Thursday, August 18, 2016

Corazones by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (2016)

"Corazones" by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (2016)

With "Corazones," ORL takes a complete different direction from anything he's ever recorded in his career. The music is straight ahead folk inspired pop. In this album ORL's vocals come to the forefront. On several tracks his voice is high pitched and airy with a dreamlike quality while on others he exhibits a punk rock mentality and yet on others he channels Johnny Cash with his own unique ORL twist.

Amazon link to "Corazones":

Shortly after the passing of his mom, Omar was commissioned to record a few songs for a film project. Several of the songs on "Corazones" originated from those recording sessions for the film that never materialized. The producers asked for the music to be a straight forward as possible. ORL compares some of these songs to "child-like nursery rhymes." ORL commented, "When working with the director and producer, all the themes that were in the film itself were exactly what I was going through: loss, loss of identity because of such an extreme loss." All of ORL's past albums have been highly experimental some calling his music "metal thrash," electronic progressive," "jazz-fusion" and more. Never though has his music been categorized as "pop" or "ballads" until now.  Some of the songs on the album make me think of Bauhaus meets early 70's Pink Floyd meets 70's Brian Eno.

"Corazones" is mournful, subdued and restrained; this gives it the distinction of being the most mellow and musically accessible album of ORL’s career. Gone are the blazing guitars and intricate time signatures, absent is the extreme experimentalism. What we’ve got is something mournful and introspective played largely on acoustic instruments.

Make no mistake, chaos still reigns and ORL is in no way playing it safe. While musically the album is mostly straightforward, "Corazones" is a roller coaster of emotions, with plenty of ups, downs, twists, and turns as ORL purges the grief of his mother’s death. There’s a sort of western feel about the music that recalls a lone, silent hero facing off against the unknown in a vast, unfathomable desert. Here, the lone gunman is ORL, and the desert is his Superego as he comes to grips with both his mother’s passing and her impact on his life.

With this album ORL's vocals are brought to the forefront whereas in the past his vocals were always a part of the background ambience of the song.

"We Feel The Silence" paints a picture of grief, a haunting Spanish guitar ballad with lyrics of loss and an eerie backwards guitar solo drifting in and out like a ghost. ORL's mysterious vocals lend a melancholy to the song that perfectly accents his beautiful swirls of electronic guitar throughout the song.

"Running Away" is a seemingly sunny and upbeat song yet behind the cheerful feel the lyric touches on the yearning to run away from the emotions of pain and anger over losing a loved one. ORL produced a music video for this song in which all the members of his band punch him in the face. I guess it's supposed to be their way of telling him to stop running away from his hurt and pain and face it head on.

"It Was Her" with it's atmospheric sounds reminds me so much of an 1970s Brian Eno composition meets Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. The experimental guitar chords and ORL's minimal lyrics give the song an expression of emotion that reach right in the center of your heart.

The short 45 second interlude, "Dead Heart" bring us to a Lou Reed style speaking performance by ORL.

"Lola" is simplistic and direct with a 1950s country-pop lean. ORL almost sounds a bit reminiscent of Donovan.

"Sea Is Rising" opens with a Cuban influenced rhythm accented with Marco Giovino's Latin-rock influenced drum patterns. "Sea Is Rising" is ORL's cover of his earlier version of the song. "Sea Is Rising" was originally featured on 2013's "Unicorn Skeleton Mask." The 2013 recording was electronic rapture of dark vocals and bubbling synthesizers. For "Corazones" ORL's vocals are brought to the front as he reimagines the song as a straight ahead rocker with a dramatic blend of electric guitar and syncopated drum rhythms.

"Certainty" is another simple song in which ORL curiously sings in a deep voice.

"Arrest My Father" is the dark-themed song that captures my interest the most. His calling out to have his father arrested is obviously symbolic of pent up emotions. I'm not so sure that he is asking for his father to be arrested but maybe to have his own emotions arrested and contained. In the song he sings "I'm right at the door and I see what you did." He must be talking about the way he reacted to his mother's death when he saw her there lying in her coffin. Stylistically I am also very much attracted to this song which combines Americana guitar styles which reminds me quite a bit of something you'd hear from Johnny Cash along with ORL's mid ranged punk rock vocals.The song is peppered by a locomotive beat and sprightly harmonica.

"Some Sort Of Justice" continues ORLs more than able laid back acoustic guitar sound he has created for this album. Possibly the most personal song on the album ORL sings of loss and pain as he strums the chords of his guitar met by Luke Reynolds' nostalgic keyboards in the middle of the song. Even with a ballad ORL still remains on the edge with his straightforward honest lyrics of the emotions he's felt over the past few years. ORLs brand of ballad reaches beyond the surface of pop confectionary hooks and harmonies and digs deeper into the honesty of pain. ORL never does anything that's just on the surface.

"Five Different Pieces" sports a great organ part lurking behind the drum rhythms with ORL showing off his very deep vocals again. This song deals with the sinister ways hurt and pain can creep up on us. Parts of the uric are playful but reach a point of darkness that bring to light the fact that grief resides right alongside happiness. There’s a superficial happiness to the music that melts away the closer you pay attention.

For anyone who has lost a parent, Corazones strikes a poignant chord. It’s easily the most straightforward and touching effort in his discography, and what he jettisons in musical complexity, he makes up for in emotion. It’s an album of love and shame, pain and joy, truth and lies.

I love this album. It speaks to me in so many different ways and this will be one that remains a favorite for several years to come. This is the album I have been hoping to hear from ORL for quite some time now. The photo of ORL's mother on the cover adds a special touch to the overall finished product.

"Corazones" is the second of twelve new albums ORL will be releasing in 2016. This is an unheard of astonishing feat. I am greatly looking forward to what he has in store for us. I am certain he will take us on an unpredictable ride in terms of volume and range of material.

Amazon link to "Corazones":

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rick Henry’s Jazz Art: Original Photos and Graphics Pay Tribute to Jazz Musicians

Rick Henry’s Jazz Art: Original Photos and Graphics Pay Tribute to Jazz Musicians
- By Irene Economou

“Rick Henry’s Jazz Art” by author and graphic designer, Rick Henry, is a book that combines his original, digitally rendered graphics and photos with his love for jazz musicians. Each graphic is accompanied by a one-page summary of highlights about each jazz musician. The digital enhancement of each graphic creates visuals bursting with rich colors and unusual depth. What I especially like about this book is the strong visual focus that directs our senses to appreciating jazz musicians from a different perspective. It’s a fascinating concept. I wanted to better understand how this idea came about and Rick’s thinking process to make it happen, so I asked him a series of questions about this project. I hope that his responses also answer many of your questions, too.

Irene Economou (IE): Rick, there are a lot of books today written about jazz musicians, but none that I have seen that combine the concept of using a graphic visual to associate with a jazz musician. What was your inspiration for making such a book that focuses on what you are calling jazz art?

Rick Henry (RH): It really was a case of happenstance. I was looking at one of my Facebook photo albums that I call "Rick's Jazz Art." This is a place where I keep some of my more unusual or abstract digital art. At that time I thought that I would really enjoy making a book containing jazz art created with drawings and photographs that I edited with digital software that were dedicated to my favorite jazz artists.

IE: The experience is somewhat esoteric, isn’t it? What is it about jazz music that speaks to your soul? How exactly does it make you feel? Is it only jazz, or can you get this feeling with other kinds of music?

RH: It's the overall feel of the music, the blending of instruments that just seeps right into my heart and soul. Yes, other types of music also reach into my inner being, especially many forms of alternative rock. A good electric guitar part can always send me to that point of "chill."

IE: There are so many jazz musicians, both past and present. Rick, how did you decide on the ones that you chose to focus on?

RH: I wrote the names of about 70 of my favorite jazz musicians on raffle tickets and put them into a box and randomly chose 24 names. Those are the ones that ended up in my book. I also chose the order in which they appear in the book in the same way with the exception of Miles Davis. I reserved the last two pages of the book for him, because Miles is the most influential jazz musician of all-time.

IE: You mention in the introduction of your book that it was Ornette Colman that first intrigued you in jazz music. Is he your favorite jazz musician? If not, who would you say is your all-time favorite? What makes him/her top of your list?

RH: I love too many jazz musicians to have a favorite, but Ornette is in my top ten. He was my first exposure to real jazz music. I discovered him in 1981 when I was working in a music store. One of the guys that worked there used to play Ornette quite a bit, and his avant-garde style really caught my attention.

IE: I saw a documentary recently about jazz musicians, and I remember that Ornette Coleman was viewed as being very progressive and a real game changer.

RH: Yes, that is one of the things I love about Ornette. I have always been attracted to cutting-edge, game-changing music.

IE: In your opinion, how does jazz music today compare with jazz music in the past?

RH: Great jazz music is great no matter what era it was made. I do feel that the 70s is jazz music's greatest decade. That's when it reached its artistic and experimental peak. But really there is a lot of great jazz music being made today. Mind you, I do not consider easy listening, instrumental music to be jazz. There is a big difference between true jazz and easy listening.

IE: Do you feel that jazz music is timeless?

RH: Yes! But isn't that really all about one’s personal taste in music?

IE:  I suppose you are right about that. We are the ones that determine what music is timeless for ourselves based on our own perspective and choices.  I see your point.

Moving on, how familiar are you with each of the jazz musicians you are featuring in your book? Do you own works performed by each of them?

RH: I own music of all the musicians in my book and have a musical bond to each of them.  I am very familiar with the music of each of these 24 musicians.

IE: That’s awesome! Tell me more about the photos/original art you included in this project. Did you create new pieces for your book, or did you work with existing artwork and photos and modify them?

RH: All but one of the images are new creations made specifically for the book and each musician.

IE: I’m curious as to how you matched the graphics with each musician. Was it based on a feeling, or did you know something special about a particular musician that drove the design process and matching?

RH: All the images were based mostly on the actual music itself, and the colors and moods of what I sense from the music. Now, on the other hand, the image for "Brother Jack McDuff” was based mostly on his love of food.

IE: I have to admit that photo of the peas, potatoes and tomatoes that you used for Jack McDuff is very appetizing!! Continuing with this thought, Rick, would you pick a few other examples from your book and tell us why that particular graphic was paired with the given jazz musician?

RH: Certainly! For Twin Danger, I created an image that has a sort of dangerous look to it. It has low, blue flames of fire surrounding two (twin) circles of emptiness. In thinking about Thelonious Monk, I find that his music is somewhat rustic, yet sensational. The image with the water bottles emphasizes the feel of everyday life, yet it is encased with abstract colors and a dramatic red background giving the image a sort of sensationalism. When it comes to Hermann Szobel, his music is out of this world, cutting edge and a universe all its own.

IE: Some of your photos/graphics focus on objects that are easy to identify. But many of the photos fall into the realm of abstract art. What are the objects in each of the abstract photos?

RH: That's just it! The objects in the more abstract images are no more than abstract drawings of abstract feelings.

IE: Thank you for reminding me that feelings can be the inspiration for an artist's creation.

I like how you styled the book to be two pages per musician, with one page as the visual graphic and the adjacent page highlights of the musician, with concise details that include the genres, highlighted albums, collaborators, nicknames, and interesting trivia and facts. I also like your use of bright, colorful backgrounds for each of the pages, too. It’s very appealing done this way!

RH: Thank you! It looked good to me so I went with it. I always attempt to design text so that it is easy and quick to read.

IE: The cover of your book is especially intriguing. I think it’s pretty cool! What can you tell us about it? What are the steps you took to arrive at this design?

RH: Believe it or not, I was actually trying to take a photo of my car battery, which is in my trunk. It was starting to get dark outside, but I decided to take the photo anyway. When I looked at the photo, instead of seeing a battery, I saw a picture of just the shadow of my head. I realized that I had accidentally changed the camera orientation to take a selfie photo.  I thought it was pretty interesting and unexpected, so I decided to work with it. I uploaded it into Photoshop and with my iPhoto editor added the other particles of the image – multiple colors, confetti, etc.

IE: That’s pretty funny, Rick! Accidental photos can be amazing. I’m glad you decided to be flexible and spontaneous with the photograph that you ended up with because the final resulting cover is pretty outstanding!

Looking into the future, I understand you are planning to do a sequel jazz art book that will include more original graphics and photos and different jazz musicians. What is your estimated timing for it?

RH: The sequel will most likely be released in late 2017. Right now I am working on two books, one about my mom called "Tears for My Mother" and a Donna Summer album-by-album book. After those two are completed I will start working on a Pink Floyd book along with Jazz Art II.

IE: Wow, you are going to be one busy person!

RH: Going to be? I already am busier than ever... and here I was going to try and lighten my load.

IE: Thank you, Rick! This was extremely informative! I have been enjoying “Rick Henry’s Jazz Art” very much and have it out on display on my coffee table for guests to enjoy. I also purchased two extra copies to give, as gifts to a couple of my friends that I know will enjoy the photography as well as the info about these musicians. Your next few projects sound very interesting, too. I will look forward to seeing them as well as your next book on jazz art.

Best wishes on all of your projects, Rick!


For More Information:

Check out the video about “Rick Henry's Jazz Art” on YouTube:

Visit Rick Henry’s Facebook page, “Jazz Music Exploration” dedicated to jazz music at:

You can purchase “Rick Henry’s Jazz Art” exclusively from at the following worldwide sites:


United Kingdom:










Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...