This week in GO! Magazine’s music section

Friday, January 14th, 2011, 11:52 am by Ben Salmon

The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend will kick off its new jazz series this weekend with three performances by the Mel Brown Quartet. I spoke with the band’s namesake drummer about the MBQ, one of three bands he plays in at Jimmy Mak’s jazz club in Portland’s Pearl District.

The MBQ came together years ago to play tight, hard-swinging bop in a style somewhat similar to that of one of Brown’s heros, Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. The group has been described as a quartet of bandleaders, though Pacini is the official music director, leading the MBQ through its vast repertoire of originals and standards “with a different twist,” Brown said.

“(The band) is kind of like my background — the way I was raised, the music I grew up on,” Brown said. “We play straight ahead, and it feels really good. Everybody plays and we listen to each other a lot.

“Plus everybody likes each other,” he continued. “In most bands you get something good going and all of a sudden there’s an internal fight, and that’s because you’re around each other too much. I see some of these guys once a week, so we don’t have time to get mad. Hell, we’re just happy to be playing.”

Brown is a legend in the Northwest jazz scene, and you should click here to read the whole interview. While you’re there, read up on the other jazz happenings this weekend, including a Just Joe’s show at Greenwood Playhouse, and Cascade School of Music’s effort to revive the old Sunday shows at Be Bop Coffee House.

Champagne Champagne's Pearl Dragon performs in the rafters of the Old Mill Music Lounge. Photo by Ben.

This week’s Feedback column focuses on two Seattle hip-hop groups — Champagne Champagne and Mad Rad — that performed last weekend at the Old Mill Music Lounge. There’s weren’t many people there, so chances are decent you weren’t there, so read on …

As is frequently the case in this genre, Champagne Champagne’s DJ (Mark Gajadhar) is a secret, shadowy weapon. As is less frequently the case, he may be their MVP. (MCs Sir Thomas) Gray and Pearl Dragon were solid, engaging performers all night; Gray manned a mic stand like a rock singer, and his partner stalked off the stage more than once to rap from within the crowd. They slayed their best song (so far), “Soda & Pop Rocks,” with its wicked, dubstep-y bass line and shoutouts to the streets of Seattle: “My city’s not pretty it’s gritty,” Pearl Dragon raps. “Top notch when the block’s hot, blow up like soda and pop rocks.”

Elsewhere, the MCs showcased their influences: indie/alt-rock (one tune referenced Sonic Youth’s “Bull in the Heather”) and ’80s-child pop culture (“She looks like Molly Ringwald. She’s beautiful to me.”), while Gajadhar rocked like an octopus working overtime, bouncing from electric guitar to keyboard to tambourine to drum machine to melodica and back. His work was sometimes ominous and murky (“Something Strange”), sometimes bright and poppy (“Hollywood Shampoo” sounds like hip-hop built on a Shins song), and sometimes a sweet and sour collision of video-game bloops and punk-rock squall.

It was a great show. I hope you’ll read the whole thing by clicking here.

Elsewhere in this week’s music section: Larry and His Flask headline a show to benefit two of its members’ dad, Tribal Seeds and Anthony B (separately) bring reggae to the Domino Room, Rootdown rocks McMenamins, Empty Space Orchestra continues its January residency at Silver Moon, Seattle folkie Sarah Sample plays Sisters, MC Mystic spins Michael Jackson tunes at MadHappy Lounge and local bands Five Pint Mary and Boxcar Stringband play a benefit for BAKESTARR.

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