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Stephen Grant
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An expat with a passion for writing about the arts, music and travel. Stay connected online at stephenjgrant.com.

Entries by Stephen Grant

From Funk to Jazz and R&B, These 5 Artists Prove Timeless Music Is Still Booming

(0) Comments | Posted March 12, 2015 | 5:31 PM

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Jazz artist Kamasi Washington

Classic sounds in music are still inspiring and always at our fingertips.

Jazz

Jazz has made a comeback over the past few years but not quite like Kamasi Washington. I am not a jazz expert but I can confidently say that this is the closest thing you will get to the good old days. Sure, there are many musicians making jazzy records, but this is the real deal.

Everything about the build up to Washington's tenor sax in "Re Run Home" is tremendous. The drums, the horns, and the keys all makes you want to dance, snap, and shout at the same time. It's the kind of mind-blowing groove that when played live is sure to make you remember why you love music in the first place. This is the kind of jazz track that you don't have to sit quietly and clap when the drummer nails a solo. This is get up and dance jazz - just like it was in its prime.

Washington announced that his album The Epic is set to release in May on Brainfeeder, the label of music producer Flying Lotus. It's worth noting that Flying Lotus is the nephew of tenor sax legend John Coltrane. We should all pay close attention to Kamasi Washington this year.

Funk

Funk is back on the airwaves thanks to Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk." But if you are craving more look no further than Tuxedo. Singer Mayer Hawthorne and producer Jake One have released a new album dedicated to recreating the funky sound of the '80s.

Mayer Hawthorne has consistently proved over the years that his music soul goes way before his time. Remember his barbershop quartet performance of "When I Say Goodbye?" In Tuxedo he continues his admiration for music's lost genres. The self-titled full-length Tuxedo album is available now on Stones Throw Records.

R&B

We call everything R&B these days. Most people have no idea what it really is anymore. To be fair, the genre has changed a lot since its birth. However, the 3 things that have to be present in respectable R&B are strong vocals, good lyrics, and crisp harmonies. They are the 3 essentials.

For the real deal you have to dig much deeper than urban radio. Singers like Ledisi, D'Angelo, Jazmine Sullivan, and many others are still releasing quality sounds that combine soul, gospel, blues, and lovemaking. A standout track today is Faith Evans' "Make Love" featuring singer KeKe Wyatt. The entire song is in harmony and these women are 2 of the best in the genre. Faith Evans' "Incomparable" is out now.

Multi-Instrumental

Everyone loves a good producer, but what's even better is a producer that is also a multi-instrumentalist. Canadian songster Mocky is no stranger to this music combination. His career spans over a decade with writing and production credits for artists like Kelela and Feist, both who have contributed to his new EP Living Time: The Moxtape Vol. II. The EP eliminates the electronic sound that Mocky has produced in the past to create a timeless collection that is necessary in the age of trap beats. When asked about the album's non-electronic feel he said, "In 2015, we are getting to the point where 'the machine' has become the arbiter of emotion, and intention is at an all-time low."

Living Time: The Moxtape Vol. II is an impressive body of work. The tracks presented are smooth instrumentals with minimal vocals. When there is singing such as in the songs, "Howling at the Moon" and "Living Time," the eerie vocals gently blends with the instruments. The 6-track EP ends with "Sweet Things," which is a perfect arrangement complete with 6 simple words. It's the kind of track samples are made from. Mocky's full-length album Key Change is due out later this year.

Pop

Benny is not your average pop singer. I praised his genre-blending sound in my post, "This Singer from Amsterdam is the Best Artist You Don't Know." Get familiar in his single, "Straight Lines" from his upcoming album. If you are enjoying this Dutch pop sound check out the article to stream more music.

Read more articles by Stephen J. Grant online at

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From the Streets to the Galleries, Art Is Thriving in São Paulo

(1) Comments | Posted March 5, 2015 | 11:59 AM

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Zipper Galeria in São Paulo. Photo by Stephen J. Grant

The city of São Paulo in Brazil is home to hundreds of museums and galleries. Browsing through neighborhoods such as Pinheiros, Jardim Paulista, or my favorite Vila Madalena, you are sure to...

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This Singer From Amsterdam is the Best Artist you Don't Know

(0) Comments | Posted February 27, 2015 | 1:41 PM

2015-02-27-bennysings.jpeg Dutch recording artist Benny Sings

The UK has a major influence on popular music, and it has been that way for decades. From Sam Smith and Amy Winehouse to Elton John, David Bowie and The Beatles, the British have effortlessly won over American...

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2015 Plus Size Fashion Weekend in São Paulo

(4) Comments | Posted February 3, 2015 | 9:28 AM

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Plus Size Fashion Weekend in São Paulo was all about that bass! Fashion enthusiasts gathered at the Frei Caneca Convention Center to watch models hit the runway wearing winter 2015 looks by top designers of Brazil. Designers included Marisa, Predilect's, Xica Vaidosa, Marden,...

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Beats & Eats: A Sweet Guide to Valentine's Day at Home

(1) Comments | Posted January 20, 2015 | 11:41 AM

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A little romance never hurt, right? This Valentine's Day before you buy those wasteful greeting cards or make expensive dinner plans, consider something more personal. With the help of my friend and food blogger Samantha Grasso at The Homegrown Tomato, I present to...

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Mary J. Blige and Faith Evans: The Legends Return

(0) Comments | Posted November 26, 2014 | 8:37 AM

Our favorite voices of the '90s return with albums to remind us that soul still lives in R&B music.

In "The London Sessions" Mary J. Blige teams up with London's hottest producers, writers and singers. Her roster includes Emeli Sandé and Sam Smith among other top names in London's music scene. The concept came after Blige recorded a remix with Disclosure for their single, "F For You." Her voice with Disclosure's familiar '90s garage rhythm was one of the best songs in electronic dance music this year. However, don't think she is releasing a dance album. "The London Sessions" is also ballad heavy and presents a new way to enjoy Blige's bluesy voice. "Not Loving You" and "Therapy" both penned by Sam Smith are songs that will live on forever, much like records by soul pioneers Aretha Franklin and Chaka Kahn. In-between these songs there's the Naughty Boy produced "Whole Damn Year" and another Disclosure collaboration titled, "Right Now." Here Mary J. Blige finds a way to fit into today's music without sounding as if she is trying too hard. This is something she has failed to do in the past. Looks like the folks in London brought out the best in the "No More Drama" singer. Mary has said it herself that London is great place to record music.

Faith Evans' latest release, "Incomparable" is another breath of fresh air in soul music. As always, Evans proves to be an impressive one-person girl group thanks to her signature harmonies and arrangements. Like Blige, the 20-year music veteran has not lost a beat and continues to present great work after years of timeless music. The album opens with "Thank You Goodnight" which sounds like it could easily play next to a classic gospel song if only she were not talking about a one-night stand. "Incomparable" is no doubt one of Evans sexiest albums, but after 2 divorces it's about time she decided to go solo and do what good R&B lyrics are made of. Nevertheless, while "Incomparable" is indeed sexy, it is also vulnerable, playful and inspiring with Evans' lively vocals being a strong focal point the entire way through. The latest single, "Fragile" transforms "California Dreaming" by The Mamas & the Papas into a passionate soul track where Evans sings of her struggles with trusting again. Other notable songs are "Extraordinary," "Forever" and the Jazmine Sullivan penned "He Is."

Stream more new music from Mary J. Blige & Faith Evans:

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An Evening with Eglo Records

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2014 | 10:10 PM

I found myself humming Dirg Gerner's "Vicious Cycles" today and quickly did a search to see if he had any new singles. Unfortunately my search came up short so I decided to look into what label he signed with. I was hoping the other artists were just as good as...

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We Get It, You Don't Like Popular Music

(5) Comments | Posted November 12, 2014 | 5:29 PM

I hate music snobs that believe their taste in music is the only acceptable kind. We all have those friends who say things like, "They used to be so cool before everyone else starting liking their music." What does that even mean? Those people usually continue sticking their noses in...

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Saying Goodbye to Your Country

(0) Comments | Posted October 27, 2014 | 1:14 PM

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My partner and I in Lençóis, Bahia last year after exploring Vale do Capão.

Five years ago if someone asked me, where do you see yourself in five years? I would have most likely answered, somewhere outside of Connecticut. It has been...

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The Incomparable Faith Evans

(0) Comments | Posted October 15, 2014 | 3:35 PM

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Faith Evans is on a high celebrating 20 years in R&B music. Yet, before executive producing the R&B Divas reality TV franchise or becoming a NY Times best-selling author, the soulful singer from Newark entered the music scene as the first female artist...

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FKA Twigs Is Not Alternative R&B

(3) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 8:36 AM

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FKA Twigs hates to be called alternative R&B. In a recent interview with NME she said: "I love annoying sounds, beats, clicks... I don't see anyone else doing that now. It's got loud noises in there, the structures aren't...

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In the Days of Sam Smith, We Rediscover Sam Sparro

(3) Comments | Posted August 26, 2014 | 6:08 PM

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The world has fallen in love with British singer-songwriter Sam Smith since his appearance in the hit dance track "Latch" by Disclosure. However, unlike his club beginnings Smith has become the new international voice of pop music. His impressive...

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Conversation Piece: Art Event Makes Collecting Art Easy and Affordable

(0) Comments | Posted August 5, 2014 | 10:58 AM

2014-08-04-IMG_9573.JPG Somewhat Off the Wall attendees Josh Mamis and Julie Fraenkel with their new Roxanne Faber-Savage monoprint in 2012. Photo by Amanda May Aruani.

Art enthusiasts know that purchasing a unique piece of artwork comes with a major cost. Unless you're Peter M. Brant,...

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Beyonce and Jay-Z Are Perfectly Imperfect in 'On The Run'

(2) Comments | Posted July 2, 2014 | 5:34 PM

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MASON POOLE/INVISION FOR PARKWOOD ENTERTAINMENT

Beyonce and Jay-Z prove that being in love is a wonderful feeling that everyone deserves. Despite the internet rumors, their endless love is clearly the central theme of the duo's joint stadium tour On the Run which hit...

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LA-LA-LA: 10 Songs With Music's Favorite Catch Phrase

(0) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 4:42 PM

It's a simple phrase heard in music all the time. The famous la-la-la has crossed genres and is sung by nearly every singer from Minnie Riperton and Teena Marie to Sam Smith and Blue Oyster Cult. Using Spotify, I compiled a 10-track playlist with music's favorite catch phrase. Who do you think sang it best?

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7 Animated Music Videos You Should Know

(0) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 6:26 PM

The entertainment site WatchMojo.com publishes daily video segments featuring episodes such as the Top 10 Ridiculous 90s Videos. Their clips contain witty commentary and are perfectly timed at 10 minutes or less making it a great site for the YouTube loving procrastinator.

During a recent browse of...

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4 Reasons the Grand Canyon Is a Perfect Honeymoon Destination

(2) Comments | Posted June 26, 2014 | 12:15 PM

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Photo by Gustavo S. Requena

Escaping to nature is one of the best ways to spend time with the person you love. The beauty of the earth surrounding your passionate embrace enhances your smile and may even deepen your emotional connection. This...

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Why I Decided Not to Have a Big Gay Wedding

(11) Comments | Posted May 22, 2014 | 2:34 PM

My partner and I decided to get married during our trip to Brazil last winter. We had the marriage conversation before, but this time under the hot summer rain, in a small two-person tent, we made it official.

After working together to save our belongings from the...

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