While steeped in musical history, Nashville has never taken to jazz as it has other American-bred genres of music — we’ve always favored twang over trumpets. Despite the city’s hillbilly heritage, local trombonist Oscar Utterstrom seems primed to find the audience fellow instrumentalists Philip Glass and Steve Reich have enjoyed over the past few decades. While Glass and Reich skew more orchestral, Utterstrom’s trombone playing channels the same sparse minimalism and restraint that’s helped the two composers earn much of their acclaim. Utterstrom’s 2012 release Departure comes across as a deconstructed and updated take on Kind of Blue or Mingus Ah Um, with its unhurried melodies and spacious accompaniment. At The 5 Spot, local pianist/composer/movie-score-man Michael Whittaker will join Utterstrom and his quartet for a night of seasonal tunes as part of the Nashville Fringe Festival.
Tracks featured in the December 9, 2013 episode of Fringe Radio with Al-D (featuring guests Oscar Utterstrom and Michael Whittaker):
“Home,” the title track from Oscar’s 2008 album, Home
“Prelude,” taken from Oscar’s new album, Departure
“Take the High Rhodes,” from Michael Whittaker’s new album, Southern Exposure
“Africa,” from Michael Whittaker’s new album, Southern Exposure
“Gratitude,” featuring Bobby Exodus, from Oscar’s new album, Departure
“Saloua,” featuring Mounir Troudi and Swiss rapper Nya, from Saloua by Swiss-French trumpet player Erik Truffaz
“Snow,” taken from Oscar’s new album, Departure
Oscar Utterstrom and Michael Whittaker will be playing the Five Spot this coming December 19. Doors are at 6:00pm and the cover is $5.
“Between sampling local funk monsters DeRobert and the Half-Truths, conscripting The Boom Bap’s DJ Rate for cuts and scratches and dropping dope rhymes over dope beats, AL-D delivers the tru-school goods with this one,” noted the Nashville Scene of Al-D’s Free Delivery in honoring it as the “Best Hip-Hop Mixtape” of 2013. “[It’s] a must-listen for local hip-hop fans.”
“I spent about 18 months writing, producing and recording it,” Al explains, “and about six months working with DJ Rate on the cuts and turntablism.” “It was a huge relief to have it done,” he adds, looking back on the massive 25-track release that has helped guide what’s become a marquee year for the Nashville-born MC and producer. And in reflecting on his decade-long commitment to the scene that has helped guide him to this point, his sense of place is clear, “I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing.”
A founding member of the NIMA-award winning New Block Order crew, Al’s approach to Free Delivery was a largely communal one, collaborating with a slew of fellow MCs and producers for the release. “Music is absolutely a social endeavor to me,” he says.
While unveiling numerous projects throughout the 2000s (including an album produced for fellow N.B.O.-head 187 Blitz, and 2004’s Open the Mic – a collaboration with Knoxville-MC S.M.O.), it wasn’t until 2008 when Al’s place in the local hip-hop scene began to solidify. Performing regularly at Sound Therapy events around town, Al-D continued to find his voice by releasing more new material, including Charcoal Filtered with TN Jim, before breaking out with his Vitamin D tape, mixed by DJ Rate, in 2011.
“DJ Rate is one of my best friends and has been since high school. I have recordings on cassette tape of him deejaying and our friends freestyling in his bedroom at his dad’s house. He has recorded scratches on every single album I’ve ever put out.” The release show for the mixtape started a series of events for what would become The Milkshake, an annual DJ-focused showcase which has been previously housed at The 5 Spot, Mad Donna’s and most recently the Bohéme Collectif’, which has also served as venue Al’s “Meant for the Milk Crate” events. “Basically,” he adds, “the Milkshake is for the DJs and MFTMC is for the MCs.”
Following the release of Free Delivery, Al has returned his focus to a project that had taken a back seat to the mixtape – his band, Swap Meet Symphony. Free Delivery‘s opening track is a scratch-heavy blend of vocals and bass provided by Swap Meet Symphony, and despite clocking in under two minutes it’s still enough to give an indication of what’s to come when the group assembles in January, where they will debut their new material live on stage over a night that will also feature the Grips (of G.E.D. Soul), DJ Rate, and a few special guests including Al’s “Meant for the Milk Crate” co-host and MC, E.T.
Even while dedicating time to shaping what is to become of this new band, Al has remained consistent with his aim of maintaining music as a means of connection, recently assuming the position as host of the Nashville Fringe Festival’s Radio Free Nashville show. Naturally, Al’s focus is on hip-hop (“we have settled on having one show per month [the third Monday] dedicated to reviewing upcoming hip-hop events and featuring music of people in the hip-hop community who have events or album releases coming up) though he’s still going to keep the rest of the scene in his sights (“the other three or four Mondays are dedicated to checking out music and interviewing guests from bands of various genres who have been involved with Nashville Fringe Festival events in the past”). Upcoming guests include *repeat repeat (December 2), Oscar Utterstrom and Michael Whittaker (December 9) and DJ Rate (December 16).
Tune in to hear the Fringe Radio Show with Al-D every Monday night at 6:00pm on Radio Free Nashville or WRFN-LP Pasquo 107.1 FM, and follow the Nashville Fringe Festival on Facebook for regular show updates and event information.
Video of In Mi Vida and Zasz performing at Daisy Duke’s taken by Make it Pop Creations.
What do you get when you cross South Park, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, King of the Hill and The Ricky Gervais Show? Frankly, I’m not sure either, but you can see it for yourself at the latest installment of angel of the arts Jan Bossing’s Nashville Fringe Festival. That’s when saxophonist Chris West and his criminally funky JunkYard Horns will debut a new cartoon — starring none other than themselves, along with a cast of fictional characters — during their performance at The Building in East Nashville. We’ve raved about the JunkYard Horns in these pages before, and for good reason: With seven of Nashville’s best horn players backed by one of the nastiest rhythm sections this side of Jupiter, they could peel the gold leaf off the Athena statue in Centennial Park. In fact, according to cartoon character Kyle Goldstein, they even made his scrotum bleed a bit. We always thought of The JunkYard Horns as an animated band, but this takes it to a new level. (In a related development, bassist Jerry Navarro’s bitchin’ ’fro finally gets the cinematic treatment it deserves!)
Jazz saxophonist Chris West is bringing a very special presentation of JunkYard Horns to the Building, featuring a 12-piece funk/jazz band, Wednesday, November 20, 2013! (The event also features animation segments and special surprises.) JunkYard Horns’ music has been dubbed “Tower of Power meets James Brown meets Frank Zappa!” Doors are at 7:00pm; the show starts at 8:00pm; cover is $5.