Jon Regen — Higher Ground (October 4, 2019)

USA FLAG                                                                                         Jon Regen — Higher Ground (October 4, 2019)
„Je to něco jako malý zázrak,“ říká newyorský zpěvák, skladatel a pianista Jon Regen o svém novém albu Higher Ground, které vyšlo 4. října 2019 prostřednictvím Ropeadope. „Je to album, které jsem neplánoval natočit,“ vysvětluje Regen. „Když jsem se stal rodičem, můj koncert a nahrávání bylo okamžitě pozastaveno.“
“Jon Regen’s new album is one of the best things we’ve heard so far this year.” — GARY GRAFF, BILLBOARD
Born: May 8, 1970 in New York City, NY
Location: New York, NY
Album release: October 4, 2019
Record Label: Ropeadope
Duration:     39:48
01. Wide Awake   5:05
02. Hole In My Heart   3:43
03. Jupiter Calling   0:52
04. Higher Ground   3:28
05. Who Cares If Everybody Else Knows   4:04
06. East Side Blues   4:22
07. New Sensation   3:51
08. Every Night   5:05
09. Before   4:53
10. The Last to Go   2:47
11. Goodnight, New York   1:38Jon Regen — Higher Ground (October 4, 2019)Personnel:
Jon Regen — vocals, piano, keyboards
Matt Johnson — keyboards, drum programming, bass, background vocals
Keyboards: Benmont Tench (10) Chuck Leavell (8) Nick Rhodes (5) Matt Rollings (4) Ricky Peterson (6)
Guitars: Andy Summers (9) George Marinelli (8) Rob Harris (1, 6) Matt Beck (4)
Bass: Larry Klein (9) Davey Faragher (5) Tim Lefebvre (8) Derrick Mcintyre (6) Fima Ephron (4)
Drums: Keith Carlock (8) Jerry Marotta (9) David Palmer (4) Alex Reeves (1)
Harmonica: Grégoire Maret (8) Trumpet: Jim Rotondi (1, 6)
Trombone: Luis Diego Bonilla (1) Cello: Julia Kent (4, 11)
Background Vocals: Nicola Sipprell (1) Laura Doggett (5) Gabriel Regen (4) plus Abe Fogle, Alice Offley, Colin Griffiths-Brown, Conrad Korsch, Everett Bradley, John Miller, Lydia Baylis, Ricky Peterson Matt Rollings (6)
All songs written by Jon Regen and published by Jon Regen Music (BMI) except “Wide Awake,” “Who Cares If Everybody Else Knows,” and “East Side Blues,” written by Jon Regen and Matt Johnson and published by Jon Regen Music (BMI) and Matt Johnson.
©2019 Jon Regen Music. All Rights Reserved.
Produced by Matt Johnson
Mixed by Michael H. Brauer at BrauerSound Studios, NYC
Assistant and Pro Tools engineer Fernando Reyes
Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, Edgewater, NJ
Design Rebecca Meek
Cover Photo Anna Webber
Additional Photography Jon Regen
Recorded by:
Jon Regen at Studio G~Machine, New York, NY
Matt Johnson at Wonderworld Studios, UK
Matt Rollings at The Practice Room, Nashville TN
Matt Beck at Mattymay Studios, New York, NY Rob Harris at Harritoons Studio, UK
Jim Rotondi at Little G Recording, Graz, Austria
Alex Reeves at Reevsey’s Drum Studio, London UK
David Palmer at Dave’s Garage, Los Angeles, CA
Ricky Peterson at The Workhouse, Minneapolis, MN
Tim Lefebvre at Black Bird Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Fima Ephron at Supreme Ultimate Studios, New York, NY
Andy Summers recorded by Dennis Smith in Venice, CA
Benmont Tench recorded by John Paterno at Acme Mastering and Massage, Los Angeles, CA
Chuck Leavell recorded by Paul Hornsby at Muscadine Studios, Macon, GA
Davey Faragher’s bass recorded by Bob Thiele Jr. at The Magic Kitchen, Los Angeles, CA
Jerry Marotta recorded by Ariel Shafir at Jersville Studio, Woodstock, NY
Keith Carlock and George Marinelli recorded by Michael Whitaker at Velvet Cinema Studio, Nashville, TN
Larry Klein recorded by Adam Greenspan at Strange Cargo, Los Angeles, CA
Nick Rhodes recorded by Josh Blair at Tape Modern Studios, London, UK
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine; Score: ★★★★
•  There is an aspirational undertone to the title Higher Ground, as if singer~songwriter~keyboardist Jon Regen is imploring himself and his listeners not to settle for the grime and murk that constitute life in the late 2010s. Regen makes this suggestion explicit on “Who Cares If Everybody Else Knows,” when he laments the “war and hate and endless tears,” wondering if we’ve lost our way, a sentiment that resonates deeply in 2019. The clever thing about Higher Ground is, Regen decides not to wallow in this sense of despair; it’s merely one shade on an album that covers a lot of emotional ground. Working with Matt Johnson — a producer who also plays keyboards for the British funk~soul band Jamiroquai — Regen glides between jazz, blues, R&B, and pop, slyly dividing his time between introspection and celebration. Some of the latter comes from the kineticism of his collaborators. Once again, guitarist Andy Summers and fellow keyboardist Benmont Tench both stop by the sessions, and so do Chuck Leavell and Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes, their presence lending the album a sense of warmth and good cheer.
•  Regen remains a gifted purveyor of sophisticated uptown pop: indeed, the album kicks off with two prime examples of this: the percolating “Wide Awake,” which nods to latterday Steely Dan, and the strutting “Hole in My Heart.” Nevertheless, Higher Ground is distinguished by its quieter moments, such as its title track, which finds him searching his heart in the wake of new parenthood and the meditative pairing of “Before” and “The Last to Go,” which helps draw the album to a contemplative but hopeful close. These grace notes help give Higher Ground a deep feeling, a sentiment that lingers long after the album stops playing.
2000    Live at the Blue Note     Half Note Records / Compendia Music Group
2001    Tel Aviv     Q & W Music / Hitone
2004    Almost Home     Hitone
2007    Let It Go     JRM
2011    Revolution     JRM
2015    Stop Time     Motéma Music
2019    Higher Ground     Ropeadope
A powerfully introspective political rock song, with help from Police guitarist Andy Summers.
In the Trump era, the protest song can be properly angry — see Gary Clark Jr.’s “This Land.” But it can also be quiet and thoughtful, almost mournful, as if the onslaught of troubling news is simply too much to handle. Lana Del Rey’s breathy~folk response to mass shootings, “Looking for America,” is one example, and Jon Regen’s “Before” can now be added to that slowly growing pile.
Over a steady electro~pulse and a warm bath of synths, Regen, a New York~area singer, songwriter, pianist and journalist, reflects on what we’ve done to our world and what we can all do to salvage it before everything is ruined. “Before our children have to pay/For all the wreckage we have left,” he sings. “Before we can’t undo the damage we have done/Or turn the clock back and reset.”
Musically and lyrically, the net effect is reminiscent of Sting’s solo work~without the British accent but, coincidentally, with some tasteful guitar flourishes by way of Andy Summers. Summers isn’t the only bold~face involved here. The song also features bassist Larry Klein, who played with and produced Joni Mitchell during the Eighties and into the following decade, and drummer Jerry Marotta, known for working with a host of acts, especially Peter Gabriel.
Both “Before” and Regen’s entire Higher Ground album were produced by Jamiroquai’s Matt Johnson, and much of the album feels, not surprisingly, like a modern take on Jamiroquai’s sprightly blend of pop and R&B. “Before” stands apart, though. The song amounts to a series of unanswered questions about what anyone can do and how we’ll look back on the damage we’ve done, assuming the planet survives, and you can practically see the concerned frown on Regen’s face as he sings:  “I want to know before I leave here /That this was more than just a chase /And when they look at us a century from now /We’ll stand for something more than shame.” It may not be the type of song chanted at a protest rally, but it may be the one you put on when you’re back home and hoping your presence made a difference.