EP one week away! 'RAaR' the Lion - Palindrome EP

Relix magazine and Ever Kipp have confirmed that Relix will premier the release which is not only dream, it is also a great honor! They have asked Ari to write a few paragraphs about the upcoming release which is due to come out next week November 16th! We are thrilled to share a open letter about the release from Ari.

Dear readers,

As I climbed into airplane with my favorite two guitars, and a suitcase full of toys, I knew it was gonna be a great adventure to travel to Burlington, VT and track with these guys, but I had no way of knowing the level of magic and flow that would unfold. I had been talking to Russ and Ray about an organ trio collaboration,. The history of the Organ Trio is deep in the Jazz world & I’ve had the honor to play with alot of great organ players over the years in that format (Marco Benevento, Joe Doria, Delvon Lamarr**  up for Grammy nomination) and it’s always been a special format I loved and adored.  

We had originally planned to do some remote work together, I always have an overflowing fountain of original material waiting to be recorded and played, and composing is something I do alot, I can’t recall many recording sessions ever being as fun or productive as this was. With the pandemic in full swing I owe a great thank you to Trey Anastasio for opening the doors to a protocol to collaborate during his Beacon Theater run and for sharing these great players with the world. As we were exchanging musical ideas via videos and texts, the Beacon Theater run was just starting up, so the remote session we where planning sort of went on pause. But serendipitously, Russ invited me to consider the possibility of following the testing, and quarantine protocol Trey had set up. I don’t think they expected me to go for it (laugh), but I was like, sure, I mean, I don’t have anything else on the calendar right now being we are in shutdown, not only could I fly out, quarantine, and record in person, it would be a real honor and saving grace as at the time there was no end in sight for the shutdown.                                                                      

The eclectic multi diverse styles I write in work best with folks that can play or understand the jazz language but also can also serve the music with a knowledge of Rock, and African music. As odd as it sounds, even in the best of times, it’s hard to find the right people to work with in this style.  Ray and Russ were able to interpret my music creatively and intuitively from the first or second take, it was a real joy to watch things unfold, they also where all about getting to business, I really felt as though I was with really like minded souls. From the first note of recording I could sense that Ray and Russ were a perfect musical fit, there was a shared respect and love for the music you don’t always find out there. I can really see why they fit so well in TAB and have for more than 20 years. 

I have studied a lot of the classic jazz recordings and players, both horn players and stringed player, guys like Pat Martino, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, and Kenny Burrell, are in my rear view mirror on a session like this,  but I am 1000% equally influenced in the psychedelic rock ways, cats like Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, and of course Trey Anastasio where accessible to me growing up I soaked it all in I felt all those influences on this session.  After a day of tracking things where rocking and rolling so well, we were already considering extending the sessions, and we did just that. Ben Collette (phish’s long time audio engineer) and Rob O'dea made things super relaxed and easy and Ben helped me to discover a few epiphanies or ‘aha’ moments in talking about various fundamentals in relation to how he would do things in his tenure with Phish and Trey.  The chemistry was so perfect that we were miraculously able to track takes of about 25 original song ideas, in all kinds of different styles. Half of the material I brought with me, and a half I sketched out just for the session in the apartment I was isolated in. ‘For Ray’, “The Bernie Meme”, and “Star Lord” were all fresh compositions. ‘For Ray’ has a NYC modern jazz element to it that was written to feature Ray’s unique approach to the instrument. His ability to build and sustain creative sonic textures and ideas that may be less conventional but serve the music is so tasty.  ‘Bernie Meme’ was indicative of the timing, having landed in Burlington on the peak of the Meme explosion, it was almost irresistible, it also really highlighted Soule Monde flavor and styles. Perhaps the most meaningful songs on the session where put into priority mode, to make this first release, ‘Rae of Light’ was written for my Granny Rae’s 90th birthday which was just a few months before the session, I hadn’t planned on recording a lot of the material we got to, but again the chemistry was just wonderful, we were able to just keep rolling through stuff. It is a good thing, thankfully,  we did cause due to the isolation of Covid 19 she really suffered a decline in health, she was able to hear the song in it’s finished form few months ago, she loved it and shared it with all the folks in her assisted living complex. It brought her a lot of joy, but she sadly passed away this week (yesterday as I am writing) her caretakers played her the song a few times a day even as she was transitioning out of this world I feel incredibly grateful to think the song helped her. I really like how the chorus’s and lead sections turned out on that one. The song ‘Gramama’ was actually written for my other grandmother, Granny Queenie, who loved to sing, and had a very spiritual approach to life and to music.  

The songs are ordered  in a palindrome, the EP title R.A.a.R (which stands for Ray, Ari, and Russ) is a palindrome. The lion art work is by Brian Steely, so RAAR is also like a lion’s Roar, my name also means lion, so there are little easter eggs in there. The order is a grandmother sandwich, the tribute songs on the ends, next in are two songs with the pure instrumental flavors, just the trio standing on it’s own, and the middle slots are both mix of the two worlds, some light vocal layers, with the organic instrumental stripped down trio featured throughout.  

Almost all the material was being tweaked up till the moment we recorded.  I wrote out charts while in quarantine, and a It was really like a perfect few weeks for me, I will never forget these sessions. I think the feelings are mutual, we recently all three of us flew to Vegas and played two long shows in Vegas for Halloween, I learned about 15 of their songs to prepare for the sessions initially, so we discovered we had a bag of like 30 songs to pick from, it was something special to really stretch out on the material and revisit them, it was equally special to get in front of those fans and share with  them an intimate experience. We were able to ramp up a few covers during soundcheck as well, which was really fun! This is a really sweet project, it is the perfect balance of work and joy, I look forward to sharing this batch of 6 songs, and I am already working on the next batch!  

** 2021 3 releases up for grammy nomination
‘Say Watcha Wanna Say’ feat Skerik, Delvon Lamarr*, and Grant Schroff
as well as ‘Father Time’ feat Ray Paczkowski*, and Russ Lawton* (Soule Monde) 
and ‘Eye’s Only’ feat Robert Glasper, KJ Sawka, Jason Fraticelli


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