“This record for me is a synthesis of jazz and folk traditions where improvisation, joy, and community are the crux of the matter. We played these songs live and straight to tape aiming to capture the essence of each song whether we played as a full ensemble, trio, or solo. It took some time to get this record out, but here it is – a seed and snapshot of being.” – Miriam Elhajli
Miriam Elhajl is a Venezuelan-Moroccan-American composer and vocalist whose work is influenced strongly by the folkloric musics of the Americas, modern jazz, and contemporary classical music.
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Elhajli grew up playing music of varying traditions on street corners and stages before studying Jazz at Berklee College of Music. Currently based out of Brooklyn, NY, she performs around town as a mime, puppeteer, and itinerant singer alongside working as a researcher at The Association for Cultural Equity founded by Alan Lomax. Elhajli’s debut record OBSERVATIONS and her follow-up THE UNCERTAINTY OF SIGNS are set to be released independently on Numina Records this year.
With a sound that recalls Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash along with the cynicism of grunge and punk, nobody could believe wry singer/songwriter Willy Mason was only 19 when he appeared on the indie scene.
Born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, Mason grew up with his parents’ love of folk music. He loved it, too, but his teen years brought Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine into his life. Mason found their political and social messages much easier to identify with and soon combined folk’s softer and looser delivery with the revolutionary attitude of his new heroes. Writing came easy now and the teenager had plenty of self-penned material ready when a family friend asked him to appear on his local radio show. As luck would have it, Sean Foley — an associate of Conor Oberst and his band, Bright Eyes — was driving through Cape Cod as Mason was on the air. Foley was captivated by Mason’s song “Oxygen” and left his phone number at the radio station, setting off a chain of events that would have Oberst and Mason hanging out, doing gigs together, and touring America.
Tours with Rosanne Cash, My Morning Jacket, Evan Dando, Beth Orton, and labelmates Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins increased the fan base and influenced the Astralwerks label to pick up the debut. Astralwerks reissued Where the Humans Eat in early 2006 with bonus tracks and videos added to the original album. That same year Mason assembled a band that included Nina Violet and cousin Zak Borden, and in 2007 his sophomore record, If the Ocean Gets Rough, came out, while a live set at the Austin City Limits festival soon followed. By 2008, two world tours had taken their toll and Mason sought respite back on Martha’s Vineyard, only occasionally venturing further afield to play live. He returned to the public eye in 2012 with Carry On, an album produced in south London by Dan Carey which incorporated the use of digital rhythm tracks and electric guitars. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi