Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, and a number of other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes and thinking about Charles Mingus Jr., who would have turned 100 last week. The double bassist, pianist, and bandleader is considered one of the greatest composers, right next to Duke Ellington, to ever live.
“He was a genius on par with Miles Davis, Dizzy, Charlie Parker, and Monk. And yes, he was a Black American standing up for his people in his own way” said Amir Abdullah to me a couple of years ago. Amir curated the four hour box set “Jazz in Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden”, released by 180 Proof and BBE records in 2018, and just put out Strata Records – The Sound of Detroit – Reimagined By Jazzanova project.
‘’He was a complicated person, but he was his own man in a time where Black men were not allowed to be men. Some might say nothing has changed. Mingus is still relevant today because of his singular will to push music forward, always create, and the importance he placed on band improvisation. Mingus had his issues and was known to get into fights with some of his band members, but with the exception of Duke Ellington, Mingus was probably one of the greatest American composers ever.”
Ok. Let’s get into it!
KIKAGAKU MOYO, AUGUST HALL, May 28
Kikagaku Moyo, a name that translates to “geometric patterns,” started out busking on the streets of Tokyo back in 2012. Now with a farewell tour planned to stretch deep into the Autumn of 2022, this tight-knit group of five friends, bonded over the desire to play freely and explore psychedelic music, has established a standard that was not there before. The band’s progressive, folk-influenced take helped revive Japan’s psych-rock scene. With a final album dropping in May, you can catch them at August Hall for a full set. Expect the epic.
It’s a sold out show so get krafty San Francisco or attend a condensed set at BottleRock in Napa.
ANTELOPER, “ONE LIVING GENUS” FROM PINK DOLPHINS (INTERNATIONAL ANTHEM)
Free jazz trumpeter Jaimie Branch and drummer Jason Nazary make up the forward-thinking, “psychedelic improvisational electro-acoustic” duo Anteloper. The longtime friends and collaborators dream up compelling electronic music that refuses boundaries or rules. This is not some “shake yer ass” brew, Cuzzo. It’s the real freaky, crack-yer-dome-open type steeze. Through woozy latitudes of electronics that shake, vaporize, and blare they eliminate the cutesy and go straight to the WTF.
It’s a project whose releases I look forward to every couple of years.
Now, these talented mofo’ messed around and got Jeff Parker to produce their upcoming project Pink Dolphins, arriving on the International Anthem label on June 17. Take their single “One Living Genus,” the acid-fried John Carpenter nebulous dirge as a sign.
Anteloper won’t be touring the Bay Area this summer (yeah, I’m mad at it)—but they’re still putting all your Vanilla EDM bots on notice. Clear the lane wide, Anteloper is about to blow some doors off. Pre-order here.
BLUE NOTE JAZZ FESTIVAL NAPA VALLEY, JULY 30 – 31
The Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley marks the first time the lauded event has been presented as an outdoor, multi-day, multi-stage event. The intimate festival, at $385 per ticket (eating burritos for a month, yikes) with a limited capacity, will showcase some top-tier talent at the historic Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, CA. We’re talking Maxwell, yasiin bey & Talib Kweli reuniting as Black Star, Thundercat, and Maurice “Mobetta” Brown featuring Anderson. Paak, Flying Lotus, The Soul Rebels featuring GZA & Talib Kweli, Corinne Bailey Rae, and more.
The festival’s artist in residence is Grammy-winning multi-genre pianist, songwriter, and producer Robert Glasper. Special guests Erykah Badu, Ledisi, D Smoke, Terrace Martin, and BJ the Chicago Kid are slated to perform during Glasper’s set.
The idea for the event came from Robert Glasper’s month-long residency at the Blue Note New York, held each October and dubbed Robtober, according to festival officials. “Glasper curates a month of shows and collaborations spanning across the genres of jazz, R&B, hip-hop, soul, and comedy resulting in impromptu performances by celebrities and unannounced special guests. It is our plan to create an outdoor festival-style version of Robtober in the spirit of a traditional jazz festival featuring spontaneous collaborations and once in a lifetime, improvised performances” stated Steven Bensusan, Blue Note Entertainment Group President.
Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley will also host a funk-filled after-party for attendees on Saturday night, featuring two seasoned crate diggers, the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown aka Erykah Badu plus special surprise guests.
Tickets go on sale on April 26 here.
DARIUS, OASIS (ROCHE MUSIQUE)
I’m looking for a record that gives me a big warm hug. Cruising at a self-care altitude where everything is in the groove and there are no potholes. Darius, a French producer, keeps the party going on his 14-song release Oasis, by swerving into neo-soul, warm house, and other dance music regions that will keep your little something something beaming with good clean energy all night long. It’s all smiles homie. Come for the hush-chill of Kadhja Bonet (“Nothing To Me”) and the wide groove of Benny Sings (“Rise”), and stay for the snackable instrumentals, especially the rolling bounce of “Grand Large.” Feeling good has never felt so good. Purchase here.
EAST COAST, EAST COAST (REAL GONE MUSIC)
East Coast, the name of the pairing of disco-funk luminaries Cameo and Gwen Guthrie proves the past can be just as unimaginable as the multiverse. This is a real find—combining funk with sun-kissed soul and psychedelic dirge-rock—but it was lost to the world after being released on Bernard Purdies’ Encounter label in 1973, which only put out five titles.
The hard-charging, organ-drenched, guitar-wielding chutzpah of the tune, complete with well-sculpted horn charts, backs up Guthrie’s moxie on lead track “I Found You.” It was an intriguing period in time.
An intriguing question: What if Guthrie had ended her tragically short career with a backing band led by Larry Blackmon and saxophonist Gregory Johnson, rather than the 4/4 disco backbeat she was known for? Without a doubt, Gwen deserves her own flowers and proper rediscovery, but no one could have predicted this double act. Here it is, irrefutable. Out in June, do the advance purchase here.
THAO AT THE FILLMORE, MAY 7
Thao Nguyen (formerly of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down) has been making conscious funky music for over a decade.
Many of her visuals take the lead in orchestrating progressive-minded narratives, complementing her rhythm blitz, which seems to attack the senses at all times. Far more than “the first great Zoom music video” progenitor, Thao has always been ahead, using technology to hurtle into new spheres of influence.
When this dynamic songwriter and hardworking performer visits The Fillmore in May, for a one-night engagement with Black Belt Eagle Scout opening, expect a Bay-Area original to tell her meaningful stories with vivid clarity. Purchase tickets here.
SOUL & SOLIDARITY CONCERT FOR UKRAINE RELIEF EFFORTS AT SWEETWATER MUSIC HALL, MAY 6
A star-studded lineup of famed local artists with Bay Area ties will perform in a special fundraising concert for Ukraine on Friday, May 6 at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Soul & Solidarity, an evening of entertainment to benefit the citizens of Ukraine, will feature performances from Devon Baldwin of G-Eazy fame, Neo-Soul Luminary Rozzi, Indie-Pop Vocalist Matt Hansen, R&B Singer Sophia Bromberg, Indie Rockers Presidio, feat. Gabriela de la Cruz & Will Zesiger, Bay Area Musician Ryann Swan and more. Purchase tickets here.