A Brand-New Shade Of Blue
Release date: July 17, 2020
Follow-up to Stamey’s acclaimed New Songs For The 20th Century, Vols. 1 & 2
Chris Stamey’s collaboration with The Fellow Travelers, A Brand-New Shade Of Blue, was inspired by the intimate small-combo sound of the late ’50s and early ’60s—a time when the “cool jazz” compositions of such luminaries as John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk lived alongside the expanding pop vocabulary of Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb. “These are songs for late nights and rainy days,” Chris explains. “I wrote most of it in the dark of winter, in whispers, in the ‘wee small hours of the morning,’ that magic time ‘when the whole wide world is fast asleep.’ And these great singers and musicians kept that mood alive throughout the sessions that followed.”
The music started as song sheets, in the old style: just words and melodies on paper. Members of an N.C. ad hoc collective of singers and players, known informally as The Fellow Travelers, next gathered in Stamey’s Modern Recording studio in early 2020 to read through the songbook and bring the tunes to life. “I’d put down a rudimentary piano pass, then hand out the sheets,” Stamey explains, “and let the players take it from there.” First up was vocalist Brett Harris, who became the primary singer on the set and was joined by the accomplished trio of Charles Cleaver (piano), Dan Davis (drums), and Jason Foureman (acoustic bass), with Chris on guitar.
Next came thrillingly expressive solos by 19-year-old tenor-sax prodigy Elijah Freeman and N.C. jazz-scene linchpins Foureman, Will Campbell (alto and soprano sax), Evan Ringel (trombone), and Ben Robinson (trumpet), which connected and underlined the detailed, evocative lyrics. Vocalist Django Haskins (The Old Ceremony) chimed in on “Dangling Cheek To Cheek.” And wunderkind Lithuanian chanteuse Ramunė Martin joined for a song (“I Don’t Think Of You”) and charmed them all.
The project was well underway when the pandemic stopped in-person sessions cold. But the undaunted Fellow Travelers were able to assemble home studios, some for the first time, and complete the arrangements. As the songs took shape, additional sonic details came from Dale Baker (bongos), Matt Douglas (Mountain Goats) (bass clarinet, bari sax), Karen Galvin and Libby Rodenbough (Mipso) (violins), Peter Holsapple (The dB’s) (banjo), Rachel Kiel (flute and harmonies), Slippy McGhee (harmonica), Mark Simonsen (vibraphone), and Josh Starmer (’celli).
This set follows Stamey’s 2019 release New Songs For The 20th Century, Vols. 1 & 2. Of that album, Downbeat noted: “Musicians from Rod Stewart to Bob Dylan have turned to the Great American Songbook to revive their creative juices. But Chris Stamey has taken a different approach. Instead of singing other people’s compositions, he’s… written a raft of new ones that are akin to material for a 1958 recording session by Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald.” Americana Highways opined: “This is a prodigious project that asks for real attention. Fortunately, the gift of this music pays off in timeless beauty and unlimited inspiration. It’s like the past has been reinvigorated by the present, with nothing lost and everything gained.”
A Brand-New Shade Of Bluefeat. Brett Harris Je Ne Sais Quoifeat. Brett Harris Late For The Partyfeat. Brett Harris I Don’t Think Of Youfeat. Ramunė Martin In A Minor Keyfeat. Brett Harris It Must Be Raining Somewherefeat. Brett Harris Un Autre Temps Come Home To Mefeat. Brett Harris Late for the Party (Slight Return) There’s A Dream Around The Cornerfeat. Brett Harris Cerulean Is Lovely Speechlessfeat. Brett Harris Dangling Check To Checkfeat. Django Haskins