Burnt Sugar (in Detroit)

at MOCAD November 5, 2010

I’ve always been curious about the musical group Burnt Sugar.  I’d heard good things about them, but very little of their music.  I caught them here, last week and got some of their recordings.  Both were quite good and most enjoyable.

I’ve been reading Philip Freeman’s 2005 book Running the Voodoo Down The Electric Music of Miles Davis.  It’s a nice overview of Miles’ music from 1968 to 1991.  It includes a section on Burnt Sugar and their “expansive vision.”  Freeman notes that “Their music absorbs funk, reggae, electronica, jazz, rock, soul, hip-hop, heavy metal, and twentieth-century classical, and combines it all into a heady, psychedelic sonic trance, built on a foundation of thick, muddy basslines, that feels like it could go on forever.”  It also quoted writer/bandleader Greg Tate on Miles, Jimi Hendrix and more.  I remember reading a lot of Tate’s old writings in the Village Voice too. 

I have two Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber records.  One from 2001 (the first I think) and one from 2004.

This performance, entitled TWO OR THREE THINGS SHE KNOW ABOUT WILD:  A Primer In How Sisters Freely Conduct Themselves in The D, included a contingent of Detroiters.

The band included Mazz Swift  on violin and vocals , Latasha N. Nevada Diggs on effected vocals & Soundscapes,  Greg Tate on laptop, guitars and baton, Jared Michael Nickerson on bass and The Next Detroit Harmolodic Arkestra (Joel Peterson on upright bass, Duminie Deporres, James “the Blackman” Harris, Skeeter CR Shelton, Michael Carey and others).

The Detroiters  “sat in” with the regular Burnt Sugar group.  They did a special piece organized for this performance.  It was quite good, I thought, well performed, funky and fun.  I’d seen them rehearsing the night before.  I just spied it from the sidewalk for a minute.

They have some things in common with one of my own musical projects, Detroit’s Spaceband.  These include use of projections (“light shows”), spoken word/poetry, unusual instruments and unusual combinations of instruments.  Greg Tate conducted most of it, standing on top of a box.

There was a good vibe to the whole evening.  Most of the local musicians, I’d seen many times, in a variety of contexts.   The regular Burnt Sugar, New York band that I spoke with were friendly.  It was out there!

http://burntsugarindex.com/

Information on the MOCAD performance:

http://www.mocadetroit.org/pastevents-2010.html

Some video interviews from All About Jazz:

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=32252

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