The following is a guest post by Editorial Assistant William Helms on hot music for crisp days and cool nights.
As long as I can remember, music has been an obsessive passion of mine – a passion that has been happily encouraged by most of my friends, family, and associates. Admittedly, before I sat down to write this post, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write until sometime last night when it occurred to me that I should just write about interesting music that may get you through the fall.
Before catching two locally based bands Pablo Picasso and Violens at the Cameo Art Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a DJ friend of mine was telling me that I needed to check out a band she serendipitously discovered one afternoon while listening to WeFunk Radio. She pulled out her mp3 player and played “Too Long,” from the Nashville, Tennessee-based octet, DeRobert and the Half Truths’ third album, Soul in the Digital World. And what I heard was old school soul reminiscent of James Brown, Sam and Dave, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin and the artists of labels such as Stax Records, Motown Records, Chess Records and others. I so was impressed by what I was hearing that I started dancing in the middle of North 6th Street somewhere near Berry Street.
Whenever I put on some of that old school soul on my iPod, I’m often moved by the feelings of great joy and sadness that inspired the songs – you just don’t hear music like that anymore and I think that’s what makes DeRobert and the Half Truths’ album so interesting to me. To be fair, the material isn’t the most original but if it introduces new listeners to the classic soul music that inspired generations of musicians that’s a good thing. (Dig Deeper, a soul and funk themed party hosted every month at various venues across the city, hosted the group for their first show outside of Nashville a few months ago, and the band was incredible. You want to have a good time? Check them out live.)
As a child of the 80s, I remember being mesmerized by hip hop – Run DMC, LL Cool J, Boogie Down Productions, the Fat Boys, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, and others were favorites of just about everyone in my neighborhood. Much of that era’s music just didn’t stand the test of time and sounds dated in comparison to today’s hip hop – just listen to the production values and you’ll see what I mean. Still, listening to an album like Run DMC’s Greatest Hits brings back a lot of memories. I hear songs like “King of Rock,” “My Adidas,” or “Rock Box,” and I can picture the pair of Adidas sneakers I begged my parents for when I was 6, the Michael Jackson Thriller battery operated AM/FM radio my mom bought me for a birthday gift, and other random things.
My parents were big jazz fans – my mom was particular to genre bending jazz fusion acts like You’re Under Arrest-era Miles Davis, Return to Forever, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. My father on the other hand, adored the bop jazz of Coltrane, Monk, Kind of Blue-era Miles Davis, and the like. My father used to play Coltrane’s Giant Steps and My Favorite Things almost religiously and it would annoy my mother. In any case, I grew up with a healthy appreciation of all things jazz. With that in mind check out the collaboration between Theolonius Monk, arguably one of the great composers of the 20th Century with John Coltrane, one of the most beloved saxophonists. Monk’s compositions have a playful, mischievous charm – and that shouldn’t be surprising considering that Monk was famously known to get up and dance in the middle of his sets. If I’m not mistaken, at the time Coltrane was an up-and-coming star and even on this album you can see why. The interplay between Coltrane and Monk is fascinating – Coltrane matches Monk’s playfulness while adding a cool, sophisticated aura to the album.
These are all favorites of mine and I think (and hope) that they’ll find a way into your fall rotation of music.
William Helms is an Editorial Assistant at AMACOM. He performs administrative tasks such as preparing contracts, but does editorial work, such as developing manuscripts. His first signed book is due out Spring 2012. Previously, he was an Editorial Assistant at Hippocrene Books, a midtown Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens-based, family owned, independent publisher of bilingual dictionaries, language guides, travel books and international cookbooks. He also did some freelance writing for a couple of publications namely Shecky’s and their now defunct Bar, Lounge and Club Guide, an Astoria, Queens-based publication Dish du Jour and music journalism and criticism for Long Island City, Queens-based Ins&Outs Magazine. He also started doing some occasional music writing for Glide Magazine, a great music magazine online. Check the Author Guidelines for Book Proposals on our website if you are considering pitching a book to Will.