Pink Martini - In 1994 in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, thinking that one day he would run for mayor. Like other eager politicians-in-training, he went to every political fundraiser under the sun… but was dismayed to find the music at these events underwhelming, lackluster, loud and un-neighborly. Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world – crossing genres of classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop – and hoping to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike, he founded the “little orchestra” Pink Martini in 1994 to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education and parks. Over the years, the band has collaborated and performed with numerous artists, including Jimmy Scott, Carol Channing, Jane Powell, Rufus Wainwright, Henri Salvador, and more, and has had an illustrious roster of regular guest artists including NPR’s Ari Shapiro, host of All Things Considered; Cantor Ida Rae Cahana (who was cantor at the Central Synagogue in NYC for five years); koto player Masumi Timson; harpist Maureen Love; and Kim Hastreiter (the publisher/editor-in-chief of Paper magazine). Pink Martini has just finished recording its ninth studio album, Je dis oui!, which features vocals from China Forbes, Storm Large, Ari Shapiro, fashion guru Ikram Goldman, Kathleen Saadat, and Rufus Wainwright, and will be released worldwide in November 2016.
Beth Hart - Los Angeles-based blues-rocker Beth Hart began playing piano at age four, later attending L.A.'s High School for the Performing Arts as a vocal and cello major. By 1993, she was a regular fixture on the local club circuit, by 1993 she was collaborating with bassist Tal Herzberg and guitarist Jimmy Khoury; with the addition of drummer Sergio Gonzalez early the following year, the Beth Hart Band was complete, and after signing to Atlantic's Lava imprint, the group issued its debut album, Immortal, in 1996. Screamin' for My Supper followed three years later. In 2003, Hart released Leave the Light On, followed by both audio and DVD versions of Live at Paradiso in 2005. In 2007, she released 37 Days, which was only released in Europe and Japan. It was followed by Beth Hart & the Ocean of Souls in 2009 on Razz Records. In 2010, Hart released My California in Europe, followed by its release in the United States in early 2011. Hart emerged later in the year in collaboration with blues guitar superstar Joe Bonamassa on a searing collection of soul covers titled Don't Explain. The year 2012 saw the release of Hart's eighth studio album, Bang Bang Boom Boom. In 2013, Hart paired up once again with Bonamassa for another set of cover versions on Seesaw, and the pair followed it up with Live in Amsterdam, issued in March of 2014. Hart once again went solo in 2015 with Better Than Home. The following year, she delivered the more upbeat and direct album Fire on the Floor.
Judith Owen feat. Leland Sklar- Pianist-singer-songwriter Judith Owen is known for her love of musical variety and melding it into a great stylistic gumbo all her own. ‘Somebody’s Child’ is the culmination of this mix: voice and piano front and centre, songs that are vignettes of life crafted from the perspective that we ARE all “somebody’s child” – parental as well as planetary. An album about us.“By nature, I am a diverse musician. It’s who I am because of all the music I grew up being exposed to, from opera to Sinatra, Joni to Stevie Wonder, and everything in between,” says Judith. Whereas 2014’s critically-acclaimed ‘Ebb & Flow’ was personal and very much a love letter to Laurel Canyon, ‘Somebody’s Child’ takes a leap from the confessional to the observational, whilst recruiting the same crème de la crème of Los Angeles session musicians – bassist Leland Sklar, guitarist Waddy Wachtel and drummer Russell Kunkel – and incorporating them with her British-based musicians – master percussionist Pedro Segundo and sublime cellist Gabriella Swallow – to create a fresh new dynamic.“It’s a very British thing where you love mixing all those styles. It’s classical. It’s pop. There’s jazz. There’s rhythm and blues. Then there’s rock thrown in there too,” Judith emphasizes, as evident in the jewel-like, pastoral and melancholic ‘No More Goodbyes’ and the staccato, jazzy rocker ‘We Give In’. The opening song, and title track, is intimately framed with a string quartet and “is the heart of the record. It sets the tone – a mission statement. I was in New York, in the middle of winter, and I saw this beautiful young woman, about nine months pregnant, barefoot in the snow, wearing a trash bag, that was all she had, stomach out and in a state. I was crossing the street, with everybody else, trying to avoid her, when I thought, “That’s somebody’s child, and if my life had been different, that could have been me. Or any of us! We’re all so dehumanized, and this whole record is about reconnecting with our humanity, really seeing what’s around us, discarding, even if it is just for a moment, our constant state of denial.” Until recently, her pinpoint sense of observation was often turned inwards as she concentrated on her own feelings. “I made ‘Ebb & Flow’ right after my father passed away,” she explains, referring to her opera singer father who loomed large over her life. “Much later I wrote ‘No More Goodbyes’ about the hardest thing that any of us have to admit—that there’s a relief in letting go, that there’s a desire for pain to end.” Even though that sounds serious, Judith emphasizes that “this is a much more life-affirming, joyful record.”“’Mystery’ is probably the most honest love song I’ve ever written. How any of us ever find love in the first place is hard enough; how any of us stay together is the true mystery” she gleefully admits. “There’s no planning to it. The last verse, which is the most important – ‘It takes patience, it takes time, today we might quarrel, tomorrow we’ll be fine’ – is the point of it all. It’s the rough with the smooth.” “I’m with someone who doesn’t go by the rules romantically,” she says of partner Harry Shearer (Spinal Tap, the Simpsons) “However, I’m with somebody who makes me laugh, who adores me, who I have the best time with”. Judith turns these personal observations into the universal truths of ‘Mystery’ and ‘That’s Why I Love My Baby’. The latter features Harry on upright bass. “I get it now. It’s the things he doesn’t do that make me love him. Not doing the expected stuff. These are bookends,” she reflects about one of her favourite songwriting tricks, composing two sets of lyrics around the same topic. Another pair of bookends ‘Tell All Your Children’ – all retro R&B cool with just a touch of Gaye – and ‘I Know Why The Sun Shines’ – which borrows from one of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s best-loved piano phrases – are both sending a message about what we’re doing to the planet (oil exploitation, fracking). “Sometimes I just have to put on a big, floppy hat, put a candelabra on the piano, and vent!” Developing first name character songs like the wonderfully-sketched ‘Arianne’ (inspired by a trip to the Berlin Wall), ‘Josephine’ and the “buddy” of first single ‘Send Me A Line‘—a social commentary on people, including herself, “not being present but preoccupied by technology”— came easy to her. “They’re like tiny soap operas,” she says about the compositions that are adorned so sympathetically by the stellar musicians. A Judith signature is also to turn the most unlikely song inside out. She’s done it before with her tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the Deep Purple rock anthem ‘Smoke On The Water’ and Mungo Jerry’s irresistible, irresponsible and politically incorrect ‘In The Summertime’. This time, it’s her languid interpretation of Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This’, endorsed by none other than its creator Bryan Ferry whom she opened for last year, that lingers long in the memory. In fact it was recorded at Bryan’s London studio on his piano. Not to mention her playful adaptation of ‘Aquarius’ from the rock musical ‘Hair’. “I love playing with overtly earnest lyrics like these, and putting them in a totally different musical context. I’m a serious person who likes to laugh a lot. I need to.” The album ends on the beautifully uplifting orchestral ‘The Rain Is Gonna Fall’ whose intentions are opposite to what one might think. Yes, it will rain but that is life and all will be ok. Let it rain. ‘Ebb & Flow’ was when many discovered Judith’s highly seductive sound and was hailed as one of the releases of 2014 by The Independent newspaper in the UK, receiving further praise from Le Figaro in France, La Repubblica in Italy, Rolling Stone in Germany and the Wall Street Journal in the US. It also enjoyed sterling support at British radio, particularly from Jamie Cullum, Bob Harris and the late Sir Terry Wogan, stalwarts and tastemakers of the BBC Radio 2 network. All three hosted sessions featuring the Welsh-born songstress and demonstrated her commercial potential and wide-ranging appeal. In addition, ‘Ebb and Flow’ earned passionate support from Irish RTE Radio 1, Spanish RTNE Radio 3, German ARD Network, and Nordic National Radio and led to several key radio and television appearances on both sides of the Atlantic. Recording with Kunkel, Sklar and Wachtel, studio stalwarts behind Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Laura Nyro among others, and touring with them “served as this incredible calling card for me. I waited a long time to be able to work with some of my musical idols. I’m a late bloomer,” she admits. With ‘Somebody’s Child’, and its many moods and shades and a contemporary twist, Judith Owen seems well on her way into the Premier League of contemporary singer-songwriters and interpreters. Which is where she belongs.
Don Dixon - Best known among the key producers to emerge from the American underground's jangle pop movement of the early '80s, Don Dixon also enjoyed a cult following as a solo performer. A native of North Carolina, he dwelled in relative obscurity for well over a decade as a member of the little-known Arrogance before attracting his first significant notice around 1983 after co-producing with Mitch Easter R.E.M.'s landmark debut LP, Murmur. Subsequent work on Chris Stamey's It's a Wonderful Life, the Windbreakers' Terminal, and Tommy Keene's Run Now solidified his reputation among jangle pop aficionados, and in 1985 Dixon recorded his solo debut, Most of the Girls Like to Dance But Only Some of the Boys Do, a further affirmation of his love of classic pop melodies and spiky, Nick Lowe-inspired wordplay. After producing wife Marti Jones' Unsophisticated Time, he released his second solo effort, Romeo at Juilliard, in 1987 and the live Chi-Town Budget Show a year later. After 1989's EEE, Dixon's recording career went into mothballs for several years and he returned to producing, helming efforts for the Smithereens, Richard Barone, and James McMurtry before finally releasing Romantic Depressive in 1995. Another lengthy hiatus preceded the early 2000 release of The Invisible Man and its 2001 follow-up, Note Pad #38. Entire Combustible World in One Small Room followed in summer 2006. His latest release is I Lived In The Time Of Organ Grinders. "The idea for this record began to form last year
when I remembered something from my youth. It was the early 60's. My mother and
I were visiting my father who was working on his masters in education at
Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. during the summer session. This
small mountain town was a minor tourist destination in the summertime. Hiking
and horseback riding mostly. On this particular trip, there was a street fair
going on with a few carnival rides, cotton candy and hotdog stands, strolling
vendors…the usual stuff. But what I remember most was the organ grinder. Organ grinders were a big thing a hundred
years before I saw one in the mountains of North Carolina. I read somewhere
that in the late 1800's, 1 in 20 Italian immigrants to New York City made their
living as organ grinders. Every corner had one. That's a lot of monkeys and
machines. Anyway, I was about twelve and I'd heard of organ grinders, seen
pictures, read mentions in stories but I had never laid eyes on one. I wandered
over to a group of people in a semi-circle around a disheveled man with a
drooping handlebar mustache and dirty vest, his arboreal beggar working the
crowd. It was fascinating and a little sad when the small Capuchin monkey came
up to me, tipped his hat and held out his tin cup. The cup had a tiny sign on
it, Pennies Poison for Monkey, it said. I put my penny back in my pocket and
dropped a nickel in his cup as he bounded to the next kid. I don't recall the
song or even the sound of the instrument just the monkey on a chain, holding
out his cup and tipping his hat for hours on end. Last year when I recalled this event I think
I was feeling a little bit like that monkey."