Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at email@example.com.
While most hip-hop album release parties are dog and pony shows, Seaside hip-hop soulstress A Lee's CD release party was truly a celebratory affair.
Held Friday night at Monterey Live in downtown Monterey, the club was at capacity, with folks getting turned away at the door. I was one of the unfortunate left in the brisk downtown chill, but after some patient chatter with the doorman, I got into the club midway through the band's set (next time I'll make sure to get my tickets well in advance).
By the time I got there, the crew was well into its jam, but there was still plenty to go. I didn't bring my notebook with me, so I couldn't get a proper set list, but what I saw was memorable enough.
The uptempo rhythm of the musicians, most notably the drummer and lead guitarist, complimented keyboardist/producer Jon Bo's fluid arrangements. It added a newfound bounce and depth to the recorded material, which is already pretty potent.
A Lee and her fellow MC kept the crowd captivated. A Lee gets more and more comfortable on stage every time I see her (not that she was ever uncomfortable, but there is progression in her presence). She even took time out to tell a joke involving Clint Eastwood and his fly whip. I thought it was pretty funny.
And of course, she blacked out on the mic all night, eliciting shreaks of "Seaside" and "We Love You, A Lee" in the same breath. This girl could go places if she gets the right guidance and connects. She's young ( just a biscuit over 21), talented and photogenic, which adds up to a hot product.
A. Lee's debut "The Channel," is easily the front-runner for local hip-hop album of the year. But calling it simply a hip-hop album is almost a disservice. There are tons of musical influences, from acid jazz to lounge to down tempo to even a little bit of trip-hop, and all are sometimes contained within the same track.
The title track knocks with a thick, fudge-pudge bass line, which lends itself to ALee's thick delivery. Hearing her spit on record, I sometimes mistake her for a conscious Brooklyn-bred word slinger, as opposed to a Seaside/Monterey artist. That's a very good thing.
Jon Bo's exquisite piano play fills in the gaps, making this a truly melodic excursion. The young virtuoso displayed his skills on the grand piano at the record release party, and you could imagine him in a bow tie and tails, getting his conceirto on at some symphony hall someday.
If nothing else, "The Channel" reveals A. Lee and her crew as being bigger than hip-hop. This is well timed, well-delivered musicianship with a social conscious. I've been calling it neo-soul in print, but that's too easy a label. A. Lee is food for the soul, and with any luck, she'll be feeding the masses in due time.