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Posts from the ‘in the dust’ Category

26
Sep

Live Video: Zap Mama “Abadou”

Zap Mama is a musical group that was founded in 1989 by Belgian and Congolese singer Marie Daulne. The group has released seven albums that span a vast array of genres, touching upon West African vocal arrangements and Western European and American R&B, jazz and hip hop. Daulne’s Zap Mama has taken on several forms since its inception, but none has achieved the critical acclaim of the original A Capella quintet featured on her 1993 debut Adventures in Afropea 1.

The record was initially released in Europe as a self-titled LP, before being reissued stateside as Adventures in Afropea 1 on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records. By the end of 1993, the album was Billboard’s top-seller in the “world music” genre. Adventures in Afropea 1 and follow-up Sabsylma draw most directly from the pygmy harmonies found in Daulne’s West-African roots. Though Zap Mama’s fame is relatively limited in terms of mass audience, the project’s influence continues to be felt in the vocal stylings of artists like Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs and Kristin Newborn of KO.

The video clip found below is taken from Zap Mama’s 1997 appearance on the short-lived PBS musical variety show Sessions at West 54th. The song “Abadou” is featured on Adventures in Afropea 1.

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Written by Rob Peoni

20
Sep

Vintage Track: The Spaniels “Baby, It’s You”

Gary, IN’s The Spaniels fit the mold of the early 1950s, all-male doo-wop group. The five-piece signed with local label Vee-Jay Records shortly after graduating from Roosevelt High School, joining a heavy-drinking blues man named Jimmy Reed as the first artists on the label’s roster. Vee-Jay would move to Chicago and grow into the largest black-owned record label prior to Motown, eventually becoming the first American label to sign an unknown British quartet called The Beatles. But, that’s a different story for a different day.

Released in the spring of 1953, “Baby, It’s You” was just the second 45 from Vee-Jay. The track climbed to number 10 on Billboard’s R&B charts. In and of itself, the song is not necessarily anything to write home about. Its sparse instrumentation and pitch-perfect harmonies serve as a shining example of the quintessential doo-wop tune, but The Spaniels would go on to have much larger hits such as “Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite.” Instead, “Baby It’s You” is noteworthy for its role as the earliest example of a problem that would plague Vee-Jay for the remainder of its existence – unexpected success.

Vee-Jay was ill-equipped to handle the demand for a track like “Baby It’s You.” The label was forced to lease the record out to close friend and eventual Vee-Jay general manager Art Sheridan (then with Chance Records) to handle national distribution. This would become a recurring saga in the tale of Vee-Jay Records, and one that would eventually mean their undoing. Listen to where it all began below.


Written by Rob Peoni

29
Aug

Vintage Track: Binder Quintet ft. John Tchicai “Vasvirag”

The Binder Quintet was a Hungarian jazz ensemble whose lone celebrated work came in the pressing of their 1983 radio broadcast with alto saxophonist John Tchicai. The group’s style blended native folk influences with American free jazz of the late 1950s. Their recording of “Vasvirag” has been included in Volume 3 of the Spiritual Jazz series on London’s Jazzman Records. According to a suspect online translator vasvirag is Hungarian for “old maid.” However, there is nothing stale or outdated about the play of the musicians at hand.

Discogs credits Károly Friedrich and Mihály Dresch with the dueling, dissonant harmonicas heard at the outset of the song. Their play recedes to make way for a driving undertone on upright bass and piano. Overhead Tchicai inserts broken, muffled notes on alto sax, at times taking on an animalistic tone. His play creates a visceral tension in the music that is only heightened by the primal howl and guttural growl featured in the background of the song’s latter half. Spiritual Jazz 3 is set for release on CD and vinyl on September 3.

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Written by Rob Peoni