Tag Archives: Album

Shubh Saran: H.A.D.D

a0075161128_16

I would like to start the new year with an EP from Shubh Saran, a guitarist and composer based in Brooklyn, NY. He released his album entitled H.A.D.D on November 9, 2018.

H.A.D.D is an abbreviation for Hypersensitive Agency Detection Device, i.e. the tendency for humans to assume the presence of a sentient being in situations that may not involve one at all.

Shubh explains: “This represents the core idea of the EP, assigning greater meaning to everyday life. We are comforted by the idea of someone or something having a deciding hand in our lives, believing that everything happens for a reason. I wanted the music from this album to represent that feeling.”

Shubh Saran continues: “The music from the record is a melting pot of contemporary jazz, indie-rock, neo-soul, and fusion. After a year of monthly performances in New York and an India tour, the record draws its inspiration from the energy of my band’s live shows. H.A.D.D features five new songs written and recorded this year. “.

The line-up of the band is a little bit unconventional:

  • Shubh Saran – guitar
  • Angelo Spampinato – drums
  • Josh Bailey – drums & percussion
  • Christian Li – piano & keys
  • Brian Plautz – alto saxophone
  • Mark Minoogian – bass
  • Jared Yee – tenor saxophone
  • Hannah Sumner – vocals

Regarding the musicians, I have received some background information from Shubh: “I’ve known Brian and Jared since our time at Berklee. Although we rarely played together then, they became some of my closest musician friends after moving to New York. I met the rest of band playing in the music circuit here in New York, performing with them in various other projects and bands. When the time came to put together my own band for touring and recording, I asked the people who I admired the most.”

The first song “Pareidolia” starts soft by keyboards and saxophone, with growing intensity and turns into a cool funky groove at around 1:22, a great surprise to me. This change is repeated, first softly, increasing tension and groove change. We hear a guitar solo over funky slapping bass. Focus is on arrangement and sounds but diversified and never boring. This song is already my first highlight on the album.

“Eudaimonia” begins with guitar and saxophone and the intro reminds a little bit of the happy sound of the Daniel Bennett Group but without the changes of tonality. We hear an excellent piano solo with a nice horns background arrangement.

“Sight And Seen” comes next. Focus here is definitely on the pushing groove by the two drummers. The two saxophones play the melody alternating with the guitar.

“Falter” features Hannah Sumner on vocals and is my second highlight on the EP.  She is supported by a great arrangement with multiple layers of keyboards and guitar sounds. A saxophone solo towards the end of the song brings also great dynamics. A beautiful song, presented softly and intense.

“Divisible” is already the last tune of the EP. The melody is played by the guitar supported by the piano in pop-style. After a soft beginning the song becomes again more intensive and ends with a mellow single piano.

Overall I like this EP very much, it has the focus clearly on composition and sound, not on improvisation. It is definitely very individual and the ideas and the inspiration come from the personal experience and impressions of Shubh Saran. The musicians are all excellent and place their skills into the service of the composition and the arrangement. An album outside the conventions.

Finally, I asked Shubh if he has been able to perform the songs from the EP in front of an audience and he told me: “We have performed the songs in New York a number of times and the audience reception was great and very inspiring. The song forms are open enough to allow us to stray away from the recordings and spontaneously create new moments while playing live.”

Shubh Saran produced a “making-of” video with some nice impressions from the studio:

The album is also available on Spotify:

More information including the possibility to buy the sheet music for some of the songs and dates of live shows are found on Shubh Saran’s website:
www.shubhsaran.com

 

Laura Dickinson 17: Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne-cover

Just in time for the holidays comes an album from Grammy-winning music producer, vocal contractor and studio singer Laura Dickinson. Her album “Auld Lang Syne” was released November 20, 2018 and is a program of songs centered around the Christmas holiday season. This album is thought as a loving tribute to a time of year when people sincerely open their hearts to family and friends, and count their blessings while reflecting on the year gone by.

The record features excellent big band arrangements by top names like Johnny Mandel, Brent Fischer or James A. McMillen and brilliant vocal arrangements by Laura herself.

The album begins with the big band at full speed with “Happy Holiday / The Holiday Season”. Fantastic swinging by band and Laura Dickinson make sure that nobody starts to fall asleep during the holiday season. One blues chorus of solo go to trumpet, alto sax and guitar and then the horns get their chance to show off. A really great arrangement played and sung perfectly.

The second song “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” is in Laura Dickinson’s repertoire for quite some time and finally made it on this album. The arrangement is by Brent Fischer (he is also a Grammy winner) and he arranged it with a steady moving funky groove. My first highlight on the album. I found a live version of this song for your recommendation:

“Christmas is Starting Now” continues in full-speed-Christmas-spirit with another cool big band arrangement where all sections can show their skills. Trombones, saxes and trumpets and especially the drums have all highlights in the 2:46 minutes of this song. If you plan to have a dance party at Christmas, then this is the right song for it.

“Peace And Joy” is the next tune on the album and we hear Laura Dickinson together with a 24-voice choir including some of her vocal contractor colleagues. This tune is (again) perfectly arranged and sung and brings us back to the traditional more contemplative Christmas mood.

“The Man with the Bag” features Steve Trapani on bass-trombone, which other instrument would represent Santa better? Very entertaining, dynamically arranged and played.

“Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” from the movie “White Christmas” features Kye Palmer on trumpet.  He switches  to “How Deep is the Ocean” in his solo. Laura gets her chance as well here with an impressive finale of the song.

“A Marshmallow World” is the next song and returns with it’s sweet and happy sound to the classic picture we have of American Christmas.

“Miss You Most At Christmas” is a cover version of the Mariah Carey hit, but Laura’s version has much more power and emotions than the original.  The incredible string arrangement creates a very natural sound and makes this song to my favorite on the album.

“Let It Snow!” surprises with an extraordinary and extravaganza arrangement in New Orleans style by James A. McMillen. Here is one of those versions where I am really surprised about the ideas and creativity of well-established arrangers.
A video from the recording studio is also available for this song, which I highly recommend:

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” features Laura and pianist Alan Steinberger. Another ideal opportunity for Laura to show her mastery, her vocal range and her perfect intonation.

The final song on the album is the title song “Auld Lang Syne” (Old Long Since) which is the traditional tune sung in the English-speaking world at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bid farewell to the old year. The tune is based on an old Scots folk melody and the arrangement of guitarist Andrew Synowiec revives that spirit. Guitars and Laura’s for several voices singing dominate this tune.

To summarize it, the album is an impressive collection of outstanding arrangements presented in a impeccable manner by a great big band and an incredibly versatile Laura Dickinson. The album covers different nuances of the Christmas spirit from sticky sweet to melancholic back to a big party and ends with the right song for New Year’s Eve, so it is the perfect companion for the whole holiday season.

Here comes a playlist on Spotify to listen to the album:

If you want to learn more about Laura Dickinson, please check out her website:
http://www.lauradickinson.com/