The Traverse City musician (Medicinal Groove) and manager of The Alluvion reveals the recordings that have shaped his own career. Listen to tracks from all of his selections at Local Spins.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians can trace their inspiration to key recordings that influenced their careers. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases music that changed the world for Traverse City’s Matt McCalpin, who’s a member of Medicinal Groove and other bands. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks along with tracks from Medicinal Groove.
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When the special Local Spins edition of Thursday night’s “Jazz 4 All” unfolds at Traverse City’s The Alluvion at 6 p.m. tonight, operations director Matt McCalpin will be there to cheer on the Jeff Haas Trio with special guests Laurie Sears and Rob Smith (along with artist Lisa Flahive).
It’s a tough job, but – wait, no, make that jobs plural.
McCalpin balances work as director of operations at the listening room with membership in three bands and a solo career. Nice work if you can get it.
“I was born and raised in Traverse City,” he says. “My parents weren’t musicians but had really great records, and there were always instruments around, a guitar in the corner. I got hooked at an early age and went to school in LA (Musicians Institute), then lived in Nashville and Kalamazoo.”
All before moving back to his hometown and working with local musicians in the funk/fusion band Medicinal Groove, playing a mix of jazz, funk and soul with Funky Uncle and performing in a duo with keyboardist Jimmy Olson (also a member of Medicinal Groove). Plus he works as a solo artist. “Jimmy and I have worked together about 15 years. Medicinal Groove is our passion project. Our new duo is called Waterbed.”
Then there’s his day (and night) job coordinating activities at the Alluvion, the venue and event space at the Commongrounds Cooperative building near downtown Traverse City. It hosts everything from music shows to classes and workshops. “We want to make sure it’s thriving. Getting more artists is a huge goal,” says McCalpin.
1. Wes Montgomery, “Movin’ Wes” (1964) – The first one that comes to mind is “Movin’ Wes.” My wife and I named our son after Wes. “Movin’ Wes” blew my mind. I was living in LA and got it at Amoeba Records. My roommate and I put it on. It opens up with an amazing version of “Caravan” with a really insane solo. The next track is “People,” a ballad. It’s one of the most beautiful recordings I’ve ever heard. I think Wes Montgomery is a fountain of endless soul, ideas and talent.
2. Sly and the Family Stone, “Fresh” (1973) – That album is kind of the funk version of “Kind of Blue” (revered as among the finest jazz albums ever made). It was a shift in production – he was making records in-house (his home studio). There are mistakes all over it; that’s how people do it all the time now. There was a rumor that Miles would have his band listen to it before going onstage. George Clinton considers it one of the best funk albums ever.
Listen: “If You Want Me To Stay”
3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Sex and Food” (2018) – It came out not that long ago. I was already a big fan of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. When I heard he was releasing a new album (UMO is mostly a one-man operation by Ruban Nielson) I was hoping it delivered on a high level. It came at a time in my life when I needed it to be awesome. It takes all the production styles I like and wraps them into it. It’s all across the board. There are slow, mellow songs, heavy ones, Steely Dan-like music, psychedelic rock like Hendrix. I think he does a really good job of taking all kinds of music I love. One other thing that’s important: My wife and I love listening to it together. That doesn’t always happen. It’s a band we mutually love.
Listen: “A God Called Hubris”
Currently Loving: J Dilla, “Dillatronic” (2015) – He’s from Detroit. He passed way too early. His drums, the hip hop tracks he produced, there are some brief instrumentals. There was a huge shift in the time feel. He used an MPC3000 and turned off the quantizer. Jazz, neo soul – I like to shuffle Dilla’s entire catalog, which ranges from historic hip-hop albums he produced to rare instrumental beats that have come out over the years since he passed. One of my favorite albums like that is called “Dillatronic.” My kids will shout from the back seat, “You’re always listening to J Dilla!”
Listen: “Dillatronic 01”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Matt McCalpin’s Playlist on Spotify
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