Band: Roman Street Album Release Show
Date: Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m.
Venue: Halstead Amphitheater, Coastal Alabama Community College, 450 Fairhope Ave. (Fairhope), accs.edu
Tickets: $10 suggested donation
Ten years ago, brothers Noah and Josh Thompson fell in love with the colorful sounds of the acoustic-driven, European jazz band Tonic Strings. The introduction to Tonic Strings’ mix of flamenco and gypsy jazz sounds inspired the brothers to form Roman Street and embark on a musical journey that has yet to end.
Now, Roman Street is preparing for the release of their sixth studio album, “Balcony of the World.” When Roman Street first began experimenting with their Euro jazz sounds, Noah admits he and his brother had no intention of making a career out of it. Initially, Noah and Josh conceived creating music as nothing more than a hobby.
“It was something Josh and I liked to do together, privately in our homes, and on the weekends at different cafes,” Noah explained. “I don’t think any of us, especially myself, anticipated doing this 10 years later. We all had different plans and aspirations. That’s one of the cool things about music. It takes you on different turns in your life that you wouldn’t have taken. It’s awesome to say now that we’re doing this full time and together as a guitar duo with a lot of the same musicians that have been with us along the way. ”
The creation of “Balcony of the World” began at Day 6 Entertainment with veteran engineer Matt Damico (Mattymix Productions), who has joined Roman Street in the studio for several albums. Noah says their experience and friendship with Damico made him a natural choice for capturing the new album’s tracks. In addition to laying tracks at Day 6, “Balcony of the World” also marks the first time Noah and Josh have recorded in the comfort of their homes. Roman Street completed the final leg of the album’s recording session at Dauphin Street Sound.
“We recorded at that location years ago when it was Jada,” Josh said. “We had been there once before, but just wanted to see what they had done. We had such a great experience recording there. We liked all the sounds that we got, and it was easy to work there.”
With Roman Street’s trademark sleek acoustic strums and soothing percussion mixed with refreshing string arrangements, the album’s title track did not originally have the title of “Balcony of the World”; it was almost the title of another song. The story behind the album’s title track begins at a Roman Street show in Delray Beach, Florida. Josh says they were having a hard time naming one of their new songs. Before the band began performing this song, they asked the audience to name it. After the show, an audience member suggested they name the song “Balcón Del Mundo” (Balcony of the World).
“I didn’t like the name for that particular song, but there was another song of mine that it was perfect for,” Josh said. “The more Noah and I said the name, we grew to like it more and more. We decided to name the whole album that. We need to track down that guy and thank him. It was one of those things that stuck with us.”
“This song on the album is almost eight minutes long,” Noah added. “It’s got this really beautiful, epic cello and string arrangement as well as these guitar parts that Josh came up with. A lot of the music on the album has the driving Latin flair. Others are modern jazz. However, there’s a couple of them with this really big sense of space that the name fits.”
“Balcony of the World” represents the band’s musical evolution on several levels. This album is filled with the aurally picturesque, European-infused jazz that has made Roman Street a worldwide success. However, the duo used this album to showcase their knack for standard modern jazz with tracks such as “Rosemary Beach” and “Two Step.” This release also includes a modern jazz rendition of The Spinners’ classic, “I’ll Be Around.”
“Balcony of the World” is the first time the band has brought lyrics into its typically instrumental sonic persona. “Island Time” features vocalist Denise Small. Small is a friend of longtime Roman Street collaborators Bryan Morris (drums) and Joseph Morris Jr. (bass).
“That song has the first lyrics that I ever tried writing,” Noah admitted. “I’ve been a professional musician for 15 years, and we’ve been doing instrumental music the whole time. When that song came around, I always had some lyrics in mind, but my singing is absolutely horrible. Denise had worked with us on some private and corporate gigs. We liked her voice a lot. So, we wanted to get her in the studio.”
If there is one musical aspect that Roman Street continues with “Balcony of the World,” then it is the duo’s knack for taking the listener on a visual journey through sound. Each song paints a lifelike picture of various locales within the mind. Noah would agree. Since Roman Street began composing songs, Noah says he has found his greatest inspiration from the various locales that the brothers have visited. Being from the Alabama Gulf Coast, Noah says traveling around the globe is an “eye-opening” experience. The “visuals and smells and all the sensory experiences” conjure music within Noah’s mind.
“I have this eternal muse going on that gets kick-started while we’re traveling,” Noah said. “There’s also the people that you meet. We’ve met some extraordinary people in different parts of the world. It gets your imagination going trying to capture those memories and moods. We’re inspired by these exotic locations and trying to merge that through the lens of two boys who grew up here on the Alabama Gulf Coast. That’s kind of what Roman Street is in my mind. That’s the way that I continue to approach it from the first album to this one.”
If there is one thing Roman Street wants its listeners to experience with “Balcony of the World,” then it would be the musical chemistry captured on this album. Noah says this album was written without any notes or sheet music. “Balcony of the World” was created with little orchestration and a lot of spontaneous creation in the studio. He says he hopes the creative bond between himself, Josh, Morris and Morris Jr. is one of the album’s most prominent qualities. However, Noah and his brother hope listeners will also realize that Roman Street is still the same band from a decade ago.
“Roman Street is still going strong,” Noah said. “We’re older now than the kids sitting on the sidewalk in Fairhope. For me, the approach is still the same. I’m just jamming with my brother and playing what moves us. I’m always two or three seconds ahead of what we play in my mind. I’m just riding on the coattails of that muse that I was talking about.”
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