Archives for posts with tag: Ed Motta

2013 in Review: New, New to Me, and Those We Lost

There were many solid new releases this past year and many had two things in common. First, they were introduced to me via Gilles Peterson’s (@gillespeterson) BBC6 program, Worldwide, a staple in my listening. Second, three of my top 5 were released on Blue Note Records.

New Releases:

Looking back just 12 months, there were so many good albums released that I had enough fodder for a top 10, with Omar’s The Man winning the year.

10. Kon, On My Way
9. Brand New Heavies, Forward
8. Mario Biondi, Sun
7. Alice Russell, To Dust
6. Ed Motta, AOR
5. Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick, Leap of Faith
4. Jose James, No Beginning No End
3. Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2
2. Gregory Porter, Liquid Spirit
1. Omar, The Man

Other notable releases were Quadron’s Avalanche, Da Lata’s Fabiola, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, RC & the Gritz’ Pay Your Tab, and Wild Belle’s Isles.

New to me: Rediscovered

Chakha Khan & Rufus – Before Chakha Khan’s 80’s resurgence, her career was launched with the 70’s funk and soul band, Rufus. Their album, Street Player (UMG Recordings, 1978) is a particularly good showcase of the bands smoothness and how well suited Khan’s vocal style is to their music. The track, “Destiny,” is essential listening.

Harvey Mason – I posted a Harvey Mason playlist after discovering this drummer who made his mark on numerous jazz and fusion classics.

Skee-Lo – An oddball find from 1995 when hip-hop albums were so prolific that it was hard to cut through the clutter to find those that would last. Skee-Lo’s album, I Wish (Ultra Moda Music, 1995) holds up today with its pleasing blend of melody and rhyme. It’s also a hip-hop album that’s not afraid to have some fun.

Ben l’Oncle Soul – Neo soul has been played out in my books for some time now. But Ben L’Oncle Soul’s self-titled release (Mercury Music Group, 2010) had a fresh take because a) it’s mostly sung in French; and b) the artist makes the music his own, not trying to mimic crooners from the 60’s and 70’s but celebrating his voice and music in his own way.

Notable Passings

  • Donald Byrd – One of my musical heros. An innovator and prolific melodist. Tributes to him abound on the internet as the year closes out. Nice to see him getting such wide recognition.
  • Stompin’ Tom Connors – A Canadian folk music treasure whose lyrics and music are essential Canadiana
  • George Duke – A keyboardist and innovator in the vein of Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock
  • Lou Reed – Another innovator and catalyst who influenced rock and punk acts through the 70s and 80s

Most Anticipated in 2014

Q-Tip, The Last Zulu – This project has been on the radar for some time now but it’s hard to nail down a release date amongst the hype out there. The album is said to include, in some form, a reunion of original A Tribe Called Quest members.

Zara McFarlane, If You Knew Her – The follow-up from her excellent 2011 debut Until Tomorrow (Brownswood)

Jose James – His second release on the Blue Note label is in production, according to James’ facebook updates.

Prince, Plectrum Electrum – The recently released (and excellent) single, “Breakfast Can Wait,” will be on the album as will tracks featuring the rock-centered 3rd Eye Girl who are touring with Prince.

Happy, peaceful, and musical New Year!

Music Review: AOR, Ed Motta (Dwitza Music, 2013)

mottaEd Motta has been recording music for over 25 years and has probably been writing and playing music since he could walk. It’s not a surprising backstory for someone so prolific and musically rounded.

With AOR, Motta pays tribute to a genre of west-coast based progressive rock with soul and jazz elements that was pioneered and perfected by Steely Dan. “Album Oriented Rock” as it became known in the mid-seventies was a radio format embraced by stations eschewing the top 40 formula. Ironically, Motta’s tribute is very much grounded in soul and the precursors to disco, which AOR rejected fiercely in the “Disco Sucks” era.

AOR is a solid album of 9 tracks with lush production, fantastic horn arrangements, and Motta’s soulful vocals. As a finishing touch, Motta makes heavy use of those iconic “Steely Dan chords” and harmonies. The title track in particular, although only 22 seconds in length, immediately plunges the listener into Fagan and Becker’s soundscape.

The copy of the album I have is sung mostly in Motta’s native Portuguese and works well. However, according to this interview on the French site, Funk*U an English version was recorded and Motta himself says the album is more suited to English lyrics. Some clips of the English versions are also available at the above link.

English or Portuguese, the music is undeniably faithful to the AOR sound with Motta’s own injection of funk, soul, and jazz. Motta’s back catalog is just as impressive. He’s described as an artist in the Musica Popular Brasileira genre (MPB). In a way, Motta’s tribute to AOR is particularly humble. Here’s an artist who helped define a genre in his native Brazil, now paying tribute to a genre that emerged and then faded more than 30 years ago.