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Christian Howes Releases "SOUTHERN EXPOSURE", Celebrating The Music of Latin America & Spain

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by Mark Subel on February 18, 2013

Columbus native and jazz violinist, Christian Howes, is celebrating the release of his third release on the Resonance Records label. The album entitled “SOUTHERN EXPOSURE”, celebrates the music of Latin America & Spain.

Throughout his life and career, Christian Howes has thrived on venturing outside of his comfort zone. He’s taken the violin into the relatively unexplored territory of modern jazz, combining classical training with soulful expressiveness; he’s emerged from hardships and challenges with an ever-stronger, more individual voice; and he’s been on the vanguard of digital-age entrepreneurship with his online classes and virtual string orchestra.

On his third release for Resonance Records, Southern Exposure, Howes takes another unexpected turn, this time into the realm of Latin music, exploring a diverse range of repertoire from Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, and Spain. His chief companion for the journey is French accordion master Richard Galliano; both are buoyed by the smoking rhythm section of pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Lewis Nash.

Howes called the opportunity to collaborate with Galliano inspiring, saying, “Richard’s musicianship in the studio compelled me to rise to a high level of expression. His playing is full of maturity and virtuosity.” Working with a jazz rhythm section rather than more Latin-oriented players brought a unique, hybrid feel to the session that Howes felt energized both him and Galliano.

“We certainly play up aspects of these Latin musical traditions on the CD, but there’s also a sense of searching for something new to bring to the music,” Howes says. “There’s a combination of modern jazz risk taking mixed with a virtuosic classical approach when called for.”

Another key collaborator was Resonance founder George Klabin, who produced the session and worked closely with Howes on its central concepts. “George is really motivated by a love of the music, having even gone to the point of establishing Resonance Records as a not for profit foundation” Howes says.

“It’s a form of artistic expression for him. He’s passionate about this project and has been like a father figure throughout the process of making three records together for Resonance.”

Despite a flourishing collaboration with some of Madrid’s finest musicians over the past decade, Howes is the first to admit that this material is far from natural for him. “It’s a challenge to play any style of music with a mixture of authenticity and originality,” he says. “I wanted to bring something fresh and relevant to these familiar styles.”

That integrative approach is one which Howes has proved himself adept at over the years. Classically trained, he found himself suddenly thrust into the midst of musicians from the street and the church while serving a four-year jail sentence in the early 1990s. “Prison was the low point in my life and created this burning drive in me never to go back to that darkness. The experience was very difficult. I learned from it and found my way as a performer and an educator, and I hope I can ultimately use the experience for good.”

But he learned vital lessons during that otherwise bleak tenure, infusing a deep feeling for the blues, gospel and jazz music into his virtuosic technique. At the same time he earned a degree in philosophy from Ohio State University, adding a renewed perspective to his outlook. Those experiences taught him to find himself in every style of music, which he now carries over into the work of composers like Astor Piazzolla, Ivan Lins, and Egberto Gismonti.

The album begins with Howes and Galliano combining for the boisterous, celebratory melody of Brazilian composer Egberto Gismonti’s “Ta Boa Santa,” then takes a turn for the romantic on Ivan Lins’ darkly passionate “Aparecida,” which features some of Howes’ most heart-wrenching expression. The band wrings every ounce of emotion from legendary composer Astor Piazzolla’s elegiac tango “Oblivion” and from flamenco great Paco de Lucía’s melancholy “Cancion de Amor.”

The rhythm section vigorously propels pianist Ray Bryant’s hard-charging “Cubano Chant,” made famous on Art Blakey’s 1956 album Drum Suite. Galliano contributes the intense, visceral “Heavy Tango” and pairs off with Howes for the duet “Spleen,” which most captures the French salon feel that one might expect from their pairing.

Howes also adds his own voice to the lineage with two new compositions conceived especially for this project. The first, “Tango Doblado (Bent Tango),” is a mixture of the traditional tango and jazz modernism, employing odd meters and a sprawling, constantly evolving form.

The title of the second, “Gracias Por Ilustrarnos (Thank You For Teaching Us),” is a play on the traditional closing of a Suzuki violin method class, and is dedicated to Ginny Christopherson, who taught both young Christian and his now fourteen-year-old daughter. The tune itself is a lush piece for string orchestra and rhythm section which
highlights his innovative production service, Strings On the Fly, which utilizes file-sharing to turn a few players scattered across several continents to conjure a virtual string section.

“My team of string players includes cellists in Boston and New York, violinists or violists in Wisconsin and Los Angeles, bassists in Madrid and Minneapolis,” Howes says. “It’s a remote, virtual collaborative orchestra service that grew out of my combination of skills and interest in both classical and improvised music.”

The production service exists alongside Howes’ other innovative business model, an online school which boasts hundreds of students from around the globe. These groundbreaking ventures have allowed him the ability to leave the pressures of New York to raise his family in his native Columbus, Ohio while remaining a vital presence on the modern jazz scene. His efforts have earned him the top spot in Downbeat’s 2011 and 2012 Critics Poll as Rising Star Violin and a nomination for Violinist of the Year in that year’s Jazz Journalists Association Awards.

Release Date: February 12, 2013
Produced by Label Founder George Klabin
with Special Guest French Accordion Master RICHARD GALLIANO
For more information on Christian Howes, please visit http://www.christianhowes.com/ or
contact Matt Merewitz at Fully Altered Media: (347) 384-2839 or matt@fullyaltered.com

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