“After more than a hundred years, we’re heading back to where we started. A century of technological innovation and the digitization of music has inadvertently had the effect of emphasizing its social function. Not only do we still give friends copies of music that excites us, but increasingly we have come to value the social aspect of a live performance more than we used to. Music technology in some ways appears to have been on a trajectory in which the end result is that it will destroy and devalue itself. It will succeed completely when it self-destructs. The technology is useful and convenient, but it has, in the end, reduced its own value and increased the value of the things it has never been able capture or reproduce.”
We’ve had to cancel the last few shows of the tour with Gaetan Roussel. Gaetan broke his Achilles tendon on stage in Paris last week, and the operation and recovery unfortunately aren’t compatible with the remaining festivals. The operation went well, so everything should be fine for Gaetan in the long run, but recovery and reeducation is long and complicated for this type of injury.
What a tour this has been, it was an enormous pleasure to once again work with Gaetan, and to be part of such a talented, dedicated team of people. Hope that it won’t be too long before another album and tour! Here’s one of our last shows from La Rochelle on Bastille day, July 14th.
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.
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.
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.
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.