We had the pleasure of speaking with some fantastic artists and recording teams last year about their creative process. We spoke to cuban jazz artist Daymé Arocena, jazz pianist and singer Patricia Barber, the engineering team behind Patricia Barber’s grammy nominated album Clique, songwriter and pianist Stephan Moccio, and singer-songwriter AHI.
Husband-and-wife engineering team Jim Anderson and Ulrike Schwarz discussed the making of Patricia Barber’s latest album Clique which has since been nominated for a 2022 Grammy for Best Immersive Album. Between them, Jim and Ulrike enjoy decades of combined recording and technical experience, awards and Grammys.
Canadian Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated pianist, songwriter and producer Stephan Moccio spoke to us about his new album Lionheart. Stephan discussed the relationship between his pop songwriting and his solo classical piano work, the inspiration behind Lionheart, and his career highlight of composing the 2010 Vancouver Olympics theme.
Canadian songwriter AHI talked to us about his new album Prospect. We covered the influences behind the album and certain tracks, AHI’s songwriting process, and the ways in which AHI’s extensive travel have influenced his music.
We look forward to speaking with more artists and recording engineers this year. Keep an eye out on our blog and socials for more editorial content.
For each interview we created an accompanying playlist, these can all be found in the Roon Playlists section of the Home Screen in Roon.
We created a set of playlists for the winter holidays, covering a range of genres. We start with Fireside Jazzon TIDAL, a playlist of festive and winter-themed jazz, with a significant proportion from Norwegian artists. Acoustic jazz highlights include winter-themed tracks from Hoff Ensemble, Rob Luft, Stan Getz, Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Pat Metheny and Stephan Moccio.
For those who enjoy a more festive feel, we feature acoustic arrangements of Christmas carols from Bugge Wesseltoft, Vince Guaraldi, Jan Gunnar Hoff, Ola Gjeilo, Charles Lloyd & The Marvels and Cyrus Chestnut. Vocal highlights include Norah Jones, Katie Melua, Dianne Reeves, and Norwegian singers Ellen Andrea Wang, Helene Bøksle, and Solveig Slettahjell.
Our playlist Christmas Carols, for TIDAL, is a celebration of traditional choral Christmas music. This playlist contains carols ranging from Renaissance composers William Byrd and Tomás Luis de Victoria to contemporary composers such as John Rutter and Philip Stopford. The playlist begins with Voces8’s Praetorius: Est Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen, a composition dating back to 1609, and Cornelius: The Three Kings. English composer Benjamin Britten’s choral works have become a staple of many Christmas concerts. A Ceremony of Carols: Balulalow and A Hymn To The Virgin are performed here by The Sixteen.
Highlights from award-winning choir Tenebrae are Tchaikovsky: Legend (The Crown of Roses), Tavener: The Lamb and Rathbone: The Oxen. Siglo de Oro takes us to Renaissance Mexico with composer Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla’s Joseph Fili David from Christmas in Puebla. Other highlights include carols from Rodolfus Choir, Stile Antico, Oxford Camerata, Cambridge Singers and Trinity College Choir, Cambridge.
We end with carols from The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge with german composer Otto Goldschmidt’s A Tender Shoot and the traditional carol The Linden Tree arranged by Reginald Jacques.
Our playlist Winter Warmersfor Qobuzis full of festive favorites, both old and new. Many of us tire of hearing the same Christmas pop classics played on repeat during the winter months. Here we highlight some less well known festive music along with classic Christmas crooners such as Nat King-Cole and Ella Fitzgerald.
We begin with new releases from Norwegian rising star Sigrid’s Home to You (This Christmas), Norah Jones’ Christmas Glow, and ABBA’s Little Things. We then feature the iconic Joni Mitchell’s River, followed by Brit-award Rising Star Celeste’s soulful A Little Love. The silky vocals of jazz-band Pink Martini’s A Snowglobe Christmas brings a peaceful cheer, along with female crooners Stacey Kent, Carole King, Holly Cole, Natalie Cole, Emmylou Harris, Aretha Franklin, Jane Monheit and Doris Day.
Kandace Springs brings a jazz-inspired rendition of (Everybody’s Waitin For) The Man With The Bag, followed by Amy Winehouse’ I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus from new release The Singles Collection.
We then turn to a blues and country Christmas with The Teskey Brothers’ Dreaming of a Christmas With You and Brandy Clark’s Merry Christmas Darling. We end with the festive nostalgia of Leonard Cohen, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Simon & Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Otis Redding.
Our playlist Soulful Season is full of old-school Soul, R&B, Jazz, and Blues holiday classics and originals. Motown and Stax Records heavies Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, The Temptations, and The Staple Singers stir up sounds that warm the spirit. We include soul giants James Brown, William Bell, Solomon Burke, and Donny Hathaway.
Early R&B, Doo-Wop, and New Orleans sounds come courtesy of The Drifters, The Penguins, The Harmony Grits, The Moonglows, and Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, adding fun and rhythm to your holiday party. Kenny Burrell contributes jazz guitar groove that’s matched in kind by two kings of the blues, B.B. and Freddie King.
Chuck Berry brings his rocking homage to the most famous reindeer to lead Santa’s Sleigh. Perennial favorites from the classic 1963 Phil Spector LP A Christmas Gift for You From Philles Records are sprinkled in liberally, and plenty of other surprises await.
Enjoy these and all of our playlists directly from your Home screen in Roon. Happy holidays from all at Roon, we hope you enjoy this music.
Every year an interesting shift occurs in my listening preferences at about the middle of October when the evening air turns crisp and the autumn sun flames out in fallen-leaf orange behind the trees on the hill. The tones from my speakers reliably reflect this seasonal change, with pastoral hues of wet earth and black trees, as the hypnotic strains of British Folk drift through my space. I can’t quite explain why my mind equates colder weather with that genre; perhaps it’s an ancestral memory that has been stripped of all its features but sound. Whatever the cause, my default fall selections are always a familiar narrow rotation of Brit-Folk favs. Just as routinely, I have vowed that I’ll investigate the golden era of British and Irish Folk music more thoroughly. And, despite never having managed to keep that promise in the past, I’ve always meant to.
The problem has been that as much as I love this music, and recognize a smattering of artists and albums outside of my favorites, exploring the genre can feel at times like getting turned around in the forest. There’s so much stylistic similarity in the landscape, ensembles absorbed and discarded personnel frequently, and groups embraced new sounds so often that it’s quite difficult to find your footing on the path of discovery. But if one is fortunate enough to have Roon, and a synced streaming service as a guide, the same challenge suddenly becomes an inspired adventure of autumnal acoustics.
This time I tried something different by beginning with a favorite selection and then allowing Roon to influence my new route – the scenery promptly changed and offered a wealth of surprise and variety I’ve never encountered previously. A few hours later I’d been reacquainted with a few forgotten gems and had acquired a handful of new discoveries. Each one of them linked to my original selection by Roon’s unparalleled understanding of the web of sound. All the listener must do is simply follow the notes.
My first go-to of fall is always Traffic – John Barleycorn (Must Die).It’s something of a wonder that the record exists as a Traffic album at all. It was to be Steve Winwood’s first solo release, but it was having trouble getting started. Former bandmate Jim Capaldi was invited ‘round to collaborate, a second former partner, Chris Wood, showed up – and a trio incarnation of Traffic was accidentally formed. Winwood, at twenty two years old, reimagined an Elizabethan-era folk standard for the title track which recounts the story of John Barleycorn – a character who suffers a wrath of indignities that correspond with the phases of barley cultivation. It exhibits a staggeringly brilliant folk authenticity not found anywhere else on the album, and only rarely in Traffic’s discography. You’ll catch yourself checking the credits in Roon incredulously for confirmation that this was a trio when you hear how much music these guys put down. Winwood’s delicate acoustic guitar ties Celtic patterns through his accompanying piano chords as Chris Wood weaves flute airs around Jim Capaldi’s tasteful rustic percussion. Winwood and Capaldi’s vocals relay the story of Barleycorn’s saga with the skill of master storytellers. It might not even be British Folk by some definitions but it defies any effort to argue it otherwise.
From Barleycorn, my go-to is always Fairport Convention but this time I vowed to do things differently. So instead of instinctively queueing up their What We Did On Our Holidays album I scrolled to similar artists instead, and chose Sandy Denny. Her discography revealed the long out-of-print compilation I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Acoustic Sandy Denny, which served up Sandy Denny with Fairport Convention – She Moves Through the Fair. A favorite from the aforementioned Fairport album, but here rendered in a deft acoustic version, with guitars simultaneously articulate and percussive supporting Denny’s angelic voice to absolute perfection. Fairport Convention could strip the music down to nothing and still dig into the marrow of the listener. This track is a superlative example of that. As always, Roon makes unearthing these previously unknown alternate versions an unburdened joy. New favorites are always waiting at the end of a few mouse clicks.
Nick Drake – Time Has Told Me is synonymous with fall to my ears. There isn’t a year that goes by where Nick Drake doesn’t become a regular on my turntable. I’ve heard that listening to his music is permitted at other times of the year as well but I’ve never risked testing the theory. This beautifully written and performed original is the auditory equivalent of a warm fire in the cold of the countryside. And it’s a natural follow up to the previous selection because two members of Fairport Convention contribute to it. If that’s not something you knew previously, it’s no problem. Roon hips you to that stuff in the track credits. All through the software it’s that simple. This track is one to follow the lyrics on, it’s another example of Nick Drake’s poetry outshining the transcendent music that carries it along.
I typically follow Nick Drake with Bert Jansch or John Renbourn, but this time I let Roon point me toward Pentangle – Basket of Light where both were band members. I chose the album because I recognized it’s cover from a former roommate’s vinyl collection but had only a vague memory of the music on it. The record is a spellbinding chimera, an eclectic hybrid of Indian influenced modal sounds and progressive jazz-psyche infused with British Folk originals. It provided an intriguing inroad into a band I’ve been curious about for years. In Roon the transition from curiosity to discovery is as natural as the change in seasons.
From Pentangle I was served up a selection in the Similar Albums section that yielded a thick vein of gold that cut straight through to the heart of the music. Various Artists – Anthems in Eden: An Anthology Of British & Irish Folk 1955-1978 is an eighty four track, multi-disc collection, that reveals the complete genetic encoding of the idiom. Finding recordings that thoroughly unlock the mysteries of a genre is commonplace in Roon because the design was built with this in mind. Try to imagine another place where that’s facilitated with such ease, effortless discovery of new favorites that are informed by an intimate understanding of the interconnected storylines of the music we already love. That’s what Roon does, and it’s the reason why I’m finally able to explore British Folk in the way I’ve always wanted.
Tell us about your experiences! Does a certain genre, artist, band, piece of music, song, or album make you think of the arrival of Autumn? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Share them with us in our Autumnal Acoustics music thread on Community. And thank you all for your wonderful contributions in the Classical Community Conversations thread! We’re looking forward to sharing your recommendations in an upcoming playlist. Please stay tuned for that!
We had the pleasure of speaking with Canadian songwriter AHI about his new album Prospect, out today. In Prospect, AHI reflects on his own identity and that of his community, fully embracing himself for the first time by putting his face on the album cover. AHI is known for his storytelling, with a unique voice full of influences from his travels, community and his West Indian upbringing.
[Editor] What can you tell us about your new album Prospect and the meaning and inspiration behind it?
Prospect is the title track of this album, and it’s also the opener. As the hook says, “I just want to live like someone before my time is counting on me…and walk beneath the wings like someone from another life is looking out for me.” For me, Prospect is a reflection on our shared humanity and what it means to be a link in a chain that stretches both forwards and backwards through time for eternity.
It’s a heavy concept, but I truly believe that our lives are part of something bigger and more meaningful than we understand. You and I are the prospect, and the gravity of our impact on one another is far greater than we can ever imagine.
Can you tell us about your songwriting process? Has anything in particular shaped or influenced it?
For me, songwriting is all about conveying a message that will reach people in a meaningful way. Sometimes it starts with a melody, and sometimes it’s a word that will spark inspiration, and other times songs will simply come to me in my dreams. But no matter how the inspiration may come, my first step is almost always to grab my guitar and record it while it’s fresh. From there, I usually let the feeling of the melody inform its lyrics.
My songwriting has definitely been influenced by the greats – Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur, Tracy Chapman, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Bill Withers – artists who found ways to express the most complex human emotions in the simplest of ways that we can all relate to. It might sound simple, but as a songwriter, that’s often the hardest thing to do.
You wrote Coldest Fire during the pandemic, can you tell us what it means to you and what you hoped it would bring to your audience?
I wrote this song at the height of the summer 2020 protests. While I’m often advised to stay safe and neutral with the hope of bringing people together, the world was more divided than I had seen in my lifetime and at times trying to find a balance felt like warfare inside. For me and countless other Black people, it can often feel like we are constantly living in a duality, where we have to silence a part of ourselves just to exist peacefully.
Coldest Fire represents the vulnerability that comes with that duality, but it also reminds us that we can find solace in our relationships with one another. I hope that anyone listening to that song can hear it with empathy and find comfort in knowing they’re not alone.
We understand that Danger came to you in a dream, can you tell us what story this song tells?
Music comes to me in my dreams all the time. Danger was one of those songs where I dreamt I was singing the chorus to a huge crowd as they sang along to every word, and I immediately woke up and recorded it with a sense of urgency. This particular dream song was about a young man who falls victim to a stray bullet and his mother Evelyn who immediately senses trouble.
Little did I know, my song told the story of a real mother whom I would later meet for the first time, a woman named Evelyn Fox from my hometown of Toronto, whose son had been lost to gun violence in a manner eerily similar to the lyrics of the song I had dreamt. As I later learned, Evelyn now works tirelessly as an activist for community safety alongside other mothers who have lost their children and loved ones to senseless gun violence.
We finally met face-to-face for the first time on the set of my music video for Danger, and hearing her story affirmed for me that the solution and healing we are looking for is rooted in the realization that every life is fragile and precious.
We understand you’ve done extensive travel through the Ethiopian Highlands and jungles of Trinidad. Can you tell us how your travels have influenced your music?
Throughout my travels, I often relied on the kindness of strangers who helped me on my journeys, let me into their homes, and just plain cared about me a lot. When we’re not thinking about it, at the core of humanity we all just want to see the best for each other and see the good in all people.
As corny as this might sound, traveling the world has shown me that we are really more alike than we are different. We’re all looking for purpose, connection, community and human connection, and I think these have become underlying themes in my music, which makes it almost universally relatable.
Roon is all about enjoying your music listening experience at home. Can you tell us whether you have a specific home set up for music playback, how do you listen to music as a fan?
My family and I love to blast anything out of our living room speakers, and as a father of four, one of the best feelings in the world is watching your children fall in love with great music from before their time.
The other day I awoke to hear my 11-year-old daughter playing Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life on the record player, completely of her own choosing, and it’s now one of her favourite albums. Some days it’s Mavis Staples or BB King, some days it’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli, and other days it’s Carole King & Fleetwood Mac. But whatever the mood, I think the best way to listen to music is always to enjoy it with the family.
AHI’s new album Prospect is now available on TIDAL and Qobuz.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Canadian Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated pianist, songwriter and producer Stephan Moccio about his new album Lionheart. Moccio has achieved nearly 400 million streams on his solo work, and co-written hit songs for Celine Dion, The Weeknd, and ‘Wrecking Ball’ for Miley Cyrus. Having been classically trained at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, Moccio returns to his classical roots on the piano in Lionheart. Stephan’s classical influence can be seen in this performance of ‘Wrecking Ball’.
[Editor] You’ve written seven hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, earned three Grammy nominations and an Oscar nod for co-writing The Weeknd’s seven-times-platinum ‘Earned It’. Coming from a classically trained background, do you feel that your writing of pop songs has influenced your solo piano style?
100%. As a matter of fact, for my composition process for Lionheart, I relied on my aptitude as a pop songwriter and producer. Firstly, I am trained as a classical musical musician, however, for Lionheart I intentionally arranged my compositions as if they were pop songs, treating them in proper form (for the most part) with verses, pre choruses, choruses and a bridge. This helped me arrange the pieces effectively and succinctly. It is not to say that I didn’t have improvised moments, I still believe that contemporary piano must always be authentic, and not feel forced, however, I clearly pulled out my pop artistry.
Can you tell us about any inspiration or meaning behind Lionheart?
The title track/composition has a nobility to it. I felt it needed a strong title. Therefore I began searching for famous knights, and eventually came across Joan of Arc. In my research, the adjective ‘lionhearted’ popped up, which means bravery and determination. I felt it summed up my current psyche, and mantra on life. I no longer need approval from people, or care for vapid opinions about things.
You’ve co-written so many hit songs, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics theme, and music for TV/film, do you have any particular personal highlights from your songwriting career?
Hands down composing the theme for any Olympics, particularly your homeland, is one of the greatest honors bestowed upon a composer. My Olympics theme and song has become a national treasure which will outlive me.
What made you take a step back from the pop music world and return to the piano and the studio on Sounds of Solace in 2020, and again on Lionheart?
I love this question. Simple. Life (for me) was way too complicated, and the return from what I was putting into it when I was producing and creating pop music, wasn’t worth it anymore. I craved and continue to crave simplicity… I never pursued music to become a famous pop producer or songwriter, I pursued music to impact lives emotionally. And frankly, in this moment of my life, I am able to do so as a solo pianist.
You’ve referred to the making of Lionheart as a personal cathartic process of healing. Is it a more personal process to write these songs compared to songwriting for others?
It is an absolute pleasure to write for myself, as I am able to hold more accountability. One of the most painful lessons in life is disappointing oneself. It is therapeutic, and healing. Writing songs for others can be thankless, and oftentimes, your best work remains shelved, because it is out of your control. I have had incredible success as a writer for others (which I will continue) which I am grateful for, however, this lane as a pianist feels very right for me.
How do you divide your focus between songwriting for other artists and composing your solo piano music? Your solo piano work has been hugely successful, earning nearly 400 million streams. Will you continue to do both, or focus more on the piano now?
I will continue to do both. I can’t shut off the deep well of creativity, inspirations and ideas which just come at me at any time of the day. I have developed a sophisticated system to organize my musical brain over the last 20 years or so, to catch and organize how, and to whom, I want to give specific melodies.
Roon is all about enjoying your music listening experience at home. Can you tell us whether you have a specific home set up for music playback, how do you listen to music as a fan?
I am blessed to have a set of vintage JBL speakers which I listen to my music on. I am old enough to remember what quality speakers sound and feel like. It is extraordinary how accessible music is for us today, however, the ability to listen to well recorded music on ‘proper’ speakers gives us the ability to appreciate the artistry, the love, the time and details which passionate and dedicated artists inject and emotionally invest into their work.
Thank you for your thoughtful questions and for your support of solo piano music, it is not lost on me.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on one of life’s greatest paradoxes: that classical music can be intimidating. It only takes a few moments of sitting with the thought for the absurdity of it to bleed through. It’s like saying ‘I saw the most terrifying field of sunflowers the other day’….someone might think you had suffered a head injury and call for help. Yet, some of us have experienced hesitancy when approaching classical music. Fortunately, Roon cures that reluctance and makes exploration a pleasure.
Roon subscribers are uncommonly knowledgeable across an incredible range of musical forms. They’re all on display in the What Are We Listening Tothread of our Community forums. They know classical music particularly well, and they love to talk about it. Many of the descriptions that accompany their listening choices are simply radiant in their perception and appreciation. Their suggestions stimulate interest, and with a streaming service integrated in Roon, they’re all right there waiting at the end of a search. It’s really that easy! It’s still somewhat stupefyingly unimaginable, to those of us who were hanging around music stores 30 years ago, that music can be found and heard so effortlessly… it’s science fiction for music heads. The next thing you know you’ll have added 160 definitive classical compositions to your Roon library. And, without even a twinge of hesitation.
My Roon classical journey was jump-started with an RCA Red Seal discovery: Gregor Piatigorsky’sDvorak; Walton: Cello Concertos. It’s a lively conversation between Piatigorsky and the Orchestra; the cello and the symphony exchange voices in vibrant repartee. A listener doesn’t have to be fluent in classical music to know there’s something special happening on this recording.
From there, Roon recommended a handful of other RCA Living Stereo and Red Seal classics. I selected one that featured Jascha Heifetz performing Violin Concertos by Sibelius, Prokofiev, and Glazunov. It’s absolutely stunning to me that Roon made it so easy to find an album as remarkable as this one. I can’t imagine being able to accomplish this so seamlessly anywhere else but in Roon. This album is packed with imagination and drama, richly painted as sound. I’ve listened to it nearly everyday since I added it.
My most recent find required no effort at all. It was shared by a community member, Sjaak D, in response to last month’s Roon Rediscoveries story. It’s a Philips collection by Mitsuko Uchida, Mozart: The Piano Sonatas. Sjaak recalled an evening years ago when he returned home to find his Hi-Fi and modest collection of discs stolen, including this one. And how, despite auditioning several collections of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas over a number of years, none exhibited the same zest or excitement demonstrated by the Uchida set. His longing went unsatiated until he was able to secure another copy of this specific collection. It only takes listening to a few pieces on this set to understand why.
Immediately thereafter another community member, Christian_S, affirmed the brilliance of Uchida’s performance. An instant bond was formed between two people who have never met, but are simpatico in their deep appreciation of music. This is how friendships are born. Any album that sparks a connection like that has a place in my library.
That’s Roon, everyday. I get to be part of that, and if you’re a Roon subscriber you know what I’m talking about. In Roon you’ll discover the Community vibe of a great record store and all the inventory you could ever want, right under your fingertips. Each great album and accompanying conversation leads the way to another. The music never stops.
So, while we have you, what Classical performances do we need to hear? This music is too good to go unheard. If you know it well and love it, help us to know it and appreciate it too. Tell us here, and we’ll share your recommendations in our upcoming listener-curated playlists.
My name is Jamie and I’m a member of Roon’s Customer Success and Support Team. I also help out with alpha testing our new features, metadata development, and assisting our customers with getting the best possible experience when enjoying Roon. And now, I get to talk to all of you about music. Which is pretty sweet for me because aside from my family there isn’t anything that means as much to me as music. Like many of my colleagues at Roon I’m enamored with all kinds of music and I’ve been privileged to work in the music industry for many years. I was the kid who bought 7-inch singles with his lunch money and later grew up to do live music production, work as a recording engineer, record store clerk, music writer, radio DJ, sound archivist, tape restoration engineer, and compilation producer. The common thread that runs through all those roles is that they provided me with the opportunity to connect with people through a shared love of music.
One of the things I enjoy most about spending my day with Roon is the way it fosters the rediscovery of music that has moved and inspired me throughout my life. The best parts of my workday are when Roon Radio brings that well-loved but somewhat orphaned song back into my orbit unexpectedly. What always surprises me is the journey that these songs seem to have taken in their absence. They bristle with new energy, gleam with a new coat of paint, or exude some elusive quality that has made them glow a bit brighter. The real explanation for their evolution is that we have changed. Our attention to sonic detail, discernment, taste, and music listening education has grown such that these songs seem to take on a new life. I’ve had no shortage of these moments and I’d like to lay a few of them on you.
Wilson Pickett – Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You. My CD copy of Rhino Records’ The Very Best of Wilson Pickett disappeared without a trace from my music shelf years ago and spirited away this track. Wilson took on every song that he recorded at 110%; what that means is that the songs that weren’t hits still smoke. On this one, Pickett is paired with a Gamble & Huff studio hit-squad that churns out just the right amount of grit. The fat, fuzzy, overdrive on the rhythm guitar part in the chorus was a new detail I had missed before.
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Mona. I had a dear friend who grew up just south of San Francisco in the late 60s and hitchhiked to the Fillmore West to see shows as a teenager. He told me that Quicksilver Messenger Service was one of the heaviest San-Fran groups he saw live, even heavier than The Grateful Dead. At some point, I ran into a used copy of their Happy Trails album. It showcased a few epic live Bo Diddley workouts that cemented my friend’s observations. Recently when I bumped into this song the beat had become even more tribal and propulsive. Bo’s primitive rhythmic chop is psychedelicized with driving lead guitar from John Cipollina while a second tremolo guitar part pushes the pulse of the song in and out of syncopation. Hearing it again after all these years was a revelation.
Reuben Wilson – Hold On, I’m Comin. There were a few serious Hammond organ cats at work for Blue Note Records in the 1960s. Reuban was never as highly regarded as Jimmy Smith, John Patton, or Larry Young but he could cook too. This supercharged version of Sam & Dave’s Hold On, I’m Comin really gets things boiling. Wilson roots right down in the grove on this one and carries everyone along with him. Lee Morgan and George Coleman blow like they were raised at Stax, Grant Green leans into R&B riffs you could hammer nails with, and Idris Muhammad swings it all kinds of funky on the kit. This cut feels like it was custom-made for playlists.
New music discoveries are exciting but there’s something equally special about these rediscoveries – at least we think so. Tell us about your experiences! Which songs have Roon ushered back into your life and library after a long absence? Pick two or three of them and share the qualities that you noticed this time around in the Roon Rediscoveries thread on our Roon Community forum.
We’ll curate your selections for inclusion in our upcoming TIDAL and Qobuz playlists and publish your song comments on our Music Blog next month. Roon has always been about discovery and exploration. The thing that drives those two catalysts is connections and nothing connects a community quite like music. So, let’s talk music!
We had the pleasure of speaking with jazz pianist and singer Patricia Barber about her new album Clique out today. In our last post, we sat down with the production and engineering team behind the album, and here, we had the opportunity to ask Patricia Barber questions about her creative process.
Clique features Barber’s trio members Patrick Mulcahy on bass and Jon Deitemyer on drums, with the addition of Neal Alger on acoustic guitar, and Jim Gailloreto on tenor saxophone. This album features covers frequently performed by this group at the Green Mill, Chicago, including works by Stevie Wonder, Alec Wilder and Thelonious Monk.
[Editor] Higher finishes with three covers and now we have the follow-up, Clique. What does the title mean? Is there a relationship between the songs on each album?
Clique would be a great name for a nightclub. Perhaps it is another term for the “In-Crowd.”
Higher is most definitely a song cycle. The harmony is more expansive than the prescribed harmony of jazz and/or the American Songbook. They are art songs and can be performed by classical singers as well as jazz singers. On Clique the songs are what my trio uses on tour between the original material to inject some rhythm and fun into the sets.
What can you tell us about your songwriting process?
My songwriting process is like reinventing the wheel every time. I wish I had a tried and true method, but it isn’t quite so easy.
Sometimes a hook draws me into a lyric idea. Sometimes I scratch out a harmonic framework first and decide how the lyrics rhythmically will fall into the measures, I put dots on the staff. Then I start a poem/lyric with approximately that many syllables, then the melody carries the lyric.
If the song is narrative driven, funny, witty, full of information, the lyrics come first, and I keep the music simple enough that the audience can understand the lyrics. It’s all different.
How do you challenge yourself?
I write the music I’d like to hear.
Are there any tips you can share for other songwriters?
Up your game. The world has enough treacle. Study the great songwriters, poets. Never underestimate your audience. Don’t expect to be paid until the streaming companies start paying composers/artists per play.
You have a wide range of albums, from your own compositions of song cycles based on Greek mythologies to well-known covers. Is it a different experience recording an album of covers compared to your own compositions?
With Higher the music is difficult, so we had to concentrate. But my trio is a very professional group of musicians and they bring a high level of concentration and artistry to everything we record.
Do you have a muse?
I have many muses, but I keep them private. They function as inspiration.
Which artists/composers have influenced you the most?
Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Shirley Horn, Elis Regina, Jobim, Fauré, Schumann, Chausson.
We are big fans of Patricia Barber at Roon and so are many of our community members. We had the privilege of going behind the scenes of the making of Patricia’s latest album, Clique, with the album’s husband-and-wife engineering team, Jim Anderson and Ulrike Schwarz, who enjoy decades of combined recording and technical experience as well as many well-deserved Grammys, awards, and wonderful accolades.
Clique was recorded at Chicago Recording Company (CRC) and mixed at Skywalker Sound in January 2019 by Jim Anderson, and mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering in 2020. Patricia Barber’s previous album Higher was recorded in the same sessions, and mixed at Skywalker in 2019.
[Editor]: During the recording process, were all the musicians in the same room, or in separate booths with individual microphones?
The studios at CRC are built for recording and allow for flexibility in recording and mixing.
All of the musicians are in the studio at the same time, but in their own separate areas: Patricia is in the main room with her piano, a Fazioli, and vocal microphone. She can see directly through the glass doors to the band, all in their own areas. It’s one giant visual circle.
I’ve found that if the musicians can see each other well, that can make up for any deficiencies they might have hearing each other in their headphones. Good visuals in the studio can allow for snap decisions to be made while recording, allowing musicians to have spontaneity in their performances.
These separate recordings allow me to have the maximum amount of flexibility when it comes to mixing either in stereo or in surround, and I can optimise the sound of each instrument without worrying about acoustic interference from other instruments’ leakage.
Patricia’s experience with accompanying herself, live, and working with her band comes into play in the studio. She innately knows how to balance her voice with the piano and doesn’t overplay. This makes recording possible without having to blanket off the piano and disturb her performance.
Can you tell us more about the Horus/Pyramix digital recording system that you used?
For every album of Patricia’s that I’ve recorded, I’ve always looked to see what is the ‘state-of-the-art’ (SOTA) available at the time. For Cafe Blue SOTA was using a full 16bit analogue to digital converter. Modern Cool SOTA was using a Sony 3348 open reel digital recording system. Now with Higher and Clique we’re recording at 352.8 kHz and 32 bit.
Over the years, we’ve managed to increase the transparency and texture of our recording through increasing the sampling and bit rate of the digital systems that we use.
The Horus/Pyramix system is used, for the most part, in classical recording, where one wants the most compelling and revealing sound possible. This also allows us to release in high resolution.
For Higher and Clique we recorded ‘double system,’ using the studio’s ProTools system, which is what the musicians heard in the studio and in the control room. While the recording was taking place, Pyramix and ProTools were synced, allowing us to use the studio system as a back-up, in case anything happened to the high resolution recording.
All of this detail should be transparent to the performers and to the listeners. They should just think: “This sounds really good!”
For our readers, can you explain why you decided to mix the album in analog and why you chose the Neve 88 Legacy board?
I am an “old school” mixer, I’m most comfortable sitting at a large format recording console. At the Neve, I have access to everything that I need right in front of me and I don’t have to look at a computer screen or anything that can slow me down.
We use computers when we mix primarily as a playback device. I like the sound of how analogue signals sum, over how sounds can sum when combined in the computer.
All the words associated with analogue sound, warmth, depth, transparency, etc., come into play. I don’t have to ‘emulate analogue’ in my recordings and mixes.
Roon supports MQA decoding. It’s interesting you also did an MQA CD as one of the formats for the album. Can you tell us more about this?
I’ve not worked with MQA in the past. Knowing about MQA, I thought that we were missing a large part of Patricia’s audience and they would enjoy having her music available in as high a quality as possible.
MQA allows listeners to hear in their homes the music in the quality as it was recorded, mixed, and mastered.
I love Roon! Listening to Roon has drastically upgraded my opinion of listening to music streaming in the home and on the computer, as well. Thanks, Roon!
Clique is being released on vinyl. Were the vinyl masters cut from the digital or analog master?
Bob Ludwig presented the DXD (352.8kHz/32bit float) mixes and the mixes on ½” tape (15 IPS, Dolby SR, +0/185nWb) at the start of the mastering session in A/B comparison to me. It was immediately apparent that the DXD mixes were far superior in frequency range, localization and overall stability of the image.
They sounded so much better and transmitted the bounce of the bass and the music that is happening on this album.
It was clear that the DXD files were the source for mastering. The DXD master Bob made from this source is the basis for the vinyl cut.
Can you tell our readers more about the MERGING+CLOCK-U technology which was used in the engineering process?
We were very excited to get our hands on such an exquisite piece of gear. The more precise and low noise the clock, the less jitter and more stability your recording/mix/mastering will have. The Merging+Clock-U is the Ultra Low Noise version of their digital clock spectrum. It is precise to 20 parts per billion (per second).
We had the Merging+Clock-U shipped to Skywalker for the mix of Clique 2.0, 5.1 and Higher 5.1 Surround. Higher was recorded in the same sessions and mixed in 2019 at Skywalker Sounds. Clique was mixed in 2020.
If you compare the 2.0 versions of Higher and Clique you will hear the difference of the Merging+Clock-U versus the regular Merging Clocks. Patricia’s voice sounded freer, the bass had more bounce, there was more spaciousness in the overall sound.
We also didn’t have any fatigue listening and working for long hours. Another advantage we want to keep.
The album was mixed at Skywalker Sound, a legendary studio. Are there any unique tools available in that studio and/or did you bring anything with you to the sessions?
Skywalker is in many ways a legendary place. The staff’s attention to detail and willingness to let us bring in any sort of extravagant gear is unique.
For this project we brought in our Pyramix/Horus system as a playback and recording system, with the added perk of the Merging+Clock-U.
The base frequency of this ultra high clock needs to work with the automation of the analog mixing board. Since the Merging+Clock-U is designed as a standalone consumer piece, it needed a bit of convincing to work in a studio environment. This is where the excellent technical staff of Skywalker shines.
Skywalker also have access to the analog reverb chamber that we like to use in our mixes.
Mixes we do at Skywalker hold up in any other environment. What we hear at Skywalker is what we get. If it is great there, it will be great anywhere. There is no higher praise than that for a mixing location.
Are there any unique technical approaches that were used in the mix to prepare the album for mastering?
For this recording session we exchanged every power cable in the recording chain at CRC with custom made power cables and/or power accelerators of Essential Sound Products to lower the noise floor to infinity.
We also used custom made IX-3 AccuSound cables for all interconnections in the recording chain. We took them to Skywalker for the mixing process.
The laptop that was used for the recording was custom built and was the first of its kind in the world, allowing 64 channels of DXD recording.
Those are technical details that support the magic of the sound. The real brilliance is in the recording and the mixing.
Other than that, Bob Ludwig worked according to his principle of “Do no harm” to the mixes and carefully mastered Clique to its brilliance. Bob presents every master he does for us also in MQA and we decide if we want to embrace the MQA version for the download or CD version. Clique was a prime example to do so. I am very happy that we decided to have this as our streaming and CD version.
Follow Jim Anderson on Instagram. Follow Ulrike Schwarz on Instagram. Stay tuned for our next post where we speak to Patricia Barber.
Our team is obsessive about creating the best experiences for people who love music and sound, and our goal has always been to bring more music into peoples’ lives. Over the last year, most of us will have spent more time than ever at home, using music to manage everything from mood to childcare. As self-proclaimed music fanatics with a broad range of musical interests, we wanted to start sharing some of our favorite music with our community of music lovers, in partnership with our streaming partners TIDAL and Qobuz.
We started with our mixed-genre playlist Roon Recent for Qobuz, featuring recent contemporary favorites. The playlist begins with genre-bending jazz from multi-Grammy Award-winning Robert Glasper ft. H.E.R., London-based musical collective Nubyian-Twist, and musical marvel Terrace Martin. We move onto the soulful voices of Kandace Springs, Lianne La Havas, Celeste, and Baby Rose. The tone changes with the iconic Norah Jones and Melody Gardot, Norwegian singers Ane Brun and Astrid S, and singer-songwriters St. Vincent and Brandy Clark. The mood takes another turn ending with Australian blues rock band The Teskey Brothers, Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons, and The War on Drugs.
Our next mixed-genre playlist Roon Repeat on TIDAL features tracks our team had on repeat. We begin with acclaimed jazz pianist Brad Mehldau’s expansive Born to Trouble from Grammy Award-winning album Finding Gabriel. Jazz-crossover features heavily with Thundercat, Terrace Martin ft. Ric Wilson, Steam Down ft. Afronaut Zu, Kassa Overall and Jazzmeia Horn. We feature classical-crossover from string trio Time for Three, and Daniel Hope ft. soul singer Joy Denalane on This Bitter Earth / On the Nature of Daylight – a Clyde Otis / Max Richter mash-up. Vocal highlights include singer-songwriters Sarah Jarousz, AURORA, Tunisian singer Emel, and Finish singer Joose Keskitalo.
Next is a classical playlist Roon Relax for Qobuz. We begin with Mozart from renowned pianist Fazil Say, moving onto Igor Levit’s Busoni: Chorale Preludes (10) after JS Bach – No. 5, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639, a rarely played arrangement of a Bach Chorale. More beautiful Bach appears from Christian Tetzlaff and Fretwork. Tetzlaff’s articulate performance of Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001: I. Adagio comes from J.S. Bach Sonatas & Partitas,his third recording of these solo violin works. Viol-consort Fretwork’s Contrapunctus 1 follows from their faithful arrangement of J.S. Bach’s The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080. After instrumental works from Chopin, Beethoven and Scarlatti, we move from a contemporary lute and violin duet from Thomas Dunford (lute) and Theotime Langlois de Swarte (violin) onto Jonas Nordberg performing Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger on the theorbo, a baroque lute. We then move from Lieder with Matthias Goerne’s hauntingly beautiful Litanei from Schubert: Wanderer’s Nachtlied and Schumann: Dichterliebe from Mark Padmore onto Dowland from Anthony Rooley, and Emma Kirkby’s O Let Me Weep, from Purcell:The Fairy Queen. We continue in the Baroque era with excerpts from J.S. Bach: Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243 (Emmanuelle Haïm) and Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (Suzuki). We end with sacred works from Thomas Tallis (Stile Antico), and Renaissance composers Alonso Lobo (Tenebrae) and Josquin Des Prez (Gabrieli Consort).
Next in our Qobuz series is Roon Rhythm, a playlist of contemporary jazz favourites. We open with Our Spanish Love Song, a duet from bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Pat Metheny, from their magnificent album Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories). We move onto another duet, Save Your Love for Me, from trumpeter Till Brönner and pianist Bob James. Vocal highlights include Veronica Swift, René Marie and Diana Krall. London-based semi-free duo Binker & Moses, made up of saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd, feature with their energetic Fete by the River. Moses Boyd features again with Stranger than Fiction. Also from London’s brimming jazz scene are jazz-fusion keyboardist Kamaal Williams and vocalist Zara McFarlane. Los Angeles-based saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s Change of the Guard is another genre-defying highlight. We end the playlist with the multiple Grammy Award-winning American quasi-collective Snarky Puppy, with Whitecap from their iconic album Tell Your Friends.
Next is Relaxing Classics – TIDAL Mastersfor TIDAL, a classical playlist in Master Quality – MQA. We open with Schuman, J.S. Bach and Chopin from pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Víkingur Ólafsson, and Josep Colom. Violin highlights come from Ana María Valderrama (Brahms), Hilary Hahn (Bach), and Daniel Hope (Kreisler). Two duos stand out with Avi Avital and Alon Sariel’s Vivaldi: Double Mandolin Concerto, for 2 mandolins, RV 532, and Duo Animacorde’s Paganini: Sonata Concertata, MS 2 for violin and guitar. We include beautiful chamber music from Quatuor Ébène (Beethoven) and Emery String Quartet (Fauré), and lute and guitar concertos from Christopher Parkening (Vivaldi) and Thibaut Garcia (Aranjuez). Tenor Christoph Prégardien performs the ruminative Der Lindenbaum from Schubert: Winterreise, followed by Beethoven from baritone Matthias Goerne and Dowland from countertenor Phillipe Jaroussky. We end with two choral works, Palestrina from The Hilliard Ensemble and Ólafur Arnalds from Voces8.
Sarah works on music editorial and research as part of Roon’s Music Team.