Making his LA mark: Shea Welsh

If you want to talk about true Angeleno musicians and figureheads, Shea Welsh is quite a prototype. Though he was born in Baltimore and raised in the East Coast, he obviously found his niche in the famed music capital. First and foremost, he is a massively accomplished guitarist, having performed with members of some of the most famous bands to grace the music industry and logged countless hours in the recording studio with various artists. His ability to transcend multiple genres “keeps him at the top of many music-makers’ lists.”

 

(Pictured above mid-concert.)

 

Shea fronts an LA-grown band that performed for three years on Thursday nights at Pip’s on La Brea as a part of a residency, so it’s not hard to see that he loves to perform. He’s very involved in the Jazz world and has really dipped into that scene – he’s headlined at Jazz festivals like the Long Island Jazz & Blues festival and the Panama Jazz festival to name a few. He’s been a sideman for many groups, always being flexible in his ability to adapt and create, whether it’s with a small combo or a big-band like Paul McDonald’s. Check out Shea performing “Sancho T. Panza,” an original composition, with his band. Perhaps this will give you a sense of just how talented he is.

 

 

Not only has he made his mark on the scene as an artist, but he has also done quite a lot of work as a producer and a writer. His most recent producing project was the The Hipnotics’ debut recording along with his work helping to write and produce Michelle Coltrane’s second album. However, this isn’t all. Shea decided early to give back to the industry that shaped him through education. He is a member of the faculty at the University of Southern California’s Thorton School of Music and has written a few instructional books on Blues and Jazz. Most recently, he has opened The Shea Welsh Institute of Jazz as a branch of The Conservatory of Performing Arts over near Westwood in Los Angeles. The school is open for dedicated high school and middle school students looking for an intense experience and immersion into the study of Jazz. He will be giving these kids masterclasses in theory, performance, and repertoire, and they are bound to benefit from his experience and absolute mastery. He’s pictured below with some of his students.

 

Shea is certainly making his mark, not only on stage and in the halls, but almost most importantly, in the minds of the young. His commitment to his young students goes to show how much he truly cares about bringing out the love of music in as many people as he can. If all of this wasn’t impressive enough, there’s one more thing. In addition to all of his work with Michelle Coltrane, Shea released his own debut jazz album entitled Arrival to the world earlier in 2017. Go give this album a listen, as it will take you to a place different from all others. His unique composition will grab all listeners with intent and fury and also with the soft tenderness of the blues. Look out for Shea Welsh around Los Angeles – whether he’s performing, producing, writing or teaching. Wherever he is, he is leaving quite a stamp on this historic city.

 

 

How Swing Influenced Today’s Contemporary Artists

Frank Sinatra By Columbia Pictures Corporation – Public Domain

Swing is a smooth and groovy style of jazz music that first gained popularity in the 30s and 40s. In fact, the years between 1935 and 1946 were known as the swing era, a decade in which big bands and bandleaders dominated the music scene and caused people to come up with new dance moves that went with the emerging new style.

Swing is such an influential style that to this day, its elements can be heard in genres like pop, hip hop, soul, funk, ska, and even rock. The reason for this is simple. Classic swing very expertly walks the line between catchy and classy. In a way, it’s jazz that’s very smoothly arranged into what can also be considered pop.

Diana Krall’s “Devil May Care” is pure swing. It’s Frank Sinatra in a suit, sipping whiskey in between crooning while being backed by a big brass band. It is perfectly timed breaks and leaps from the horn section accompanied by an ace on the drums. It’s dance-friendly jazz that’s highly polished but never to the point of being robotic. It’s the coolest, classiest music that America ever produced. And because of all this, the influence of big band swing can still be felt in today’s contemporary music.

Flypaper points out that elements of swing and jazz are scattered everywhere in modern music. From the iconic Beatles to the 90s horns-and-hip-hop outfits Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest, swing is an ever-present element in a number of modern genres and sub-genres. Because of their inherently tight and versatile nature, jazz and swing can structurally fit into almost any style of modern music.

Some artists even directly pull samples from the swing era in order to create new and original material. In an interview on Bandcamp, hip hop artist L’Orange offers a glimpse of his roots as a musician and how he was influenced by swing. As a teen, he was a big fan of old radio shows which he would listen to in the bright orange car that he drove to high school (that’s where his moniker comes from). This early interest led him to produce albums and songs that directly lift samples from dusty Billie Holiday records, early 20th century radio broadcasts, and big band swing from the 40s. Sometimes, it results in hip-hop tunes that are decidedly vintage swing.

Dance is also a big part of what makes swing timeless, and The Guardian reports that swing dance is very much alive and well. From London to Moscow, swing dance camps continue to offer lessons on traditional Lindy Hop and other swing dances – sometimes combined with modern improvisations taken from other styles of dance.

Another aspect of what makes swing so timeless is the sheer swagger of its icons. When it comes to classy swag, no one can hold a candle to Frank Sinatra. His name is practically synonymous with swing. As he and his beloved Rat Pack took the world by storm in the 50s and 60s, swing went along for the ride. Sinatra’s responsible for popularizing countless swing hits. These include classics like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, and “Fly Me to The Moon”. Sinatra’s songs not only captured a style of music perfectly, they also epitomized an era and a way of living. PartyPoker calls “Luck be a Lady” one of the greatest poker songs ever and the song symbolizes the excitement of Sinatra’s swing era effortlessly. Thanks to the smooth styling of artists like Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington, swing continues to inspire today’s musicians to make original music that almost anyone
can dance to.

Atlantis the Band: Spotlight

There’s nothing like a charismatic twin-duo to get a room grooving. Today let’s look at the jazzy R&B/Soul and Pop group stationed in Los Angeles, Atlantis the Band, led by the Merriweather twins – brothers bound not only by blood but by their simple love of music. Their voices blend smoothly with a cool dynamic; lead singer Travis Merriweather leads the group with his sweet but edgy melodies and impressive range, while his brother Rustein Merriweather  provides the the fruity rap component with his quick, magnetic, syncopated verse. Watch the band performing their own version of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabrosa” live at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. 

 

 

The band also has a pretty stacked cast in regards to instrumentation. In addition to Travis with funky bass lines and Rustein’s adeptness on the keyboard, there is some serious backup. They’re joined by the Regiment Horns – Sean Eric on trumpet, Kevin Lloyd Williams, Jr. on trombone and Leon Silva on the sax. On drums sits Grammy award-winner Lyndon Rochelle, whose drum solos captivate and will leave an awestruck audience wanting more. Takahito Mori’s guitar interludes and riffs rock the stage and fill the sound with eccentric, gleaming energy. They are also joined by Grammy nominated producer and drummer Taylor Gordon in addition to Natalie Stephenson on vocals. Watch them here performing a cover of Santana’s “Maria Maria” at Couture in Hollywood. Be sure to catch Mori’s epic guitar solo about 50 seconds in!

 

 

The band has performed at some notable venues, such as The Mint, The Peppermint Club, Sofitel Beverly Hills, Sunset Tower, and The House of Blues on Sunset. The twins have also been involved at a political level with Hillary and Bill Clinton, after being invited back during college to take part in the Clinton Global Initiative University summit. The two of them stayed connected with the Clintons and Travis even got to work on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election campaign. See lead singer Travis Merriweather showing off his vocals with “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

 

 

Atlantis the Band, thanks to the initial catapulting by the twins back in college, has emerged as a powerful band with an intense range of talent – everywhere from their emotional depth and soul to excited hip-hop beats – and their innovative interpretations and writing proves them to be very worthy of the stage. Be sure to check out their page to see and listen to more of their music. Also, although they began in Texas, their music-making happens in Los Angeles, so if you’re in the area, be sure to check on their Upcoming Gigs category so that you can hear their hearty music live! Here’s one last clip of them covering Jay Z’s “Can’t Knock The Hustle” at the House of Blues on Sunset.

 

 

Fly with Flights Over Phoenix

 

Talk about a music manifest destiny success story. Keith Longo had spent too much time in Boston feeling the need for a change, so he packed his bags and drove west. He had nothing but his car, his playlists, and his hunger to find his place in the music scene. Listen to his band, Flights Over Phoenix, playing their moody song, “Hypnotize.”

 

 

Longo got lucky as he could have been, and all it took was a little Craigslist-ing. He found guitarist Chris Santillo, and the two immediately hit it off. They started working on new material, practicing and jamming and writing as they saw fit. Little did they know, they were setting up what was soon going to become much more. Jordan Nuanez was just coming off some national tours when Santillo met him through a mutual friend. The drummer was in search of a permanent spot in a band, and the opportunity fell into his lap. The three of them started playing together and their chemistry was too obvious to be ignored. They got to work, and now their band is thriving; they’ve been playing together since. Listen closely and get swept away by Flights Over Phoenix’s official music video for “Middle of the World.”

 

 

 

It’s impossible to deny how good they sound together. Santillo’s lines carry each song with an upbeat yet smooth sound, never letting the speed fall and keeping a steady, twangy rhythm that’s peaceful on the ears. Nuanez’s beat is powerful and heavy but artistic, syncopated, and synchronized perfectly. He manages to tie together the voices of his counterparts and weave them into his playing, all the while making it seem effortless. Longo begins every song with his unique, confident, dimensional verse, but his voice takes a journey in each song. He begins with a simple, almost respectful voice, begging the audience to think that he does not have a strong range. Then, in the chorus, he offers his surprise in the form of a beautiful chorus, followed by rifs between him and Santillo on the guitar. The two of them sing together, while Nuanez holds down the back. The three of them support each other in sound, but manage to sustain their unique personas while playing. Listen to this last example of this undeniable chemistry, “Runaway California.”

 

 

Make sure you come see this guys if you’re in LA. Check their page for more music and any upcoming concert dates. Listening to them will make you want to get up and dance so we promise that seeing these guys live is an experience not to be missed!  

I Am Taliah – From Dallas

As mainstream culture dominates the music world, sometimes genres like R&B and Soul take an involuntary backseat to the jumpy, bouncy beats of pop music. However it’s when we hear the intersection of these genres that the instinctual head-nodding and swaying kicks in; catchy beats meet with emotional style to create a masterful combination. That’s what we can hear when we listen to Taliah Areesah Gipson, self-branded as “I Am Taliah,” a singer and songwriter stationed in Dallas, Texas.

Gipson grew up singing with her sisters and performing in many gospel choirs. She picked up the pencil to write while she was a teenager, but a moment in her life inspired a creative side and segwayed into her songwriting. After she lost one of her sisters, she used songwriting as a type of therapy, and the songs just began to flow. Gipson’s writing bloomed from therapy into a true passion. In her final year of college, she came out as a singer, and with help from friends, was able to begin performing. Since then, she has developed immensely both as an artist and a performer. Watch this quick clip of her performing “Who I Am” at a live concert in 2016.

 

Who I Am #clip2

Posted by Taliah Areesah Gipson on Friday, June 10, 2016

 

Since she broke into the songwriting world, she has been experimenting in different genres and mediums for her work. She worked on some gospel music for her brother in law, and was given the opportunity to sing background vocals on his debut album. Taliah also got out of her comfort zone a little bit, and wrote music for some other aspiring singers. Most recently, Gipson came out with Who I Am, her EP containing ten songs of varying energy and sound. They are all emotional and soulful and have enough beats to make you tap your foot along with her strong melodies and delicate background vocals. She is happy to be at this place in her journey and has had a chance to share her music with the world through the internet, as well as some notable performances. In addition to the many other performances she has done, Gipson performed at an release party for her friends’ Soul EP, as well as the House of Blues in Dallas. Watch her performing at the release party, with a long list of her Who I Am songs.

 

 

Be sure to check out Taliah’s Gigmor page, as well as her social media accounts. Also, go and head over to her Soundcloud and Youtube to be able to hear more of Gipson’s EP and other works as well. Listen for her dominant voice coming hot out of Texas, as it might very well soon be showing up at the front door steps of your own city! 

 

Watch her sentimental music video for “Official.”