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CD Review: “Daydreamers” by Tess Dunn is Her Best Yet!


albumart_tessdunn4_200x200Tess Dunn and band is celebrating her 20th birthday with a performance this coming Sunday night Dec 14th over at Moe’s Alley in Santa  Cruz at 7 pm. Dunn who has cystic fibrosis will be donating the evening’s proceeds to benefit Cystic Fibrosis Research and Organ Donor Awareness. Her latest recording is “Daydreamers”.

Like the college freshman she is, who just moved on from high school, Santa Cruz singer/songwriter Tess Dunn’s new 4 song EP “Daydreamers” shows just how far her budding music career has graduated with this polished third recording.  Check out the 3rd cut, “Stay” where  she’s asking “why didn’t you?” and feel the sting.

Love bites

Yes, Tess Dunn is still writing edgy songs about her love life – real and imagined – which she says in the liner notes, is way TMI according to her dad, Santa Cruz writer and historian,  Geoffrey Dunn.  Yeah, well ok… but one thing for sure, the EP is loaded with  smart power pop-punk music and mature vocals, but  a couple of the songs on the EP seem almost overly angry. I really feel sorry for the person on the receiving end of  “Say You Fell” who’s told “I hope you like it in hell”. Ouch. It’s one of Dunn’s best songs yet- tight, catchy and nasty.


Tess Dunn

 “Daydreamers” was recorded in Portland, Oregon where Dunn and her band have attracted a following.This recording was made possible thanks to a very successful web fundraising campaign.  It was produced again by Ari Shine who worked on her previous cd’s and who  plays most of the instruments.  Co-producing along with Dunn, Sean Flora mixed the tunes and contributed some bass and vocals. Ms. Dunn wrote all the songs and plays piano, synthesizer and ukulele.  The title song is the one you want to play over and over. It’s got hit written all over it.

Closing out Dunn’s “Daydreamers” EP is the very romantic piece titled “Steady” that opens with her elegant piano playing followed by some goofing off way after the song ends.  With this EP, Tess Dunn has proved that she has staying power and has progressed a long ways. She’s tuff.

Can we hope for a LP and no EP next time? –Eric Berg

 VIDEO:  “Stay” by Tess Dunn


Album Review: Spoon Refuses to Give Up It’s Soul


SpoonAustin indie rock band, Spoon, has a genuine sleeper on their hands with their 8th and latest album, “They Want My Soul”, that quietly reached no. 4 briefly on the billboard charts late this past summer.  It’s sleeper because it might take you two or three listening’s until Spoon’s own infectious “Soul” creeps up and hooks you.  For example, the albums’ catchy second track “Inside Out” that has a cascading keyboard solo that sounds just like a harp.

First new album in 4 years

Last fall, after a four year absence which is a long time in the music biz -the band members needed a break – singer-guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno reconvened Spoon – the group they founded some 20 years ago –and started laying down tracks for “They Want My Soul”.  The album was released last August but in July, the band offered a one of a kind, vinyl gratification gift immediately handed out to anyone who pre-ordered the vinyl album – a ten inch 45 with 3 preview songs.

Less guitars – more synth

Working with new producers, Daniel has expanded Spoon’s sound with less electric guitars and more synth – pop and it pays off as it does on  “Knock Knock Knock” and the very 80’s sounding synth of  “Outlier”.

Not to worry though Daniels’ guitars still dominate a few cuts like the crunchy opener “Rent I Pay”, one of three songs off this album Spoon performed on John Stewart’s election “Democalypse 2014” TV special Oct. 30th.

Spoon still forking it over

When it gets right down to it, Spoon has always been singer Britt Daniels’ baby ever since the group’s inception back in 1993.  Seemingly not interested in breaking away from it’s indie rock labeling and going after mainstream acceptance, probably by design, Spoon remains a relevant band by continually updating continually their sound- although somewhat slowly- with each new release. The 43 yr. old Daniels seems content to keep his group on even keel and steady as she goes while doing it his way on Spoon’s title track  “They Want My Soul”.  One thing for sure, he’s not caving in. Thank goodness for that. – Eric Berg


Spoon performing live at Seattle’s KEXP studios, July 24, 2014

New Led Zeppelin Remasters Sound Outstanding!


Led_Zeppelin__coverThese past few months I’ve been listening over and over to a brand new edition of an album that was released some 45 years ago – January 12th 1969. Led Zeppelin I – you know it- it has that  black and white image of the exploding Hindenburg dirigible on the cover.  Zep’s powerful blend of rock and blues on this album sounds more refreshing and addicting than ever. Why? Because guitarist and the guardian of Zep’s legacy, Jimmy Page spent the better part of this decade painstakingly remastering each of the band’s 9 albums with stunningly crystal clear results.


The Perfect Mix

Working with John Davis who remastered  2007’s Mothership compilation and later live reunion Celebration Day, Page used the original ¼ inch master tapes to punch up the over all sound of the band on Zep I. To my ears he has properly placed Robert Plant’s vocals and the band members instruments in the mix right where they’ve always needed to be in terms of superb, distortion free, high volume stereo separation as a good pair of headphones or speakers will attest.  At last  you can hear John Paul Jones’  bass and keyboards upfront and center and John Bonham’s drums are crisper than ever.

So far only Led Zeppelin albums I – III have been released, issued in lavish double cd cardboard packaging with lots of new photos. Each album comes with a second companion disc of alternative takes and rough mixes, although there are no real surprises. More like a glimpse of how Page and the band sculpted each song on their way to the finished product.  Call them works in progress.  Zeppelin I’s extra disc is the exception.  It’s an edited mono version of a fiery live October 1969 Paris show that features several songs that appeared on their second album released that very month.  Unlike the source material used for the companion discs on II and III, this one came from a file recording of  French radio broadcast that was emailed to Page.

3rd Time’s the Charm

Although Jimmy  Page hasn’t really put out any new music of his own since Led Zeppelin called it a day, he has done an admirable job of curating, if that is the word, the audio history of  this band that was clearly his baby and vision from the beginning. Although  this is the third time Zeppelin’s catalog has been remastered, Page can rest assured that with these editions he’s finally nailed it and he can now sit back and be proud.

Of the three releases, Led Zeppelin I remains my favorite of the entire catalog. This recording is simple and raw and was originally well engineered in the first place, without the overuse of filters, dubbing and extra tracking that was to follow. Led Zeppelin I is a monumental rock album that harkens back to a time when pop music was meant to stick in your head for months even years to come and possibly change your life.  And the best part about this ultimate remaster?  You can crank the volume all the way up to ten and it sounds absolutely gorgeous, despite what your neighbors next door might say – Eric Berg

Just released this week: Led Zeppelin IV  (The “Stairway to Heaven” lp) and Houses of the Holy were released on Tuesday, Oct. 28th. I’ve listened to both of them once and the improved audio far surpasses any previous version. Next time I’ll critically listen with headphones.

The 1969 London concert:

‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Jazz Composer Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson in 2009, at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Photo: Stephen Laufer / KUSP

Gerald Wilson in 2009, at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Photo: Stephen Laufer / KUSP

Gerald Wilson, who was also a trumpet player, wrote the arrangements for such greats as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles. He died Monday at 96 years old. He spoke with Terry Gross in 2006.


Genre Breaking Laura Nyro Tribute


Note: Billy Childs performs at MJF, Saturday Sept 20th, with: “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro”, including special guests Shawn Colvin, Lisa Fischer, Becca Stevens, and Quartet San Francisco.

Photo: Courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival.

Photo: Courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival.

The late Laura Nyro penned hits, including “And When I Die” and “Save the Country.”

NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with composer Billy Childs about his new album of tributes, Reimagining Laura Nyro.

See transcript below:


Interview: Musician Harvey Wainapel


KUSP’s Jeff Dayton Johnson recently spoke with reedman Harvey Wainapel (listen above) about his long love affair with Brazilian music and his new CD Amigos Brasileiros Vol. 2.  Harvey Wainapel will be appearing at Kuumbwa Jazz in Santa Cruz on Thursday, September 4th at 7 pm More info at kuumbwajazz.org

Wainapel also appears at the 2014 Monterey Jazz Festival September 19th, with Claudia Villela, exploring the  the work of João Gilberto and Stan Getz.


7th Avenue Project:
Béla Fleck and Dylan Mattingly Radio Interview


Listen to the full interviews above, or in the Soundcloud file below.

Two Musician/Composers Discuss Their Craft.


The ’7th Avenue Project’ is broadcast in KUSP every Sunday at noon. More at http://7thavenueproject.com/

Banjo phenom Béla Fleck discusses his nerve-racking foray into orchestral composition, the influence of Earl Scruggs and more. Then Dylan Mattingly, lauded by his mentor John Adams as “a hugely talented young composer who writes music of wild imagination and vigorous energy,” discusses his emotionally-driven approach to music.

‘Dylan’s Gospel’ Album Reissued


Dylan's-GospelBy Eric Berg | KUSP’s Berg Alert - 

“Dylan’s Gospel” by The Brothers and Sisters was the pet project of, and directed by, LA record producer Lou Adler – who recorded the Mamas and the Papas, made The Monterey Pop Festival happen and produced Carol King’s “Tapestry” album.  Inspired by the choirs he heard in the black Baptist churches of South LA, and the gospel feel of Dylan’s lyrics, he rightfully thought pairing up the two would be a match made in heaven.  Adler assembled some 40 church singers, professional vocalists and assorted musicians from the area. Most of them already knew each other.  He dubbed them “The Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles” and recorded this album in a quick, four-day musical marathon of joyful singing in June of 1969.

Gospel half hour

Not exactly the Dylan Gospel Hour by any means, this long out of print recording is a too short but essential 36 minutes – ten tracks of exhilarating 60’s Dylan masterpieces done with “gospel and funk and hallelujah” – as the album was described in a hipster magazine ad some 45 years ago.

Merry Clayton and others

Several of the sisters were professional background singers who later became well known in the years after “Dylan’s Gospel”.  Like Merry Clayton, best known for her signature howl behind Jagger on the Stone’s “Gimme Shelter” and recently featured in the Academy Award winning documentary “20 Ft From Stardom” She leads the choir on “The Mighty Quinn” and gives it just the right amount of Sunday afternoon church party funk.  (By the way, Clayton is currently recovering from serious injuries after a mid June car accident in Los Angeles.)

Edna Wright, sister of Lady Lay” and you’ll hear Gloria Jones with The Brothers on the album’s full throttle gospel Darlene Love and a member of the Blossoms, takes the lead on “Lay standout track,  “Chimes of Freedom”.

A groundbreaking first

Originally released on Adler’s Ode Records label, “Dylan’s Gospel” went straight to the cut out bins and out of print almost overnight. There have been other more modern attempts to gospelize the works of Bob Dylan over the years but this album, long sought after by collectors was a groundbreaking first and it still is.  Adler’s Brothers and Sisters  brought together a group of then unknown singers who gathered simply because they loved to sing.  And what could be more suitable back in those times for new gospel record than these ten songs Dylan wrote during his most productive years.

Long overdue, “Dylan’s Gospel” by The Brothers and Sisters has just been reissued with extensive liner notes and photos on cd and vinyl by Light in the Attic Records.

That calls for a mighty “hallelujah!”


The Coffis Brothers – No Longer on the ‘Wrong Side of The Road’


By Eric Berg from the BergAlert

The Coffis Brothers and the Mountain Men return to their old stomping grounds for a headlining show at Don Quixote’s in Felton on Saturday, July 12 2014. The above KUSP podcast was aired 07/10/14


San Lorenzo Valley rockers The Coffis Brothers and The Mountain Men are straight out’a Ben Lomond, but on their new album “Wrong Side of the Road”  you’d swear they were from somewhere deep in the land of Dixie by way of an extended stay in the hills of LA’s fabled Laurel Canyon.


Questlove And The Roots: How A Hip-Hop Band Conquered Late Night

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson serves as drummer, bandleader and producer for The Roots. Photo: Ben Watts/Press Here Publicity

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson serves as drummer, bandleader and producer for The Roots. Photo: Ben Watts/Press Here Publicity

By Dave Deggens

The not-so-secret weapon on The Tonight Show is The Roots, a band whose success on the NBC program was so swift it even surprised a few people at NBC. The group’s drummer and leader, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, says music is a crucial part of The Tonight Show, and he spent some time showing NPR TV critic Eric Deggans exactly why.

For the first time, a hip-hop group is the house band for the most influential TV show in late night.

And you can chalk up much of The Roots’ success to the relaxed perfectionism of the band’s leader, Questlove.

When I first meet him, he is lounging on a couch in a mixing room, deep inside The Tonight Show‘s Rockefeller Center studios. Casually dressed in black jeans and black hoodie emblazoned with the words “legendary Roots crew,” Questlove is listening to a recording of the band rehearsing its new single, “Never.”