Set for release on April 15, 2014 via Dowsett Records, Slow Down showcases a finely meshed unit committed to an organic group sound that incorporates elements of pop, world and classical music, among other sources. As Conley states, "The North is a band, not just a piano trio. And our love of music from a wide variety of genres binds us. We are trying to make music that's as engaging and fun to listen to as it is for us to create."
The North formed when French-born Collin, who earned wide acclaim for his 2012 CD The Calling, teamed up with Hawaiian natives Conley and Lagrimas, Jr. for a ten-day series of public performances in Hawaii during which the three musicians developed, in Collin's words, a "musical sympathy." The chemistry they formed during that initial tour led to a three week Hawaiian visit in 2012 when the band worked on material for Slow Down (This Isn't the Mainland). As Conley reminisces in the album's notes: "In a world where albums are often recorded in a couple of hectic studio days, three weeks devoted to this creative collaboration among friends was the ultimate dream."
Slow Down (This Isn't The Mainland) showcases The North, a masterful and inspiring new, melody-infused trio featuring pianist Romain Collin, bassist Shawn Conley and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr.
Collin's 2012 CD The Calling Earned Wide Acclaim as "a work of art that is worthy of being held onto for generations to come" (Eric Sandler, The Revivalist), and "achingly beautifulŠElegiac, almost hymnalŠ" (Ian Patterson, All About Jazz)
Bristling with moving melodies, fierce group interaction and virtuosic playing, Slow Down (This Isn't The Mainland) - the debut album from the cooperative trio, The North - is Hawaiian-grown; a brilliant musical reflection of the celebrated sun, surf and soil of the Pacific paradise. Drawing a band name from their shared love of Oahu's North Shore, home to many of the greatest surf spots in the world, The North - featuring pianist Romain Collin, bassist Shawn Conley, and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr. - is riding a new wave. Eager to blend elements of pop, world and classical music - among other sources - into the improvisational mix, the band is also utterly enamored of songful melody. Slow Down (This Isn't The Mainland) - released on April 15, 2014 on Dowsett Records - showcases a finely meshed unit committed to a cohesive and organic group sound. As Conley states, "The North is a band, not just a piano trio. And our love of music from a wide variety of genres binds us. We are trying to make music that's as engaging and fun to listen to as it is for us to create."
In many ways, Hawaii itself willed both the group and the album into being. Conley and Lagrimas Jr., longtime friends and Hawaii natives, met the French-born Collin on the U.S. mainland, where each was establishing a growing reputation as a resourceful instrumentalist. The pull of the islands was strong though, and the three friends, who were only playing together informally at the time, were invited to visit Hawaii for a ten-day series of public performances. The effect was as immediate as it was unexpected. "The chemistry between the three of us was striking," says Collin, "and the audience felt it. By the time the tour was over, investors who heard us live and were moved by the music arranged for us to return the next year to play more shows and make an album. It was as much the overwhelming reaction of those who heard us play as it was our own musical empathy that made the band happen." The North was born.
Slow Down (This Isn't The Mainland) came to fruition during a three week Hawaiian visit in 2012 when the band worked on the album's repertoire and prepared to record. They tracked in the sonically accommodating living room of the house that had been made available for the trio in order to perfect their ensemble sound away from urban distractions. Joined for little over a week by the celebrated engineer Jeremy Loucas, The North cut the recording live with a minimum of takes. As Conley reminisces in the album's notes: "In a world where albums are often recorded in a couple of hectic studio days, three weeks devoted to this creative collaboration among friends was the ultimate dream."
The bulk of the compositions on Slow Down (This Isn't The Mainland) are by Collin and Conley, sturdy pieces that balance accessibility and invention. "We all listen to so many types of music," Conley says, "and we want all of our influences to come out in our collective sound. But what is most important to us as a group is melody." This adoration for clearly stated, embracing compositional form defines such persuasive performances as the undulating "Great Ocean Road," the Iberian-tinged "Yann's Flight" and the minimalist ballad, "Northern Dreams." Interspersed among the originals are inspired group interpretations of Chick Corea's "Humpty Dumpty," Thelonious Monk's classic, "Light Blue," the singer-songwriter Christina Courtin's "Join Us Jackson" and Bob Dylan's anthemic "Blowin' In the Wind," each ingeniously reworked to capture both the singular flavor of the composition and the imaginative nature of the group. Instrumental prowess, while seamlessly interwoven into each piece, is never obscured. Collin's fluidity, Conley's supportive lines and impressive solo work and Lagrimas Jr.'s perfectly calibrated percussion skills lend the recording a vivacity that compliments its sparkling sheen.
Every member of The North is classically trained, and has amassed impressive credits. French-born pianist Collin, whom Jon Weber, the host of NPR's Piano Jazz, calls, "A visionary composer, an extraordinary jazz pianist and a very bright young rising star in the jazz world," attended the Berklee School of Music and later graduated from the Thelonious Monk Institute (where he held a full scholarship) in 2007. He has appeared with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, and Terence Blanchard, among others, and has recorded two albums as a leader, The Rise and Fall of Pipokuhn and the 2012 release, The Calling, of which All About Jazz said, "compositional flair and technique all seduce, but are trumped by the emotional strength in Collin's writing and playing." Tom Conrad wrote in the New York City Jazz Record: "Collin is different. He is not interested in showing off his chops, but rather in telling stories, portraying moods and developing a disciplined, personal ensemble concept." And Patrick Jarenwattananon wrote on NPR's A Blog Supreme that Collin is an artist with "a highly personal, contemporary vision."
Raised in Hawaii, bassist Conley won a position with the Honolulu Symphony while still in high school. The winner of a Wagoner fellowship, he studied with the renowned bassist François Rabbath in Paris. Conley, who has since settled in Brooklyn, New York, has worked with many prestigious jazz and classical artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Arturo O'Farrill, Mark Turner, and James Carter, as well as the notable chamber ensembles, The Knights and Brooklyn Rider. He can also be heard on numerous soundtracks including "Moonrise Kingdom," "True Grit," and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."
A Hawaiian native as well, drummer Lagrimas Jr. participated in celebrated music programs including Betty Carter's Jazz Residency in Washington D.C., where he made his debut performance at the Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts. He later attended the Berklee College of Music. In addition to The North, he is also a member of the popular South Korean jazz group, Prelude, and has collaborated with a host of other musical artists including Eric Marienthal, Eric Reed, Bill Mays and Lalo Schifrin. Lagrimas Jr.is also a skilled vibraphonist and ukulele player with five solo albums and is an active educator with noted musical instruction books to his name.