From Flatbush to the Oscars and Back + Live Picks 7/23-29
DJ Tara Duvivier rocks some of Brooklyn’s best parties, played music on the world’s most famous red carpet, and imagines a more equitable city nightlife.
Tara Duvivier is one of the reasons I started writing Bklyn Sounds.
DJ Tara a great DJ, whose sets introduce listeners and dancers to the best new music of numerous traditions and points of global rhythmic origin, all the while soundtracking excellent dancing days and nights. She is also a long-time staple of the scene, among the people responsible for two of Brooklyn’s best long-running parties — the annual Donuts Are Forever, which kicked off in 2007 to annually celebrate the life of legendary producer J Dilla; and Makossa Cookout, a regular summertime Sunday outdoor fete where good people, good food and good tunes have been turning into good times for over a decade. (Though the organizers’ discomfort with current COVID controls made them postpone the party this summer.)
By day, Duvivier does something that at first seems completely different from nightlife — an urban planner who's worked for Habitats for Humanity, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, and now at the Pratt Center for Community Development — which actually dovetails with her community organizing principles that fuel those parties. And when the pandemic hit, she just brought her music onto Twitch and other livestream platforms, picking up more listeners and fans, and leading Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who’d been chosen as the musical director of the 2021 Oscars, to handpick DJ Tara to play on the awards warm-up show and red carpet.
This life as a first-rate musicker and new-music omnivore, with has clear understandings of how the relationship between a community’s culture, development and preservation work — or, increasingly in a New York teeming with inequality, how they don't— while applying her knowledge as a planner to work on building the post-pandemic future of music. That’s what makes DJ Tara almost singularly qualified to speak on this moment from both a creative and social perspective. Or as she bluntly put it to me, “Community is always the key.”
A lot of this reflects the journey that took Duvivier from Brooklyn to the Academy Awards, and to the rooms where those community futures are discussed.
Born in Flatbush to Haitian immigrant parents, raised in the Long Island suburbs, but otherwise a lifelong New Yorker, Duvivier was a music-focused kid from her earliest days. She spent the ‘90s and early ‘00s watching the city’s nightlife evolve for better and for worse, taking notes at storied spots like the Meatpacking District's APT, and at NYU, where she got her Masters in Urban Planning. But she was also listening to great DJs like Rich Medina, and, with a regular group of friends, applying her learnings to throwing parties and rocking them.
Tara continues to use all this knowledge in her sets, which she does every fourth Sunday on Brooklyn’s The Lot Radio — and one of which she’ll be doing at Jupiter Disco, on Friday (7/23). On the decks, DJ Tara blends the newest jams from Detroit, or Bandcamp or the South African house sound of amapiano, to name just three excellent sources of new music, with a smattering of Motown, Prince or golden-age-of-hip-hop classics. Old ideas are mixed with new “to get people dancing,” and build a stronger bond between the heads and the passersby.
“All the songs I play are my favorite,” she says when asked what folks might expect. “If you come with an open mind, it won’t disappoint.”
DJ Tara plays at Jupiter Disco (1237 Flushing Avenue, Bushwick) on Friday, July 23rd, Free before 11 pm, $10 after.
OUR PICKS 7/23-29
With all the rain in the forecast, and the preponderance of outdoor shows in the city, PLEASE do not forget to contact the venues or at the very least check their social media to make sure that the event is not canceled due to inclement weather. Also: Please remember to check with individual venues about their vaccination requirements and proof for attendees, and whether RSVPs are required to buy tickets at the door. (I’ve now been burned by this on a couple of occasions.)
On Friday (7/23) and Thursday (7/29) Vision Festival continues at Pioneer Works in Red Hook. Friday’s program is an evening-long celebration of the music of the inimitable keyboardist/composer Amina Claudine Myers, focusing on her vocal pieces, with a performance by her trio.
The following Thursday offers an incredible line-up showcasing the diversity of Vision’s “free jazz” tent, featuring small groups led by saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, pianist Mara Rosenbloom and poet Julie Ezelle Patton; Elder Ones, a quartet led by the vocal acrobatics, harmonium and synths of Amirtha Kidambi; and finishing off the night a trio of legends, Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, and Andrew Cyrille. (110 Pioneer Street, 6p, $65 each, but well worth the price)
Though it started late this year, the Free Concert Series in Bay Ridge’s Shore Road Park has kicked off this past week, and it has a great rock for kids program on Saturday (7/24), with the Fuzzy Lemons, who’ve been making Brooklyn families put on their “Rock ‘n’ Roll Pants” and tell old fairy tales in blues verse for the better part of a decade.
Full series schedule here. (79th Street at Shore Park and Belt Parkway, 1 pm, Free).
Press click on AceMoma’s Essential Mix above, and if you’re not yet familiar with the diverse underground dancefloor sounds producers AceMo and MoMa Ready have showering Brooklyn with the past four or five years, prepare to be rinsed.
They’re two of the borough’s best and on Saturday (7/24) afternoon, they’re joined by the fantastic Brooklyn-based selector Dee Diggs, and (ohhhhh...no big deal) Detroit house music legend Marcellus Pittman at the swinging-again Knockdown Center on the border of Bushwick’n’Ridgewood. (52-19 Flushing Avenue, 3 pm, $10-20)
Though he’s got an East New York shout-out on “Glaciers” the great single off his excellent new album Reborn, the Nigerian-American rapper Akinyemi is not from Brooklyn but Queens Village. No matter though, local is local.
The 24 year-old’s raps don’t fit in either BK’s ever-strengthening drill scene, nor the city’s experimental poetic freestyle camp. His music is full of melodies and musings, philosophically aspirational comparable to ATL’s wonderful Earth Gang. On Saturday (7/24) he’s celebrating Reborn’s release at Bushwick’s Elsewhere. (599 Johnson, 6 pm, $20)
Since the beginning of July, Japan Village in Industry City has been holding occasional free live shows, or “Re:Open Jams” as they call ‘em, in one of the complex’s courtyard spaces, showcasing musicians from Japan or of Japanese heritage, playing music of all flavors.
This weekend features two wildly different programs that reflect the globalization of Japanese culture: Saturday (7/24) will host Cartegena, a band fronted by the couple Yumiko and Elvin Cartagena, which performs Rock En Espanol with decidedly Asian influences; and Sunday (7/25) sees a trio fronted by the jazz guitarist Nobuki Takamen, a regular at city clubs like Blue Note and Nublu. (934 3rd Avenue, 4 pm on Saturday/6 pm on Sunday, Free)
As their name implies, guitarist Nate Radley’s Twang Dang Doodle plays American roots music, and does so with imagination and suppleness that comes with a long life of doing so. This should be no surprise as Radley is flanked by drummer Allison Miller and bassist Tony Scherr, both of who have spent their careers making rock, roots, and jazz intersect in strange and often wonderful ways. Monday (7/26) evening they twang at Bar Lunatico in Bed-Stuy (486 Halsey Street, 9 pm, $10 suggested)
As I wrote a few weeks back, Uncivilized is one of Brooklyn music’s wonderful little anything-goes collectives — a noisy jazz big-band one night, a folky acoustic combo the next — but with a continuously high degree of musicianship.
On Tuesday (7/27) they play an early set at Barbes in Park Slope under the name “Uncivilized plays El Chico,” interpreting the songbook of drummer Chico Hamilton, whose fame as a sideman for the likes of Count Basie, often obscures that he wrote and performed some incredible weird swinging music. Perfect for Uncivilized. (376 9th Street, 7 pm, $25)
To put it bluntly, there are almost no artists in this world who’ve moved me to reconsider society over the past few years as much as the clarinetist/keyboardist/composer Angel Bat Dawid and trumpeter/composer jaimie branch. (Full disclosure: I’ve also written notes for both their releases, but the transcendence came before the collaborations.)
Both were raised in/around Chicago’s improvised music scene (though branch has been in Brooklyn since 2015), but they have rarely played together. On Tuesday (7/27) and Wednesday (7/28) at Greenpoint’s IRL, they’re both bringing friends, and making a night of it. Don’t miss it. (80 Franklin, 7 pm, $20-25)
OK, seriously! Maybe you missed it the last time I wrote it up in this column, so let’s try it again. The saxophonist Ravi Coltrane is playing in the Mama Tried backyard, on Wednesday (7/28), with his quintet, for FREE! If you are not already committed to one of the other musical happenings the neighborhood has to offer that night, and you love music, there is really no reason for you to miss this. (787 3rd Avenue, 7 pm, FREE!)
Reminder: If you are a Brooklyn (or greater New York) artist, label, venue or musicker organization that is releasing new music, or producing (Brooklyn) events, or just making noise that you want to spread through the community, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear it — and potentially put it on.
Lastly, Bklyner & Bklyn Sounds are throwing a live show. More details soon:
Sign in or become a Bklyner member to join the conversation.