Irene is perking her ears for the test pressing to a new single by Fletcher Magellan, the latest single from our in-house record label (Hymies Records, naturally). We’re holding off on a release date for this one, record pressing being the unpredictable business it is these days, but you can catch Fletch with his band on Saturday night at the Reverie.
Also on Saturday is the record release show for Celebrate Your Worth, the umpteenth and latest LP from The Blind Shake. We hope to feature this amazing expansion of their “extraterrestrial backyard surf party” later this week, but in the event time gets the better of us, as if often does, we’ll just say it may be the most wide-ranging and best album by this band who remains not only a favorite here at Hymie’s but all over the Twin Cities.
Need a little more epic live music to celebrate between now and Halloween? Minneapolis’ own goth-metal legends Morticia (so deeply in the crypt that the closest thing to an official website it still a ReverbNation page) will play a reunion show on Sunday night at the Whiskey Junction. Its their first show since the band returned from the dead to play here last Halloween. We’re told in place of last year’s Rocky Horror Picture show encore, the band is planning an Alice Cooper tribute!
Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner is in Minneapolis for two nights at downtown’s Dakota Jazz Club. At seventy-seven, Tyner is one of the most influential jazz pianists of his time, most widely known for his work with the classic early sixties John Coltrane Quartet, of which he is the last surviving member.
Tyner’s imitable style on those recordings has been emulated by pianists for decades, but he remains one of those performers who is instantly recognizable to fans. No one else sounds quite like McCoy Tyner. His percussive use of the low end with his left hand, and his rapid, searching solos with his right translated Coltrane’s spiritually-charged saxophone to the keyboard. His heavy use of chords produce a deceptively streamlined structure to his solos, under lies enormous depth.
While Tyner is most associated with the sound of the Coltrane Quartet, he can also “swing lightly,” as Duke Ellington would often say in regard to a specific approach to rhythm and melody. In fact, on his last album for Coltrane’s label, Impulse Records, Tyner borrows the Quartet’s rhythm section for a program of Ellington songs which swings lightly with elegance and sophistication.
McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington explores widely-heard standards from the Ellington catalog as well as a few deep cuts. His “Solitude” is especially effervescent, more akin to Ellington’s 40s arrangement with vocalist Ivie Anderson than the introspective, almost lonely way it was performed solo and with the orchestra in later years. Tyner turns it into a cheerful tune.
In a side-and-a-half long track on Enlightenment nearly ten years later Tyner balanced this light swing with the almost overpowering polyphonics of the Coltrane Quartet. “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit” is opened by drum and bass solos (Alphonse Mouzon and Juni Booth) before Tyner and saxophonist Azar Lawrence introduce a relentlessly driving melody.
This twenty-four minute epic performance from the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the standards by which the seventies’ so-called “spiritual jazz” should be judged.
Performing with Tyner tonight and tomorrow here in Minneapolis is Gary Bartz, whose own albums of that era (several for Milestone Records, the same label which released Enlightenment) epitomize the potential of that golden era of exploration in jazz history. Yesterday’s Star Tribune lamented that Tyner had slowed down since the sixties, which is fair enough if also to be expected, but failed to mention Bartz (simply describing Tyner’s band as “not too shabby”). He has made appearances on Tyner’s albums since the sixties, as well as establishing his own enthralling amalgam of funk and free jazz with Ntu Troop on albums which are favorites in our collection.
Tyner’s bassist is Gerald Cannon, originally from Wisconsin and at one time the bassist for Elvin Jones’ band (performing at the old Dakota during the 90s). Drummer Francisco Mela is the youngest member of the quartet, but as a Cuban has a more diverse musical background. He also performs with Joe Lovano’s band and has recorded four acclaimed albums as a leader himself.
Maybe this is what it will sound like when the rise and fall of a romance is reported in the business section. Private Interests is the new project for Johnny Eggerman and Cam Soojian, reflecting a blending of their previous projects to produce a leaner, punker version of the former’s power pop trio, Mystery Date. Owing to a little insider trading the duo is backed by Southside Desire’s rhythm section on their debut, a six song cassette driven by the sort of irresistible hooks one expects from Mystery Date and the fervent energy of Soojian’s Ruggs, or of new label-mates (on Forged Artifacts) What Tyrants.
That trio, along with Distant Husbands and Star Child, will be opening for Private Interests on Friday at the Eagles Club. Expect more than six songs from the headliners, who have been playing since early this year and will also be appearing at a nine-act Replacements tribute at the Turf Club next month. In the meantime, you can check out another song, the ‘official’ single from the tape, on their Bandcamp page here.
The Nashville sit-in protests of the spring of 1960 provide an inspiring story which remains relevant today. The idea of segregated lunch counters is completely obsolete, not only for our advancements in race relations but also for the fact that department store lunch counters are entirely a thing of the past. Unfortunately, we have not as quickly left behind many of the prejudices which inspired such restrictions — the lunch counters of our grandparents’ time have been replaced by the passive racism of the banks which determine, among other things, whether and where you can buy a home or establish a business. If you’re not familiar with the term “redlining” it’s one you ought to look up, because it probably has more influence over the landscape of your neighborhood than most anything else.
If you think that the current Wells Fargo scandal is the ugliest skeleton in the banking giant’s giant closet, you’re in for a surprise. They’ve been fucking awful for years. Nearly a decade ago Wells Fargo was called out by the New York Times for its exploitation of African American customers. The same terrible practices in today’s scandal were at work during the banking industry’s subprime mortgage crisis, and the consequences were communities just like the one in Baltimore described in that New York Times article. It’s ostensibly about neighborhoods like the one around the Gilmore Homes complex, where Freddie Gray was arrested on April 12, 2015, but the city of Baltimore’s suit against the bank (which ended with Wells Fargo paying million to the city and directly to African American residents) could have been about neighborhoods here in the Twin Cities or anywhere else in America.
That neighborhood became the epicenter of protests, and brought a national spotlight to the city of Baltimore. Much has been written about how the city ‘came together’ to clean up after the protests, but we — as a small business — are pretty uncomfortable with the extent to which the wrath of anger deserved by banks like Wells Fargo was levied on businesses very much like our own. Small businesses are already a victim of the institutional racism in lending, but are also one of the first steps in the improvements demanded by community activists in Baltimore and in cities around the country.
There are times when small businesses deserve the treatment they receive, as was the case with the Nashville sit-in protests of the spring of 1960. Downtown lunch counters which refused to accept desegregation were targeted by protestors, mostly African American students. Their non-violent protests were received by insults and in many cases physical assaults, but the effort was ultimately successful (six of the largest Nashville lunch counters began serving African American customers in May 1960). More importantly, the successful sit-ins drew national attention to the issue, and to the movement’s non-violent approach to protesting. We believe a protest of this sort would be well deserved by Wells Fargo today.
Folkways Records released a collection of recordings from the protests in Nashville later that year, undoubtedly inspiring similar organized passive resistance activities throughout the south. Today you’re hearing recordings from that album.
Nashville became the first city in the south to actively desegregate its public spaces, and this accomplishment was achieved by protestors not through the court system of federal government decree, but through direct negotiation with business owners. Meeting privately, protestors and business owners came up with a plan to introduce the change in small and steady steps. On May 10th African American citizens sat at the lunch counters of downtown Nashville without incident for the first time.
Does this offer the answer to all our problems today? Of course not. But do banking and business, small and large, have a responsibility? Absolutely.
Farewell Milwaukee’s Pop Up Tour will be stopping here at Hymies for a performance on Saturday at noon. They’ll be playing on the stage in the shop instead of on top of their big red bus! The band has two more stops for the day scheduled, and you can find details on their website (here). The country rock outfit is celebrating the release of their fifth album, FM.
And on Sunday we’re thrilled to welcome back our friends Black Market Brass, who last performed here for our block party in April. The umpteen piece Afrobeat ensemble just released their debut album, Cheat and Start a Fight, on Secret Stash Records with a sold out show at the Turf Club last month. Its our pick for the best local album of the year so far. No word yet on whether the LPs, which were delayed at the pressing plant, will be available this weekend — but the band is sure to blow the roof off your friendly neighborhood record store at 4pm on Sunday.
If you can’t wait until Sunday, here’s a taste of Black Market Brass from the Live at Hymie’s compilation LP/DVD which was released in April.
There seems to be no slowing to the police killing of African American citizens, with two alarming incidences this past week. The rapidity with which the Tulsa County prosecutor has charged officer Betty Shelby in the shooting of Terrence Crutcher is progress of some kind, but somewhat of a pyrrhic victory in that the 40 year old Crutcher did not survive. In issuing the charge, the prosecutor said in part that Shelby “reacted unreasonably by escalating the situation.
Police in Charlotte, North Carolina have taken a different — and if we have learned anything from the past couple year, divisive and potentially harmful — approach by refusing to release video of the killing of 43 year old Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. This, naturally, has led to widespread protests in the city of more than 800,000, which is about 35% African American. The city is also the site of the terrifying and tragic mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last June.
Protest and unrest in Charlotte recall the powder keg climate of the late sixties, and police and city leaders there seem unaware their response is likely to, in the words of Tulsa County prosecutor Steve Kunzweiler, “unreasonable … escalate the situation.”
This title song from former Count Basie Orchestra saxophonist Frank Foster’s 1972 album, The Loud Minority, seemed fit for today’s paper. We can’t say we always agree with the tactics chosen by protestors, but we can say with certainty that we agree with the urgency with which their voices should be heard. To turn a deaf ear has become tantamount to escalating the situation.
Country Hymn opens with a warm, old-time revival atmosphere. “Betty on the Road” sounds like a Gillian Welch and David Rawlings collaboration, but the disc takes a quick turn towards more familiar Gated Community territory with a raucous cover of “Odds and Ends,” a song from Dylan’s Basement Tapes. This band has always had a knack for sitting on that fence between traditional country music and novelty, which isn’t as easily done as one would think.
A little levity goes a long way in adding weight and depth to the more sentimental moments on the album, like “Fading Flowers,” a Tom Petty-ish tune about growing older with a little grace. Sumanth Gopinath lets himself be the subject of self-depreciation and sarcasm throughout (with lines like “I’m a piece of a work of art”), while the delivery is traded through the group in the same way classic country-rock outfits would share the role of lead vocals, ie Poco, the Byrds, the Band, etc. In tunes like “I Can’t Get Right” Gopinath remind us of the Carpetbaggers, one of the most criminally under-appreciated Americana acts to ever come out of Minnesota. There’s probably more of a scene to support this sort of music in the Cities today, and the Gated Community has already recorded as much as that great mid-90s trio.
You can hear the whole album on The Gated Community’s bandcamp page here. It’s more cohesive than their last disc (which we posted here), and there’s a definite improvement in the recording. Country Hymn was recorded and produced by Secret Stash’s John Miller, and the homey warmth of those 70s country-rock records reverberates through the disc, along with the more general clarity of those bigger production bluegrass records, the Welch/Rawlings sound we mentioned up above. Miller might be known for his work on Secret Stash’s retro-soul recordings, but he was a great choice for this project as well.
(Incidentally, we posted our favorite song by the Carpetbaggers (here) after finding there was so little of their music to be heard online, and later received a nice note from John Magnuson who wrote it. Having had a chance to see some of our favorite local acts from the 90s reunite a couple years ago for the Extreme Noise 20th anniversary celebration — including the Strike and Dirt Poor — we’d love to see the Carpetbaggers once more)
These days, there’s enough Americana acts in Minneapolis to fill the bill of every neighborhood bar for a three day weekend, so its actually become a competitive market. Heck, without even leaving our garden we can look over the fence to see the homes of two country acts who have played here in the record shop and recorded new songs over the past couple years. The challenge these days is to distinguish one’s self — which The Gated Community has done with their third disc.
The album release show for Country Hymn by the Gated Community is tonight at the Eagles Club #34. Maybe we’ll see you there, but we’re gonna also have to rush across the river to the Turf Club for Black Market Brass‘ show later this evening! We’re sure to post some songs from their new album soon, but we only just got our copy yesterday!