Black Future Month // 2-18-10 // The West Coast Get Down
Posted on February 18, 2011
I have grueling Wednesdays. Day starts around seven am, goes ’til about ten pm, when my school bell finally rings. For a few reasons, Wednesdays are the only day I dress professionally. I teeter out of class just as security closes the gates of USC. I’m a black girl, leaving a predominately white institution, ’round midnight. Every bit of naka-logic encourages me to drive the 15 minutes home and crawl into bed. But let’s be honest, I’m going out.
And for only one reason: Wednesday evenings, an heroic band plays a good bar in Hollywood. Get to the corner of Selma and Cahuenga ’bout 10:45 and it’s audibly evident that the West Coast Get Down has finished sound check and is ready to wreck shop. At Piano Bar, there’s no cover. The bouncer, Austin, is the quintessential gentleman. The drinks, I have been told, aren’t bad, aren’t expensive.
The young men on stage are fully in it by 11. Cameron “Slot Machine” Graves defies the laws of dexterity on Piano. Tony “Two-Guns” Austin channels the spirit through percussion, and wears that on his face. Kamasi “Sensei” Washington is powerful in the candor of his expression on tenor Sax. (The date of this publication is his birthday, by the way). Usually standing left of Kamasi is Ryan Porter on his red trombone, fearless as ever. On vocals and upright bass-cum-electric guitar-cum-cello is the indomitable Miles “The Star M” Mosley.
When not doing their own thing, these men are heavily sought musicians, rocking with the likes of Jada Pinkett, Lauryn Hill and this weekend, at the All-Star Game with Rihanna. But I go to see them on their own hype. Like here. This is Abraham, which my mother is going to love. Mom, watch in full screen.
A few weeks back, a guest drummer, Gene Coy, sat in for Mr. Austin. Another member of the band commented positively, saying that the core of Coy’s rhythmic spirit felt “gang-related”. But I think that’s a pretty accurate barometer of the range of the entire West Coast Get Down ensemble. Tackling everything from de-constructions of Beethoven to Hendrix covers to abstractions on the Zelda theme — it all rocks with a little bit of educated vitriol, a little stank its face. In short, that shit is nasty, love. Here’s Voodoo Child, just for good measure.
The true appreciators stay through the second set, when Miles invites visiting musicians to sit in. In the time I’ve been going (which is more or less once a week since september) — I’ve seen world famous tap dancers, bassists, drummers, and emcees take the stage. Seriously, the best musicians in the known universe come to watch WCGD, and then play a few notes. Twice weekly, the band rocks at Piano: Wednesdays and Fridays. Fridays are packed, get there early for a seat. Readers in LA, you still have time to get there, tonight, if you hurry. Thickwit celebrates the #blackfuturist sound of the West Coast Get Down.
I’m going to go ahead and throw in a little Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers here. This is Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on keys, Reggie Workman on bass, and of course Blakey on Drums. I’m matching WCGD with this incarnation of The Jazz Messengers because if you remove Mr. Hubbard (though why would you, ever?) — The two bands are working with identical instrumentation. Easy to track the influence of the older musicians on the innovations of the younger.
I also have to admit that I see a bit of Blakey’s humorous and focused leadership in Miles. Last, I love watching ensembles like Mr. Blakey’s where the musical direction comes from percussion. I hereby swear solemnly that Thickwit will always take a little time to give the drummer some.
Here’s Arthur Blakey, later known as Abdullah Ibn Buhaina and The Jazz Messengers at the 8° Festival Internazionale del Jazz, in Sanremo, Italy – March 23, 1963. Thickwit is grateful for their lasting impact on the #blackfuture of music.