Howe Gelb has made an enchanting video by way of introduction to his forthcoming album Future Standards, a name which doesn’t immediately conjure romanticism until you realise that the ‘standard’ he’s referring to is the ‘piano standard’. The video opens to Gelb explaining that the mind and heart are often at odds in creative pursuit – one telling you practical measures and the other overwhelming you with an unexplainable impulse. “The cool thing about the piano standard is it’s a form for just such a ponder”.
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…”?
“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.”
“The challenge with this kind of session lies in the culmination of 3 essential elements;
1st, writing a sophisticated chord structure that allows the melody to weave beyond its confines. Something cohesive and familiar, but still alluring and uncharted.
2nd, a lyrical playfulness. The science of love revealed and revelled, the celebration and the lament, while remaining vulnerable and still intact with new knowledge of where it can only go.
3rd, an offhanded execution. To display each song as if it’s already an old standard. Keeping it intimate and communal in one go. Making it a party instead of making it precious. To deliver the lines with natural serendipity, lingering behind the beat, offering a pause in love’s resignation through resonation.
These moments of melody framed in rhythm and rhyme along the pathway reproducing the species, if only to remind us, to validate, to assure;
We never choose to fall in love… It’s always love that chooses us.”
Play it again Howe!
Howe Gelb’s ‘Future Standards’ is released November 25th on Fire Records.
He performs at Café Oto, London on 10th Dec