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Four young Minnesota musicians just wrapped a thrilling couple of weeks touring with the National Youth Orchestra, featuring soloist Gil Shaham. Left to right in a photo shot following a concert at Chicago's Millennium Park: Emma Richman, Anna Humphrey, Shaham, Arjun Ganguly and Liam Smith.
Turns out star violinist Gil Shaham isn't just a phenomenal musician. He's also a real mensch, according to four Minnesota teens who just finished performing eight concerts coast to coast with him. Violinist Emma Richman of Minneapolis, violinist Anna Humphrey of Rogers, violist Arjun Ganguly of St, Cloud and percussionist Liam Smith of Minneapolis were among 120 teens chosen to play with the prestigious National Youth Orchestra, a Carnegie Hall-funded program in its second year that auditions youth all over the country and pays for everything but transportation to New York at the outset and back home at tour's end.
Shaham was "the nicest guy, such a joy to work with," Richman said.
"You never know if you're going to get a diva, but he had this amazing way of making eye contact and smiling at everyone in the orchestra while he was playing," said Ganguly, in his second summer with the NYO. "He seemed like he was enjoying every minute of it."
The orchestra’s program included the premiere of "Radial Play," a special Carnegie commission by composer Samuel Adams, Leonard Bernstein’s "Symphonic Dances" from "West Side Story;" Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto with Shaham; and Ravel’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition." The final concert was performed Monday at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
And the hits just keep coming from the Doomtree clan. More than three years since the release of his last album, “Bad Time Zoo,” the crew’s best-haired rapper Sims will drop his latest effort, “Field Notes,” on Sept. 2. He debuted the first track today, “Uh Huh,” which fans will receive as a download for pre-ordering the album.
A rapid-tongued, tumultuous rabble-rouser, “Uh Huh” finds the often topical Twin Cities native railing against finger-wagging conservative Christian groups. Among the lyrics: “Honest to God, none of them are honest to God / They insist that it’s this, or that’s it.”
“Uh Huh” is one of six new tracks featured on “Field Notes,” alongside the previously (but not formally) released Astronautalis collaboration, “This Is the Place.” Distinctively not advertised as an EP – let’s call it a “mini-album” – the seven-track collection will drop in the middle of Sims’ tour with Australian hip-hop trio the Hilltop Hoods. Before that, he’s playing First Avenue once again with Astronautalis on Aug. 23.
"Field Notes" features tracks produced by resident Doomtree beatmakers Paper Tiger and Cecil Otter as well as newcomer ICETEP and a duo known as Plain Ole Arson (Plain Ole Bill + Ryan Olson).
“Field Notes” is the latest in a string of releases coming from the Doomtree crew in the second half of the year. Look for new Mike Mictlan and P.O.S. efforts by the end of the year. The mega-book “Doomtree: Every Single Day” also just arrived. It sounds like the new all-crew album will be out early next year, which we got a taste of last week.
While local music insiders have been dissecting and debating the quirky viral fame of Spooky Black, another young, St. Paul-reared white dude that sings in a sultry R&B voice is generating more legitimate attention in the recording industry outside the state.
Chris Lawrence, age 25, has been signed by Pitbull’s label imprint Mr. 305 Ent., and he’s already generating a buzz with his tender heartbreak single “Withdrawal.” The song beat out Jesse McCartney’s new tune in the “Beat Battle” last week on nationally syndicated radio show “The Weekend Top 30,” which airs locally on KDWB. MTVhits, MTVu and VH1 have also aired the video (posted below), which includes a fun nod to Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones.”
The single was produced by Kay Gee of Naughty by Nature, who also happened to produce tracks for the last big R&B act to break out of the Twin Cities, Next. Lawrence is currently finishing off his full-length album with Kay Gee, expected for release late 2014 or early 2015.
Lawrence’s co-manager, Tim Wilson (Urban Lights store owner and local scene vet), said. “If anyone deserves success it's this guy. He's been through a lot and has persevered.”
Among his past brushes with success: He has been through the “American Idol” rigmarole twice, making it to Hollywood in Season 10 but missing the cut. He also won a contest with controversial Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync manager Lou Pearlman that went nowhere.
Not just a studio musician waiting around for things to happen, Lawrence has been gigging like crazy around town, too -- just not in the kinds of places where buzz bands are usually found. He’s at Doc’s Landing in White Bear Lake tonight and the Doghouse in Maplewood on Thursday, plus he regularly performs at the various Cowboy Jack’s locations.
Another musician reared in Twin Cities jazz clubs achieving stardom abroad with a decidedly non-jazzy sound – see also: José James and, to a certain extent, the Bad Plus – Todd Clouser is gearing up for a big international push behind the new release by his psychedelic trio, A Love Electric.
Renowned keyboard grinder John Medeski of Medeski, Martin & Wood fame joined the group during the recording of the album, and Grammy winner Patrick Dillett (David Byrne & St. Vincent, Soul Coughing) mixed the results. Titled “Son of a Hero,” the record is due Sept. 16 on Ropeadope Records. A video for the first single, “Be the Evolution,” is posted below.
Now based in Mexico City, Clouser is in town this week with A Love Electric to preview the album at Harriet Brewing on Thursday (9 p.m.). They will be back in town on the full tour for an Icehouse gig on Oct. 3.
Good news/bad news for Doomtree lovers: The Twin Cities hip-hop septet issued its first new all-crew track in nearly two years this morning, a jittery electronic romp titled “.38 Airweight,” which comes from this summer's recording sessions. However, the group is not calling this the first song off its new record, and in fact the new record isn’t entirely finished and thus has no set release date yet.
Posting the song as one of his Tuesdays With Lazerbeak entries at Doomtree.net, producer/beatmaker Lazerbeak described the song as a “leaker.” He wrote:
“We've been in the studio making a ton of songs with a new album in mind and are super pumped with how things are turning out. Wanted to drop this leaker track off early while it's still fresh to let people know we're getting back at it."
The track -- available for download via iTunes -- boasts verses from four of the group’s five rappers (all but Dessa). P.O.S. starts it off, referencing controversial NYC subway shooter Bernie Goetz. Mike Mictlan comes in towards the end with a whack flurry of evocative lines, including the soda-generation shout-out to “children of the corn syrup.”
Introducing the song on 89.3 the Current's morning show today, Sims did spill news at least one other album: His latest solo effort is due to drop in September, he said. More info on that to come, no doubt.
Perhaps we'll hear ".38 Airweight" and a new Sims song or two might be on tap when Doomtree hits the Minnesota State Fair grandstand on Aug. 30 as part of the MN-Music-on-a-Stick concert. That’s also the week that the group’s limited-edition, 500-page book “Every Single Day” officially lands. It’s being sold with a “Best of False Hopes” compilation album.
And lest Dessa lovers feel left out by the new song, she dropped another wowza music video just yesterday for the song “Fighting Fish.” You can check it out here.
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