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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Emma-Jane Thommen – UK to LA

From upbeat, mysterious funk to sweet, emotional soul – Emma-Jane Thommen has it all. This Gigmor artist has mastered strong range of style, and with each song, she tells her story with her smooth, simple harmonies. Perfect, limited accompaniment grooves with her in every song, and her sounds are easy on the ears – perfect for a long car rides or even meditation! Listen to her performing her original “Running with my Eyes Closed” at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

Emma-Jane has performed at some pretty notable venues around the world. A few of these venues include the Pyramids in Egypt, many US and UK festivals, on board the Queen Mary II on a cruise to New York, as well as at LA’s Greek Theater opening for Norah Jones & Corinne Bailey Rae. Watch this moody performance of another on of her original songs, “Open Eyes,” at The Hotel Cafe in LA.

 

 

She enjoys writing her own music, but also loves has quite a knack for covering songs. She covers many different artists but her recordings are always infused with her unique mysteriousness and sentimentality.  Her melodies are dark, beautiful, and smoky, and keep listeners hooked, as she evokes something in sound much deeper than her lyrics. Watch this artsy video with her chilling cover of Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good.”

 

 

Emma-Jane is currently stationed in LA, and performing regularly at Hollywood’s famous music venue, The Sayers Club. She is also on her way to a milestone moment, as she’s currently working on a soon-to-be-released EP with Elton John’s Rocket Music in London & LA. If you’re in London or LA, check her page for gigs and definitely look out for her to try to see her in concert; from her videos, it sure seems like she is a marvel live. Watch this last clip of her performing her original song, “Halfway House” at the Sayers Club.

 

 

Bass Uh Hi hat Uh 808: The History and Importance of the Roland TR-808

Apple Music is set to release an exclusive subscribers-only documentary and album to pay homage to one of the most connecting, ubiquitous and quietly mystifying machines in all of the music industry: the Roland TR-88. From Phil Collins to Pharrell to Kanye to Damon Albern, musicians and producers have been lining up behind the ever-holy Roland machine. They will all agree: there is some intangible inherently buried within a Roland 808 that cannot be reproduced, replicated or imposed by any other machine.

The drum-kit keyboard started to make its way into music production in the early 1980s. Back then, it  was engineered to help studio musicians create demos. Between 1980 and 1983, 12,000 units of the Roland TR-808 were made. By 1984, however, the Linn LM-1 hit the shelves with notably superior sound and sampling abilities than the Roland. So, for those that could afford it, the Linn LM-1 became the market leader in programmable drum machines.

But the Roland TR-808 was cheaper, $1,195 compared to the $5,000 Linn LM-1. And the Roland TR-808, though lesser in quality, could produce more distinctive same low-frequency sounds: the deep bass kick drum, the small handclap sounds, the ticking snare, hi-hats, and spacey cowbells. These crucial differences kept the popularity of the Roland TR-808 among hip hop artists for several years after it ceased production.

The TR-808 and its 1983 successor, the TR-909, had a 28-year journey to fame, one that wandered through the subterranean of nearly every music genre: electro, techno, pop, and regional hip-hop. It is the versatility and uniqueness of the machine’s sound that has allowed for this chameleon-like activity. The machine can play single songs of up to 768 measures in length, or, rather, it can play up to 12 songs of 64 measures in length. The TR-808 can also divide each quarter note into 3,4,6, or 8 steps. What does this mean in layman’s terms? That the TR-808 can perform extremely complex rhythms that even the best drummers cannot accurately replicate. And its the machine’s kick-drum, and it’s gloriously artificial handclaps, and the echo-laden claves that create allow for intricate grooviness. On an almost immeasurable amount of pop songs, you can find the friendly TR-808.

Take Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and give it another listen.

Or there is Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock. The song samples a Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” over the TR-808 kicks and hi-hats.

Unsurprisingly, new waves bands are 808-users too. Like here, where David Byrne is lying to you. That’s not a tape playing the background mix to “Psycho Killer.” It’s Chris Frantz, somewhere buried in the back, fiddling with an 808.

Any of the remaining 808s on the market today sell for upwards of $2,000. It’s a low-stock, high demand economy for something no other musical machine can produce. It’s got the industry and soul longevity in tandem with the versatility to travel from genre to genre that keep producers constantly coming back to the 808. Egyptian Lover, the L.A. producer behind the L.A. dance and rap scene uprise in the 1980s, swears by the perpetual grandeur that the machine brings. Lil Wayne on ‘Nymphos’ describes similar feelings about the 808 bass, spitting “Make the control room boom like an 808.” Outkast’s Big Boi does the same, with ” But I know ya’ll wanted that 808/Can you feel that B-A-S-S bass?” on 2003’s ‘Way You Move.’ Kanye mentioned his use of the TR-808 in the very title of his 2008 “808s and Heartbreaks” — though it was later revealed that he was actually using both the TR-808 and TR-909 for most of the album’s production.

Apple Music’s upcoming release of the documentary, “808” is something to subscribe for. It will draw you into the deep, most buried parts of the machine’s history from a surprising range of greats. The trailer can be found below.