Category Archives: The Road

Sensai Badu: I Understand The Game

Resonating truth by way of Erykah Badu on VH1’s Soul Stage performance.  Here she shares the story behind “The Other Side of the Game” which she wrote shortly after signing with Universal.

I already had this album done and I was trying to decide what label I was going to share MINE with, you know what I’m saying?  I was trying to make a business deal, I was going into a venture with somebody.

Because I know what music is worth.  The value of the entertainer, the star, the energy, the soul that we have.

When I got the record deal, I said I want to work with this group called The Roots.

(He) was like “Who is The Roots?”

“Don’t worry about it.  Just get me on the train to Philly and I’ll be back.”

-Erykah Badu

New Pup Video — please stop yelling at me!

Right, right, right.  I’ve had pathetic video malfunctions of late.  I’m not doing this on purpose.  I promise.  I find videos.  I share videos.  Videos disappear from Internet and make me look like a douche.  I am aware, and seeking to remedy the situation.

In the meantime, please to enjoy this BRAND SPANKING NEW Snarky Puppy video courtesy of my Google Alert.  I will continue my endeavor to properly post the “Quarter Master” video from the Jefferson Center.  Then you can stop calling me a tease and we can all have a nice listen.

I’ll be reporting from New Orleans this weekend — home at last after two solid months in Denton (God help me).  I’ll be spending a good chunk of July there, until we’re all covered in oil.  Then I’ll bounce between DFW and New York for the fall.  Lots to talk about, more to listen to.

All But Quiet On The Music Front

Wear a helmet. Photo by Timothy Scott

Forgive me, dear readers, for instilling any abandonment issues on you.  For one reason or another, I have refused to blog for a month.  This was immediately following my promise to “blog every day for a month.”  Whoops.  I’ve still been writing (you can ask my roommate).  Between tinkering away quietly on the book and doodling interminable dross in my diary, I haven’t felt much like a blog.  But today I decided to kick myself in the ass a little.

Summer has wound it’s way around Denton.  No one is here, but those of us who remain go hard.  I’ve hosted a number of poor-to-fairly attended shows on multiple stages across Denton and Dallas.  The music has been unjustly good.

Have you seen the Black and Blues?  Oh my God.  Solid.  One would have no idea they’ve only been together a few months.  First you have Mark Lettieri whose devilish good looks rival my own. ” That Wanker” remains a guitar demigod among North Texans, shredding the blues alongside soul rocker, Keite Young.  Goldie Fornow brings a distinct and powerful presence to the blend of intoxicating originals (“If We Were Alone.”) and apt covers of Gnarls Barkley. Drummer Evan Gentry proves Houston boys know how hit it right — that’s some Chris Dave shit, right there — Straight up hip hop, with a polish that will make even the tightest Dallas cats sit up a little more.  Pull it all together with Matt Skates (Shuttle) on bass and you get the sort of blues that make you shake your fist and rock.

Wheew!  I am a fan.  Hitting the road with the band next month!  You can catch them in Dallas at the Green Elephant on Friday, July 9th, and Wednesday, July 28th at Hailey’s in Denton.

In other news — NEW SNARKY PUPPY!

Introducing “Quarter Master” — named after the band’s favorite gay deli in New Orleans.  Since the tune is a tribute to our favorite city in the whole wide world, Jason Marsalis and John Ellis decided to join in and become official Pups.  Welcome to the family!  I am now cosmically bound to cluck around like a mother hen and cook for you whenever you come to town.  The boys won’t be hitting the road again until October after Ropeadope releases Tell Your Friends in September (which means I’ll be getting my ass to New York in August).

In the meantime…

I thank you god for YouTube, Bill Laurance, and most this amazing day

Bill Laurance and Michael League

This afternoon I was in the throes of the usual Monday flurry and flutter, zapping out emails, texts, and Tweets, when I was suddenly disrupted by a wave of nostalgia.  While putting together a show proposal, I ran across this video I took a year ago at the Boiler Room. Suddenly instead of thinking of all the things I have to get done, I was overwhelmed with a reminder of why I do any of it in the first place.

Of the many blessings I count in my life, musicians hold an empowering majority. Working with those who inspire me beyond reason and allowing that impact to take hold has turned my world on its ear. For years I just considered myself a fan with no real understanding of the importance of that role within the musical community — I was frankly surprised no one had issued a restraining order against me and my megaphone.  It was Bill Laurance of Snarky Puppy who first brought this dynamic to my attention — that my steadfast love and support was not only appreciated, but necessary to the development and direction of musicians. Soon after I devoted myself to music. I plucked up my nomadic laundry baskets and moved back to Denton where I could put all that sonically-driven energy to good use.

That was when everything went right side up.

I would not have the beautifully eccentric life I have today had I not been so compelled by my friendship with Bill. His music reaches a part of my spirit like no other — from the vibrant “34 Klezma” (off Bring Us the Bright) to the heart-pumping “Good Man Delivers and the Best is Blessed” and the slightly gut-wrenching “Ready Wednesday” from Tell Your Friends. He is just the sort of charming genius Michael League is always parading into my life. My number one live music experience is presently a tie between Roger Waters doing Dark Side v. Leaguers and Billy at the piano last Mother’s Day.

Running across this video brought this all back today, it’s a wonder to see how much can happen in just one year.  Keith Anderson can be seen shattering minds with his band, Full of Soul and sassing Bobby Sparks on HDNet’s Ray Johnston Road Diaries.  Mike and Bill are enjoying a “chill” Pup summer on either side of the Atlantic.  Steve Pruitt and I have been cohorting on Chris Ward’s upcoming Texas tour (hitting North Texas next week), while Mark Lettieri and I verbally abuse each other over Black and Blues gigs.  It’s hard to imagine what life was like before these jazzholes took over — and it’s much more fun to imagine what’s ahead.

Shawty Got a Cold

Over the past year, I developed an alarming habit of traipsing down to New Orleans at every imaginable chance with my wolf pack. Various traveling musicians and gypsy ladies routinely make the pilgrimage to work with my Crescent City counterpart, Jess Speer.  Jess is a fiery swamp witch in New Orleans who inspires my ass into gear every single day.  We met when Backside Pick played NOLA’s  House of Blues.  I hopped a caravan of Shawtys and we made the 9 hour drive in support of a wicked cool gig. It’s been down the River ever since.

It generally behooves a band to have a slew of ladies on hand to dance in the front row, man the merch table, and manage the show off stage.  This is exactly how I met the most bad-ass, music-loving chicks on the road.  Powerful women who devote their lives to supporting bands and musicians they believe in… we are a rare breed, and we make people nervous but there really isn’t really anything we can do about that (and we really have too much work to do to bother).

These women were my inspiration for my janky promotions operation, The Booty Shawtys.  We are a team of ridiculous fans schooled in the ways of the hustle and grind.  The Shawtys run Poster Girl duty (fliers), front end promotions, merch pushing — and we always have a few girls around just to enjoy the show.  In addition to having a mad fun excuse to actually act like girls while playing in the boy’s club, we’re bringing new girls in and training them in the ways of The Road and the music business.  I am extremely proud of my incredibly driven girls, and I don’t know how I ever got on without them.

Can I just say that being a janky promoter is a fucking great gig?  I love it.  It’s so unapologetic and — like pretty much every aspect of the music industry — a total sausage fest.  Well, we’re going to just equalize that a little bit with our wee army of savvy women.  Jess is our Big Chief in New Orleans, working with Ropeadope, Trombone Shorty, the Blue Nile, Howlin’ Wolf and, at last count, every single musician in the Marigny.  We’ll be taking a few trips down the swamp to help her out.  Once New Orleans gets under your skin, you’re done.  Just go home.

Pup Culture: More MTL Love from Pork Pie Jazz

True to Montreal’s general awesomeness, Jenn Hardy from Pork Pie Jazz recently asked me to write a guest post for her oh-so-savvy music blog (they really know how to do it in the QC).  Since Montreal has played a critical role in my road life with Snarky Puppy, I figured I would air out some thoughts presently making their way into my book, Pup Culture.  I’d like to share an excerpt of this article with you (read the full story here).  I read it, and it’s not too bad.  Please help me flesh out these thoughts with your questions and musings — and for the love of god, help me make sure this book is as useful and informative as it is entertaining.

The most beautiful part of living in our hyper-connected, always-on world is that we can now connect with each other in ways that were virtually impossible even a few short years ago.  As musicians and fans have learned to find each other through tools like Facebook and Twitter, new practices have emerged for artists to put down stakes in cities they do not live in—and in some cases, have never been to. Whenever anyone asks me what Twitter, I tell them my favorite matchmaking story of Snarky Puppy and Montreal.

Last year, Denton/Brooklyn-based band, Snarky Puppy was planning out their Spring Tour crawling from our North Texas home base through the Deep South and up the East Coast.  Ready to expand through Canada, bandleader Michael League arranged for the Pups to teach a clinic to the savvy Vanier students en route to their usual gig at the Rex in Toronto.  This was all coming together right about the time I had met a few key Quebecoise Tweeps that I felt would appreciate Snarky’s particular brand of cerebral dance music (your brain will dance, that’s just what happens, and it’s certainly not for everyone).  I offered to procure a stage for the Pups by way of my Twitter contacts – namely Anthony Imperioli, Joey Vescio, and the fine folks over at Filter Box Media.  Within an hour a modest army of tech-savvy music fiends assembled to help me secure the right venue and alert the proper authorities that Montreal’s favorite new band is rolling through town.

By zeroing in on cats I knew would dig Pups, I saved weeks worth of blind inquiries to clubs and built on the critical foundation of music students and sharp ears inherent to Snarky’s core following.  The culmination of the University crowd and the budding following online snowballed with each trip the band has made – a challenge testament to the infectious nature of this music.  When finding the fans online, one must consider personality and cultural nuance specific to the city in question.  You can’t just blindly flier the streets and hope that the right ears will happen along.  Perhaps especially those with the nameless styles that you have to hear and experience live to really appreciate the massive level of talent and energy Snarky Puppy generates.

Continue on Pork Pie

Your comments are welcome, let’s pick each other’s brains.

-Crisman

Come play with us, New York

Ganglin' through the streets of New York (you know how I do). Photo by Michal Garcia

Tuesday is going to be a very big day for me.

My not-so-quiet small town, Denton, will play host to two extraordinary young artists setting fire to the New York jazz scene.  You can’t get much hotter than Ambrose Akinmusire, as far as I’m concerned.  Since discovering him at the NYC Winter Jazz Fest this year, I find myself listening in on the space inherent to breath and brass and hearing so much more than I have before.  Taylor Eigsti, from what I gather, is some sort of piano angel.  I missed his set with Nick Peyton, but still had a few chance sightings, most notably when he played with Gretchen Parlato.  I was fascinated by the chemistry of the band, especially the apparently elated pianist.  He was having a great time!  So we all joined in.

You can imagine my anticipation, then, to be welcoming these two firecrackers to my lil ole club, Cold Fusion.  This is all the doing of one Brian Girley —  a self-driven bandleader, talented saxophonist and UNT alum.  Brian invited the guys down to play two nights with a slew of North Texas’ emerging musicians — this includes Yuka Tadano, quite possibly the hottest chick bass player in existence; and Jason “JT” Thomas who has played with everyone from Roy Hargrove to Marcus Miller and has the smoothest voice of any drummer I’ve seen (he is likewise responsible for my introduction to D’Angelo and I therefore owe him a drink).  This dynamic quintet will be performing a very special two night engagement in Denton — if you are so compelled to hear the bleeding edge of living jazz, I do hope you can join us.

Wednesday night’s show at Hailey’s will feature sets by two young acts just starting to make waves through the North Texas jazz scene.  Tatiana Mayfield— our very own Josephine Baker, as saucy as she is talented — will have her Quintet on hand.  They’ve been gathering a steady following from Fort Worth’s underground scene with regular gigs at Scat Jazz Lounge and Buttons, while Tatiana has picked up notable mentions from Downbeat and All About Jazz.

Here she is in full recital regalia:

Wednesday’s show will also include Roberto Verastegui‘s group — the Grammy nominated One O’Clocker has been touring the globe (while going through the North Texas Jazz program, no less) with his inventive styling and decidedly personal inflection.  I must say, his playing reminds me very much of Bill Laurance (maybe it’s the Nord face, maybe the kicky knees, you decide).

Here’s Roberto with yet another hot bass player, Linda Oh.

Needless to say, I am just beside myself about these shows.  I will try my best to keep my Jazz Geek fits to a minimum (I held my own when we were all playing pool with Lyle Mays a couple months ago, but just barely).  The good thing is that since the shows are in Denton, there will almost always be someone jazz geekier than me somewhere nearby (though that may be up for debate at this point).

See you Tuesday!