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“You have to really want to be here,” Keith Abrahamsson says, overlooking the small West Texas town of Marfa.

We’re sitting on the deck of a stone and adobe house just off Highway 90, positioned atop a hill. Since 2014, the label Abrahamsson founded, Mexican Summer, has hosted the annual Marfa Myths festival here with arts nonprofit Ballroom Marfa. Initially a single performance at local venue El Cosmico, the gathering has bloomed into a four-day multidisciplinary happening, dedicated to blurring the lines between cinema, literature, art, and music.

Below us, a rooster crows and a couple dogs fitfully bark. Abrahamsson, wearing a denim jacket and faded Levis, leans back in his chair and considers my question: What keeps him coming back to Marfa?

“It’s kind of hard to articulate,” Abrahamsson says. “But it does feel like the town has this magical something. I don’t know if it’s the remote location, or the super-dramatic landscape and sky. There’s something about it that just has this seemingly magnetic pull. I don’t know how to articulate what about it gives you the feeling that it’s a special place, but it does have that quality.”

Marfa’s specialness is a reminder that there’s no such thing as “nowhere.” Despite its relative geographic remoteness — it’s located about six hours west of Austin and a three-hour drive from El Paso — Marfa feels alive in an indefinable way, pulsing with a vibrancy most small, mostly isolated communities in America can’t anymore, their industries and prospects dried up. Though regular injections of New Yorkers, Angelinos, and big city entrepreneurs — via festivals like Marfa Myths, the Marfa Film Festival, and the Chinati Weekend — bring clout and cash to the town, it’s not a hectic place. Which is precisely why everything feels so charming: Things happen here, at their own gentle pace.

Everyone loves a good origin story — it’s human nature. No matter the creative discipline such tales make even the most potent work seem more revelatory. Enter the late Japanese jazz pianist Ryo Fukui. An autodidact, Fukui taught himself piano at age 22 – just four years prior to the release of his exceptional 1976 debut lp, Scenery. Far from prolific, Fukui released just four more albums over the course of the next four decades…which brings us to A Letter from Slowboat.

Released a year prior to his death in 2016, Letter is a live album taking its name from the Slowboat jazz club in Sapporo, Japan. Comprised of recordings culled from performances at the club, the collection is as satisfying as it is hard to find outside of Japan. Thankfully there is YouTube where the record is streaming in full. Press play and let it wash you clean.

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Helen Oakley Dance was a pioneering record collector, jazz writer, producer and promoter. During the 1930s, she promoted the first jazz “concert”, where pop music was first played to listen to rather than as a reason to dance, and the first multiracial jazz band. For her, promoting black musicians was a way of promoting civil rights. In an age of Beyoncé and the Grammys, of Black Lives Matter, of Kanye and Trump, her story, of music and equality, of Jim Crow and the rise of fascism, deserves to be more widely known.

By the time she spoke to Mark Tucker from the Yale Oral History of American Music project, Helen Oakley Dance’s memory was not as sharp as it once was, and she sometimes stumbled over her words. It was 1987, and she couldn’t remember exactly which song Duke Ellington had been playing when she cried, standing at the side of the stage, one evening in the 1930s. She began to talk about the musicians she had known back in Chicago, and became a little lost: “I used to write about Jess when he was playing in the cellar, and playing… getting off at eight a.m. in the morning, and nobody knew about him. And, also, there was a… the Chicago Rhythm Kings, or… My memory is poor, Mark.”

“It’s the thing when you don’t refer back to these same sets of things,” she said, “the names that you know very well escape you.” She called over to her husband, Stanley, whom she called Stanny. “We might need Stanny for some dates and some names, because…” Stanley, like Helen, was a respected jazz writer, particularly about Ellington. He’d first become well known in his native England, and had delivered the eulogy at Ellington’s funeral, but he deferred to Helen as the true pioneer, as a writer, producer, promoter, record collector, and civil rights activist: she “was there first”, he said, if people asked.

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 474: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The Swamp Rats – I’m Going Home ++ Dennis Wilson / Beach Boys – Lady ++ The Kinks – I Go To Sleep (demo) ++ Le Bain Didonc – 4 Cheveux Dans Le Vent ++ The Brummels – Bof! ++ Nancy Sinatra (w/ Hal Blaine) – Drummer Man ++ The Motions – Beatle Drums ++ Naomi And The Boys – As Tears Go By ++ Ify Jerry Krusade – Everybody Likes Something Good ++ Aguaturbia – Rollin’ ‘N Tumblin’ ++ Sea-Ders – Thanks A Lot ++ The Olivia Tremor Control – Memories of Jacqueline 1906 ++ The Millennium – I Just Don’t Know To Say Goodbye ++ Harry Nilsson – You Can’t Do That (Alternate Take) ++ Roy Wood – Wake Up ++ Emitt Rhodes – Long Time No See ++ Jacques Dutronc – L’Espace D’Une Fille ++ Allah-Las – Strange Heat ++ The Strange Boys – Should Have Shot Paul ++ The Zombies – Sticks And Stones ++ Thee Oh Sees – The Sun Goes All Around ++ Lantern – Bleed Me Dry ++ Canarios – Trying So Hard ++ Screaming Lord Sutch – Flashing Lights ++ Bob Azzam & His Orchestra – The Last Time ++ Alex Chilton – Jumpin’ Jack Flash ++ Johnny & The Attractions – I’m Moving On ++ Beach Boys – Unknown Harmony ++ Rob Jo Star Band – I Call On One’s Muse ++ Cisneros & Garza Group – I’m A Man ++ Rolling Stones – We Love You ++ Music Convention – Sitar Track ++ Shin Joong Hyun – I’ve Got Nothing To Say ++ The Samurai – Fresh Hot Breeze Of Summer ++ The Shadows – Scotch On The Socks ++ Dion – Daddy (Rollin In Your Arms) ++ Relatively Clean Rivers – Easy Ride ++ The Soul Inc. – Love Me When I’m Down ++ Jerry And Jeff – Voodoo Medicine Man ++ Dion – Baby, Let’s Stay Together ++ Apple & The Three Oranges – Curse Upon The World ++ T.L. Barrett And Youth For Christ Choir – Like A Ship ++ Eddie Bo & Inez Cheatham – Lover And A Friend ++ Tony Owens – I Got Soul ++ Famous L. Renfroe – Introduction ++ Big Sambo & The House Wreckers – The Rains Came ++ Alton Ellis – Whiter Shade of Pale

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia / Magnolia Electric Co) died March 16th, 2013. It’s impossible to overstate the depth and virtue of his songs or the way he poetically expressed the human condition. We originally ran this set in 2013, following his passing. Still touring under the guise of Songs: Ohia, Molina recorded the following live session on April 20, 2003 for the “Duyster” radio show on Studio Brussel, FM 94.5 Belgium. Woodshedding material that would later appear on record (plus an interview), the set is raw and stripped down. Captain Badass indeed.

Jason Molina :: Interview (Studio Brussel, FM)
Jason Molina :: Leave The City (Studio Brussel, FM)
Jason Molina :: North Star (Studio Brussel, FM)
Jason Molina :: Don’t This Look Like The Dark (Studio Brussel, FM)
Jason Molina :: North Star Blues (Studio Brussel, FM)

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Rob Mazurek is building a life’s work. Coming up in the Chicago free music scene, the cornet player and composer has made pioneering music alongside his peers, including Tortoise, Jim O’Rourke, Stereolab, and Jeff Parker, and collaborated with jazz heroes Bill Dixon, Pharoah Sanders, Yusef Lateef, and more.

But one of his longest running collaborations is with drummer Chad Taylor, with whom Mazurek leads various “Underground” groups. Their latest, A Night Walking Through Mirrors, finds them teaming with London musicians Alexander Hawkins and John Edwards. It’s both brash and thoughtful, a live exhibition of the telepathic interplay between Mazurek, Taylor, and their guests. AD caught up with Mazurek to discuss the record, and how a unifying thread, loosely inspired by science fiction and cyberpunk literature, has begun to solidify in his work, uniting it thematically and conceptually.

Aquarium Drunkard: I’d like to start off about asking you about your notion of protest music. In the biography that accompanied A Night Walking Through Mirrors you say that the various Underground albums have always been “protest” music. How, and what, does your music protest in this context?

Rob Mazurek: I mean, it’s basically just a protest against anything or anybody that wants to put up some kind of barrier between total creativity, ya know? So whether it’s music or psychologically or spiritually, that’s been the thing [we’re protesting]. The first Chicago Underground record is called 12 Degrees of Freedom. It has those same precepts, not just in music but dealing with psychology, spirituality, the whole thing. That’s always been the underlying theme with that. Whether we’re talking about Exploding Star Orchestra or Chicago Underground, it’s all about expressing freedom.

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The existence of the ‘tax scam’ LP is one of the stranger tales of the 1970s record business. In short, crooked label heads would press up demos of unsigned artists, outtakes from known artists, and other various ephemera in limited quantities that were thrown out into the market with zero promotion — all based on the hopes of commercial failure and the ability for the ‘label’ to write off the failure as a loss.

John Scoggins’ Pressed For Time is one such record, and one that has become legendary in power-pop collector’s circles. Originals are nearly possible to find, and sell for several hundred bucks when they do.

As it turns out Pressed For Time wasn’t a ‘solo’ album by any means, but the product of a New York band called Ramparts, led by Mr. Scoggins. Ramparts were a ubiquitous opening band in mid seventies Manhattan, and Scoggins himself worked as a roadie when he wasn’t gigging. In one of the more bizarre tales of A&R, the band was signed over the phone by a representative from Roulette Records new off-shoot, Tiger Lily Records (a quick search on organized crime and Roulette will take a reader on an insightful, intriguing ride through the criminal element of the music biz). Miraculously, even though the LP had zero promotion, Bomp Magazine’s Greg Shaw did, in fact, get ahold of a copy and wrote a very positive review, stating the lp was well worth the trouble to seek out.

John Scoggins :: Treat Me Right