A SOPHISTICATED JUXTAPOSITION OF JOY, MELANCHOLY, AND MYSTERY INFUSE SINGER/SONGWRITER/GUITARIST JANA HERZENS THIRD ALBUM, NOTHING BUT LOVE ; Out 1.17.20 On Motéma Music
For Immediate Release
September 23, 2019
A SOPHISTICATED JUXTAPOSITION OF JOY, MELANCHOLY, AND MYSTERY INFUSE SINGER/SONGWRITER/GUITARIST JANA HERZENS THIRD ALBUM, NOTHING BUT LOVE
Collection of Folk, Pop, World And Jazz Originals Tells a Tale of Love in Many Guises
At Times Evoking Artists Christine McVie, Maria Muldaur and Joni Mitchell Among Others
Album Releases 1.17.20 on Motéma Music
Preview Concert – at Joes Pub in New York City on October 29th, @ 7pm.
On Nothing But Love, Jana Herzens diverse, soulful and sophisticated collection of folk/pop/world/jazz originals, the singer-songwriter and guitarist reaches new heights as a storyteller and composer. The wonderfully rich, mature, and complex song tapestry will be released on January 17, by the multi-GRAMMY® winning Motéma label.
With its unexpected juxtapositions of isolation, loss, and melancholy, alongside eye winking fun, hopeful turning the page and finding the courage to consider letting the sun back in, Nothing But Love offers a complex portrait of a force that, in Herzens words, makes the world go round. This cycle of 12 songs one of which I wrote on a napkin in an NYC jazz club as far back as the 1980’s has long desired to see the light of day. she explains. Each song is inspired by a particular moment, place, or person in my life. Together, they tell a tale of love in many guises.
Herzens varied and colorful history infuses her writing. Raised by famed activist scientists Leonard and Leonore A. Herzenberg of Stanford University, her initial calling as a theater artist led her to London and then to New York City in the 1980s where she eventually became a founding member and dramaturge for the award-winning and influential MCC Theater. After ten years with MCC, she then traveled the world extensively, recorded her first album, Soups on Fire, and eventually founded her tastemaker Motéma label in 2003.
Though she has primarily devoted her last sixteen years to leading Motéma, Herzen has never lost sight of her journey as a singer, composer, and instrumentalist. The influences of her deep immersion in diverse styles of music show up in the production and arrangements of Nothing But Love. The albums soundscape benefits from the vibrancy and immediacy of being recorded ‘live in the studio’ by a group of seasoned jazz musicians with a shared history of working together. The chemistry of the band is palpable. Each instrumentalist brings a special gift to the table, including Herzen whose guitar work plays a key role in leading the arrangements.
As a vocalist, Herzens rich, milky and confident tone is warmly inviting as it leads us through the journey of “Nothing But Love.” The song-cycle opens with the title track, a swaggering guitar-driven blues/reggae/country vibe that packs a humorous spiritual punch. Next is the mournful, smart and redemptive Speak a story of lost love and found freedom set to six-eight rhythms born of Herzens love for African music. Speak is further elevated by a memorable song structure and instrumental interplay.
The driving rhythms and Dadaist lyrics of the standout third track On The Outside, usher in the most quirky, wild and jam-based side of the albums chameleon sound. Then a jazzy world of smoke and loss move the narrative through Herzens original Cuban Montuno My Latin Love and her haunting jazz ballad Night Blooming Jasmine.
Then theres an interesting cinematic shift on With An Open Heart. Lightness starts peeking through. As the verses evolve – her story, then his story, then our story all souls experiencing love from a different perspective a door opens to new love, paving the way to Herzens Tom Waits-esque wedding song, Lightening The Load, and her celebratory High Time, set to infectious African Soukous rhythms and affirming the triumph of light over darkness.
Winding up the journey, are Herzens reggae/pop song Like A River, which flows with the joy of love, trust and partnership; the deeply heartfelt Thinking of You, an ode to familial love, loss, and redemption; the expansive Precious Air, written in the Australian Outback; and the stand-out closer, the dark and powerful, yet oddly aspirational, Name of Love which urges us to please trust in something thats higher.
Throughout the program, Herzens understated vocal delivery shifts to suit the mood, style, and story at hand, and at times subtly evokes artists who’ve preceded her the warm contralto of Christine McVie, for example, or the sensual, yet humorous and wide-ranging vocals of a Maria Muldaur. Meanwhile, her lyrics and musical style at times can bring to mind such forebears as Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon or Suzanne Vega.
The albums instrumentation is also particularly engaging and quietly powerful: Supporting Herzens vocals and electro-acoustic guitar, are co-producer and Music Director Charnett Moffetts groove-solid and vocal-like fretless electric bass lines; Brian Jackson (the keyboard wizard behind the production of Gil Scott-Herons albums) faithfully underscores the soul of each song with just the right chords and colors; the versatile and much-in-demand drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr, brings both grit and groove; and rising star violinist Scott Tixier plays inspired and imaginative lines that succeed at conveying or supplementing a wide range of emotions, from playful to mournful, beautifully complimenting Herzens multi-timbered voice.
Nothing But Love marks a growing collaboration between Herzen and Moffett, now in their eleventh year of working together since he was first signed to Motema in 2008. Their prior collaborative albums are Passion of a Lonely Heart a vocal, guitar and bass duo project released in 2012, which they toured internationally; Nett Duo Overtones, an instrumental bass and guitar project released in 2018; and most recently Moffetts 2019 free-jazz-meets-rock-meets-classical opus Bright New Day, on which Herzen plays guitar in his quintet. Notably, it was her experience performing and recording with Moffetts Bright New Day quintet that led her to use the same personnel on this album. Moffett, who is acclaimed as one of the most innovative, and virtuosic bassists in jazz comments, “Janas poetic voice has a sensibility that touches the heart and soul. Her journey in life has led her to various styles of music that join together here to create a rainbow of song that expresses the many different colors of love.”
Herzen will preview the release of Nothing But Love with an October 29th concert at Joes Pub in New York City. Tour dates and the release of additional tracks from the album sessions will be announced soon for 2020. To learn more about the inspiration for the songs, read Herzen track-by-track anecdotes below.
“She is a composer, guitarist and lyricist whose performances are imaginative and soulful.” Jazz Times
Herzen presents warmly wrought jazz-pop. Time Out, NY
Absolute Intimacy. Gary Walker, WBGO
NOTHING BUT LOVE, TRACK BY TRACK NOTES BY JANA HERZEN:
1. Nothing But Love: This song came into the world one cold night at the High Sierra Festival, in July, 2008. A performance for a friend that Id worked hard to make happen, and travelled far to see, fell through in the final hour. Frustrated and annoyed, I took out my guitar and stood by an oil drum fire to keep warm. I struck up a reggae groove and this song flowed out fully formed. Sometimes you dont get what you want in this life
2. Speak The six-eight lope of this song is African in feel, the lyric speaks to the emotional release that comes from finally sharing a difficult and hidden truth with someone who truly cares. Free is the place where we finally know, the time to hold on and the time to let go.
3. On the Outside _ this song took shape over a few years in San Francisco just before the arrival of Y2K (Year 2000). Various doomsday theories were circulating that on December 31, 1999 at the stroke of midnight all the mainframe computers were going to shut down, airports would be debilitated, hospitals instruments would fail, the banking system would freeze, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In the end, January 1, 2000 came and went with no digital Armageddon, and this song came completion among all the hoopla, which I experienced in the company of a merry gang of fringe punk/anarchist pranksters who were among my small circle of friends at that time. Maybe Saturns off its orbit and careening down to torch us, still the thing that youre looking for aint on the outside!
4. My Latin Love A love letter to Latin rhythms and to love itself that asks a basic question, What are we living for if theres no love?
5. Night Blooming Jasmine This plant-based ballad initially germinated in Woodstock the 1980s when I first experienced the intoxicating scent of a Night Blooming Jasmine. The song came into bloom years later on a languid summer afternoon, in my sisters garden in Santa Cruz when that scent wafted up from my memory and turned into a song. Deep as a canyon, and soft as a honey-sweet scent on the wind that captivates your soul as the evening breeze begins
6. With an Open Heart The interlocking pattern for guitar and bass came first then the lyrics. For those with wounds of the heart, its not easy to surrender to love. Sometimes tears are needed to soften the soil of a hardened heart so that love can once again take root. Love feels sometimes, just like pain. Thats the law of stormy weather.
7. Lightening the Load Written first as a poem on a napkin in a dark jazz club, in the Village, in New York City in 1987 and later set to voice and guitar. This dittys been with me for so many years.. The gents in the band picked it up on the spot in the studio, and caught the vibe exactly. Its a kind of whacky wedding story, it belongs on an album called Nothing But Love. Horns are honking, while we block the road, and rice is flying, lightening the load.
8. High Time Musically this is a hybrid of Nigerian Highlife and Congolese Soukous rhythms paired with distinctly American lyrics. The joyous, swirling repetitions in these styles of music are designed to free the mind and the body. Im very grateful to my Congolese friends for teaching me these grooves, this music always sets me free. Its high time to walk in the morning light.
9. Like A River – Composed in Northern California, in a redwood grove near a fastrunning creek, after a huge storm. The sudden swelling of streams after a storm is actually caused in part by the tree roots that take up more water than they can hold and then suddenly release the excess. After a desperate storm the trees can drink no more and they give their precious water to the sea, thats the way that Im so filled inside, since you brought your love to me.
10. Thinking of You – Written in remembrance of my mothers Aunt Jean, a quietly extraordinary woman whose sense of calm amid troubled waters amazed all who knew her. When she was sixteen, she learned she had a heart condition. Her doctor told her she could not afford to get upset, so she didnt, throughout her whole life, despite tumultuous times she went through. She left us at age 74 and I wrote this song on behalf of all who knew her and loved her. . Just like a stone thats been thrown in the water, sends ripples from center to edge, in the same way I know countless lives have been altered, by the wisdom that rippled from the life that you led.
11. Precious Air breathed into existence on the outskirts of the town of Townsville, Australia, while witnessing a gorgeous sunset over mountains leading to the Outback just after mastering the art of circular-breathing, and experiencing the swirling drone of a didjeridu ride my breath for several hours. It was quite exhilarating. Oh, precious air, its the rhythm of the life we breathe.
12. In the Name of Love This is my take on a gospel song of sorts. Its the newest composition on the album, written in New York City in 2005. The slipstream of the New York City jazz scene had just pulled me back to the Big Apple after 13 years of world travels with extended stays in Australia, Paris and California. On a particularly dark night of my soul, this song tore its way through my center, and opened up a crack for the light to shine through. Im grateful for the song and all Ive learned from it, and I appreciate whichever part of my spirit brought it to me. My hope is that the song will shed a light for others as well. For the flame of love burns bright in each heart for ever. And the flame of love is a mystery that holds us together.
Motéma Music is an award-winning independent label founded in by Jana Herzen in San Francisco in 2003 and now based in Harlem in New York City. The label has twenty GRAMMY nominations and four wins and has been recognized in the genres of jazz, reggae and R&B. Motema has launched recording careers for such international stars as Gregory Porter, Joey Alexander, Pedrito Martinez and Deva Mahal. It has also provided an avenue of expression for jazz legends Randy Weston and Monty Alexander, released music by jazz innovators Geri Allen, David Murray and Charnett Moffett and provided an outlet for important leaders in the vanguard of contemporary jazz including Donny McCaslin, Marc Guiliana, Ben Wendel and Melissa Aldana. The label also supports politically conscious groups such as Playing for Change, Jaimeo Browns Transcendence, and most recently Terri Lyne Carringtons Social Science, which will street an epic, star-studded double-album on November 8th. Learn more at www.motema.com
More about Jana Herzen here: https://motema.com/artists/jana-herzen/