Nashville-based R&B/soul recording artist Kira Small (Peter Frampton, Martina McBride, Wynonna) and renowned bassist Bryan Beller (Steve Vai, Dethklok, The Aristocrats, Mike Keneally) will release Live At The White House on November 4, 2011. The 60-minute disc will be the debut album on Small’s new indie label, Mermaid Holler Records, and comes after two solid years of cross-country touring.
Live At The White House mainly features original songs from Kira’s three studio albums, but there’s some cover material as well, from the offbeat and unexpected (“Wanderin’ Star” from the Paint Your Wagon movie soundtrack; Peter Gabriel’s “Digging In The Dirt) to searing, intimate duo renditions of R&B classics like “I Can’t Stand The Rain” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”, as well as Beller’s solo electric bass version of John Patitucci’s “Backwoods.” A five-minute montage preview of the entire disc can be found at http://tinyurl.com/kirabryanpreview.
The album documents a December 2010 live performance at The Timucua White House in Orlando, FL. Built by Benoit Glazer (Musical Director of Cirque du Soleil Orlando), the Timucua White House is actually the Glazer family home, but was designed with live concerts in mind to support Orlando’s music and arts community through his Timucua Arts Foundation, and includes a stunning three-story room with a fully wired and beautifully lit stage. “We’ve played house concerts all over the country in homes big and small – and we LOVE it!” says Small. “But what we walked into that night in Orlando was like a house concert on steroids. It blew us away.”
While Small leads the duo with her soul-drenched voice over a solid keyboard groove, Beller’s bass-playing expands to fill the guitar and drum gaps, incorporating more purposefully rhythmic fills and even the occasional simulated wah-guitar solo. Beller digs it: “I’ve always loved playing funk and R&B and soul, even though I’m known for playing wackier stuff. Gigging with Kira lets me get back to some rootsier playing, and having to pretend I’m a guitarist has even helped shape my soloing voice in cool and unexpected ways.”
Kira originally built her resume as a Nashville vocal session ace, having performed and recorded with Peter Frampton, Martina McBride, Wynonna Judd, Ronnie Milsap, Alan Jackson, Ray Stevens and more. She was also a member of Berklee College of Music’s voice faculty for two years. Meanwhile, Beller was off playing many more notes with instrumentally-oriented virtuoso artists and metal acts like Steve Vai, Mike Keneally, Dethklok (from Cartoon Network’sMetalocalypse), and The Aristocrats (with guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Marco Minnemann), but he brings it way back down to earth to accompany Small’s soulful material.
The unlikely duo is an even unlikelier couple: Kira and Bryan met as students at Berklee in the early ’90s and were reunited six years ago for the memorial service of a mutual friend. They married in 2008 and played their first duo gig six months later. Since then they’ve played over 100 shows together in 35 states.
“When we started playing together two years ago we were two pros trusting each others’ chops and distinct experience, just as we’d done back in college. And we leaned heavily on the newlywed factor because, to be honest,” says Small, grinning, “we just couldn’t help it. Plus, it’s genuinely endearing for people. But now with a few years and over 100 shows under our belts, our duo act has totally locked in and found a life of its own. It’s a thing now, with its own unique sound and groove.” The couple’s onstage banter is as much a part of their live shows as the music is, and a fair amount of it is captured on Live At The White House.
Small & Beller will be touring throughout the south in November and December promoting the album. The two split their touring time between intimate listening venues and private house concerts, and were featured in a CNN.com article about house concerts in June 2010. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/06/09/house.concerts/index.html.