California Sounds: Hear new music from Johnny Jewel, Josef Leimberg and Sudan Archives

Josef Leimberg
Trumpeter Josef Leimberg.
(B+ for Mochilla)

Josef Leimberg, “Celestial Visions” (World Galaxy/Alpha Pup). Few could have imagined a decade ago that Los Angeles would drive a jazz renaissance that fluidly mixes free jazz, post-bop, hip-hop and spiritual jazz. Yet the arrival and influence of artists including Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington and Terrace Martin has breathed new life into America’s music.

The composer-producer-trumpeter Josef Leimberg has found success as one half of the production pair LoveDragon. Along with collaborator Martin, the team co-wrote and produced two tracks on Lamar’s Grammy-winning “To Pimp a Butterfly.”  

On his solo debut, “Astral Progressions,” Leimberg blasts into a decidedly cosmic realm, one that recalls Sun Ra’s transfixing work with the Mini-Moog synthesizer in the 1970s, except channeled through contemporary beat-based Los Angeles and filled with generational vigor.


It’s a trippy record, thick with reverb, echo, layers of voices and a free-floating spirit that celebrates sonic spontaneity. The track “Celestial Visions” is particularly thrilling, a work dotted with chimes, synthesizers, bells and pianos. Leimberg mixes these flourishes into a composition that suggests smoky cocktail jazz of the 1960s or the opening theme to a movie about a Leimert Park love affair.  

Sudan Archives, “Queen Kunta” (Stones Throw). The Cincinnati artist known as Sudan Archives recently relocated to Los Angeles, and her take on Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” suggests an artist poised to capitalize on the new environment. She’s signed to Highland Park imprint Stones Throw, and is readying release of her self-titled debut as Sudan Archives for the label. 

The classically trained violinist, whose real name is Brittney Denise Parks, is still in her early 20s, and on her Facebook page she acknowledges “inspiration from the various fiddle styles of Africa and aspires to lead an all female orchestra.” (Warning: The below video contains cussing.)


With her skills at looping voice and instruments, she may not need one. For “Queen Kunta,” all she requires are vocal microphone, violin and loop pedal to transform Lamar’s explosive track into something all her own. Such inventiveness confirms an artist with confidence and chops. Get in on the ground floor when she performs at the Stones Throw Superfest in Highland Park on Nov. 5. 

Symmetry, “The Magician” (Italians Do It Better). The composer and Chromatics kingpin Johnny Jewel relocated from Portland, Ore.,n to northeast L.A. a few years ago, and has been easing his way into the film scoring business while working on the highly anticipated new Chromatics album. 

The latest fruit of his efforts is the score of the Belgian film “Home,” which features new work by Jewel, Chromatics and Symmetry, the artist’s synth-based duo. The stickiest track is Symmetry’s “The Magician,” which is deep with vintage synth tones that lurch and rumble.

Sounding like an instrumental Gary Numan track with extra low-end vibrations, Symmetry exploits the circuitry, conjuring forgotten tones, bringing into the present a host of buried frequencies that vibrate anew.

There’s a lot of terrible music out there. For tips on the stuff that’s not, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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