Rob Schwimmer “Heart of Hearing” CD release
May 31 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm| $15.00
Rob Schwimmer presents his new CD, Heart of Hearing which includes stunning originals, his unique take on the Great American Songbook through jazz, Americana, and even Bernard Herrmann’s stunning Scene d’Amour from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Classical, the avant-garde and the unclassifiable (with palate cleansing miniatures as a sort of sonic ginger) are also represented filtered through Schwimmer’s personal, touching and sometimes virtuosic vision of the sound world. Born with synesthesia (his favorite childhood note was the low G on the piano which appeared to him as navy blue, his favorite color from Crayola 64) Schwimmer’s outlook on sound could be described as a world of finely distinguished hue and shade. Rob’s instrumental triple threat is unique: piano, theremin (represented by a haunting and ultimately shattering take on Kurt Weill’s Lost In The Stars as an elegy to a departed friend) and an amazing new instrument called the Haken Continuum, which raises electronic expression into the realm of the immediacy and depth of what has previously been the domain of only acoustic instruments. Heart of Hearing, a deeply artistic and enjoyable journey of musical discovery and adventure. (Liner notes by Ethan Iverson)
Official Press Release
Pianist and Thereminist Rob Schwimmer Presents a Wide World of Affecting Music – from Classical to Jazz to Hollywood to Americana – on the Strikingly Inventive Album Heart of Hearing
Heart of Hearing – to be released via Sunken Heights Music on June 1, 2018 – includes wholly individual interpretations of Bernard Herrmann, Kurt Weill, Stephen Foster and Simon & Garfunkel, along with Schwimmer’s own originals
“Rob Schwimmer tells compelling stories with his fingers. When they connect with a piano keyboard, the music connects with us, and we hear passions, adventures, love stories and tall tales, all told in an involving, personal style.” — WNYC
In his liner notes to Heart of Hearing, jazz piano star Ethan Iverson encapsulates the allure of this album and its artist: “Rob Schwimmer is a strikingly advanced polymath, a wizard on multiple instruments, a relentless comic, a throwback to the ’60s/’70s, a repository of unlikely trivia, a summoner of strange beauty, a master of the absurd, a man with a heart of gold… In the end, Heart of Hearing is about harmony. Hallucinatory, complex, subtle pitches and people together. The 88 keys plus sine waves, a life lived in strange and beautiful music.” Heart of Hearing – to be released on CD and download and via streaming services by Sunken Heights Music on June 1, 2018 – showcases Schwimmer on his main instrument, the piano, as well as on the theremin and its polyphonic cousin, the Haken Continuum, for one track each. As a keyboardist, Schwimmer has enjoyed a diverse career, his range spanning from work with avant-jazz icon Paul Bley to touring in the band of Simon & Garfunkel from 2003-2010 to performing accompaniment for silent films at the Museum of Modern Art. For his solo performances and recordings, The New York Times has praised Schwimmer for his “virtuosity, magic and humor,” while Time Out New York has praised his “jazz-fueled spontaneity and ear for instantly memorable melodies.”
The richly inventive Heart of Hearing sees Schwimmer hotwire a movement of a Chopin sonata for a rhythmic thrill ride, as well as paraphrase in a Lisztian vein the Octet from contemporary composer Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza. He transforms Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” into a minor-key psychodrama, even as he limns the dizzying romanticism of Bernard Herrmann’s love theme to Vertigo with almost ecstatic sincerity. Schwimmer interprets such varied tunes as Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times” and the Sinatra standard “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” as tone poems, equally atmospheric and incisive. Then there are Schwimmer’s originals, ranging from the pensive beauty of solo piano piece “Here We Are…” to a melody-laced number for jazz piano trio, “Accepting It,” with ace rhythm section of bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirschfield. The pianist’s composition “The Question” pays homage to the free-minded jazz balladry of Paul Bley and Annette Peacock, while his “In a Japanese Garden” reminds Iverson of Leopold Godowsky’s Java Suite. For his spellbinding showcase on theremin – Schwimmer is co-director of the New York Theremin Society – he beautifully channels the melody in an emotionally shattering rendition of Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” (read the liner notes for more on that) and on the luminous Haken Continuum, he re-imagines a Scriabinesque prelude by unsung Russian composer Nikolai Obukhov.
About the title of Heart of Hearing, Schwimmer says: “Beyond wordplay, the title reflects the fact that the album is less music about music, as some of my past projects might have been. It’s more about speaking from the heart. Maybe I’m turning into a bit of a softie.” Born in 1955 and thoroughly self-taught, Schwimmer has been playing the piano since age 3. “For me, playing the piano has always been like breathing,” he says. “I grew up learning all The Beatles tunes on piano, then I became obsessed with jazz, reaching out to Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett to learn what I could from them.” About the theremin, Schwimmer explains: “I was a rock’n’roll kid, growing up loving the electric guitar of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck. The piano is this incredible orchestra at your fingertips, but you can’t bend notes with it. I was drawn to the theremin as a way to shape notes expressively like those great rock guitar players.” The Haken Continuum is a theremin-like instrument with polyphonic capabilities, operating via a neoprene, keyboard-like controller. “The Haken Continuum is the instrument of my dreams in a lot of ways,” he explains. “It’s mind-blowing, really, operating almost like an acoustic instrument.”
Neither jazz nor classical, though touching upon both (among much else), Heart of Hearing feels more like aural cinema, with each track seeming like a scene in a screenplay. There are subtle touches to reinforce this, as with the surface noise of a shellac 78 coloring the opening of “Vertigo,” with Schwimmer imagining a Golden Age pianist “like Josef Hofmann playing the piece. Then the static stops and the piece comes forward from the past into our present, from black-and-white into color.” For all the album’s inventiveness and performative virtuosity, the thematic through-line from such pieces as “Here We Are…” to “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” to “Vertigo” to “Accepting It” is one of feeling – “the emotion of being human,” Schwimmer says, adding that “even the spiky ‘ugly beauty’ of my deconstructed Chopin belongs to the range of human feeling.” The pianist adds: “I hope that listeners experience the album like a movie in sound, a journey that we can share together.”
Heart of Hearing
1. “Here We Are…”
3. “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” (Hilliard/Mann)
4. “Waking Up in a Strange Place”
5. “Mist/The Seduction”
7. “Lost in the Stars” (Kurt Weill) *
8. “Sounds of Silence” (Paul Simon)
9. “Prelude No. 1” (Nikolai Obukhov) **
10. “A Feather Blown by the Wind”
11. “The Question”
12. “In a Japanese Garden”
13. “Prelude and Scene d’Amour” (Bernard Herrmann)
14. “Concert Paraphrase on Adam Guettel’s Octet (Guettel)
15. “Hard Times” (Stephen Foster)
16. “A Home Away from Home”
17. “Accepting It”
All music by Rob Schwimmer, except as noted. Produced and with piano on all tracks by Rob Schwimmer, except for * (theremin) and ** (Haken Continuum). Track #17 includes Jay Anderson (double-bass) and Jeff Hirschfield (drums).
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Rob Schwimmer is a composer-pianist, thereminist, vocalist and Haken Continuum player who has performed and recorded throughout the world. Praised by The New York Times for his "Virtuosity, magic, and humor” Rob has just completed his long awaited 2nd solo CD “Heart Of Hearing” for theremin, Haken Continuum and solo piano. Known for his work as a solo artist (and as a founding member of the highly acclaimed Polygraph Lounge duo with multi-instrumentalist Mark Stewart of Bang On A Can Allstars/Paul Simon) Rob's piano playing on his first solo CD "Beyond The Sky" has been widely lauded in both classical and jazz publications: Hailed as "Extraordinary" in Gramophone and "Shaping up to be the finest solo piano CD of the year" in The NYC Jazz Record while The New York Times praised his "…machine-gun speed and clarity." Recently Rob has been featured ondioline/keyboards/theremin soloist (as well as playing keyboards and theremin) with Gotye’s Ondioline Orchestra which has played to acclaim from National Sawdust and Roulette in NYC to Moogfest (Durham, NC) to Tasmania and The Sydney Festival (both in Jan 2018.) Rob also did arrangements for Gotye’s upcoming release. Rob is also a leading player of the Haken Continuum fingerboard. Schwimmer is the theremin soloist for Ethan Iverson’s (The Bad Plus) “Pepperland,” a full length dance piece for The Mark Morris Dance Group which premiered in Liverpool in 2017 as part of Liverpool’s “Sgt. Pepper at 50” celebration. Recent recording sessions on Haken Continuum include Paul Simon, Esperanza Spalding and Trey Anastasio.
Schwimmer also recently completed 2 commissions from The Metropolitan Museum while Polygraph Lounge has received and performed 2 commissions from Carnegie Hall for full length concerts. Recent recording sessions on Haken Continuum include Paul Simon, Esperanza Spalding and Trey Anastasio. Among the long list of artists Schwimmer has worked with are Simon and Garfunkel,Wayne Shorter, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stevie Wonder, Bobby McFerrin, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Gotye, Chaka Khan, Laurie Anderson, Bette Midler, Queen Latifah, producer Arif Mardin, Adam Guettel, Gotye’s Ondioline Orchestra, Mark Morris Dance Group, producer Peter Katis, Paul Bley, The Boston Pops, Mary Cleere Haran, T-Bone Walker, Sam Rivers, Ethan Iverson, Marc Shaiman, David Krakauer, Christian Marclay, Matthew Barney, Ang Lee, Maria Schneider, Michel Gondry, Mark Morris Dance Group, Trey Anastasio, The Klezmatics, Bernie Worrell, Sxip Shirey, Nels Cline, Annette Peacock, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marshall Brickman, Karen Black, Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Josh Groban, Mabou Mines, Geoffrey Holder, John Cale, Steve Buscemi, Iva Bittova, Theo Bleckmann, John Stubblefield, Burt Bacharach, The Roches, Jack Quartet, Scott Robinson, Edie Brickell, producer Teo Macero, Hal Willner, Vernon Reid, The Everly Brothers, Ethel, James Emery, Bela Fleck, Lenny Kaye, Kurt Vonnegut, Tamar Muskal, Anjani Thomas, Odetta, Drepung Loseling Tibetan Monks, Sussan Deyhim, producer John Simon, Joseph Jarman, Fred Anderson, Alwin Nikolai/ Murray Louis Dance Company, Marc Ribot, Frank London, C&C Music Factory and Sammy Davis Jr. among others.
A founding member and co-director of The NY Theremin Society, Rob is one of the top theremin virtuosos in the world and has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, The NY Times, Wall St Journal, WNYC, WQXR and the popular PBS series "History Detectives”. His appearances as theremin soloist include The Orchestra of St. Luke's at Caramoor (which included Rob's theremin arrangement of Bernard Herrmann's "Scene d'Amour" from Vertigo,) The Boston Pops in a world premier of “Nosferatu” at Symphony Hall, The Moab Music Festival, The Little Orchestra at Lincoln Center, with Bobby McFerrin at Carnegie Hall and Simon & Garfunkel's world tours (including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary show at Madison Square Garden) where he also played keyboards and sang. In addition to his CD Theremin Noir (with Uri Caine and Mark Feldman,) Rob has performed as featured thereminist on Trey Anastasio's CD Traveler, Matthew Barney’s epic movie Cremaster 3, the 2009 R.W. Goodwin feature Alien Trespass, CBS television series Now and Again and A&E's Breakfast With the Arts. He was chosen to perform in a sold out concert at the Disney Concert Hall (LA) as part of legendary The 10 Piece Theremin Orchestra. Rob was recently interviewed by Faith Salie (Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me) for CBS Sunday Morning and The NY Theremin Society concert was filmed as part of the same segment about the resurgence of the theremin. Schwimmer premiered a new silent movie soundtrack (The Fall of the House of Usher--1928) featuring live theremin at The NY Theremin Society's recent residency at Bucknell University and given its NYC premiere at The Tribeca New Music Festival.
He composed the score for Cynthia Wade's 2008 Academy Award winner "Freeheld" in the Documentary Short category as well as collaborating on David Frankel's Oscar winner "Dear Diary" for Dreamworks (their first Oscar) in the Live Action Short in 1997. Rob's compositions have been featured in theater, television series and movies, silent films, documentaries and feature films as well as Rob's continuing series of solo concerts.
He has performed at venues all over the world including Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Weiner Konzerthaus, Tokyo Dome, Madison Square Garden, The Kennedy Center, The Sydney Festival, The Metropolitan Museum, The Stone, The Museum of Modern Art, The Blue Note, CBGB’s, The Stone and the Colosseum (Rome).