Monday, 6 April 2020

SKINNY HIGHTOWER · BLUE MOON









SKINNY HIGHTOWER

Blue Moon

Label: Trippin N' Rhythm Records

27 March 2020









Produced by Skinny Hightower

Musicians
Guitar: Brett "Almon" Johnson, Skinny Hightower, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram (on "Sky Blues")
Trumpet & Flugel Horn: Simon Beddoe
Saxophone: Rob Mitchell, Gene Shill ( on "Blue Moon")
Percussion: "Bongo" Bobby Thomas
Drums, Bass, Piano , Keyboards, Organ, Synthesizers, Vocoder, Vibraphones, Lead Bass, Horn Arrangement, String Arrangement, Additional Percussion, Lead Guitar, Vocals: Skinny Hightower

Desde Marvin Gaye y Stevie Wonder hasta Earth, Wind & Fire, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield e innumerables gigantes musicales, la clásica música soul de los años 70 todavía vibra en todo el mundo, llamando a los corazones de todos los que estuvieron allí para experimentarla por primera vez, al tiempo que inspira a las generaciones posteriores con su rebeldía y ritmo. Muchos artistas de urban jazz afirman estar influenciados por estos artistas y su magia duradera, pero el compositor, tecladista y productor Skinny Hightower comparte un testimonio más poderoso. La música, que es la inspiración detrás de su último álbum épico Blue Moon, literalmente le salvó la vida. Como escribe elocuentemente en su sitio web, "estaba grabando para seguir con vida".

Los fans del característico estilo de Hightower pueden ver por primera vez su fresca y vieja escuela se encuentra con la visión contemporánea del funk/jazz en "Bittersweet", el primer sencillo alegre y de alto octanaje que fusiona su destreza melódica e improvisada de teclado clásico.

La convincente historia detrás de la colección ecléctica, íntima pero enérgica de 24 temas de Hightower es un testimonio de la capacidad de la música para sanar un alma en desorden y ayudarla a encontrar su propósito. Comienza con él logrando lo que creía que eran sus sueños, solo para darse cuenta de que la cima de la montaña no era satisfactoria. Las estadísticas que lo llevaron allí fueron impresionantes. "Taboo", el sencillo insignia de su debut de Trippin N 'Rhythm Records en 2017, Emotions, el número 1 en la lista Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs, y su retrospectiva de seguimiento de 2018, contó con los 10 éxitos principales "One Way Street" y la influencia de Joe Sample en "Sample That". Hightower se convirtió en un artista muy solicitado, encabezando festivales de jazz contemporáneo desde Seabreeze hasta Catalina Island JazzTrax.
Sin embargo, el éxito en la música hizo que se diera cuenta de que no era su expresión más auténtica, se sintió vacío, y cayó en una profunda depresión. Rompió su banda y cuestionó el propósito de todo. Luego, casi como si la mano de Dios lo guiara, un día se sintió obligado a abrir la colección de vinilos viejos de su esposa, que había estado en una caja, intacta, durante un año. Hightower desempolvó las cubiertas y rebuscó entre ellas. Descubriendo a los artistas antes mencionados, además de los gustos de War, Millie Jackson, The Temptations, Lugares y espacios de Donald Byrd y Motown clásicos producidos por los hermanos Mizell (Jackson 5, The Miracles), fue como si el universo brillara su luz.

"Sentí algo que no había sentido en meses", dice. "Alegría. Felicidad. Libertad. Para un compositor y productor que experimenta este tipo de depresión creativa intensa, escuchar esa variedad de artistas y sonidos fue liberador y me hizo querer levantarme y comenzar a hacer música. Lento pero seguro, mientras continuaba escuchando, podía sentir mi fuerza volviendo, y las capas de depresión se estaban despegando. Luego pasé de simplemente escuchar a estudiar cada elemento sonoro de cada canción, desde la instrumentación hasta los niveles de mezcla, la cantidad de reverberación, hasta cada golpe de batería, línea de bajo y riff de guitarra. Le he agradecido a mi esposa varias veces por mantener su colección de discos. Creo que literalmente me salvó la vida ".
Para el siguiente paso en el trascendental viaje de Blue Moon, Hightower, un prolífico compositor cuyas sensibilidades musicales se formaron en la iglesia, recurrió a todos los rasgos que aportó a sus cinco años de servicio en el Ejército, incluido el tiempo como sargento y el despliegue en Afganistán.
"Es mucha música, pero debe quedar claro para todos los que escuchan que cada canción tiene un propósito que va más allá de la melodía y el ambiente en sí mismos". Aunque todos tienen diferentes atmósferas y escenarios, cada pista se basa en la sensación y el mensaje de la canción, comenzando con 'Blow', que me hace cantar letras que hablan con mi mentalidad al hacer el álbum: 'Blow your away lejos'. Llamé al proyecto “Blue Moon” por muchas razones relacionadas con todo lo que pasé en numerosos niveles. Una luna refleja luz, luz, y una luna azul tiene la connotación de melancolía mezclada con esa felicidad. Más allá de eso, una experiencia creativa como esta sucede en la vida de un músico una vez en una luna azul. Quiero que el álbum haga para otros lo que la colección de discos de mi esposa hizo por mí. Me trajo alegría, me dio esperanza, inspiró un sentido de propósito, me curó de mi depresión, acercó a mi familia y me realineó con mi destino".
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From Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder to Earth, Wind & Fire, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield and countless other musical giants, the classic soul music of the 70s still vibrates around the world – calling home the hearts of all who were there to experience it the first time while inspiring subsequent generations with its enduring rebelliousness, groove and universal truths. Many urban jazz artists claim to be influenced by these artists and their enduring magic – but composer, keyboardist and producer Skinny Hightower shares a more powerful testimony. The music, which is the inspiration behind his latest epic album Blue Moon, literally saved his life. As he writes eloquently on his website, “I was recording to stay alive.”
Fans of Hightower’s trademark vibe can catch their first glimpse of his fresh, old school meets contemporary funk/jazz vision on “Bittersweet,” the rollicking, high octane first single that fuses his melodic and improvisational classic keyboard prowess with tight grooves and sizzling horn textures. 
The compelling story behind Hightower’s eclectic, intimate yet high spirited 24 track collection is testament to the ability of music to heal a soul in disarray and help it find its purpose. It starts with him achieving what he thought were his dreams, only to realize the mountaintop was unfulfilling. The stats leading him there were impressive. “Taboo,” the flagship single from his 2017 Trippin N’ Rhythm Records debut Emotions, hit #1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart, and his 2018 follow-up Retrospect, featured the Top 10 hits “One Way Street” and the Joe Sample influenced “Sample That.” Hightower became an in-demand performer, headlining contemporary jazz festivals from Seabreeze to Catalina Island JazzTrax.

Yet success making music that he realized wasn’t his truest expression felt empty, and he fell into a deep depression. He broke up his band and questioned the purpose of everything. Then, almost as if the hand of God was leading him, he felt compelled one day to open his wife’s collection of old vinyl, which had been sitting in a box, untouched, for a year. Hightower dusted off the covers, and “out of the need to satisfy the ‘pull’,” he rummaged through them. Discovering the aforementioned artists, plus the likes of War, Millie Jackson, The Temptations, Donald Byrd’s Places and Spaces and Motown classics produced by the Mizell Brothers (Jackson 5, The Miracles), it was like the universe shone its light and Hightower could at last envision his way past his proverbial dark night of the soul.
“I felt something I hadn’t felt in months,” he says. “Joy. Happiness. Freedom. For a composer and producer experiencing this kind of intense creative slump, hearing that variety of artists and sounds was liberating and made me want to get up and start making music. Slowly but surely, as I continued to listen, I could feel my strength coming back, and the layers of depression were being peeled away. Then I went from simply listening to studying every sonic element of every song, from instrumentation to mixing levels, the amount of reverb – down to every drum lick, bassline and guitar riff. I’ve thanked my wife multiple times for keeping her record collection. I believe it literally saved my life.”
For the next step in the momentous Blue Moon journey, Hightower – a prolific composer whose musical sensibilities were formed in church - drew on all the traits he brought to his five years of service in the Army, including time as a Sergeant and deployment to Afghanistan.

Hightower’s next task was to cull through this plethora of material to hone a consumable collection reflective of his grand new vision as an artist. Taking a remarkably scientific approach, he gathered a group of trustworthy intimates (from family members to friends) to rate the tunes. “The most important thing for them and myself was pure honesty,” he recalls. He had someone draw of algorithms of the data and took the ones that rated highest back into the studio for further development. His extraordinary output and the deep, intricate quality of the songs were enough to convince Trippin N’ Rhythm to take a great leap of faith in terms of creating a product and marketing. In an era where only the biggest pop artists seem to be creating albums of up to 20 songs – and indies and jazz artists seem more focused on singles and shorter, easily streamable EPs – they agreed to a double CD presentation of 24 of the songs Hightower deemed best.

“It’s a lot of music, but it should be clear to all who listen that every song has a purpose that goes beyond the melody and vibe themselves. Though they all have different atmospheres and backdrops, every track is grounded in the feel and message of the song, starting with ‘Blow,’ which has me singing lyrics that speak to my mindset in making the album: ‘Blow your troubles away.’ I called the project Blue Moon for many reasons related to everything I went through on numerous levels. A moon reflects light, light, and a blue moon has the connotation of melancholy mixed into that happiness. Beyond that, a creative experience like this happens in a musician’s life once in a blue moon. I want the album to do for others what my wife’s record collection did for me. It brought me joy, gave me hope, inspired a sense of purpose, cured me of my depression, brought my family closer together and realigned me with my destiny.”

Tracklist

DISC ONE

1. Big Apple
2. Blue Moon
3. Honey
4. Spanish Harlem
5. Midnight Madness
6. Sky Blues [Feat. Christone "Kingfish" Ingram]
7. Force [Feat. Oli Silk]
8. Now Or Never
9. Birdsong
10. Love Is All We Need
11. Rain
12. Holy Funk

DISC TWO

1. Bittersweet
2. Madison Avenue
3. Summer Nights
4. Lily
5. Ain't Gotta Go Nowhere
6. Boogieman
7. Mr. Sims
8. Rebirth
9. Strollin' In
10. Jammin' In The Morning Sun
11. This Joy
12. Blow


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