Music » In Rotation

In Rotation: Ayana Contreras of Vocalo's Reclaimed Soul on a softly stratospheric Andrew Hill LP

Plus: Primeridian's Simeon Viltz on Acid Rap, the Reader's Leor Galil on Elvis impersonators, and more

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Diarrhea Planet - GREG CHOW
  • Greg Chow
  • Diarrhea Planet

Leor Galil, Reader staff writer

Karin Pritikin and Kent Barker, The King & I: A Little Gallery of Elvis Impersonators True story: As a kid I was so obsessed with the King that for a short time I asked everyone to call me Elvis. This coffee-table book documents the first annual convention of the Elvis Presley Impersonators Association of America, which took place in Chicago in 1989. Pritikin thoughtfully weaves together her subjects' backstories, and Barker's tender portraits of the impersonators in costume capture the joy and passion of people who have dedicated their lives to making sure the public stays under Elvis's spell.

Diarrhea Planet's set at Tomorrow Never Knows on Sun 1/19 The rowdy Nashville six-piece was as awesome, fun, and goofy as a windmill high-five.

Handwritten notes on a used copy of the Jesse's Gang "Real Love" 12-inch A friend of mine loves finding notes in secondhand books—and her enthusiasm is apparently contagious, because I recently snatched up a used copy of Jesse's Gang's 1985 single "Real Love" because it had a mess of handwriting covering half the sleeve. The previous owner of this light dance single from one of the many side projects of house legend Jesse Saunders had used the LP as a notepad to jot down more than a dozen song titles—Sylvester's "Rock the Box," Loleatta Holloway's "Crash Goes Love"—sometimes in nearly illegible cursive. I can only imagine how many times this playlist lit up warehouse parties in the 80s.

Leor is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

The Natural Four, Natural Four
  • The Natural Four, Natural Four

Ayana Contreras, DJ and host of Vocalo's Reclaimed Soul, blogger at darkjive.com

The Natural Four, Natural Four This was released here in Chicago on Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label in 1974. The Natural Four was a group that came here from San Francisco to record because Chicago was a soul-music center. Unfortunately, aside from scoring a Top 40 hit with this album's classic lead track, "Can This Be Real," the group was unable to break through. Natural Four brims with loping strings, aggressive horns, and slinky harmonies.

Andrew Hill, Lift Every Voice I collect old Blue Note albums, and I'm often initially attracted to their covers. This 1970 release features Hill's face superimposed over stars and violet nebulas, and the record itself is softly stratospheric in its energy. Hill leads a crowd of vocalists and an instrumental quintet that includes Richard Davis on bass and Carlos Garnett on tenor sax. With song titles such as "Love Chant," "Ghetto Lights," and "Hey Hey," the record gently envelops you with a sense of perpetual motion—sometimes it feels like you're swinging in a hammock, and sometimes it's like you're running electrically in the streets.

Sunday Williams, "Where Did He Come From" Sunday Williams recorded this single in Chicago around 1969 for Bill Meeks's Alteen label, based on Stony Island Avenue. It did OK locally, mainly thanks to the cheery flip side, "Ain't Got No Problems" (which features the hook "Know what to do with my man, yeah!"). Really, both songs are stellar. But "Where Did He Come From" has a hauntingly beautiful staccato horn intro, coupled with dreamy vibes and a rock-solid bass line.

Ayana is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Patrice Rushen - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Patrice Rushen

Simeon Viltz, rapper and member of Primeridian

Miles Davis, Love Songs Miles Davis is one of my favorite artists ever, and this 1999 collection of 50s and 60s material embodies one of his mellower moods with flawless execution. Subconsciously this music may very well be why I try to play my trumpet more like a flute than like the powerful brass instrument it was intended to be. I play this record all the time, and usually it instantly alters my mood into a relaxed state, no matter what the noise of the day may be.

Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap I've been very proud of Chance the Rapper ever since the days when I worked at YouMedia-­DYN as one of his first musical mentors. Chance, Vic Mensa (who I also mentored), and the whole Save Money Movement are doing great things for the Chicago musical landscape. While I was working at Street-Level Youth Media, in a crazy serendipitous way I mentored Stefan Ponce too—he's one of the album's producers, and he's on tour with Vic as his DJ. Acid Rap has replay value like nothing I've heard in a long time.

Patrice Rushen, Prelusion/Before the Dawn This album by another one of my favorite artists, Patrice Rushen, may very well be one of my favorites ever. On vinyl these were two separate LPs, originally released in the mid-70s, but they were sold together on one CD. Rushen, a lovely singer, is also a very gifted musician who really stepped out with her chord progressions on this album. The textures of the different instruments are unparalleled. Instant classic.

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