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New CD Featuring Tony Levin – In Extremis

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New CD Featuring Tony Levin - In ExtremisNew CD Featuring Tony Levin – In Extremis… (View Bass Musician Magazine interview with Tony Levin) Possibly the most anticipated prog release of 2013 will be released on May 15 – the sophomore album by celebrated LA prog duo Days Between Stations titled ‘In Extremis’. Boasting an incredible guest line-up of music legends featuring Colin Moulding (XTC), Rick Wakeman (YES), Peter Banks (YES/Flash) Tony Levin (King Crimson/Peter Gabriel) and Billy Sherwood (YES/CIRCA:), Days Between Stations reach a new level of creative artistry on their new album. With a title like ‘In Extremis’ (Latin, In extremity – A term used in reference to the last illness prior to death) one can begin to understand the intensity and sepulchral mood of the musical direction.

Keyboardist Oscar Fuentes explains the concept behind the album, “There’s the saying that your life flashes before your eyes in near death – and, presumably, actual death – experiences, so the album begins at the climax with ‘No Cause For Alarm’ and, as told on ‘Visionary’, ‘flashes back to the beginning’ and then in not strictly chronological order tells the story of our protagonist’s life. Not cheerful stuff, I know, but there’s some humor in there and if you read the lyrics I think ultimately it’s a positive message. I’ve had some personal losses in the last few years, so I tend to grapple with that in my lyrics, while Sepand is going to be a father soon…we tried to integrate those two themes, birth and death, into the lyrics.”

Billy Sherwood comments, “I really enjoyed working with Days Between Stations, the music is very deep and has a mystique about it that was intriguing from the first time I heard the songs. I can’t wait for people to hear this record. Rick Wakeman and Peter Banks of YES, Colin Moulding of XTC and Tony Levin of Peter Gabriel and King Crimson (playing all the bass), all appear as guests on this record which makes it even more unique. I played drums and sang lead vocals on the record and it was a pleasure to do so.”

Founded in 2003 by guitarist Sepand Samzadeh and keyboardist Oscar Fuentes, the duo named themselves after the cult novel by Steve Erickson and have devoted themselves to, as they say, Art Rock and Post Prog – music that reflects their varied influences, as well as shared disregard for stylistic boundaries. This eclecticism continues apace on this follow-up. At times the music recalls Peter Gabriel or ‘Duke’-era Genesis (as on the propulsive “Visionary”, which features Sherwood’s multi-layered vocals and Levin’s driving Stick bass work), or an ambient marriage between Pink Floyd and Lisa Gerrard and Debussy (“In Utero”), or even a cross between Ultravox and Marillion and ‘Abacab’-era Genesis (the Moulding-sung “The Man Who Dies Two Times”), but the band is about more than influences. As Oscar says, “We always try to create something new and not just re-hash a particular sound from the past. Sometimes it’s the unlikely pairing that gives you something fresh.”

Although, Days Between Stations ‘In Extremis‘ in some ways retains the dark somber mood of the group’s first album (released to great acclaim in 2007), in other ways the music is completely different. Says Sepand, “There are four clear distinctions between the two albums. The first, is that we are five years older. Which means we have grown as players and have higher expectations of ourselves. The second, which is most noticeable is that we have vocals (with lyrics) on this album. The debut album provides landscapes and layers of sound that allow the imagination to run free. One negative aspect of having vocals is that the mind mainly focuses on the rhythm and lyrical content and often times constrains the music. We wanted a healthy marriage between the two. Even so, there are several instrumental tracks on this album, one in particular is ‘Blackfoot’.” Oscar continues, “It wasn’t really a conscious decision to add vocals to this one – I mean vocals with lyrics. It’s just how the writing went. Sometimes a song tells you what it needs. So that’s different. Also, the album is more thoroughly composed or let’s say it’s more structurally thought out. Although Sepand and I entirely wrote the music, the lyrics were written collaboratively with Billy Sherwood, who was invaluable in bringing more focus to the whole theme, and who in some cases took the idea in a different direction.”

Sepand concludes, “I feel the third difference on the new album is the extensive use of classical and exotic instruments; a full orchestra was employed on the first track, ‘No Cause For Alarm’, an instrumental overture that weaves together many of the main themes from the album. While the track ‘Waltz In E Minor’ is performed by a string quartet, the full orchestra returns (along with an unexpected Barbershop quartet) on the closer, ‘In Extremis’, a 21-plus minute multi-part epic that also features founding YES guitarist Peter Banks. Additionally, a Persian lute called a Tar is featured on the track ‘Eggshell Man’, a song that also features a blistering Moog solo from YES maestro Rick Wakeman. In fact, on ‘Eggshell Man’ Rick Wakeman, Billy Sherwood and Peter Banks play together. This brings me to my final point; when all these legends came together to contribute on this album, we developed a certain obsession to be at our best. Sadly Peter Banks passed away during the making of ‘In Extremis’, making these recordings even more meaningful and special to us.”

Although not necessarily connected to the Prog world, legendary XTC member Colin Moulding graced the album with a sublime lead vocal on the track “The Man Who Died Two Times”, which has also been issued as the album’s first single. Says Oscar, “Billy Sherwood had the idea that Colin’s voice would be perfect for the song and he was right. ‘Oranges and Lemons’, ‘Skylarking’, ‘The Big Express’…all of these I’ve listened to a million times. Another surreal moment for me!” Sepand adds, “Colin began communicating his thoughts on his first listen. I felt so much excitement and creativity from him, there was a great vibe between us. He really brought the song to life.”

Colin Moulding comments, “I had been doing some fun sessions for producer Billy Sherwood when he approached me with a side project that he was working on. It was this band Days Between Stations – an LA group I had never heard of before. It was inventive, extremely melodic, and had a lot of the qualities that got me excited about songs. So it was agreed that I would sing lead vocal on this track ‘The Man Who Died Two Times’. As things have turned out it seems to have been a marriage made in heaven; I think with a little careful handling and the right choice of material, this lot could go a long way.”

Along with the legendary guest artists, the ‘In Extremis’ album cover art was created by famed artist Paul Whitehead, best known for his work with Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator. Says Sepand, “To us, the artwork for an album is just as important as the music. We met with Paul at a coffee shop and I vaguely discussed the concept of the album – as the songs were not fully conceptualized at the time. He came up with some great images – on the spot – about this guy lying on a hospital bed while he was – as our lyrics say – ‘retracing all of the memories’. These memories are whirling around him, while he is in extremis. The great collaboration that we shared with Paul allowed the music and the artwork to become symbiotic…creating a true, tangible concept.”

Veteran engineer William Kaylor (Fleetwood Mac, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson) was also recruited to the project in order to improve the sound quality of the recordings. Once again, Grammy Award winner Evren Göknar, from Capitol Mastering, joins Days Between Stations to master ‘In Extremis’.

As far as future plans for Days Between Stations, a full documentary about the recording of the ‘In Extremis’ album is currently in the works. There is a strong possibility that the debut album will be remixed. Both albums will most likely be issued on vinyl as a limited edition release. Also talks of live performances are being discussed at the moment. In closing Sepand and Oscar have this to impart to their fans and listeners, “Thank you very much for your unequivocal support and for giving us confidence. Sorry for the wait, hope it was worth it!”

Days Between Stations – ‘In Extremis’ CD available May 15, 2013

For more information: daysbetweenstations.com

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New Album: Avery Sharpe, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

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A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper”

Avery Sharpe and his Double Quartet to release, I Am My Neighbors Keeper

A new recording will be released on JKNM Records by internationally renowned bassist/composer Avery Sharpe, “I Am My Neighbors Keeper” is scheduled for release in June 2024.

Sharpe has composed a new work that highlights our commitment to one another. Avery initiated the project as a response to the political and racial division that has grown over the past seven years in the country. “The U.S political climate has drastically changed in the past 40-plus years, especially during the last seven of those years. In this age of greed, which Sharpe refers to as “IGM,” I Got Mine, basic human compassion has been eroded. Racial, economic and social strides are being turned back.

“We have food insecurity, the unhoused, pandemics, school shootings, domestic violence, and an opioid problem, just to name some. There is a need to remind people that each of us is here on this planet for a very short period of time. It doesn’t matter if one has a religious approach or a secular approach, it all comes down to concern and compassion for each other. Through these compositions and recordings, Avery’s mission as an artist is to remind us that we all are interconnected and that ‘We Are Our Neighbor’s Keeper.’ When we help to uplift one, we uplift everyone,” Sharpe said.

Each movement in the piece describes the values we should strive for to help one another for this multi-media (video slide show during performance) and multi-discipline performance.

Many of Sharpe’s projects and recordings have been about “standing on the shoulders of ancestors, heroes and sheroes.” Among his recordings and projects, include “Running Man” (celebrating the athlete Jesse Owens), “Ain’t I A Woman” (about Sojourner Truth), and his most recent project “400: An African American Musical Portrait” (marking the 400 years from 1619 to 2019).

Avery Sharpe has recorded and performed with many jazz greats from Dizzy Gillespie to Yusef Lateef. He had an illustrious run of 20 plus years with the legendary Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, of which he recorded more than 25 records with Mr. Tyner and performed countless worldwide concerts.

Visit online at averysharpe.com/

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

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New Album: Killing Bees, Racing Towards Ruin

Killing Bees Racing Towards Ruin out May 10th via Tonequake Records.

There are some records where the first note grabs you and doesn’t let go. Before the first lyric is sung, Killing Bees pull you into Racing Towards Ruins via the sheer power of TONES, MAN, TONES. Brown-note bass reverberations and gut-punch kickdrum snap the listener out of daily reverie instantaneously. Together, bassist/vocalist Nic Nifoussi and drummer Ray Mehlbaum (both of Automatic 7) and producer Andrew Scheps (Mars Volta, Audioslave, Adele) have crafted a piece of art that fuses low-rock minimalism, post-hardcore aggression, and SoCal throttle rock urgency into, well, a real ass-kicker. 

The bones of Killing Bees began their calcification when Nifoussi started a high school punk band called Automatic 7. They signed to BYO Records upon graduation and soon found themselves in need of a new drummer. Enter Ray Mehlbaum. Tours with Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Face 2 Face, Bouncing Souls, Suicide Machines, Unwritten Law, Youth Brigade, DOA, and others followed, as well as a deal with A&M Records. A&M got bought by Universal, the band moved to Vagrant Records, cut a new record, toured, then broke up. 

“Eventually, Ray and I decided to start a two-piece band” explains Nifoussi. “I was trying out a new sound using 2 amps and an A-B switch. Overdrive through one amp and playing a lot of chords to get a guitar-like sound. After years of playing together, we were already tight and used to writing together. The songs came quickly and easily.”

Via Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, the band had come to know Grammy-winning producer and engineer Andrew Scheps. Though originally recommended as a producer for Automatic 7, when the band played him the Killing Bees songs, he loved the concept and the trio got to work on their self-titled debut. Following the record’s release on Guano Loco/Loose Fang Records, “we played a bunch of shows and eventually started writing the new record in our North Hollywood lockout” says Nifoussi.

Recorded once again at Scheps’ studio, drums and bass were recorded live, the only overdubs being vocals and some bass and accordion textures (Nifoussi is an accomplished accordionist). “We tracked the two together over 4 or 5 days and everything you hear was played live by talented humans, not put together after the fact.  I think that live energy is what makes the record so compelling!” says Scheps. “Andrew wanted to challenge us. We came in wired towards traditional songwriting – he wasn’t interested in that” explains Mehlbaum. “He encouraged us to think about instrumental bits that would drive the tune, as opposed to the sing-along chorus of a traditional song. As a drummer, he kicked my ass. I remember him saying “we’re gonna turn the click off. I want you to go completely ‘out of time’ then come back in.” That’s some crazy shit! But I fucking loved it.”

Thematically, the record deals with the dangers of love and politics in equal measure. As Nifoussi puts it, “if there’s a takeaway, it’s to be careful with who you love… and vote into government.” So, Racing Towards Ruin. A concise, compelling listen, arresting at first blush, and deeply moving upon completion. A modern rock record (not a modern-rock record), unrelentingly heavy and sonically immaculate. And loud. Super loud.  

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New Album: Lucy Clifford, Meeting Place

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New Album: Lucy Clifford, Meeting Place

Bassist and composer Lucy Clifford has announced the release of her new EP ‘Meeting Place’.

This live studio recording was captured at Golden Retriever Studios in Sydney, and features Australian guitarist Felix Lalanne and Swiss drummer Jessie Cox. 

As a bassist who has dedicated many years to accompanying artists of different kinds, Lucy shares some of her own music in a kaleidoscope of sounds and influences that have shaped her creative identity. The trio explores Lucy’s compositions, which weave between both energy and repose, lyrical soundscapes colliding with dynamic grooves that are sure to occupy your mind. This 4 song EP is presented as an uninterrupted musical odyssey and serves as a dedication to the places and people that hold a profound ability to anchor us in the present moment, our meeting places. 

For Lucy, this meeting place created with Felix and Jessie is a “celebration of collaborative spirit and the immersive spatial movements of sound. In an era where connections are more crucial than ever, this music emerged while reflecting on the many borders, barriers, and structures that currently hold back human connection and communal bonds. We need reminding to rediscover our meeting places, that bring us the love, comfort, truth, and creativity we so urgently need.” 

‘Meeting Place’ will be out April 5th on digital platforms, along with the live studio performance for viewing on Youtube.

Visit online at www.lucycliffordmusic.com

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New Album: Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice

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New Album: Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice

Christian de Mesones, You Only Live Twice…

Reborn, Reimagined and Remixed: Jazz funk bassist Christian de Mesones returns with “You Only Live Twice,” a new album dropping April 12 that contains the Billboard No. 1 hit “Hispanica” featuring keyboard legend Bob James.

A lifetime ago, Christian de Mesones was a New York City cabbie and heavy metal bassist who had a voracious appetite for the seedy decadence the Big Apple’s music scene was known for in the 1980s. Determined to change his life, de Mesones did a complete one-eighty, got clean and changed his musical muse to jazz funk. Dedicating his “second life” to pursuing his newfound passion for contemporary jazz and deep soul grooves spiced with Latin rhythms, de Mesones will release his second album, “You Only Live Twice,” on April 12 on the That 555 Lyfe label. Christopher Valentine produced nine of the album’s ten tracks, all but one of which are original songs written or cowritten by de Mesones.

de Mesones’s turnaround began decades ago, but it wasn’t until March of 2020 that he finally assembled his solo debut album, “They Call Me Big New York,” just as Covid-19 put the world on lockdown. Three singles from the set, “Big Tall Wish,” “Spirit” and “Latin Jive Redux,” landed on three national charts. However, pandemic restrictions limited de Mesones’s opportunities to promote the project and grow his brand.

A year later, de Mesones released a sultry Latin-tinged cut titled “Hispanica.” A British DJ sent the song to two-time Grammy-winning keyboardist Bob James, who agreed to play piano on the track. The single went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart, de Mesones’s first.

“I have always believed in the power of composition. One song can change the world. In my case, one of my own compositions forever changed mine. Before releasing ‘Hispanica’ as a single, I felt it was my strongest composition to date. It was featured on my previous album as a vocal track, and on the advice of my radio promoter, it was reimagined as an instrumental. I immediately knew I wanted a piano for the melody. Having the legendary Bob James play on it was a fairytale come true. It has become one of the most meaningful experiences of my career,” said de Mesones.

de Mesones dropped the follow-up single, “In His Vision,” in 2022. He wrote the rousing tune on which his bass takes on lyrically expressive qualities and gets a boost from saxophonist Eddie Baccus Jr.’s impassioned play.

“This song written for and inspired by my father-in-law was a challenge for me. I wanted to play the melody and do it justice. It had to have that Wayman Tisdale vibe, so last minute before the recording, I changed to piccolo gauge strings, giving me the sound I envisioned. Eddie Baccus Jr.’s sax put the song over the top, giving it exactly what I thought it needed,” explained de Mesones.

A movie buff, de Mesones is a big James Bond fan and the secret agent’s presence is felt twice on the album, including on the title track, which was released as a single last year. The production and arrangements are sprawling on the track “You Only Live Twice,” layered with majestic horn section parts and a dreamy vocal chorus.

“The album’s title track holds multiple meanings for me. Putting aside my love for the classic James Bond film with this title, it perfectly represents my second album release as a solo artist as well as the album artwork featuring my custom double neck bass. This song was composed many years ago and has come to fruition at a time when I have found true love and real purpose in my life. I believe in second chances, and love is definitely sweeter the second time around,” said de Mesones who is married to his producer’s sister, Jennifer Valentine.

A fourth single prefaced the album with the release of “Don Pedro” last year. Written in memory of his late father, the contemplative ballad is as beautiful as it is emotional. Two-time Grammy-winning vocalist David Blamires provides a haunting wordless caress throughout the track led by Jaared Arosemena’s soprano sax.

“My personal favorite track on the album captures the essence of my father who was a larger-than-life figure to me when I was a child. As I grew older, we had our difficulties, as many sons and fathers do, but I was blessed to be able to mend our relationship in his later years. Through the completion and release of this song, which I toiled over for years, I found a way to keep his spirit alive and with me everywhere I go,” de Mesones shared.

For the other Bond-connected song on the album, de Mesones reinterprets five-time Academy Award winner John Barry’s “Capsule In Space,” setting it to a funky Latin modern-day groove. Michael “Arch” Thompson’s spiraling flute work adds a floating sensation.

“I love the orchestration and composing skills of John Barry and loved using this music to accompany the visuals for my live shows. This song is a bit sentimental, too, as it conjures memories of growing up in Brooklyn and my father and grandmother taking me to see James Bond movies. Creating an urban take on this masterpiece was a lot of fun,” de Mesones shared.

Other tracks on the album are the seductive jazz funk prowl of “Sexy Beast”; the mighty five-bass attack “Throb!” on which de Mesones formed a brotherhood of bassists with Bill DickensBrendan RothwellAndrew Gouche and Vail Johnson on this revamped track that originally appeared on his debut disc; “Arrival,” an exciting, exuberant and explosive space jam that de Mesones plans to use to open his concerts; the sensual “Stay,” an R&B single illumined by Nes Powers’s distinctive voice; and “Sweetnight,” which de Mesones converted from a vocal tune into an instrumental.

“‘Sweetnight’ went through more changes than any other song in my entire repertoire. This instrumental version represents what I hear when I close my eyes and imagine a world where love rules all things,” de Mesones described.

Brooklyn-born and bred, de Mesones relocated to a sleepy town in Virginia as he rebuilt his life. He made his concert debut at the Capital Jazz Festival near Washington, DC in 2006 and has persevered ever since to get to the next level. “You Only Live Twice” is a big album on multiple levels. Valentine’s elaborate production and crafty arrangements give the project a grand sound design. de Mesones’s rubbery basslines, dynamic rhythms and equanimity when it comes to sharing the spotlight with an accomplished collective of first-call musicians in service to the song has equipped him with a next-level album meriting a major breakthrough.

“After my days of living a lifestyle of excess, now being surrounded by such loving, supportive friends, family, and fans feels like a rebirth. And my life is so much sweeter the second time around. From sex, drugs, and rock and roll to smooth grooves and funky Latin soul, my feet are now on solid ground. And I’m here to tell you, it’s true: your best life is not in the rear-view mirror.”

de Mesones’s “You Only Live Twice” album contains the following songs:

“You Only Live Twice”
“Sexy Beast” with Bill McGee and Rob Maletick
“Throb!” (Bass Godz Remix) featuring Bill Dickens, Brendan Rothwell, Andrew Gouche and Vail Johnson
“Arrival”
“Stay” (Big New York Remix) featuring Nes Powers
“Sweetnight”
“Capsule In Space”
“In His Vision” featuring Eddie Baccus Jr.
“Hispanica” featuring Bob James
“Don Pedro” featuring Jaared Arosemena

For more information, please visit bignybassworld.com.

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Album Review: Brian Bromberg, LaFaro

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Album Review: Brian Bromberg, LaFaro

Brian Bromberg, LaFaro…

Scott LaFaro was an extraordinary upright bass player who we lost in 1961 at the age of 25. Even though he was a young bassist he worked with the Bill Evans Trio from 1959 to 1961; he was an exceptional musician and his bass work was lightyears ahead of his time.

Brian Bromberg has teamed up with pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero to produce a tribute album to this legendary player. We are treated to a dozen tracks (with three bonus tracks on the digital platforms) that were Bill Evans Trio standards. While the original band’s work inspired Brian, this tribute album is not an attempt by the musicians to replicate the music but to organically express themselves on these tunes. When you listen, you may note that it doesn’t sound like LaFaro and it isn’t supposed to.

As I have noted on many of Brian’s previous albums, the bass work (all upright here) is extraordinary and he knows how to get a crystal-clear sound. Every note is pristine and balanced perfectly with the piano and drums. Brian’s approach to recording upright bass should be the golden standard for all upright players. He also handpicked the other members of this trio and they are excellent musicians who really deliver the goods.

If you would like more insight into this album, I can share that in my cover interview with Brian, coming soon.

The projected album release date is April 5, 2024, and will be available at www.brianbromberg.net

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