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Howe Gelb

Biography

Future Standards di Howe Gelb

Starts in Amsterdam

ends in New York City 

e in between, it’s all Tucson

Let me set the scene – irresponsible lovers are canoodling in semi-lit booths, the jukebox is playing some old tunes by Frank and there’s some people over there who never want to fall in love again. It’s the last bar still open and the piano player mooches over to the battered grand. This guy, we know, is great. He expertly and succinctly slides in words like “iconoclast”, “apropos”, “tumult” and “ludicrous”, he even name checks Constantinople – that’s proper old school.

For those celebrated guys who hit on the standards – Monk, Cohen, Bacharach, even Merle Haggard, Howe Gelb is creating new tunes with cathartic one-liners and malleable melodies that suggest any singer could interpret these dozen American piano ballads and take his offbeat worldview and make it their own. Who wouldn’t want to begin the beguine with the line “World peace declared, no problem spared…”?

These are ‘Future Standards’ by The Howe Gelb Piano Trio, taking an outsider view of early gospel and rhythm and blues both part of the American musical socialization that he touched on with 2006’s ‘Sno Angel’. Now he’s on a jazz-tinged trip, bending the genre, taking it back to his shack, giving an innovative fine tune in the lean-to garage.

Don’t forget, Gelb is a man who’s done acoustic sets where he sings into the pick up of his guitar, he’s rocked out with Giant Sand, re-shaped alt-country and has a back catalogue that’s nothing short of “im-press-ive”. He knows a melody when he plays it.

Now, he’s searching for a way to re-imagine an important genre in the history of song construction and, as ever he’s throwing a spanner in the works, making up words “un-em-barkable” and coming off like Mose Allison on downers, touching on Brubeck’s hand patterns, holding court as a Django-like strummer – Naim Amor – drifts by on an abandoned caboose almost just out of earshot.

"This is an attempt at writing a batch of tunes that could last through the ages with the relative structure of what has become known as "standards".  The likes of Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael done up by Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday," suggests Howe. "Julie London had a lot to do with it."

– Howe Gelb -

The Arizona desert has been a predominant theme and source of inspiration for Howe Gelb, indie rock pioneer and founder of the band Giant Sand. Since 1985, Gelb, based in Tucson, AZ has brought the spirit of the southwest and high art to his DIY recordings. Gelb's newest recording, The Coincidentalist, is his first album for his new label, New West Records. Recorded with M. Ward and Steve Shelley (of Sonic Youth), Gelb brings together a set of songs that seem linked, like a novel but effortless stand on their own. The record also features guest contributions from Bonnie Prince Billy and KT Tunstall.

 

  


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