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October 11th, 2016 Earshot Jazz Festival: Josh Rawlings Trio basks in 'Swell' CD release show By Carol Banks Weber with AXS
October 3rd, 2016 AXS interview: Josh Rawlings talks about fronting his first Earshot Jazz Festival AXS interview, Part 2: Josh Rawlings loves on his trio’s new album By Carol Banks Weber with AXS
// Production Credits //
Engineered & Mixed by Matt “Spekulation” Watson at HearBy Studios in Seattle, WA hearbysound.com
Mastered by Homero Glez at Floating Point Studio in Guadalajara, Mexico floatingpoint.mx
Cover Photo ‘Reef Peak’ by Ray Collins raycollinsphoto.com
Album Artwork Designed by Josh Rawlings
// Personnel //
Josh Ralwings (piano, vocals) Nate Omdal (upright bass) Adam Kessler (drums)
Gabriel Burbano (trumpet) on track 4 & 9 Jessie Sawyers (tap dancing) on track 7 Isabella Du Graf (vocals) on track 10 Emily Rawlings (vocals) on track 11
Begin Scarseth (violin) Heather Bentley (violin) Brianna Atwell (viola) Nathan Whittaker (cello) on track 6 & 11
String Arrangement for Vert Dans Le Blue by Andrew Joslyn
Leo Rawlings (whoas) on track 12
// Song Credits //
Alone Freja’s Song Seatown Swing Vert Dans Le Blue Waltz For Andrea You Are The Reason Written by Josh Rawlings (ASCAP)
Bye Bye Blackbird Written by Mort Dixon & Ray Henderson (ASCAP)
Old Man Written by Neil Young (ASCAP)
Pastime Paradise Written by Stevie Wonder (ASCAP)
Say It Ain’t So, Susanne, Undone - The Sweater Song Written by Rivers Cuomo (BMI)
Smells Like Teen Spirit Written by Nirvana (BMI)
Take Five Written by Paul Desmond (BMI) Lyrics by Josh Rawlings (ASCAP)
Wave Written by Antônio Carlos Jobim (BMI)
Back in late October 2015, while patiently waiting the arrival of our third child, I found myself in a creative space where I was getting more and more excited to dive into a new album with my Trio. Three or four years earlier, the Trio and I had completed an ambitious double-album recording session, hoping to release one album of standards and originals and another of my jazz arrangements of the Super Mario Bros. score. Needless to say, those albums were swept under the rug once I learned I was to become a father to my first child, Leo. Fast forward to October 2015, I was feeling this surge within myself to go back into the studio, revisit that old session, and bring some new material and energy to the table. I did just that with my tried-and-true bandmates of 15-plus years: bassist Nate Omdal and drummer Adam Kessler. We had a great time tracking the new music at a close friend’s studio in Seattle and even picked up a number of gigs around the same time to work out the music. Sometimes we’d record in the studio, then go straight to a restaurant nearby that was hot on our music and play two late-night sets of music. It was a little insane, and I believe I was overcompensating for the fact that soon I’d be a father of three and have little to no time to do anything but change diapers and chase after my two younger kids.
By now, the scene for this album should be set in your mind, but why the name Swell, and why make a jazz album when we all know that jazz doesn't exactly move a lot of units these days? Not to mention the fact that we’re seeing an overall shift in how people even consume music these days. Well, the decision to do another jazz album with my Trio came from a desire to create a more up-to-date “music business calling card” that represents how we sound after years of growth since our first release in 2008. There’s that, AND I just wanted to stretch my wings a bit and put together an eclectic album with fun vocals, moving string arrangements, and fun covers featuring some of my dearest and most talented friends from Seattle's music community. This album was meant to be a real shift from my first album, which consisted only of original instrumental songs that I composed.
So that’s part one. Part 2: why the name Swell? This goes deep for me because of everything I’ve experienced in the year since the initial recording. Shortly after recording and mixing the album--you might remember from earlier that my wife and I were expecting--we welcomed our third child, Mason Roark Rawlings, into the world on December 18th, just eight days shy of my 33rd birthday. It was wild, and--in all truth--Mason was 100% a miracle child for us, as I'd previously had an important procedure to prevent having a third. Hint, hint. Long story short…miracle baby. With Mason’s arrival came a wave of joy and peace that was unlike anything I’d experienced before. All that anxiety and busyness prior to his arrival gave way to a pure and relaxed state of being. It was the lull after the storm, so to speak, and my wife and I were overjoyed to welcome him into the family. It wasn’t but a month after that, while Emily and I were in the throes of adjusting to our new family situation, that I learned my parents were to split after 35 years of being together. A week after that I learned that my Mom had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. Life took a very unexpected and dark turn that left me in a swirl of confusion and sadness, which overwhelmed the rest of 2016. My parents are still separated and will very likely be divorced before the end of this year, but I’m happy to write now that my Mom appears to be on the road to recovery and kicking her cancer to the curb. I too am doing much better, grappling with the major change in my immediate family structure and feeling more stable with my day-to-day. I share all of this because it's the reason why I named the album Swell. I was toying with other names like Surge, Surf, etc., but Swell had this double entendre sort of meaning for me…or maybe triple. Let me explain.
First: I love to physically surf in the ocean and Swell represents that joy I feel looking at a wave set coming in. It represents my respect and love for the ocean in general. Surfing is a beautiful activity that makes me feel free and transports me to a pure, childlike state, enjoying nature in its fullest form.
Second: Swell speaks to my feeling that my emotional state after those dark six months was indeed like a swell, and that I was going to be okay no matter the outcome of everything. It took a lot of processing and time sitting still exploring my inner thoughts and emotions, but I can confidently say (in the words of my good friend and music partner Ahamefule J. Oluo), “Now I’m Fine.”
Third: Swell, to me, represents the ebb and flow of life and even music itself. When I play with Nate and Adam I feel several moments in each song where things are swelling to a climax and then back to a nuanced and delicate place in the music. This type of movement and awareness of energy moving in our music is incredibly special to me and I don’t take it for granted. The music we get to create together uplifts me and gives me faith to keep riding the wild and beautiful waves life throws at me.
To me, Swell is an album about the ebb and flow of life and the swell of emotion and sounds that come and go with it all. The image of tides and waves coming and going is a powerful metaphor, as is the change of seasons. These metaphors help guide our perspective on situations and remind us of the ever changing nature of our existence. This awareness challenges our expectations, our attachments, our understanding of everything, and yet it carries us along--just like me, floating on my surfboard and humming a little tune in the vast ocean. What a gift, what a joy!
I hope you enjoy this album as much as I did making it and that the music illuminates the swell/change/movement in your beautiful and unique lives. Until our waves meet, be in joy and know that music exists to help us experience the fullness of it all. Thank you so much for reading/listening.
With deep love and gratitude, Josh
BACKGROUND BEHIND THE SONGS
Below is a little background on each track I selected to be on the album and how they came to be. Hope you enjoy the background behind the music.
[Song descriptions coming soon]
01. Bye Bye Blackbird
02. Take Five
03. Waltz For Andrea
04. Seatown Swing (feat. Gabriel Burbano)
05. Smells Like Teen Spirit
06. Vert Dans Le Blue
07. Wave (feat. Jessie Sawyers)
08. Pastime Paradise
09. Alone (feat. Gabriel Burbano)
10. You Are The Reason (feat. Isabella Du Graf)
11. Freja's Song (feat. Emily Rawlings)
12. Weezer Medley (Say It Ain't So / Susanne / Undone - The Sweater Song)
13. Old Man