BLK ODYSSY: “Hang Low” (KUTX Live)

The name BLK ODYSSY might seem a bit grandiose on first glance, but a quick listen to their recent material justifies the epic magnificence of their sound. While D’Angelo & The Vanguard maintains a naming convention that touts their frontman’s saga, singer Sam Houston has graciously allowed his own name to go by the wayside as the “feature” of BLK ODYSSY and allowed his breathtaking vocals (almost reminiscent of post-Impressions Curtis Mayfield) to mesh effortlessly within a more traditional “band” framework.

Nonetheless, our August 2021 Artist of the Month‘s new record BLK Vintage could definitely make for a good pairing with Black Messiah, offering up a slick mix of modern jazz-psych-soul and seductive funk-R&B. You can catch BLK ODYSSY’s My KUTX session tomorrow night at 6PM and enjoy the grainy visuals of a three-song set below, taped just for KUTX at 512 Studios. The intimate performance (complete with a scarf-wrapped mic stand and plenty of stank face) opens with a previously unheard demo (“Gangster of Love” – that already packs a ton of potential) and KUTX rotation favorite “Funkentology”, but with Texas summer keeping the sun high and the heat in close company, the belle of the ball may just be “Hang Low”.

Cochemea: “Black Pearl”

During the heyday of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, people pretty much said the same thing. “She sure can belt it out but that horn section doesn’t hurt either.” And though Sharon Jones has since passed, The Dap-Kings have continued a collective legacy of excellence. Take for example, Dap-Kings sax virtuoso/multi-instrumentalist Cochemea Gastelum, who’s rounded up the very best of Daptone’s rhythm sections to fill out his mononymous seven-piece Cochemea.

Next Friday Cochemea continues the cultural exploration that began with 2019’s All My Relations with Vol. II – Baca Sewa. You can expect an expertly-packaged deep dive into Gastelum’s Yacqui/Yoeme heritage across Baca Sewa‘s ten spiritual jazz originals, all of which are guaranteed to have an entrancing effect, as heard on Vol. II’s latest single, “Black Pearl”!

McKenna Esteb: “My Heart”

Whether it’s with mid-century jazz royalty, ’60s soul-psychedelia, or more modern renditions by women singers, songwriter McKenna Esteb is all about the jazz-soul sound. Raised in Seattle and now based here in Austin, McKenna Esteb’s recruited an intimate backing band to round out her arrangements, but its her commanding vocals that win us over every time.

Last Friday McKenna Esteb released her latest single, “My Heart” along with an NPR Music Tiny Desk Contest submission that you can watch below. So be on the lookout for more from this promising songwriter in the near future and get the blood to pump you through hump day with “My Heart”!

Sven Wunder: “Panorama”

Dating back to the heyday of film noir, jazz has always lent itself to an element of mystery. And for Swedish studio hermit Sven Wunder, jazz has allowed him to explore several eclectic satellite genres without relying on any concrete songwriting formulas, be it with the Anatolian rock and European jazz on 2019’s Eastern Flowers or the Pan-Asian elements heard on last year’s Wabi Sabi.

Regardless of where Wunder lands on the jazz spectrum, he’s set to continue the saga this Friday with Natura Morta, a cross-cultural full-length that examines humanity’s ties to nature and chips away at the walls dividing classical chamber orchestras and modern jazz bands at just under a dozen tracks. Natura Morta‘s sprawling sound isn’t the easiest to define on the whole, but there’s a timeless, nationless quality to the record’s latest single that recalls the oddities and fluidities of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, “Panorama”!

Sunny Jain: “Heroes”

After thirteen years on the road at the front of his global dance group Red Baraat, percussionist-songwriter Sunny Jain was especially affected by the constrictions of COVID. But, ever the optimist, Jain began sifting through his rolodex and soon formed a half-hundred intercontinental collective willing to help out in the writing and recording process of a new project.

Well, today, after countless hours of remote collaboration, Sunny Jain released the aptly titled Phoenix Rise LP, re-assembling the infectious energy of Red Baraat with the idiosyncrasies of his newfound team players, complete with music videos and even a 22-recipe vegan cookbook. Sunny Jain and company glisten throughout the album, effortlessly blending genres like jazz and hip-hop underneath striking vocal performances, as heard on one of Phoenix Rise‘s lead singles “Heroes”!

Aaron Myers: “If It Only Took Love”

Ever since its official UNESCO designation in 2011, International Jazz Day has invited a bit of extra joy into April 30th. And doing his share is D.C. pianist-vocalist (not to mention published author, radio host, and more) Aaron Myers, who does a stellar job of recreating mid-century styles with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Nat King Cole.

Today Myers released his fourth studio project, The Pride Album, featuring a dozen tracks (both standards and originals) that, along with its stunning visual counterpart, tackle the facets of life as a BIPOC artist amidst the oppression prevalent in the US. The subject matter, though, tends to teeter towards a lighter side, which when coupled with Myers’ incandescent singing on tracks like “If It Only Took Love”, is guaranteed to make your mind smile through the weekend.

Sara Niemietz: “Lovely Lies”

You might not recognize the name Sara Niemietz right off the bat, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen her onscreen or heard her voice in a major soundtrack. The Los Angeles-based actress/singer-guitarist launched her career all the way back in 2002  portraying a young Carol Burnett in the pre-Broadway production of Hollywood Arms, and released her debut live LP the following year. Since then Niemietz has skyrocketed into the cultural zeitgeist, lending her eerie vocals to The Exorcism of Emily Rose, CBS’s Under the Dome, and ABC’s Scandal, not to mention long-term collaborations with West Wing composer W.G. Snuffy, adult contemporary icon Melissa Manchester, and yes, even B.J. Thomas.

Between all her endeavors, Niemietz has never stopped bulking up her own discography, building up her reputation as a Renaissance woman with her mastery over genres ranging from gospel and blues to jazz, pop, and rock. And following up last year’s aptly titled LP twentytwenty, Niemietz has kept busy in 2021, having already delivered three studio singles within the past few months, including the seductively smooth “Lovely Lies”!

Mia Doi Todd: “If I Don’t Have You”

Dating back to 1997’s The Ewe and the Eye, L.A. songwriter Mia Doi Todd has permeated an evolving world of parallels; a personality that’s sensuous but stern, curt but existential, and packing a philosophy based on her experiences that still manages universal appropriateness.

Mia Doi Todd’s been challenging the bards of antiquity with her own modern mythologies ever since, and expanded on her jazz-folk sound last week with Music Life. Pairing originals with covers of classics, Music Life breathes effortlessly with Mia Doi Todd’s airy aesthetic, especially on her acoustic rendition of Gregory Isaacs’ “If I Don’t Have You”!

Indoor Creature: “American Dream” [PREMIERE]

Almost a full year after COVID-19 shut us all into quarantine, we’ve all become somewhat of adjusted to a largely-interior lifestyle. But if there’s one Austin group that’s sure to stave off cabin fever (even in the name alone), it’s Indoor Creature. What started off as a duo in 2015 has evolved into a slick six-piece, whose jazz-inspired indie-pop sound has continued to expand with each passing season.

Indoor Creature is set to share their third full-length, Living in Darkness, in May, and after a long first month of hefty politics, the band’s re-aligning their prospects for 2021 with the album’s infectiously chill lead single, “American Dream”!

Armadillo Bonus: Blues, Jazz, and Funk

Join KUTX as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Armadillo World Headquarters, the music venue that helped put Austin on the musical map. In this bonus episode, hear first-hand stories about the blues, jazz, and funk greats that made the Armadillo such a live music destination: the supernatural abilities of Freddie King and B.B. King, the Pointer Sisters in their funk heyday, and the raucous welcome given to jazz icon Count Basie.


Ralph Towner

In this installment of Liner Notes with Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe, we learn about multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, composer and arranger Ralph Towner. Born in Washington, Towner incorporates improvisation into much of his work. Blumofe encourages using Towner’s work to remind us of the multitudes within ourselves.



Myra Melford

How often do we engage in work by choice? How often is that work an obligation?

In this installment of Liner Notes with Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe, we learn about avant-garde pianist, improviser and composer Myra Melford who uses music to transcend the everyday. Melford’s time studying classical Indian music as a Fulbright Scholar also shines through in her work.



Jack Sheldon

In this installment of Liner Notes with Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe, we learn about the life and career of Jack Sheldon, a bebop trumpeter, singer and actor, who voiced beloved characters on Schoolhouse Rock. Blumofe also discusses how Sheldon’s work serves as a reminder of the endless opportunities in life.



Rich Harney

How does the sudden loss of a central figure change the local music community? How does the community deal with that loss?

In this installment of Liner Notes with Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe, we learn about the life and career of Austin jazz pianist Rich Harney who passed away on Jan. 5, 2020.



Joe Lovano

What does it mean to create a legacy? How do we hold at once the future and the present as we move through the world?

In this installment of Liner Notes with Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe, we learn about the life and career of jazz great Joe Lovano, who continues to collaborate and create while bringing the history of jazz into the 21st century.



Eddie Palmieri

In this edition of Liner Notes, Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe talks about what the life and music of Palmieri can teach us about identity, the power of movement, and the necessity of community.

Eddie Palmieri is an American pianist, bandleader, musician, and composer of Puerto Rican ancestry. He is the founder of the bands La Perfecta, La Perfecta II, and Harlem River Drive.

Terry Gibbs

Terry Gibbs is an American vibraphonist and bandleader who remains the oldest bebopper at the age of 95. In this edition of Liner Notes, Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe talks about what Gibbs’s long career can teach us about inclusion and unity in the face of isolation and fear.

Azar Lawrence

Azar Lawrence is an American jazz saxophonist who was hired by McCoy Tyner following the death of John Coltrane. In this edition of Liner Notes, Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe talks about what Lawrence can teach us about continuing a legacy, finding our voice, and knowing our value while holding on to our mortality.

Les McCann

Les McCann is an American jazz pianist and vocalist. In this edition of Liner Notes, Rabbi and jazz historian Neil Blumofe talks about McCann’s influential life and work, and how it can inform us today.