I haven’t been listening to the radio as much lately because I have gone on a typical binge of audiobooks and podcasts. Even when running, I have forsaken some of the usual playlists (and, not because I have been using my wife’s iPod) for the spoken word. What, you might ask, do I listen to when I don’t listen to music?
I have a few go-to podcasts that I like to store up. I also periodically select audiobooks (especially long ones) to distract me. Here’s a quick list before I get to the musician of the day (Jaimeo Brown).
1. This American Life: I have to be completely honest about this one: I have downloaded all of the back episodes. I have donated money through my cell phone. I have dragged my poor, pregnant life to a live simulcast of this show. I regularly cry
while listening to it.
Now, I thought this attachment made me special. I thought my love for what I think of as the emancipatory power of narrative made me different. I even imagined that my ability to weep (while running, nonetheless) to Ira Glass’ nasally voice in some way indicated an emotional apparatus even my brother denied to me. When I mentioned this once at a party, I was quickly disabused of my fantasy: a woman around my age quipped “Everybody cries at This American Life.”
I am just shocked that the show doesn’t get its own entry on Stuff White People Like.
2. The Moth: If you don’t know the Moth–a series of events where people tell stories without notes live (often in a competition)–and This American Life is a little too structured for you, check out this podcast. The stories range from hysterical to heartbreaking. The common denominator? Narrative. Hearing these stories makes me feel more alive in a strange way because of the vicarious sharing of emotion and experience. Try out a few.
3. Radiolab: This podcast is like This American Life for science. The episodes are always fascinating, enlightening, and entertaining. The problem? They don’t come out frequently enough.
4. Audiobooks: Recently, I finished listening to Delillo’s Underworld, a fascinating novel that uses as one of its conceits the story of the life of baseball hit by Bobby Thompson in 1951 to defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers with a walk-off homerun after that game. The story is far more complex and finely written than that summary implies and it is one of the finer novels I have ‘read’ in a while. Of course, maybe this is because before I was obsessed with the Game of Thrones books….
Ok, ok. This was supposed to be a short post about something I heard on the radio and I digressed. After I finished underworld and before I downloaded a few books by William Gibson and Thomas Pynchon, I was listening to the Jazz station (the same one that metamorphoses into an Indie Rock station at night) and a breathy (probably adolescent or just a bit older) DJ introduced a track from the album Transcendence by Jaimeo Brown.
The lead single “This World is Not My Home”
Now, what first got me about this track is the phenomenal blend between blues sensibility and jazz instrumentation. After downloading the album and watching the performance, I realized that there was also a finely-tuned hip-hop aesthetic at the center of the choice to sample instead of performing some of the under-tracks. The sense of the performance is one of music history and present at the same time.
Jaimeo, the drummer, has a fantastic sense of rhythm and the composition blends parts blues, free-jazz and fusion (and hip-hop, the guitarist Sholar has worked as a producer with Jay-z and Kanye). But, what kind of shocked me about the music was the narrative frame provided by the DJ. He claimed that this album would prove to be “controversial”. Why? The LA Times music reviewer Chris Barton alleges that this album “should not work” but does because it is “a conversation between generations”.
Brown has real chops as a jazz drummer and an expansive mind for music, as well as a great sense of its history. The album is eminently listenable–the tracks tend to be short (like blues instead of jazz) and each one offers something different. At times, the sound is more conventional, at times bluesy, at times I think I am listening to The Dirty Three.
If you have time, my brother, check out the track. I’d love to know what you think.