Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and a number of other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes, thinking outside the margins and wondering …
Dogpatch was named one of the 51 coolest neighborhoods in the world by TimeOut last month. It came in at number 36. I don’t even know what that means anymore. More gentrifiers are on the way to gentrify an already-heavily-gentrified neighborhood.
But I do know this: Bandcamp Friday is coming up, and we have our picks below.
OK, let’s get it!
AZYMUTH, TELECOMMUNICATION (CRAFT RECORDING/JAZZ DISPENSARY)
Craft Recordings and Jazz Dispensary have pulled out a monster of a 40th anniversary record to usher in a new era. Telecommunication, the eighth studio album by fusion pioneers and masters Azymuth—which is made up of guitarist Alex Malheiros, bassist José Roberto Bertrami, and drummer Ivan Conti—was originally released in 1982 to praise from jazz fans and dance floor patrons.
The crew took jazz, electronic, disco, and funk, along with contemporary and traditional Brazilian music such as samba and MPB (música popular brasileira), to create a new multidirectional thickness of bump that spoke in a universal language. Heard clearly, this album, remastered from the original analog tapes and pressed on 180-gram black vinyl, is soundsystem equipped.
In naming itself, the band borrowed the title of the song “Azimuth” from their friend and collaborator, the legendary singer, songwriter, and producer Marcos Valle.
Consider the synth-driven song “May I Have This Dance?” (“Concede Me Esta Danca?”) It’s a modern-thinking bop for the era, complete with a vocoder effect—but it still manages to make itself accessible to all, with unmistakable bass licks and subtle keyboard accents.
There is a good reason why Flying Lotus and Daedelus have repurposed sounds from this iconic outfit. The band’s direct influence can also be heard in arrangements by the mighty Kaidi Tatham.
Telecommunication is the ideal starting point for learning about such a groundbreaking band that’s still deserving of all the praise.
Get this here.
THE MIGHTY MOCAMBOS, SCENARIOS (MOCAMBO RECORDS)
German champions of funk The Mighty Mocambos are the first instrumental group I’ve ever heard attempt to and succeed in covering the classic Eddie Murphy walk-on song, “Axel F.”
They don’t stop there. On their newest album Scenarios, recorded entirely on their portable Fostex R-8 tape machine, they take the Shannon classic “Let The Music Play” and dismantle it with extreme b-boy and b-girl cunning. And so the album continues, paying homage to the art of funk break minimalism in music presentation. This is the uncomplicated ease you seek, with instrumentals of prayerful folk soul, a Lee Fields cover, and a treasure trove of danceable funk bombs.
Buy this here.
YAZMIN LACEY, ‘PIECES’
After a two-year hiatus, East London-based soul singer Yazmin Lacey returns with brand new music, a heartbreak song that she wrote during a piano lesson. The mature-sounding “Pieces,” which you can add to the impressive Lacey discography, feels vindicated in light of the circumstances. She claimed that “Pieces” served as an outlet for her to express everything she was unable to say in person.
You can buy the song here.
DEZRON DOUGLAS, ATALAYA (INTERNATIONAL ANTHEM)
Dezron Douglas, a bassist, composer, bandleader, and educator, will release his full-length solo album titled ATALAYA in November. We first wrote about him in 2020 when we covered the 11-song suite Force Majeure by Douglas and harpist Brandee Younger. From an acoustic, one-mic, jazz perspective, it resembled an American songbook and featured covers of everything from John Coltrane to Kate Bush.
Atalaya was written during the height of the pandemic, according to Douglas, who is currently on tour with the Trey Anastasio Band. However, upon first listening, the album has the feel of a beginning that is fixated on all that is still possible.
You can order this in advance here.
JOHNNY HAMMOND, GEARS (CRAFT RECORDINGS/JAZZ DISPENSARY)
You can hear why this steady-moving shark of an arrangement became a favorite at DJ David Mancuso’s renowned New York City parties at The Loft when you listen to the six-minute-long “Los Conquistadores Chocolatés.” Those gaining Peter Piper flutes, high-intensity piano runs, and twisted wah-wah guitars smash and drop into the dam-bursting Cadillac groove that drives this out-of-the-box, disco-funk-jazz masterwork.
When Johnny “Hammond” Smith, one of the foremost soul-jazz keyboardists of the late 1960s, teamed up with the legendary brothers Larry and Alphonso “Fonce” Mizell, Smith continued to push the boundaries of all genres of music, including funk and jazz. With the Mizells on board, Smith created “Gears,” a masterpiece of an album that defied expectations, enraged some members of the jazz elite, and added much-needed ingenuity into the contemporaneous metronome four-on-the-floor R&B disco scene of the time. Harvey Mason, Chuck Rainey, and Jerry Peters—outstanding musicians—added their touch to this pivotal album as well.
Listen, I still carry a copy of this record around with me today because it just goes places. After DJ sets, self-described “non-jazz fans” have approached me and asked, “What was that?”
Get this funky classic while it’s still available on 180-gram audiophile-quality vinyl.
Pick it up here.