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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 145 - 07/18/08

Michael Leonhart
Hotel Music
St. Ives

Leonhart is almost Lionheart. As in old king Richard I, the vile crusader. Or the Brothers Lionheart of Astrid Lindgren. Or Kate Bush's 1978 album. There's just a slightly different spelling. And, Michael Leonhart is a different, mysterious man.

Being a multi-talented multi-instrumentalist (a trumpeter plus-plus) and session musician for years he's been playing for/recording with a long line of artists (as well as a high heap of records), including Steely Dan, A Tribe Called Quest, Bill Frisell, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Eno, Busta Rhymes, D.J. Spooky, David Byrne, James Brown, Mos Def, Natalie Merchant, Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest), Raekwon (of Wu-tang Clan), Slash (Guns 'n Roses/Velvet Revolver), Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) and more. Quite a list of variation, and it especially makes me wonder after hearing the music on Hotel Music. He's been releasing this little vinyl piece - limited to 200! - on the tiny St. Ives label (as always done by using recycled covers, over-painting them -- mine is Mecca Normal's The Finest LP, on K). Interesting.

Hotel Music is the follow up to The Ballad of Minton Quigley (2006 Beautiful Fruit Tree) which I haven't heard. It should be up the same alley, of singer-songwriter stuff holding dreamy organic, electronic soundscapes with pop inspirations from the Beach Boys, The Beatles, Serge Gainsbourg, 60's stuff, via some 1970s (including early 1980s) experimentalists, up to modern days music, say, like Beck and Yo La Tengo. Maybe the last album was a bit more orchestral and full blown, I'm not sure. This one is indeed exciting, mostly toned down but not lacking air. By judging the titles Hotel Music takes an international travel (I'd guess Leonhart have seen quite a lot of hotels): Adelaide, Atlanta, Canberra, Hawaii, Paris, Berlin, Kyoto, Vienna, Florida. Favourite tracks includes the Beck-ish "Nightingale Floors", "Snake in the Hole" which somehow recalls Snakefinger, the very fine and amusing "The Madman From Kyoto", and "Viennese Snow song for Mona" - the latter being quite up Yo La Tengo's alley. Some of the songs are full blown, others are instrumentals, while a few are just mere sketches and interplays. As a whole this makes an exciting mixture strongly recommended.

Hotel Music is what should be heard in all hotel elevators.

Leonhart has also put out 3 other solo works, making Hotel Music his fifth album. It could be worth checking out Aardvark Poses (1995), Glub Glub vol. 11 (1997), and Slow (2002) as well. All on the Sunnyside label).

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