Guitarist Dave Specter on the young stars building the future of the blues | In Rotation | Chicago Reader

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Guitarist Dave Specter on the young stars building the future of the blues

Plus: Musician Nicholas Tremulis on a band focused on the higher unity of all things, Reader associate editor Jamie Ludwig on goth postpunk for long winter nights, and more

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A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Chicago gothic postpunk duo Wingtips - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Chicago gothic postpunk duo Wingtips

Jamie Ludwig, Reader associate editor

The Wraith, Gloom Ballet I don't remember how this Los Angeles death-rock band first appeared on my radar, but I'd been keeping an eye out for them for a couple of years by the time they landed a deal with Southern Lord in 2019. Gloom Ballet, their brand-new full-length, was well worth the wait. Though the Wraith are clearly mired in the classics, their poetic lyrics and expert songwriting serve as a reminder of the power of dreary yet danceable rock 'n' roll.

Fresh Air Archive Terry Gross doesn't interview exclusively musicians on her NPR radio show Fresh Air, but even so, she's still one of the most prolific and inspiring music journalists around. In the recently established Fresh Air Archive, listeners can explore 40 years of her work, including conversations with some of the most celebrated and groundbreaking artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as unsung heroes and behind-the-scenes talents.

Wingtips, Exposure Therapy 'Tis that season when I, like many other music writers, scramble to answer the question: "What great new music did I miss this year?" Well, when it comes to Chicago releases, the debut album from gothic postpunk duo Wingtips (aka Vincent Segretario and Hannah Avalon) certainly makes that list. Mixing dreamy pop and cold darkwave, it can make long winter nights feel a little more magical.

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

Twenty-four-year-old bluesman Jamiah Rogers has been playing guitar since age nine. - KURT FOOR
  • Kurt Foor
  • Twenty-four-year-old bluesman Jamiah Rogers has been playing guitar since age nine.

Dave Specter, musician, producer, and Delmark recording artist

Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram, and Jamiah Rogers The future of the blues is in good hands with these four young rising stars. They're all in their 20s, and they play the blues with respect for tradition while sounding fresh, contemporary, and inspired. As the blues audience grows older (and whiter) than perhaps ever before, these exciting African American bluesmen could help attract a much-needed younger crowd—and appeal to a more diverse fan base.

  • Jontavious Willis performs "Lucy Mae Blues" in 2015.

Ry Cooder, "Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right," from the 2018 album The Prodigal Son Hearing Ry Cooder play slide guitar is like hearing Vladimir Horowitz play piano or Sonny Rollins play tenor. His soul-drenched cover of this Blind Willie Johnson gospel-blues classic reminds us of its message, timely again in the dark days of the orange-skinned blowhard demagogue—and Cooder adds words about ICE detentions and children being held in cages and separated from their families.

Kenny Dorham, "Minor's Holiday," from the 1957 Blue Note album Afro-Cuban Killer Latin-jazz groove, composition, and arrangement from one of the greatest, most underrated jazz trumpeters, who played on so many classic Blue Note sides. This track is my favorite cut from one of my most-played Blue Note albums. Calling this an all-star band—with the likes of Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Art Blakey, Cecil Payne, Oscar Pettiford, Percy Heath, and Carlos "Patato" Valdes—would be an understatement.

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

Kahil El'Zabar formed the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble more than 40 years ago. - SHELDON (SHELLY) LEVY
  • Sheldon (Shelly) Levy
  • Kahil El'Zabar formed the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble more than 40 years ago.

Nicholas Tremulis, musician and recording artist

L'Orange and Jeremiah Jae, Complicate Your Life With Violence Easily one of my favorite records of the year, Complicate Your Life With Violence combines film noir samples from the 50s, great trip-hop grooves, and baritone guitar with excellent rap writing and performing. This is some real stuff here, not the slick bullshit that crowds the pop side of hip-hop. Play it from front to back. It's a real ride. No counterfeit.

The Woody Goss Trio, A Very Vulfy Christmas This homage to Vince Guaraldi and his Peanuts Christmas music is by Woody Goss, the George Harrison of funk band Vulfpeck. Goss is an extraordinary pianist, more Thelonious than Vince. The vinyl is already sold out, but on December 23, the accompanying cartoon special premieres, presumably on one streaming service or another. Get it just to listen to, though. It's beautiful all by itself.

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Be Known: Ancient/Future/Music The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble have been together 40 years or so, their varying lineups all led by great AACM impresario and percussionist Kahil El'Zabar. The wild thing is that they just keep getting better. The language of their music is clear and focused on some higher-unity-of-all-things sound. This stuff is astounding, which is my bottom line for everything. Bingo!  v

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