Orlando music veteran Beth McKee and her Swamp Sistas perform and write many songs together in their frequent series of collaborative performances, workshops and sessions. Few, however, actually see a formal release.
But McKee's upcoming new single is effectively a Swamp Sistas family affair. "Swamp Sistas Cosmic Drifter" was co-written and co-performed with breakout Orlando rapper E-Turn, one of the youngest, most high-profile members of McKee's union of female artists. Additionally, fellow Swamp Sistas Bunky Garrabrant, Amy Robbins and Oak Hill Drifters' Rachel Decker also make cameos to add flourishes on trumpet, guitar and vocals.
As the modern pop landscape attests, the collision of hip-hop and roots music has produced all sorts of tragic results. But don't expect the next country-rap atrocity to come from McKee and E-Turn. No, they're too tasteful and self-respecting for that.
Instead, "Swamp Sistas Cosmic Drifter" is an uplifting glide of lush Southern soul whose smooth funk undertones allow E-Turn's rap breakdown — one of the most finessed displays of her cadence and power yet — to slip in, run things for a bit and peace out with surprisingly natural ease. More than just another song, this joint is the new Swamp Sistas anthem. "Swamp Sistas Cosmic Drifter" by Beth McKee and E-Turn is released everywhere on March 13. That same day, it'll premiere with a music video screening at the mega Swamp Sistas Cosmic Conjunction Funktion, an event at Will's Pub highlighting female, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices. See our feature story on it in this week's issue.
Although newly relocated back here, Thomas Milovac has been making waves in Orlando's underground jazz scene as a rising mover for a while now. Besides playing in acts like free-jazz juggernaut Bongus, Milovac has for the last year also given a platform to avant-garde artists through his young improv-heavy label Cosmo Sonic Collective.
Now, CSC finally releases the debut album by the label boss himself. Sun Ray, whose title winks to the mighty Sun Ra, is a full-length, full-band seven-song collection. As the Thomas Milovac Sextet, Milovac leads the group of Orlando players — including Ryan Devlin, Justin Mendez, Shawn Villanueva, Zach Muth and Eric Bailey — through a far-reaching selection of originals and a swinging rendition of Jelly Roll Morton's "King Porter Stomp."
Compared to the rest of the CSC catalog thus far, Milovac's new contribution as a bandleader is probably the most approachable. But, while traditional jazz styles are in the mix, the frequent improvisational passages — which range widely from tense, foreboding atmosphere to frenetic freakouts — are what set Sun Ray apart from the WUCF crowd and in line with his label's outward ethos. That intersection of classic and experimental makes the album a compelling mix of accessibility and unpredictability.
Sun Ray is available on Cosmo Sonic Collective's Bandcamp.[email protected]