories from his best-selling memoir Buck (published by Random House) about growing up on Philadelphia’s tough-luck streets, to find his place now as a professor of creative writing at Morgan State University.

MK Asante

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Jeremy Loops at Brooklyn Bowl

by Steven Pisano

Jeremy Loops, City WineryLast Friday, Jeremy Loops played Brooklyn Bowl on the final night of a U.S. tour aimed at introducing this South African folk singer from Cape Town to American ears. Over the last few years, Loops has garnered a solid reputation in his homeland as a first-rate live act, earning him invitations to several worldwide festivals.

Loops isn't Jeremy's real surname, but a stage name he adopted based on his use of a loop pedal board to create layers of sound as a one-man band. Loops creates a beat with his mouth, plays it back through the loop pedal, then layers on top a chorus, harmonica and guitar - all of which plays under his own distinctive singing. This DIY approach was developed over the course of a number of years working on yachts in the Mediterranean after graduating university, alone in his cabin, creating his own musical world on the high seas.

These days, Loops plays regularly with two other musicians from South Africa, rapper Motheo Moleko and saxophonist Jamie Faull, so he technically doesn’t need to use the loop board to make it sound as if he has a full band. But, he still uses it to build a rich layered sound, recording samples from his bandmates and adding them into the mix. At this show, they were also joined by Mr Sakitumi on electric bass. (I couldn’t tell if that was his real name or a play on the old “Laugh-In” line, “Sock it to me.”)

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Rhett Miller at City Winery

by Steve Danielssonrhett miller, city winery

Last week, Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller came to City Winery to celebrate the release of his newest album “The Traveler." Miller recorded the album last year in Portland with members of Black Prairie, who have an eclectic energy and sound that perfectly complements Miller’s songwriting style.  On this evening, Rhett performed a solo set featuring songs from the new record as well as fan favorites from Old 97's.

Armed only with his Gibson Jumbo and a microphone, Miller has the ability to capture an audience and keep them locked in all night. He played with the unbridled enthusiasm of a young singer-songwriter just making his mark on the scene, but as he reminded us, “we’ve been doing it longer than you’ve been alive, twenty good years of about twenty-five.” Maybe it’s the Rhett Miller Cabernet available at City Winery that keeps this lifelong rocker ageless, or all of the whiskey he likes to sing about.

You can tell the mark of a great songwriter when longtime fans are most excited to hear the newest tracks, and are already singing along. “Fair Enough,” seemed to echo an all-too familiar thought: “A little would suffice, but me, I want too much.”  Couples sipped wine and cuddled up close during “Question,” a fan favorite telling the story of a couple embarking on an engagement.  In classic alt-country style, Miller followed up with “Wish The Worst,” a tale of a broken hearted man begging all the world’s misery on the one he loves who doesn’t seem to love him back.

Miller will be on the road this summer and fall performing with The Old 97’s, but be on the lookout for a return to City Winery before the end of the year.

Robin Eubanks & Mental Images with Corey Glover at the Iridium

by Nick Stubblefield

Robin Eubanks

Robin Eubanks left, Corey Glover, right. 

One of my favorite things about jazz music is just how malleable the genre actually is. It encourages extensive creative expression and experimentation without limits. The only "rule," is to break the rules. Trombonist Robin Eubanks presented a show at the Iridium this week that bent the jazz genre in a fun and funky way, and he did so with a laid-back style all his own. 

Eubanks opened the show with a lengthy, soulful solo that more than demonstrated his prowess on the instrument, but he played with that kind of tasteful restraint that mainly comes from maturity. He kept things spiced up with plenty of self-controlled laptop-based effects -- mainly delays and distortions -- which gave it a bit of a hard-rock edge. Occasionally, Eubanks would tap out a little groove on electronic drum pads, too. Fitting, as the show was in part promoting his 2014 release Klassic Rock, Vol. 1, a collection of classic rock covers done in a jazzy style. Eubanks, along with his quartet, Mental Images, played a fast and fluid unnamed jazzy opener before a segue into something slower and lush. The group's talents were on full-display.  

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