Latest Music

Pallet On Your Floor

Becca Stevens and Elan Mehler

Released: 2020 Genre: Jazz Folk

Becca Stevens and Elan Mehler find a moment of respite in hard times with their new album, Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor.

GRAMMY(c)-nominated vocalist and guitarist Becca Stevens and acclaimed pianist and composer Elan Mehler have a friendship that stretches back over a decade. The pair first began playing together in 2009 for Mehler’s record The After Suite (Brownswood), and toured the U.S. and Europe. During this period Becca guested a couple of times at Elan’s residency in the Swiss Alps. It was a concentrated musical experience--during their stays they would play often for two weeks, 4 sets a night.

“The music I was writing at the time was harmonically pretty dense, and it was a privilege working with Becca on that material because her range and her ears are so incredible. But it was during these nights in Switzerland that I first heard what a unique and powerful interpreter of standards she was.” says Mehler of their time together.

Reuniting nearly a decade later, Stevens and Mehler’s Make Me A Pallet on Your Floor, (out December 18th, 2020) is a collection of first and second takes--immediate, raw and stripped down versions of these weathered songs.

The material is standards and folk tunes, each song starting from a clean palette and unfolding at its own pace. In their cover of Gershwin’s, “Our Love is Here to Stay,” the duo play the tune dirt slow. It’s a change that gives the track a bit of a skeptical undertone, giving it a dark and playful interpretation that’s emblematic of the album. Both Becca and Elan are huge fans of Gillian Welch and the duo beautifully cover the Welch track “Elvis Presley Blues” as well as Welch’s version of the title track, “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor.” Originating in the 19th century, “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” has been interpreted by hundreds of artists in a variety of styles and with a variety of lyrics. Welch’s version is notable for its deviation in tone from the ribald to a search for sanctuary. Bringing life to the lyrics, “Man I’m broke and I got no place to go,” Stevens channels this tone and captures the feelings of crashing on a friend’s floor when things seem hopeless.

In a time of extraordinary uncertainty, it feels especially poignant to hear two old friends explore what it means to find a place of quiet comfort in music.

Read more… close
0:00/???
  1. 1
    0:00/6:19

Recordings

If There Are Mountains

Dave Douglas and Elan Mehler

Released: 2019 Genre: Jazz Folk

I’ve been pitching Dave Douglas to come record for Newvelle Records since the label began, so it genuinely surprised me when Dave proposed recording a project together. Dave had set some haikus to music in the early 2000’s, and we had covered one of those songs — “Village of No Bells” — on a gig we played together in Denver. I loved the way Dave told an almost parallel story to these short lines from 17th century poet Basho, amplifying the message but also turning it on its head.

Village of No Bells - Text by Basho (Composition: Dave Douglas)

Village of no bells, Spring evenings, What’s to listen for?

Despite my lack of knowledge of Japanese poetry, I started reading haikus and searching for a “click” that would inspire some compositional ideas for me. It was rough going. I had expected this world of ancient Japanese poems to yield images and gestures that would be fertile ground for musical exploration. Haikus, to my uneducated ears, were often quotidian and startlingly matter of fact. But, inspired by Dave’s faith in me, I spent weeks reading through collections, feeling completely lost. Then, I found my spark:

Even a Nameless Stream - Text by Yosa Buson (Composition: Elan Mehler)

May rains, Even a nameless stream, Is a frightening thing

I heard those first two words, “May rains,” in an ascending interval of a fifth. A declaration and a harbinger and the rest of the song followed in minutes. I loved building these compositions out of such coded input. It felt like a key to a secret world. When I heard what Dave had been composing in our first rehearsal, it sent me reeling (and back to the drawing board on my own tunes). Dave is well-known in certain circles for his fastidious charts, but not in the way you would expect. There’s a movement in improvised music toward the overly elaborate composition. Mixed meter, thorough composition, elaborate counterpoint, and huge stylistic changes are all commonplace. In contrast, Dave’s compositions are generally very simple but also very precise. This rigor of attention is actually freeing for the musician, because the departure point is so clear. Something in Dave’s style has a clear consonance with the haiku form: “Start here. Jump.”

We Saw You Off- Text by Saigyo (Composition: Dave Douglas)

We saw you off, And returning through the fields, I thought, Morning dew had wet my sleeves, But it was tears

With Your Singing- Text by Basho (Composition: Dave Douglas)

With your singing make me lonelier than ever, You solitary bird, Cuckoo of the forest

What an incredible band we’ve pulled together for this record! John, Dominique, Simón and Dayeon have such unique perspectives and voices, and it was humbling to see how they threw themselves into these compositions. This band coalesced around the initial gig in Denver in 2018. Dave and Dominique had known each other for many years. I had just met Dominique at a Lee Konitz show, and we subsequently played a duo show. Dominique is a bit of a legend around Boston. She’s been a mentor and a teacher to many if not most of the outstanding vocalists of the last couple of decades, and her years of work with Ran Blake are a continual astonishment.

If There Are Mountains- Text by Santoka Taneda (Composition: Dave Douglas)

If there are mountains, I look at the mountains, On rainy days, I listen to the rain

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Tomorrow, too, will be good, Tonight, too, is good

The Spring Current- Text by Buson (Composition: Elan Mehler)

Wading through it, Her feet muddied, The spring current

Working on these pieces made me think of one of my favorite poets and song writers, Adam-McBride Smith. Adam has a real gift for evocative natural depictions. I had set to music a poem of his, “Here on the Plains,” for a project we released together in 2010. I knew it would be perfect for this band. OnceI started tinkering with it, I reached out to Adam about working on something new, and he wrote the astonishing lyrics to “Wolf Orchard.”

Wolf Orchard - Text by Adam McBride-Sm ith (Composition: Elan Mehler)

In orchard dreams, The hired man’s gone, And hounds lie low

How the gold grass climbs, In orchard dreams

In orchard dreams, How the cold frost limes, The wire bound cross, And foxglove crowns, The fruitless beams

Now the cold keeps time, Disordered scenes, And bootless dreams

Man’s gone now, And wolves lie down, In Orchard dreams

Here on the Plains - Text by Adam McBride-Smith (Composition: Elan Mehler)

Through the window, We watch the wind blow, Silver breakers through the summer fields, Storm-clouds’ shadows, Swallow silos, Homes and hedgerows, Man the harpoons!

Here on the plains we wake, To find the air grown salty, Our talk saltier still, Interlaced with courtly pleasantries,, And perilous dipthongs from old world tongues, Our hands would almost, Mistake the plow handle for keel, And we go sailing off, Into the endless waves of grass

The overwhelming emotion I get out of listening again to the record, almost a year after we got out of the studio, is gratitude. I’m writing these notes in June 2020, and the world feels VERY unbalanced and frightening. It’s such a balm to feel thankful. To feel connected—with these poets, these amazing musicians, the music, the Newvelle Community, Marc Urselli and our home at East Side Sound, the visual artists who lend us their work every year… It all spins out into something larger and it alights on an evening like this, like an enormous gift.

– Elan Mehler, Newvelle Records

Read more… close

Piano Noir

Elan Mehler

Released: 2018 Genre: Jazz

Newvelle Records is proud to present “Piano Noir” an album written and recorded to illustrate and accompany a brand new Douglas Kennedy short story.

At Newvelle, our members are fascinated with the larger canvas that vinyl music affords--the depth of a groove, the breadth of a sound wave, the frame of a photograph, the stroke of a paintbrush, the expanse of a story.

Newvelle cofounder, Elan Mehler, reached out to Douglas after reading this New York Times Profile. Douglas responded almost immediately and by the end of the week, after a quick breakfast meeting, Douglas agreed to write an original work for Newvelle. When Newvelle cofounder Jean-Christophe Morisseau read the resulting story he knew that this piece required its own frame of original compositions… Flash forward ten months and Elan brought a stellar band to our regular studio in the Lower East Side to record an original set of music inspired by the story, featuring Michael Blake, Jason Palmer, Simón Willson and Dor Herskovits. With artwork designed by our Season 3 collaborators Case Simmons and Austin Lynch, we are very excited to present this collaboration to the world.

Piano Noir - by Douglas Kennedy

“She was a bike messenger. I met her because, on that December night, it was she who delivered weed to my apartment. Her name was Shelley. A name which the ageing hipster in me always responded to, as it conjured up an earlier girlfriend who shared the same faux-poetic name. I met the first Shelley around the time we were about to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. She dressed in long-flowing diaphanous skirts and India-pilgrimage white linen shirts. She dreamed of being an ‘abstract expressionist choreographer’ - whatever that was - and fulfilled all those longings I had back then for the ethereal bohemian girl of my dreams. Last I heard she was a divorced accountant living in that capital of depressed mundanity: Hartford, Connecticut. Such is the way of life when you decide you have no choice but to play the American conformist game.

I should talk. Once upon a time I was going to play jazz piano and become the next Bill Evans...”

Artists:

Michael Blake Jason Palmer Elan Mehler Simón Willson Dor Herskovits Featuring on vocals: Michael Mayo

Side A

Christopher's Place (Piano Noir Theme) 0:53 How to Be Alone 3:49
L'Amour Fraternel 3:27 Call Your Own 3:22 Ms. Pedantic - 2:58 Rabbit & Bear 4:04

Side B

Oscar's Hideaway 4:14 Crazy Ivan 4:10 Waltz for Shelley 4:23 Any Place But Here 3:52 Christopher's Place (Piano Noir Theme) 3:11

Recorded: June 20th 2017

Cover artwork by: Case Simmons Story by Douglas Kennedy

All songs written and arranged by Elan Mehler / © BMI EXCEPT: Any Place But Here written by Elan Mehler/ © BMI lyrics by Adam McBride-Smith © ASCAP Recorded by Marc Urselli June 20th 2017 at East Side Sound NYC, New York.  Mixed by Marc Urselli Mastered by Alex DeTurk, New-York. Produced by John Caulkins, Elan Mehler and Jean-Christophe Morisseau | Story by Douglas Kennedy | Graphic work: Têté á Têté, GR8! Design, Autrement le design, | Newvelle Records would like to thank: Douglas Kennedy, Yann Diologent, All rights reserved. Unauthorized copying, reproduction, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting prohibited. Made in the E.U.

Read more… close

TJ and the Revenge

TJ and the Revenge

Released: 2018

The inaugural release of Little Lost Records featuring: Elan Mehler, Bill Frisell, Simon Willson and Dor Herskovits.

"Vaudevillian atmospheres have you step right up with Mehler growling out like a carney on “Love In Retrospect,” “Jesus Pants” and the Captain Beefheartian “I’m Not For Everyone,” which pretty well sums up the band’s attitude." - George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly

Read more… close
0:00/???
  1. 1
    0:00/2:54