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Arts + CultureMusicUnder the Stars: Jalen Ngonda rides in for the...

Under the Stars: Jalen Ngonda rides in for the Bay Area boppers

Plus: Irreversible Entanglements' experimental zenith, Toner's charming 'Hammer,' Harold Land returns, more music

It’s Under The Stars, babe: a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and other adjacent items.

We keep moving with the changes and thinking outside the margins. Fallin deep in the disco and soul rhythmns SF keeps giving…

It’s almost June and the water’s warm… well not quite But you get it. Let’s go.

JALEN NGONDA AT SWEDISH AMERICAN HALL, SEPTEMBER 14

It’s a simple process. You hear the voice, time stands still, and from that moment on, everything gets really different.

I’m shot-calling for all you SF, Oakland—and Bay Area-related boppers. Get your fat, skinny, mildly shaped butts over to Cafe du Nord’s site and purchase tickets for Jalen Ngonda.

This dude? With that falsetto, Daptone Records production (I believe he’s on the Penrose imprint), it makes no difference.

Let’s get real. Ever since Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, the one-two knockout punch to that Daptone run of solid Black soul music, whether you deem it retro, golden, whatever…

That “get right in your gut” music. Ever since those giants transitioned into the outer plane, people kind of stopped talking about the imprint.

No disrespect, it’s just a fact.

Well, let me tell you, bub. Jalen Ngonda, with that utterance, expressive tell in the reading of lyrics, a blinking sparkle in his voice, he may just be, and I know it’s unfair to say, but he just may revive it.

With cosigns from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Jill Scott, Kehlani, Olivia Dean, as well as Elton John who predicted last summer that “he is going to be a huge star”.

One listen, just the one, to the heavyweight stunner “Here To Stay” with silvery violins, swoony organ embellishments, and Ngonda’s wafty “oh-oh-oh-ohs”.

You won’t need celeb accolades, your ears will deliver the truth. Firsthand.

He’s got the stuff of legends, and quite possibly more.

Grab tickets here.

JAMES ALEXANDER BRIGHT, “YOUR LOVE” (ATHENS OF THE NORTH)

It’s funny. In the run-up to the release of the soft-hued slab of percussive gliding called “Your Love” by the British self-proclaimed multi-hyphenate James Alexander Bright, he referred to the track as a massive hug to esoteric, disco-fueled dancefloors around the world.

You know what I hear? Bass and voice, all over. And I am not complaining.

“Your Love” cruises at an altitude cupcakin’ and babymakin’, and that’s reason enough for celebration in itself.

If Bright’s COOL,COOL, record—dropping in July has more smooth heaters such as this, I expect our folks down at SWEATER FUNK will have some new anthems for their dancefloor to get lost in.

Damn. I think I just got pregnant.

Grab a copy here.

KAMASI WASHINGTON, “COMPUTER LOVE” (FEAT. PATRICE QUINN, DJ BATTLECAT, BRANDON COLEMAN)

Kamasi Washington has redirected the theme and tone of the culturally enigmatic anthem “Computer Love” by the late Roger Troutman. The great Patrice Quinn sings with guarded inference on his cover, giving the classic song a mysterious feel. Only a jazz musician like Washington could have thought to redo it with terrestrial rhythms. Washington’s new album Fearless Movement, a nod to being in motion with the jazz idiom, recontextualizes everything hoping for a modern twist including the digital slow jam. 

Still a shot-caller in the romance department, Quinn’s voice—not the lyrics—carries a mode of expression that reflects our society’s concern about technology and lack of privacy these days. It’s a win for rebranding a classic imbued with well-intended hesitation, reflecting our fear of being hacked. And not just in the bedroom.

Pick up the album here.

IRREVERSIBLE ENTANGLEMENTS AT THE INDEPENDENT, AUGUST 1

This assemblage of musicians, radicals, brothers, sisters, and others in protest? 

Black experimentalism at its zenith. Period. THAT is the energy they brought to Noise Pop in 2022 at The New Parish in Oakland when vocalist Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother) dropped that enigmatic “we have arrived,” with a specific cultural enunciation of hers. Those free jazz band members, with their specific, often perpetrated but never duplicated, experimental avant-guard mentality—bassist Luke Stewart, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, saxophonist Keir Neuringer, and drummer Tcheser Holmes—responded in kind with Kraken-lode of energy music.

Yes, they just signed with the renowned label Impulse last summer.

It can be debated and stated: IE improved the net worth of said landmark imprint.

Last year’s Protect Your Light album,  “A Celebration” according to Moor Mother, extends their run and stature as one of the true contemporary Black classical music outfits that will swing in whatever direction the current political climate may need a bit, or a ton, of course correction.

But with all of that, it’s the live performance piece, where they remain steadfast as one of the most fierce, not just in the Jazz idiom, but as a musical spiritual experience, it’s a dominant and unapologetically true display of Black excellence.

Just go see them. Period. Tix here.

TONER, GOD’S HAMMER (SMOKING ROOM)

Samuelito Cruz’s project Toner, out of Oakland, is like that scruffy little puppy, stinky cute, that has all the charm that the bigger pit bulls wish they had but just don’t.

“God’s Hammer,” the lead track and album title, is so good and crunchy, with endearing melodic guitar runs. You don’t mind if you can make out the lyrics, and you don’t even care if Cruz fades in and out of tune with his playful falsetto vocal. None of that shit matters.

 It has such goodwill, even that vocal chorus “ooooo” in the middle of the song. 

Man, you just wanna be in the room when they hit the stage. It’s gonna be more than alright.

Purchase here.

HAROLD LAND, CHOMA (BURN) (WEWANTSOUNDS)

“Black Caucus,” the booming, loud crusher of a session track from Harold Land’s 1971 Mainstream Records LP Choma (Burn), is just the type of Tyrannosaurus mood that I’d get up early on a Saturday in The Mission in search of. It’s what vinyl was made for.

One that sparks conversations, creative ideas, or just that blunt speaker you need in your collection. I would get after it with the thrift and goodwill stores up and down Valencia and Mission Street. Blue bottle liquid of the Gods firmly in my hands.

The track features Land on Fender Rhodes, Bay Area’s own Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Reggie Johnson on bass, Ndugu and Woody Theus on drums, and Bill Henderson on piano.

Just a thunking, political (peep the title), and wild traverse down several k-holes of sound, this is what funky modal jazz could do when in the hands of masters.

Pretty much the standard of the Harold Land-Bobby Hutcherson quintet between 1968 and 72, Choma can get big loud but also retreat to those cool blues found on “Up and Down,” a more ‘heads-on’ jazz number: a showcase for the Land and Hutcherson’s mind-meld and a cherry Reggie Johnson double bass feature walks us home in a more traditional way.

Kudos to Wewantsounds for the reissue, reminding us all how official this Batman and Batman combo was at their peak, and how they refused to have Jokers backing them up.

Order that vinyl here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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