STICK INNOVATOR DON
SCHIFF RELEASES "PEERING OVER
(Los Angeles, 18 July 2005) Don Schiff announces his latest recording effort, "Peering Over Clouds", a deep progressive instrumental journey performed with the exotic NS/Stick instrument from Stick Enterprises. Known for his compelling work with Lana Lane, Erik Norlander and Rocket Scientists, Schiff steps into the limelight as an emotional soloist, a sophisticated arranger and a truly evocative and original composer.
With his battery of cutting-edge performance techniques, Schiff takes the NS/Stick to places not even conceived of by the instrument's inventors. From slide leads to tapping rhythms to strummed chordal patterns, Schiff conjurs images of classic guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Steve Howe and David Gilmour yet still manages to inject the music with a forward thinking vision and unbridled enthusiasm. Schiff's love of all things musical is omnipresent on the album, and you can easily hear his jazz roots, his rock spirit, his R&B grooviness, all bound by his truly progressive innovation.
"Peering Over Clouds" is a diverse collection of songs, taking its influences from a wide variety of sources. At times it's jazzy while at others it evokes more of a world beat vibe. There are forays into pop, funk and fusion. Lest anyone be tempted to say that this is just an excuse to put the NS/Stick through its paces, it must be emphasized that all of this is anchored by a unified musical vision. "Peering Over Clouds" is marketed as a progressive rock instrumental album, but don't go in expecting airy-fairy soundscapes or a prog-metal shredfest. This is progressive in the strictest definition of the word: boldly pushing back the known boundaries of a musical form.
Joining Schiff on "Peering on Clouds" is world percussionist Greg Ellis (Vas, Erik Norlander, The Matrix films) who brings his unique rhythmic colors to punctuate, drive and expand Schiff's compositions and arrangements. Schiff and Ellis have worked together for two decades, and the two have a deep understanding of rhythm and groove. Their combined talents form perhaps the ultimate rhythm section.
"Peering Over Clouds" is produced by Erik Norlander, the sonic craftsman behind the music of Lana Lane, Rocket Scientists and his own solo albums. Norlander produced the album especially for his Think Tank Media label, giving it the style and quality for which those releases are so renown. Cover art is by Polish surrealist, Jacek Yerka, who has provided the astounding paintings for the many albums of Lana Lane.
Fans of melody, fans of rhythm, fans of technique, of progressive and artistic music will delight in this adventurous new release from this instrumental master. There is a core musicality throughout that is uniquely Don Schiff. Those who have witnessed Schiff's astonishing live performances can immediately identify his signature sound. His impeccable phrasing and his pioneering use of innovative techniques have his name stamped all over them. The NS/Stick is Don's voice. It is the means by which he expresses himself, and the tale he tells is eloquent indeed. "Peering Over Clouds" is a real musical journey and one that is not to be missed!
Peering Over Clouds - personnel:
Don Schiff - NS/Stick
Greg Ellis - percussion
Produced by Erik Norlander for Think Tank Media, USA
1. Peering Over Clouds
2. Winds of Fire, Winds of Change
3. Under the Olive Tree
4. Secret World
5. Inside the Color of Dreams
6. Tomorrow's Magic
7. Reflective View
8. From Where the Past Began
9. The Eighth Wonder
10. A Whiter Shade of Pale
11. Talking in Tongues
12. Between Sound and Silence
13. Crossing the Lines of Reason
EXCERPTS FROM THE
This recording, though, is one giant synchronistic moment. For me it happened in a blur of 2 days. Don and Erik brought the tracks over to my studio with some sheet music for some of the trickier polyrhythmic dialogue. We would listen to each song a couple of times and talk through ideas and then they would turn me loose. Sometimes I felt like I was freefalling without a parachute but with Don and Erik's direction, it ended up being quite a cathartic experience. I feel it's such an honest album. It showcases some of Don's best work ever both as a composer and musician. I'm proud to have been a part of it. It was as much a pleasure to play on as that first session all those years ago. How fitting it includes a new version of "Under The Olive Tree".
Here is an instrumental romp on the "NS/Stick" multi-purpose bass guitar by an artist otherwise known as a songwriter and professional recording session bassist and Stickist. "Clouds" is a roller-coaster ride through blazing two-handed lead solos, cracking bass lines that "speak out", intricate patterns of clean string accompaniment, and brilliant slide guitar styled highlights - all done on one tapping fretboard instrument. It's as if Jimi Hendrix picked up an eight-string, long neck guitar and was given free reign in a state-of-the art digital recording studio.
Don the virtuoso instrumentalist collaborates with Erik Norlander, his ingenious engineer/producer friend, to create an original concept in instrumental sound pervading this album. Both share a historic sense of rock and roll pageantry which unfolds in ever shifting moods, keys, rhythms and textures. The listening experience for me was like an intense film score, where all the musicians get to play what they want, and all the musicians are Don plus the imaginative Greg Ellis on drums.
The NS/Stick design is all about the variety of techniques you can play on it, from "Stick" styled string tapping with independent hands, to rock guitar styled tapping with interdependent hands, to all the conventional bass guitar techniques based on picking and plucking with the right hand. What I didn't realize was that an artist would come along with "bad intent", that is, to play various combinations of these techniques at the same time, delegating different techniques to each hand, then dividing each hand into two parts for yet more techniques. Don is an orchestra, and he executes it all effortlessly in live performance. He even takes it further, shifting seamlessly from one playing method to another with no abrupt changes of volume or tone in the transitions. The end result is a musical portrait of Don Schiff, a composer and improvisor who has at last torn down all technical barriers and can now play with his head "peering over clouds".
Well, these guys have said a lot, and somehow there is still so much to say about Don and his music. But I'll keep it brief! I have known Don since the 80s, working with him on countless albums, sessions and tours. As a musician and as a human being, Don is DEEP. His music, his spirituality, his friendship, his commitment to his family ... they all intersect and create the whole person, the whole artist. Don has a lightness about him, but he doesn't take anything lightly. It all has meaning, it all has purpose. Don can play just about ANYTHING, and I have seen him play just about EVERYTHING throughout the course of our collaborations. I am happy and proud to have helped to point him down just one path that is Peering Over Clouds. Many more roads ahead!