Recording with Lionel Loueke

In early December 2014 I spent two amazing days in the studio recording Lionel Loueke‘s new trio album for Blue Note with Ferenc Nemeth on drums and produced by Don Was.

Ferenc, Lionel and I have known each other and played together for 15 years, so what better way to celebrate than to go in the studio and record some new music!

Lionel wrote 11 beautiful brand new compositions and arranged a Bee Gees song for this session. The music is deeply rooted in the afro-jazz style that makes Lionel so unique, but is more rock influenced than previous recordings.

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Don heard us play at the 55 Bar in NYC in early 2014 when we started working on this new music, and he immediately decided that he wanted to capture the live energy of the band. Recording in separate booths and hearing each other through headphones is such a different playing experience, so Don had us all setup together in a circle facing each other in the main room of Sear Sound Studio C and we played without headphones.  For the two days, we spent the afternoon recording half of the music and later in the evening, we recorded ‘live’ takes of the same songs in front of an invited audience.

It’s the first time I truly appreciate how much of a difference a great producer with such intuition and sensitivity can make on a recording.  In addition to setting the general concept for the recording, Don sat in the circle with us the entire time sharing his energy with us and giving very few key suggestions when needed.

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Another thing that made this recoding special is that for the first time, in addition to playing upright bass, I recorded 9 of the 12 songs on electric bass specifically, a Kala U-Bass.  As Lionel’s music has evolved during the last few years, I felt that some of the songs would benefit from a different sound than upright bass. As we started working on the new music, I went looking for a new instrument and soon came across the U-Bass.  I was immediately smitten by its punchy and warm sound – so different from a regular electric bass, yet with the extra clarity and presence compared to an upright bass.

The album is slated to drop later this year, so stay tuned.

iReal Pro 6

It was nearly one year ago, that we announced with much excitement (and fancy, techy, blue & black sleekness) the arrival of iReal Pro into the world.  Today, I reflect back on the 6 years since I started the fledgling iReal Book and its growth and transformation into iReal b and now, iReal Pro dear user that you are hopefully enjoying and expanding your musical life with.

What an amazing journey that I can honestly say has been the most difficult as well as fulfilling adventure. I have learned so much and come into contact with many great people – every one, a teacher, an inspiration or simply, much appreciated encouragement (this includes all you guys out there!).

So, one year ago we dropped iReal Pro on you and promptly retreated into the Technimo labs to keep nerding out and tinkering on new features.  Here’s the upshot –

We’ve decided to continue another year without subjecting existing users to a paid update and to also give you a bunch of free new stuff – because that’s just the kind of people we are (plus my girlfriend said it was a good idea).

iReal Pro now comes with all existing styles and chord diagrams included for free.

A number of new sampled instruments have been added so you can customize the playback styles.

A long list of smaller improvements that I’m sure you’ll enjoy – see the complete list in the app release notes in the app store or when updating the app.

There are 12 new jazz styles that are available as in-app purchases including:

  • a guitar trio style featuring some really cool comping on a 1965 Harmony Rocket
  • a trad jazz style with tuba and banjo
  • some new swing styles with all new bass lines and piano comping and an awesome sampled Old K cymbal sound
  • a couple of new contemporary sounding even 8ths and 16th styles
  • some fun New Orleans styles
  • and more…

Head over into the new version or iReal Pro to hear some samples of the new style in the store section.

We are by no means done…we are in the middle of a few other devlopements.  For instance, I am working on brand new Pop and Latin styles. Mojitos may be involved…
And, for those of you with iReal Pro installed on multiple devices, we’ve heard your requests (all of them!) and are working on cloud synching – it’s quite a monumental task so please be patient and WATCH THIS SPACE!

As always, please send us your feedback – we can’t improve this app without you. Thank you from the whole team here at Technimo.

ireal-pro-iosKeep it iReal!

iReal b has gone Pro!

I’m bursting with excitement to introduce the brand spanking new iReal Pro – which current users can download for free!

We’ve spent nine long months completely redesigning our app. Now it’s easier to use and overloaded with new features. iReal Pro is a sleek, faster, and more comprehensive way for musicians of all levels to master their art – whether you’re using it on your desktop at home, on your tablet in the practice room, or on your iPhone/Android on the subway en route to a gig.

Over 30 new features including: a powerful new player, streamlined song editor, all new mixer, optional click track, customizable click sounds, piano and guitar fonts, recent playlists & trash, Audiobus support, improved searching, new tutorials, community integration and much more!

And then there was iReal b

Exactly 4 years have passed since I first released what was then called, iReal Book for the iPhone.

In 2008 the iPhone app frenzy was in full bloom.  As a jazz bass player who had always been intrigued with technology, I was trying to cram PDFs of the Real Books on the little screen of the iPhone using the Photo app.  Bad idea.  You couldn’t see anything and you couldn’t find the songs you needed.  I realized that all I needed were the chords and that’s how the iReal Book idea was born.

I hit the computer programming books pretty hard for a few months, and by the end of 2008 the original iReal Book was launched for iPhone in all its low-fi, home-made programming glory.  It was pretty basic and contained 500 transposable songs – that’s all.

During 2009 the editor was added and I launched the online forums where a growing community of musicians, students and educators could connect and users started sharing songs with each other.  With growing popularity, the following year saw iReal Book being optimized for the iPad and a basic version for Android was also created.  It was a busy year with a significant milestone in the app’s development being the addition of the play-along feature, which attracted much attention and acclaim from beyond the modest following of fellow music nerds and woodshedders who had kept me motivated to keep creating new features. Things became very real, and I realized that my little hobby was now a serious business.  In 2011, the team at Technimo (yes, ‘I’ became ‘we’) released the Mac OS X version, and the player also finally became available on Android.

Then, the excitement and growth of the app came to a grinding halt in March when we received a ‘take down notice’ from Apple.  We were offline for two months while we dealt with the murky issue of copyright.  Long story short, we knew we were no financial match for the major publishing houses of the world to fight the good fight. T he experience made us want to pre-empt any potential future issues, so not only did we remove the previously included songs (now available in the forums for free), but the app was re-birthed as iReal b.  A setback for sure, but with the new identity we now feel more freedom to develop the app beyond the spirit of the original Real Books. The forums have since become even more activated with users sharing charts and creating playlists, the functionality and usefulness of the app has surpassed the iReal Book of old, tenfold.

With the troubles of the past year behind us, 2012 saw the addition of more accompaniment styles and some useful features for learning guitar and piano chords and scales.  Currently the iOS version of iReal b (4.4) is the most advanced while the Mac OS X version will get to the same level with all the same features with version 2.7 – coming out in a couple of weeks, pending Apple approval. The Android version lacks a few features like looping, guitar/piano chords and scales but we are working hard to bring it up to par with the other platforms.

All in all, it’s been 4 amazing years of hard work, late nights (mornings), frustration (the iReal Book to iReal b debacle), but also laughter, fun and much, much satisfaction.  I want to thank the amazing people on our team for helping me make this one of the most rewarding experiences ever – in no particular order: Warren, Niki, Alessandro, Miranda and Ferenc.  I also want to thank all of you for sharing your songs in the forums and for spreading the word about iReal b among your fellow musicians and friends. Most of all, it’s your enthusiasm and inspiration that keeps this circus running.

Thank you.

Lionel Loueke – Mwaliko

For his second Blue Note recording Lionel Loueke decided to do an album of duo and trio recordings. Mwaliko is an ‘invitation’ (literally, in Swahili) to both his collaborating musicians (there are six) and to listeners. I’m very happy to be part of this project and proud to also have one of my compositions – Shazoo – featured.

Preview and purchase the music on iTunes and Amazon

Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals
Massimo Biolcati: bass
Richard Bona: bass
Marcus Gilmore: drums
Angelique Kidjo: vocals
Ferenc Nemeth: drums
Esperanza Spalding: bass, vocals
(Blue Note Records), 2010

iReal Book

I mostly play original music these days, so when I’m back in town between tours and get called to do a standards jazz gig, I find myself at times struggling to remember the changes to some of the more obscure tunes.  What if I could get a quick glance at a chart to refresh my memory on that particular spot in the tune?  What if I could have all the charts to all the most important standards with me at all times?

With the advent of the iPhone I realized that I have a digital screen with me at all times, so I thought that if I uploaded the pdf version of the Real Book to my iPhone I could put it on the music stand and use it as an eReader while playing.  I soon realized that the iPhone screen is just too small to read music. In any case, I didn’t really need to see the melody – just the changes. That’s when I realized I had to build my own app to read chord charts on the iPhone.

iReal-Book-IconiOS 2.0 which included the App Store had just been released, so in the spring of 2008 I set out to learn programming in Objective-C.  By December, the first version of iReal Book was ready and it’s available today in the App Store.  It comes with the chord charts for 500 of the most popular jazz standards and each one can be transposed to any key signature.

Gilfema + 2

I’m pleased to announce that Gilfema’s new Obliqsound album, Gilfema + 2 is now in stores.  Featuring original compostitions by the trio, Lionel Loueke (guitar/voice), Ferenc Nemeth (drums) and Massimo Biolcati (bass), in addition to the beautiful sounds of John Ellis (bass clarinet/ocarina) and Anat Cohen (clarinet).

Preview and purchase the music on iTunes and Amazon

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Lionel Loueke – guitar and voice
Massimo Biolcati – bass
Ferenc Nemeth – drums
with special guests:
John Ellis – saxophone
Anat Cohen – clarinet
Recorded in New York – February 2008