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.”

Free Flow – Alluvial Fans Deposits Raw, Refined Musical Sediments on New ‘Earth to Astronaut’ Album

Alluvial Fans’ new album explores multi-genre peaks and valleys, atypical song structures and varied tempos. Album artwork – Antoine Langenieux-Villard

Detroit’s Alluvial Fans beautifully deposits raw and refined musical sediments on their solid new album, Earth to Astronaut.

Out now via all streaming platforms, Earth to Astronaut freely flows through indie rock mountains, art punk hills and garage jazz canyons to form a new fertile sound. Through these multi-genre peaks and valleys, atypical song structures and varied tempos, Alluvial Fans’ second album deeply explores the spaces between distorted, mosh-worthy cathartic freak-outs and quiet, sentimental and reflective moments.

“Sometimes your mind goes, and you find yourself jumping from place to place. And that’s sort of how my mind was working at the time and how it has been just kind of scattershot, and now I’m more aware of that. I wanted to represent that kind of fragmented or abstract thought in the lyrics, and in sum, I wanted to become more precise,” said Drew Bartosik, Alluvial Fans’ vocalist-guitarist.

“For the past two years, I’ve been practicing meditation and trying to become more self-aware and mindful of my thoughts and how I act in my environment. Things now are becoming more focused and cohesive for song ideas, and I wanted to highlight the vulnerability in that respect.”

Bartosik and his Alluvial Fans bandmates Gilad Granot (bass) and Ollie Elkus (drums) venture deep beneath the Earth to Astronaut surface to examine a juxtaposition of themes, including technology and nature, independence and interdependence, and reflection, solidarity, and devotion, over 10 expansive, metaphysical tracks.

From ‘Blowouts’ to ‘Droves’

Together, they weave an erratic, yet refreshing jazz-punk-garage-rock fusion on their latest single, “Blowout/Future Games,” which starts with light cymbal taps and delicate electric guitar and quickly erupts into a frantic musical cataclysm.

During the “Blowout” section, Bartosik eagerly shouts, “Yeah!/You never look me in the eyes these days/You’re so far gone/You’re so far” and memorably repeats, “Two for my friends/One for myself.” The first half also serves as a scintillating ode to the Detroit-Hamtramck indie rock scene.

Next, “Blowout” seamlessly segues to the mellow, thoughtful “Future Games” section with light drums, calm vocals and easygoing electric guitar strums. Bartosik quietly sings, “If the future’s playing games with me?/Who is the player playing games?/It’s just the future playing games with me/It’s just the future playing games.” Here, Alluvial Fans questions the uncertainty that lies ahead, especially in an unthinkable year like 2020.

Continue reading “Free Flow – Alluvial Fans Deposits Raw, Refined Musical Sediments on New ‘Earth to Astronaut’ Album”

‘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”

World-Class – Tracy Kash Creates ‘Fierce’ Global Sounds on DMA-Nominated Album

Tracy Kash blends eclectic sounds to create a world music feel on “Fierce.” Photo by Aly Darin Photography

Tracy Kash fiercely brings world-class sounds and styles to the Motor City.

The Detroit world music vocalist, flutist, pianist, composer and arranger delightfully blends classic elements of jazz, soul, pop and theater into a dramatic center-stage sound on Fierce, her fourth and latest album that’s currently nominated for Outstanding World Music Recording in the 2020 Detroit Music Awards (DMA).

“It’s a tricky thing because I am kind of all over the place stylistically. When people go, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I just say, ‘Um, yes, I don’t know what to say,’” Kash laughed. “Some of them are older tunes. I was never sure if I was going to record them. The rest of it came organically over the course of about eight years because I hadn’t released anything since 2010.”

For 2019’s Fierce, Kash assembled a star-studded cast of musicians called the Bro’ Fos, including Pat Shanley (guitars, mandolin, backing vocals), Chuck Bartels (bass) and Van Hunsberger (drums), to bring the album’s 11 sensational tracks to life. They spent six months recording the tracks with producer Tom Rice at Eastpointe’s Audio Café Studio and Eric Morgeson at Dearborn’s Studio A Recording.

“Most of it is just mastery of their instruments. When I put together rehearsals, performances or recordings, unless there’s something really specific I’m looking for, I won’t arrange each part. They’re such great musicians, and because of that, it gives them the freedom to bring something that’s more natural to them to the recording or the performance,” Kash said.

Getting ‘Fierce’

“Fierce” album artwork

With a troupe of A-list collaborators, Kash launches her eclectic Fierce sound with “Face Time,” a jazzy opener featuring swift piano, vibrating electric guitars, deep bass and pounding drums.

Her soulful vocals warn lovers to eradicate the ghosts of past relationships in favor of new ones – “I’m the one you run to/To unload a heavy heart/I’m happy knowing I can do the same/Well maybe it’s because I’m naïve/I assume that I’m the one you need/But the doubt comes when you call me by her name.”

Continue reading “World-Class – Tracy Kash Creates ‘Fierce’ Global Sounds on DMA-Nominated Album”

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”

Jeff Scott Launches ‘LIVE!’ 2020 Winter Concert Series Jan. 17 at Farmington Civic Theater

Jeff Scott will headline the first show of the “LIVE!” winter concert series at the Farmington Civic Theater. Photo courtesy of Jeff Scott

Two years ago, Jeff Scott experienced a musical epiphany in the Big Easy.

The Royal Oak singer-songwriter strolled through Jackson Square and retraced his steps from a previous New Orleans visit two decades earlier.

That trip down memory lane transported Scott back to performing with The Big Picture, a Detroit-based pop sextet. At the time, Scott and his bandmates opened for The Neville Brothers at the iconic New Orleans Jazz Fest.

“I was sensing at the time that I could never recapture the way that I felt when I was younger and in that position with that band. It started to rain exactly as it had the first time we showed up there, and I was standing in exactly the same place,” Scott said.

“I thought for the purposes of this album I was retreading and going back to where I had originally been musically and most successful professionally. That was a good way to start it. I’m attempting to reclaim something, maybe I’m not going to hit it, but the pursuit of it is deeply fulfilling and emotional.”

Scott shares his splendid journey of sonic self-discovery on “Nola,” the opening track of his third album, “Nola to New York,” which dropped in 2018.

It also will give listeners a preview of his Jan. 17 headlining show at the Farmington Civic Theater to kick off the “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series with special guest Bobby Pennock.

Along with longtime bandmates Tony Jaworowski (piano, keys), Duane Allen Harlick (electric guitar, background vocals), Dave Hendrickson (electric and upright bass) and Dan McCann (drums, percussion), Scott will perform an eclectic mix of pop, folk, soul and jazz favorites from “Nola to New York” as well as his previous releases.

“I hope that they will be moved musically. That’s always my intent. I’ve always wanted to make beautiful music with a big ‘B.’ It can be up-tempo, it can be down-tempo, it can be a ballad, it can be a lot of different things,” Scott said. “That’s always the end goal for me. A lot of people come to the shows because they appreciate the lyrics, which I spend a lot of time on.”

Formerly known as “Friday Night Live” at the Farmington Civic Theater, the newly renamed “LIVE!” 2020 concert series also will feature Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys with Rochelle Clark (Feb. 21), Olivia Millerschin with Adam Liebman (March 20) and the Nashtown Songwriters Round (April 23).

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Rule of 3 – Kate Davis Drops Trio of Indie Rock Singles from Upcoming ‘Trophy’ Album

Kate Davis will release her debut album, “Trophy,” on Solitaire Recordings in November.

For Kate Davis, good things come in threes.

The New York City indie rock singer-songwriter has released a trio of emotionally-charged singles – “Open Heart,” “Cloud” and “rbbts” – since June on Solitaire Recordings.

Davis’ three stellar breakout singles serve as an instant sonic addiction with their beautiful verses, breathtaking melodies and brilliant arrangements. Her refreshing, relatable music will leave ears buzzing for more when Davis’ heartfelt debut album, “Trophy” drops Nov. 8.

“Each of the singles has their own identities and sonic worlds. Since this album is a culmination of my writing, there are huge gaps of time between their conceptions, especially the first two singles,” she said.

“The production style and arrangement choices help bring these songs together on the album. Obviously, these songs all come from me, but at very different times in my development as a writer. I think more than anything, the singles capture moments in time.”

Continue reading “Rule of 3 – Kate Davis Drops Trio of Indie Rock Singles from Upcoming ‘Trophy’ Album”

‘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”

Jazzed Up – Resonance Records Releases Newly Discovered Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans Recordings for Record Store Day

 

Resonance Records is unearthing two hidden jazz music gems for Record Store Day tomorrow.

The Los Angeles-based independent jazz label is releasing two newly discovered Wes Montgomery and Bill Evans recordings, “Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings” and “Evans in England,” on limited-edition 180-gram 2LP for Record Store Day and deluxe 2 CD/digital on April 19.

“Back on Indiana Avenue” surveys the early music of Montgomery, a jazz guitarist, made in his hometown of Indianapolis during the years before he rocketed to fame after signing with Riverside Records in 1959. The 22-track album features studio and live recordings of Montgomery’s music along with Indianapolis pianist and arranger Carroll DeCamp.

It’s the sixth archival release of Montgomery’s from Resonance Records and includes an essay by jazz scholar Lewis Porter and jazz guitar giants George Benson and John Scofield. On the DeCamp recordings, Montgomery is heard in full flight in a variety of settings – piano quartets, organ trios, sextets and drummer-less Nat “King” Cole-style trios, including “Round Midnight,” “Jingles,” “Whisper Not” and others.

“‘Back on Indiana Avenue’ is a very important release of previously unissued material from guitarist Wes Montgomery, and it’s not music, it’s 2LPs, 2CDs worth of unissued material and nearly a 50-page book with all sorts of different people who have a story to talk about, a narrative of these recordings in provenance and where they came from,” said Zev Feldman, Resonance Records co-president and independent producer.

“We tell these stories, and we put out these projects, and George Klabin, God bless him, my co-president and the founder and owner of Resonance Records, he is so generous allowing this to happen. This is like fantasy land, and every day, I wake up in this different dimension and wonder, ‘Is this really my life?’”

Continue reading “Jazzed Up – Resonance Records Releases Newly Discovered Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans Recordings for Record Store Day”

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”