Culture tunnels

This rather open-ended title is by a jazz four-sometimes-five-some called Aronas. They are based in Australia and perform all over the world. The piano player is Aron Ottignon. He is a bit of a genius and he comes from New Zealand.

This debut album of theirs came out in 2007. For some reason, this incredibly clever bunch of guys is not a household name just yet. Their exuberant riffs run in, up and around some seriously tight rhythms, with which these guys do things with that are positively in-your-face outrageous, given the 4 x 4 days we live in now! They fall over each other, slipping in and out of various pulses and keep this album driving relentlessly forward. They really are having way too much fun, although just to prove they are more than talented, funky and fun they throw in a delicious little number at the end which leaves you with a very yummy feeling in your tummy.

Their next album is due to come out in time for May Music Month. I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

If you like this you may also be interested in the Mamaku Project, Departure Lounge or another unsung New Zealand jazz sensation Kevin Clark.

Check out this list of New Zealand jazz recordings.

To Be Young, Gifted and Black

Christchurch is humming with the Jazz Festival this week and featuring a strong contingent of female vocalists. It is Biography of Nina Simone at Christchurch City Librariesinteresting to consider some of the great women jazz artists and their possible successors among today’s performers.

One of the greatest singing, songwriting and musical talents of the last century was the legendary Nina Simone. For me, Sinnerman is one of the most powerful, spontaneous and passionate songs ever written (yes, big call I know)! It features Nina at her emotive best beseeching the lord in anger and frustration, frantically attempting to understand her self and her role as a woman born into a disenfranchised people. She’s not called the High Priestess of Soul for nothing!Other household names of a past generation of talented, strong and sensual singers include Etta James, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington…to name a few. The contributions these women made to jazz, blues, soul and general musical and social and American history is so vast it is difficult to quantify.

These divas are a rare breed. Who is going to fill the void that Nina, Sarah, Billie and the others left? Currently holding the floor are a small group of people whose voices these days are slightly muffled by the constant, raucous output of the recording industry. While this bunch of women don’t, to my ears, pack quite the same punch as their predecessors they are a wonderful addition to the current musical offerings. There is also a growing number of white faces in this group and a slightly more loungey sound. Have a listen to the sultry deep tones of Cassandra Wilson. Thunderbird is an absolute must listen. Dianne Reeves is another prolific gem. She has been performing since the 70s and she featured in George Clooney’s movie Good Night and Good Luck. Dee Dee Bridgewater is another songstress who is holding the benchmark on soul to ransom and Stacey Kent and Claire Martin have been doing their own thing for a number of years now too. The incredibly polished Patricia Barber is another favourite of mine. I particularly enjoy her live concert from Paris. And we really can’t leave out the widely acclaimed Diana Krall.

Ones to watch out for: award-winning Hammond organ extraordinaire Barbara Dennerlein creates a fantastic, fast-paced fusion of hot licks from a variety of musical genres. I’ll be looking out for the likes of Jill Seifers, Nnenna Freelon, Luciana Souza, Joss Stone and Nina’s daughter – who also goes by the name of Simone – to see where they go over the next few years with their musical endeavours. Go divas!

Check out the talent and tell us your favourite.

Healthy books

I have read 3 non-fiction books about health in just 2 weeks. Sweet poisonThat’s an amazing feat for me but they were interesting and relevant so I kept going.

The one that’s doing the rounds is Sweet Poison by David Gillespie. It’s about sugar and how it has become the white death of western society. Sweet Poison does a fantastic job of explaining how sugar is involved in the demise of good health and is a classic example of corporate food technology overtaking basic healthy eating.

We have now somehow become lumbered with a health system focused on sickness rather than health and the numbers on waiting lists for major operations just keep growing. There is an old saying that goes something along the lines of, if they didn’t eat it 100 years ago then chances are it might not be good food. Wouldn’t it be cool if supermarkets could try selling more real food and stop saturating their shelves with sugar-flavoured substitutes. Try taking a 4-year old to the supermarket! It’s really hard work having to say no all the time!

But to help remember that we aren’t all subject to corporate food technology schemes and that we can actually make healthy choices for ourselves, try reading New Zealand author and healer Franchelle Ofsoske-Wyber and her book The Sacred Plant Medicine of Aotearoa . It tells of the amazing power of New Zealand native plant healing properties. You don’t have to read it cover to cover, just pick out the most relevant bits.

Try these links, or perhaps even suggest another author you have come across who knows an easy tip to staying healthy: