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. In this edition, we salute Sade, Snoop Dogg, and Teddy Riley on being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. We also outline some SF JAZZ-Noise Pop options, and make our first Bandcamp Picks of 2023. So many good things.
Let’s get innit!
NATE MERCEREAU, CARLOS NIÑO, AND SURYA BOTOFASINA WITH SPECIAL GUEST IDRIS ACKAMOOR AT SFJAZZ, FEBRUARY 23
Nate Mercereau‘s release Duets | Golden Gate Bridge featured the famously eerie humming sounds made by the famous bridge in question, alongside Nate’s improvised guitar work. It is the first human-bridge duet album in history. The Los Angeles-based musician, who has produced or played on songs by Jay-Z, Shawn Mendes, Lizzo, and The Weeknd, consistently pushes boundaries while experimenting with cosmic textures. Nate plays with LA spiritual jazz master Carlos Niño, keyboardist Surya Botofasina, and saxophonist, composer, and founder of The Pyramids Idris Ackamoor in two special Noise Pop presentations with SFJAZZ at the latter’s Joe Henderson Lab.
Purchase tickets here.
SATYA AT SFJAZZ, FEBRUARY 26
It’s a good month for live music in The Bay, and it’s even better if you can expand your horizons to check for what’s coming up and who’s next. On that list should be Satya Hawley, a vocalist with roots in Oakland and New Orleans. The 21-year-old singer-songwriter seamlessly blends folk and soul with unforced presentation. This is an artist on the rise, without the use of gimmicks.
Representing a stout balance of indie rock and R&B, her five songs from last summer’s “Deep Blue” EP captured an artist who is perhaps still not fully aware of far their talent can go. As stunning as the release is, it was too brief, despite that delightful, Inda Arie-like feel. At the end of Black History Month Satya, whose voice gives a Mazzy Star-like high off of Prince and Sade embers, should give a moving performance at SF Jazz’s Joe Henderson Lab in a concert co-presented with Noise Pop.
Purchase tickets to the show here.
Keep copping music from Bandcamp on first Fridays of the month—the platform will continue giving all profits to artists on almost all those dates in 2023. Check here for more details on timing.
LAKECIA BENJAMIN, PHOENIX
On the strength of the anticipation swirling around her album Phoenix, we previously wrote about Lakecia Benjamin, the accomplished saxophonist and composer from New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Benjamin was chosen last month to be the 2023 Monterey Jazz Festival artist-in-residence, in addition to gracing the February covers of Downbeat, UK Jazz Times, and the New York Times Arts section.
“My first experience at the Monterey Jazz Festival was sitting backstage speaking with Quincy Jones and listening to Wayne Shorter’s set in 2016,” said Benjamin in a press statement. “To be joining as the 2023 Artist-in-Residence is a full circle moment for me. I am so excited to join the Monterey family and I look forward to working together to enhance this year’s vision.”
Lakecia will collaborate with young musicians at the festival’s summer jazz camp in Monterey, and at its 66th edition in September.
Phoenix, which was finally released last week, is fire—a smoldering pot of arrangements that touch on jazz, hip-hop, and soul uniquely, thanks to Benjamin’s explosive saxophone work and voltaic approach. Produced by multi-Grammy award-winner Terri Lyne Carrington, SFJAZZ’s resident artistic director, the release should remain in rotation all year long. It features additional contributions from a carefully curated group of guests including Dianne Reeves, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Patrice Rushen, Sonia Sanchez, Angela Davis, and Wayne Shorter.
Buy it here.
ERIC DOUGLAS PORTER, PARLOR MUSIC
Eric Douglas Porter, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist whose work has been rightly praised in this column over the years, has finished a new full-length just in time for his birthday.
He wrote to 48hills via email saying, “I’m taking a step outside of myself to get into myself, releasing this album under my Government.” The modern experimental defines the self-released Parlor Music as, “a presentation highlighting particular instrumentation in an intimate manner.”
Its first single “Full of Life Again” features that method, which helped Porter, who also releases under alias Afrikan Sciences, become known for fusing sci-fi, techno, house, and modal elasticity. The sound goes from Gilles Peterson to Georgia Anne Muldrow and beyond.
Wish Mr. Porter a happy birthday and purchase the release here.
Evan Vincent, the Toronto-based electronic music producer Emissive, has been steadily enhancing an impressive career. Just the right kind of hyped-up music, “Love Perception” from 2021’s “Wave Science” EP on the Pacific Rhythm imprint, kept the dance floor floating until 6 a.m. His album City of Rooms for Telephone Explosion Records in 2022 successfully introduced chaotic soundscapes and ambient concepts into the long-player realm.
With “Grannr,” a song off Unseen Measures for Aronia Records, the Vincent turns up to night mode, dark and menacing-like. It puts move and groove into expanded range, while maintaining dream board atmospherics.
It’s an ambitious step forward, revealing deeper colors.
Purchase it here.
YAEJI, “FOR GRANTED” (XL RECORDINGS); AT THE FOX THEATER, APRIL 13
Born in Flushing, Queens, Kathy Yaeji Lee is a bilingual Korean American producer who has built a career while signal-boosting friends, unconventional experts, and masterminds who she recognizes as having the creativity of the “otherness” variety. It’s as if she seeks out contemporaries who have a similar uncanniness in their career path, too. The synthy-smart hip hop single “Money Can’t Buy” featured on Yaeji’s 2020 WHAT WE DREW mixtape provided the ideal setting for Bay Area rapper Nappy Nina to get in those bars, with a sincere heart.
Yaeji, a former graphic designer, bulldozes and blends Korean indie rock, electronica, late ’90s, and early ’00s hip hop, and R&B into a signature aesthetic that seems random at first but always lands polished, with a tad of quirk innit.
The NYC-via-Seoul artist just released the lead single “For Granted” from her upcoming debut album With A Hammer, due out on XL Recordings on April 7. It features all the trademark Yaeji moves: Synth-pop fashion start, with pounding drum and bass-focused machinations landing the plane. Never a cookie-cutter approach, Yaeji delivers her own hardstyle commotion in the end.
Pre-order With A Hammer here. Get tickets for Yaeji’s performance at The Fox Theater on April 13 here.