Cardiff-born musician launches all or nothing bid for debut album
Pianist and Royal Academy of Music jazz graduate, Peter Lee, is crowdsourcing his debut album for five piece band and string quartet through Kickstarter in an all or nothing bid to create ‘The Velvet Rage’.
Inspired by Alan Downs’ book of the same title, the album expresses the highs and lows of Lee’s personal experience as a musician. Downs worked as a psychologist in America, offering counselling to gay men and he has become familiar with their most common personal battles. Towards the end of the book he offers wisdom and guidance towards a goal he names ‘authentic validation’. Lee’s debut is tribute to this sentiment, showcasing compositions Lee has written over the last 10 years, drawing from his educational, professional and personal journey.
Lee commented: “Gay men and women have been granted the opportunity to marry in so much of the western world; we can walk through the streets hand-in-hand and yet it would be naïve to think that personal struggles related to sexuality aren’t still going on. Attacks on the LGBTQ community still happen, but we’ve seen our communities respond with an unprejudiced sense of unity. I’m so grateful that I live in an age where I can be out and proud and express my perspective through the medium of music.”
Cardiff-born and London-based, Lee received his undergraduate degree from Leeds College of Music and his campaign to raise £5,000 has attracted support from across the country with over 55% raised at the halfway mark.
For such a qualified musician, Lee’s story is one of humour and determination. His first gig with his band prompted an official complaint from the examiner-in-chief at the Royal Academy of Music. It was his final recital for his masters in jazz piano, but Lee went in with a band full of pop musicians. The audience whooped and cheered so raucously that a formal email was sent to all students about ‘appropriate’ exam conditions.
While touring with Alice Zawadzki, Lee worked with the Manchester-based “Amika” String Quartet whose stunning playing led him to arrange his music for strings, and invite them to a week-long recording session in the Autumn of 2016. From there, the album progressed into an offering that spans a decade of work with an authentic and highly talented group of musicians.
Lee needs to raise the full £5,000 by midnight on Tuesday 11 April and would welcome support from all corners. Visit www.bit.ly/petelee to join this exciting new project.
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For further information, contact:
Leah Thomas @ Blue Flamingo
Notes to editors:
Lee recorded for five days in Fieldgate studio in Cardiff. The musicians involved are: Pete Lee (piano/compositions), Josh Arcoleo (sax), Alex Munk (guitar), Huw Foster (bass), Ali Thynne (drums), and the “Amika” Strings: Laura Senior (violin), Rich Jones (violin) Lucy Nolan (viola) and Peggy Nolan (cello). The session was recorded by Andy Lawson, Alex Killpatrick & Matt Williams at Fieldgate Studios in South Wales. Matt Roberts produced the album.
The opening track, Ranch, features many of the ideas which will become the album’s signature sounds. It starts with a simple groove-based riff played by pianist/band leader Jonathan Brigg and drummer Dave Smyth. After the rest of the band have entered we hear an inspired solo by guitarist Alex Munk bringing the tune to a symphonic climax. The ostinato riff returns, followed by saxophonist Sam Miles announcing his arrival in a feisty solo.
The second tune, Turn, is based on a repetitive piano and bass unison riff with guitar and drums filling the complex time. It’s a simple yet very effective idea. Munk and Miles solo once more with rhythm section keeping effortless time and creating a great depth of sound. It is incredibly satisfying when after Munk and Miles’ solo the band return to the riff. The whole song euphorically lifts and the satisfaction of everything coming together is palpable. But it is fleeting and the listener yearns to dwell in that sound world for longer.
Fable is a Zeitgeist piece with its deliciously warm sax ostinato over gently relentless piano lines falling like tears. It’s a desperately sad tune full of wistful longing. A lyrical sax solo by Miles is followed by the frankly haunting sound of Munk on guitar. You are drawn to the interplay of Smyth and Munk dancing together and in the background the ever-present piano and bass riff eternally pulse. The head then returns, if you can even call it a head, for it is really a riff: the oscillating heartbeat of this tune.
In Stoop Kid, (named after the band’s namesake, everyone’s favourite 90s cartoon Hey Arnold!) gone is the world of Fable. The tune opens in a chaotic conversation of sounds upon which the chatter then unites in unison stabs of exclamation. This is followed by a conversation between instruments, with different voices and characters clearly evident. When we read the album sleeve we discovered it is based on episode of Hey Arnold! where the protagonist is ‘afraid to leave his stoop’. The tension is evident and conversation clear.
Sevens is a cacophony of scalic runs in complex time with the band walking up and down their instruments. In the strict formal counterpoint the classical influences are evident creating a mesmerising effect in its relentlessness.
Listening to Spring Song after Sevens is like entering a different wold. Mellifluous sax sings over the guitar. It is refreshing to hear an album that is not afraid of variety or diatonic tonality. When the rest of the band come in (piano with the trademark elegant drone) the colours are gorgeous, a palette of watercolours meandering together to create beautiful new shades. Spring Song also features an elegant solo from bassist Flo Moore.
It’s notable that (as we’ve said before) this isn’t a band of soloists. Instead Moore, Smyth and Brigg ‘hold the complex grooves together, support and interplay with Miles and Munk like an experienced family and put the spark into the group.’
The album’s title track Confession is a tune of guilt, worry, strain and obsessiveness. The 7/8 groove is interspersed by a variety of different emotions: calm, angst and destruction. This becomes the freeist tune on the album and we hear a mind distracted, evolving and filled with tension. This is where it all comes out, a wonderful musical confession of feeling, ending with bartok-esque bell tolls on the piano. The confession is over.
The final tune of the album, Soldier On, is a slow balm to soothe the tension of Confession. The ethereal opening guitar statement is followed by a tune that is resolute in keeping going. The signature repetitive lines are evident. They are literally soldiering on, lost in melody and colour.
Confession is an album with classical and free jazz influences sitting side-by-side. Lyrical melodies sing above beautiful, agonisingly relentless ostinato-esque musical lines. It is an album that explores so many colours but never sits on one too long, and is never satisfied with just one sound. It is an album that constantly seeks new direction, a river pushing against the rocks with flair to make new paths. Confession is a creatively inspired, diverse and emotionally complex debut album. Can’t wait to hear what comes next.
Crowd-sourcing is the thing these days. It runs splendidly rife in the British jazz community. We’ve been privileged to enjoy the fruits of the Tommy Andrews Quintet and Led Bib campaigns, and now it is the turn of the Stoop Quintet.
“We’re now halfway through our first UK tour with this band. Despite some of the pre-tour set backs with venues pulling out, it’s safe to say that the tour is going well and we’ve been having a great time! We’ve been absolutely knocked out by the amount of people who’ve come out to the gigs, bought CDs and the support that the promoters and venues have given us along the way – so thanks everyone!
We’ve got three more dates left for the diaries. The first is tonight (25/6/13) at Charlie Wright’s in London and then we hit the road again playing at Dempsey’s in Cardiff on Wednesday 26th before finishing up at Soundcellar on Thursday 27th. If you’re local to London tonight will be only date on the tour with the whole octet, featuring the last minute addition of mega-dep guitarist Alex Munk. For those who cannot make tonight, we have another London gig next month appearing at the 606 Club on Tuesday 23rd July. Thanks again to everyone who has come out and supported the gigs and we’ll hopefully see more people over the next couple of days!”