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  • Monday, March 16, 2020
    Sam Gendel Talks Track by Track About New Album, "Satin Doll"

    Sam Gendel released his Nonesuch debut album, Satin Doll, to critical acclaim last week, with the Los Angeles Times calling it "a woozy, blissfully twisted album," and the Guardian saying: "The avant-garde trailblazer pushes the boat out to glorious extremes ... a searing new language for sax." The album is a sonic construction / deconstruction of jazz standards, including songs by Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington. Gendel has shared a track-by-track breakdown of all the songs on the album, which you can read below while you listen.

    ---

    “Afro Blue”
    Written by Mongo Santamaria

    “We got together the first day and recorded four tunes back to back. The next day, we packed up our gear and drove out to Westlake Village to the Four Seasons hotel, in the middle of nowhere. We played at a rehearsal dinner for my friend’s wedding and “Afro Blue” is a live recording from this engagement: no overdubs, no rehearsal—impromptu. We just launched into it and what you hear is what you get [laughs]. There were 200 people there. People were flipping out and we got all the little kids dancing. It was a fun night.”

    ---

    “Saxofone Funeral”
    Written by Sam Gendel. Contains sample of “Session Pour Yehia Le Marabout Face B” performed by Super Onze.

    “That’s me alone, playing over a sample. There’s a group called Super Onze from the Niger Bend region. They’re not that well known, but I was introduced to them by a friend of mine, the bassist Pino Palladino [Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, D'Angelo], and I got really into it. One night when we were recording the album, I was playing around by myself in the studio. I was messing with this sample from their music and it happened in one sitting. I thought, ‘That’s interesting—that feels like a different dimension to the album that I would like to include.’”

    ---

    “Satin Doll”
    Written by Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and Johnny Mercer

    “This was the song that gave me the idea to do the album. I was doing a solo performance and I started playing a version of loosely what the piece is on record—it just came out. I thought, ‘Okay, I know how this record’s going to sound.’ That’s what gave me the sonic architecture, this improvised concert moment. ‘Satin Doll’ is an interesting piece because that’s the song that Duke Ellington would often end his concerts with—also this is probably the last time I'm going to do an album like this, and so the title is fitting because it’s a hello and goodbye.”

    ---

    “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”
    Music by Charles Mingus; lyrics by Joni Mitchell

    “It’s Mingus’s ode to Lester Young, who wore a pork pie hat. Joni Mitchell’s lyrics are poignant and deep. They’re beautiful and haunting, dark, truthful. The singing here is a computer voice, it’s not a singer. We typed in the lyrics and Gabe performed them on a keyboard live into my pedalboard which I’m manipulating in real time—so the two of us are performing it together, and I’m adding the effects and creating all that wash at the end.”

    ---

    “Stardust”
    Written by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish

    “I wanted to do a pure trio performance, with the solo, distilled. It’s a beautiful melody. Lester Young was probably my first big influence on the instrument, and I wanted to do something in homage; he does a very beautiful version of ‘Stardust’ and I wanted to do something in reference to the man and his music. Real simple and no tricks.”

    ---

    “The Theem”
    Written by Sam Gendel

    “You know Miles Davis had ‘The Theme?’ There are these iconic melodies in jazz and show music, motifs that just repeat. We did a subtle nod to that history with ‘The Theem.’”

    ---

    “O Ovo”
    Written by Hermeto Pascoal

    “I don’t know why, but I had the feeling that I had to include some Hermeto Pascoal on this record. It felt like it wouldn’t have been a complete picture without that angle, it was an intuitive feeling. There needs to be this flavor. It’s like this color on a painting—it’s a part of the balance that I don’t necessarily even understand myself.”

    ---

    “Cold Duck Time”
    Written by Eddie Harris

    “The electrified sound of the saxophone wouldn’t be possible without Eddie Harris, who wrote this. He was one of the earliest creative minds who took the instrument outside of its own, beyond its acoustic nature. He explored other possibilities with it, with electronics, way back in the late ’60s into the ’70s. So I had to give props to the man. I love Eddie Harris, so I wanted to include something of him on there. Out of respect, you know. Our version gets pretty raucous. I knew before we started recording that I wanted to express that type of pure energy in a way, but I didn’t know where it was going to turn up—and I didn’t want it to come up too much because I feel like a lot of modern, improvised music coming out of the jazz-adjacent realm is aggro. It sounds like many layers but it’s a live take.”

    ---

    “Freddie Freeloader”
    Written by Miles Davis

    “I wanted to do an iconic blues piece and Freddie Freeloader felt like it was the right temperature. People don’t really touch that song too often, even though it’s part of the most famous jazz album ever recorded. It has a certain lightness to it, as a composition. That’s where we’re mildly poking the fire, you know, among the jazz purists.”

    ---

    “Glide Mode”
    Written by Sam Gendel

    “There needed to be an unfamiliar angle, but that was still part of the sound. This is almost entirely a live take except for the crazy, weird, frenetic percussion sounds; I overdubbed that myself. That’s a piece that just happened and said, ‘I’m here to stay,’ to which I replied, ‘Okay, you’re part of the record, too.’”

    ---

    “In a Sentimental Mood”
    Written by Duke Ellington

    “The idea for this actually came a long time ago for me; I had been playing a gig somewhere and touched on a version of it. I remembered it when we were recording, so I already had a structure in mind for it. This is the noire moment on the record. There’s a nighttime, cruising energy.”

    ---

    “Love Theme from Spartacus
    Written by Alex North

    “Yusef Lateef did the best version; that’s a beautiful work-of-art record. This tune has become a standard. It’s been performed by so many people: Eddie Harris did a version of it, too. It’s been a melody that people have visited throughout the last half of the twentieth century. I’m playing the bass on it, and I re-harmonized it. There’s a certain spare, austere quality to this version. It’s a beautiful melody and something we could just meditate on for a moment. And so we did.”

    ---

    “SXFN FNRL”
    Written by Sam Gendel

    “This was originally going to be at the beginning of the record. It’s the intro to ‘Saxofone Funeral.’ If you happen to listen to this album, it’s a pause before you resume going about your day.”

    ---

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Sam Gendel Talks Track by Track About New Album, "Satin Doll"

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on March 16, 2020 - 6:00am
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Publish date: 
Monday, March 16, 2020 - 12:00
Excerpt: 

Sam Gendel released his Nonesuch debut album to critical acclaim last week, with the Los Angeles Times calling it "a woozy, blissfully twisted album," and the Guardian saying: "The avant-garde trailblazer pushes the boat out to glorious extremes ... a searing new language for sax." The album is a sonic construction / deconstruction of jazz standards, including songs by Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington. Gendel has shared a track-by-track breakdown of all the songs on the album, which you can read here while you listen.

Copy: 

Sam Gendel released his Nonesuch debut album, Satin Doll, to critical acclaim last week, with the Los Angeles Times calling it "a woozy, blissfully twisted album," and the Guardian saying: "The avant-garde trailblazer pushes the boat out to glorious extremes ... a searing new language for sax." The album is a sonic construction / deconstruction of jazz standards, including songs by Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington. Gendel has shared a track-by-track breakdown of all the songs on the album, which you can read below while you listen.

---

“Afro Blue”
Written by Mongo Santamaria

“We got together the first day and recorded four tunes back to back. The next day, we packed up our gear and drove out to Westlake Village to the Four Seasons hotel, in the middle of nowhere. We played at a rehearsal dinner for my friend’s wedding and “Afro Blue” is a live recording from this engagement: no overdubs, no rehearsal—impromptu. We just launched into it and what you hear is what you get [laughs]. There were 200 people there. People were flipping out and we got all the little kids dancing. It was a fun night.”

---

“Saxofone Funeral”
Written by Sam Gendel. Contains sample of “Session Pour Yehia Le Marabout Face B” performed by Super Onze.

“That’s me alone, playing over a sample. There’s a group called Super Onze from the Niger Bend region. They’re not that well known, but I was introduced to them by a friend of mine, the bassist Pino Palladino [Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, D'Angelo], and I got really into it. One night when we were recording the album, I was playing around by myself in the studio. I was messing with this sample from their music and it happened in one sitting. I thought, ‘That’s interesting—that feels like a different dimension to the album that I would like to include.’”

---

“Satin Doll”
Written by Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and Johnny Mercer

“This was the song that gave me the idea to do the album. I was doing a solo performance and I started playing a version of loosely what the piece is on record—it just came out. I thought, ‘Okay, I know how this record’s going to sound.’ That’s what gave me the sonic architecture, this improvised concert moment. ‘Satin Doll’ is an interesting piece because that’s the song that Duke Ellington would often end his concerts with—also this is probably the last time I'm going to do an album like this, and so the title is fitting because it’s a hello and goodbye.”

---

“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”
Music by Charles Mingus; lyrics by Joni Mitchell

“It’s Mingus’s ode to Lester Young, who wore a pork pie hat. Joni Mitchell’s lyrics are poignant and deep. They’re beautiful and haunting, dark, truthful. The singing here is a computer voice, it’s not a singer. We typed in the lyrics and Gabe performed them on a keyboard live into my pedalboard which I’m manipulating in real time—so the two of us are performing it together, and I’m adding the effects and creating all that wash at the end.”

---

“Stardust”
Written by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish

“I wanted to do a pure trio performance, with the solo, distilled. It’s a beautiful melody. Lester Young was probably my first big influence on the instrument, and I wanted to do something in homage; he does a very beautiful version of ‘Stardust’ and I wanted to do something in reference to the man and his music. Real simple and no tricks.”

---

“The Theem”
Written by Sam Gendel

“You know Miles Davis had ‘The Theme?’ There are these iconic melodies in jazz and show music, motifs that just repeat. We did a subtle nod to that history with ‘The Theem.’”

---

“O Ovo”
Written by Hermeto Pascoal

“I don’t know why, but I had the feeling that I had to include some Hermeto Pascoal on this record. It felt like it wouldn’t have been a complete picture without that angle, it was an intuitive feeling. There needs to be this flavor. It’s like this color on a painting—it’s a part of the balance that I don’t necessarily even understand myself.”

---

“Cold Duck Time”
Written by Eddie Harris

“The electrified sound of the saxophone wouldn’t be possible without Eddie Harris, who wrote this. He was one of the earliest creative minds who took the instrument outside of its own, beyond its acoustic nature. He explored other possibilities with it, with electronics, way back in the late ’60s into the ’70s. So I had to give props to the man. I love Eddie Harris, so I wanted to include something of him on there. Out of respect, you know. Our version gets pretty raucous. I knew before we started recording that I wanted to express that type of pure energy in a way, but I didn’t know where it was going to turn up—and I didn’t want it to come up too much because I feel like a lot of modern, improvised music coming out of the jazz-adjacent realm is aggro. It sounds like many layers but it’s a live take.”

---

“Freddie Freeloader”
Written by Miles Davis

“I wanted to do an iconic blues piece and Freddie Freeloader felt like it was the right temperature. People don’t really touch that song too often, even though it’s part of the most famous jazz album ever recorded. It has a certain lightness to it, as a composition. That’s where we’re mildly poking the fire, you know, among the jazz purists.”

---

“Glide Mode”
Written by Sam Gendel

“There needed to be an unfamiliar angle, but that was still part of the sound. This is almost entirely a live take except for the crazy, weird, frenetic percussion sounds; I overdubbed that myself. That’s a piece that just happened and said, ‘I’m here to stay,’ to which I replied, ‘Okay, you’re part of the record, too.’”

---

“In a Sentimental Mood”
Written by Duke Ellington

“The idea for this actually came a long time ago for me; I had been playing a gig somewhere and touched on a version of it. I remembered it when we were recording, so I already had a structure in mind for it. This is the noire moment on the record. There’s a nighttime, cruising energy.”

---

“Love Theme from Spartacus
Written by Alex North

“Yusef Lateef did the best version; that’s a beautiful work-of-art record. This tune has become a standard. It’s been performed by so many people: Eddie Harris did a version of it, too. It’s been a melody that people have visited throughout the last half of the twentieth century. I’m playing the bass on it, and I re-harmonized it. There’s a certain spare, austere quality to this version. It’s a beautiful melody and something we could just meditate on for a moment. And so we did.”

---

“SXFN FNRL”
Written by Sam Gendel

“This was originally going to be at the beginning of the record. It’s the intro to ‘Saxofone Funeral.’ If you happen to listen to this album, it’s a pause before you resume going about your day.”

---

featuredimage: 
Sam Gendel: "Satin Doll," Track by Track

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