02/06/20 Articles

Arthur Briggs: Better Days Will Come Again excerpt

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The following is an excerpt from the book Better Days Will Come Again – The Life of Arthur Briggs – Jazz Genius of Harlem, Paris, and a Nazi Prison Camp by Travis Atria. Reprinted with permission and available from Chicago Review Press.

 

Arthur Briggs’s life was Homeric in scope. Born on the tiny island of Grenada, he set sail for Harlem during the renaissance, then to Europe in the aftermath of World War I, where he was among the first pioneers to introduce jazz music to the world. During the legendary Jazz Age in Paris, Briggs’s trumpet provided the soundtrack while Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the rest of the Lost Generation created their indelible masterpieces. By the 1930s, Briggs was considered the “Louis Armstrong of France,” and was the peer of the greatest names of his time, from Django Reinhardt to Josephine Baker. When the Nazis stormed Paris at the start of World War II, they arrested Briggs and threw him in the prison camp at St. Denis, where he spent four years on starvation rations, and where he directed the brass section of an orchestra comprised of fellow prisoners. Below is an excerpt from Wax Poetics contributor Travis Atria’s groundbreaking biography of Briggs, Better Days Will Come Again.

In 1942, the men at St. Denis began to break. Some succumbed to pneumonia. Others braved death to escape. One hanged himself in his cell. “Oh, it looks very bad,” wrote William Joseph Webb, a prisoner who kept a secret diary in the camp. “For supper on Sunday night, we got nothing, besides the little square piece of margarine handed out . . . For our dinner we had barley soup, fit for feeding to pigs.”

One freezing morning in February, a guard burst into Arthur Briggs’s barracks and ordered him to play the Reveille. It was three a.m.

“Now?” Briggs asked.  

“Schnell!” 

“That was the only answer,” Briggs recalled. “So I took my instrument, blew it a bit to warm it up, went to the window and played the alarm twice so that everyone in the barracks and the courtyard was sure to have heard it. When I turned around, I saw that there was already a soldier for inspection and counting of internees. It lasted two hours, and then they brought dogs and inspected the cellars and attics to see if anyone was hiding.” 

More men had escaped. 

At noon, two soldiers arrived and posted a message from Carl Heinrich von Stülpnagel, commander of occupied France: “Wanting to escape is normal for someone who is deprived of their freedom. But those who try to escape must know that they risk death in this attempt.” The prisoners had now suffered two winters on starvation rations. Snow covered the camp again, and dinner was thin vegetable soup with a dollop of grease. For many, death was a risk worth taking.

 Meanwhile, Briggs continued to salve the men’s souls with music. In mid-April, he prepared a concert of scenes from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” along with Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture,” and after intermission, a set of swing tunes. For “Don Giovanni,” two actors were chosen from among the men: Joseph Blumberg as the licentious cad Don Giovanni, and Jimmy Hale as the young peasant girl Zerlina, who is drawn to Giovanni’s sexual charisma. The orchestra performed five excerpts from the opera, including the sensuous overture, as well as Giovanni’s plaintive plea, “I Am Under Your Window.” Then came the brooding, tragic, “Egmont Overture,” which Beethoven composed for a play by the great Goethe. These were extraordinary pieces to attempt in a prison camp, but Briggs had too much pride to do anything less than astound his audience. 

By summer, morale cratered again. The sex-starved men began avoiding the fence on visiting day—seeing the line of women only added to their agony. Homosexuality became normal. As one prisoner recalled, “I can truly testify . . . we were no longer interested in women. There was the rise of homosexuality, and it brought about conflicts that we wouldn’t have had if the women were with us: Ferocious jealousies, loves of three or four prisoners for the same object, for the same subject. So there were open and hysterical fights.” He noted that behavior in the camp, sexual and otherwise, changed incrementally, so that “a man who came back after the first year, if he should see himself would not recognize himself.”

 In August, a shipment of hopeless French Jews crowded into the camp. “So down and out, children separated from parents etc.,” Webb wrote. “Hear one of them jumped out of a window . . . God only knows what’s in store for all of us, poor British’s in here, especially when one sees what is happening to the Jews!” Three days later, he wrote again, “Our Internees Jews have had some squealing and gnashing of teeth this past week. I saw a case of mother and son, about 6 yr. old, come in Thursday morning instead of 2 pm visit-time. She had to give herself up at 2 pm to be taken away and the kiddy separated from parents. Allowed to see hubby, but boy not allowed to see his father, boy ran back to say goodbye, crying ‘Daddy!’ But not permitted in, although kid got near to gate and mother. Separate and taken away, but where to?”

The worst horrors of the Holocaust had begun. At Auschwitz, gold was pulled from the teeth of Jewish corpses and melted to enrich the Nazis. At Treblinka, prisoners were forced to cut wood to fuel the cremation pits where they were soon to die. At Belzec, only seven Jewish prisoners out of half a million survived the war. At Sobibór, many female prisoners were raped before being killed. At Lublin, more than 18,000 Jews were killed on a single day. At Chelmno, prisoners were made to think they were about to take baths for disinfection as they were herded into the gas chamber.

Hitler had gone too far, figuratively and literally. In August 1942, he penetrated deep into Russia, reaching Stalingrad, where his troops would suffer an apocalyptic winter. At roughly the same time, the Allies scored their first decisive victory in the Pacific theatre at the Battle of Guadalcanal. In November came another Allied victory at the Battle of Casablanca. “There began to be a lot of gossip circulating in the camp as there was an Allied landing in North Africa,” Briggs recalled. “Our German guards were not very happy to know that the Allies had taken a step forward.” The Allies had not only taken a step forward, they had pushed the Axis back thirteen hundred miles from Egypt to Tunisia, pinning them between newly arrived American and British troops in Morocco and Algeria. The tide was turning.

Briggs was emboldened. At the end of every concert, before leaving the bandstand, he performed an old Negro work song called “Better Days Will Come Again.” During slavery, work songs were the secular counterpart to Negro spirituals, sung in the fields to ease the backbreaking labor with rhythm. Briggs drew from this deep well of history to deliver a coded message of hope to his fellow prisoners. He passed courage to them through the blast of his trumpet. The effect was electric. “As soon as I hit the first note, all the internees would come to attention,” Briggs recalled. There he stood, facing two thousand hope-starved men, wobbling on hunger-weakened legs, but standing nonetheless, standing in defiance of their captivity, and thanking him with their eyes for his strength, because it was now theirs too. 

Seeing the men standing, the Nazi guards demanded to know what Briggs was playing. “It’s our signature tune,” he lied. “It’s the end of the concert. That’s all there is. They’re getting up because they’re thanking us for the concert we just played.” Later, he slyly added, “You know it wasn’t that.” One internee recalled the Nazis’ reaction: “When at the end of a performance the master trumpeter in clear tones would blow us into ‘Better Days Will Come Again’ the Germans would look with envy at their caged victims.” The German guards could not understand the strange power that straightened the spines of their prisoners, any more than the American slave driver could understand the power that gave succor to his slaves. The power was the song, the song of the unconquerable human spirit, the song that gave birth to jazz. Briggs spent his entire adult life trying to teach Europeans this song. He wanted them not just to hear it or play it, but also to feel it. Finally, he succeeded. 

One can only imagine the punishment Briggs would have faced for such insubordination, but he risked it anyway. With emotion, with passion, with fire, he breathed the melody into his horn, while the lyrics sounded silently in his head:

Don’t be sighing, little darling,

Sunshine follows after rain;

Though the shadows now are falling,

Better days will come again.

 

 

01/17/20 Articles

The Show Goes On: Modern-soul masterpiece by the Patterson Twins gets reissued by Miles Away

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In a red compact ’60s Mercedes, the kind with the logo on the hubcaps, it took twin brothers Estus and Lester Patterson around three and half hours to make the drive up to Memphis, Tennessee, from their digs in Magee, a little town outside of Jackson, Mississippi. They pulled up into the parking lot on the hallowed ground of Stax Records, got out, and walked with purpose to the old movie theater entrance on E. McLemore Ave. As an up-and-coming R&B act—known to the folks back home as the Soul Twins—they were in Memphis to pitch their services as singers, hoping to fill the void left by platinum recording duo Sam & Dave after they had switched to Atlantic Records. The twins hadn’t been there long when Stax legend Rufus Thomas followed them into the building. The self-styled “Funkiest Man Alive”—who had enjoyed hits with “Walking the Dog” and “Do the Funky Chicken”—looked somewhat pissed. 

“So, who in the heyyell is parking in my spot!?” he growled.

Estus remembers looking at his brother somewhat uneasily.

“I was like, ‘Err, excuse me, let me run out here and move my car.’ And when I got out, I noticed there was a big sign that said RUFUS THOMAS!” 

Both Estus and his brother chuckle together in unison. “Man, we got a kick out of that because Rufus was very hot [on the charts] back in the day, and there I was right in his spot, trying to get a job, but that was it, he was like bang!” 

On speaker phone from Lester’s house in Jackson, the twins are reminiscing about the days just prior to when they made their ’78 debut LP, Let Me Be Your Lover, the sought-after deep modern-soul treasure—originally released by the obscure Commercial Records out of Mississippi—that has now been given the remaster treatment by iconic U.K. label Acid Jazz (via their imprint Miles Away). 

“Man, there’s lots of days, if I go back, that we can reminisce about,” Estus—who splits his time between Mississippi and California—says, speaking in an ever-so-slightly higher tone than the concentrated Mississippian brogue of his brother Lester; between them they cover different notes from the same tenor voice. 

 “Al Green’s producer Willie Mitchell cut one of our songs too… Uh, what was the name of that song, brother?”

“‘Soul City,’” Lester replies. 

“That’s right, ‘Soul City,’” Estus agrees, remembering “Come On Everybody Get with the Beat Let Me Take You to Soul City U.S.A.” (to give it its full title in all its glory). “That song came out on Henry Hines’s Big Beat Records,” a small label out of Greenville, Mississippi, not to be confused with the indie rock label of the same name. “We cut at the Hi Records studios sev’ral, sev’ral times. Willie Mitchell got to know us real good,” says Lester, who lingers on the word real. 

“We would just go from studio to studio in that compact Mercedes,” says Estus—the twins taking turns to answer like they switch off on lead vocals. 

“We cut our first big-little record at Muscle Shoals,” adds Lester. “Muscle Shoals, Alabama. We would go wherever we felt they were making good music. And Muscle Shoals had good writers, good people.” 

“We ran across George Jackson, the guy that wrote ‘One Bad Apple’ for the Osmonds,” says Estus. It was Southern soul genius George Jackson—writer/performer of, among others, the brilliant “Aretha, Sing One for Me,” “Walking the City Streets,” and “Don’t Count Me Out”—who contributed the composition “Back in Love Again” to the fellas (now renamed the Patterson Twins), a 45 that when it was released via the Nashville-based King Records, immediately garnered local attention. 

“‘Back in Love Again’ took off,” says Lester. “That’s what got us the deal with Commercial Records—got us in the position to do a whole album.”

“It was going really well in the South on jukebox, y’see,” Estus interjects.
“Yeah, it was real good on the jukebox; that’s how we got their attention,” adds Lester. “George Linden Webber was the guy who referred us to Commercial Records. He liked what we was doin’ as a duo, and they signed us on.” 

After the title track, the second song they worked on for the Let Me Be Your Lover album was the modern-soul monster and first single “Gonna Find a True Love,” a supercharged cover of an obscure Motown release. 

“Oh my God that was a good song,” says Estus. “It was [co]written by one of the guys from Bottom & Co. [Johnny Helms] out of Nashville—group member Sanchez Harley was the producer on that.”

Says Lester: “We kicked it around for a day or so.”

“We was listening to it and said, ‘Hmmm, this sounds good…that’s us, that’s us!’” adds Estus. 

Lester: “It rub off on ya.”

“It rub off on ya,” Estus repeats. “So, it took us three or four days to learn the lyrics. Sanchez and the guys [Bottom & Co.], they were some good artists, very good producers. We kept in contact for a few years, but I don’t even know if they’re still around anymore.”

Sanchez Harley would produce four songs in all on Let Me Be Your Lover: the rousing Lou Rawls–in-a-cravat-style title track; the covetous, deep soul of “He’s a Loser”; the aforementioned “Gonna Find a True Love”; and the sweet-soul killer “How Long Must the Show Go On.” The team of Stanley Bell and Troy Shondell predominantly handled the funkier numbers: “A Good Thing,” “Funk Machine,” and a Shondell-only composition deceptively called “Disco Dream”—misleading in that despite the title conjuring some kind of spacey disco setup (a nightclub scene from Buck Rogers perhaps), it’s actually more of a midnight blues akin to two-part harmony specialists Bob & Earl or Mel & Tim. 

“We were into that old stuff, those old singers we patterned after; who was that singing at the time, Lester?”

“Tyrone Davis, the Sim Twins on Sar Records, Sam & Dave…” Lester responds.

“…and Mel & Teeyim!” they both say in unison. 

Estus adds: “Sam Cooke and the Sim Twins was a little bit before our time, but we did get influenced by his music. His early music, we weren’t active at that time, but we were just learning and beginning.” 

They both count their grandmother Eulah Thompson as their main influence growing up. Eulah took the twins at five years old after their parents tragically died in a car accident. 

“As the days go by, [the memory] gets a little obscured,” says Lester. 

“I remember my mother, but afterwards our grandmother did such a good job in raising us, and [people] couldn’t help but know who she was,” Estus adds. 

“She had a beauty shop where she would do peoples’ hair in the neighborhood,” says Lester. “And we would sit around and sing little songs—some we made up too. They would give us nickel and dimes,” he laughs. “Nickel and dimes was good money!”

Estus and Lester have always remained close, at nineteen years old they even married twin girls. Something that outsiders would sometimes find confusing, if not the twins themselves. 

“No, the animal instinct kicked in,” Lester explains. “The cow know the calf!” 

The wives would accompany their husbands on the chitlin circuit, rarely showing any sign of jealousy while other women would get excited and worked up by their performances.

“Ah man, they were out there too, shaking a tail feather!” Estus laughs. “Shakin’ a tail feather!” echoes Lester. 

Despite the turbulence and racial tensions across the South, the Patterson Twins say they rarely encountered problems while touring on the circuit.

Says Estus: “We didn’t have a problem like that because we was raised in the South, so we understood the pros and cons of what not to do and what to do. We didn’t have that problem at all.” 

The “do’s” included having an all-White band, with the Patterson Twins the only two Black members performing out front. The “don’ts” meant being careful who you mixed with after the show. 

Says Estus: “The club owner would say, ‘Don’t you get too friendly with the girls.’”

“If you did, then you don’t get to come back,” adds Lester. “So you don’t get too friendly with the girls—the White girls is what I’m saying… I can break it to you.” 

It was a hard day’s night, the fellas having to skimp on regular comforts to earn some decent bread.

“Man…” Estus laughs. “You didn’t get nothin’ else but the door. They didn’t guarantee you no money; you just got whatever came through the door whether it be fifty cents or one dollar. That’s all you got, split between you and the band. To make it, you’d have to stay in low-end hotels where you spend [all night] looking at the roof waiting for it to come down on you.” 

Says Estus: “You made a living; you could buy suits. It kept you eating and reaching up. The chitlin was an experience and the price you had to pay.”

“As our fanbase grew,” Lester adds, “we got more and more people wanting to see us perform, and we could demand more money to come back.” 

While touring the album Let Me Be Your Lover, which song, I ask them, always got the best reaction? 

“How Long Must the Show Go On.” They both say this together, synchronized and without hesitation, leading them into an impromptu performance. 

“How long must the show go onnnn / How long must we pretend…there’s nothing wrong!” 

They sing in perfect harmony. It’s a brief moment of magic that pauses the interview, stopping time. 

Says Estus: “We just enjoyed what the audience wanted us to sing—“Let Me Be Your Lover” and “Gonna Find a True Love” always went down well too.” 

Unfortunately, the mainstream success enjoyed by a Sam & Dave or Bob & Earl project would elude the twins. The Let Me Be Your Lover album’s prospects likely not helped by the modest setup of their Commercial Records home. 

“We didn’t get no response from the U.S. on that really,” says Estus. “But it was amazing. I mean, after I’d heard what we had come up with and had the finished product, it made my heart feel good because I knew we had something.” 

It was a different story across both the Atlantic and the Pacific, with Let Me Be Your Lover achieving legendary status in the U.K. and Japan, setting rare-groove/modern-soul punters back a tidy 500 quid or more for a vinyl copy. That is, it did until Miles Away/Acid Jazz licensed the album for an official re-release. 

“They’re good people; they believe in us,” says Estus. “We appreciate the kindness and sincerity and hope that we can continue our career.”

They no longer possess the ’60s compact Mercedes to hit the road in, with Estus— who now lives and works in Palmdale, California—clocking up air miles traveling between the West Coast and Jackson. 

“Wherever we are wanted to support [the re-release of] this record we are willing to travel,” says Estus. “Have gun, will travel!” he laughs. 

“No, no guns!” says Lester. “You mention guns and people get nervous. Have voices will travel, how ’bout that?”

12/04/19 Videos

Drummer Yussef Dayes drops new video, “Duality”

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Drummer Yussef Dayes has just dropped a new single/video called “Duality,” directed by German photographer Florian Joahn.

 

About Yussef Dayes:
One of the UK’s most exciting, innovative young drummers and producers, 26-year-old Yussef Dayes is best known for work with his brothers in United Vibrations, and also as one half of electrifying duo Yussef Kamaal. Though largely considered a “jazz” drummer, his sound melds everything from 70s funk to Senegalese percussion to recent UK grime. The unifying factor is a fluid, vital energy. Born and raised in South East London, Dayes received his first drum kit for his fourth birthday, and grew up playing along to his jazz musician father’s vinyl collection. This was the closest Yussef had to a formal jazz education until aged ten, when he studied under Billy Cobham (Miles Davis’ drummer) for two years consecutively, which he considers to have been the most impactful thing for his progression. He spent his adolescence gigging with his brothers in afrobeat and rock-influenced jazz group, United Vibrations, before collaborating with long-time acquaintance Kamaal Williams in 2015 on the project that would become Yussef Kamaal. Their debut album, Black Focus, was met with much critical acclaim – now silver-certified, the LP won the pair Best Breakthrough Act at the 2017 Jazz FM Awards. Following 2018’s ‘Love Is The Message’, 2019 has been a busy year for Yussef working towards his transcendental first solo project due this December. This year Yussef has worked on collaborative projects across the board with some of the most exciting musicians in the UK at the moment. With a joint album with Tom Misch to be released in early 2020, Yussef’s musical artistry continues to push boundaries beyond the drum kit, to writing and production.
 

 

11/26/19 Blog/Mixtape

Pete Rock & CL Smooth The Main Ingredient 25th anniversary mixtape by Chris Read

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This month marks the 25th anniversary of Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s second (and final) full-length LP, The Main Ingredient. Following in the footsteps of 1992’s Mecca and the Soul Brother, the album comprises tracks built from densely layered samples, frequently previously unsampled jazz fusion cuts mixed with crisp drums and short vocal snippets plundered from well-known ’80s/’90s hip-hop tracks. Use of a number of go-to tracks defines the sound of the album and the presence of vocal samples from Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane in particular is a key ingredient in the album’s sonic palette. In celebration of the album’s 25th year, we’ve partnered once again with WhoSampled to present this mixtape of album tracks, alt versions, interview snippets, and of course original sample material, mixed by Chris Read.

 

 

Track list:

1. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – I Got A Love (Remix)
2. Chris Read – Theme #3 (Scratchapella)
3. Ramsey Lewis – Sun Goddess (sampled in Escape)
4. Pete Rock & CL Smooth Interview Extract
5. James Brown – Escape-Ism [Loop] (samped in Escape)
6. Brethren – Outside Love [Loop] (sampled in Escape)
7. Biz Markie – Take It From The Top [Extract] (sampled in Escape)
8. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Escape
9. George Benson – Face It Boy, It’s Over (sampled in In The Flesh)
10. EPMD – You’re a Customer [Loop] (sampled in In The Flesh)
11. Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle (sampled in In The Flesh)
12. Big Daddy Kane feat Biz Markie – Just Rhymin’ With Biz [Extract] (sampled in In The Flesh)
13. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – In The Flesh
14. Ahmad Jamal – The Awakening (sampled in It’s On You)
15. Brethren Outside Love [Loop] (sampled in It’s On You)
16. Tom Scott – Never My Love [Extract] (sampled in It’s On You)
17. EPMD – Strictly Business [Extract] (sampled in It’s On You)
18. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – It’s On You
19. Jeanne & The Darlings – Soul Girl (sampled in Get On The Mic)
20. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Get On The Mic
21. Big Daddy Kane feat Biz Markie – Just Rhymin’ With Biz [Extract] (sampled in Get On The Mic)
22. Little Feat – Fool Yourself [Loop] (sampled in All the Places)
23. Donald Byrd – Spaces and Places (sampled in All the Places)
24. Biz Markie – Vapors [Extract] (sampled in All the Places)
25. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – All the Places
26. Roy Ayers Ubiquity – Searching (sampled in Searching)
27. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Searching
28. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Searching (Remix)
29. Jonny Pate – The Look of Love (sampled in Searching (Remix))
30. George Benson – Face It Boy, It’s Over (sampled in I Get Physical)
31. Big Daddy Kane feat Biz Markie – Just Rhymin’ With Biz (sampled in I Get Physical)
32. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – I Get Physical
33. Tyrone Washington – Submission (sampled in The Main Ingredient)
34. KRS One – Sound of Da Police (sampled in The Main Ingredient)
35. Albino Gorilla – Psychedlic Shack (sampled in The Main Ingredient)
36. Big Daddy Kane feat Biz Markie – Just Rhymin’ With Biz [Extract] (sampled in The Main Ingredient)
37. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – The Main Ingredient
38. Milt Jackson & The Ray Brown Big Band – Enchanted Lady (sampled in Carmel City)
39. Hugo Montenegro – Dizzy [Extract] (sampled in Carmel City)
40. Detroit Emeralds – You’re Getting A Little Too Smart [Loop] (sampled in Carmel City)
41. Spoonie Gee – Spoonin’ Rap [Extract] (sampled in Carmel City)
42. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Carmel City
43. Bob James – Nautilus [Loop] (sampled in Sun Won’t Come Out)
44. Harvey Scales – Sun Won’t Come Out (sampled in Sun Won’t Come Out)
45. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Sun Won’t Come Out
46. Stan Getz – Keep Dreamin’ (sampled in Tell Me)
47. Run DMC – Beats to the Rhyme [Extract] (sampled in Tell Me)
48. Pete Rock & CL Smoooth – Tell Me
49. Detroit Emeralds – You’re Getting A Little Too Smart [Loop] (sampled in Tell Me)
50. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Worldwide
51. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Capricorn (sampled in In The House)
52. A Tribe Called Quest – Verses from the Abstract [Loop] (sampled in In The House)
53. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – In The House
54. Keni Burke – Risin to the Top (sampled in Take You There)
55. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Take You There
56. Young Holt Unlimited – Bumpin On Young Street (sampled in Check it Out)
57. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Check It Out

11/21/19 News

Kamaal Williams

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Wax Poetics recently joined forces with a European partner and published a Special Collector’s Edition that featured an article, “New Visions,” about the current crop of jazz musicians in a vibrant and fresh London scene, including keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Jamaal Williams (aka Henry Wu), whose short-lived project Yussef Kamaal (with percussionist Yussef Dayes) is already considered a classic.

Kamaal Williams has just put together a DJ-Kicks compilation for !K7 Records 

You can purchase a copy of Wax Poetics Europe 001 – Special Collector’s Edition from our European distributor RushHour.

 

The following is an excerpt from Wax Poetics Europe 001 – Special Collector’s Edition:

Reflecting on the club-based nature of the new London scene, Yussef Dayes—one half of Yussef Kamaal alongside keyboardist Henry Wu (aka Kamaal Williams)—told the Guardian newspaper in 2017: “I see a correlation between what grime MCs do on the vocals and what we do it on the instruments, there’s a similar energy. When you grow up in London, you’re just inspired by a mix of these things.” In both the pivotal future-jazz LP of Yussef Kamaal’s 2016 release, Black Focus, and Kamaal Williams’s 2018 record The Return, the sound of broken beat has been an important part of this mix. 

Of all the artists to emerge from this resolutely underground London scene of the early 2000s, there is one figure to have had the biggest influence on Henry Wu. “I remember first hearing Kaidi Tatham at a Jazz re:freshed session, and that was a real game-changer for me,” says Wu. “That was when I started to really hear the roots of broken in Latin, jazz-funk, and boogie.” Jazz re:freshed subsequently became an important testing ground for Wu’s own music. “Adam and Justin and those guys there are fundamental to all of this and to me in particular,” he says. “They always embraced me and showed me love.” 

One of the new-school members of IG Culture’s Selectors Assemble that is continuing the legacy of 2000s London club night Co-Op, Wu has also recorded a host of broken beat–influenced, jazz-inflected records for labels like 22a (founded by saxophonist and flautist Tenderlonious, aka Edward Cawthorne, another key figure in the scene), as well as Alexander Nut and Sam Shepherd’s Eglo Records. “Aside from the musical progression, what was really important to me was to create my own tactics to get my music out there,” says Wu. “I didn’t have any management or anything, so it was thanks to my boy Tenderlonious and Alexander Nut that I was able to navigate my way through. And it was really helpful to work with different crews in pushing the music in different directions.” 

Where others on the scene were schooled more formally, Wu received his education through the bass-saturated street sounds of London’s pirate radio and listening hard to his musical heroes. “I was self-taught really,” he says. “Just playing along to things like 4 Hero, and then starting to work out little shapes of my own and beginning my own journey on the keys.” Rather than being restricted by his lack of formal training, it has given Wu the freedom to create his distinctive loose and liberated sound. “I never learned in any systematic way, which at the time I felt like it was a disadvantage, especially as I was so into jazz but didn’t have the vocabulary and technicality to compete. But now in the last few years, I think it actually gave me my own character, so I wouldn’t change anything.” 

11/04/19 Tracks

“Frozen” by I Self Devine (prod. by BK-One & Benzilla)

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In a radical shift of energy, BK-One (DJ/producer from Rhymesayers Entertainment and one half of Wax Poetics’ own Bones & Beeker) surprised everyone when he largely stepped away from music-making in 2016 to launch a radio station in South Minneapolis. Now two worlds collide as BK announces the release of Radio For All – Volume One, a new album that he contributed to and executive-produced in support of KRSM Radio. The album includes twelve tracks from some of the best representatives of the new Minneapolis Sound. And the only way to scoop it is by donating to KRSM now.

“Instead of a radio fundraiser that gives away coffee mugs and tote bags,” BK says, “our supporters will be picking up mp3s, 180-gram vinyl, and high-quality screen-printed posters of the cover art! But don’t just donate for the album.  Donate because KRSM is a vital resource for communities who are so often misrepresented, underrepresented, and erased by traditional media. Eighty-four percent of our hosts identify as Black, Indigenous, or POC. We regularly broadcast in six different languages. We feature twelve hours each week of Native American–led programming. We have multiple shows by hosts who are transgender, youth of color, incarcerated or recently incarcerated, immigrants, or refugees…and who all have something important to say.”

Wax Poetics is excited to share the first single from the project, “Frozen.” This cinematic banger features I Self Devine (of hip-hop favorites the Micranots and Semi.Official) railing against all the forces of destruction that vulnerable communities face while dreaming of a better world.

“Always on defense from attack / Hyper-vigilant, hyperventilate, facts / Living in a chokehold, but I won’t fold / I can still breath / And my heart’s gold.”

BK-One and his production partner Benzilla go bananas on the beat with vocal assistance from Anthony Newes (the other half of Bones & Beeker).

To check out the track-listing, read more about KRSM, and get your copy of “Radio For All – Volume One” click here.