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      Amos Lee in Portland

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      August 25, 2019

      Sunday   7:00 PM

      4001 Southwest Canyon Road
      Portland, Oregon 97221

      Amos Lee

      with Madison Cunningham
      Over the course of more than a dozen years and six studio albums, Amos Lee has continued to evolve,develop, and challenge himself as a musician. With SPIRIT, he makes his biggest creative leap yet.Most notably, for the first time, Lee acted as his own producer. While his last two albums bore the stamp ofstrong producersJoey Burns of Calexico on 2011s Mission Bell (which debuted at Number One on theBillboard 200, Amazon, iTunes charts, and spun off a hit single with "Windows are Rolled Down") and JayJoyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church, Cage the Elephant) on 2013s Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of SongLeefinally felt ready to take over the helm.Ive been wanting to produce my own record for a long time, he says, explaining that he met with numerouscandidates before concluding that he should make the move. "What I wanted to provide was a placefor musicians to come and feel they were able to express themselves, and contribute in their own voice theway I was able to contribute in mine.Lees sense of ambition for SPIRIT largely derived from his own live performing experiences in recentyears. "Working with folks like the LA Philharmonic and the Mobile, Alabama Community Gospel Choir openedmy mind to the possibility of pushing the edges of arrangement away from solitary moments into morecollaborative, community experiences," he says. "These were transformative creative opportunities that I neverdreamed I would have. To stand on stage and be equal parts participant and observer during these careerdefiningmoments was such a thrill, and I credit the singers, arrangers, and conductors for being so open andgenerous to the songs."Along with such monumental events as working with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (a performance whichyielded Lee's most recent release, Live from Red Rocks), being a band leader over the last decade has alsohelped Lee hone his craft as an arranger. "I have a great, great bandthe most gentle, genuine, musicallyopen-minded people," he says. "I push them some, but they always respond with creativity, and they inspireme to open things up musically. The versatility of my live band has been a gradual concept I've been workingon since I started playing at the club The Tin Angel in Philly in 2002. Back then, we would play three- or fourhourshows. We had horn sections, violins, extended jams, improvisational songs, and whatever else wouldcome from the ether. This current group of players I have on the road with me has re-inspired me to be moreopen, and less protective. I think SPIRIT reflects this attitude, and the vibrations are very much reflections ofthe connections."I've always loved such a wide range of music." Lee adds, discussing some new influences, which were pullinghim toward a new sonic direction. Ive been listening to a lot of Schoolboy Q, Drake, the earlier stuff byThe Weeknd, and I was wanting to open up that box a little more, he says. "I've always loved '90s R&B, andnow with streaming services, it's so easy to sample so much new music."To begin the new project, he began assembling musicians who he felt could blend a dynamic yet organicmarriage of modern rhythm with classic instrumentation. I chose the players because I had this instinct andhunger to challenge myself and expand,"says Lee, "and the foundation of this record was built when Ichose the rhythm section.A performance by the Robert Glasper Trio in Philadelphia led Lee to the realizationthat Mark Colenburg was the drummer he was looking for. "I remember watching Mark play with suchincredible facility and musicality," he says. "He's such a diverse and soulful listener. It was one of those eurekamoments, and he elevated everything so much."Lee had known bassist Adam Blackstone (whos played alongside artists from Jay-Z to Al Green to JustinTimberlake) for years, but had never worked with him. "Adam is a genius," he says. "He's playing and hearingeverything four bars ahead of everyone else. As a first-time producer, he was such a blessing to have." Findinga three-day window when both of these busy players were available, Leealong his live band's musicaldirector, Jaron Olevskywent to Nashville. They knocked out ten songs, most in one or two takes, and thecore of SPIRIT was formed.We had never played with this kind of rhythm section before, says Lee. And we came away from thesesessions with a hybrid sound I wasnt able to find in my previous records, but which Ive always gravitated to asa listenerreal gospel-soul-R&B stuff.This new energy is most apparent in a song like Vaporize, which served as a jumping-off point forLee's vision of the record. But it was equally important that the albums more straightforward, singersongwriter-stylesongs were infused with a different approach. With something like Highways and Clouds,I didnt want to just do the standard waltz feel that's led by the acoustic guitar, he says. I wanted to adddimensions to the arrangements and try to transform them, rhythmically and instrumentally, so that the albumwas cohesive. The demo versions of these songs are remarkably different from what came out through therecording process, and it was so much fun to explore feels and textures, and bear witness to thetransformation.The song One Lonely Light had kind of a small, short verse with a sweeping chorus, he continues. I wasalways under the impression that if you just write a good song and play it, thats the magic of itwhich is notuntrue, but now I also want to think about arrangements that can be impactful in a live setting aswell. On my first album, I didnt think about any of that, and Lee Alexander did such a great job making thatalbum all about me and my songs and voice. But Ive picked up enough information and experience that now Ican inject what Ive learned from working with so many great producers into helping mold arrangements thatare more in tune with what I'm doing live."Not that it was easy learning the ropes as a producer. Its not always magic-making, says Lee with a laugh.Theres a lot of grinding it out, with people you maybe dont have a lot of history with, but it was such a joyousexperience, even in those harder creative times."For Amos Lee, SPIRIT is the fulfillment of dreams and aspirationsmusical, personal, and professionalthathes had for a long time. All you can ask for as an artist is the chance to create what you hear and feel insideof yourself, he says. The performances by everyone gave me such a strong place to draw from, and beingmore connected to the arrangements made it easier and more fun to sing. For my first time producing, I couldnot have been luckierI was able to get into the heart of every single moment of this record.

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