Last year my album for Summer 2020 was Toya Willcox’s COURT OF THE CRIMSON QUEEN.
This year I am unable to limit my selection to one artist. So you get one plus a bonus. Yay! Everyone likes a bonus! LOL .
The first artist has released her first solo album of original material. She is part of the Manchester Soul scene in the UK. Her name is Josephine Oniyama although she shortens it to just Josephine. She was born into a rich broth of Jamaican and Nigerian cultural heritage. Her album PORTRAIT is amazing and beautifully showcases her versatile voice. At times she sounds like Janis Joplin “I Pray That I Move” and Annie Lennox “Original Love” and other shims she has a pop acoustic feel similar to Tracy Chapman. But those are just first impressions. Her music traverses the wonderful and lush soundscapes of country, pop and soul with some jazzy inflections. She has previously released a few singles and was a featured vocalist with UK Jazz trumpeter/composer Matt Hallsal and his Gondwana Orchestra. It will be interesting to watch her career as it moves forward. Enjoy the following three tracks from her debut album PORTRAIT. You may purchase or download via BANDCAMP https://josephineoniyama.bandcamp.com you may also want to check out her website http://josephineoniyama.com
So, let’s get on with the music (some videos may be only viewable on YouTube – but it’s worth it.
The bonus artist for my summer music playlist is Canadian soul and jazz singer Dominique Fils-Aimé. She was born/raised in Montreal, Canada to Haitian immigrant parents. She recently released her third full-length album. This gal is ambitions and I say that because she jumped out of the gate with thematic trilogy with her first album being the first entry in the trilogy with each album exploring a different area of African-American music. The first album NAMELESS focused on Jazz. The new album THREE LITTLE WORDS is the final installment of the trilogy and is very much a Soul album. The title of the album is so named because each song is titled using only three words.
If you’ve never heard of Rodrigo y Gabriela you have been missing out on something quite interesting, inventive and magical. I first heard them while I was working in music retail and their eponymous first album was released. I’ve been following them ever since.
This duo’s background is in heavy metal, which is the music Rodrigo’s band played and Gabriela was more-or-less a “groupie” that followed his band. Then they started dating and playing acoustic guitar. They found they had a real chemistry and explored their cultural roots in flamenco. They stopped dating when they discovered that the relationship was getting in the way of the music they wanted to make. And that’s when their music really started to take off. They began by “busking” around Ireland and Europe which is how they were discovered which would lead to their first recording. Several years and several albums later they released their most recent studio album Metallovution which won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album.
Over the years, in addition to writing their own material, they have covered many rock legends like Led Zeppelin, Slayer, et al, with their acoustic flamenco guitar style. These song selections always allowed them to leave one foot firmly grounded in heavy metal while continuing their acoustic style. They have, in recent years also been delving into jazz. their most recent EP is a 3-song cover of contemporary jazz covers by Snarky Puppy, Kamasai Washington and legendary tango composer Astor Piazzolla.
Todays video is a wonderful live video that was recorded at a 2014 show at the historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Colorado, USA where they perform an instrumental Metallica medley. Now aside from Metallica’s “Black Album” I’ve never been a big fan of the group. But this video is wonderful to see and hear the type of energy the music contains without the ear shredding vocals, drums and searing electric guitar. As an added bonus they are joined by one of their idols, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo. So enjoy this medley of 4 songs by Metallica: “Orion” “For Whom The Bell Tolls” “The Frayed Ends of Sanity” and “Battery”.
In the early 2000’s I was working in music retail and was given a sampler of hot and popular music from Japan.
It featured some amazing artists and styles. A real ear-opener. One of the artists were Pizzicato Five. This group falls under the category of things I miss, and “whatever happened to….?” This is, in many ways pop fusion music with it’s blend of soul, pop, french chanson, Burt Bacharach etc. The music is cheery, upbeat, warm and smooth retro feel which is perfect for summer. I’m not sure what happened to this group. Unfortunately they never really made a hit in the US. And their music is hard to find. But here’s to happy music may it bring a little cheer to your summer.
I found these fun videos and they really do maintain the fun vibe of the music with their own hipster cool.
Today it’s Ladies Choice for Barbershop Harmony. Within 10 years after Men started singing Barbershop Harmony women wanted to take part in harmonic action. They formed their own organization Sweet Adelines International 75 years ago for the encouragement and singing of barbershop harmony for women. Since most of the song in the catalog of mens barbershop singing are “about” women (evidenced by song title that provide the source for the Sweet Adelines) the Sweet Adelines have always been more open to contemporary songs and diversity. Today I want to present some of the many Sweet Adelines.
The 2019 Chorus Champions (also champions in 2018) – The Scottsdale Chorus with their winning performance
Continuing the festivities this next selection is by the Rönninge Show Chorus from Sweden under the direction of the woman who is credited with first bringing barbershop harmony singing to Sweden. Enjoy this performance highlighting music penned by Swedish composers.
2019 Quartet Champions – Class Ring with their “Swan Song Set”. (the Swan Song set is the performance they give after they win the Championship as part of an “all star show”.
From the 2015 Quartet Finals enjoy this performance by Windsor
Today I’m going to focus on a type of music that does not get much press or recognition. It is often thought of as old-fashioned, old-timey, stuff your great grandparents listened to. One reason may be that it does not neatly fit into the established genres of music that have become culturally established.
I was fortunate enough to grow up and be raised in the Mennonite church. A Cappella music was all around. In church everyone sang and everyone sang in four-part harmony (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass). It was all hymns all the time. And I credit that for establishing at a very young age my entry point into music. What I mean by entry point is the primary attractor. For some people it may be the beat, the rhythm, melody, overall feel or for some, like me, it is harmony. Harmony is the first thing I hear that gets me sucked into the “world” the music creates. I love harmony!
As I was growing up and things like AM radio became common place in our household – I’ll always cherish my little handheld transistor radio with a small speaker and an earpiece that looked more like a hearing aid with it’s thinly coiled cord – nothing like the iPods we’ve become accustomed to. This little transistor radio was my constant companion as I was growing up (age 8-15, 1968-78). Otherwise we had black and white television set which was all we could afford and it was cheaper than the newer color one. But TV and AM radio exposed me to popular music and much of the music at that time had some sort of harmony (think Beach Boys, Chicago, America, The Association, Simon and Garfunkel, Seals and Crofts, etc) This listening further solidified my interest and love for harmony. I sang in all the school choirs, concert choir, show/swing choir etc.
As I grew up and my music tastes evolved into other genres etc harmony was never far away. After I had graduated from High School in 1978 – not wanting to go to college at that time – I got a job at a local retailer. A co-worker was involved in a local mens chorus called (The Wayneaires – which sadly no longer exists) that sang a music style called Barbershop. It is a cappella singing in 4 parts (lead, tenor, baritone and bass). I had great fun. I learned much including this notion of overtones and undertones (simply – a third audible unsung tone/note can be heard when the resonances of two or more other sung tones are combined). And, for me, when I hear overtones ringing it literally gives me chills it provokes a physical response that I seldom experience when listening to music. We did an annual show that featured the chorus (of about 45 members) and featured guest quartets from around the region. Always a theme. I did this for about 5 years and even sang in some quartets before I decided to go to college. At that time the music was mostly traditional barbershop songs like “Lida Rose”, “Sweet Adeline” etc with ever-changing arrangements. There was an organization called S.P.E.B.S.Q.A. (pronounced speb sqwa) and stood for the Society for Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. Around 2004 it was changed simply to the Barbershop Harmony Society (whew! about time they got rid of that old mouthful – LOL). I have not sung Barbershop in the past 30+years but I still like to check it out occasionally and find it stronger and better than ever. There is a more diverse catalog of songs
There is always an international competition for Barbershop (2020 being the exception due to the pandemic) and there are 4 categories where a champion is named – Quartet, Chorus, Senior Quartet, Youth/Collegiate Quartet on which they are judged on music (selection/arrangement), singing and performance (of which humor can play a key role). Regarding performance we were taught it is about “filling the space”. not just with facial expressions but also body movements/choreography etc.
At the end of this post I will post links to the Barbershop Harmony Society website if you wish to know more about it’s history and much much more.
I will post videos of the 2019 champions for you to “taste”. And hopefully it will be as sweet for you as it is for me. And if/when you hear those overtones – feel free to let the goose flesh pop. LOL
***fyi – not sure – but you may have to watch videos on YouTube
First up – 2019 Chorus Champions (also Champions in 2007, 2010 & 2015)- The Westminster Chorus with their award winning performance of From Now On/Come Alive Medley (from The Greatest Showman) Be sure to go to YouTube and check out their 2015 Championship performance of “Seize the Day” from Newsies.
2019 Quartet Champions – Signature with their winning performance of Proud Mary (Ike and Tina Turner cover)
Also check out their other barbershop arrangements of Queen, Michael Jackson and other pop icons on YouTube.
Seniors Quartet Champions – DoubleDouble with one of their winning performances Green Green Grass of Home (parody). look for the the shift from serious to comedic around the 2 min mark. 🙂
2019 Youth/Collegiate Champions – Wildfire with their performance of Between You and the Birds and the Bees and Cupid.
While top 10 finalists compete for the title of Champion – the evening starts off with a mic test – it is a performance awarded the 11th place quartet and an opportunity to cut loose. This performance from 2015 is by one of the funniest quartets – The Newfangled Four (Youth/Collegiate Champions 2013) with their rendition of the vintage song Hello My Baby (through the years). Enjoy. *note – at the end they are joined by a singer from another Quartet called Instant Classic, who were the Champions of 2014.
And for you women out there – Barbershop Harmony is not only a mans thing – Women have their own version of the Barbershop Harmony Society called Sweet Adelines Intl. Look for more on that in my next post.
I’ve experimented with extremely dark images in the past but it’s been a while and I was in the mood. Today and tomorrows images were taken one Saturday morning early in May. I had gone to the laundromat to clean my winter comforter and a couple of pillows to put in storage. At that time people were not permitted to wait inside due to the pandemic. So I sat in my car. It was raining rather hard and I was not in the mood to go out and about for photos. So I just sat in my car for these abstracts. The inside of my car is dark gray and black with some chrome accents. Wondering what kind of abstracts I could create – I dialed down the exposure to -7 and started clicking the camera shutter. I did very little in Photoshop except to convert to black and white and some vignetting to darken the edges. Enjoy.
As with all my galleries click on one image to view larger and then use the arrows to go to the next image.