Featuring: Jeremy Siskind (piano, compositions), Nancy Harms (vocals) and Lucas Pino (saxophones)
Finger Songwriter is designed to tell a story of dealing with loss. The opening line sung, “I’d like to learn how to lose,” serves as an indication of the emotional gamut, and variety of human conditions, that Siskind explores through words and music; from nostalgia, to denial, to madness, and eventually to resolve, optimism and hope.
Siskind chose a small ensemble to most effectively interpret this intimate, yet powerful music, featuring vocalist Nancy Harms; "By a complete coincidence, I played on Nancy’s first gig in NYC when she moved here from Minnesota. She gave me an album that I listened to in my car and it stayed there for weeks and weeks and became one of my favorites. I wanted her on this project because she has an intense, focused, and captivating way of delivering a lyric. Plus, her voice has a beautiful, dark tone that’s perfect for the music", said Siskind; and saxophonist Lucas Pino; "I knew I wanted Lucas on this project the second I heard his sound – a warm, deep, and heartfelt tone reminiscent of Stan Getz. I like to say that he has the sound of Getz and a phrasing similar to that of Joe Lovano. Plus, he was wonderfully willing to work on some doublings that aren’t his usual fare."
The concept behind this group came mostly from Siskind's love of Norma Winstone’s recordings, specifically, Like Song, Like Weather and Somewhere Called Home (with piano great John Taylor), her work with Azimuth, Songs and Lullabies, with Fred Hersch, and two recent albums – Distances and Stories Yet to Tell (with Europeans Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing). Siskind was specifically inspired by, "the warmth of the sound, the intimacy of the setting, and the emotional power of a lyric delivered against a subtly morphing acoustic backdrop".
Another powerful inspiration for the project came from the Siskind's love of words and wanting to create with them. Armed with a Masters degree from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature, and having written a thesis on the nexus of music and words in song settings, the majority of the lyrics on Finger Songwriter come from a specific literary text, which was then paraphrased, rephrased, reworked, spliced, and Frankensteined to become a new lyric.
The album’s genesis also stems from Siskind's love of, and identification with, the singer-songwriter genre and the desire to make something that was as personal, intimate, and confessional as Joni Mitchell’s Blue or Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left. Siskind also has great admiration for Tom Waits, Iron & Wine, Fionn Regan, Damien Rice, Paul Simon, Ray LaMontagne, Sufjan Stevens, Will Stratton, Laura Marling, and Leonard Cohen, to name a few. Siskind explains the title, "I wanted to call the record 'FingerSongwriter' because I like the way that performer and composer/confessor are conflated into a single being, permitting emotional openness, in ways than don’t always permeate jazz. Although, sadly, I can’t be the singer and the songwriter, I’m still a composer-performer and I’ve shaped the whole process of each song’s interpretation."
Simple Songs (For When The World Seems Strange)
Featuring: Jeremy Siskind (piano, compositions), Jo Lawry (voice, Sting, Fred Hersch), Chris Lightcap (bass, Ben Monder, Regina Carter), Ted Poor (drums, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Shane Endsley, Aaron Parks)
Pianist, composer, and educator Jeremy Siskind – originally from Irvine, CA, now living in NYC – is “a remarkable pianist” and “a rising star on the jazz scene,” according to legendary pianist Marian McPartland. After many years of studying (Siskind has earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Eastman and his Master’s in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia; he studies piano with Sophia Rosoff and Fred Hersch), performing around the world (since his early teens, originally as part of Yamaha’s Junior Original Concert Program, now as a leader and in-demand sideman), winning numerous awards and scholarships, and performing/recording with the likes of Chris Potter and Marcus Printup, Jeremy Siskind is primed for the release of his debut CD as a leader, Simple Songs (for When the World Seems Strange), available on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records on September 28, 2010.
Siskind filled Simple Songs with music that he would want to listen to, rather than music that would simply show off his talents. The compositions are written melodically and clearly, in contrast to the contemporary trend towards more complex music (in terms of harmony and metrical machinations), and reflect Siskind’s affinity for folk, pop, and contrapuntal, pianistic, and Impressionistic music. However, the music is anything but oversimplified or dumbed-down; it is, in fact, laced with four-voice counterpart, modulations, Debussian harmonies, free improvisation, and more. He explains, “The marriage of powerfully melodic compositions with largely unrestrained improvising joins the two principle elements – (the seemingly opposite) accessibility for the audience and liberation for the performers – that I value most in my music.”
Siskind utilizes this junction of constraint and liberation with the specific intention to inspire and accompany moments in life when the normal world suddenly seems surreal. Simple Songs, writes Siskind, is intended for the times “when it’s suddenly marvelous that a body of people exists that can (and will!) deliver your letter or parcel to a precise location anywhere across the country or the world; or for when the lemonlight of morning seeps through your bedroom window so discretely that the coming day seems to genuflect in silent prayer; or for that instant when your mind momentarily flickers with the realization that every passerby must have a unique consciousness and private history and sea of memories whose depth rivals your own. The music is meant to be at once mysterious and revelatory, a chiaroscuro soundtrack for these frozen moments.”
On Simple Songs, Siskind shows himself to be the consummate modern day pianist, possessing fluidity and swiftness, melodic, harmonic and rhythmic sophistication, and a ruminative approach and touch. In light of his many gifts, the factor that truly gives his music its deep, resonating quality is Siskind’s great self-awareness coupled with his willingness – and finely-tuned ability – to share this consciousness with us through his art.
About Jeremy Siskind
Pianist, composer, and educator Jeremy Siskind – originally from Irvine, CA, now living in NYC – is “a remarkable pianist” and “a rising star on the jazz scene,” according to legendary pianist Marian McPartland. Siskind earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Eastman and his Master’s in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia; he also studies piano with Sophia Rosoff and Fred Hersch. Siskind performs in NYC and around the world as a leader and in-demand sideman with the likes of Chris Potter and Marcus Printup. Since the release of Siskind's previous album on BJUR (Simple Songs, 2010) the pianist placed 2nd in the Montreux Jazz Festival Solo Piano Competition, was a runner-up for the American Pianist Association’s Cole Porter Fellowship, performed a classical suite at Carnegie Hall, has had his book, Jazz Etude Inspirations, published by Hal Leonard, and has become the musical director for comedy legend Sandra Bernhard! On his new recording, Finger Songwriter, Siskind shows himself to be the consummate modern day pianist, possessing fluidity and swiftness, melodic, harmonic and rhythmic sophistication, and a ruminative approach and touch.
Buy it HERE
(For When The World Seems Strange)
Jeremy Siskind's Website