Throughout her career, Ani has never shied from pursuing new musical directions. On Evolve, her latest release on Righteous Babe Records, the singer/songwriter/guitarist continues to grow, incorporating a wide spectrum of sounds and ideas with the restless energy of a born innovator.
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I'm especially excited about this record," Ani said, "'cause it's a realization of all of the work put in with my band, of a vision that developed along the way." Ani's evolution as a producer and arranger is evident throughout; the record is a seamless blend of lush, vibrant textures, courtesy of the talented and versatile musicians who toured with her for several years before her recent return to performing solo: Julie Wolf on keyboards, Hans Teuber on flute and reeds, Jason Mercer on bass, Daren Hahn on drums and Todd Horton, Ravi Best and Shane Endsley on brass. Ani's as comfortable as ever with her fellow musicians, and vice versa - Evolve is a carefully-crafted studio creation that still possesses the loose spontaneity of a live show.
"We developed our own vocabulary, our own aesthetic over the years," Ani said. "There wasn't a lot of precedent for what we were doing - we came from a lot of different places: jazz music, rock bands ... It was an interpretive collective that involved a lot of me just listening, picking up on what they brought to the table."
In between the gentle opening tones of "Promised Land" and the hushed closing chords of "Welcome To:," the record encompasses a variety of styles, from soaring three-part harmonies and DiFranco's trademark acoustic fireworks to horn- and clavinet-driven funk and syncopated Latin grooves. "Serpentine" is a sprawling, 10-minute opus rooted in Ani's solo finger-picking work and passionate spoken word performance.
When asked about the origin of the album title, Ani explains that "by the time I was recording the last few songs on the album, I felt like I was evolving - I wanted the album to open up a little bit and get out of that band-focused phase. Songs like 'Evolve' and 'Serpentine' are pointing in the direction that I'm going now, finding my own voice in the wilderness of all of those people. This record represents the culmination of a certain musical era, and it gives a little glimpse of what's to come."
Favoring whispers over screams and delicate, open chords over power strumming, Evolve takes an intimate look at a world as determined to change as the singer herself.
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