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Relix Magazine, DRUM Magazine, Time Out NY, Modern Drummer And More Rally Behind Aaron Comess’ “Brilliant” Album, ‘Blues For Use’ - NYC SHOW IS 5/9
Relix Magazine, DRUM Magazine, Time Out NY, Modern Drummer and More Rally Behind Aaron Comess’ “Brilliant” Album, ‘Blues For Use’
Universal Raves Greet Instrumental CD
RELIX: “A sumptuous auditory feast for serious music fans”
“Comess continues to grow by leaps and bounds, not just as a band leader in his own right but as a composer of endlessly fascinating instrumental excursions”
Universal raves have greeted Aaron Comess’ new CD, ‘Blues For Use’. In their June print edition, RELIX Magazine described it as “a sumptuous auditory feast for serious music fans,” and the new issue of Time Out NY, in a concert preview pick, praised Comess’ “intriguing instrumental solo efforts, which range from rootsy fusion to offbeat hard rock.” Other recent coverage speaks of the “brilliance” of the new collection…“it’s a glimmering work from a drummer who has mastered the art of musicianship. Young pupils, take notice.” Comess will soon be featured in DRUM Magazine as well.
See a range of recent placements, below.
A CD release concert is confirmed for May 9th at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC. Tickets here: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/504437
Relix Magazine – June Issue - By Amy Burger
Amid recording with the likes Joan Osborne, Edie Brickell and Charlie Sexton, as well as his own groups, New York Electric Piano and Spin Doctors, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Comess has released his latest solo effort. Along with guitarist Teddy Kumpel and bassist Richard Hammond, Comess delivers 12 short-but-sweet instrumentals, ranging from ethereal jams to plucky twang to psychedelic, hard rock. Together, they manage to convey a plethora of moods and emotions without any words. “Hard Ball” teases playfully back and forth between fierce rock rhythms and a slow, melodic lullaby. Aptly titled “Sunrise” washes over gently with Kumpel’s dreamy guitar effects, followed in stark contrast with the heavy, Deep Purple-ish “Gorilla.” These well-layered compositions provide a sumptuous auditory feast for serious music fans.
The rock/Blues/jazz drummer/multi-instrumentalist/composer/producer set the bar high for himself on this new collection, and the result is a confident, rollicking, often reflective collection of guitar/drum-based instrumental songs that range from aggressive to understated. In a world of downloadable singles and short attention spans, Comess has intentionally created an ‘album’ in the old-school sense of the word. He comments, "I've always thought of records like a movie where each song is a new scene” – this approach is evident as the tracks unfold, and the dramatic weight of his intelligent music takes hold of the listener. ‘Blues for Use’ features band members Teddy Kumpel on guitar and Richard Hammond on electric bass, both of whom appeared on Comess’ acclaimed 2011 release, ‘Beautiful Mistake’. The new album marks a creative evolution and a confident escalation of Comess’ prowess as a writer, as he “strives to make a record with no dead weight. I want every note and moment of these songs to count and have meaning, like a song with words.”
Time Out NY - May 1 2014 ISSUE
Spin Doctors drummer Aaron Comess supports Blues for Use, the latest in a series of intriguing instrumental solo efforts, which range from rootsy fusion to offbeat hard rock. Comess's fellow Spin Doctor Chris Barron sets the stage.
MEDLEYVILLE.us - INTERVIEW
Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior 5/6/14
PUT TO GOOD USE
Aaron Comess calls on trusty players for new instrumental album
For his third solo effort, Blues for Use, Spin Doctors drummer Aaron Comess
By playing gigs over the past few years, Comess says they’ve really gelled as a band. Those shows also gave the instrumental trio the opportunity to test out and shape a lot of the textured Blues for Use material in a concert setting before entering the studio — something they didn’t do with the songs that ended up on Beautiful Mistake.
The New York-based Comess checked in May 5 to discuss Blues for Use and what the immediate future holds for him, Kumpel and Hammond.
Medleyville.us: When we spoke in 2011 about your Beautiful Mistake album, you talked about writing the melodies and chords on acoustic guitar and coming up with the arrangements before even thinking about drums. Did you take a similar or different approach with the material on Blues for Use?
Aaron Comess: “You know, I would say the majority of it was that same approach. I tend to do most of my writing on acoustic guitar, and then I’ll demo things and build from there.
“There are a few examples on this record where I did a different approach. The song ‘Hard Ball’ actually started with a rhythm. I kept hearing this syncopated rhythm in my head, and then I sat down at the drum kit and figured out the rhythm. Then I took that rhythm and wanted to put a riff to it. … Then I had this cool riff and rhythm, and I needed more to it, so I came up with a couple more sections on the guitar.”
Talk about how playing concerts regularly with Teddy Kumpel and Richard Hammond since the release of Beautiful Mistake influenced the way this album was made. Did you make mental notes about things they did live and subsequently ask them to take a similar approach in the studio this time around?
Comess: “I think the main thing that was so great about making this record with those guys after having a couple of years playing live was we’ve really gelled a lot as a band. And also, when we did Beautiful Mistake, even though we’d played together in a different context, it was the first time we’d played as a trio. And we didn’t play any of the songs live before we made Beautiful Mistake. I basically sent them the demos, I got together with Teddy, and then we went into the studio and recorded everything, so it was really fresh.
“On this record, we had the opportunity to play a lot of this material live at gigs before we went into the studio. So I think it gave the songs more of a chance to develop as a group as opposed to last time, and I think that shows on the record.
“And also, after playing with those guys: When you have a band, you tend to get to know the musicians, and you have them in mind when you’re writing. So I think I wrote more with this particular group in mind, [unlike] last time, it was really having this collection of songs and I thought to myself, ‘OK, who would be my favorite guys to get to do it?’ ”
You liken albums to movies, in that “each song is a new scene.” That said, do you usually provide visual scenarios for the musicians you work with as a way to convey the feel, mood and dynamics you’re trying to achieve?
Comess: “Not necessarily. I’ve always thought of songs in terms of colors and shapes and things like that, and I’ve always thought of full records as something that presents itself from start to finish — having this collection of songs that works together, but I like it when it takes you to a lot of different places: a new color, a new mood and a new scene.
“It’s always been something that I’ve strived for when I’m working on my own music, when I’m producing or when I’m working with the Spin Doctors. Anytime I have a strong creative say in what’s going on in the process of making a record, I try to look at the big picture like that. … Ultimately it’s always about serving the song, but it’s also about creating a mood and a color within that song.”
Your calendar is quite full into August with Spin Doctors dates. Will supporting Blues for Use be one-off shows, or are you planning to carve out a block of time later this year to do a series of solo shows with Teddy and Richard?
Comess: “Our initial plan is to do a show at World Café Live in Philadelphia on May 7, and then we’re doing a Rockwood Music Hall show in New York on May 9. I definitely would like to do more shows. We’ve been playing about once a month for the most part over the last couple of years, and I’m sure we’ll continue to do that. I would love to try to carve out a little window at some point later in the year and do a little run.
“My main goal with this group has been to make really strong records every couple of years and really make it a fun thing. Obviously I’d love to see it grow. We’ve got a nice following around New York, and the records have been getting great response. But it’s hard: I’m so busy doing other things, and the other guys are busy, so it’s hard to carve out a lot of time. I would ultimately like to spend more time with it because it’s such a good, creative project.”
ABSOLUTEPUNK- CD REVIEW By Gregory Robson 5/6/14
Starving artists can learn a lot from Spin Doctors drummer Aaron Comess. On his third solo album Blues for Use he deftly tackles a dozen instrumental blues-tinged gems with awe-inspiring effortlessness. Not only that, he understands simplicity and brevity, and in doing so has created an album that never once tacks on superfluous layers, acrouchements or grandiosity. In short, its aural heaven.
Album opener “Surprise, Part 1,” is a 40-second instrumental that serves as a prologue before diving into the chugging “Hard Ball,” a song that has a fiery spirit but finds time to recoil and scale back. Those dialed down moments, employed by a lilting slide guitar are the moments give the song a weight and density all its own. The slide guitar returns on the languorous and hazy “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” a supple and warm masterwork that lingers long after the final seconds. Blues for Use has many sterling moments, but few are as magnetic as “Guilty.”
The disc’s first acoustic effort comes in the form of the doe-eyed effort “Sunrise,” a deeply-felt concoction of immeasurable beauty and placid grace. Not one to mire in placidity, Comess and Co. kick up the energy on the spitting “Gorilla,” a titanic and stormy current of serious ass-kicking. The uniquely titled “Bajelirious” is the disc’s longest effort, a six-minute epic that is equal parts calculated, impassioned and indelible. Easily one of the disc’s high-water marks, “Bajelirious” draws its strength from some first-rate playing from Teddy Kumpel, whose session time includes the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Feist, Marshall Crenshaw and you guessed it, the Spin Doctors.
The disc’s back half opens with “Clear,” a song that in many ways serves as an extension of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” and “Casa Colonial,” an acoustic effort that takes the fragility of “Sunrise” but dives far deeper. The title track is surprisingly rustic and has an acoustic soul vibe that feels culled from time spent along the Mississippi River, while the near-perfect “Mooonrise,” has a sonic veneer eerily reminiscent of Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios. Acoustic guitars return on the gorgeous lullaby “Finally,” a song that seems tailor-made for Sunday evenings on a Manhattan rooftop. Album closer “Surprise, Part 2,” varies greatly from the opener and pines for something weightier and darker but ultimately finishes in a manner that is both hopeful, resolute and ebullient.
The many charms and peaks of Blues For Use is certainly no surprise to anyone who has tracked Comess’ career with the Spin Doctors, his third solo albums or his in-demand session and stage work, most notably in the James Maddock Band. But its brilliance also serves as a lesson for the hordes of artists who seem more than content to mail it in. Haphazard, lackluster albums from industry veterans are far too common and the litany of excuses can range anywhere from laziness to frequent drug use and on down the line. Blues for Use has none, if any, of these hallmarks. Instead it’s a glimmering work from a drummer who has mastered the art of musicianship. Young pupils, take notice.
BLOGCRITICS- CD REVIEW By Jack Goodstein
Drummer Aaron Comess, probably best known as a founding member of the Spin Doctors, is not one to rest on his laurels. A true artist looks to reach beyond his grasp, to extend himself, and his recent albums as leader of his own trio, playing his own compositions are clear demonstrations of what a talented musician can do when he allows himself to stretch. His 2011 album, Beautiful Mistake
Working again with guitarist Teddy Kumpel and Richard Hammond on electric bass, Comess has put together another set of fine original tunes. Throw in a pinch of rock, a cup of jazz, some blues and you’ve got a recipe for some excellent listening. Rather than looking at the album as a collection of individual isolated pieces, he talks about it as a coherent whole: “I’ve always thought of records like a movie where each song is new scene.” Moreover, he says, with the fervor of the committed artist: “I want every note and moment of these songs to count and have meaning, like a song with words.” As the poet Keats admonished, it is the business of the artist to “load every rift with ore.” Blues for Use shows what instrumental music can do when it takes care of business.
Bookended by “Surprise, Part 1” and “Surprise, Part 2,” the set displays much of the musical development one might expect from Comess given the kinds of things he was doing on his earlier album, but with some surprises. There is the hard rocking “Hard Ball” with its lyrical moments, the country twang of “Sunrise,” and the spacey moments of “Bajelirious.” There are also the relentless rhythms of “Gorilla.” “Casa Colonial” could have been featured in a Western movie, as it fairly reeks of men in the saddle, and the title song, itself, is one sweet bit of blues.
Both Kumpel and Hammond are solid whether rocking or mellowing out. They clearly buy into what Comess is selling, and listening to the product, it is easy to see why.
SOMETHINGELSEREVIEWS- CD REVIEW By Nick DeRiso 5/1/14
He might be best known in rock circles as a founding member of the Spin Doctors
2011′s Beautiful Mistake
From the intriguing arithmatic of “Hard Ball” to the anthemic revelations of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” from the gruff attitude of “Gorilla” to the faintly country-ish ruminations of “Moonrise,” Comess leads a bold charge out of roots conventions too, right into something as free-form and fizzy as it can be.
Collaborating with guitarist Teddy Kumpel and bassist Richard Hammond, Comess continues to grow by leaps and bounds, not just as a band leader in his own right but as a composer of endlessly fascinating instrumental excursions. Blues for Use isn’t, in fact, blues, rock or jazz — or, really, any one thing for long, and therein lies its intrigue.
It’s not just that this couldn’t be any further from “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” It’s that the endlessly fascinating Blues for Use couldn’t be further away from any convention whatsoever. Aaron Comess is scheduled to play a ‘Blues for Use’ album-release concert
MODERN DRUMMER CD RELEASE COLUMN:
THE RECORD JOURNAL – MERIDEN CT by Jim Pasinski –4/14
Spin Doctors drummer Aaron Comess returned to the studio after celebrating the band's 25th anniversary with a tour and a new album. Now, Comess is ready to release his new full-length entitled "Blues For Use." The album showcases a harder rock sound with "Gorilla," which is similar to the early days of heavy metal music when bands like Blue Cheer and Steppenwolf were feeling their way around the new genre. The band is locked into the groove that could play on for hours. Comess and his new bandmates, Teddy Kumpel and Ricahrd Hammond venture toward the progressive rock side with "Bajilirious," before switching over to the lighter feel of the Americana sounding "Blues For Use."
Comess (who also happens to be a founding member of multi-platinum band Spin Doctors,) shares some thoughts on the album:
“I always strive to make a record with no dead weight. I want every note and moment of these songs to count and have meaning like a song with words.
Doing these records of my own has been such been such a liberating creative experience for me after working as band member in the Spin Doctors and working with so many other artists songwriters and producers over the last 25 years. I'm able to bring all that experience I've gained into my own thing and then bring this experience back into the other things I do…It all works together for me
I've always thought of records like a movie where each song is new scene. In an age where people’s attention spans are pretty short, I still think of record making as a whole piece from start to finish that takes you thought different moods and colors but is all is part of one bigger picture.
I love the collaborative process with Teddy and Richard and what they add…they really put themselves in to this recording and helped make it something I’m really proud of… I stand 100% behind every note on this record.
Getting to write and record my own music with this band has been a really gratifying experience that I’m very proud of. I’m really lucky to have such and amazing versatile guitar player like Teddy to interpret these songs, and Rich and I have played with so many different artists together, live and in the studio, and have a developed an amazing chemistry where we don’t have to say a word to each other about anything but where are we going to have lunch! Teddy, Richard and I have been playing out live regularly since we made our last record “Beautiful Mistake”, and have developed a strong band chemistry that really shows on this new record.
I met Roman Klun, who has engineered and mixed all my records, when I did my first album “Catskills Cry” in 2006, from the recommendation of the great Bill Dillon who played guitar on “Catskills Cry”. Since then we started our own recording studio, His House/Innsbrook Studios, and have done a lot of records together. He is extremely talented and versatile in the studio. He really got what i wanted this to sound like.”
My natural instincts tends to go to the weird side of things, but I’m also just as interested in a simple pop song -- I tend to try to make my instrumental songs get to the point like a song with someone singing words would…
About a year ago I started studying with drum master Michael Carvin. This has been an extremely valuable experience so far and he has really pushed me to take things to the next level -- after 25 years in the music business I felt the need to break some old habits and move forward and he has really been inspiring in helping me achieve that goal.
At this point in my life I’m just as inspired by the new generation as the older one so it’s a great time for me creatively. I’m right in the middle of it all and there is so much out there to draw from.” Aaron Comess, New York, 2/2014
Comess recently made his first appearance at the legendary Blue Note in New York City, where he debuted a few songs from ‘Blues for Use’. Later this year, Comess will release another new album, a live CD recorded at Smoke Jazz in NYC. Details will be announced soon.
About the band:
Teddy has a bunch of bands under his own name, which can be explored at http://teddyjam.com. Teddy has played banjo with Feist, guitar with Rickie Lee Jones, sang backgrounds for Nine Inch Nails and is a producer and mixer on the NYC indie scene. He's also a featured soloist on many feature film scores composed by his long time pal and Emmy winner Alex Wurman including "Anchorman", "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Temple Grandin".
"Working with Aaron Comess on his music is always very gratifying and soulful whether in the studio or live. Not only do I get to grooveate with 2 of my favorite NYC musicians/friends, I also really enjoy letting Aaron guide my guitar in a direction I never would go on my own. He jokes that he tries to write things that make me uncomfortable to play because sometimes it takes me a lot of work trying to make the songs my own and interpret them in a way that makes him happy. It's always a satisfying challenge. Aaron is truly a visionary artist both on the drums and as a writer/producer." Teddy Kumpel
Joan Osborne, Patti Austin, Raul Midon and Tired Pony.
"I'm really proud of this record- Aaron has written amazing tunes and everyone really brought such a high level of musicianship to the table. The songs move from a beautiful mellow vibe to all-out rocking- so much fun to play with these guys." Richard Hammond
Comess, whose headlining appearances have been previewed in The NY Times, Modern Drummer and elsewhere, has long ties to jazz and Blues, and has played with such greats as Roy Hargrove, Brad Meldau, Robert Glasper, Bilal, Roswell Rudd, Arnie Lawrence, Deanna Kirk and more. The NY Times’ Nate Chinen affirmed, “Comess has long been a jazz adept.” As a member of the group New York Electric Piano (for the past 12 years,) Comess and band-mates scored a Top 10 jazz album with their most recent CD. Comess is currently studying with legendary drum master Michael Carvin.
In addition, Comess just appeared on legendary jazz trombonist’s Roswell Rudd’s record ...and played a sold-out concert with him at le poisson rouge (other noted musicians on the record and show were John Medeski, Steven Bernstein, Bob Dorough and Fay Victor).
In the studio, and on the heels of collaborating on Joan Osborne’s Grammy-nominated ‘Bring it on Home,’ Comess has been recording drums on her new record “Love and Hate “ which she recorded in his house studios and is due out early April...He is also immersed in the Edie Brickell record he’s been working on, with Charlie Sexton producing and playing guitar, and has been in the studio with James Maddock as well as a host of others. Comess played a track on Garland Jeffries’ latest record, and also recorded a new album in NYC at The Magic Shop with German superstar Marius Westerhagen, to be released in April, accompanied by a tour of Germany. He recorded for the "loop loft' which is available in all guitar centers and online: http://www.thelooploft.com/blogs/ryans-corner/8635137-spin-doctors-drummer-in-demand-nyc-session-drummer-aaron-comess-joins-the-loop-loft-artist-roster. Comess was a featured performer at the Montreal Drum Festival in November:
Comess was recently the featured guest and was interviewed by Liberty Devitto of Billy Joel fame, at a concert presented by Modern Drummer Magazine.
Aaron Comess also happens to be the drummer and a founding member of the multi-platinum-selling SPIN DOCTORS. The band recently released a new album of original Blues music, ‘If the River Was Whiskey,’ which earned the best reviews of their career and was featured in such A-level outlets as CONAN (TBS-TV), USA Today, Elmore Magazine, M Music & Musicians Magazine, RELIX Magazine, NY Observer, Time Out NY and much more. The band is current on a European tour.
Drummer/multi-instrumentalist/composer/producer Aaron Comess won wide acclaim for his powerful 2011 solo CD, ‘Beautiful Mistake’. For Comess, who wrote and produced the album, ‘Beautiful Mistake’ marked an opportunity to step out of the shadows of his many notable collaborative efforts, and into the spotlight. He deftly created sweeping songs that were emotive without words, leaving his commanding drum work and the ‘voice’ of his band’s electric guitar (Teddy Kumpel) and bass (Richard Hammond) to weave a dramatic soundscape.
He is a musician’s musician, long respected as a collaborator who has played on, co-written and/or produced over two hundred albums with an acclaimed and diverse roster of artists including Osborne, Edie Brickell, Isaac Hayes, Marc Cohn, Bilal, Rachael Yamagata, James Maddock, and more. Other upcoming and/or recent work includes Phil Ramone, Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Malcolm Burn and Natasha Bedingfield. Comess is active in the local NYC rock, jazz, experimental music scenes and singer songwriter circuits, and records and produces at his ‘His House Studio’ in the East Village. As a member of the band New York Electric Piano, Comess recently had a Top 10 CD on the CMJ charts. Comess has successfully navigated the tricky music industry for over 20 years, managing to keep his original band (Spin Doctors) together, build an active career as a sideman/session player/producer, and make his own records as a composer/leader. With ‘Beautiful Mistake’, he shines as a songwriter and continues to distinguish himself. Visit Comess’ eclectic Discography to get a sense of the wide range of projects he’s been involved with over the years, from Chris Whitley’s final album to Joan Osborne’s ‘Righteous Love’ to a dozen releases as a member of Spin Doctors: http://www.aaroncomess.com/discography.htm
Key press coverage here: