Wednesday night is not usually a big entertainment night in Memphis, but on October 29, many of Memphis’ best industry figures came together at Purple Haze downtown to celebrate the release of veteran rapper Frayser Boy’s new album Not No Moe on the Phixieous label. Frayser’s own DJ Bay was on the ones and twos, and Tune C, DJ Zirk, Miscellaneous,Carlos Sargent, DJ Care Bear, Lil Wyte, Snootie Wild, Jason Da Hater,Suavo J, Louis Goggins of the Memphis Flyer and Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell of the Recording Academy and Royal Studios were among the attendees. Frayser Boy, Lil Wyte and Miscellaneous performed a few songs from the album toward the end of the night, and the event was all love, fun and food.
4 Soul Band is Memphis’ premiere soul and contemporary jazz group, and on Monday night, July 28th, they held an open rehearsal at Aji’s Sports Bar and Grill on Lamar Avenue in Southeast Memphis so that they could shoot photographs and video footage for publicity purposes. The band played about an hour of tunes, featuring their vocalist Shenea, trombonist Suavo J and drummer Otis Logan. They will be playing at Aji’s again on Friday night, August 1.
My homeboy Otis Logan had invited me to come out to the Ice Bar in Southwind because his band was playing behind a Memphis rap artist called Oneday, but what I didn’t know was that the event was the inauguration of a big event called Triple Play Tuesdays, sponsored by Memphis-based PartiKings Inc. which will be held on the first Tuesday of each month. Actually quite a few Memphis rap and hip-hop artists came out to perform, including a female artist named Ms. Racks, a rapper named BenOfficial (although apparently not the one from Los Angeles), and another rapper named Lil Buddy. With it being a Tuesday night, I had not expected a large crowd, but the place was actually full to overflowing.
Bristerfest is a Memphis festival of music, art and film that raises money for Grow Memphis, a worthwhile organization that encourages neighborhood gardens in the inner city of Memphis. Formerly held at the Levitt Shell, Bristerfest moved this year to the former church-turned-performance loft called The Abbey at Cooper and Walker in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Midtown, and featured two indoor stages and an outdoor stage over three days in May the weekend after Beale Street Music Fest. I was especially impressed by the rap and hip-hop line-up on Saturday night May 10, where C-Beyohn performed with the excellent reggae band known as the Chinese Connection Dub Embassy. They were followed by up-and-coming Memphis rap artist Tyke T backed by drummer Otis Logan and trombonist Suavo J of the band 4 Soul, and the young hip-hop duo S.O.U.L. that has been getting some attention locally over the last year. I must add that attendance seemed very good indeed for this year’s Bristerfest, and hopefully a lot of money was raised for Grow Memphis.
Memphis, unfortunately, is not as much like New Orleans as it should be, despite some obvious points of similarity. We do have krewes, a legacy of the old defunct Cotton Carnival/Carnival Memphis/Kemet, but the krewes don’t hold parades. In fact, the longest Mardi Gras parade in Memphis runs the two blocks of the Beale Street Entertainment District. But Memphis does have a cool New Orleans-themed restaurant called DejaVu, whose owners are originally from the Crescent City, and we do have some great musicians like Suavo J, so on Mardi Gras Day 2014, DejaVu had an all-day Mardi Gras party with live music and free king cake, featuring another one of Suavo’s numerous alter egos, the MemphOrleans Street Symphony, which seems to be an indoor band that takes influences from outdoor brass bands such as the ones in New Orleans. There were set drums rather than the marching snare and bass, and an electric bass rather than a tuba or sousaphone, but the music had a certain New Orleans vibe to it, and at least on this particular day, much of membership seemed to overlap with my homeboy Otis Logan’s band 4 Soul. Logan himself was on drums. So while I was disappointed about not being in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day (I in fact never have been), I was cheered by the shrimp po-boy, king cake and great music at DeJaVu downtown.
On the second and fourth Monday each month, the 300 South Main Art Gallery sponsors Wine Down Mondays, an event featuring an opportunity to sample fine wines paired with food offerings, a DJ and live music. This past Monday night, DJ Kojak was providing the recorded sounds, and Memphis drummer Otis Logan’s superb band 4 Soul was providing the live grooves, ably aided and abetted by ubiquitous Memphis trombonist Suavo J, straight from his second-place award in the International Blues Challenge with the Ghost Town Blues Band. The atmosphere was just right for the grown and sexy set eager for something to do on a very cold Monday night after work.