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The Mirror finds Raul Midón breaking new ground for himself, including two entrancing solo spoken-word pieces (“If I Could See” and “One Day Without War”). The album also features studio meetings with such veteran jazz colorists as vibraphonist Joe Locke (“A Certain Café”), as well as a songwriting collaboration with top pianist Gerald Clayton, “Deep Dry Ocean.” Another highlight is the road-weary jazz ballad “Cold Cuts and Coffee,” while title track “The Mirror” beguiles with its easy tropical groove, lyrical sophistication and Midón’s flowing electric guitar. As National Public Radio set the stage before his captivating edition of its “Tiny Desk Concert” broadcast: “Raul Midón lives in a world of sound. Blind since birth, Midón’s interpretation of his surroundings is borderless. He sings with the passion of the best classic soul singers, and his instrumental chops stand alongside the most accomplished jazz musicians.”
Singer/songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón is on an undeniable roll. After GRAMMY® Award nominations for his two previous Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group releases – Bad Ass & Blindand If You Really Want, each for Best Jazz Vocal Album– he returns with his 11th studio album and fourth for the label: The Mirror, to be released March 13, 2020. The Mirror finds Midón breaking new ground for himself, including two entrancing solo spoken-word pieces (“If I Could See” and “One Day Without War”). The album also features studio meetings with such veteran jazz colorists as vibraphonist Joe Locke (“A Certain Café”), as well as a songwriting collaboration with top pianist Gerald Clayton, “Deep Dry Ocean.” Another highlight is the road-weary jazz ballad “Cold Cuts and Coffee,” while title track “The Mirror” beguiles with its easy tropical groove, lyrical sophistication and Midón’s flowing electric guitar. As National Public Radio set the stage before his captivating edition of its “Tiny Desk Concert” broadcast: “Raul Midón lives in a world of sound. Blind since birth, Midón’s interpretation of his surroundings is borderless. He sings with the passion of the best classic soul singers, and his instrumental chops stand alongside the most accomplished jazz musicians.”
About The Mirror, Midón says: “I produced and pored over this album like I do all my records – they really are me in that sense. So it’s important that I surprise myself and my listeners. Take the spoken-word pieces, for instance. I grew up listening to artists who were rappers before rap, like Gil Scott-Heron, so I’ve always wanted to take that sort of approach to something. I think hearing me speak the words over the music makes it especially personal – which is particularly true with ‘If I Could See,’ where I’m talking about something very intimate for me.” On that lyrical theme, one of the album’s vocal gems is “Disguise,” a cleverly romantic number that finds Midón singing about his powers of perception: “I know you see things a different way / But for me it’s not the way you look / But what you have to say… Don’t stare at my eyes / There’s nothing there to surmise / You know that I’m wise / Because I can hear through you.”
About the ace musicians who join him on The Mirror, Midón says: “The song ‘A Certain Café’ is about how time can seem to stop in certain moments and you never forget it. Because I’ve worked with Joe Locke live and in the studio a few times, I knew his vibes would be ideal for giving the track that nostalgic shimmer. I’ve loved Joe’s sound since I first heard him in the 1970s. I also loved the virtuoso Manhattan Transfer since I was a kid and having that group’s Janis Siegel add her backing vocals to ‘I Love the Afternoon’ – along with Lauren Kinhan, another one of the world’s great harmony singers, who’s from New York Voices – was a real treat for me.” Midón discovered the talents of trumpeter Gary Alesbrook via Instagram, when the young English musician posted his transcription of one of the singer’s trademark virtual “mouth trumpet” solos. “When I heard Gary do that on Instagram, I thought it was cool – but I also realized that he is a wonderful trumpet player,” Midón says. “I’m so glad that I could get his horn for this record, on ‘Disguise’.”
For “Deep Dry Ocean,” Midón put words to what he calls a “mysterious melody” by jazzer Gerald Clayton, a past partner on the road and in the studio. But along with the atmospheric tunes, tropical grooves and jazz ballads, The Mirror also includes the soul-inflected “I Really Want to See You Again” and a track with a contemporary pop feel, “You’re the One.” Yet even this flirty number finds Midón slipping in something new. “I haven’t been a political songwriter,” he says, “but with ‘You’re the One,’ even though it’s a love song, I weave in my thoughts about what we’re all having to live through: ‘Nothing but chaos, madness and pain / Courage and wisdom are held in disdain / A commander-in-chief with sh*t for a brain / With love, we can conquer the shame.’ Yeah, those lyrics are from the heart – real talk… I aim to be as true to myself lyrically and musically as I can be and hope it reaches people. I feel fortunate to have a diverse audience all around the world that cares about hearing me sing and express myself. With this new album, I’m excited to have my listeners go on another ride with me.”
About Raul Midón
Along with his 11 studio albums as a solo artist, Midón – dubbed “an eclectic adventurist” by People magazine – has collaborated with such heroes as Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers, along with contributing to records by Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg and the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s She Hate Me. A native of New Mexico who now lives in Maryland after years in New York, Midón has earned acclaim the world over, with a fanbase that stretches from San Francisco to India, Amsterdam to Tokyo. Marveling over his live performances, The New York Times has called Midón “a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus.” He recently performed in a special Homecoming Week music series at his alma mater, the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. He was surprised onstage with the school’s most prestigious honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. Frost’s dean said of the 1990 graduate: “Raul Midón truly personifies what a student at our school can achieve. It’s a thrill to be able to honor Raul’s extraordinary talent and exemplary accomplishments.”
For a glimpse of how magnetic Midón can be live, seek out on YouTube the clip of his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2006. Performing “State of Mind,” the title track from his major-label debut, Midón unveils what would become his signature combination of silky voice and percussive guitar. His playing is a syncopated wonder in which bass, harmony and melodic lines fly from the fretboard in a way that belies the fact that all the music is being produced by just two hands. If that weren’t enough, Midón busts out his improvisational mouth-horn technique, in which he creates a bebop “trumpet” solo with his lips, earning himself a burst of mid-song applause from the audience.
The title of Midón’s Bad Ass & Blind album came from an apt description of its maker that soul icon Bill Withers endorsed; the 2017 release saw Midón collaborating with such top jazz players as trumpeter Nicholas Payton, pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. NPR noted that the disc continues Midón’s “streak of records that cross boundaries with ease and head-turning musicality.” Midón’s 2018 follow-up, If You Really Want, found Midón’s voice and guitar riding the waves of the Metropole Orkest, the GRAMMY Award-winning Dutch ensemble that has collaborated with artists from Al Jarreau and Elvis Costello to Laura Mvula and Snarky Puppy. Midón worked hand in glove on If You Really Want with another renowned GRAMMY winner: arranger and conductor Vince Mendoza. Relix magazine said about the album: “Throughout, there’s that voice – passionate and confident – with Midón giving each word his full attention so that you know he means it.”
Midón’s earlier studio discography includes Don’t Hesitate (2014), Synthesis (2010), A World Within a World (2007) and State of Mind (2005). He also released the CD/DVD Invisible Chains – Live from NYC, which documents an intimate concert in Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater from 2012. Midón’s live 2016 rendition of John Coltrane’s classic “Giant Steps” – which sees him fly through all 12 keys on the guitar – earned more than a million views via Facebook. Ever since being told by some when he was a child that his blindness meant that “you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” Midón has lived a life devoted to beating the odds and shattering stereotypes. “As someone who has never seen, I’ve always felt at a disadvantage in that lyric writing is usually very visual,” he says. “People really relate to images and I’ve never seen images. But what I realized early on is that you have to write from what you know, and I hear, touch and feel intensely – and those are sensations and experiences that everyone can relate to.”
I produced and pored over this album like I do all my records – they really are me in that sense.
"I'm always trying to grow. I'm always trying to do things better. And when I go to do something, I go to do it really, really well. Whether it's writing, whether it's producing, playing. I don't want to just be good enough to have a guitar player just to play my songs." Raul Midón
Downtown had the pleasure of speaking with Raul Midon about his history with our city — he is originally from New Mexico — and what he has coming up in his career. He also talked about his surprising passion for ham radio.
Not every singer knows how to connect with a full orchestra and, certainly, not every orchestra is equipped to accompany a non-classical vocalist. But Raul Midón and the 50-pluspiece Dutch Metropole Orkest have it down. The orchestra, founded in 1945 and conducted on this latest collaborative effort by Vince Mendoza, has been working with vocalists for years.
A former session musician for superstars such as Shakira and Julio Iglesias, Midón has an uncanny ability to defy categorisation, grabbing, magpie-like, from a variety of musical genres and cooking them together in an almighty smooth, groove-pop stew.
Singer/Songwriter/Multi-instrumentalist Raul Midón has been creatively shattering boundaries in the Jazz and Pop worlds for the last decade. His soulful and funky artistry goes way beyond any notion of genre.
The greatest musicians are superlative because they are authentic. They do their own thing. They take the elements of music, art and culture that move them and spin it all into something new, along the way developing an artistic vision that is unique and unwavering.
Midón is blind, which would lead many to draw comparisons with Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano and Ray Charles. His jazz stylings and unique use of his voice as an instrument will also resonate with fans of Bobby McFerrin.
Raul Midón is so respected in guitar circles that he was the subject of a recent Guitar World lesson by Dale Turner, "The Unorthodox, Percussive-Slapping Style of Singing Guitarist Raul Midón."
After Midón finished the album and came up with the title Badass and Blind, he realized he didn't have a title track. He decided to write one, and the result is an amusing run-down of his many talents delivered over a slick guitar groove.
On Bad Ass and Blind, his wryly titled new album, Raul Midón serves a new batch of songs in his personalized hybrid style, pushing musicianship to the foreground.
Multi-talented musician, Raul Midon talks race, culture and how he uses his disability to generate a different perspective of the world.
Title track “Badass and Blind” kicks off the album energetically, chocked full of funky vibes. By far the most risqué moment of the album, Raul Midón showcases his flawless set of singing pipes, as well as dropping some bars—rap bars.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón is one of music's most distinctive and searching voices. He is "a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus," according to The New York Times.
Raul Midón was a one-man band, simultaneously strumming while drumming on the bongos and mimicking a trumpet with his voice. "All right, be careful when you try this at home," he told the audience right before launching into his signature move.
Bad Ass And Blind continues his streak of records that cross boundaries with ease and head-turning musicality. And, since Midón brought along so much great music that we didn't have time to cover it all in the show, you can read on for an extended playlist that includes all of his picks.