Desmond Jones Calls for Global Accountability, Change on New ‘George Floyd’ Single, Video

Desmond Jones emphatically speaks for countless voices lost to racial injustice.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), John Nowak (drums), Chris Bota (guitars) George Falk (sax) and Taylor Watson (bass) strongly calls for global accountability, peace and unity on their thought-provoking new single and video, “George Floyd.”

Out today, it serves as a growing rally cry from the band and protesters worldwide after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Desmond Jones has released “George Floyd” exclusively via Bandcamp and will donate half of the proceeds to the NAACP Grand Rapids and the other half to The Bail Project, a national organization that provides free bail assistance to low-income individuals who are legally presumed innocent.

“At the very least, I hope that it acts as a reminder of George Floyd’s story and the countless stories just like it that happen every day in this country without any repercussions. I hope that it makes people say his name and talk about why or how this could have happened,” said Berkowitz, who wrote the track.

Floyd, 46, died after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police offer, kneeled on his neck and back for more than eight minutes during an arrest. Two other officers further restrained Floyd while a third prevented onlookers from intervening. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder while Kiernan Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao have been charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder as well as second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter.

In response, Desmond Jones’ compelling “George Floyd” single features thoughtful, echoey electric guitars, soft drums and somber sax as Berkowitz seriously reflects, “I can’t breathe he said, the cycle of oppression/Leaves only one direction to be led/I can’t breathe he said, as we heard the pain of generations past and present pled.”

“I hope that it helps people understand that this behavior and complacency of that behavior is unacceptable in this country and on this planet. With the help of the amazing video Nathan Purchase made, I think this song can show how important these issues are to people and what a serious impact our voices can have when we come together to peacefully make the change that needs to happen,” Berkowitz said.

The impactful “George Floyd” video features raw, candid black and white photos of protesters peacefully marching in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Muskegon and Columbus, Ohio. Five local, independent photographers – Nathan Purchase, Nick Small, Adam Berta, James Saville and Ryan Broton – captured and compiled the historical images during last week’s protests.

“They were able to not only capture and convey the tension and the anger of the situation, but also the unifying demand for peace and unity. Each one of these photographers was able to capture a wider image of the state of our country currently. To see how all these different people from all over were coming together in the middle of a pandemic is a powerful thing to see,” Berkowitz said.

George Floyd” also serves as Desmond Jones’ second new single and video in less than two months. In April, the band released “Major Burbank” as an ode to Jim Carrey’s legendary performance in the 1998 Academy Award-nominated film, “The Truman Show.” While “Major Burbank” celebrates a lighter side of Desmond Jones’ sound, “George Floyd” pushes the band musically and thematically toward a burgeoning political and social conscience.

“I know we are currently working on more songs that approach these political and social issues, which will be a big step forward for us lyrically and content-wise. However, besides more songs, we have been raising and donating money through livestreams and promoting our favorite local and national black artists, musicians and social leaders on social media,” Berkowitz said.

“We also have been directing people toward charities that are helping as well as local black-owned businesses to shop at. In a way, I think we’ve started to find our voice politically and don’t plan on quieting down. We are lucky enough to have a platform and right now we believe it’s right to use that to help fight against social injustice and shine a light on those who are doing all that they can to make a difference.”

Paradise Lost and Found – LEVELS Chronicles Timeless Adam-Eve Tale on Mixed-Genre Debut Album

LEVELS entwines assorted genres, changing tempos and complex time signatures on their self-titled debut album.

LEVELS spiritually rises above standard musical conventions.

The international super group magically entwines assorted genres – R&B, hip-hop, funk, jazz, pop, prog rock, Latin and Afrobeat –  changing tempos and complex time signatures into an expansive sound that transcends space and time on their 2019 self-titled, full-length debut.

“These cats are all masters of their craft. The name LEVELS was fitting for us because we all come from different backgrounds culturally and musically and disciplines giving our unit so much dynamism. We’re always adding new levels to the tunes and each other. It’s great to be multinational and international since there’s so much flavor and opportunity to learn and push envelopes musically,” said Keith “WildChild” Middleton, LEVELS co-lead vocalist and co-founder.

Middleton pushes global, multi-genre musical envelopes with American-Italian bandmates Jacopo “Snow” Mazza (piano), Luca “Mack” Marcias (guitar) and Aaron Marcellus (vocals) on their intergalactic, poetic 16-track concept album, which beautifully follows the time-traveling journey of Adam searching for Eve after being exiled from paradise.

“The entire album is woven this way and becomes their journey. We have so many styles it’s only right that they are all represented to tell this story our way. Everyone can identify with having a relationship of some sort. I just put a cosmic, spiritual twist on it to provoke thought and start a conversation – ‘We all share Eve’s and Adam’s atoms,’” said Middleton, who’s currently quarantined in Italy due to the country’s coronavirus pandemic.

‘A Place’ for ‘Unicorns’

Eve’s and Adam’s atoms form a complex musical chemistry on “A Place,” a slow, groovy R&B hip-hop declaration of eternal love (think Garden of Eden). LEVELS’ breathtaking track features tweeting birds and soothing waterfalls as vibrant acoustic guitar, crashing cymbals, bouncy bass and pounding electric drums surround the star-crossed lovers.

To celebrate the lovers, Marcellus hypnotically sings, “There’s no place that I would rather be/Than here with you my dear beside me/Made a space for you inside my heart/Don’t ever fade away my shining star.”

In return, Middleton seamlessly raps, “Yeah shining star if I may elaborate/I follow my heart when I navigate/Palpitations causes sensations at faster rates of rotations of butterflies proclaiming my candidate/No space or time Donny Hathaway/In this and our next lives you won’t have to wait/When we grappled that apple that ample sampled that unraveled the man with the time travel secret passageways/I’ll always find you baby.”

“‘A Place’ tells their tale, and you find out in the first verse, it’s Adam professing his love for Eve. In the second verse, they are doomed from the apple incident, but because of the bite revealing a secret, Adam vows to find his Eve in their next lives. In the third verse, Adam breaks down all of their incarnations till present time, also revealing that on this next go-round, he will spot her at one of his shows while he’s performing with his band LEVELS on stage,” Middleton said.

Continue reading “Paradise Lost and Found – LEVELS Chronicles Timeless Adam-Eve Tale on Mixed-Genre Debut Album”

Days of Creation – New Nick Behnan Single Pays Tribute to Detroit’s Musical Legacy

Nick Behnan and Kendrick Hardaway celebrate the eclectic sounds of Detroit on “Days of Creation.”

Nick Behnan knows what’s good for the musical soul.

The Detroit singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist seamlessly fuses soulful, funky and rocky grooves into his latest single, “Days of Creation,” which pays homage to the Motor City’s musical legacy.

“That was the first thing I wanted to do in that song, and if you notice at the end, there’s a shout-out to Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Parliament. I definitely wanted to keep it as a tribute to Motown,” Behnan said.

“Regardless of what anyone says about this city, I honestly think it has the most timeless and the most iconic music ever. There might be a few exceptions, but I think it would be tough to beat Detroit as a whole when it comes to everything that’s come out of this city.”

Available today via all streaming platforms, “Days of Creation” features funky bass, rhythmic electric guitar, pulsating drums and vintage organ wrapped in 3.5 minutes of groovy sonic bliss. It also spotlights the smooth soulful vocals of Detroit R&B singer-songwriter and longtime Behnan collaborator Kendrick Hardaway.

Throughout the track, Hardaway beautifully sings, “What happened to the good days of creation/Will they ever come back/C’mon give me that funk baby, c’mon give me that soul/Cuz I need some inspiration, real Motown flow/C’mon give me that funk baby, c’mon give me that soul/I don’t want no imitation, straight rock and roll.”

Besides paying tribute to Motown and Detroit’s musical legacy, the track also references the absence of soul and funk from today’s popular music. These days, mainstream artists are less likely to blend several genres into one track – think back to Michael Jackson’s 1984 hit single, “Thriller.”

“New music doesn’t quite have the same soul like Bob Seger says in his song. There are great bands out there, and not to take anything away from them, but on the whole as far as pop music’s concerned, I think it’s lacking in soul,” said Behnan, who plays all the instruments on “Days of Creation.”

Continue reading “Days of Creation – New Nick Behnan Single Pays Tribute to Detroit’s Musical Legacy”

‘The Desmond Jones Show’ – Grand Rapids Quintet Drops New Truman-Inspired ‘Major Burbank’ Video

For Desmond Jones, authenticity reigns tried and true.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals, guitar), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals, drums), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (sax, vocals) and Taylor Watson (bass) embraces their holistic selves on “Major Burbank,” a new glistening, groovy video out today. It’s the first new studio material Desmond Jones has released since their Hello, Helou album last July.

The 10-minute slow, transformative jam pays tribute to Jim Carrey’s legendary performance in the 1998 Academy Award-nominated film, “The Truman Show.” As an authentic ode to Carrey, “Major Burbank” majestically combines sparkling guitars, velvety bass, dancy drums and sensuous sax as Berkowitz smoothly sings, “So come back in to/The old world you knew/And although it’s not true/We’re all here for you.”

“With a flawless Jim Carrey performance and the layered philosophical themes present throughout the movie, ‘The Truman Show,’ makes for an excellent flick. We here at Desmond Jones aim to not only remind the listener of these important themes and encourage them to think further and pull back the curtain, but to also gain financially from the film’s popularity as well,” said Berkowitz, who wrote the track.

“We’re really excited to get this song and video out for everyone to enjoy and boogie to. We also encourage anyone who knows Jim Carrey to pass this song along to him because we think he’d dig it.”

Filmed this past winter at Plymouth Rock Recording Company, the “Major Burbank” video beautifully depicts Desmond Jones wearing fun, glitzy outfits and colorful, glam-inspired makeup on a dark, smoky soundstage while vibrant spotlights glow behind them.

Videographers Nick Small, Ryan “Toby” Hyland and Wayne Small eloquently capture the band’s magical instrumentation and rich improvisation from several innovative camera angles.

“That’s one of our newer songs, and the only recording we have is the video we took at Plymouth Rock. We did probably three full live takes, and I think we took the second one. They filmed each one, and when we chose the take we liked most, they put it to film and mixed and mastered it afterward,” Nowak said.

Continue reading “‘The Desmond Jones Show’ – Grand Rapids Quintet Drops New Truman-Inspired ‘Major Burbank’ Video”

Grand Reopening – Ypsilanti’s The Late Station Returns April 18 with Pajamas, Violet Sol

The Late Station will reopen for its first show in more than nine months. Artwork by GSW Art & Design

An integral Ypsilanti do-it-yourself (DIY) venue will reopen its doors next month.

The Late Station will host its first show of the season April 18 with Pajamas, Violet Sol and several other TBD acts as part of a “pre-420” celebration.

“We’ve been quiet for a while due to logistical issues, but now we’re ready for action with a banger of a show. People can expect our new PA system, which is much louder than our older one, and projector visuals as well as our renovated stage and mural. The night will feature prominent local funk and electronic music,” said Greg Hughes, curator for The Late Station and former After Hours Radio bassist.

The Late Station’s last show took place July 6 with Chicago’s Stardust Encounter, Cyrano Jones, Shindig Machine and The Sundots. Previously run by After Hours Radio, the DIY venue celebrated its year anniversary last March and has hosted more than 35 shows since its inception.

Hughes started The Late Station in 2018 after performing at University of Michigan open mic nights as a college student and experiencing the Chicago DIY music scene. For each show, volunteers help book and promote events, run the door and assist with gear.

In the meantime, The Late Station will closely monitor reports related to the coronavirus and COVID-19 and make any adjustments as needed.

Show details:

Return of The Late Station with Pajamas, Violet Sol and more TBD

Doors: 8 p.m. | Saturday, April 18

Cover: $5 at the door

Send a Facebook message to The Late Station for venue address.

Double Groove – Ma Baker Hosts 2-Set Blind Pig Show Saturday with Scüter, Sleezy Hamilton

Ma Baker blends elements of rock, funk, jazz and disco into their groove-filled sets. Photo courtesy of Ma Baker

For Ma Baker, Saturday’s Blind Pig headlining set will bring double the jams and twice the grooves.

The Ypsilanti jam fusion quartet will host their first two-set show at Ann Arbor’s legendary rock club with EDM artists-DJs Scüter and Sleezy Hamilton against an enchanting backdrop of live visuals and electronic vibrations.

“It will be the first of its kind in terms of a local show equipped with three interactive screens for live visuals controlled in real-time by visual artist Mark Samano and Scüter,” said Jordan Smith, Ma Baker’s guitarist and keyboardist. “Our goal as a group has always been to get to the level where our shows feature two sets. Our intent is to create a conversation between the band and the audience.”

Ma Baker also will feature different genres during each set – the first will spotlight funk while the second will capture a psychedelic-experimental feel. It’s the ideal setting to reimagine an EDM scene in Tree Town while sharing a mix of originals, new tunes and covers intertwined with improvisation.

“We chose to pair ourselves with two DJs to differentiate this show from the typical three groove-jam band bill the way we normally play at The Pig. All of us in the band love electronic music and rock and roll equally, and we wanted a night to really surround ourselves with more electronic vibrations and interactive visuals more akin to the ‘Movement’ or Detroit techno scene,” Smith said.

In 2012, Smith discovered a shared love of EDM and rock with a collective of community college students in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Together, they rented a storage unit two miles from school to jam, improvise and store gear while having deep philosophical discussions late into the night.

Those initial sessions led to forming Bearfoot with 10 rotating members who would perform based on availability with zero premeditated music. By Devil’s Night 2015, only four of the 10 members showed up and a new creative chemistry emerged. Six months later, the band’s original lineup played their first show on Earth Day at Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery.

As a quartet, Bearfoot became Ma Baker (after the 1977 Boney M. disco track) and now includes Guy Williams (guitar), Jared Weimer (drums), Dylan Risinger (bass) and Smith in their latest formation.

Continue reading “Double Groove – Ma Baker Hosts 2-Set Blind Pig Show Saturday with Scüter, Sleezy Hamilton”

Right at Home – Nick Behnan Releases New Rock, Hip-Hop Single to Celebrate Motor City

Nick Behnan combines rock, hip-hop, funk and R&B on his latest solo single, “Right at Home.”

As an accomplished songwriter, guitarist and producer, Nick Behnan magically fuses the infectious sounds of the Motor City.

He solders raw urban elements of rock, hip-hop, funk and R&B together on his latest single, “Right at Home,” which dropped today via all streaming platforms.

The three-minute track blends pounding drums and roaring guitars with stuck-in-your-head verses and flavorful rhymes from soul vocalist Kendrick Hardaway and rapper Saint Diggidy – “The bass drum kickin’ and the guitar screamin’/I feel right at home/Nobody talkin’ about what’s the meanin’.”

“The song is inspired by those times when you feel right at home,” said Behnan, who opted to remain in Detroit for his music career. “You’re with the right group of people, you eat the right meal, you listen to the right album, you’ve got the right bottle of whiskey, and everybody feels comfortable in their own skin.”

Behnan invited Hardaway and Saint Diggidy to add a strong hip-hop, funk and R&B feel to the rock-based track, which initially started as a stripped-down demo on SoundCloud. Hardaway and Saint Diggidy added their own verses to elevate and enrich the multi-genre track.

“I wanted to bring more of an old-school feel like Rick Rubin did for the Beastie Boys and bring more of that Run-DMC-approach to their voice,” Behnan said. “It mixes the urban funk sounds with rock because those are both embedded in my ear. I like music that has both of those vibes in there.”

Continue reading “Right at Home – Nick Behnan Releases New Rock, Hip-Hop Single to Celebrate Motor City”

‘Still Creatures’ – Desmond Jones Gets Philosophical on Funky New Single from Upcoming ‘Hello, Helou’ Album

Desmond Jones has released “Still Creatures,” a funky new single from their upcoming “Hello, Helou” album.

With their infectious new single, “Still Creatures,” Desmond Jones keeps the bigger picture of life in perspective.

The Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet abandons daily trivial nonsense to live a more purposeful existence.

“When I wrote that song, that feeling was weighing heavy on me. There is so much that goes on every day in our lives, some of it important, and some of it only seems important,” said Isaac Berkowitz, Desmond Jones guitarist, drummer and vocalist.

“There’s a lot of trivial nonsense that we let get in the way of living happy and meaningful lives. When that nonsense piles up on us, it can be hard to see through it to what really matters. Some people like to look at the stars and feel small as a way to get perspective, and in the same sense, I think remembering the idea that we are all animals, or that we are all ‘still creatures’ on this planet just trying to survive, can give us that same perspective and peace of mind.”

Together, Berkowitz and his Desmond Jones bandmates – Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (saxophone, vocals), John Loria (guitar, vocals) and John Nowak (drums, guitar, vocals) – beautifully capture this personal philosophy in lighthearted, funkified way.

Still Creatures single artwork

On “Still Creatures,” a fun, groovy wah-wah guitar riff opens the four-minute track and mimics the sound of a chicken while jazzy alto and baritone sax solos and rhythmic bass and drums bring a smooth, melodic feel.

“Even though it’s a new release, it’s something we’ve been working on for over a year in our live shows, and we’ve had it recorded for a while,” said Nowak, who formed Desmond Jones with his bandmates in 2012 at Michigan State University. “When we first started playing that song and Isaac showed it to us, we actually were just calling it, ‘Chicken Fingies,’ for a long time. At some point, Isaac said, ‘Actually, it’s called Still Creatures.’”

Continue reading “‘Still Creatures’ – Desmond Jones Gets Philosophical on Funky New Single from Upcoming ‘Hello, Helou’ Album”

Spring Migration – Chirp Moves from Stage to Studio for Self-titled Debut Album, Hosts Release Party Tonight at The Blind Pig

Chirp has released their self-titled, full-length studio debut album today.

On their melodic self-titled, full-length debut studio album, Chirp knows how to magically capture and beautifully deliver the sweet, groovy sounds of spring.

Today’s release of “Chirp” celebrates the Ann Arbor funk, prog rock and jazz fusion quartet’s creative migration from improvising on the stage to nesting in the studio.

“Those songs turned out how we really envisioned them because we were able to take a long time to plan everything out as well as record and mix,” said John Gorine, Chirp’s drummer. “When we play those songs live, we know what we want to do, but it’s different when we have a lot more time to plan certain things out and just get what we want out of those songs.”

As a follow-up to last year’s “Live at Ann Arbor Summer Festival” release, the new studio album’s nine genre-hopping tracks take listeners on fleeting sonic journey filled with upbeat, danceable mind trips to “Dickerville,” “Greener,” “Planet Groove,” “Cozy,” “Pig Beach” and other joyful auditory destinations.

Chirp does their share of genre-hopping by blending catching progressive rock, funk and jazz originals with majestic reinterpretations during their high-energy, dynamic shows. Though their music incorporates many technical, well-crafted elements, they’re committed to grooving with a solid, dedicated fan base.

For dedicated Chirp fans, the album is a direct sonic flight through their eclectic catalog without any layovers or turbulence. While hearing “Chirp,” listeners travel smoothly through a series of glistening grooves, riffs and beats eloquently condensed into a brilliant studio package.

“You want to trim the fat a little bit, even though most of the songs are on the longer side of what people are used to hearing. I’d say the average song length on the album is five and a half minutes while our average live song length is between eight and 10 minutes,” said Jay Frydenlund, Chirp’s guitarist and vocalist. “As a songwriter, for me, it’s always difficult figuring out what we want to cut down and how we want to cut down the length of a solo section or maybe take parts out.”

Continue reading “Spring Migration – Chirp Moves from Stage to Studio for Self-titled Debut Album, Hosts Release Party Tonight at The Blind Pig”