You’ll notice a whole lot of jazz and world music in this week’s column, each of which has had a relatively steady presence in the local scene for a long time. This is just a sliver of the oft-undertold side of Athens music, and the reason I mention it is because I want to cover our scene in its entirety and everyone to feel welcome to hip me to whatever they’ve got going on. None of which means you’ll get a free pass from the critic in me, but know you’ll be considered just as newsworthy as anything else. So, let’s dive in…
Here and There: The once-ubiquitous jazz combo Squat is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a pair of shows. The first happens Friday, Sept. 12 at Hendershot’s Coffee Bar here in Athens ($7 at the door, 8 p.m.) and the second is the following night at Atlanta’s Red Light Cafe $10 advance, $12 at the door, 8 p.m.). The band formed in 1994 and quickly gained an audience via its continuous string of local shows, regional touring and multiple full-length CD releases. Indeed, the group proved it’s entirely possible to rise above one’s name. About four years ago, Squat went on sabbatical, but the group recently played AthFest and a few other shows. Are these anniversary celebrations portentous of new things to come? Who knows? The band has precious little web presence, but if you want advance tickets to the Atlanta show, head to redlightcafe.com.
Slap On, Slap Off: Because 1994 was a year lots of stuff was happening (see above), it follows nicely that Athens' “folkloric drum ensemble” (not scare quotes) ¡MOYUBA! was formed that year, too. If you’ve not heard of them—before this week I’m pretty sure I hadn’t, either—take note that they include members of other multi-styled groups such as Grogus, Cachaca, Cosmic Charlie and Entropy. The members are Kane Stanley, Ryan "Manito" Wendel, Nathan Hale, Dusty Brown, Eric Cosby and Swen Froemke. Colloquially, their music is known as "trance drumming." It pulls from from the “the traditional drum music of Cuba, Haiti and the African Diaspora” and is reputed to be used to “to bring humans into direct communication with spirits and ancestors.” Yes, that’s a lot of direct quotations, but I really couldn’t have said it better myself. Take a good long listen to the group’s just-released debut album, Verdaderos Moyuberos, over at moyuba.bandcamp.com and report back to me.
Two For the Road: The twin jazz vocal stylings of Marty Winkler and Mary Sigalas will appear at the Melting Point Wednesday, Sept. 3. Neither is a stranger to Athens stages, though Winkler has not been aggressively promoting her own work of late and Sigalas is fresh off a performing trip to Ireland. This should be a nice welcome back for each of them. They both work with standard jazz-pop compositions and their own original tunes, which largely follow in that same style. Think latter-era Gershwin, Ellington, Holiday, et al. Listen in via reverbnation.com/marysigalas and reverbnation.com/martywinkler.
The Future’s So Bright: Tuesday, Sept. 16 is the release date for the new four-song Baba Java EP by one of the hardest working bands in Athens, Futurebirds. Right now, though, you can enjoy a nice hot cup of Jittery Joe’s special Baba Java Blend, released in coordination with the band. It’s the debut blend in a planned Athens music series of special coffees. The idea is to honor and uphold the long association Jittery Joe’s has had with the local scene, and I can personally attest to the factuality of this association. The original Jittery Joe’s on West Washington Street—the space now occupied by Max—was a 24-hour hangout/meeting place for musicians and artists, as well as an enthusiastic employer of them. Futurebirds, of course, has toured relentlessly since 2010, growing from tiny stages to major festivals. Visit Futurebirds at facebook.com/futurebirds. Baba Java is available from Jittery Joe’s locations and other cafés that carry the roaster’s coffee. If you need more guidance, see jitteryjoes.com.
Back in the Saddle: I’m happy to hear of a new Athens Provisions show happening Thursday, Sept. 4 at Normaltown Hall (399 Meigs St). This intimate, limited-capacity, BYOB show will feature Dave Marr, Old Smokey and Mothers, each of whom you’ve probably seen before, and will definitely see again. But Normaltown Hall is a really cool place to see a nice, sit-down show and let your ears take over. Doors are at 8:30 p.m., and the show starts at 9 p.m. Athens Provisions was started by Jay Steele a couple of years ago and did a lot of really nice shows like this—as well as some featuring great touring acts—but since then Steele has been based in Nashville over the past year, and things have slowed down a bit locally. Here’s to more of these happening here.