- 1Brothers in Arms03:08
- 2Small Town03:58
- 3Rain Rain06:16
- 4San Luis Obispo04:03
- 5Back Home05:16
- 6Wichita Lineman05:27
- 7The Sail07:07
- 8Re: Stacks08:14
- 10Re: Stacks (Radio Edit)04:50
Info for Americana
Harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret and acclaimed pianist Romain Collin team up to paint an egalitarian vision of the American Dream, exploring the varied roots of American music alongside guitar visionary Bill Frisell.
“Americana” represents an exciting collaboration between two prodigious musicians: harmonica great Gregoire Maret, and acclaimed pianist Romain Collin. Grégoire Maret is a phenomenon and a master musician. He is a virtuoso with a vivid imagination and a sublime way of giving shape to a melody. Collin, meanwhile, has been described by NPR as “a visionary composer, an extraordinary jazz pianist” and by the Boston Globe as being “among the leading lights of a new breed of players”. Upon meeting each other in New York, the two musicians bonded over a shared love of jazz, song and pure melody. Together they embarked on a project which would explore the musical depths of the American soul. They turned to the uniquely great Bill Frisell to help forge a connection between American songwriting and the high art of instrumental playing. In this musical world, vast soundscapes co-exist with epic stories.
Born and raised in Switzerland, Maret has been a NYC resident for the past 20 years. "My mother is American, born in Harlem, and has bequeathed me the legacy of Afro-American culture. I see myself as a bridge between two cultures: European and Afro-American”. Maret has been a significant figure on the New York scene, playing alongside Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock. “This new album is the result of personal cultural experiences.” Maret and Collin chose to call this project “Americana". They explain: “ ‘Americana’ is at the intersection of folk, country, blues, R&B, gospel and bluegrass. The essence of this project is to take an inclusive attitude to all of the roots of American music and culture." France native Collin has become an established presence in the US. Appreciated by the likes of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Collin has evolved a distinctive aesthetic, integrating electronic sound design with lyrical piano improvisations. On guitars, the duo enlisted the services of one of the great creative minds of the instrument: Bill Frisell's singing, lyrical timbre on both the electric and acoustic guitar is unmistakable, always marked by his own personal metamorphoses of bluegrass, country and blues and by his profound knowledge of the philosophy of songwriting. Dummer Clarence Penn also makes a fine, incisive contribution.
The Americana trio’s journey starts with a surprise: the composer of "Brothers In Arms" is not actually American at all. And yet Scottish-born Mark Knopfler proved with Dire Straits that his way of internalizing the myths of American history is not just skillful but also highly persuasive. Maret and Collin pare back his 1985 hit to its essence. It is simple, spacious and highly affecting. From his immense body of work, Bill Frisell has contributed two compositions, "Small Town" and "Rain, Rain": the first of the pair emerges as a bewitching folk song in miniature, with rustic-dry banjo and wistful mouth organ, and the second song hovers with a hymn-like poise over the melodic web of guitars, piano and harmonica. This ensemble also pays homage to one of the great songwriters, Jimmy Webb. His "Wichita Lineman" gains even more spatial depth in this slowed-down instrumental version, the soul of the railwayman almost sings in Maret's heart-rending improvisation. The group also honors Justin Vernon (alias Bon Iver), an Americana representative of the hipster generation, in "Re: Stacks". Here Maret gives encouragement to a broken heart for a new chapter in life, surrounded by a glistening array of textures sculpted by Frisell, and supported by Collin’s electronic loops and synth bass.
Maret and Collin have also brought the essence of Americana in their own compositions: Romain Collin portrays the wine-growing region of California in "San Luis Obispo", a song from his 2015 ACT release Press Enter, beautifully revisited with Frisell and Maret stating the melody with total persuasiveness. Maret has succeeded in creating a slow 6/8 song named “Back Home”, which is as proud as it is heartfelt. A composition Clarence Penn underscores with his discreet brushwork and in which Maret soars to an almost exuberant triumph before bringing the track to a calm close. "The Sail", on the other hand, heralds a new departure: the piano alternates with the harmonica to create a sweeping dramaturgy, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes resolute. And in their joint final piece "Still", Maret and Collin have the opportunity to reflect and meditate on their American journey.
“Wherever Gregoire Maret stands, whenever he lifts his instrument to his lips, the room and all its inhabitants are immediately transformed, we are transported with a sweet yet powerful intensity to a higher plane.” These are the words of high praise which Grégoire Maret once received from Cassandra Wilson, with whom he has worked for many years. This is also a particularly apt way to describe the soulful and life-affirming “Americana”.
Grégoire Maret, harmonica
Romain Collin, piano, Moog Taurus, pump organ & additional effects
Bill Frisell, electric guitar, acoustic guitar & banjo
Clarence Penn, drums
Grammy winner, Swiss born harmonica player and composer, Gregoire Maret moved to New York City at 18 years old to study at the New School University.
Over the course of the past decade, Gregoire has emerged as a unique and compelling new voice across a wide spectrum of the modern jazz world. That his chosen instrument - the harmonica - is a relative rarity in the genre is one element in his singular sound, but far from the whole explanation. After all, the extensive list of heavy- hitters who have enlisted him for their own projects is unparalleled: Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson, and Marcus Miller are some of his most prominent employers, none of whom have the patience to employ novelty for novelty's sake.
His guest appearances on recording sessions and concert stages expand that list to even more jaw-dropping proportions: Prince, Sting, Elton John, Jimmy Scott, Dianne Reeves, Toots Thielemans, Raul Midón, Richard Bona, Terri Lyne Carrington, Tito Puente, Kurt Elling, Mike Stern, Jeff “Tain” Watts and Charlie Hunter have all made use of Maret's unmatched palette of color.
Along the way, Maret has redefined the role of the harmonica, finding fresh pathways through a remarkable variety of styles. Herbie Hancock has called Maret "one of the most creative musicians around," while Marcus Miller has declared that he is "carrying the instrument into the 21st century with prowess, passion, and creativity."
Described by NPR as “a visionary composer, an extraordinary jazz pianist and a very bright young rising star in the jazz world”, and touted by the Boston Globe as being “among the leading lights of a new breed of jazz players”, Romain Collin continues to develop “a highly personal and contemporary vision” (A Blog Supreme, NPR), blurring the lines between virtuosic improvisation, sound designing, indie rock and classical music. About to release his new brainchild, Tiny Lights…, Collin keeps developing “a unique voice, a crystal clear vision” (UK VIBE), making his mark on the New York scene, as well as internationally. Tiny Lights… is a unique project that features Obed Calvaire playing acoustic and electronic drums, Matthew Stevens on electric guitar and Collin on piano, vocal effects and Moog Taurus- a bass pedal synthesizer. Two numbers on the record also feature the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2009, Collin released his debut as a leader, The Rise and Fall of Pipokuhn (Fresh Sound), a record described as “an astonishingly mature and ambitious debut that secures Collin a placeholder in the continuing evolution of the grand tradition of the piano trio” (All About Jazz). The album made New York jazz critic David Adler’s list of notable debuts of 2009 and got radio airplay throughout France, Japan and the US - including a special feature on WNYC Culture program. Collin was soon after invited by legendary pianist Marian McPartland to her prestigious Piano Jazz show on NPR to discuss his artistic vision and to perform solo piano.
In 2012, Collin released his second album as a leader, The Calling (Palmetto). The record was produced by Matt Pierson and features Kendrick Scott on drums and Luques Curtis on bass, a band of “astonishing capabilities, filling a landscape of incredible expanse” (All About Jazz). The Calling has been described as “a tour de force that showcases Collin’s strengths as an accomplished composer and virtuoso pianist of the highest order” (JazzEd Magazine), and as “a work of art that is worthy of being held onto for generations to come” (Eric Sandler, The Revivalist).
Collin’s third release, Press Enter (ACT, 2015) features once again Scott on drums and Curtis on bass. This record was described by the New York Times as a “winning new album”, hailed by Jazz journal, UK as an “absolute masterpiece” and praised by All About Jazz as an “extraordinary album”. The group has toured in major venues and festivals throughout France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States and Japan.
Romain, originally born in France, attended Berklee College of Music (’04), where he studied performance with the likes of Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano while majoring in Music Synthesis. In 2007, Collin graduated from the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz where he held a Full Scholarship as the pianist of an ensemble handpicked by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard. During this time, Romain toured internationally with Hancock and Shorter, shared the stage with Marcus Miller, Jimmy Heath, and Terence Blanchard, and studied with the likes of Larry Goldings, Russell Ferrante, Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, Mulgrew Miller and Wynton Marsalis.
While furthering his career as a leader, Romain co-leads a group with harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret, that features guitarist Bill Frisell- the trio recorded Americana (ACT, 2019). Romain has also composed orchestra scores for Anthem and Syria, two mini-documentaries produced by Peace Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai and her fund. Other scoring works include various short documentaries for the United Nations Refugee Agency and for the Gates Foundation, Le Bresil par la Cote (five-part feature documentary, 2014), Les Airventuriers (two-part feature documentary, 2015), as well as numerous award-wining short movies. Collin has taught improvisation at the New School of Music in New York, and was invited to teach film scoring at Princeton University as a guest lecturer.
career as a guitarist and composer has spanned more than 40 years and many celebrated recordings, whose catalog has been cited by Downbeat as "the best recorded output of the decade."
Released March of ’18, Frisell’s latest album for OKeh/Sony is a solo album titled, Music IS - "Taken as a whole, the album beautifully encapsulates Frisell’s depth and range in all its meditative glory."- Chicago Reader. It was recorded in August, 2017 at Tucker Martine’s Flora Recording and Playback studio in Portland, Oregon and produced by longtime collaborator Lee Townsend. All of the compositions on Music IS were written by Frisell, some of them brand new – Change in the Air, Thankful, What Do You Want, Miss You and Go Happy Lucky – others being solo adaptations of now classic original compositions he had previously recorded, such as Ron Carter, Pretty Stars, Monica Jane, and The Pioneers. In Line, and Rambler are from Frisell’s first two ECM albums.
Frisell’s previous project, the Grammy nominated When You Wish Upon a Star also with OKeh/Sony, germinated at Lincoln Center during his two-year appointment as guest curator for the Roots of Americana series (September ’13 – May ’15). It features Frisell with vocalist Petra Haden, Eyvind Kang (viola), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) performing Frisell’s arrangements and interpretations of Music from Film and Television. Jazz Times described the project as follows: "unforgettable themes are the real draw here, reconfigured with ingenuity, wit and affection by Frisell and a terrific group."
"Frisell has had a lot of practice putting high concept into a humble package. Long hailed as one of the most distinctive and original improvising guitarists of our time, he has also earned a reputation for teasing out thematic connections with his music... There’s a reason that Jazz at Lincoln Center had him program a series called Roots of Americana." - New York Times
Recognized as one of America’s 21 most vital and productive performing artists, Frisell was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist in 2012. He is also a recipient of grants from United States Artists, Meet the Composer among others. In 2016, he was a beneficiary of the first FreshGrass Composition commission to preserve and support innovative grassroots music. Upon San Francisco Jazz opening their doors in 2013, he served as one of their Resident Artistic Directors. Bill is also the subject of a new documentary film by director Emma Franz, entitled Bill Frisell: A Portrait, which examines his creative process in depth.
“Clarence is the kind of musician who leaves his judgments of music and musicians aside to provide the best support and complement. He really cares that everyone on stage sound as good as they can. That explains why the results are so great with the extraordinary musicians he brings into his projects. Fireworks!”—Dave Douglas
“Clarence is a charismatic player, with great dynamic range and drama and musicality. He’s an intricate and heady drummer who thinks compositionally, but uses his gut and instincts towards the end result of making something exciting, that feels alive, and is full of energy and passion. He doesn’t have a limited conception of what the drummer is. Of course, he drives the band and pushes the time, but he also knows how to stop and allow things to happen—to be a colorist.”—Maria Schneider
“I think Clarence is a natural leader. He listens like a producer. He has clarity and vision. He hears everything—the bass, the high voices, the middle. He understands harmony. He understands lyrics. He has the will to solve problems and figure them out. He doesn’t stay traditional, but makes the music free and colorful. He understands that music is play. I’d play with him every day if I could.”—Luciana Souza
Clarence Penn is one of the busiest jazz drummers in the world, a leader of multiple bands, a composer, a prolific producer, and an educator.
Since 1991, when he arrived in New York City, Penn has placed his unique blend of mega-chops, keen intellect, and heady musicianship at the service of a staggering array of A-list artists—a chronological short-list includes Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Stanley Clarke, Steps Ahead, Makoto Ozone, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza, Richard Galliano, and Fourplay. Penn’s impressive discography includes several hundred studio albums (including the Grammy-winning recordings 34th and Lex by Randy Brecker and Concert in the Garden and Sky Blue by Maria Schneider) representing a 360-spectrum of jazz expression, and he’s toured extensively throughout the United States, the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia. He’s composed music for films and commercials, and produced tracks for numerous singers in the pop and alternative arenas. He earned a “Ten Best of 1997” accolade from the New York Times for his first leader recording, Penn’s Landing.
A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was a protégé of Ellis Marsalis, Penn is active as an educator and drum clinician. From 2004 to 2012, he taught on the faculty of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. He’s also served on faculty at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Saint Louis College of Music in Rome, Italy, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Intensive Jazz Institute.
Penn currently leads several ensembles. His most recent “rhythmically intoxicating” recording is 2014’s “Monk The Lost Files”arrangements of the music of Thelonious Monk. Released on the Origin record lable, an amazing quartet comprising saxophonist Chad Leftkowitz-Brown, Pianist Gerald Clayton/Donald Vega, and bassist Yasushi Nakamura performing the music of Thelonius Monk with today’s modern jazz sensibility. Near completion is a “world music” studio project of songs and instrumentals that melds background voices—including his own—with a world class band.
Whether Penn is leading his own band or performing as a sideman, he brings to the table unfailing versatility and professionalism, an ability to find creative ways to interpret a global array of styles and idioms, and a stated intention “to play music that’s warm and organic for the people and for myself.”
His motto: “When people hear my name, I want them to think, ‘I don’t know what band he’s playing with tonight or what he’ll be doing, but it’s going to be good, it’s going to be musical.’”