THE MORALISTS COME FOR R. KELLY

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It has saddened me to watch the moralists telling us not to play the songs of R. Kelly because R. Kelly may have “bad morals.” What has morality to do with great art ? I can cite countless examples of very dicey artists who have made great art. Indeed, it may well be that living on the edge, or over the edge, evokes great art of those who live as they do, greater art than is weaned by the good life.

R. Kelly is said to be a pimp of underage girls. And if he is ? The painter Correggio was a pimp and a fraudster. Al Green and Sam Cooke abused women (both paid for it, Green by being scalded, Cooke murdered). Chuck Berry was a voyeur for most of his life. Hound Dog Taylor was said to have pimped his wife, Koko Taylor, as a regular thing. Leadbelly went to prison for murder. Gloria Trevi spent many years in prison for major crimes; Bernard Cantat of the French rock band Noir desir was accused of murdering his girlfriend. The 15th Century Parisian poet Francois Villon was a thief.; so was novelist Jean Genet. Louis Ferdinand Celine collaborated with the Nazis, as did singer Lucienne Boyer. Ezra Pound and Knut Hamsun were anti-Semites. And on and on…

Do we treasure their art nonetheless ? You bet we do. At least those of us do who do not judge art by the behavior of the artist.

Now for R. Kelly. i have seen him in concert, twice. No one in the world of post-soul Black pop captures its troubled conscience as powerfully as he does: the irresistible sex appeal, the compulsion to be sexual, the second thoughts about one’s compulsion — immortally sung in “Second Kelly,” his greatest song — and the need to be physically dominant by any means available from forceful to sly, from muscular to weak. These are, of course, the confessed parameters of soul music, too, a genre never free of pain, or of joy, a genre of paradox: Maze’s great “Joy and Pain” sums it up even as it plumbs the profundity of R. Kelly’s work.

It is easy to sing of joy and pain if one’s life is free of the one and blessed by the other. Anodyne singers do that job well, assuming one cares to hear its surface sounds. It is a thing otherwise entirely to hear joy and pain sung by those who reach for the one while nailed to the other. Listen to an Al Green song, a Sam Cooke, a Curtis Mayfield after his tragic accident, an Isaac Hayes, an Etta James, a Tina turner. Does R. Kelly rank with these greats ? You bet he does. Listen to his greatest albums: R, 1998; TP-2.com, 2000; TP.3 Reloaded, 2005; Love Letter, 2010l; and Black Panties, 2013 : in them you’ll find seduction, flim flam, needs, candor, physical healing — all of it redolent of Marvin Gaye at his most petulant and Ronnie Isley at his most comforting, yet sung in that reedy, slip-through-the-cracks tenor that no one voices with anything like the same insecure determination. This is what soul music gives us. Confession seeking acquiescence dangerously accorded, commitment to the devil side of holiness.

R. Kelly will likely now be banished from the marketplace of right-thinking people. All the more reason to embrace his art, the sound of a soul being damned but never to be squashed.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

 

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FEELIN’ THE MUSIC : ON THE UNDER-APPRECIATED COMPOSITIONS OF HUGO KAUN (1863-1932)

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By Kevin Scott / Guest Columnist

Note : Kevin Scott is a composer and a lecturer at Orange County Community College (SUNY Orange) in Middkletwon, NY

In the past few years many of you know that I am one who has championed the works of many unknown and forgotten composers. One such composer who I have been occupied with has been the German composer Hugo Kaun (1863-1932). A contemporary of Mahler, Reger and Richard Strauss, Kaun’s initial fame was not established in his native country, but in ours! Kaun emigrated to the USA in the late 1880s – Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to be exact – where he was an active force in that city in which there was a large German population. Kaun also attracted the attention of Theodore Thomas, who championed Kaun’s orchestral works with what we now know as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In spite of his successes here in America, Kaun gradually became homesick and returned to his native Germany where he continue to compose. His music, while not considered groundbreaking in comparison when compared against his immediate and more forward-looking contemporaries, embodies the diametric opposites of Brahms and Wagner. His later works subtly incorporate modality, opulent chromatic harmonic progressions and lighter orchestral colors bordering on impressionism and a freer use of classical structure.

As of now, very few musicians have performed Kaun’s music, let alone heard of him. The German composer and music historian Gerhard Helzel has made it his mission to make Kaun’s music better-known, and he has produced several recordings of Kaun’s orchestral music using the Garritan Personal Orchestra, including his first piano concerto and first and third symphonies for purchase, and recently MDG has released a CD of Kaun’s chamber music, including his Octet, Piano Quintet and String Quintet.

Yours truly has written preface notes for the scores of several of Kaun’s orchestral and chamber works reissued by Musikproduktion Jürgen Höflich in Munich (I am finally penning the notes for the first piano concerto), and I have continued to try and interest some musicians here in performing his music. It is also my hope to record some of Kaun’s works, including his three symphonies, two piano concertos and the miscellaneous orchestral works. I already have the interest of one record label, so it’s up to me to get off my duff and do a kickstarting program to see if I can even record one CD.

If you want to find out more about Kaun, go to Gerhard’s website. I know he wishes to get more of the word out, and maybe his CDs, MIDI samplers that they are, may attract enough interest in conductors willing to do Kaun’s music :

http://www.romana-hamburg.de/KaunEngl.htm

You can also read Kaun’s entry in Wikipedia :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Kaun

PRINCE ROGERS NELSON, 1958-2016

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^ the entire planet and all of its region were Prince’s musical playground

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It was in 1979 that I first saw Prince, at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. He was barely 21 years old but had already made a second album, epoynymously Prince, following a first LP named For You, whose sound I had already taken intensely to heart thanks to tracks like “Soft and Wet,” “Crazy for You,m” “Baby,” and “Just As Long As We’re Together.” The second LP was just as fierce — we all know its hits, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Sexy Dancer,” “Why You Wanna Treat Me So bad” — and that night at the Paradise he performed them. And never again was music the same for me. He had footprint and a walk, as an R & B master must, and he had a voice all his own too : a high, febrile, feral falsetto half shriek, half tears, a high octave noise both sensuous and absolutely cold. It was a voice to break you,. or make you, or both, and in either order.

From there, Prince — he never used his full name, and often thereafter he cloaked his name in verbal denials and symbols, all in keeping with his break you or make you persona — –moved forward on his signature riff : clenched fist, squeezed guitar strings, skip steps and backfoot front walk, through song after song of loverboy ha ha’s and squeaky blah blah that somehow made you grin and giggle and imitate all of him, or as much of him as you could parse. “Dirty Mind,” “Controversy,” “Sexuality,” “Raspberry Beret,” “When Doves Cry,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “I Would Die For U,” and, of course, “Purple Rain” — all of these spun Prince to the top of the love god mountain. And what a love god ! Majestic, never; wise cracking, always. Seducing you was, for Prince, an act of comedy and horsefeathers, slang and brag, tickle and guffaw.

Where soul men sounded righteous, Prince always sounded naughty: but despite the flutter and kerfuffle, Prince somehow sounded tender, too, and at the end of the day, sincere. Though you could never be sure, that soon, unexpectedly, he would rhythmically pull the verbal rug out from under.

Though every lick of his rhythms and each peep of is voice was his alone, his fiercely individual approach to both guitar and voice was as classic as the music of story-tel;ling itself. Those who have heard Blind Lemon Jefferson,. Blind Willie Johnson, Barbecue Bob, John Estes, John Lee Williamson, Jimmy Reed, Dr. Ross, Magic Sam, and R. L. Burnside will understand perfectly the solo showmanship tradition of inimitability of which Prince was as profound a master as any musician of our era.

Solo genius was not his only string. He was also the ultimate bandleader, as perfectionist and dazzling as his great predecessors in the big band swing to big band funk eras. Few of these, however, were led by guitarist-singers. Only Gatemouth Brown comes to mind. If you saw Brown perform, late in life, in his cowboy hat and flaunting his telecaster, you saw more than a little of what Prince was grounded in.

Since those first years, Prince’s music broadened and become unimaginably more ambitious : complex, extended, and visionary in the multiplexity manner of Funkadelic, Jimi Hendrix, and rock opera in general, from all of whom he borrowed concept without ever imitating their sound. Unlike these guitar-focused, psychedelic sources, Prince gave us an orchestral sound : perhaps a legacy from his Dad, a jazz band trumpet stalwart. His last album, Hit n Run Phase 2, shows off all of that, amidst his falsetto and his backfoot front step.

Prince died only yesterday, not yet reaching his 58th birthday. His death, from causes as yet unannounced, follows that of is protege Vanity, of the Vanity 6 girl group, whose blossomy sexuality epitomized his notion of story-tel;ling distortion. Vanity was also age 57 and had serious health issues, as Prince appears to have succumbed to as well.

There won’t be another Prince. The guitar-singer Black music icon seems lost to us amid the vocal croons and rapid mouths of hip hop, not to mention rendered obsolete by the digital stringwork of house music and techno.

His complete discography will keep your ears busy for a year at least. Find it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_discography

— Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

BORIS, CHUS + CEBALLOS AT ROYALE : CAUTION AT WORK

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For almost two and a half of the three hour set dropped on Royale by DJ Boris alongside Chus + Ceballos standard stuff ruled. Tried and true sequences of beats and pause, well-worn textures, long familiar voice drop-ins combined to create an atmosphere of look-back. Revisiting house music and techno of the 1990s is in the air, to be sure, but the rewinds delivered by three of the genre’s biggest names sounded — and looked — more like an oldies show.

Were it not for the sparkle and spank of the light show going on all around them, the three masters of house music and techno craft would have been easily bested by unafraid local DJs, several of whom were in the Royale audience. Perhaps that was why Royale was not full. I have seen Chus and Ceballos, without Boris, draw so many fans to Royale that there was a line waiting to get onto a dance floor as crowded as sweat; but that was then, five years ago, when Chus and Ceballos created new soundscapes from set start to finish.

Perhaps sharing the decks with Boris inhibited them. He’s a master of sweet beats and atmospheric delights in his own right, but his preferences do not line up with the lumpy beats and streaky top notes favored these days by the two Madrilenos.

In any case, from about one AM the trio stepped into the new — tracks taken from Chus and Ceballos’s new CD, Nomadas and other packages —  and onto tones, voices, and textures new to their oeuvre. From “Back to Basico” and “Black Rock City” to “Correcaminos” and especially “They Say Nothing,” and reworking Celeda’s “The Underground” into a sound both screechy and sarcastic, they immersed Royale’s dancers in laughter and weirdness, racing beats and vocals intoxicated, quivering, goofy. And all of it cooked in a sauce of atmospheric  echo, tape delay, and reverb, a kettle of danceable silliness epitomized by”They Say Nothing”‘s title.

Drollery in house music is a common enough move, but outright silliness is rare to the genre. Where it has occurred, as in Club 69’s classic Roxy tracks or on Avenue D ‘s “Do I look Like a Slut,” it’s mere vocal cover for standard dance. Chus and Ceballos’s silliness ran the gamut : dance like a bedsheet, talk like a teacup, embrace your inner absurdity. Not a bad message to deliver to dancers in the age of terrorists on the loose.

Listen to “They Say Nothing” here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms99z_A2rtg

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

 

 

END OF AN ERA AS RISE CLUB CLOSES

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The dance floor at RISE as we knew it : packed and hot

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Tonight, when Danny Tenaglia finishes his all night set, RISE Club will closen its doors forever. Boston’s most dedicated house music dance floor ends almost 17 years of all night DJ-ing, a run longer than almost any music boute has managed in our Boston lifetime.

During those 17 years almost every master DJ of the house and techno genres has played RISE’s small dance floor — small but fierce. I can’t recall all who have worked the room — manger Mike swells will have to give us that list — but I personally have seen there just about everyone who DJs to American fans. (Some DJs don’t c ome here, including sveral of the giants.) I’ve seen Steve Porter, Derrick Carter, Carl Craig, Sander Kleinenberg; the late Peter Rauhofer, Dave Morales, Eric Entrena, and, yes, Danny Tenaglia. I’ve seen DJ Escape, Craig Mitchell, Dubfire, and Stefano Noferini; Honey Dijon, Carlos Tom Stephan, Billy Carroll, and Sebastian Leger. Mind Control, Jay Allegro, John Creamer & Stephane K, and Pirupa. Mark Knight, Eddie Amador, Roger Sanchez, and DJ Mes. Edu Imbernon and Dennis Ferrer. And all our best locals. And yes, Victor Calderone, often.

The list goes on. I’ve missed as many greats as i have seen.

The great DJs played RISE nmot because they could captivate thousands — the dance floor its barely 300 people — but because they knew that on that smallish dance floor they’d reach Boston’s intensest house and techno fans, the true believers, the all night bodies booming into the music.

RISE’s fan base wasn’t the former arena riockers converted these past few years to “EDM.” It was always an underground, cultish, semi-popular following. At first it was gay men almost exclusively, because that was who house music reached; but as the 2000 decade matured, and Boston’s house and techno following diversified enormously, RISE became the melting pot that dance clubs can sometimes aspire to.

RISE was always that ; a dance club for fans of dance music,. No alcohol could be served after hours; you did not go to RISE to get liquor-drunk, you went to get high on beats.

RISE was also a place to make and manintain friendships. This I can attest personally, as can many of you. The club will now close its doors; but the friendships live on and prosper. For all of that and all of the music, we say to RISE : thank you. Thank you for everything.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

TECHNO AS STREET FUNK : VICTOR CALDERONE AT RISE 04.18.15

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^ master of his art in full concentration : Victor Calderone at RISE

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Victor Calderone dropped a three-hour set on at least 300 fans at RISE Club last night. There was nothing pro forma about it. Every time I think that I have Calderone’s signature down, he changes it — and makes me like the changes. So it waz last night.

Calderone began his career as house music; about ten years ago he moved toward techno. Today he is techno only, yet the same, hard edged, dark beat that made him famous long ago remains his basic drive line. So it was last night.

RISE Club is c losing. Calderone’s was the next to last major event. it was worth attending, and many, many of Boston’s long time fans of techno were there — a bit white-haired now, but so am I — to live it up : because it matters and so does he. And we have seen him do it for all that long.

Calderone’s techno used to be slap happy hard (“Let Me Set You Free,” for example); then it smoothed and took on a kind of jet flight shape, a magic carpet ride for the age of programmers and software dvelopers. He made some of his greatest tracks in this new vein — “Boarding Pass” and “Termial B” come to mind. Calderone’s flights exuded romance; gals loved his flight sound. Last night, however, he played guy music : gravelly, street yard funk onto which glitch voices chanted “beats knockin'” and “funk that emotion” — over and over.

There were very few pauses. It was a set of exhaustion.

Many techno DJs play this sort of grungy sound; it’s the staple of Providence’s Therapy club, for example. But Calderone is no junkyard DJ; as gruff and shoulder padded as his rhythms sounded and felt, he blended them with a dancer’s grace : one into the other resolving, evolving. Every track found itself reinvented by what followed. it was a set full of enlightenment, of discovery;  of self-discovery.

He has never created a track as chameleon as “Burden,” his new hit, which he played at least three times, in different tonal contexts, each of which it parsed anew, the context eliciting an extra streak of “Burden.” Yet it’s a simple track : growling beat, stride gait, a lick of grinding noise, repeated, with syncopation to spare.

Simplicity, it seems to me, is the secret of Calderone’s mastery. Simple basics, as his entire RISE set proved, accord him space to evoke the subtleties at the core of simple stuff. Techno is the ideal medium for such doings. It’s no wonder that Calderone has embraced the genre, made it serve his message of surprising those who come to a Calderone set to get their newness fix.

No DJ does it more masterfully than Calderone playing at RISE last night.

Deedee Freederg / Feelin’ the Music

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FUNK-SCAPES : STEFANO NOFERINI @ RISE 03.28.15

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^ Florence, Italy’s Stefano Noferini painting funk scapes at RISE

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Techno is the most imagistic of musical genres. In sound , techno DJs create pictures in the mind, weaving sounds abstractly in which, as in a Rohrschach test, the dancer sees what he or she imagines inside the mind, heart, body. At RISE Club on Saturday night, Stefano Noferini, one of the most forceful techno masters, playing to a dance floor fuller than full, created an entire dance music movie of images and action, a movie with a plot, even.

Whatever tracks Noferini employed for his set — and he has plenty — found themselves graphically re-shaped in the mix. Noferini hardly ever left the music alone to work its way; almost always he attacked the mix-box with both hands : knobs, buttons, sliders changing position constantly and all at once. Yet despite the aggressive edits Noferini;’s set maintained a signature sound : dark, paunchy, funky in tempo, banging in stride.

Onto his funky stride Noferini dropped samples of vocal;s, some of them explicit, some shielded, a kind of running commentary : “natty shook,” “movie star,” the ubiquitous “beats knockin'” and many more. It was fun commentary that put a light smile on otherwise ominous, sometimes scarifying, sound abstractions. And though the style of beat stride to fizz-fuzz pause and back to beat stride progressions that he played are standard issue in techno DJing, Noferini’s sounds always displayed flavors other DJs seem not to grasp. His dark boom beats had a sweet flavor, and his fizz to fuzz pauses mirrored the angst and puzzlement found in classical piano sonatas.

It was the funk of many feelings,l many perspectives, funk of power and funk of laughter, funk of fear and funk of sports victory in which one heard the cheering of crowds, saw clouds and storms overheads,endured city traffic,and savored a gloom as entertaining as ominous. One didn’t want it to end, and it did not end until after 6 A M.

RISE Club closes for good at the end of April. Noferini’s three hour set was one of RISE;’s last great evenings of DJ genius.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

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