Check out these cats in NYC! We met them when they asked us to host a show for Brooklyn Radio, and now we’re teaming up for a Ropeadope retrospective series as we head down the last lap of our 20th year in this crazy game called the music biz. Twelve episodes of deep dive into the catalog have us digging into the archives and connecting the dots. Start below at Episode 1 for some major milestones in the history; and then jump into that Ropeadope groove right here. Next month we’ll take a solid look at the roots music that happened to show up on a Jazz (notjazz) record label.
You can’t have a worldwide celebration of music without including Brooklyn, and we are ready. On April 23 we kick off our monthly residency at The Brooklyn Bowl. Dubbed The 21Soul Sessions | Soul At The Bowl, the inaugural show will be a banger. Paul Beaubrun, Vivian Sessoms, and Emanuel Casablanca will mix it up in a night of soulful reflection and celebration of diversity.
The 21Soul Sessions are unique musical experiences; established, world class players and young guns mix it up with a broad range of styles intended to break down the social construct of genre as a divisive term. Musicians today have become world travelers and ambassadors who not only bring new music to new places, but bring their worldly experiences back home to their community.
The Place To Be. Get Loose. Get Free.
Back in the early days of Ropeadope there was Bullfrog, with Blurum13 and Kid Koala mixing it up. To say the album was ahead of its time, well ya know. As we dig into the archives to celebrate our 20th we find those tracks fit perfectly right alongside releases from 2019. And now we are stoked to say that Blurum13 is back, and he’s brought his friend - the great and always mysterious Luke Vibert - with him. Together they are the defenders of righteous old school Hip-Hop, and the new album from BLUKE is set for May 24th, but we’ve got a little taste headed your way at the end of this month. Stay tuned here or drop in on Blu right over here.
Drummer Shannon Powell stands tall in the lineage of New Orleans’ rhythmic giants; he is a torchbearer of the city’s culture and one of the finest drummers in the world. He’s also a great singer, his vocals invoking styles that echo the churches, street parades and jazz clubs of his hometown. Known for his contributions to traditional and modern jazz idioms, having worked with Danny Barker, Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis, Powell is also a veteran of New Orleans' rich rhythm and blues scene having backed up such greats as Snooks Eaglin, Earl King and Dr. John.
Darren Hoffman is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer originally from Miami, Florida. He grew up playing guitar in his youth, greatly influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Albert King and Nirvana, but switched to drums when he was bit by the jazz bug in his early twenties and relocated in 2007 to study percussion at the University of New Orleans.
Hoffman began hanging out with Powell at places like Donna’s Bar & Grill on Rampart Street; the pair hit it off and began a friendship that ventured far from the classroom. While Shannon guided Darren in music and street-smart professionalism, Hoffman introduced Powell to new technologies and 21st century music industry practices. While many students of music today study almost entirely in the world of academia, Darren had the unique experience of being mentored by a living legend in a more traditional way, doing odd jobs and handling business for Shannon in exchange for knowledge and musical guidance.
When Darren enrolled at UNO, he had all but forgotten the guitar, focusing on his career as a professional drummer. One afternoon in 2009, Darren pulled out his guitar and jammed through some blues tunes with Shannon. Taken aback by what he heard, Shannon proclaimed, “Man! We gotta record!” This chance riff resulted in the 2017 release simply entitled Blues, a stripped down interpretation of raw blues with a modern edge. The success of that record led to a natural progression toward their new collaboration, Love Songs.
Here we find Powell and Hoffman stretching out, but not relaxing at all. The mood is highly charged and powerful, with Powell hitting hard and Hoffman shredding like a chainsaw on razor wire. There are some subtle love songs on Love Songs, but many tracks that speak to the full experience of love - the energy, the tension, the elation and the agony.
Love Songs is a concept album telling the story of the interpersonal relationship: starting with the end of one love, the discovery of a new- and the inevitable passing once again. Classic tracks are included to keep the concept in context - from Louis Jordan’s “Caledonia” and Nirvana’s “tourette’s,” to Fats Domino’s “Sick and Tired” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Jam 292.” It’s a wonder to see this unlikely Uncle/Nephew duo chart new territory with full appreciation of the past.
Born and raised in Hartford Connecticut, H. Doobie Powell was brought up in the Gospel circuit with a variety of influences from family and community. His father, Hubert Powell Sr., traveled with the legendary Richard Groove Holmes and formed the band Wood, Brass, and Steel featuring a young Doug Wimbish. This is the band that ultimately became The Sugar Hill Gang in the early years of Hip-Hop. In 1979 Hubert Sr. returned to his Gospel roots and infused what he had learned on the road into Gospel. His mother was a vocalist, and both are pastors, so music and church are inseparable in Doobie’s foundation, as is the desire to fuse genres and experiment.
As Doobie grew up, playing drums on the road with his father as early as 9 years old, he continued his restless search to express the music in his heart. In school his ‘peers’ were listening to the popular music of the day, with the usual level of social segregation in place. Doobie was the unique young one, listening to Steely Dan and a variety of Gospel, Jazz, and Funk. As he traveled with Church groups he met some key cats from other places, and he found his way to work with top level artists like Kim Burrell, Harry Connick Jr, Musiq Soulchild, Robert Glasper, and many more. His friendship with Robert Sput Searight led to his new full length album, Finding Myself Again, set for release on March 8th, 2018, with the lead single Just Do It leading the way on January 25th.
The message is clear; whatever you have been through, whatever challenges you might face, you have but one choice: to find beauty and move forward. In Doobie’s case he took a hard look at his situation and accepted the reality, choosing to find that beauty, press on, and bring words and music of joy and positivity to the world.
‘My approach is to encourage people; there is still a reason for your life and there is still possibility’ (Doobie Powell)
RC Williams has traveled the world with an impressive list of musicians, from Erykah Badu to Snoop, from Roy Hargrove to Mos Def. For 13 years he has held down the DFW Jam Sessions in Dallas; a spot that has nurtured many artists and become an incubator for new styles and cross collaborations. It was at these jam sessions that Snarky Puppy bonded with the likes of Sput Searight, Bobby Sparks, and Shaun Martin - and that is just one example. RC Williams was born and raised in Dallas, trained at the renowned magnet school Booker T Washington High, and brought up in a broad community of dedicated and caring musicians. A member of the the Grammy winning gospel group God’s Property, RC Williams carries the ethic of ‘each one teach one’ forward in a powerful way.
RC & The Gritz can often be seen backing Erykah Badu, so the groove is familiar to many. Their 2015 release, The Feel, was met with eager ears by press and fans alike. While some of his peers express their chops in a big way, RC expresses a certain feel, a vibe of comfort and direct accessibility. This is music to groove to, and it confers a sense of cool on all who can hear.
If Apple Music is your jawn, a quick search for Ropeadope will reveal playlists curated by our fake CEO, Louis Marks (aka diglp). Aside from rambling musical side trips down the back roads, you can stay up to date with new Ropeadope releases on the twenty Nineteen playlist. Follow us as we follow the music….
Diggin the Spotify scene? Drop in here and now to stay on top of new releases from Ropeadope. The Here & Now playlist rotates each week with new tracks from upcoming releases. It’s a great snapshot of what Ropeadope has to offer, in playlist form.
Our good friend Logan Richardson hipped us to Andrea Molinari, an Italian Jazz guitarist with a unique perspective. Andrea studied at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory and the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, yet it was his trip to New York that rounded out his arrival on the Jazz scene. In 2010, he won the “Jimmy Woode" best guitarist award, with an esteemed panel of judges including Kurt Rosenwinkel, Rick Margitza, Antonio Sanchez, Eddie Gomez, Dado Moroni and Gegè Telesforo. Andrea’s new album, 51, is set for release worldwide on April 12th, with pre-order starting this Friday. His tone and style evoke memories of the days when Rock and Jazz were best friends; one can hear the story being told with feeling.
51 was recorded in Rome and features Enrico Zanisi on piano, rhodes & synth, Matteo Bortone on bass & backing vocals, Enrico Morello on drums, Camilla Battaglia on vocals, Alessandro Presti on trumpet, and Clementina Regina on soprano.
Hailing from Miami, multi-instrumentalist Darren Hoffman grew up as a blues, rock and punk guitar player. While studying film in Florida he met jazz piano master, Marcus Roberts, and soon plans changed as he went off to New Orleans to study jazz percussion. Yet his love of the blues, as revisited by Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and The White Stripes persisted.
Morgan Guerin, the son of World-renowned bassist Roland Guerin, is that child prodigy who brings music forth from the source in any way he chooses. Growing up in the New Orleans area, his unique access and talent led him to sit in with Ellis Marsalis and The Astral Project as early as four years of age. He met Darren Hoffman when he was just six, sharing his drum skills with his elder.
Parker McAllister grew up studying classical piano on his mother’s insistence, also starting as a toddler, attending Manhattan School of Music while still in high school. As he fell in love with the bass, he kept his deal with his mother as long as he could, which meant he could play the bass as long as he continued to study piano. The only electric bass player admitted to the New England Conservatory of Music, Parker found opportunities right away, and soon was performing as a bassist with the renowned all female gospel a cappella group Sweet Honey In The Rock.
Darren Hoffman’s search for expression through sound is the driving force behind gorgeous!. That sound is raw, with a constant rock and blues edge on the guitar as the players bring all of their jazz inspired experimentation to create a landscape effect. The trio format demands honesty and muscle, as there is no extravagant arrangement to hide behind.
gorgeous! sounds like a post-punk jazz trio infused with the spirits of Albert King and Kurt Cobain. The album is titled “imperfection,” a nod to the true spirit of searching for the root of the human condition. Deep blues grooves give way to elements of laid back back-room swing, setting a mood that we all can feel. “imperfection” is a refreshing and courageous form of connection between historic sound and in the moment creativity.
Day turns to night as Mark de Clive-Lowe’s Heritage II takes us from the meditative zen of Heritage into a world of jazz and Japanese roots culture fused with hip hop, drum’n’bass and broken-beat.
‘Heritage is a legacy we receive from our ancestors to pass on to future generations. It’s the thread that holds us together in lineage and cultural identity,’ posits jazz and electronic music pioneer Mark de Clive-Lowe. The half-Japanese half-New Zealander presents his new album Heritage II - the partner and second installment to his critically acclaimed album Heritage, a deeply personal exploration of his Japanese cultural and ancestral roots.
“Heritage is what gives our relatively short lives context and meaning in the bigger picture of generations past and future. We are the new ancestors, and with that in mind, it’s important that we act - and contribute - accordingly. This is my identity search and journey to better understand where I’ve come from, what ancestry means to me and where I’m going to. ”
On Heritage II, de Clive-Lowe is joined by a cast of world-class musicians: Josh Johnson, Teodross Avery, Brandon Eugene Owens, Brandon Combs, Carlos Niño, and Tylana Enomoto - who all contribute stellar performances in support of de Clive-Lowe’s music.
‘These are not only my favorite musicians, but my friends, and that they were all able to be part of this project really means a lot to me. They’re all such incredible musicians, and no one brings any ego to the table - that’s one key thing that makes it possible to explore this music with a real sense of vulnerability and honesty.’
Heritage II is the partner album to Heritage. The album’s original artwork by Tokio Aoyama depicts Bon Odori - a summer festival dance under the night-time sky - surreally all happening inside de Clive-Lowe’s grand piano. Heritage II is available for preorder tomorrow, Friday March 1.
Since the their formation in 2011, the BT ALC Big Band, led by trombonist Brian Thomas and trumpeter Alex Lee-Clark, has gained a reputation for hard grooving original compositions featuring the most talented jazz and funk musicians in Boston. The BT ALC Big Band draws from the big band traditions of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Thad Jones and infuses music from funk legends like James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, and The Meters, creating an undeniably unique sound, Big Band Funk.
We’ve seen Brian in the mix with Ropeadope alum Otis Grove and Akashic Record, and now we are stoked to welcome the BT ALC Big Band with their new release The Search For Peace, due out here on May 17th. Stay tuned for some selections coming out as singles so y’all can get a little taste of Big Band Funk.
Quite well known as a baritone in Germany, performing with the Deutsche Oper Berlin with roles in La Boheme and Turandot, among others. His presence, whether performing or in casual conversation, intimate a powerful soul with calm and compassion in a chaotic world. Nathan De’Shon Myers has something to reveal to us all. Part of the flourishing Dallas music community, Myers spent time as faculty at the venerable Booker T. Washington school, and now is taking the time to focus on his music. His debut album will be arriving this year from RSVP Records, and while we anxiously await the full offering, we are graced with the first single. I Wish You Would is a reflection on life today, with a steady and soothing groove, and a call to action for all of us to rise to the challenges. To unite rather than divide, to transcend. Friday February 23 is the date, tune in here for first listen.
Thor Madsen was born in Chicago; his parents had arrived at a hot moment (1968) and the fully took up the spirit of the time. Before they headed back to their native Denmark, where Thor would be raised, they picked up a great vinyl collection; Santana to Deep Purple, Hendrix, Dylan, Sly and Procol Harum among the titles. Growing up Thor followed in his brother’s footsteps and learned guitar, heading across the street to the local arts and community center where he had full access to rehearsal rooms, instruments, and amps. One day his brother handed him a copy of We Want Miles, and everything changed. He was hooked, and began the process of understanding Jazz through reverse engineering.
Thor went on to what is known as a rhythmic conservatory in his home town, catching a wide variety of shows at night and digging into new music. He put together an acid Jazz band, influenced by the likes of Guru, Us3, and Digable Planets and soon received offers to perform. Thor pulled together as much as he could while in his small town, but he had it in his head to get to New York for even broader horizons. Soon he was on the scene, mixing and performing with cats at Izzy Bar and later Nublu. He was part of the Hip-Hop collective The Real Live with Dionysus, Stimulus, Eric Revis, James Hurt, and Dana Murray. As Nublu became a hub his focus shifted to the space between Jazz and Electronica, as he toured with The Nublu Orchestra, Wax Poetic, and Our Theory. Somewhere in this whirlwind he picked up his new moniker, Thor De Force, as personally described by writer John Farris.
The story tells itself: a man who let music into his soul and found it was already there. A curious mind with a persistent desire to experiment. There is a solid beginning but no end, as Madsen also works with Jazz Explorer Trio and RagaJazz with violin virtuoso Kala Ramnath. And so the new album - Sounds Of The Mansion - is a document of a journey. Working from his studio Mazza Mansion, with an arsenal of equipment within reach, Thor began each song with one seed, cultivating the sound and bringing in new ideas as they blossomed. The result is a comprehensive glimpse into the creative mind of Thor De Force.
“The album is my attempt to really do my own music, my own style, my own story. There is a little of everything I like in it. I have tried to create an open kind of music where all the things that inspire me can coexist and feed off each other, in a possibly vain attempt to reconcile everything I love”.
“Heritage is the idea of transmitting from the past to the future - knowing more about who we are and where we’re going by understanding where we come from. It’s about identity and one’s place in the world,” muses pianist and electronics wizard Mark de Clive-Lowe. For the half-Japanese half-New Zealander who calls Los Angeles home, his latest musical offering, Heritage, is a deeply personal exploration of his ancestry and cultural roots.
“I was raised bi-culturally and as time goes on, the more I appreciate how much I owe to my roots. Japan is my spiritual and ancestral home - the connection I feel there is so visceral and has shaped much of my life, largely without me even being fully aware of its influence. This music is me openly embracing and interpreting what Japan means, feels like and sounds like to me.
Leaning into the moods and textures of Japan’s folkloric mythology and culture in tandem with his already nuanced blend of jazz, live electronics and sampling, de Clive-Lowe takes us on a culture-rich journey through his own sonic imagination, seamlessly fusing genres and blurring the lines between technology and live musicianship.
Producer and frequent Robert Glasper collaborator Anu Sun debuts KAEPtain Amerikkka, the first single from his forthcoming album Sanguine Regum. Affectionately known as “Anu The Giant,” Anu has a physical stature that compliments his tremendous place in the music game. Aside from being a staple in New York City’s live music scene, his recent credits include work on the Grammy Award winning motion picture soundtrack Miles Ahead and work on his partner Robert Glasper’s Grammy nominated Black Radio 2 album. Anu has also worked intimately on projects of music legends Johnny Cash and Miles Davis. In KAEPtain Amerikkka Anu addresses the present quandary of the African American while raising a firm fist of support for controversial football star-turned activist Colin Kaepernick.
‘Why must you hate and degrade us / Try all you want, you can’t wreck us’, Anu raps with conviction. KAEPtain Amerikkka is a genre-merging, socially conscious tune that seamlessly melds Hip-Hop, Trap and Rock vibes into a single ground rattling composition.
“All forms of expression in sound are valid, as all people are… this is the mantra of Ancestral Recall.”
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah sets the tone for his new project - Ancestral Recall - with this powerful statement. In his mission to unify cultural voices and tear down the sonic and social constructs that separate based on race, class, and culture, Adjuah asserts music has historically been disseminated to people with harmony and melody prioritized over rhythm. The value distinction leads to harmful hierarchal sentiments and perpetuates the view that cultures who prioritize harmony and melody are more nuanced and sophisticated than those who prioritize rhythm. It is an inaccurate portrayal.
Ancestral Recall looks to excavate and update hidden histories in sound by displaying a sonic tapestry that illuminates the har-melodic movements found within rhythm, rendering previous contexts baseless, Adjuah explains: "In its inception, Ancestral Recall was built as a map to de-colonialize sound; to challenge previously held misconceptions about some cultures of music; to codify a new folkloric tradition and begin the work of creating a national set of rhythms; rhythms rooted in the synergy between West African, First Nation, African Diaspora/Caribbean rhythms and their marriage to rhythmic templates found in trap music, alt-rock, and other modern forms. It is time we created a sound that dispels singular narratives of entire peoples and looks to finally represent the wealth of narratives found throughout the American experience. One that shows that all forms of expression in sound are valid, as all people are." The goal is to connect people in one understanding rather than dividing them by definition.
The music of Ancestral Recall focuses the mind. As the ear adjusts to the shifting tapestries of rhythm, Adjuah stands firm in the mix, heralding the histories of rhythm and song. Walking hand-in-hand with listeners through his and their musical histories, clearing the way for a new reading of what all musical futures can become. Ancestral Recall is an album that might easily be misunderstood in its own time, but will certainly be seen as a moment in history that marked a momentous shift in musical and perhaps social understanding.
The son of a pastor in Cleveland Ohio, Nathan-Paul learned from his father that life was about relationships, and he demonstrated this every day in church. He began his musical journey, like many, singing in the choir, and when it came time for an instrument he went to the music store with his father, choosing the trumpet but leaving with a saxophone. The elder had prayed for a son who played sax, you see.
Nathan-Paul finds it impossible to hide his creative mind. Making noise constantly as a baby, and to this day talking out his ideas constantly, Nathan-Paul calls himself an introvert. In this way one can see clearly that he is a transmitter of sorts; a human radio show with little filtration. His tuning is for real, as he translates the ideas into music that exists purely for our enjoyment and benefit. He writes what he feels, improvising all the time. He acknowledges the influence that the greats have had on him - Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong - but he does not consider himself a Jazz musician. He is here to get us moving, to invite us all to hear what he is hearing, to feel what he is feeling, to share in the absolute joy that music brings.
Nathan-Paul’s prolific output will be felt all year at Ropeadope, starting off with an ear and hip-catching single titled Catch Me If You Can by Nathan-Paul & The Admirables. Catch Me if You Can is quirky, it’s funky, and intense. Raw energetic solos blast over Michael Ode’s unrelenting power house drums, with a group chant and a hype man at the end. Matthew DeRubertis’ bass reaches deep and vibrates the inner core with some serious low end. The voices invite you to join in, like it’s a party. Nathan-Paul and Tommy Lehman’s horns are at the edge of control in the best way possible. The sax and trumpet have a blend, a spirit to that evokes a mixture of pure joy and teenage mischief.
We doubt we can catch the man, but we cannot help but try.
We are proud to welcome the first Emmy winner to the Ropeadope family! Michael Whalen is a prolific composer, with hundreds of credits in TV, film, and commercial music. Michael is such a bundle of positive energy it is easy to se how standup comedy is also included in his credits. He brings fresh energy to the scene, with a broad base of musical understanding. From his DC roots with an obligatory love of Go-go, to his passion for Jazz fusion, funk and soul, Michael has finally completed the album he knew he was destined to make. And he brings the heat, with none other than Snarky Puppy’s Michael League on the bass and the great Vinnie Colaiuta on the kit. His new album is (sort of) self titled: Michael Whalen & The Fire Brigade hits on March 1st, with preorder starting…today! There is a time to sit back and marvel at the accomplished players, and there is a time to just get up and dance. This is both of those times.