talent

Alfonso Velez Performs At Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre In NYC

RocketHub has partnered with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York to showcase successful RocketHub artist, Alfonso Velez, in the upcoming show "Underground Americana." Velez joins a growing list of RocketHub artists that have been featured at the UCB Theatre.

Variety show "Underground Americana" – hosted by Andy Rocco, will be held at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York on February 8th at 12 Midnight. Congruent with the UCB's mission of "big names for small change," tickets are only $5.

The lineup includes Andrea Rosen from the HBO TV show "Flight of the Concords," Caitlin Tegart from ESPN, and musical artist Alfonso Velez who ran a successful crowdfunding campaign with RocketHub and was recently named as one the top 10 best emerging songwriters by The Deli Magazine.

"Underground Americana" celebrates the seedy and urbane life in America. Host Andy Rocco likes to say "Think of us as The Prairie Home Companion, just a little more f**ked up." Also on the bill will be Shannon Coffey and Rob Hugel, of the award winning improv duo, That Annoying Couple – and special guest Matt McCarthy, of "The Other Guys."

To reserve tickets to the show, click here.

RocketHub Co-Founder and CEO, Brian Meece is a fan of UCB and has performed on "Underground Americana" as a musical guest. "Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC is just brimming with funny talent. It was awesome to play music for Andy and hang out with notables in the NYC comedy scene." Other RocketHub artists such as Aram Bajakian and Little Embers have also been featured at "Underground Americana."

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre NYC – "Underground Americana"

Named "Hot Farm Team" by Rolling Stone magazine and "Best Comedy Club" by AOL, The UCB Theatre is widely recognized as home to today's funniest actors and writers. Among our esteemed alumni include several performers and writers for Saturday Night Live, The Office, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, 30 Rock, Best Week Ever, Old School, Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro and countless other films, commercials and television shows. Performers who have gained success continue to lend their talents to the theatre and training center.

Andy Rocco began taking classes at UCB in 1999 and has been featured in numerous TV commercials. He now hosts "Underground Americana" – a variety comedy show that features top talent in NYC.

RocketHub

RocketHub is a grassroots crowdfunding community for Creatives by Creatives, founded by Brian Meece – singer-songwriter, Jed Cohen – actor/producer, and Vlad Vukicevic – tech-thinker/writer. The concepts behind RocketHub stem from the founders' own personal challenges as creative people; therefore RocketHub supports a DIY-ethos that is welcoming and supportive to all Creatives from around the world. "We are the creative underdogs with a mission to liberate creativity through our platform and educational support. RocketHub is the center of the crowdfunding revolution and the foundation of the new creative economy."

Cas Haley at the Fox Theater on 12/1/2010

Cas Haley is breaking out on his own terms.

Connection, his Easy Star Records debut, is aptly named. It’s all about those deep-running connections that make him what he is—those unbreakable links between artist and audience, between styles of music, between art and life, and most of all, between all people. As Cas points out, reggae’s core message is, after all, "one love."

His crystalline voice and funky, easygoing beats earned Cas a second-place finish on America’s Got Talent, which in turn netted him a measure of fame and a following. But the contest also locked the Texan singer/songwriter/guitarist into a major label deal that didn’t feel right. So, not wanting to be turned into a manufactured product, he struck out on his own. The superb result: Connection, a collection of songs basking in the philosophical and musical maturity that comes from staying true to his artistic vision.

Raised by musician parents, Cas grew up surrounded by the sounds of blues and 60s-70s rock. He got serious about the guitar at age 12 and was "taught by the tribe" of musicians passing through the house. "The kitchen would be turned into the practice room or for jam sessions, so I was pretty much born into that lifestyle," he says. And from the very beginning he was more inclined to create his own music than to slavishly learn covers.

Also prominent at home were the Bob Marley records his mother would play, which made a profound impression. After a period of heavy immersion in the sounds of the ska/punk/skateboard culture, Cas was blown away by the classic reggae-pop of bands like UB40 and Sublime, and his mature style began to take shape.

Those pop-inflected island grooves and his joyful, versatile voice helped bring Cas to the brink of stardom on America’s Got Talent and sell 30,000 copies of a debut album with virtually no promotion. And they’re fundamental to the soul of his music—what he calls the "relaxing, effortless playing where everything fits together." Elements of soul, blues, and pop swirl through Cas’s strong reggae beats. Just like disparate musical styles, "we’re way more connected than we think," Cas says. "We separate ourselves in so many different ways, but the whole theme of the album is that we’re all connected."

"Every color," he sings in the title track, "is created from the same light."

Easy Star, the leading U.S.-based independent reggae label, is the ideal home for Connection. The label has been stretching beyond its strictly roots-reggae format, signing progressive bands and artists like John Brown’s Body, Tommy T, and The Black Seeds. “Cas’s sound is unique, accessible, and a great way to keep expanding the Easy Star audience," says CEO Eric Smith. "And it’s not often we come across a singer-songwriter this talented, regardless of genre, so we had to work with Cas.”

Mixed by Danny Kalb (Ben Harper, Beck), Connection bristles with chill grooves, rocking guitars, and funky horns, all fueling Cas’s irresistible melodies. Meanwhile his lyrics effortlessly balance simple, spiritual truths with thoughtful reflection. Cas’s songs recognize the complexities of life—love, family, worldly troubles and uncertainties—but always come back to the central message of connection.

It’s the journey that matters; Cas is aiming for success on his own terms. "If I’m not doing it authentically then I don’t want it," he says. His only goal: "To authentically express myself and help others do the same. Because it’s a sweet life to be able to do that."

Catch Cas Haley at the Fox Theater in Boulder on December 1st, 2010.

'GYPSY JAZZ FAMILY TRIBUTE' at The Django Reinhardt NY Festival

"Gypsy Jazz" is a family tradition passed on from one generation to another and so it was with the SCHMITT family coming from the Strasbourg area of  France, near Germany.  George, father of legendary gypsy guitarist Dorado Schmitt, while virtually unknown for his talent as guitarist and violinist outside the area he lived, taught his son Dorado who taught his sons Samson and now young Amati only 14 years old...keeping the tradition of hot gypsy jazz alive.  To all of them, Django Reinhardt was a God of music in whose footsteps all gypsy musicians walked.

To see Dorado, Samson and Amati (who will debuted in the US at the Festival ) is to see how it all works, side by side.   It is in the family blood, a part of the customs and culture, a sharing and passing down from one member to another....very much a part of gypsy life.  George Schmitt passed away this year and so the Django Reinhardt NY Festival celebrates his influence on his family thru music. Birdland will host the Schmitt Family Tribute, performing in memory of of the elder George Schmitt. The Festival is Produced by Pat Philips and Ettore Stratta and going into its 11th year and has taken the US by storm thru tours connected to the Festival each year which has taken stars of the Festival to the Kennedy Center, Disney Hall in LA, The San Franciso Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Chicago Symphony Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and much more.  It has caused a resurgence of 'gypsy jazz' in America with other festivals and concerts springing up all over, greatly due to the enormous talent of lead gypsy guitarist, legendary Dorado Schmitt who has been a part of the presentations for over 9 years and will be here again this November.

The Schmitts will be joined by bassist Xavier Nikq and violinist Pierre Blanchard from France and master jazz pianist Peter Beets from Holland.  As always there will be a Special Guest each night starting with renowned Russian cellist Borislav Strulev opening night Nov. 2 who will perform "Nuages", Django's most important composition, with an arrangement by top musician Roger Kellaway.  On Nov. 3rd will be swinging saxist Anat Cohen, Nov. 4th beautiful young talent Miguel Zenon also on sax , Nov. 5th Colombian jazz harpist Edmar Castaneda returning by special demand, Nov. 6th David Langlois on washboard percussion, and the fabulous Joel Frahm on sax Nov. 7th.  The beautiful and wonderful vocalist Hilary Kole will step in as well as a surprise on some nights.

George Schmitt may not be a 'star', but his family will shine on him brightly this year at the Django Reinhardt NY Festival at Birdland.  HOT GYPSY JAZZ dating back to the 20's and 30's in Europe when great gypsy guitarist DJANGO REINHARDT met and performed with virtuoso violinist STEPHANE GRAPPELLI changed music forever and created the one of the most memorable musical partnerships in musical history.  This will all be re-created at Birdland Nov. 2-7 and remains music that is ever exciting, creative, original in style and very cutting edge while it still incorporates beautiful melody and romance through the brilliant virtuosity of the players.

On sale at the Festival will be the new CD, Dorado Schmitt and The Django Reinhardt NY Festival Allstars "Live at the Kennedy Center". 

Birdland:  315 West 44th Street (bet 8th and 9th Avenues)
Reservations:  212 581 - 3080
Shows 8:30 and 11:00 pm (tues. thru sunday)

TAEKO June 16 at the Kitano | NYC

TAEKO's latest CD, Voice, is a tasteful collection of songs from some very different sources that she treats with the same skillful execution.  Taeko Fukao, a native of Japan, has acquired the command of her instrument, her voice, and applied it to the genre of jazz in a way that is both technically significant and entertaining.  Her handling of the intricacies of the jazz genre has a clear sense of remarkable talent honed by a recognizable work ethic.

Under the coaching of Juanita Fleming, Taeko has evolved in her jazz voice and has taken on some interesting projects on Voice, including a lyric written by Fleming for Herbie Hancock's familiar tune, "Cantaloupe Island."  Taeko has a soulful, wistful voice with an ever so faint hint of her Asian ancestry, that sneaks into the tunes in the most appropriate way, especially during her expressive phrasing.  Taeko puts together a set list that includes the works of Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues," Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," and Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar." Then mixes it up a bit with titles such as "Spring Nocturne," an original by the singer, and "Biwako," a traditional Japanese folk song that was a hit in Japan in the 1940's.

Taeko's approach to each of these songs is different, but consistent in each of them is the attention to execution, the precision and skilled management of her instrument is coupled with a playful and emotional coloring that conveys a shear joy with the work.   Taeko's voice is a pleasure to listen to.  Even when in its deepest range it is still lite and gentle, while remaining full.  Her scat capability is remarkable in and of itself and presents itself in a lively rendition of Sly Stone's "Stand!"

Overall, Taeko is brilliant in both her native language and her acquired language.  She demonstrates the skills built on a native talent that has been honed by a significant effort to convey the art of jazz vocals with all the musical elements in place and the heart and soul of a true jazz singer.

I found the entire CD to be a delightful departure from the run of the mill standards singers I have been hearing lately.  A refreshing new twist on some old favorites and an introduction into some new music from a Japanese influence, Taeko bridges both worlds exceptionally well.   If you haven't heard of TAEKO, or listened to her Voice, then you must check it out!