Photo by Rebecca Adkisson
It is pretty obvious that Truth & Lies are big fans of New Orleans and the Hot 8 Brass Band in particular, and we've been lucky enough to DJ for and hang out with the guys a number of times and even call some of them buddies. For our 'Music That Speaks To...' series I asked sax player Drew Calhoun to choose some music he loves for us and it appeared that he had a passion for the 'Blaxploitation' sound. That early 1970s groove that spoke of the street, the filth, the vibrancy and danger of inner city life, a far cry from the showbiz grin and positivity of the Motown era of the 1960s. Funky as hell and full of swagger, the great tracks of this period still hold strong. He also threw in a few curveballs including one of my favourite Alice Coltrane tracks and a couple of classic R&B tunes!
I'll let Laura DeFazio make the introductions...
'New York-born saxophonist and multi-media artist Drew Calhoun always knew that the best musical education he could get would come from throwing himself into the vibrant culture at the heart of jazz. New Orleans is a city where the sidewalks are overflowing with music and history, where “learning” means “doing”, where every day is teeming with rich sensory experiences overlapping with meaningful human connections. Calhoun has definitely made the most of the wealth at his fingertips over the past 20 years, playing with as many different local musicians as possible, touring the world with the Hot 8 Brass Band, even pioneering his own music/film project, #thecrescentcityconnection.
Joining the Hot 8 in 2015, just in time for their vicennial tour, Calhoun and the band has been busy promoting a host of different releases; their records “On the Spot” and “Vicennial - 20 Years of the Hot 8 Brass Band” and an EP, "Can't Nobody Get On Down". They’ve devoted the majority of 2017 to a world tour promoting “On the Spot”, which has taken them everywhere from Europe to the South Pacific to the remote Faroe Islands of the North Atlantic and beyond. They're frequently found playing in the UK as their record label, Tru Thoughts, is based in Brighton.
In addition to his work with the Hot 8 Brass Band, Calhoun has lent his skills to New Orleans groups like Corey Henry & the Treme Funktet, Trumpet Black & the Heart Attacks, and the Big Easy Brawlers. That being said, the sax is only the beginning. This versatile young artist is a skilled composer, improvisor, multi-instrumentalist, and film-maker that channels his passion for history and community into innovative projects of his own design. The nearest and dearest to his heart is #thecrescentcityconnection. This film/recording project features a collection of New Orleans musicians and friends playing precomposed music while also improvising to dynamic imagery meant to inspire. The project got its start in 2016 when Calhoun began rewatching various footage he’d taken with his iPhone while on tour. After being inspired by the visuals, Calhoun then began pairing older musical ideas to the imagery to form a bigger project.
“Those musical ideas came from my most recent interest: Blaxploitation music soundtracks,” Calhoun explained. Specifically, the soundtrack to the motion film "Trouble Man" composed by Marvin Gaye. Others composers and artists have interested me as well; Willie Hutch's work before film and also his work on such Blaxploitation films as "Foxy Brown". I guess I've been trying to seek inspiration from those means. And then also being inspired by the visual, storytelling element… It's also been a pleasure looking back into historical films to see the situations in which they arise and the stories they tell. I hope when I'm ready to tell a story by means of film, it will be as revealing.”
The video of the most recent session is available on his website, drewcalhoun.com, and past broadcasts can be found on his Facebook artist page.
'Willie Hutch was one composer in particular I listened to since I've been on my Blaxploitation film score vibe. While this cut isn't one from any movie, it's a solid early recording before his Motown recording period. The drama in the horns and the drive behind the guitar during the choruses are epic.'
'Best groove and feel you will come across. I can't help but have visions in my mind every time I hear this song.
'While this isn't from the "Trouble Man" soundtrack Marvin Gaye composed, I find the track "Heavy Love Affair" as equally appealing and visually stimulating. It could have easily been a theme harnessed and rearticulated over the course of, say, a motion film.'
'The first time I heard this, it was a remixed version. The words are what really stand out to me, poetry. Songwriting and soul all in one.'
'I love the blues. I've also been thinking a lot about the use of modulation in a song, as a way to change mood and tone, maybe even add more energy in a song towards the end. In this Coltrane tune, she dabbles with it only slightly, but that small teaser feels like a whole other untapped potential to an already beautiful tune.'
'The dance scene says it all. The movie was a classic in my house.'
'I like the vibe of this one; I'm more of a minimalist at heart. That's not to say that the track isn't "complicated" or whateverhaveyou. I feel like with some electronic tracks, they get really cluttered for my ears. However, this particular one, along with the lyrics, is nicely built and paced; dramatic in production quality.'
Tony Toni Tone 'Lovin' You'
Many thanks to Drew for his selection and hope you all enjoy it! Make sure to check out his website and work...
Words by Ex-Friendly