Wildcard - Michael Oien
Michael Oien is a bassist and composer who lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Kim. His debut record And Now (Fresh Sound/New Talent) will be released on June 2nd (but is available now on iTunes). The record also features Matthew Stevens (guitar), Nick Videen (alto sax), Jamie Reynolds (piano), Eric Doob (drums), and Travis Laplante (tenor sax). The album release show for And Now will be at Barbès (376 9th st Brooklyn, New York) on July 21st at 7PM.
When attempting to explain my record, I often say that it is a collection of music that I wrote during the last 10 years living in New York. There are quite a few albums that stuck with me over that time period, but these five stuck out to me the most as music that was seemingly always playing on my CD player, computer, or iPod. There won’t be much musical analysis here.
I was super late to the game on Bob Dylan compared to most people and didn’t begin my Dylan-obsessed period until I was maybe 23 and moving to the city. I got into his music during what I would call the “honeymoon phase” of living in New York. During this time I spent my gig-less, jobless, days wandering the Village, going to bars and cafés where Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, Dylan Thomas etc. would frequent. I really became enamored with Bob Dylan’s gift for melody, but more than anything his poetry. I also embraced our Midwest connection as Bob Dylan was born not too far from where I grew up. I think that I have always felt we shared the feeling that we were outsiders growing up in the upper Midwest, yet didn’t identify as New Yorkers either.
Annie Clark was a student at Berklee at the same time that I was there. The first time that I heard her music under the St. Vincent moniker I fell in love with her/the band on a musical level, not knowing it was someone who had at one point been a classmate of mine at music school. What great songwriting and what a great record. My roommate at the time (and stellar guitarist) Sasha Brown turned me on to this album and it continues to be something that I revisit.
I used to see these gentlemen hanging out at Sycamore in Brooklyn all the time and was well aware of them by name because people would always point them out to me. At some point I finally decided to check out their music, and this was the album that I bought. Their lyrics remind me of Bob Dylan's and Adam Duritz’s, in that they paint such beautiful non-literal pictures. The stories that these great lyricists tell are collections of haunting non-sequiturs that eventually and inevitably make sense as a whole. It’s music, but it's also the art of storytelling.
I had to write a paper on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring my sophomore year at the University of Minnesota for music history class, which really gave me some insight into how great it is as both a composition and a ballet. I drove from Brooklyn to my hometown of Ashland, Wisconsin last summer and I will never forget listening to The Bad Plus’ condensed piano trio version over and over while driving through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Attempting to do justice to such a great work of art with only piano, bass, and drums takes a lot of nerve. But Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and Dave King absolutely hit it out of the park here.
Although I admit I am not a big fan of this album title, I absolutely love this record. I cannot claim it to be an influence on my upcoming release (And Now – June 2nd - check it out!) since that was all finished before The Phosphorescent Blues was released, but right now I just can’t stop listening to this music. Chris Thile is a virtuosic Mandolin player and I think that he and this great band are helping to set a new standard for improvisation that defies genre. Perhaps too many of our great improvisers are bound by the jazz world. I think that should change.