On July 24, composer, bandleader and guitarist Trey Anastasio will release his new album The Horseshoe Curve via his own Rubber Jungle Records. Instrumental from start to finish, The Horseshoe Curvefeatures the former Phish lead singer showcasing Afro-Cuban-influenced compositions, replete with five-part horn arrangements, tight breaks, multiple percussionists, and of course, Anastasio's soulful, nimble guitar work. The Horseshoe Curve is a journey, an inventive exploration of the big band funk that Anastasio has been steeped in for the larger part of the decade.
The Horseshoe Curve was recorded with producer Bryce Goggin at The Barn, Anastasio's studio complex in Vermont, as well as Trout Recording in Brooklyn, New York. Alongside Anastasio, the band includes sax players Dave Grippo, Peter Apfelbaum and Russell Remington; trumpeter Jen Hartswick, trombonist Andy Moroz, keyboardist Ray Paczkowski, drummer Russ Lawton, percussionist Cyro Baptista and bassist Tony Markellis.
Two tracks, "The 5th Round" and "The Horseshoe Curve," were recorded live, the latter at a 2002 show at the Amphitheatre at Station Square in Pittsburgh. "We were playing outside next to some train tracks that ran past the stage," recalls Anastasio. "Right at the peak moment of the show, a really long train rumbled by blowing its horn. You can hear it on the record. It sounded incredible, the band started playing to the rhythm of the train and hence, the name of the album."
Studio tracks like "Sidewalks of San Francisco" and "Burlap Sack and Pumps" sizzle with improvisational horns and tropical-funk rhythms that wouldn't be out of place on Afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti's classics Zombie or Gentlemen. "I listen to a lot of Fela," says Anastasio. "Often when I'm cooking or milling around the house. Maybe a little King Sunny Ade as well, but it's usually Fela."
A prolific writer, Anastasio often has several musical projects going at the same time, laboriously tending to each one. But The Horseshoe Curve was a different animal. "I rediscovered it a few months ago and it sounded really fresh and exciting to me," Anastasio says. "So I went back into the studio and finished it up. I had done another instrumental record [2004's 'Seis De Mayo'] and this was a logical progression. It's a layered record filled with textural colors, similar in structure to 'Seis De Mayo' and my first solo record, but with different instrumentation. And the musicians were such great improvisers, it really came together."
A portion of the proceeds from sales of The Horseshoe Curve will benefit the Seven Below Arts Initiative, the arts education non-profit that Anastasio founded last year. Through a partnership with Burlington City Arts, Seven Below offers residency programs at The Barn, which has been converted from a recording/rehearsal studio for Anastasio, Phish and other musicians to a studio environment providing accommodations and work space for artists. For more information on Seven Below, see http://www.trey.com/nonprofit.
Anastasio's solo career is filled with unique musical curves, a very conscious decision to keep experimenting and challenging himself and his audience. "This new record feels very natural, it's part of the continuum," he says. "The style of my writing seems to vary from album to album, a little more pop, a little more orchestral, a little jazzier. But if you listen closely to the vocal layers in [Phish songs] 'Twist' or 'Bouncing Around The Room' you'll hear that they're not very far removed from the horn lines in 'Sidewalks of San Francisco' or 'Burlap Sack and Pumps.' I look forward to working on the next one!"
The Horseshoe Curve track list
1. Sidewalks of San Francisco
3. Burlap Sack Pumps
4. The 5th Round
5. The Horseshoe Curve
6. Noodle Rave
7. Tube Top Tony
8. Porters Pyramids