Tag Archives jazz

May’s Artist To Watch: Moon Hooch

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This month’s artist to watch is the jazz/electronic/who-the-hell-knows trio Moon Hooch (https://www.moonhooch.com), hailing from Brooklyn, New York. Let me just begin by saying that every time I think these guys can’t surprise me anymore, I see something new that simply makes my jaw drop. Before deciding to feature Moon Hooch this month, all I really knew about them was that they made cool music. After becoming totally engrossed in the world of their artistry, philosophy and … recipes, I am a bigger fan than ever before.

Moon Hooch is made up of Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen on saxophone (primarily) and James Muschler on drums. The trio met while they were all students at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Greenwich Village, and started performing together at subway platforms around New York City. They gained such a huge following that the police had to ban them from performing on certain platforms, which couldn’t handle the crowds they drew.

Self-described as “cave music,” this New York trio’s style is truly unlike that of any other artist I’ve heard. To assign them to any one existing genre is an impossible task that I won’t even attempt to tackle. This music is not for the faint of heart, nor for the genre purist. If anything, I would describe it as equal parts jazz and electronic, with a dash of funk, and maybe just a hint of rock. But do we really need the labels? They’re just cool—not only in their music, but also in their lifestyles.

The band members have stated that they are dedicated to consciousness, environmentalism, veganism, philosophy, and peace. That’s a pretty hefty list, and each plays an important role in their music-making. The group practices meditation and yoga, which has helped them consistently create energetic and focused performances.

For their environmental efforts, Moon Hooch plays benefit shows, supports local farmers, co-ops while traveling, participates in river cleanups, and creates informative videos. They are also officially a carbon-neutral band, meaning they do things like plant trees in order to counteract carbon emissions from driving around on tour. Being vegan while touring in a van sounds nearly impossible, but these guys manage; they share their secrets on their food blog, “Cooking In The Cave,” posting sustainable recipes that they prepare on the road http://cookinginthecave.net.

After performing together for so many years, the members are totally in sync and their music is as tight as it can be—which is extremely important when emulating electronic music through live instruments. They are recreating the sounds and sentiments delivered by a synthesizer with their mouths and some metal (and the occasional traffic cone) with absolute precision. You can witness it here for yourself with their NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2014:

Their new EP, released at the beginning of April entitled Light It Up, features three tracks that honestly make me feel like queen of the city whenever I listen to them on my walk to class. The drive of the beat, the intensity, and the huge sound provoke strong emotions created by just three instruments. The band has also released music videos to accompany the tracks and, in keeping with their indescribable style of music, they’re unique, to say the least. “Acid Mountain:”

Moon Hooch is currently touring in Europe and will return to the states on May 18 in Asheville, North Carolina. You can find the rest of their tour dates here: https://www.moonhooch.com/tour/

Read more music articles at Cliché Magazine
May’s Artist To Watch: Moon Hooch. Featured image credit: Volatile essence

Brenna Whitaker Talks Jazz and Being Different

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From a theater job at 11 years old to moving to New York City at 17, Brenna Whitaker has been working hard to pursue her musical dreams. When she was in her early 20s, she moved back home to Missouri to lead jazz bands, and then made the move to Los Angeles to pursue her music career. Now, in the past year, the jazz singer has made waves, releasing her debut, self-titled album and appearing on Disney’s We Love Disney. She’s only continuing to make moves this year.
Cliché: How did you first get into jazz?
Brenna Whitaker: I grew up in Kansas City, which has a nice music scene, and my parents exposed me to a lot of live music at a young age. When I was a teenager, I really got into singers like Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee, Etta James, and Dinah Washington. I did a lot of theater as a kid and my dad would drive me. We would listen to a really cool radio station on NPR called “Fish Fry Friday.”
What about it was so appealing to you?
I love characters, or “Hams,” rather. I like people and musicians who have a sense of humor and could tell stories in a clever way through singing or playing an instrument. I like making my own interpretation of songs and stories through timeless music.    
Who are some of your inspirations?
I have a lot of things that inspire me. Most have to do with the senses. When I hear an upright piano and upright bass and brushes on a drum, I feel like I’m most at peace creatively and spiritually. My dogs, Louie and Pearl, my family, eating appetizers, and working with children are probably my biggest inspirations of late. I’m heavily inspired by making emotional music that could possibly help someone.
What was your first professional theater job?
My first professional theater job was at Missouri Repertory Theater in a production of A Christmas Carol, and I was a “caroling girl.” I was a really strong alto and could pick up harmonies really quick. I love harmonies.
What was moving to NYC at 17 like?
It was crazy moving to New York City at 17. I was young enough to not really be scared at all. It’s a magical city, and I’m lucky I could be there while you could afford it as a young artist.    
How was the journey to getting your debut album made?
The journey to getting my debut album made was a pretty much the closest to the “old fashioned” way as you could do these days. I had been gigging and creating my own residencies for years, and I really believe it was time for me.    
How was it appearing on Disney’s new album?
To be on the Disney album was one of the highlights of my life. I’m a huge fan of Walt Disney and the Muppets have inspired me on a big level. The song “It’s Not That Easy Being Green” is an anthem for so many good causes, and it’s an honor to be asked to sing it for so many charities and nonprofits to promote being different.
What made you pick that song?
It was totally by chance that I was recording it on my album at the same time the We Love Disney album was being made by Verve Records. I had been asked to sing the song years ago for a eco-friendly sustainable energy forum party in New York City and the song stuck. It’s basically my anthem and I really wanted to be on my debut album somehow.
How did you go about choosing your songs to cover on your album?
We really took our time figuring out how to go about choosing songs for the album. I had ideas about what was working at my live shows and what messages I think the world might need in a song. A lot of the songs are about my struggles in Hollywood and “finding the light” at the end of the tunnel. We also had to think of how I might fit into the music industry in 2016 and still remain true to myself. It took a while to really figure out, but I think and hope people can hear messages that give them a positive feeling about life.
How was your tour?
My touring is just starting with this album, and it’s fantastic. I’m really excited to go experience other cultures with this album and see how people respond. Germany has been wonderful to me, and I’m excited for Japan this spring. The tour bus life suits me.
What’s next for you in the new year?
2016 is off to a great start, and I choose to remain positive about the music industry and what I have to offer young singers and people who appreciate emotional singing. I’m writing a lot and have a lot of ideas for my second album, and theater and cinema seem to be calling me of late. I’m gonna be touring a lot this year and basically I’m the luckiest duck in the pond.
Read more Music Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Brenna Whitaker Talks Jazz and Being Different: Photographs courtesy of Verve Records

Lili K Interview

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Unfortunately, great music tends to come from a place of pain rather than joy. For jazz singer Lili K, that darkness manifested in the gun violence found in her home city of Chicago, as well as the abuse she felt in a romantic relationship.
However, there’s a way to combat that pain: turn it into healing.
“As artists, it’s kind of our duty to use our art to serve as a positive expression of those things, and take something that’s so painful and turn it into something that can release as something more healing,” she explained.
This is a strategy she uses to great effect on her debut studio album Ruby, in which she soulfully sings about the various relationships in her life and how those struggles have affected her.
Ruby is definitely a collection of songs based on relationships. Not all are romantic relationships, but family, friendships, and people interacting with one another,” she said. “I think that the core of human interaction gives me the most inspiration when I write because it’s what effects me the most. So if it’s a friendship that’s gone astray, or having issues with my boyfriend, or with my mom, those are the things that effect me the most and give me the hardest time emotionally.”
Lili K, whose full name is Lillianna Kryzanek, struggled for a long time in this abusive relationship, and said the best thing to do is confide in someone, admit there’s a problem, and work on self improvement.
“A lot of it is realizing that you have to focus on yourself and you have to be happy and be healthy, and if you’re not yourself and you’re not in a good place in that relationship, you shouldn’t be in that relationship,” she said. “No matter how much you try, you can’t change a person. Everyone deserves to be treated the best way possible.”
Hopefully, Ruby can serve as an album of healing, a tactic fans of the flourishing Chicago music scene might recognize from the likes of hip-hop artists Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa, who have featured Lili K on their highly acclaimed, uplifting albums.
You can catch her on several fantastic tracks from these cutting-edge artists, including songs such as “Good Ass Intro” and “Pusha Man” off Chance’s career-launching mixtape, Acid Rap, as well as “Hollywood LA” off of Mensa’s 2013 mixtape INNANETAPE.
Where those ventures had Lili K singing gorgeous backup vocals underneath the two rappers’ masterful flows, Ruby brings those soul and jazz talents to the forefront.
While her voice is incredible, she’s modest about her abilities, claiming she never had the huge, booming voice of singers like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight, so she turned to the more subtly talented world of jazz. It was her middle school teacher who actually first turned her on to the genre.
“It definitely changed my life, because I heard a voice being used in such a different way and it wasn’t the huge, powerful, belting voice that I just didn’t really have,” she said. “It definitely taught me different ways to use my voice and introduced me to the whole world of jazz, and that was the tipping point for me.”
She said she has an awesome band that helps her put instrumentation to the words and melody in her head, which come to her at random times, whether in the shower or on the subway.
“I used to sit down and try and write, and it was never really my best work,” she said. “The musicians in my band are so much better than me at their respective instruments and ability to approach the kind of taste for what I have and the direction I want to go in, so we’ll work together to build a song structure around [the lyrics].”
That formula is working for her on Ruby, which landed her and the band a featured spot on Tidal’s emerging artists page, where she said the music streaming service’s community of music lovers were overwhelmingly positive.
Ruby is available for streaming everywhere, and you can visit lilikmusic.com for a full list of tour dates.

Read more Music Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Lili K Interview: Photographed by J. Frank

The Power of Entertainment: B.E.T. Awards

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bet-awards-2013If you’ve never witnessed the excitement of music, movies, television shows and fashion statements all at once, then you’ve probably never tuned in to the network, BET. Each year BET celebrates its success by having award shows. The show that “Anything can happen”, according to this year’s host, Chris Tucker. The 2013 BET awards was memorable because of its talented guests and performers in the entertainment industry.

I’ve been anticipating the exciting event all summer when it finally aired on Sunday June 30th. I was anxious to see what some of my favorite celebrities were wearing, who looked “Hot or Not”, and the most memorable performances. The most important event of the show consist of entertainers earning awards. Some of the categories included “Best new artist, best collaboration, best video, viewers choice”, and much more.

One of my favorite performances was by R&B legend R Kelly. His music has been around for generations and his talent has impacted new artists of the future. When he performed, his name was a trending topic on twitter, meaning millions of people were mentioning him in their tweets. He performed some of his most classic hits and the crowd went wild! Most of the guests in the audiences were singing along word for word.

Singer Chris Brown had a great opening performance and his dances were full of energy. He has always been a great performer and known for his talented skills. The BET awards gets better and better each year because there is always going to be something new for us to see. These performers plan and practice all year around, knowing that the performances are a huge deal to the guests and viewers at home watching.

The exciting genres of music such as hip hop, R&B, jazz, pop and reggae are celebrated with memorable performances. I am always thrilled to see will happen on next year’s show!

Do You Have Art Displayed in Your Heart?

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Pouring your heart out it is usually done when you love a person, place or thing to death, but just like anything else there is an art to pouring your heart out so that it doesn’t spill all over the place and miss your target completely. On June 21st, a rising street artist from Jersey City, New Jersey named Ability was featured at NYC’s The City’s Dream Gallery to show us exactly how he puts the art in heart. At first, Ability appears as a regular Jersey City resident, but upon closer inspection, he reveals himself to be a young man who is enthusiastic about his work and puts everything he can into what he does. Sometimes jolting out of his seat, as if hit by a bolt of lightning, running around with wild enthusiasm, Ability comes off as one of the nicest Frankenstein monsters you’ll meet, and thinks the same about the people he meets. This is what made his show Put the Art in Heart so special. All of your weirdness was exposed and no one thought anything of it as long as you were there living and enjoying the moment.
Ability shared the space with a friend of his to offer stencils, acrylic-based paintings, drawings, and mixed media pieces, relaying images of a brain and heart duking it out in a boxing ring, Brad Pitt breaking the rules he had set about Fight Club, dragon fossils, monsters from Monsters Inc. creeping through the doorway, and Chinese fortunes glued on tiny canvases accompanied with images of koi fish, chameleons, and many other animals. It was truly was a treat to walk around the gallery tapping my foot to the sound of a jazz band who got to study and play with the likes of Mulgrew Miller, who had recently passed away.
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When I wasn’t busy looking at the art I took time to meet and greet a few people who were around and met other local street artists, and guys and gals in their 20’s with long hair, short hair, and custom made t-shirts talking about everything that shown under the moonlight, which was growing bigger and bigger every second that weekend. People were outside smoking cigarettes, taking walks to find his street art put up in the area, and some just standing inside smiling to one another as they stared at paint that was already dry.
If you don’t like jazz or think street art shouldn’t be on canvases, stop signs, and sheet rock, Ability gave you the opportunity to go out on a scavenger hunt to find some of his artwork on the streets while offering t-shirts with logos like “I hate this shirt,” and “Younique,” as well as prints of his work as prizes. It was a pleasure to work with the young artist who I am extremely grateful for bringing people together for a common purpose. To appreciate art and send a message to mankind to live peaceful lives among the masses was what this show was all about, and you can see that the love just didn’t pour out of Ability, but it sprayed, projected, dripped, illuminated, and was even yanked out of him.