Music Review: Hua Acid Live

Posted: December 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I love finding exciting new Jazz music creators.  I love them even more when they are doing it in China! Case in point: Hua Acid Live.

These guys just formed at the beginning of 2009, and they””ve hit the city of Beijing hard with their vicious rhythms and hypnotic tunes.  Being promoted by local media as the Only Acid & Funk group in Beijing, Hua Acid Live (or just known as Acid Live) are true to form with hard-hitting Acid Jazz mixed with Funk and House beats.  The band has been busy this inaugural year building an active local following and strutting their stuff at all the hottest live music venues in town.

The band says it is a melting pot for cultures and musical styles with the sole purpose of making good music.  This can best be seen by the groups”” eclectic roster: classical-pianist-turned-funk-keyboardist Zhang Zhang, UK expat Chris Cook AKA DJ Shiva spinning Electro and House music, guitarist Fei Jia and bassist Liu Yang.  Acid Live is joined regularly by other accomplished and diverse musicians such as Irish vocalist Anne Marie, American rapper Kor-E, Hip Hop group In3””er, and Chinese guzheng player Zhang Wei.

While the music Hua Acid Live plays is not ground-breakingly new, it is important to note that the high calibre with which they are playing this kind of fusion, is being played in China.  I have great excitement and high anticipation when I think about the scores of Chinese music patrons who will be exposed to this kind of music for the first time.  And I have even greater anticipation thinking and hoping for Hua Acid Live to record their first album! During their live performances that I have attended, they have mostly played standards that can be recognized by the audience — namely mainstream jazz-funk-soul songs for a still-maturing listenership. But Acid Live has played a few original songs as well.  Especially when they are mixing musical styles like with DJ Shiva, or one of the musical guests, you really get a sense of their potential in creating fresh, unique music that hails from Beijing but is made for a global audience.

Of course, there are many, many great unique musical groups that have put Beijing and contemporary Chinese music on the map, like PK-14, D-22, and Carsick Cars. But Hua Acid Live is really the first real Chinese foray into Acid Jazz+.  I hope but the first!

You can read some more reviews about Hua Acid Live at MySpaceTheBeijinger and CityWeekend 1, CityWeekend 2.

You can also see their MySpace page (music streaming) or their YouKu page (live performance videos)

Or just watch them now!

Hua Acid Live (electro)

Hua Acid Live w/ Kor-E

Hua Acid Live (soulful)

Music Review: Esperanza Spalding

Posted: December 14th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

I twittered a couple weeks ago that I had a newfound obsession.  And that obsession’s name is Esperanza Spalding.  I’m not kidding. I’m obsessed. She is my most exciting musical find of the year.

Esperanza Spalding has come out with her second album in late 2008, self-titled Esperanza on Heads Up records (her first album was titled Junjo, released only in the US in 2006).  This Berklee-educated, child musical prodigy, first came on my radar through her association with Emmy-nominated Christian Scott, my 2007 find-of-the-year.  I didn’t actively get a chance to explore her sound until this year, but when the very first notes of this latest album touched my ears, I knew I was hooked.

Esperanza Spalding is like the Alicia Keys of the jazz world, but in saying that I might even be discrediting Esperanza a little.  Her mixed heritage is extremely evident in her music.  Each of her songs draw, in varying degrees, influence from Spanish-Salsa, Blues, Flamenco, R&B, Funk, Bossa Nova, Soul and Jazz.  It makes for an intoxicating combination leaving you wanting a few more notes from the last song while simultaneously excited about what the next song will bring.

Esperanza plays double bass and sings lead vocals, which in my opinion is the perfect combination (there is nothing sexier than a hot girl playing funky bass-lines and singing sweet and tantalizing lyrics on top).   She sings in interchangeably fluent English and Spanish, and shows the diversity of her bass skills from song to song.  Cuerpo Y Alma (the Spanish version of Body and Soul) is Esperanza’s only real jazz standard in this album and is a fantastic entry-point for many mainstream jazz listeners.  This and each successive song succinctly shows the breadth of her skills, from her silky vocals, to the mastery of the bass and scatting, to the ‘sounds simple’ but surprisingly complex syncopation.

In addition to Cuerpo Y Alma, I Adore You, Samba Empreludia and Ponta De Areia are all fantastic modern creations fully rooted in the Latin heritage.  Anyone into Bossa Nova and interested in hearing the latest iterations of Latin Jazz must pay attention here.  Because of these songs, I’ve fallen in love all over again with the magic that is Latin Jazz.

If That’s True, Mela, She Got To You and Love In Time, are delivered as fully-formed, hard-hitting contemporary jazz pieces; no doubt a product of her experiences at Berklee and touring with Joe Lovano.  It is in these songs that you can take your time to explore Esperanza’s work on the bass.  It is an immense pleasure to hear a maturing bassist, one that consciously considers the double bass as a leading instrument.  I think as she continues to produce more songs, we’ll have a chance to hear the bass take more of center stage.

The songs on this album that most excite me are Precious, Fall In, Espera and I Know You Know.  Maybe its because I grew up in a predominantly R&B, Funk and Soul environment, but these songs draw off-of and play derivative-to this realm of music.  What Esperanza does in these songs I can only describe as exciting, mesmerizing and just cool.  I’m a little afraid because if she pushes these types of songs too much, she’ll very quickly build a fan-base that only demands this kind of Nu-Jazz/Neo-Soul.  She too easily can own this style of music.  I say I’m afraid because I enjoy her other styles too much to see her pay less attention in developing her other styles.  Songs like Precious and I Know You Know are so tantalizingly that I can see them entering the top mainstream R&B charts.  There is no denying that the way she wraps up jazz in Blues chords and Soul phrasing gets under my skin.

I cannot even begin to comment about her voice. Love it. Love it. She’s already a star as a vocalist, but to be a master bassist as well puts her into the ranks of Brian McKnight, Chet Baker or Stevie Wonder, where you can’t decide whether you like their voice or their instrumental playing better.

Needless to say, I’m hooked.  I’m not only a convert; I’m now and forevermore an evangelist for Esperanza Spalding.  I wait anxiously for her next release, but until that time comes I’ll be playing Esperanza over and over and over…