THE BEACH BALL - Soul Revue

Music just sounds better when it's being played outdoors by the ocean. There's something inherently romantic about all that water brimming against the shore and the voices of seagulls and humans mingling in the salty air as the sun sails stubbornly over the horizon. While the Santa Monica Pier hosts free, weekly concerts every summer, co-promoters Rum & Humble and Spaceland Productions are adding something different this year, marking the change of seasons with two disparate, jam-packed (and not free) music festivals. In two weeks, the autumnal plaints of folkies and alt-cowboys will ring out at the Way Over Yonder fest, but today summer gets a last soulful goodbye at the Beach Ball, which features the uplifting and increasingly rueful meditations of Aloe Blacc, funk-jazz maestro Maceo Parker (who's blown sax for James Brown, P-Funk and Prince), revitalized soul veteran Lee Fields, breezy soul-pop duo Myron & E and relatively lightweight nu-soul revivalist Allen Stone. The Beach Ball bounces onward with an all-reggae lineup on Sunday, Sept. 22. - LA Times

"My purpose for music is positive social change," says Orange County, California native Aloe Blacc. "Even if the music itself does not explicitly express anything that may signify positive social change, the product of the music will." He is speaking in general terms regarding his career, but more specifically about the circumstances surrounding his upcoming album, Good Things, co-written by the versatile vocalist and songwriter in conjunction with the in-house production team at Truth & Soul Records.
Good Things marks a shift in methodology from personal to political for Aloe, who refers to the project as his report on present conditions—joblessness, homeless, the misappropriation of wealth, pillaging of resources, and a universal lack of compassion from the capitalism at-large under which we all function, but some struggle to survive. Song titles such as "You Make Me Smile" and "Miss Fortune," coupled with airy, ethereal production from Truth & Soul's Leon Michels and Jeff Silverman mask a foreboding undercurrent in which Aloe crafts lyrics both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Nowhere is this more evident than on lead single, "I Need a Dollar"—commissioned by HBO as the theme music for the series How to Make It in America—because ultimately, that is how to make it in America.
The first-generation American offspring of Panamanian parents, Aloe has become what writer and activist Amiri Baraka (nee Leroi Jones) once said of John Coltrane. He is a singular "scope of feeling…a more fixed traveler" who has found cohesion in art and life. The path from his 2006 debut, the multi-genre Shine Through, to Good Things is akin to the maturation of Marvin Gaye between That's the Way Love Is and the What's Going On masterwork that followed. Aloe has never purported to be any heir to Gaye, but musically, Good Things and What's Going On are companion pieces as both albums establish a character for the artists that sets them apart from the sea of performers making very vivid and discernible—yet normative and conformist—statements about who they are and what they do. Good Things is a definitive declaration that places Aloe directly in the framework of modern soul.
At the heart of this musical character is a recession-age Robin Hood, whose goal is to sell and profit from his wares with hope of freeing the less fortunate from the capitalist system that serves as both their oppressor and his motivation. A 2001 graduate of the University of Southern California, Aloe credits a myriad of influences—transcendentalist scholars Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, French existentialism, Oprah Winfrey, Tavis Smiley, Cornel West—with leading him from the inner streams of consciousness he possessed as an MC early in his career, to a more disciplined approach to songwriting, and now, the desire to affect change and induce compassion by way of his own success. It is his grand scheme, which, not coincidentally, is also the name of his backing band (The Grand Scheme). The key is compromise and understanding the power of popular art. Aloe is willing to put the gloves on and engage in the marketplace. Good things lie ahead. – Ronnie Reese

ALLEN STONE USA Today has called Allen Stone a "pitch-perfect powerhouse"
and The New York Times has likened his socially conscious music to that of Stevie Wonder,
Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers. But the 25-year-old singer-songwriter from
the tiny backwoods town of Chewelah, Washington just sees himself as "a hippie with soul."

One look at his long, curly blond hair and thick-rimmed glasses brings home the first part of that equation – and perhaps leaves one unprepared for the raw, soulful power unleashed when Stone
opens his mouth to sing.

Like many soul singers, Stone got his start in church. He was a preacher's kid, so whipping crowds into a call-and-response frenzy as he performs "Say So" is second nature. Steeped in gospel music and shielded from secular songs, Allen didn't discover soul music until he was a teenager and started collecting classic albums from the 60's and 70's.

"Soul music from that time wasn't just about bumpin' and grindin' at the club – it was a huge part of a cultural movement. That's where my inspiration comes from," says Stone, who was also schooled by folk records of the period.

On his new album, Stone shines a light into some of the darker corners of his own era. "Contact High" is a striking commentary on the toll technology has taken on relationships and the sensuous sounding "Unaware" is a sly examination of the current economic crisis. This is the kind of stuff that keeps Stone up at night and keeps him on the road, as he sings in the single "Sleep": "Spend my night shootin' at the stars/Trying to change the world with this guitar/I know it's a long shot/But it's working out so far…"

While he is in awe of music's power to ignite change, Stone is equally enraptured by its ability to simply make people feel good – as evidenced by songs like "Celebrate Tonight" and "Say So" and the dance-offs that are de rigueur at his shows.

Stone has spent the past four years honing his unique style the old-fashioned way: crisscrossing the country in a van with his ace band and playing any small club that would have him. Since the digital release of his self-titled album via his own stickystones label in October 2011, Stone's shows have been selling out from coast to coast. The album jumped into the Top 10 of Billboard's Heatseekers chart and entered the Top 5 of iTunes' R&B/Soul charts. His first national television appearance – on "Conan" – came after the music booker saw a YouTube video of Allen performing "Unaware" in his mother's living room. Performances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "Last Call with Carson Daly" and "Live from Daryl's House" followed and Esquire, CNN and Billboard named Stone as an artist to watch – all before he had the support of a record label. Stone has since signed to ATO Records, which is bringing the album into wide release.

Maceo Parker: his name is synonymous with Funky Music, his pedigree impeccable; his band: the tightest little funk orchestra on earth.

Everyone knows by now that he's played with each and every leader of funk, his start with James Brown, which Maceo describes as " like being at University "; jumping aboard the Mothership with George Clinton; stretching out with Bootsy's Rubber Band. He's the living, breathing pulse that connects the history of Funk in one golden thread. The cipher that unravels dance music down to its core.

"Everything's coming up Maceo," concluded DownBeat Magazine in a 1991 article at the beginning of Maceo Parker's solo career. At the time Maceo was remembered by aficionados of funk music as sideman; appreciated mainly by those in the know. More than a decade and a half later Maceo Parker has been enjoying a blistering solo career. For the past sixteen years Maceo has been building a new funk empire, fresh and stylistically diverse. He navigates deftly between James Brown's 1960's soul and George Clinton's 1970's freaky funk while exploring mellower jazz and the grooves of hip-hop.

His collaborations over the years performing or recording or both have included Ray Charles, Ani Difranco, James Taylor, De La Soul, Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. His timeless sound has garnered him a fresh young fan base.

Lee Fields & The Expressions

After his rediscovery in the mid 90s, his faithful have featured him on a slew on singles, a full-length on Desco Records entitled "Let's Get It On', a full-length on Soul Fire entitled "Problems", and on Sharon Jones's critically acclaimed album, "Naturally". Most recently, he has featured on a number of tracks by French house producer, Martin Solveig. Suprisingly, many of of those songs have become top ten hits for Solveig and have turned Lee Fields into a bonafide celebrity in France and other parts of Europe. Yet, outside of a rabid cult following, his story remained untold in America.

When Truth & Soul rose from Soul Fire's ashes in 2004, the first mission of label owners/producers Jeff Silverman and Leon Michels, was to record a sweet soul record that would be modeled after the near perfect formula that bands like The Moments, The Delfonics, and The Stylistics had created. But with a decidedly modern bent. The two producer/songwriters were perfect for the job, having dedicated their talents to the likes of Adele, Iggy Pop, Amy Winehouse alongside Just Blaze, Ghostface Killah and Jay Z

Turning their attention to Lee Fields, the duo wanted an album full of music that was both tough as nails and sweet as honey. They wanted ballads laced with lush strings and smooth vocal harmonies layered over a hard-hitting rhythm section. Michels and Silverman enlisted the service of a the group of New York studio musicians that have provided the back drop for records by The Dap Kings, Amy Winehouse, Bronx River Parkway, El Michels Affair and TV on The Radio. Those musicians include Leon Michels, Homer Steinweiss, Quincy Bright, Nick Movshon, Thomas Brenneck, Toby Pazner, Aaron Johnson, Dave Guy, Michael Leonhart, and members of legendary doo-wop group, The Del-Larks.

Four years later and Lee Fields & The Expressions have successfully created a unique and personal sound that can hold court with the bands they set out to emulate. However, what they've created in the process goes beyond just a carbon copy of a sweet soul music from the 60's and early 70's. The formula has remained the same but the style has been adapted for the ears of youngsters whose experiences with soul began with Amy, not Al, Otis and Marvin. Thirty years of retrospection has colored this cross-generational melding of the minds. It sounds odd on paper, but the results are classic: hip hop-reared record collectors come full circle to produce an album of beautiful soul music with one of the progenitors who made it all possible.

The vocal duo is something of a rarity. There have been countless solo stars, trios, quartets and quintets, but the pairing of equally talented singers isn't nearly as common. Sam and Dave, Ashford and Simpson, the Righteous Brothers and the Everly Brothers comprise a short list of standouts. Enter Myron & E.

Myron (Myron Glasper) was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. He sang in choirs and played piano growing up, and was a star athlete in football and track, but found his calling as a dancer. Working with Rosie Perez landed him on the early '90s sketch comedy show In Living Color. During those years, however, the streets of South Central were no place to foster creativity, so Myron moved to the Bay and began touring as a backup singer, which is where he met E (Eric "E da Boss" Cooke).

E, a native of Newark, New Jersey, got his first taste of music by playing records during family card games and fish frys. As a teen, he began collecting records of his own and DJing, hanging at the Music Factory and Rock and Soul in New York City. After relocating to southwest Virginia, he graduated high school and began DJing parties, which allowed him to invest in an Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard, two Technics turntables and an eight-track recorder.

The two began working together while on the road with the Bay Area's Blackalicious, and shortly after, E released an independent record as E da Boss. While touring in Finland behind his solo project, E found himself in an impromptu jam session with members of The Soul Investigators, whose work with singer Nicole Willis helped define them as one of Europe's foremost retro-soul bands.

Investigators producer Didier Selin was impressed enough to leave E with several unfinished tracks. Back in the U.S., E recruited Myron as a singing and songwriting partner, and Myron & E was born.

Myron & E and the Soul Investigators released a string of excellent funk 45s on the Timmion label—starting with 2008's "Cold Game"/"I Can't Let You Get Away"—before signing with Stones Throw last year. Since then, Myron & E have been focused on building their live performance, which includes sold-out shows before even having a full-length release and a stellar showing at SXSW. "We showed up to show out and that's what we did," E says of their SXSW appearance.

Myron & E are proud to be releasing their debut album, Broadway, this summer. For the album, the Soul Investigators provided demos from overseas with the duo stationed on the west coast writing the lyrics and singing all the vocals. E, in particular, has a practice of sending YouTube links of classic soul and R&B songs to the band to provide inspiration for recreating that vibe. One such link was to Edwin Starr's "Running Back and Forth." The Soul Investigators responded with "Everyday Love."

"I don't really think there's anybody else that can do it as good as they can," E says about the band. "They do it like none other."

Funky Sole DJs

Funky Sole Djs Music Man Miles, Clifton, Chico & Mean Mr. Mustard

$27-$65

Tickets available at the Box Office


*SHOW IS RAIN OR SHINE
**Lineup subject to change
***Certain sections 21+ only

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THE BEACH BALL - Soul Revue

Saturday, September 21 · Doors 3:00 PM / Show 4:00 PM at Santa Monica Pier