Whispering Giants :: shhh... There is Greatness Being Born Here
Let's open with a disclaimer... This may or may not be my first time mentioning this particular caveat - and it isn't likely to be the last time I make this proud confession:
I am a life-long and very proud resident of a small beach town on the California coast. Tourists and new-booties refer to our humble hometown as Silicon Beach or [equally offensive] "Venice Beach". Those of us who grew up in Venice tend to refer to our motherland by her simple, common name; VENICE". Yes. There is a beach here. The whole world knows that. There are also beach cities along the seacoast of countless cities around the world that don't have the redundant sub-title 'Beach' as part of their... anyway...
That being said, I am also very proud about and pro-Los Angeles. That means an entirely different thing to people that come here then it means to those of us that are from here. I say all of that to say - or rather admit - that there may be a number of factors that add to my personal excitement leading up to and sitting, then standing, then dancing through yesterday's afternoon affair at The Mayme Clayton Museum for their Quarterly Jazz Salon.
We don't go every time, however - we try to make sure that we support any and as many true talents as we are able to and - on the strength of that vision/mission, as well as friendships and community connections... we were NOT going to miss a chance to see Leimert Park's very own, Darryl "JMD" Moore and his band - especially after the great time we had seeing his 'Whispering Giants' project performing live a while back at The World Stage... The man puts on a SHOW! ... and this show was not the exception.
JMD raises up a drumstick and a mini cymbal and calls out the names of the Jazz giants that have shaped their sound and influenced the music in ways that we may never truly understand. After each name is called he sounds the cymbal and circles it around the mic, invoking our Jazz ancestors with ethereal honors. Now, it begins.
With the absolutely BREATHTAKING improvisational skills of the piano player, Kenneth Crouch coming in to save the day as a last-minute save-a-bro' and his oft-standing band of brothers, after proper ministrations, the Whispering Giants softly warm up to the night and build up sound that brings the audience in. Instead of the obligatory 5-minute free jazz, the ensemble played a swinging tune with bluesy Los Angeles bones to it.
We were invited to legendary World Stage for a night of Spiritual Hip Hop Jazz. Bandleader and producer of freestyle fellowship JMD, put so much thought into the multigenerational band, with musicians in three age brackets and even a guest appearance from a founding spoken word father from the Watts Prophets Amde Hamilton, who would later take the mic and drop it with a piece on the Internet that sent chills down my spine. JMD on drums, Maia Harper on flute and harp, Jamael Dean on keys, Ardom Belton on bass, and the griot Regan ‘Busdriver’ Farquad
That hip hop is birthed from jazz in the creative expression of the Black experience is no surprise. But no other group has done more to root down into those giant Jazz footsteps than Freestyle Fellowship and Underground Railroad. When one compares scat to rap and vice versa if Freestyle Fellowship is not mentioned then politely walk away, no need to speak further on the subject. So when JMD invites you to a night of Spiritual Hip Hop Jazz you stop everything, go, and pay attention, because that is exactly what you have been looking for and will receive with two handfuls.
Busdriver was the headlining griot of the night and his jazz-based scat rap style fit perfectly with the rest of the ensemble. Busdriver just released a double LP titled Electricity is On Our Side and the vibe of this album breathes Jazz and Hip Hop, clearly there is no way to separate the two in his words, mind, and heart he embodies Jazz. On my favorite track Right Before the Miracle, which was recorded days before at JMD’s house, my senses were renewed, as I bemoan the lackluster Los Angeles Jazz scene and roll my eyes as festival after festival plays the same tired tunes (sorry tired tunes, but jazz is radical and progressive and should remain so… jus’ sayin’) And as I watch him do his thing and channel his voice and breathe fire into the mic my soul rejoices, as these Whispering Giants roar.
The music took turns from straightforward spiritual jazz with Maia bringing the feminine energy balance to the ensemble and not just there but as present as a priestess. Chirping as she plays her flute and singing with her harp her instrumentation is nearly as graceful as the instruments themselves. She plays with the feminine energy force alternating between power and purpose and is just enjoyable to see.