Timeless Music Series celebrates DVD release of its J Dilla, Verocai and Astatke performances
By all accounts, last year's "Timeless" series lived up to its lofty title, featuring performances from Brazilian tropicalia titan Arthur Verocai, Ethiopian Jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, and the J Dilla tribute, "A Suite For Ma Dukes," that won't soon be forgotten by anyone in attendance. Organized by L.A.-based production company Mochilla and electronics company VTech, the concerts achieved the rare feat of edifying and entertaining, allowing the audience entree into a fusion of styles and cultures appropriate for a pluralistic place like Los Angeles.
In celebration of its release as a limited-edition, three-disc DVD package, "Timeless" is having an L.A. premiere on Saturday night at the Downtown Independent. But rather than show the films in order, famed turntable wizard J. Rocc of the World Famous Beat Junkies will perform a live re-edit of the films, exclusively using Technics turntables and vinyl to control the film files and create a mega-mix of all three shows. According to the organizers, such an approach has never been done to premiere a film or a series of films.
In advance of the screening, Pop & Hiss asked the people behind Timeless -- Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Carlos Nino and filmmaker/DJ Brian "B+" Cross -- their thoughts on what exactly it was that made the event so, uh, timeless.
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Composer/arranger, "A Suite for Ma Dukes"
Being a part of the timeless series has been the single greatest musical joy of my life. Not only did we get to celebrate music from three different continents, we got to celebrate three of the most profound composers within their respective genres. Mulatu Astatke, J Dilla and Arthur Verocai are true artisans that have each developed their own unique languages sprouting from their origins.
Having the opportunity to celebrate Dilla in an orchestral setting was a dream come true for me and many other people as well. His music has great depth and lends itself to an orchestra very well. Dilla's music has many layers and is very spiritual. It is imbued with loads of passion and joy. Throwing in quotes of music that influenced Dilla and music that compliments his legacy was fun for me to do in composing the music for "A Suite for Ma Dukes." He is from a regal tradition of soulful musicians that gave every ounce that they had from their heart and to pay tribute to him with a 60-piece orchestra was a ridiculously huge joy.
Carlos Nino: Timeless Associate Music Producer and Co-Contractor of Bands
Mulatu, Dilla and Arthur are all very important artists who've either never presented their music in a Los Angeles theater, or scarcely. Dilla, probably the most well-known of the three, is no longer with us, and when he was, made it quite clear that he was not coming out to perform on any regular basis. The few rare times you got to see him on stage, like that night he played with Slum Village and A Tribe Called Quest at House Of Blues, remain gems in the memory chest.
While Mulatu is a hero of sorts in Ethiopia and has garnered a great deal of acclaim internationally -- including having played in our beautiful but far too polluted city -- he's far from a household name in Los Angeles. Arthur Verocai is a very prolific Brazilian arranger that most people have never heard of at all. Take that and the fact that such a wide cross-section of Los Angeles-based music lovers came together and filled the Luckman Fine Arts Complex on three separate occasions (and not just because of greats like Cut Chemist, J.Rocc, Madlib and Quantic opening), and you have a very unique story.
Brian "B+" Cross
"Timeless" was a special thing on many levels. It's not that often that you get to celebrate such diverse and spectacular music. These were world-class events -- events that had curators in Europe paying attention and done by two photographers and a promoter on a Cal State campus. On a specific level, Mulatu hadn't played L.A. previously and certainly wouldn’t have had such a star-studded band if he did.
No one has ever done an orchestral tribute to a hip-hop producer before, and how perfect that it was Dilla, especially with such a young composer/arranger as [Atwood-Ferguson]. And Verocai was a total reversal of a historical travesty. That 1972 record is an indisputable classic, and to be able to celebrate it live after 37 years was awe-inspiring. There was a conspiracy of goodwill around the project as a whole. From the sponsors to the depth of talent that hit the stage, L.A. showed itself well in the world-class light it should be seen in. There aren't too many cities in the world with this many great musicians and we should be reminded of that more often. "Timeless" was an opportunity to remember that.
-- Jeff Weiss