A new offering from guitarist Todd Mosby explores the heights of human experience with unique instrumentation and catchy, well-crafted music. Called “Aerial Views,” it is the third in a series of concept albums.
The feel-good “Gliding” has a lovely hook and weaves a mixture of different tonal qualities into a beautiful pattern. “Into Starlight” is stunning for its sounds and spaces, echoes and harmonics; and the lazy-paced “Sylphs” seems folk-like and lyrical. The music on this CD uses the Imrat guitar (named for inventor Imrat Khan) which Mosby helped to develop, and is designed to create the sound and spirit of classical Indian music.
What inspired your new album “Aerial Views”?
Aerial Views is part of a series of CDs that highlights the natural elements; this collection of recordings embraces air. It has to do with a view from above, seeing the big picture while encompassing a sense of freedom. It has to do with the ether in which we live and the worlds which it envelops.
Early childhood experiences flying my father’s plane developed a sense of sovereignty and independence. As far as a present commentary, this music was written prior to 2020, so my focus was strictly on the elemental aspects of air and the breath of life.
What track was the most fun to write/produce?
Although each track has its own particular life/journey/story to it, the instrumental standout for me is “Earth & Sky” and the vocal standout is “Shinning Lights”.
“Earth & Sky” was a challenge form-wise and uses my full arsenal of guitars (acoustic and electric Imrat guitars, Gibson ES 275). The solo breakout and jam with Premik was a lot of fun as well as Lola’s magical Fender Rhodes part. “Shinning Lights” was a challenge form-wise as well. The difficulty was getting the lyrics front and center. Lola and I came to the final lyric phrasing shortly before tracking. She is a true natural. I love the chords, soloing over and the beautiful choir build at the end of the tune.
What were the highlights of production?
Working with legends in the field of recorded music: Jerry Marotta, Tony Levin, Michael Manring, Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton, Jeff Haynes, Premik Tubbs… not to mention the studios: Dreamland, Village Recording, Imaginary Roads. Everyone put in 120% and went above and beyond the call of duty.
Who are your guitar influences?
Early: James Taylor, Grateful Dead, Batdorf & Rodney, Doc Watson, Lester Flat, Neil Young. Middle: Wes Montgomery, John Abercrombie, Pat Martino, John Mclaughlin. Later: Imrat Khan, Michael Hedges.
Why did you adopt the Imrat guitar in your music?
The Imrat guitar was an R&D effort of Imrat Khan, Kim Schwartz and myself. Four years into my guitar training in classical North Indian music with Ustadt Imrat Khan, I told him I needed an instrument which could access the higher aspects of Indian music. This began the journey.
We are into the fifth functional acoustic prototype now. The electric version was the third design which has held through today.
The acoustic Imrat guitar lends itself to some very lush and unique chord progressions. The tuning makes for some very inspirational sounds which I cannot get on any other instrument. The music created for this album used five tunes with these instruments.
How is this album different from previous work “Open Waters”?
There were three main differences from Open Waters. 1) Open Waters was toured live for two years prior to recording. 2) We added the drum tracks on after the fact. 3) We had the luxury of time.
On “Aerial Views” 1) we tracked bass, drums, percussion together; 2) only two tunes were performed live and the rest was new material; and 3) everything was tracked and finished in two months. It’s my largest production to date with the amount of coordination, number of people involved and complexity of arrangements. This is my third effort with the Imaginary Roads team and it feels like we have hit a nice symbiotic groove as far as working together, knowing each other’s expectations and limits as well as a continued willingness to push beyond the curve of comfort.
You have a lap steel guitar in this band and a violin. How does unusual instrumentation help add something special?
The lap steel is a beautiful sound which I knew I could access through Premik. It adds the needed swells and colorations which gives texture and another layer to the instrumentation.
The violin has been a part of my albums with Will Ackerman in general. For this set of recordings, Charlie Bisharat brought a melodic and down-home Missouri aspect to the music which only he can do.
Talk about your ensemble.
To start, Jerry Marotta and Tony Levin have a touring and recording history which goes back a long way. This was a no-brainer and I knew whatever they did would be amazing. Jeff Haynes always prefers tracking live with drums and bass. He brings a symphony of percussion sounds with him (metallic, wood, chimes, toms). Michael Manring plays fretless and fretted bass. He usually tracks three bass parts and then Tom Eaton flies them in to piece together the track. Premik Tubbs plays soprano, wind synth, flutes and lap steel so there is a full array of woodwind type sounds. Charlie Bisharat brings a melodic and improvisational mastery which is unmatched. His violin tone is amazing as well. Lola Kristine is someone I have been working with off and on for years now. She is a total natural and can hang with the best. Her touch on piano, chordal concept, improv concept and vocals are a full package. She is amazing!
How would you characterize your sound?
I like to think of it as a multi-general mix of 70’s folk (James Taylor, Joni Mitchell), traditional jazz and classical North Indian.
What have you done to adapt to the restrictions on performing live?
The only thing which has changed for me are canceled dates and opportunities. I did a video showcase at the Arts Midwest and Western Arts Alliance combined conference in September and had a good turnout for possible bookings in 2021-2022 season.
Why are you excited about this new album?
From beginning to end I love the whole process, I love sharing music, I love the musicians on it, the final mixes, performing and writing the music, my relation to my father, sky and honoring the world in which I was raised. I am really looking forward to performing this live with a band again.
For more information visit www.toddmosby.band.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of Todd Mosby.
(c) 2020 Debbie Burke