Author Archive

Bon Iver plays “Holocene” on Jimmy Fallon

This guy never ceases to amaze. Was blown away by his performance of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” some months back, and then he goes and brings a small orchestra on Jimmy Fallon.

 

Speaking of Bonnie Raitt, if you haven’t thoroughly memorized every articulation in her 1971 cover of Blind Faith‘s “Can’t Find My Way Home”, it’s time to get started.

Ryan Amador’s “Symptoms of a Wide Eyed Being” available today

Funky Butter Productions’ newest release, Ryan Amador‘s Symptoms of a Wide Eyed Being is officially released today and available on iTunes.

Symptoms, produced by Justin Goldner and Shaina Taub, features 5 tunes showcasing Ryan’s range from driving rock choruses to indie-dance anthems.

You can grab the record on iTunes and can stream the lead-off track, “Apology” right here:

Also featured on the record: “Define Me“, an infectious ode to self expression; “Tidal Wave“, an epic tune with soulful vocals; “Rolling Over“, an R&B tune mixing Imogen Heap’s pointed electronica with St. Vincent’s orchestral touch; and “In A Little Room“, where the Smashing Pumpkins meet Taylor Swift (featuring Kate Ferber on vocals).

Big thanks to everyone who contributed to the record, including Jordan Perlson on drums, Dana Leong, for laying down a tapestry of cello parts on “Rolling Over”, Chris Zembower for mixing and mastering, and David Baloche, Amanda Shechtman, Shaina Taub and Kate Ferber for lending their vocal talents.

Ryan makes his live NYC debut this Thursday at Caffe Vivaldi in the village.

Shaina Taub’s “What Otters Do” now available

After a fantastic audience at her CD release party last night at Rockwood Music Hall, Shaina Taub’s What Otters Do is now officially available at her website, with free digital downloads, CD/lyrics booklets, sheet music, and the works.

Morgan Karr featured on LogoTV Blog

Funky Butter Productions’ recent release, Morgan Karr’s mashup of One Republic’s “Apologize” and Jon McLaughlin’s “Human” was featured on LogoTV’s “NewNowNext” blog:

 

In addition, Shaina Taub’s What Otters Do comes out next Monday with a CD release party at Rockwood Music Hall. You can pre-stream the entire album here for the next week.

Sneak Preview: Shaina Taub’s “Make A Mess”

After 2 years in the making, Shaina Taub‘s debut record What Otters Do will be coming out at the end of August! Lots more details to come… meanwhile, you can grab a sneak preview (read: free download) of the single “Make A Mess“, at this link, when purchasing tickets to our show next Thursday at Ars Nova by entering the promo code “WHATOTTERSDO”.

Next week’s show (Thu 7/21 @8pm) will feature heaps of new material with a huge and varied cast of musicians.

Other fun stuff this week:

Tonight Fri 7/15 –  with Siân Pottok at 55 bar – 6-9pm
Tonight Fri 7/15 – with The Morning Code @ Arlene’s Grocery – 11pm
Sunday 7/17 – 40 year anniversary tribute to Joni Mitchell’s Blue @ Googie’s Lounge – 9pm
Tues 7/19 – with Elizabeth Claire Burke @ Rockwood Music Hall – 7pm
Fri 7/22 – with Eren Cannata in Glen Cove, Long Island
Sat 7/23 – with Grace McLean @ The Flea – 11pm
Mon 7/25 – NYCLU Broadway Stands Up For Freedom @ Skirball Center, annual benefit playing with hordes of B’way stars. Hordes.

New Single: Abby Bernstein’s “Just Know”

Today Abby Bernstein releases a brand new single that I co-wrote and co-produced, along with Abby and Chris Camilleri!

I worked with Abby on her most recent record I’m Not Sorry, and it was great getting to work with Chris for the first time.

Big-ups to Jordan Perlson (drums) and Dana Leong (cello) for lending their talents to this track.

Check it out on iTunes here:

Arabic fusion: Shusmo’s “Pieces”

The only thing that rivals the feeling I get from the classics of Arabic or Balkan music– Umm Kulthum, Petro-Loukas Chalkias, Vassilis Tsitsanis– is to hear new, inventive works drawing on such rich traditions. Waterlily Acoustics has been a treasury of acoustic world fusion, with some standout titles such as Tabula Rasa with Indian slide guitarist V.M. Bhatt, Chinese er-hu (2 string fiddle) player Jie-Bing Chen and Bela Fleck on banjo, and the Grammy-winning A Meeting By The River with the aforementioned Bhatt and Ry Cooder.

Another record that struck me on its release a few years ago was One by New York-based group Shusmo (“شو إسمه”, Levantine Arabic for “What’s it called?”).  Led by Palestinian buzuq player Tareq Abboushi and featuring Peruvian, Greek and American musicians, the group has a strong melodic thread supported by an irresistible lattice of Latin and Arabic rhythms– congas and riqq cover a spectrum of both frequency and rhythmic space.

Below is a transcription of the lead-off track, “Pieces”. You can stream the tune here.

This Thursday June 23, Shusmo celebrates the release of their new record at Joe’s Pub in New York.

Aladdin’s “Friend Like Me” reimagined; Nashville + San Diego

I will openly admit that I had (read: have) enormous crushes on Ariel and Jasmine from the early 90’s Disney movies The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. (Belle was too proper to have any fun).  I rediscovered the scores and songs of those films by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman at some point in high school and loved how his work in Aladdin made big band swing sound like it was inexorably linked with the Middle Eastern Arabian setting.

So I was thrilled to perform Shaina Taub’s re-invention of “Friend Like Me” with a little Andrews Sisters vibe thrown in for good measure at Rockwood Music Hall last month:

Other news: I’m in Nashville tonight playing with Morgan Karr at the Mercy Lounge on Cannery Row! Morgan’s been tearin’ it up in New York and Chicago and now we’re back in his hometown with an incredible band made up of both New York and Nashville musicians.

Morgan Karr's EP release, last month @ Joe's Pub

I’m also recently back from an amazing time in San Diego, opening for Barenaked Ladies with Abby Bernstein. Our 2 day trip out there was a whirlwind of Anchorman references (and an appearance on San Diego 6 that elicited them), late night stops at In-N-Out Burger, and an incredible audience at Humphrey’s By The Bay.

Abby Bernstein in San Diego; Photo: Steven Parr

Barenaked Ladies' bassist, Jim Creegan

You stay classy, San Diego.

What’s new at Funky Butter Productions?

This spring’s a busy time, with a number of cool projects on the various burners, to be served for your listening pleasure soon enough:

Grace McLean has been wowing audiences with her unique, quirky and catchy songwriting and performance, and it’s about bloody time she had a record… so we’ve been in the studio working on her EP! Grace started a fundraising campaign to make this a reality that has so far raised 95% of her $5000 goal, with only 12 days left. She also made a (hilarious) video outlining the challenges she faces as an artist, and there are some videos here from the tracking we’ve done so far.


Abby Bernstein released her first album last year, made with Adam Blackstone (known for his work with Jill Scott, Maroon 5, Usher and The Roots). Along with Chris Camilleri, I’m producing a track that Abby and I co-wrote called “Just Know”. In addition, next Wednesday, we’re heading to California to open for Barenaked Ladies at Humphrey’s in San Diego! There’s a funny story about the etymology of the name “San Diego”, by the way…

Shaina Taub and I co-produced an album by Ryan Amador that is now in its mixing phases. Ryan has a huge range– both vocally and stylistically– and his album (tentatively titled the Early Symptoms EP) jumps seamlessly from introspective piano-rock to throbbing pop and R&B.

Shaina and I are also putting the finishing touches now on her own debut record, which has been in the works on and off now for almost 2 years.  Shaina’s album will feature the thick vocal arrangements that are her trademark, as well as the contributions of several horn and string players and arrangers. We’ve spent the last week laying down the final 2 tracks, including crowd favorites from her live shows, “Make A Mess” and “The Tale of Bear & Otter”. We’ll be playing some of her music at Rockwood Music Hall on May 31 and are looking forward to a mid- to late-summer release.

Sara Colb, formerly of Boston band The Jody Grind, has a huge voice with a bluesy grit to it, and we’ve been working on an album of her original material as well. In addition to her soulful singing, yesterday we had some excellent players come in to lay down fiddle, pedal and lap steel and percussion. Her songs lie somewhere between jangly radio rock and Alison Krauss and we’re very excited at how the record is turning out.

Some other things that have turned my head lately:

An article by Isabelle Peretz and Krysta L. Hyde, “What Is Specific to Music Processing?“. Studies of people with handicaps in their ability to perceive pitch distinction can tell us incredible things about how we as humans perceive and process music.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, Stephen Pinker “probes the mystery of human nature by examining how we use words”. Thanks to Dave Sandoval of Delexilio for this one.

Banjo transcription: Béla Fleck’s “Half Moon Bay”

This year, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones are reuniting for a tour with harmonica and keyboard virtuoso Howard Levy, a former band member for their first several albums in the early 90’s.  In honor of the gathering of so much talent, I’ve dug out and updated a transcription I did years ago of a gem from the Flecktones first (self-titled) album: “Half Moon Bay“.

Back in the early 90’s, the group featuring more striking jazz edge, both in sound and composition– Béla had set out to prove that the banjo was a legitimate instrument to use in modern jazz. Years later, when he had undeniably achieved this, the group evolved to take on the sounds of numerous different musical cultures, but on their debut record, many of the tunes fit into standard 32 bar forms with melodies that could occasionally be called be-bop (“Hurricane Camille”).

“Half Moon Bay” is one of those– an AABA form with simple be-bop harmony that one might find in a Charlie Parker tune.  However, the composition makes brilliant use of the capabilities of the banjo, both of its open strings and of the 3-finger picking style native to bluegrass music.  Fleck weaves together counterpoint reminiscent of J.S. Bach’s unaccompanied violin and cello works (some of which he would later reinterpret for banjo on his 2001 record Perpetual Motion).

I’ve included 2 charts for this transcription: the banjo part, in both notation and tablature, and a lead sheet, with notation of both the banjo part and Howard Levy’s harmonica part.  Levy plays diatonic, not chromatic harp, and yet he has managed to develop a technique in which he bends the harmonica reeds in order to seamlessly reach chromatic notes.  This incredible feat is something like playing a piano with only white keys, but “bending” the piano strings to reach the “black” notes. Listening to him improvise fluidly on “Half Moon Bay” and the rest of the album is mind boggling.

So here’s to the reuniting original lineup of The Flecktones– and the strides that they’ve all continued to make in music in the twenty years since the release of that album.

You can stream Half Moon Bay here, and download transcriptions at the link above.

Note: The download link below will take you to a check-out dialogue but will NOT ask for any credit card information– it’s entirely free!

Bela Fleck Banjo Tab "Half Moon Bay"

Bela Fleck Banjo Sheet Music "Half Moon Bay"