John Minnock: What About Today?

What About Today? ()

John Minnock

What About Today? ()

$1.00

The album 'What About Today?' is available for pre-order here.

Release date: April 12th, 2024

Description

On April 26, 2024, Dot Time Records will release A Different Riff: Minnock Sings Shire, the fourth and final studio release from beloved vocalist and master song interpreter John Minnock. Released posthumously following Minnock’s untimely passing in February, A Different Riff is the artist’s heartfelt tribute to the great composer David Shire.

On A Different Riff, Minnock delivers his final love letter to Shire’s work and reprises his extraordinary artistic partnership with soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman. Co-produced by Liebman and Shire, and featuring the former on soprano, A Different Riff finds the latter’s perennial works expertly reworked in a jazz setting by the vocalist with pianist Sean Mason, bassist Mark Lewandowski and drummer Pablo Eluchans.

Simply put, there will never be another John Minnock. With dedication and care, Minnock built a distinct sound and carved out a musical path based on his own authenticity and his passion. Over the course of four official studio albums and countless evenings of song, Minnock drew audiences ever nearer with his inimitable storytelling, his lush vocals, his humor, and his vulnerability. The magic of John Minnock is that John was never afraid to offer audiences all of himself – through the balance of his signature wit with moments of true introspection, the artist painted a dynamic and compelling portrait of contemporary gay life, particularly on his albums Right Around The Corner and Herring Cove. In late February, the world shockingly lost Minnock after he passed from a brief illness. He leaves behind a rich and resonant tapestry of artistic works, ensuring that his legacy will live on. While it is bittersweet to release an album posthumously, Minnock was incredibly proud of A Different Riff, and had often referred to it as his best album yet.

The vocalist recalled being drawn to David Shire’s material because of its “beauty and melancholy and world-weariness and hope.” “I learned of David Shire first through movie soundtracks “The Taking of Pelham One Two, Three”,  “The Hindenburg”, Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” and “Saturday Night Fever”. This was followed by seeing his name on songs like “Starting Here, Starting Now”, and I knew I wanted to work with him,” said Minnock. After the two connected – Shire, whose work has graced stage and screen for nearly sixty years, began writing pieces specifically with Minnock in mind, and a fruitful musical relationship began. Shire provided the songs “After All These Years” and “It Goes Like It Goes” for Minnock’s 2020 album Herring Cove as well as “Simplicity” for Minnock’s 2022 album of the same title.

The thrill and challenge in this album is taking songs I’ve loved and performed, written by the extraordinary composer David Shire, and with Maestro Shire’s active involvement, and then to marry the songs and interpretation with the finest jazz players working today, led by NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman,” Minnock summarized. Pianist Bill Duffy, a dear friend of Minnock’s who collaborated with him for many years, contributed five arrangements.

One of those pieces is the album opener “What About Today?”. Originally produced in 1968, this stirring piece remains relevant in today’s political climate. Liebman masterfully supports the vocal line while the band locks into a tight, moody cadence. Lewandowski and Mason take rousing solos. The vocalist noted: “My interpretation is a bit more introspective than many others – as if for an LGBTQ youth left adrift in the political climate of today – connected, but isolated.” A Different Rift continues with the cabaret staple “I Don’t Remember Christmas” which Minnock presents here in a new light – remaining faithful to the narrative, with a jazz presentation. “Autumn” is a masterclass in vocal dynamics. Presented as a duo with pianist Sean Mason, Minnock’s voice floats upon Mason’s keys as with an unerring precision and an effortless grace.

The title track, “A Different Riff” is a debut, composed specifically for this project by David Shire. Complicated and jagged, but imbued with humor, the piece allows Minnock’s wit to shine through. The vocalist shines while scatting over Shire’s harmonies. “With You I’m Born Again” is one of Shire’s most popular pieces. This duet features Minnock alongside his friend and collaborator Deborah Lippman. Beginning with a bass solo from Lewandowski, Minnock delivers coy humor on “Back on Base”, a tongue-in-cheek song about a singer flirting with his bassist, with the bassist too musically involved to notice.

Only When I Laugh” hails from the same-titled film which has a note-worthy place in LGBT history. The film had one of the first mainstream presentations of a gay character, where neither the film nor the character’s presence was about being gay. Ever a champion of the LGBT community, Minnock dazzles here with a bluesy story-telling approach. “After All These Years”, performed here as a duo with Mason, was initially recorded on Minnock’s Herring Cove. The song is about a same-sex couple together for many years, who were finally given the right to marry. Minnock’s voice bears the full weight of the song’s heart-rending message. Minnock strikes a different chord on “Only Jazz”, a bright, jubilant tune that Minnock describes as an “instant jazz standard with ingenious lyrics.” The album concludes with the David Shire classic “Starting Here, Starting Now”, a mainstay for one of Minnock’s heroes, Barbra Streisand. Beautiful, loving, sensitive and optimistic – Minnock’s passionate rendition is particularly moving after his passing. A bonus track features an instrumental rendition of “With You I’m Born Again” featuring David Shire on piano and Dave Liebman on soprano saxophone – marking the only time these two masters have performed together. “I owe so much to both Mr. Liebman and Mr. Shire, on this ‘musical journey’. To present a track of these two industry leaders, performing together – means everything,” the vocalist reflected.

I was delighted when John Minnock told me he wanted to make an all-Shire album… Since four of the compositions on this album were written specifically as jazz songs, I am especially delighted and honored to have them performed by John, the legendary Dave Liebman, and a stellar jazz rhythm section. I hope you’ll enjoy their unique treatments of all these songs as much as I have,” said David Shire in a statement.

A Different Riff: Minnock Sings Shire is a masterwork, showcasing Minnock at the very peak of his abilities. The artist’s immense vocal power married with his affecting interpretation of the work of David Shire make A Different Riff a true vocal jazz treasure trove and enshrines Minnock’s legacy as one of the great voices and story-tellers of our time.

  1. What About Today? (5:48)
  2. I Don’t Remember Christmas (3:29)
  3. Autumn (3:53)
  4. A Different Riff (2:35)
  5. With You I’m Born Again (4:24)
  6. Back on Base (4:11)
  7. Only When I Laugh (5:16)
  8. After All These Years (5:12)
  9. Only Jazz (2:16)
  10. Starting Here, Starting Now (4:26)
  11. With You I’m Born Again (Bonus Instrumental) (2:02)

John Minnock – Vocals

Dave Liebman – Soprano Sax 

Sean Mason – Piano

Mark Lewandowski – Bass 

Pablo Eluchans – Drums

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