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Half Seas Over

Half Seas Over is a collaborative project from acclaimed pianist Elan Mehler who, while working together with singer-songwriter Adam McBride-Smith on ‘The After Suite’ (Brownswood, 2009) discovered a rich vein of material in the melding of their compositional styles. Their partnership flourished and the two went on to write an astonishing batch of tender, richly cinematic songs, with moments of subtle revelation that draw on folk and rock music as much as jazz.

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“Half seas over” is an old maritime expression used to describe a drunken sailor, and though the wiles of alcohol is a theme running through some of these new songs, the name has a deeper significance for Elan and Adam. “To me, it’s about the midway point—being halfway between here and there,” says McBride-Smith, who left the US for France in 2007. “We also wrote this record with an ocean between us, so you could take the name pretty literally as a description of our geography as we were composing these songs.”

Half Seas Over also represents the midway point where two musical styles converge. Brownswood mainstay Elan Mehler is an accomplished pianist and composer with a wistful, brooding air and a sensitivity and lightness of touch that belie his lanky frame and dry wit. He has cemented his reputation via two superb albums of elegant, introspective modern jazz on Brownswood Recordings: ‘Scheme For Thought’ and ‘The After Suite’. Oklahoma native Adam McBride-Smith, whose own recordings have ranged from alt-country to folk-rock, initially caught Elan’s ear when the two were living in the same neighbourhood of Brooklyn, NYC. “Jazz musicians and singer-songwriters don’t always seem to speak the same language”, explains Elan. “But in some ways this project was a natural transition for both of us.” One of Adam’s songs, “I Want to Leave You,” proved so memorable to Elan that he later caught up with Adam in Paris to re-record it. The resulting track, a haunting, sparse duet of piano and vocals is featured on Mehler’s “The After Suite.”

From this collaboration a mutually inspiring working relationship developed which brought the duo to a 5-day recording session with Max Goldman (drums), Liam Robinson (accordian) and Tod Hedrick (bass) at Brooklyn’s Gardentone Studio under the aegis of engineer Steve Wall. The resulting record straddles the grey areas between jazz, folk and rock music, but seems perfectly at ease in its hybrid state, as described by Adam: “I hope that other people hear in this music what we do: something both strange and strangely familiar; minimal and complex; the point on the horizon between this shore and the other.”

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  • Half Seas Over CD / Digital