Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Arabic Music with Ken Habib

Continuing our quest to keep you up-to-date on our projects, today we want to talk about a very special project involving an Arabic music ensemble that we are recording in a couple of weeks with Ken Habib. 

Ken Habib has written some wonderful traditional style music with traditional instrumentation.  Our session will take place on March 6th with some of the best Middle Eastern musicians from Los Angeles participating in the recording.  This could be one of the most interesting projects on the schedule next month.

About Mr. Habib:

Dr. Ken Habib earned his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) with specializations in the Middle East and American popular music. He has particularly concentrated on the music of the Eastern Mediterranean, and especially on the collaboration of the Lebanese superstar singer, Fairouz, and the Rahbani composers. Foci of his work include musical and textual analysis, use of musical arts in the creation of personal and social meaning, and experience of music culture in diaspora. He has taught music at Pomona College and UCSB, and he has taught Arabic at Santa Barbara City College and served as Assistant Director of the Middlebury College Arabic School. Dr. Habib also is a composer and performer, and his responsibilities at Cal Poly include direction of the Arabic Music Ensemble.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Smoke 'N Function

Yesterday we introduced you to Cliff Sarde, so today we're gonna share some information about what we're planning with him.

"I hate to put a tag on it, but I always thought of this as "adult electronica,'" Sarde says. "People will hear rave or drum 'n' bass or acid jazz or some of the other things that I'm pulling from. But I don't listen to a lot of electronica. I don't listen to a lot of anything, because I don't want to be influenced by it.

The Smoke 'N Function project started as Sarde began his exploration into the potential of modern musical technology. He opted to take a very electronic path towards creating new music, utilizing MIDI, samples and loops, all recorded on a desktop computer at home, in "a bedroom the size of a closet. Through this solitary approach, Sarde found creative autonomy in the new hardware, a freedom to not only conceive expansive and ingenuous music, but to express himself in the purest, most personal, fashion.

"I was very influenced by Miles Davis's "IN A SILENT WAY", Sarde explains. "The idea here was to create a non-linear record, a record that didn't go verse-chorus-verse. Whatever happened, happened.

"It was going to be whatever music came out, he continues, "and there was going to be no responsibility as far as selling it. My plan was to press a thousand CDs and give them to my friends.

As Sarde's sound paintings took shape, it soon became apparent that Smoke 'N Function was going to deserve more than a self-release. When his longtime pal, esteemed jazz radio programmer Nick Francis, heard what was cooking in Sarde's studio, he knew he wanted to be part of it.

"It was great for me, Sarde enthuses, "because I was looking for someone to produce so that I didn't have to. I didn't want to engineer, write, play, and produce, I didn't want all those responsibilities.

With Francis on board as producer, Sarde, whose wide-ranging musical loves include early Weather Report, Angelique Kidjo, Ben Harper and Beck, was free to explore the possibilities of today's technology, a journey which gave the musician a heretofore unseen chance to express himself on unfamiliar instruments. For example, Sarde's bass playing on "SMOKE 'N FUNCTION was performed on a MIDI wind instrument, enabling him to play rhythms through his saxophone.

"I'm not fumbling around a bass guitar, he says. "I have a sample of a bass that I can trigger with the MIDI. That's how I created a lot of the sound textures. For example, on "Glide", the piano part is me playing a MIDI sax that sounds like a piano. Remarkably, the increased independence allowed Sarde to reach deep into himself to find the most natural and human music possible.

"This spiritual thing inside of me came through," Sarde says, "the spiritual energy that we all have and we're all connected to. It's a part of all of us. We're all connected by energy, and I tried tapping into those feelings.

"It's not coming from me, he points out, "it comes through me, because I'm open to it."

The Bronx-born, Long Island-raised Sarde is no novice to spiritual matters. He first migrated to the Arizona desert in 1972, as a self-described "cult member, following the teachings of Guru Maharaj Ji. Though he soon parted from the Guru's flock, Sarde did pick up some valuable lessons through the experience.

"Once I got into the dogma who's spiritually higher than who, and all that bullshit then I started getting away from it," Sarde explains. "But there are things from that period I really like. Learning to be here now and just accept what is, things like that."

Sarde remains an impassioned student of the human spirit. Throughout "SMOKE 'N FUNCTION" he weaves samples and loops of Zuni and Navajo vocals (the album- opening "Thunderstorm"), Tibetan parade sounds and voices ("Tibetan Spring"), and many other Eastern-based sonic building blocks into a richly evocative musical tapestry which conjures a multi-cultural feeling of profound inner harmony.

"Spirituality is inside every one of us," he says. "It's like a radio station; all we need to know is where to tune in. Most of the time we're flipping around the dial looking for it, but once we tune it in, it's always there and we can get there through meditation, music, or whatever."

Cliff Sarde has certainly expressed his true self with Smoke 'N Function. An imaginative sonic voyage with unprecedented heart, humor and harmony, the hypnotic blend of "SMOKE 'N FUNCTION" is utterly fascinating and utterly unexpected.

"This music is perfect for this new millennium," Sarde says. "Hopefully people into contemporary jazz or other genres will accept this blur of music, which is non-definable but yet completely heartfelt."

"I think I'm on the forefront of something new," he says. "I'm not coming out with the same old record that you've heard before. That's the beauty of this. I'm not imitating anybody. I'm not even imitating myself."

Smoke 'N Function... Can you?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cliff Sarde

Like electronic music? Then you're going to love the release we're planning with artist Cliff Sarde. Today we want to introduce you to Cliff Sarde, which will of course get you excited for what we're planning with him!

Grammy nominee musician/producer Cliff Sarde's work is a fluid and moving collection which fuses world beat, electronica and contemporary jazz into a thoroughly original and powerful new music. In addition to Sarde's saxophone and assorted woodwinds. Sarde's music comes to life via samples of various Eastern and Native American voices, drum and bass textures, MIDI loops, and a hopeful and positive series of Zen tranquility. This music, recorded in a desktop home studio, offers ample proof that the Phoenix, Arizona-based Sarde has concocted a truly original adventure in sound.

In 1998, Sarde adopted the moniker "Smoke 'n Function", (Mesa/ Atlantic Records) releasing an album of the same name featuring his innovative blending of jazz, world beat and electronica. Sarde's most recent release, "Enter-Tribal" (2004, Canyon Records) is a collaboration featuring Native American flutist, R. Carlos Nakai who has earned two Gold Records and received four New Age Grammy nominations. In December 2004, Enter-Tribal topped the New Age Voice Chart at number ten. In 2008 Sarde was a Grammy Nominee for his work with R. Carlos Nakai release titled "RECONNECTIONS".

Before his innovative epiphany with his new sound, Sarde tread a more traditional musical path. He spent the Eighties recording a number of acclaimed contemporary jazz albums, including "Every Bit Better" (1983, Curb/MCA), "Waiting" (1985, Curb/MCA), "Two On One" (1986, Curb/MCA) "Dreams Out Loud" (1988, Passport Jazz) and "Honest and True" (1990, ProJazz). All of these have garnered national airplay on over 165 stations.

In addition to his recording, Sarde owns CE Productions, a music and sound production company where the multi-instrumentalist works as composer, producer and sound designer for various cinematic projects and commercials. Among these is "Quality Time" (starring Nancy Allen, Corin Nemec, Bruce Weitz and John DeLancie), as well as the PBS documentary, "Thieves of Time" and "Visions of Arizona". Sarde is the recipient of many Telly and Addy and Emmy Awards.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Introducing Antonia Bennett

In more than a hint towards a future release (it will be a digital EP in fact), we wanted to take some time to introduce you to Antonia Bennett:

Antonia Bennett

Written by Keya Morgan via
New York City, September 21, 2006

According to The New York Times, the truly beautiful voice of Antonia Bennett “conjures echoes of Billie Holiday and Ricki Lee Jones, with a hint of Betty Boop." Since the age of four, Antonia Bennett has been gracing the stage and serenading audiences internationally alongside her world-renowned father, Tony Bennett. In fact, some of those early performances were with the legendary American jazz icon Count Basie.

Having spent most of her life in Los Angeles and New York City and coming from a show business family, Antonia Bennett was surrounded by and received praise from such greats as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, Rosemary Clooney, Les Paul and Ella Fitzgerald, so it was inevitable that she would be infected with a passion for the arts.

A recipient of the David Award presented by the "Italo-American National Union" (the oldest Italian-American fraternal organization in America), Antonia is an alumnus of the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston. In addition to Antonia Bennett’s beautiful voice, she has also had formal acting and dance training throughout her life. Her experience and timeless sound make her a presence that commands and captures audiences wherever and whenever she performs.

Antonia Bennett has performed in opera houses, casinos, jazz clubs and amphitheaters worldwide. Her beauty, sweetness and timeless qualities are reminiscent of the great female jazz vocalists of the twentieth century. A rising star, she continues to dazzle crowds around the globe time and time again with her unique and ever-alluring voice.

To listen to samples of Antonia Bennett, please visit her Website

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Little About Logan

Last week we told you about our trip to see the Scottish rock band Logan, so today we'd like share a little band history:

Formed in 2003, Logan are a five piece hard rock band from Glasgow, Scotland.

Their self-funded, debut album First Leaf Fallen was released in 2003 and was followed with Welcome to The Wasteland a year later, building an impressive U.K. fan base and selling over 8,000 copies.

In 2005 they secured high profile support slots with Alter Bridge, which helped them to become one of the most talked about independent bands in the U.K. In June 2006, they released their first single When I Get Down which debuted at No. 12 on the Official U.K. Rock Chart and proceeded to stay in the chart for seven weeks — a feat never before achieved by an unsigned band.

September 2006 saw the release of their third album Cruel Little World and their second single Hallowed Ground followed, again breaking into the U.K. Rock Chart Top Twenty.

2007 saw the band win awards at The U.K. Glasswerks Awards for New Music and a nomination as ones to watch in 2008 by the UK's leading rock magazine Classic Rock and an inclusion on the accompanying cover mount cd.

2008 was a great year for Logan. Airplay of the single "Lost & Found" won the band a support slot with Bon Jovi at Hampden Park in front of 4,000 and the subsequent 8-date UK headline tour pushed sales of Cruel Little World to sell-out status. The band headed to L.A. in October to record two videos and play a new pressing of Cruel Little World with three additional tracks and new packaging was released to coincide with a 24-date European tour in support of Alter Bridge, which was a great success. The tour saw the band conquer new audiences in 11 countries and set them up nice for 2009.

For more information visit

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Catching Up - Mesa/Bluemoon Adventures with Logan

Want to know what Mesa/Bluemoon has been up to the past two months? Owner George Nauful tells all!

"I’ve been courting a great rock n’ roll band from Scotland for the last several months that I really wanted to work with and release here in the U.S. So I went to Scotland in mid-December to see the band perform live in Glasgow. The band had been looking for a producer for the new album they want to record so I hooked them up with an old friend from my past who is the world renown rock producer, Keith Olsen. Keith has like 25 platinum albums producing icon bands like Fleetwood Mac, Thin Lizzy, Scorpions, Alice Cooper, Grateful Dead, Santana, White Snake, Foreigner to name a few. So I took Keith with me and headed to Scotland to see Logan perform for the first time.

The guys in Logan are really nice guys as are the managers of the band and they treated us with such kindness and respect. Glasgow was cold to say the least so we stayed close to the hotel the first day and didn’t get to spend much time sightseeing around the city. We spent a lot of our time with the band and management including the day of the performance. The day of the concert Keith and I went to see Logan at The Garage in Glasgow which is a popular club that holds about 1,500 people standing room downstairs and balcony upstairs. We were both so impressed with Logan from the first downbeat of the set. They are a hard rocking band with great musicians and great songs. Kenny who is the lead singer is a great front man just blew us away with his vocal prowess. The crowd went crazy on just about every song they performed but especially their encore which was “When I Get Down”. It’s the song that has gotten a lot of radio attention in Scotland and the fans loved every minute of the performance.

Needles to say, we loved the band and have made a deal to release the next album here in the U.S. through Universal/Fontana distribution. We are scheduled to start the new album recording in mid-March in Los Angeles and are shooting for a summer release and tour. Logan is a terrific band and destined to be newest stars of rock n’ roll."

- George Nauful