Raul Midón Makes Giant Steps in Bad Ass and Blind, His Much Anticipated Ninth Album
Singer/Songwriter/Multi-instrumentalist Raul Midón has been creatively shattering boundaries in the Jazz and Pop worlds for the last decade. His soulful and funky artistry goes way beyond any notion of genre – it is musicianship, charisma, timing, songwriting and personality that unmistakably solidify the context of his songs. His music commands listeners with open minds, open ears and open hearts.
Blind at birth, he is often compared to Stevie Wonder and José Feliciano, and while those comparisons are indeed flattering you also will hear influences of Steely Dan, Sting and the late great Al Jarreau. Raul, still early in his career, has already been endorsed by greats as diverse as Grammy-nominated Louie Vega and the living legend Bill Withers (appearing in his documentary “Still Bill”).
His guitar playing is masterful and enables him to move effortlessly, while creating a sound that’s both warm and familiar. “He plays with such freedom and joy that his hands smile” (Huffington Post). His slapping style allows him to play a melody while creating percussion as he plays without disrupting either sound, and busts out his improvisational mouth-horn technique, in which he creates a bebop “trumpet” solo entirely with his lips, earning himself a spontaneous burst of mid-song applause from the audience in the process.
In his latest effort, Bad Ass and Blind, he attests to enduring ambitions. Raul was a featured artist with the 2016 Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour, which also included the likes of stars Nicholas Payton, Gerald Clayton, and Gregory Hutchinson, whom he tapped to play on this project, along with Joe Sanders and others.
There are songs on Bad Ass and Blind sure to please fans of Midón’s earlier albums, beginning with the title track, which in fact was written and recorded after the album was almost completed. The tour de force piece finds Midón celebrating blindness with a ripping guitar solo, a fierce spoken word rhyme, slamming bass by Richard Hammond (Hamilton) and drumming by Lionel Cordew (Spyro Gyra). These musical gems come with a story that Raul himself breaks down for us:
“‘Bad Ass and Blind’ is a kind of personal coming out party for me. Believe it or not I am a shy person, especially when it comes to my blindness. This album, in general, and this song in particular, represents a sea change for me when it comes to communicating with the public about my disability. I am what I am. I travel the world, write, produce, sing, play, and do it all without the benefit of sight. I’m a bad ass.
“‘Red, Green, Yellow’ is both a shout out to Steely Dan and a snapshot view as to my perspective on color. As a child I played red light green light. So naturally those associations continue. Way beyond this, though, color figures prominently in the rich descriptions of people, places, and things that populate the pages of great literature. Through the eyes of the great describers, Nabokov, Dickens, etc., I see green pastures, Red Wheel Barrels, and a bright golden sun. Color is a main ingredient in the magic elixir of words that brings to life the imagination.
“‘Pedal to the Metal’ sums up my living philosophy. I am 100 percent committed to what I’m doing. When I’m on stage there is nothing but that moment.
“’Wings of Mind’ is a musical expression of my belief in the power of creative imagination. It is also an exploration of my continuing fascination with linear modal harmony, à la Wayne Shorter or Miles Davis. Before anything can exist there is the idea of that thing. When I write a song I begin with nothing but the idea. ‘Through the spaces in your mind you’ll find a passage way to anywhere.’
“‘If Only’ is a might-have-been love song inspired by the Tin Pan Alley poets. Songs like ‘What’ll I Do?’ by Irving Berlin and ‘Night and Day’ by Cole Porter. I wanted to write something simple yet symmetrical. It is a bossa with a twist.
“Light shadows are created when light from a light source is blocked by an opaque object. They are experienced and spoken about by virtually everyone every day. On the other hand, sound shadows occur in pretty much the same way and can be experienced by anyone with a working set of ears. And yet most of us don’t know they exist. You can practice listening to sound shadows by closing your eyes and walking very slowly through a narrow doorway without using your hands. You may bump your head a few times but I promise you’ll get better at it with time. ‘Sound Shadows,’ the song, is a tribute to a world that exists just beyond the line of sight.
“‘Jack (Robert Lorick)’ is an expression of my appreciation for a fictional character, Jack Flanders, voiced by an extraordinary voice actor and human being, Robert Lorick. Jack is the protagonist in an audio adventure series produced by ZBS media and written by Tom Lopez. The sound artistry coupled with sublime pearls of wisdom, taken from the world’s religions, scattered throughout, are what keeps me coming back for more. Jack is no ordinary adventurer. While he travels the world physically, his raison d’être is to solve metaphysical puzzles. Robert Lorick recently passed and this was my tribute to him and the fictional character. If you want to be inspired check it out.
“‘You & I’ is another straight up love song inspired by my relationship with my wife. We live and work together and I am proud to have her as my wife and manager. Love conquers all.
“‘All that I Am’ is an acknowledgment of the role that my father has played in my life. When I was faced with overwhelming obstacles as a disabled child, my father handed me the most powerful tool you can employ when overcoming such obstacles: a powerful sense of my intrinsic value as a human being. When you are disabled the world foists upon you a sense that you are damaged goods. My father never let me forget that this was wrong. He would remind me constantly that I could do and be anything I wanted.
“‘Gotta Gotta Give’ is a love song to life, with a hook and a little touch of the avant-garde. I got some much appreciated help on this one from the great French keyboardist Jean-Philippe Rykiel.
“‘Fly like an Eagle’ is the first LP I ever bought with my own money. I was enthralled with the synthesizer parts and sparked by the message of revolution and hope. Whenever I do a cover I am challenged by the fact that I like the original so much. It is, for me, a tightrope walk, to maintain the integrity of the song and yet make it my own. I changed the key to a darker sounding A-flat, slowed down the tempo a bit, and re-harmonized the verses to give it a mysterious quality. This is in keeping with the linear model sound found throughout the record. I also wanted the ending to feel wistful, sad, and soulful like you might hear on a Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield record. ‘Fly like an Eagle’ is a testimonial to the power of possibility.”
This is the second album that Raul has both produced and engineered. His work is bold and dynamic, and demonstrates his abilities in the manner of a genius.
Raul Midón is “a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus…” – The New York Times
This latest release is sure to leave a lasting impression on both existing fans and new fans alike.
MACK AVENUE · the road to great music · mackavenue.com
Raul Midón Winter/Spring 2017 Performances:
February 23 | Dubai Jazz Festival | Dubai, UAE
March 14 | City Winery | Atlanta, GA
March 16-20 | SXSW | Austin, TX
March 23 | Guitar Clinic, Guitar Center Times Square | New York, NY
March 24 | Highline Ballroom | New York, NY
March 25 | Berklee College/David Friend Recital Hall | Boston, MA
March 26 | Ridgefield Playhouse | Ridgefield, CT
March 29 | Centerstage | Reston, VA
April 2 | Singa Jazz | Singapore
April 4-6 | Blue Note | Tokyo, Japan
April 8 | Berks Jazz Fest | Reading, PA
April 14 | Detroit Music Café | Detroit, MI
April 15 | NightTown | Cleveland, OH
April 16 | Space | Evanston, IL
April 17 | Dakota | Minneapolis, MN
April 19 | Soiled Dove | Denver, CO
April 21-22 | Blue Whale | Los Angeles, CA
April 23 | Yoshi’s | Oakland, CA
April 24 | Orpheum | Flagstaff, AZ
April 26 | Tin Pan | Richmond, VA
April 29 | MilkBoy ArtHouse/University of MD | College Park, MD
May 2 | L’Entreport | Le Haillan, France
May 3 | Paul B | Massy, France
May 4 | L’Avant Seine/Théâtre de Colombes | Colombes, France
May 5 | Salle des Fetes de Vernouillet | Vernouillet, France
May 9 | Salle Nougaro | Toulouse, France
May 11 | Theatre National De Bretagne | Rennes, France
May 12 | Casino De Saint-Julien | St Julien En Genevois, France
May 18 | Under The Bridge | London, UK
May 19 | New Morning | Paris, France
May 21 | Lantern Venster | Rotterdam, Netherlands
May 22 | Paradiso | Amsterdam, Netherlands
PRESS & REVIEWS:
“The tour de force title track celebrates Midón’s blindness with a ripping guitar solo, a fierce spoken word rhyme and thundering rhythms.” – People
“…thoughtful recording of “Fly like an Eagle” – Steve Miller
“…Midón’s music has always projected energy, optimism and virtuosity, and that is the case on Bad Ass and Blind.” – Soultracks
I’ve seen some great musicians at SXSW this year, but none better than Raul Midón. Master musician.” – Richard Barone
“…this seventh studio album is also bursting with funk grooves, Latin rhythms, quick-fire raps, blistering guitar solos and hummable pop melodies.” – The National
”His jazz stylings and unique use of his voice as an instrument will also resonate with fans…” – Pollstar