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Beyond Genre: Berklee Indian Ensemble's world music, Rhythm & Blues goes Rock and Roll, more

International Assemblage makes the Berklee Indian Ensemble true World Music. The brother of Texas Swing Legend Bob Wills will surprise you. Jeremy Rose & The Earshift Orchestra Featuring Simon Barker and Chloe Kim cause major "Disruption" with "The Voice of Drums." "R'n'B Goes R'n'R" on the latest from Atomicat Records.

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Berklee Indian Ensemble

Eleven years after Professor Annette Philip gave birth to The Berklee Indian Ensemble, its Shuruaat debut is, in a word, mesmerizing. After over 255 million views of their videos, Philip says, “there is a unique power when musicians from different cultural and musical backgrounds make art together with vulnerability and openness in a space that celebrates their similarities and differences.” Thus, Shuruaat (Hindi for beginning) features players from India, Jordan, Israel, Nigeria, Indonesia, Norway and the U.S. The sound cannot be properly described. It’s no genre and every genre. It’s propulsive, percussive, action-packed, melodic and as catchy and accessible as a radio pop hit demanding to be heard. And you can dance to it.

Billy Jack Wills

So this cat Billy Jack Wills was apparently one big-time bad-ass in his day and this is why we love Bear Family Records, the German label who takes so many forgotten American pioneers, resurrects them from underneath the dustbin of history, and returns them to their former glory. Dwight Yoakam and Marty Stuart taught us that true unvarnished hillbilly music is actually cool, not a degrading epithet to be called such, more like a badge of honor. White Soul! (Let us not forget that when Elvis was changing the world, he called himself “The Hillbilly Cat.”)
     Cadillac In Model “A”: Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight by Memphis native Billy Jack Wills is a stone keeper. Billy Jack was 20 years younger than his legendary brother Bob "The King Of Western Swing" Wills who installed him as part-time bassist and drummer for his Texas Playboys before sending him out west to California to run The Wills Point Club in Sacramento. So Billy Jack goes and forms a house band so hard-charging and in-your face, it becomes one of the hippest bands of the 1940s and early ‘50s. They had the wildest backbeat in all of country music. They could swing mightily. They could do the bop, do the stroll, they improvised jam-band style, they even took some cues from Hawaiian music. They stopped just short of rockin’ and rollin’ since there was no such thing at the time…but you’d be hard-pressed to believe that by listening to these 31 tracks, especially “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Crazy Man Crazy,” “All She Wants To Do Is Rock” and “C-Jam Blues.”


Drummer Alert! You have just got to hear Disruption! The Voice of Drums (Australia’s Earshift Music) by Jeremy Rose & The Earshift Orchestra Featuring Simon Barker and Chloe Kim. This is far-reaching wild music for tenor sax, bass clarinet, synthesizer, bass, guitar, keyboards, trumpet and, most importantly, two action-packed soloing drummers. The musical arrangements surrounding drummers Barker and Kim emphasize their percussion instead of the other way around. Rose—who is a woodwind specialist, composer, band leader, label director and festival organizer—explains, “For Disruption, drum parts became the foreground with the other instruments moving in and out of focus.” Alternately Prog-Rock, Jazz-Fusion and soundtrack-type music, it’s an instrumental thrill ride of monumental proportions.

R&B Goes R&R 1

Rhythm & Blues Goes Rock’n’Roll (Atomicat Records) is stuffed with 28 pulsating pieces of prime pre-’64 pop, in which white Americans, Australians and Canadians try their hands at black hits. Although this instantly brings to mind nightmarish visions of the awful Pat Boone having a bigger hit with “Tutti Frutti” than Little Richard, there’s no such blasphemy here. Buddy Holly nails Little Richard’s “Ready Teddy.” Holly also hiccups his way through Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “My Baby Left Me.” Elvis covers The Shirelles and Ray Charles (as does Jerry Lee Lewis with “Hit The Road, Jack”). Conway Twitty does Chuck Berry. The Johnny Burnette Trio covers “The Train Kept A’Rollin’” (originally recorded by Tiny Bradshaw in 1951). Ronnie Hawkins does “My Girl Is Red Hot” (written and first recorded by Billy “The Kid” Emerson after he left Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm.)
     And don’t look now but there’s four more volumes coming.