One of contemporary urban jazz’s most prolific hitmakers since the late 90’s with 13 Billboard Top 10 singles and 6 #1’s, Chris Standring takes the opportunity on his 13th solo album to acknowledge the sometimes-harsh twists and turns of Real Life. Yet rather than give into circumstances beyond his control, the British born, L.A. based guitarist offers an uplifting way forward – choosing optimism via his trademark vibey, retro-soul explorations and crisp, fluid as ever melodies on the Benedetto Bambino archtop electric. While Standring tackles all the guitars, keyboards and programming, he calls on L.A.’s best to help bring his eclectic sonic palette alive: Mitchel Forman (piano) Andre Berry (bass), Kevin Axt (upright bass), Matt Rohde and Hans Zermulen (Fender Rhodes), Chris Coleman and Dave Karasony (drums) and Ronnie Gutierrez (percussion).
The lyrics to the 11-track collection’s sole vocal tune, the sensual, funky, deeply Rufusized "Living The Poetry," says it all about Standring’s positive vision and forward thinking mindset. Longtime Incognito lead singer Vanessa Haynes sings: "No stress, no strain. . .all shine, no shame, always a solution to this game. . .I’m living the poetry/Feeling only good vibes, a hurricane of butterflies/You’re never gonna steal my moment/You’re never gonna take this smile. . .No tears, no fears/And if that trouble comes, it's gonna be all right…" Co-written by Standring with hit songwriter and 7-time Grammy nominated producer Lauren Christy, the initial vocal tracks of "Living the Poetry" were recorded in England when Standring was there on a family visit. The song also has a prominent 70’s centric talk box feature.
"I’ve known Vanessa for several years, and we have performed together a few times," the guitarist says. "We wanted to write a special throwback song that would showcase her amazing old school R&B voice. The song is about living your life with intent and purpose, despite all odds. It’s about attacking each day with purpose and commitment and not letting the little things get you down. You’ve got to be present in every moment. Life is fleeting and you must take the bull by the horns if there’s something you want to do. The reasons behind why I called the album Real Life are a little dark, but the album is not that at all. The world’s in a very strange place right now, and that’s not to be ignored – just as I am facing some very real stuff in my personal life with both of my aging parents’ health dwindling. They both live 6,000 miles away and have dementia. When I see them, I observe huge changes that remind me how ephemeral life is.
"Without wishing to remain somber, the album’s theme is a wake-up call that I believe people who listen to my music will relate to," Standring adds. "It’s this whole idea that you can’t shove things under the rug. I feel it’s not only one of my more joyful albums but also perhaps the most authentic. I’ve been honing my sound for years, and have refined it even further here. When I record a piece of music these days, I strip away all the nonsense so as to let the music breathe and allow the melody to emerge uncluttered. The resulting sound is truly representative of who I am as a musician and person."
"Immersive" is the best way to describe Standring’s flow on Real Life tracks like the silky, seductive and Pat Methenyesque "Another Train," the trippy and hypnotic, organ spiced "This Mess is a Place" and bright, funky and thumping dance jams "Shake You Up" and "What Goes Around", which features a wah wah guitar effect. Subtly incorporating day to day 'real life' sounds he infuses tracks with cheerful, echoing laughter of children and traffic.
In addition, Standring experiments with cool synth generated orchestrated vocal textures throughout the spirited, groove intensive vibes of the opener "Is There A Doctor in the House" and "What Goes Around." Two other key tracks are Standring’s dub step hip-hop re-imagining of Herbie Hancock’s "Tell Me A Bedtime Story," which builds upon the original and also Quincy Jones’ funkadelic late 70’s version; and the glorious classical piece "Prelude from Bach Cello Suite 1," which Standring plays on his new Spanish classical guitar.
Though Standring is sharing his response to the often-troubled world around him, career-wise, he’s been in an inspiring upswing these past few years. Following the release of his first ever concert performance album Live in London (recorded at Cadogan Hall in the UK in March 2017), his 2018 release Sunlight included two more Top Ten Billboard hits ("Love Street" and "Static in the Attic"), and a revamped version of "Kaleidoscope" from his 2019 release Best of Chris Standring Remixed reaching #4.
Prior to his emergence as a solo artist with infectious, ubiquitous R&B flavored hits like "Cool Shades" (from 1998’s Velvet), "Hip Sway" (title track from his 2000 album), "Ain’t Mad Atcha" (2003’s Groovalicious) and "I Can’t Help Myself" (from 2006’s Soul Express), Standring laid the foundation for his old school soul vibe Solar System, a 1995 duet project with Rodney Lee. Expanding stylistically to uncharted territory, "Bossa Blue" from his 2010 collection Blue Bolero became the #1 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Track of the Year.
Standring’s other hit releases on his label Ultimate Vibe Recordings include Love & Paragraphs (2008), Electric Wonderland (2012), Don’t Talk, Dance! (2014) and Ten (2016). While recording Sunlight, he scored a total of three #1 hits – including his own "Like This, Like That" and two tracks he co-wrote and was featured on, Cindy Bradley’s "Category A" and Paul Brown’s "Piccadilly Circus." He also recently co-wrote and produced fellow guitarist Thom Rotella’s #1 Billboard single "Eddie’s Ready."
"I’ve really enjoyed my journey as an artist and musician contributing to the works of many of my favorite performers – and it’s been a surprise to me because I could never have predicted any of it when I moved to L.A. in the early 90s," says Standring. "Looking back, I think one of the keys to my success is never shying away from writing the way I am feeling at any given time, whether it comes out as a commercial piece or not. Producing my own records has allowed me to gravitate towards sounds and production techniques that are pleasing to my ears. I also love being spontaneous. When I am writing a piece of music, I am putting a rhythm track down and recording it in real time so that what you hear on my albums is exactly what I first recorded. For me, that’s always been at the heart of living an authentic Real Life."
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