Latest Blog Posts

by Michael Kabran

24 Jun 2009


File this under “Two more reasons John Zorn’s Tzadik is one of the coolest record labels around” and “can’t an hombre kvetch?”

We’re only halfway through 2009 and Tzadik has seen the release of two of the most exciting jazz recordings of the year, courtesy of a surprising source.

Cuban-born percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez grew up in Miami and, like many children, was heavily influenced by the music of his surroundings. Many kids absorbed the Cuban and Puerto Rican rhythms of south Florida’s communities. Others lapped up the strong Caribbean flavor running through the city. Still others took to Dade County’s burgeoning hip-hop and club scenes. In Rodriguez’s case, however, the music that moved him originated from an unlikely source: Jews. As a teenager in his father’s bands, Rodriguez played his fair share of Jewish weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. He became enamored with the sounds of Miami’s large Jewish population and eventually provided music for a local Yiddish theater. Over time, Rodriguez began to envision the union of Jewish folk aesthetics with the Cuban music of his ancestry.

Fast-forward a dozen or so years and John Zorn has finally allowed Rodriguez’s vision to become a reality—and we’re all better off for it. In February, Tzadik released Rodriguez’s brilliant soundtrack to The First Basket, a documentary film about the history of Jews in basketball. Featuring both traditional acoustic and modern electronic instrumentation, the soundtrack is a tasty stew of Sephardic melodies and Cuban rhythms filled with generous chunks klezmer, club, and blues. Then, last month Rodriguez did it again on Tzadik with the release of Timba Talmud, another exciting fusion of Jewish and Latin music. The album’s opening track, “La Hora,” a play on the traditional Jewish dance song, is a blistering, infectious jam. Rodriguez provides an astounding percussion foundation that makes you wonder if he has more than two hands. And his bandmates readily fall in line with excellent violin, bass, and horn lines. 

Tzadik is certainly no stranger to the fusion of traditional Jewish music with other genres. The label’s Radical Jewish Culture series has almost single-handedly revived/created an (secular) interest in traditional Jewish music (and not only among folk music aficionados, but with those in the jazz and rock worlds as well). Rodriguez certainly isn’t the first artist on the label to combine Jewish and Latin music. In 2007, David Buchbinder’s brilliant Odessa/Havana showed that klezmer melodies and Cuban rhythms were not mutually exclusive. And Zorn’s own Masada groups have merged countless styles and aesthetics. Tzadik’s experimental juggling of genres and styles has also seeped into the mainstream jazz world as a renewed interest in the melding of diverse styles can be seen far and wide.

by Sarah Zupko

23 Jun 2009


Where last week was a major drought, save for some stellar Americana from Ha Ha Tonka, this week is an embarrassment of riches. Even records that wind up being a disappointment like Mars Volta’s latest are still worth a listen or two. The week is packed with the sort of stuff that makes indie fans salivate (Sunset Rubdown, Dinosaur Jr., Tortoise), while still offering solid choices for middle of the road rock fans with new platters from Pete Yorn, the Gossip (digital only until October), the Lemonheads and Cheap Trick.

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm: J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph resurrected the original band line-up in 2007 for the critically acclaimed Beyond and they have stuck with it. Leaving the majors behind for a respected indie label, Jagjaguwar, the group continues their anthemic sound, underpinned by J Mascis’ guitar hero riffs.

The Mars Volta - Octahedron: The former members of At the Drive-In continue their prog rock explorations, albeit at a lower volume and slower pace. Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have both labeled the album their “acoustic” effort that, while not entirely accurate, does hint at the intent here.

by PopMatters Staff

21 Jun 2009


Master shredder Marnie Stern was lounging poolside with her sweet little dog when she spoke to PopMatters about her love of Hella, her current collaboration with Mary Timony, and many other subjects. Her current album, This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That, is out on Kill Rock Stars.

by Tommy Marx

18 Jun 2009


In 1981, five gay men in Los Angeles suffered from an unknown disease that the press labeled GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention referred to as the “4H Disease” because it seemed to target Haitians, hemophiliacs, homosexuals and heroin users.

By May 3, 1986, the disease had long since become known as AIDS, but was still the subject of much controversy and even more misconceptions. It would be another year before Ronald Reagan would even publicly acknowledge the disease (even though by May 31, 1987, more than 20,000 Americans had died from AIDS).

It’s interesting that a pop-rock group from England would decide to release a single pointedly attacking the anti-gay hatred fueled by the disease, but even more intriguing that the song became a major hit.

by Sarah Zupko

16 Jun 2009


Blame it on a Bonnarroo hangover perhaps or the weak economy, but this week is one of the lightest new music release weeks in recent memory, rivaling the deserted graveyard that is the post holiday season. While next week promises an embarassment of indie riches, July 16th biggest highlights are a new platter from a barely known outside the indie set Americana band and a collaboration of production heavyweights Switch and Diplo. At the other end of the spectrum, the suits are pegging the week’s sales figures on a new one from the Jonas Brothers. Yeah, it’s a sad week for iTune afficiandos and big box store shoppers. That said, there are a couple of worthy re-issues on offer, with power pop legend, Big Star’s #1 Record/Radio City being at the head of the class.

Major Lazer - Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do
Star remixer Diplo and M.I.A. producer Switch have teamed up for a heavily buzzed about collaboration in Major Lazer. The two creative forces merge reggae and dancehall with electronic beats and textures in a successful cross-genre experimentation. The end result is something like “digital dancehall”.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Could 'Heroes Reborn' Be the Stealth Reboot the Series Always Needed?

// Channel Surfing

"Heroes: Reborn looks like what the original Heroes could have been in an alternate, better universe.

READ the article