Beaû in London

Posted on 27/06/2014


I just got back from three days in London, working with producer Al O’Connell on the debut album of New York duo Beaû. Good stuff on the way, the girls are very talented, it was a real pleasure to participate in this project. And as always highly inspiring and enjoyable to spend time in London. I don’t think the album will be out before 2015, but you can discover a song by the girls underneath, they’re barely in their 20′s and I definitely think they have a bright career ahead of them.


Fender Rhodes Piano Bass

Posted on 16/06/2014

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Obviously, the Fender Rhodes electric piano is by now a legendary instrument, among the most remarkable instruments invented in the 20th century, and used on so many landmark recordings that everybody knows the sound, even if they don’t know the name of the instrument. The piano solo on “Get Back” by the Beatles, or the raindrop-like sound on the intro of “Riders on the storm” by the Doors, just about any Stevie Wonder song from the ’70s, and so many other tracks in just about any style: Pop, Rock, Soul, Jazz, Latin etc.

An interesting historic fact about the Rhodes piano is that in 1959, when Leo Fender, the highly successful guitar builder, teamed up with Harold Rhodes, the at the time struggling inventor of the Rhodes piano, Leo Fender actually hated the now ubiquitous mid- and top-range of the instrument. He thought that only the bass register could make a marketable instrument. The Fender company released the Fender Rhodes Piano Bass that same year, and until 1965 the Piano Bass was the only Rhodes piano around. Harold Rhodes was assigned to developing other instruments, more in the line of the Hohner Clavinet, while he continued to develop a full-range Rhodes piano in his sparetime. In 1965, CBS bought the Fender company, and this paved the way for a Fender Rhodes full-range 73-note piano with built-in speaker. The rest is history. The Fender name was eventually dropped from the instrument in 1974.

It’s interesting how the in so many other ways visionary Leo Fender missed realising the full potential of the instrument. However, the Piano Bass is a fantastic instrument in its own right; and many of the features later found on the full-range Rhodes pianos were inherited from the Piano Bass – the tolex, the fiberglass top, and the basic structure of the instrument. And the Piano Bass made its own mark on music history, mainly as a fundamental part of the Doors’ innovative sound; the band had no bass player (except on a few studio recordings) – it was keyboardist Ray Manzarek’s left hand that played the band’s bass parts on the Piano Bass.

I’ve had a silvertop Piano Bass for a while now, and while I rarely get to use it (bands almost always have a bass player), it’s always a treat when I have the chance. Below is a video from Nyon in 2008 with Keren Ann. I joined on the last part of her tour, and the musicians were already starting to get other engagements. Consequently the line-up changed a lot depending on who was available on any given date.. Fortunately, this approach works really well with Keren’s repertoire, as everything is based around her songs, guitar and voice. The core material is so strong than it doesn’t really matter whether she’s playing with a full band or just a trumpet player, and the shows stay fresh that way, to say the least. On a few gigs, including the one in Nyon, we had no bass player, so I jumped on the opportunity the break out the Piano Bass.


The Roots

Posted on 24/05/2014

Einstein: “Spooky action at a distance”, Bradford: “There but for the grace of God go I” and Ice Cube: “Life ain’t nothing but bitches and money”. Questlove, drummer of the Roots and one of the most interesting artists in popular music today, has written a great piece on the evolution and trivialisation of Hip Hop music based around those three quotes. Click here to read it. And The Roots just released one of their best records, click here.

Faada Freddy live

Posted on 21/05/2014


Those who have been following this blog for a while might remember some posts about a project I helped produce in Dakar a while back for the Senegalese singer Faada Freddy (click here, here or here). The record is finished now, and is set for a simultaneous fall release in 14 countries. A recently released EP of three songs can be found here. Faada Freddy is playing tonight at the New Morning in Paris, and I think the live shows will be sensational. Like the record, the shows are done without any instruments, only using voices and body percussion. You can see an early rehearsal above. Faada’s Facebook page is here.

Fred Chapellier

Posted on 20/05/2014

The blues has a special place in my life. Some people who are into blues have a purist, hardcore approach to it, sometimes even being intolerant to other styles. That was certainly never my case – as a kid I listened as much to Bach, Björk or Michael Jackson as I did to Albert Collins or B. B. King. However, when I decided to try my luck as a musician, the blues came along as an incredible chance to actually make a living playing music. In 1998 I had quit my academic studies in Denmark to give music a chance, but still had to do various daytime jobs to make ends meet. Suddenly I get a phone call from an old friend to come to France to join the band of an old blues bass player from Memphis, Joe Turner, who had played with the best in the blues world. I jumped on the opportunity and moved to France, and spent the next 5-6 year playing in various French and American blues bands in Paris.

I think becoming a professional musician has a vague similarity to becoming a pilot, though the analogy only goes so far – a wrong note never put anyone’s lives at risk (except maybe your own if you were playing in Albert King’s band, he was known to pull a gun on his musicians on stage if he wasn’t happy with what they were doing). A pilot has to go through a certain theoretic training to know how things work, but the only way to learn the craft is to spend thousands of hours actually doing it. An aspiring musician can have a solid theoretic grasp of things and might have spent a long time by himself practicing his instrument, but to become a decent musician you have to spend literally thousands of hours actually playing with other musicians, and preferably in front of an audience. The blues was my way of getting the necessary amount of hours behind the instrument, on top of being a style that I always loved. It’s a style based on rhythm, feeling and melody, so the lessons learned in the blues realm are easily transposed to other styles.

These days I rarely get to play a blues gig, but whenever the chance comes along I never hesitate. Fred Chapellier is an old friend from my days on the blues circuit, an incredible guitar player with a great feel and a fluid, versatile, inventive playing style. Since we first met he has come a long way, and has built a solid career as a blues frontman, as well as backing up several iconic artists, including Jacques Dutronc. In January I got to record a live album with Fred and his band in Alsace, it was recently released, and you can check it out here or on iTunes. Someone in the audience recorded a couple of bootleg videos of the show, below is Fred’s original instrumental “B Shuffle”. I’m playing again tonight with Fred in Paris at the New Morning for the release of the live record.


Gustav Holst: The Planets

Posted on 27/04/2014

I was recently turned on to this piece of classical music from 1915 by British composer Gustav Holst. It’s like hearing a Hollywood score. John Williams, Harry Gregson Williams, James Newton Howard, Howard Shore and all the other orchestral composers in Hollywood have certainly studied Holst’s work thoroughly.


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