ALCHEMY, FUNDING AND FUSION
Back in the UK I was occasionally involved in successful crowd funding campaigns. For instance, we raised a required six thousand pounds to script, cast, direct and produce a film to be used in schools to examine the notion of hate crimes and how to reduce them. I recall with great pride the red carpet ´premiere´ of the Leaky Shed production of And She Cried. The film was based on the real life hate crime against a young goth girl, Sophie Lancaster, and was produced to be shown in schools and youth clubs etc to generate celebration of, rather than fear of, our differences. The film was intended to create awareness and increase social tolerance.
In the past year or so, we at all across the arts have also publicised a similar appeal for funding by an acquaintance of mine, Kimmie Rhodes, a Texan singer writer. I interviewed Kimmie several times during the nineteen nineties when she toured the UK and I met her husband, a musician of some renown called Joe Gracie. He was the composer of a song called Contrabandistas, much covered by several famous country music acts. When I met him, though, he had just lost his voice to cancer, and despite somehow remaining in good humour, his career as a singer and producer and radio dj was being prematurely ended. Joe died a few years ago now and Kimmie has always wanted to collate his papers and create his memoirs, but it seemed the cost of publication would be prohibitive. However, she launched a crowd funding campaign, reaching out to those American and British fans who remember Kimmie Rhodes and Joe Gracie making great music.
The crowd-funding target was subsequently reached and 2019 saw the book published: and what stories it will tell its readers. Those of us who knew him fondly remember Joe as a great raconteur but can´t quite believe some of the stories he told have been allowed into print or that some of his escapades have been sufficiently smoothed over as to make them suitable for the mass market. Joe and Kimmie, though, were always charm personified, and I have a feeling this crowd-funded work will shed some new light on each of them.
Another example of successful crowd-funding has been achieved by a duo of musicians I saw play at the El Grifo Bodega. After delivering a great instrumental concert over here, Humberto and Pablo invited audience members to support their appeal for funds to record a debut album.
They then settled back down in in La Palma, rehearsing and exploring new ideas to incorporate into their debut album; a fusion of jazz and folklore from Cuba and the Canary Islands. They described this period as ´a very enriching and intense time´ and they promised they would be sharing this campaign with their fans throughout the whole process!
We re-visit this story because our all across the arts office has just received an e mail from Humberto And Pablo, confirming they now have an album available for review and to purchase. Its eleven original tracks fuse jazz, Canarian and Cuban folklore and the classical sounds of the early twentieth century impressionist era.
| They asked supporters who hadn´t already done so to share and talk about the project on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, to which the boys would then frequently upload small sound-bites and videos.|
At that concert here on Lanzarote I was accompanied by visitors we had staying with us, one of whom is a weekly radio broadcaster of two jazz programmes on major UK digital and internet outlets. Steve Bewick will be as delighted as I am to hear that the album is now ready and can be found at Spotify and bandcamp and that ´hard´ copies of Conversaciones can now be ordered directly from the boys´ contact address at http://pablorodriguezmusic.com/conversaciones I therefore look forward to hearing Steve play some tracks on his Hot Biscuits Radio programme, transmitted every Wednesday and Thursday at 9pm or late Saturday at 11pm. The programme can also be found at www.fc-radio.co.uk with archives of the shows available at www.mixcloud.com/stevebewick and we recently posted a profile of the broadcaster here on Sidetracks And Detours.
Listen in on these conversations, they say, and we will hear unique sounds, and íf you can believe your eyes and ears´ as The Mamas And Papas once said of one of their own early albums, you will see and hear the violin become a small guitar or a percussive instrument and you will also witness a piano being played from within. Although the music alternates between improvisation and moments of high voltage the melodic simplicity is never lost.
Humberto and Pablo speak in their e mail of ´the privilege´ of working with percussionist Rupert Ruppik and clarinettist Holger Werner on two tracks on an album that aims to show the relevance of the existing musical link between The Canary Islands and Humberto and Pablo´s beloved land of Cuba. The tracks referred to are Travesia Hacia El Atardecer and Nuevos Aires, each running for around seven minutes. Of around the same length is PSP Blues and other tracks include Transoceana and Primavera on an album, running for over an hour, that was recorded and mixed by Stefan Lurke and mastered by Joao Alves.
Many of the songs in these Coversaciones were premiered during that tour of Europe And The Canary Islands and the two musicians are already busy planning a release tour for next year to promote the album. However, those of us who can´t wait to hear how these songs have turned out can order a physical CD through the musicians´ Bandcamp page, and can meanwhile pick up itinerary details on Facebook and Instagram as the tour takes shape. They might even have been tempted to become the musical equivalent of a theatrical ´Angel´ and support these artists who seem destined to enjoy a successful and sustained recording career. So it is fantastic to announce on these pages that the first step has been taken, and an album has been released.
Readers may well be getting fed up of me speaking so often recently about ´musical alchemists´ who to coin a line by the late John Stewart ´are out there turning music into gold´ but I am sure Humberto and Pablo have managed to achieve that in the studio, in the same as they did when I saw then in performance. I also often borrow a phrase that author Angela Carter seemed to borrow form TS Eliot when she spoke of how ´writing is the art of pouring new wine from old bottles.
There is all this and more in Humberto´s and Pablo´s live performances and I´m share it is there on the album too. These gentlemen are pioneers, blending Canarian and Cuban music into new cocktails in much the same way as is Antonio de La Rosa, with his flamenco fusion outfit, also mixing the old and the new. I suggested on Lanzarote Information at the time that searching on a favourite engine would discover samples of their music, and that anyone who did so was likely to be very impressed. Crowd-funding is not just another word for asking for a few pennies in a musician´s flat cap. Unless the amount requested is reached within a certain period of the request being posted then the pledges received cannot be ´cashed in´, so it is incumbent on the musicians (or artists in other forms) to not only ensure that the amount requested will actually cover the costs of the project they are aiming to deliver, but also that they have a contact list of sufficient supporters who might wish to support them. To attract that support from their fan base the musicians must, of course, offer something of an incentive, as in this case Humberto and Pablo are doing by delivering free ´samples´ from the studio throughout the recording process. These might never have any real financial value to the recipients but do serve as welcome mementoes showing an appreciation from the musicians. And of course, should the artists move on to great acclaim then so these souvenirs will increase in, at least, sentimental value.
It strikes me however, that so few of the wonderful, truly amazing musicians on Lanzarote manage to secure recording contracts. Maybe some of the funding dedicated to the delivery of free concerts could instead be directed towards the recording of a compilation album showcasing their talents in a recorded format. Perhaps then some professional recording labels might see the sense and potential profitability of recording the best of the artists concerned.
So, huge congratulations to Humberto And Pablo for complementing their musical expertise with the entrepreneurial skills of creating a concept, identifying a market, producing a product and making it available and accessible. Their Conversaciones are certainly well worth listening to.
Pablo says of that this work is ´an open journey to improvisation. It is there that versions and compositions of my own, and the classical and popular, find their place. Jazz, Folk, Latin …all these are part of the voyage we want to share with you”.
The two artists were born and raised on two wonderful islands, Cuba and La Palma, both separated and united by the same sea, only to migrate towards the unknown. So this album is the starting point of an inspiring transatlantic journey – a journey where numerous ideas and influences have led to eleven unique conversations between the violin and the piano. Through improvisation and their eagerness to find new soundscapes, the duo captures special moments of their search for a voice and identity of their own. Likewise, they aim to express the melancholy of living distanced from their roots as they seek to contribute to and reinforce the cultural link between their two countries.
The album runs for well over an hour and includes the tracks Transoceania, which sums up the ethos of the whole album, a lively and fluctuating Danza de los Tomates and the lengthy but beautiful Neuvos Aires, as well as the more sombre PSP Blues. All tracks are composed by Pablo Rodríguez & Humberto Ríos and we have already mentioned the special guests playing on the album, Ruven Ruppik on percussion & handpan and Holger Werner on bass clarinet. Steffen Lütke was responsible for the superb recording and mixing, with engineer Chris Kosides. The album was recorded at Fattoria Musica, Osnabrück (Germany) and was eventualy mastered by Joao Alves at Sweet Mastering, Lisboa (Portugal). It has been issued in a contemplative sleeve with graphic design and photography by Pedro Fausto. Conversaciones can be heard on Spotify, Apple and Bandcamp, where a hard copy can also be ordered on via Pablo´s e mail address shown on the bandcamp page.
Not only has clever and incentivised crowd funding by Humberto and Pablo led to the release of this excellent debut album, but all across the arts are also pleased to report that Kimmie Rhodes´ similarly funded and careful collation of work by her late husband, record producer and dj, Joe Gracey, is now in print. Stories about him have never waned in their verbal telling. The book clearly identifies his musical genius, too, so keep an eye out for reviews throughout our various all across the arts outlets.