Interview conducted via e-mail and reproduced below.
1. First of all, we at Progarchy would like to thank you for this opportunity. Many of us are big fans of King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, etc. We know you have a busy schedule, so I’ll keep the questions to a minimum. The 1950s was obviously a huge decade for jazz, featuring the talents of Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, and others of the cool jazz movement. What first attracted you to the jazz scene and do you have a preferred “style”?
It’s an interesting combination, me and Pete, because I’m primarily a rock player, who also plays jazz – while he’s a jazz player, who has played a lot of rock. So, Pete’s played in lots of jazz styles, on tons of records and tours. For me, I’m usually called in to a jazz album when they want it to be more like rock(!) But this time it’s us calling the shots, and we wanted to go back to the style we loved when we were kids just starting to play… the ‘cool jazz’ then may or may not have been ‘cool’, but it had melodic songs, and the solos weren’t as long winded as some other styles. In general it seemed less designed for the players, and more about having good writing, played well. So that’s what we aimed at with this album, hopefully giving the listener songs that’ll keep running thru their heads, and hopefully it’s music that has a classic element, and will sound as good 10 years from now as it does today.
2. What was the music scene like growing up in the 1950s Boston area and how much of an influence did it have on the you and your brother’s playing style?
When I was living in Boston I was only into Classical. There were great opportunities, and the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra took me to Carnegie Hall and the White House. But it was after I left to go to school in Rochester that I started playing jazz and rock — so I wasn’t much influenced by what was going on at home.
3. This is your first time releasing an album with your brother Pete, an accomplished musician in his own right. Why so long a wait? What was the experience like?
We did release a single track way back years ago, and it was a comedy piece! Otherwise, we’ve played on each others albums and projects many times, but really this is the first time we sat down and said, let’s make this album together. Surprising it took us that many years to do it. (And hopefully it’s worth the wait!)
4. Listening to the audio sample on Youtube, I was impressed by the quality musicianship, but it was certainly unlike anything most of your fans have heard before. Most listeners are familiar with your work with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. What can they expect from the Levin Brothers album?
Oh this is different for sure. What it’s about is; nice jazz songs, played well, with unusual instrumentation (a lot of my cello playing the lead, as well as Pete’s piano and organ, and Erik’s sax). The solos are short and each guy does his best playing, then moves on for somebody else.
Oh, there is one King Crimson song, Matte Kudasai, that we included so that folks might have one song they already know.
5. I also noticed from the Levin Brothers site that Steve Gadd, one of the world’s most renowned drummers, is featured as a guest on two songs. However, a few other musicians, perhaps not as well known, appear on the album. Could you briefly discuss the talents of Jeff Siegel, David Spinozza, and Erik Lawrence?
Jeff and Erik are great players that Pete has gigged with a lot though the years. Guitarist David Spinozza has been in a jazz band with me, called L’Image, for … well, ever since I can remember — we don’t do much touring or recording, but there’s a good musical comraderie, so he seemed the right guy to bring in. You’re right about Steve Gadd being renowned, and it was important to me to have him on the track “Bassics”, because he was instrumental in making me a jazz player, back in the 60’s when we were in music school together. So it just seemed right to have him on that piece, which is mostly bass playing the lead, with drums sharing the spotlight.
6. This album is a dramatic shift from your typical role in a progressive rock band. As you continue to play for prog rockers such as King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, do you see yourself continuing to work on more jazz related projects in the future?
I never have much idea what the future will bring, but my plan is to continue with Crimson and Gabriel, but Pete and I will not only continue to do the local gigging we’ve always done – we will certainly take the band from the album out on tour sometime in the next year.
7. How did the songwriting process go? I noticed all but one song (Matte Kudasai) is an original composition. Whose specific influence (if any) can we hear on this album?
Pete and I both wrote songs for it – once the style was set (and I was very focussed on the albums of Julius Watkins and Oscar Pettiford) it was fun coming up with songs. We wrote more than we needed for the album, but also we kept the tracks short, on both the CD and LP, so we could fit many more songs on than is usual.
Incidentally, it was a longtime wish of mine to release a real vinyl album, and this was surely the right time for it – so we’re loving having the big artwork and vintage back cover on the vinyl version. Of course, as is standard nowadays, it comes with a download card for digital versions of all the songs.
8. Finally, do you plan on doing any touring once the album is released. I understand King Crimson is about to go on tour again, but will fans be treated to any live performances by the Levin Brothers in the near future?
Yes, as I mentioned before, I’ve got some Crimson and Gabriel tours to do this Fall, but next year we’ll also do some Levin Brothers jazz club dates for sure.
Thanks, Connor. The Chapman Stick appealed to me as soon as I heard it, as a way to play my bass parts in a different way than normal. In prog music, I’m usually looking for those subtle things that move my playing forward. I never imagined, in my first years with the instrument, that I’d eventually play the guitar strings on it too, and form a group (“Stick Men”) that I now tour with more than any other group. It’s been a really rewarding experience for me.
For more information regarding the album:
A review of Salander, “STENDEC” (2014, independent release). Tracks: Pearls Upon a Crown; Book of Lies; Ever After; Hypothesis 11/8; Situation Disorientation; Controlled Flight Into Terrain; and Zeitgeist. Total time: 65 minutes. Recommendation: HIGHEST; MUST OWN
From the moment I first heard “CRASH COURSE FOR DESSERT” by Salander, I knew I not only loved the music, but I also knew I would love the musicians as well.
And, so it came to pass.
A rather significant part of my 2014 has been the sheer joy of getting to know Dave Smith, one of the two Daves who make up Salander. Sadly, I’ve not had the chance to get to know Dave Curnow, the other Dave, but I trust the judgment of the first Dave. So, per my respect of Dave, Dave must also be great.
Ok, now I’m getting confused.
There are a thousand things to appreciate about Salander. First, the level of professional artistry is as good as it gets. The two Daves not only play each of the instruments on the album, they do so with elegance and perfectionism.
Second, the lyrics move and flow powerfully as an integral part of the entire art. These are not add ons, nor are they the rock equivalent of an “um” or an “err”: “baby, baby.” No, these are fine, deep, thoughtful words integrated with the notes and the lines.
Salander and the two Daves: Words, notes, lines.
Third, Salander are willing to linger. That is, they take their time to build their art, to build anticipation, and to explore an idea. Rushed, hurried, and superficial are not descriptions applicable to anything this extraordinary band does.
Beginning with Spirit of Eden-esque sounds of nature, cries, pings, wind, and waves, the opening track, “Pearls Upon a Crown,” lingers and hovers for almost six full minutes. Very Talk Talkish, it also reminds me of the best of Pure Reason Revolution and Spiritualized. Space rock atmospherics at its best. A gorgeous Gilmour-like guitar comes at 2.59 into the music, but no vocals emerge until 5.57.
The words open with a Socratic moment: “Can you feel the power.” Essentially, the Daves ask, how far can you allow your imagination to soar? And, will you trust your deepest and best part to another?
Regardless of style, Salander has invited you into their art. The choice to enter is yours. But, once you’ve accepted, there’s no turning back. Indeed, no mere sprinkling or christening here. They demand full immersion.
The second track, a bitter folkish wall of sound tale of deception, is as epic as the first track. At 11 minutes, “The Book of Lies” again shows Salander at its most diverse and epic.
The third track, a much sweeter (or so it seems, musically) take on life and music, “Ever After,” takes us back to the end of “Pearls.” Who do you trust, and how far are you willing to trust that person with what matters most to you?
Not surprisingly given its title, “Hypothesis 11/8,” the fourth track is instrumental and serves as the perfect interlude for this rather heavy album. The first minute has a Vangelis feel to it, and it could certainly serve as the cinematic soundscape to much of Blade Runner. The final three minutes of the four-minute track allow the two Daves to demonstrate their excellence at drums, bass, and guitar. This is really prog at its finest. Listening to this track for the twentieth time or so, I’m still reminded of Cosmograf in terms of expertise and craft.
“Situation disorientation,” the fifth track, follows the interlude with more atmospherics slowly resolving into an angsty and contemplative space rock song, pulsating and pounding by its end. The lyrics swirl around a love affair gone terribly wrong, with the protagonist plagued with guilt, pride, and doubt.
The longest song of the album, “Controlled Flight Into Terrain,” comes in at just under fourteen minutes. The Daves have broken it into four sections, the name of the album coming from section three, STENDEC. Interestingly enough, STENDEC was the last word coming from a Chilean plane that mysteriously disappeared in 1947. Over the last seventy years, STENDEC has become synonymous with UFO abduction. The story and riddle of the word fits perfectly with the themes of the album: confusion, gravitas, and loss. Section III, STENDEC, is perfectly creepy, spooky, and claustrophobic. It gives me chills with every listen.
The album concludes with “Zeitgeist,” a tune that could have come out of the best of rock’s moment of New Wave in the early 1980s and the walls of sound of the end of that decade. As with Salander songs, the vocals are captivating, demanding the full attention of the listener. The song’s lyrics deal with the mystery of time and the loss of the past without surety of the future. Rather brilliantly, Salander presents a wall of sound, full of anxiety, with heavy but tasteful guitar and a lush angelic background soundscape. Of all the songs here, this is the most reminiscent of the best of their first album.
I’ve had a copy of STENDEC for almost two months, and I’m sorry I’ve not had the chance to review it before now. But, it’s an incredibly important album, and it deserves as much attention as possible, inside and outside of the prog community. Without question, this is one of the best albums of the year. No person who loves prog or music should not include this in her or his collection. Certainly, a must own.
STENDEC also caught me by surprise, coming out so closely following the release of CRASH COURSE. I gave CRASH COURSE my highest recommendation. Amazingly enough, STENDEC is even better, as it’s even deeper and more coherent as an album. Even after 20 or so listens, I’m still stunned by its excellence and the ability to draw me into and immerse myself in the album. While I don’t want to seem greedy, it would be an understatement to state: I can’t wait to see what album three will bring.
Originally posted on rush vault:
Neil has updated his blog with a post about two adventures he took earlier this summer to the Channel Islands, which are about a dozen miles off the Southern California coast. The post, called “Magnetic Mirages,” caught my attention because I had been to the Channel Islands myself at around the same time, and although our paths didn’t cross, I was interested to compare his notes with my own.
His adventures were a little more . . . adventurous, to say the least, since he got there by hitching a ride on the boat of his motorcycle buddy and security chief, Michael, while I just hopped on a tour boat. And he went to four of the eight islands, and I only went to one, Anacapa. (See “Inspiration Point” pictures.)
Comparing notes was interesting but what caught…
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A well deserved honor, in my humble opinion.
The three tracks released so far from the forthcoming Sloan LP, Commonwealth, sound great.
This one, “Carried Away,” the latest, is my favorite so far, no doubt because it is a Chris Murphy song.
He usually pens all my favorite Sloan songs:
Dave Kerzner is previewing the totally awesome track “Stranded” from his forthcoming album New World over on his Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/davekerznerband/stranded-squids-mix-full-version
Part 1: Isolation
Part 2: Delirium
Part 3: March of the Machines
Part 4: Source Sublime
Part 5: The Darkness
You will hear many wonderful influences in this stellar track, most obviously Pink Floyd and Genesis.
Dave writes on FB:
Legendary keyboardist/composer Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer premiered “Stranded”, the first song from my album, on Planet Rock this past Sunday! Per his request, they played the entire 10 and a half minutes of it on the radio! Keith told me this today:
“…they played the whole of ‘Stranded”. I haven’t known that to happen since Scott Munie of WNEW played all of ELP’s “Pictures…” – Keith Emerson
Now that it has been introduced to the public in the most deluxe Progalicious way possible, I’d like to share it with you!
This is an early mix of “Stranded” on my Sound Cloud (the final mix is being done by Tom Lord-Alge now).
The song features guests Steve Hackett (Genesis), Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd), Nick D’Virgilio (Kevin Gilbert), Jason Scheff (Chicago), Fernando Perdomo, Ana Cristina and myself on lead vocals and keys.
No wonder it sounds so incredible!
Take a big paper bag. Got one? Good – now toss in some 1970s King Crimson, some Frank Zappa, a bit of the 1969 ‘Crims, a healthy dose of their 80’s classic “Discipline“, a large amount of 90s-era ‘Crims, some Steely Dan, a bit of Toto, a very healthy quantity of the 1970s ECM catalog, a pinch of Edvard Grieg, a modicum of Steve Reich, a soupcon of Ulrich Schnauss’ textures, and some 50’s and 60s Blue Note Records for good measure. Got it all? Great. Now shake.
Keep shaking. Shake hard.
Right. That’s enough shaking. Now: Dump out the contents of your paper bag, and you should get the music of Seven Impale – “City Of The Sun”.
“WHO?” I heard someone in the back ask.
Let’s turn to their label, Karimsa Records, for some details:
SEVEN IMPALE consists of Stian Økland on vocals and guitars, Fredrik Mekki Widerøe on drums, Benjamin Mekki Widerøe on sax, Tormod Fosso on bass, Erlend Vottvik Olsen on guitar and Håkon Vinje on keyboards, and was formed in Bergen, Norway in 2010. The album itself, which was recorded and produced at the Solslottet and Duper Studio by Iver Sandøy, who has produced bands such as Enslaved and Krakow.
The band’s second release, due out in September of this year (2014), is a fantastic Progressive Rock album. Rock? Check. Jazz? Check. Progressing the genre? Oh yeah. Moody, light, heavy, melodic, pounding, dark, making the odd-meters groove? Yup. Most certainly.
Let me tell you, when I first heard the opening track “Oh My Gravity!” from a post on reddit/r/progrockmusic, I flipped. “What the…”, I said to the paper cut-out TARDIS sitting on my crowded desk. “Who are these guys? What is this? This the some of the best progressive rock I’ve heard this year!”, I said. The track starts out in the middle of the dynamic range, and by the final third of the song is heavy, heavy, heavy. Slamming guitars, saxophone, key changes that add tension to an already tense situation, rhythmic pounding that slams home the point… and finally the guitar and bass and B3 get us back to a contemplative solace: “…2000 years, and counting“.
Here’s what the press release from label Karisma Records has to say:
Whilst the prevailing influence throughout “City Of The Sun” clearly lies within the Classic Progressive Rock genre, SEVEN IMPALE’s music actually transcends several genres fearlessly and with deceptive ease. The five musically complex tracks that form the album are each distinctly different, something that only a lineup of musicians from a variety of disciplines as diverse as classical orchestra and big band, metal and jazz, and rock and electronica, could hope to create.
That’s a good description, thank you record-label-person.
The production is clear, the writing and arranging very creative, and the dynamic range between quiet, mid, and heavy is produced beautifully. These guys are not shy about getting heavy, and even less shy about melody and harmonic movement. They’ll pound their fists on the table one moment, and sing about it with their saxophones the next.
One moment complicated, complex; the next elegant and simple; one moment it’s a nightmare of prime-number-fueled angry metal, the next a gorgeous and plaintive melody, the album is a joy-rode through eidolons, fever-dreams, textures, philosophy, contemplation, quiet rumination, and angular rage.
Jason Rubenstein is a musician and technologist living in San Francisco, CA. His music can be found at http://music.jasonrubenstein.com and can be reached at jason-(a)-jasonrubenstein.com.
YES – Live at San Jose Civic
On 19 August 2014 – Watch the YES live show from San Jose Civic CA – FREE – exclusively on Yahoo Screen.
Setlist: FRAGILE & CLOSE TO THE EDGE in their entireties plus 2 tracks from HEAVEN & EARTH plus more GREATEST HITS!
Showtime: 11:30pm ET / 8:30pm PT / 4:30am UK
Check the show time in your location here.
If you miss the live event, don’t worry, the show will also be available to view afterwards on the same website.