Music Blog

Denver Sings

GALA Choruses Festival 2012

Do your shower acoustics assist in delusions of stardom? Do you secretly await the lone elevator ride or duck into a stairwell to break out in song? Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a choir?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you won't want to miss over 6,000 voices and 200 performances of the GALA Festival 2012. The streets of downtown Denver are going to be filled with the sound of music. Gleeks and groupies of Gareth Malone, choirmaster who is changing communities one song at a time on BBC's The Choir, will turn out in force.

Regina Spektor Alert

Cover of Regina Spektor's 2012 album, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats

Maybe it's her background as a child immigrant from the former Soviet Union to America in the late '80s that informs her fascinating lyrics, but as for Regina Spektor's interesting musical compositions and gemlike vocals, it's got to be raw talent. Get on the library's hold list sooner rather than later for her new album hot off the press, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats.

After recently coming across Spektor's performances of the songs "Small Town Moon" and "Ballad of a Politician" from this album, aired on the Colbert Report, I immediately regretted having previously put off listening to her music.

The Denver Public Library Brings The BASS BOOM To Your Summer!!

Bassnecter sells out Red Rocks again

It's loud, it's crazy, and it has been known to destroy sound systems from N.Y. to L.A., but Colorado is its third-largest market in the US.  It may be scary, but it's growing an army of fans here...it's DUBSTEP, and it's packing every venue in the state with its bass embrace!

Forged in South London in early 2001, dance producers started taking the tempo of 2-step and merging it with the dark bass of Jungle/Drum & Bass music to form a new genre that record label Tempa called "Dubstep" in 2002.  Championed by U.K.

The Last Waltz and Music Documentaries

Levon Helm

The recent death of The Band's Levon Helm brought back fond memories of watching The Last Waltz. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film documents The Band's final show in 1976 at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom and is considered one of the best concert films ever produced.

Listening recently to his 2007 Fresh Air interview, I learned that Helm wasn't very keen on having a big farewell but went along with it. The concert featured all the major players in the folk, country, and rock scenes of the time including Clapton, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison (in a very memorable bedazzled maroon leisure suit giving a passionate rendition of Caravan complete with high kicks).

Nathen Maxwell and the Original Bunny Gang

Cover of the album White Rabbit

Did you know that Nathen Maxwell, also of the Celtic punk band Flogging Molly, simultaneously leads this phenomenal reggae group?

Maxwell, evidently a jack of all trades, plays bass in Flogging Molly, but in the Bunny Gang surprises and delights in a different niche as guitarist, melodica player, and vocalist. Meanwhile, his dad, the artist known as maxwellvision [sic], plays drums and percussion, Michael Peralta takes the bass, and Nat Nelson is on guitar and vocals. With this humble arrangement, they manage to create a deep grooving smoothness of sound that's tough to surpass. This is music to dance to at its finest.

The Dance Lane Is Open

Don Cornelius, creator & host of Soul Train

Don Cornelius and Dick Clark had us learning new dance moves beyond shake, rattle and roll.

Soul Train and American Bandstand set styles, pop culture trends, and introduced new artists to teens of all ages! I owe my  f-i-n-e dance skills to Soul Train while my neighbor says he collected 45s for artists appearing on American Bandstand. My friend Nancy remembered Madonna's performance on Clark's show, one of her first television appearances.

Here are a few of my favorite performers appearing on Soul Train:

Volcanos, Elves, and Bjork

Iceland landscape

Beginning May 11th, Icelandair will be offering direct flights from DIA to Iceland's capital, Reykjavík.  A paltry 8 hour flight will get you to this geothermal wonderland where 10% of the population believes in the existence of elves* and phone directories are organized by first names.

While you can always pick up a travel guide, it can be much more interesting and engaging to do some primary source research when visiting a foreign culture.  Whether you are seriously considering a trip to Iceland or just curious about their cultural exports, get started with these items from the library:

Music

Paganini of the Banjo: Remembering Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs

This week, bluegrass legend and musical innovator, Earl Scruggs passed away in Nashville at the age of 88.

Scruggs revolutionized string bands and bluegrass music by developing the three-finger banjo picking style and launching the instrument past its traditional use in comedy acts into a prominent musical role. Growing up in the infamous Piedmont region of North Carolina, he supposed started playing banjo at age four and started working on his signature three-finger rolls by age 10.

A Galactic St. Patty's Day

Galactic: Photo by Greg Aiello

This coming Saint Patrick's Day, some may be celebrating the chasing of snakes out of Ireland or simply Irish heritage with some lively fiddle music and colcannon, but if, like many, you're just looking for a big party, head to the Ogden to see New Orleans funk band Galactic.

When I saw Galactic live, I had never heard of them before, and tagged along at the end of an already full day thinking it would be a nice, relaxing evening of New Orleans jazz. I mistakenly thought the opening band was Galactic. Then the real deal came out and the Fillmore filled up to the brim. Sandwiched tightly in the crush of the wild crowd right in front of the stage, I soon learned that Galactic shows are nothing to fool around with.

Turn up the (upright) bass

Avishai Cohen - photo copyright Petra Cvelbar, Jazz Festival Ljubljana, 2009

From old jazz classics to modern marvels of musical fusion, the upright bass enriches the sound that reaches your ears. Bass makes up part of the backbone of an ensemble, along with the drums, but it's capable of so much more as a solo instrument. I love music in which the upright bass, with its unique and velvety resonance, pops out and takes center stage.

The story starts with the classics. Charles Mingus (1922-1979), the old school king of walking bass, played upbeat, funky jazz grooves at a pace that could only have been achieved by a master. His music can still make the drive home in heavy traffic somehow enjoyable, as if those busily bustling rhythms somehow match life in the big city and make it better.

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