Thanks to the efforts of artists such as Bad Plus and Yaron Herman, jazz versions of Nirvana tunes seem to be very hip right now. But when the Robert Glasper Trio busted out Smells Like Teen Spirit during their set at the 2010 London Jazz Festival, there was no sense of any bandwagon jumping. In a highly improvised set, the Houston-born pianist brought the house down with his progressive yet accessible brand of genre-crossing jazz. While having many similarities with Thelonious Monk, Glasper’s style is more inclusive, and this was never more obvious than in his aforementioned cover of the Nirvana classic.

Elements of soul, gospel and hip-hop all make an appearance in what has to be one of the most unifying sounds that modern jazz has to offer. The biggest testament to this has to be when the night’s headline act, non other than the seminal horn player Terence Blanchard, described Glasper as “a visionary.” This comes from a man with over 30 years touring experience and a history with such names as Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock and pretty much anyone who’s anyone in the contemporary jazz scene.

Joined for the last two tracks by boundary-pushing drummer and long time collaborator Chris Dave, Robert Glasper gave everyone at the seminal but sometimes restrictive ECM record label something to think about. In an interview broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Glasper himself mentions the “jazz police” who fret and fuss over what they deem to be the degradation of their holy and infallible genre. He goes on to say that, “jazz is about what ever is happening in the world at that moment… you have to let it evolve and grow.” With tasteful harmony and fearless dedication to experimentation, The Robert Glasper Trio do just that. If you haven’t already heard them, check out this video:

www.robertglasper.com

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Recently signed to Wichita, Dylan Baldi and his Cloud Nothings are one of many young acts chomping at the bit of Pixies-esq pop grunge (think Sky Larkin). The self-titled debut album is released in January 2011 and, with an upcoming support for Les Savy Fav in London, it might be worth placing a bet on lead man and multi-instrumentalist Dylan Baldi.

myspace.com/cloudnothings

Having recently upstaged Islet at Brighton’s Hope, Soccer 69 are one of the few young, unsigned acts able to balance great musicianship and taste. Their blend of electro, trip-hop and jazz is very Flying Lotus in its progressiveness. If you think of the more climactic moments of DJ Shadow you’re pretty much on the right track. Despite their obvious skill with analogue synths and effects, it’s the superb drumming really takes this two-piece above the rest. Yes, they still sound raw and unpolished, as their EP was recorded on a shoe-string budget, but the talent and potential is so undeniably clear.

There’s a lo-fi charm to their self-titled debut that should get the heads of innovative independent labels like Tru Thoughts turning. Not only are they still stupidly young but they already know how to take a listener on a journey. The opening track Monster Stomp flows seamlessly into the next like it were a prog classic. Each track rising and falling in a mouth-watering, beat-driven jam that’ll have drummers and synth fans foaming at the lips.

The truth is, they need some money, they need a decent studio and they need a pro producer. What they’ve done so far is remarkable but with so much potential, it would be a waste to see them fall through the gaps of the unsigned world. They’re one of those groups that get you saying, “where the hell did these guys come from?”

myspace.com/soccer96band

Having celebrated its fortieth anniversary last year, at which point its awards tally boasted over 100 Emmys and eight Grammys, few would begrudge Sesame Street its iconic status. Along with its colourful cast of puppets, one of the most well known elements of the show is its use of celebrity guests.

Since its premier in 1969, Sesame Street has compiled a visitor’s list comparable to that of any great chat show. From Sarah Jessica Parker to Kofi Anan, the diversity of guests is quite staggering. Actors, musicians, politicians; all were welcome on the paved slabs of Sesame Street. It was the musicians though who tended to have the most impact. Stevie Wonder’s seven-minute jam of his classic, Superstition was a performance even most current, adult-orientated shows would be lucky to get. When you think of all the other names that have appeared, such as Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Paul Simon and B.B. King, you begin to realise Sesame Street’s cultural reach.

By bucking the trend and offering the show’s songwriters full ownership of their songs, the producers effectively gave Sesame Street its timeless soundtrack. As many of the show’s songs have gone on to become classics, those songwriters will have cashed more than their fair share of cheques and it was this innovative attitude that allowed the show to develop and stay with the times. Recently contemporary singer, Feist made an appearance singing a slightly altered version of her hit, “1,2,3,4.” Having reached over four million views on Youtube, it’s testament to Sesame Street’s enduring appeal.

Music is at the centre of most of our lives and, in its theme tune, musical skits and celebrity performances; music is and always has been at the heart of Sesame Street.

As if it wasn’t enough to release the epic Toeachizown, a mammoth 24-track album where the majority of tracks run over five minutes, Dâm Funk continues his lo-fi funk quest in familiar style with a new EP, Hood Pass Intact. With his typically heavy use of analogue synths and drum machines, the LA producer’s aesthetic remains the same.  Whether or not that’s a good thing will probably depend on whether you’ve spent any amount of time listening to his previous work. If you have, chances are you might find Hood Pass Intact a little thin. However, if you’re a synth geek with a penchant for Parliment-esq grooves and extended instrumentation you certainly won’t be disappointed. Then again, the same could be said for any of Dâm Funk’s releases.
For more info go to:
myspace.com/damfunk

If you aren’t devoid of all your senses you’ll know that, thanks to artists such as Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and Mumford and Sons, the music industry currently has its checkbook primed for folk; the new genre du jour. But where did folk come from? To help answer, here is a brief history of this ancient and often miss-categorised genre.

1. In the Beginning

Early folk has its roots in the traditional songs of any culture and is traceable around the world. From Auld Langsyne to Down By The Riverside it begins as communal music, circulated through word-of-mouth and typically associated with the working classes.

2. Sowing the Seed

The historical recordings of ethnomusicologists such as John and Alan Lomax fuel the American folk movement of the mid-20th century. The genre becomes mildly commercialised as singers begin writing original material.

3. A Change Comes

The left-wing politics of early pioneers influence the protest movement and singers of the 1960s, namely Bob Dylan, who becomes folk’s first superstar. Then, by combining folk with rock ‘n’ roll, Dylan controversially “goes electric” and kick-starts the folk-rock movement.

5. A Lesson In Survival

Following the disillusionment of the 60s protest movement, folk turns introspective and becomes concerned with personal issues rather than politics. Solo singer/songwriters achieve success with minimal instrumentation, as the electric world marches on into prog-rock and beyond.

6. The Great Leap Forward

Paul Simon brings international folk (world music) into the mainstream; Billy Bragg employs folk’s protest ideology and numerous others keep the genre alive until today’s new-folk movement.

The new record from iconic Naughties new-ravers Klaxons was released only days ago, Aug 23rd and it has already split opinion. Produced by Ross Robinson (Slipknot, At The Drive-In) Surfing The Void is a distinctly different beast to their blockbuster debut Myths Of The Near Future. Suffering a few hiccups and false starts it certainly has its flaws. However, between the esoteric lyrics, clamorous guitars and gnarly bass sound, there’s a dark psychedelia that’s disconcertingly magnetic. It pretty much certifies the Klaxons’ ability to transcend their gaudy glow sticks/ Nu-Rave tag. While a musician might feel ashamed to admit it, these guys have done the second album thing in style. Since breakthrough groups are typically called on to simply, or impossibly as many find it, repeat the formula of their debut, it’s refreshing to hear a breakthrough act produce a second album that is both different and good.

If you don’t believe it, listen to the descending melody in the chorus of The Valley Of Calm Trees or the Muse-like bass line in Future Memories. These are songs that could easily cut it in the largest of venues, which is probably thanks to the man behind the desk. There are plenty of instances when Robinson’s influence is more than clear, as in the tumultuous title track or the Ramstein-like gang vocals during the chorus of Flashover. His production prowess makes it work though, as he pans guitars and general noise hard to either side creating a surprising amount of space for the band’s usual, layered, double octave vocals.

A combination of interesting production and quasi-space-punk songwriting make Surfing The Void a respectable yet odd record. It’ll appeal equally to an open-minded fan of Ross Robinson or a Klaxon fan who’s grown up a bit since Myths Of The Near Future.

A brief look back now at an album that may have passed you by. A Giant In The Snow, released back in May, is the first full album release by South London three-piece, Raf and O. Hailing from the same musical family tree as the likes of Bjork, Portishead and Aphex Twin they have a sound that’s underpinned by lo-fi synths, glitchy production and the beautiful voice of lead singer, Raf Mantelli. While there are moments where their influences boil over, as in the dangerously Boards of Canadaesq synth sound in Cycad, the album is in the most part a fair shot at originality. If it’s eccentric female vocals and experimental electro that you like, this one may be for you.

http://www.myspace.com/rafando

The voice is back. But this time it’s more reserved. Antony and The Johnsons’, Thank You For Your Love EP is now available and it may surprise a few fans. It’s more scaled-down and slow-paced than previous releases and what’s more it features a cover of Imagine by John Lennon. “GROAN” you might say. However, Antony’s deft touch actually injects into this overplayed anthem an element of freshness. And that’s pretty much it…oh no wait there’s also a Dylan cover. Yes he’s covered Bob Dylan as well. A brave move you have to say. But again the cover, Pressing On, is saved by Antony’s ability to make just about anything sound ornate. Overall it’s a personal and restrained EP and as such it may dissatisfy fans of the more elaborate stuff. In general though, it’s well worth a listen.