Bach XXI

From New York to Germany, pianist Matt Herskowitz has taken his music to a whole other level when it comes to technique and performance flair. So many artists are fusing some of the classical world’s most well known compositions with other genres and here is another great example of that.

Over the last decade, Herskowitz has produced a series of critically acclaimed recordings with also some pretty big names inlcuding the talented Lara St. John. Expressed as “genre-bending musical explorations”, his career as revolved around “incorporating classical idioms with Jazz and World music”.

His latest project, Bach XXI, ” is a unique fusion on Bach’s original music that integrates a multitude of different styles, including Jazz, Latin, World and Contemporary Classical”. Collaborating with violinist Philippe Quint, we are taken into a world that has been reimagined and has proposed a “modern vision of Bach’s music, creating a new window through which to experience the works of the world’s greatest composer of any era, music which is, by it’s very nature, timeless”.

matt-herskowitz-philippe-quint-bachMC: So many musicians love to add a twist to Bach’s music especially when it comes to fusing different styles. What attracted you specifically to his music for this album?

MH: The idea for this album came from a concert my trio performed with violinist Philippe Quint at the El Paso Chamber Music Festival in El Paso, Texas. I arranged a few Bach pieces for us to play with him for the performance, and Philippe liked them so much he asked me to compose an entire album of arrangements of Bach’s music. I was intrigued by the idea, so we set a date for the recording (already a difficult task between all of our schedules) and I got to work. I began to realize that Bach’s music is uniquely ideal for making arrangements; due to the wholly integrated nature of his music, you can put it in any setting or style, and even add to it, and the music always stays intact – i.e., it’s still always Bach!

MC: Can you share the musical process behind arranging an album like this?

MH: The styles of the arrangements in Bach XXI are different from my previous efforts. For this project, I dove deeper into the music, pulling inspiration for grooves, bass lines, harmonies and new melodic material from the source and weaving them into the original scores. I feel that this approach allowed me the freedom to explore different settings and moods for my arrangements, while at the same time, keeping the integrity of the original structures, melodies and basic harmonic foundation. Ultimately, my approach was not to “jazz up” Bach, but rather to reinterpret his music through my own filter without actually changing his music. There are added sections for improvisation but it’s mostly all composed with the original scores always at the center of each arrangement.

4605_05302014200344In researching repertoire for the album, I listened to hundreds of hours of Bach’s music and found that, for the most part, either an idea for an arrangement hit me right away or not at all. Given the time constraints for the completion of the project, I decided that this would be a prudent way to proceed. Fortunately, there were plenty of pieces which immediately inspired ideas for arrangements, so I had no shortage of material to work with.

Finally, with a project this big, there must a method or system that ties it all together. I ended up using four self-imposed rules when making the arrangements for this album:

1. I couldn’t remove anything from the structure of the pieces, for example, I did not “edit” Bach. It all had to be there, or it no longer qualified as an arrangement.

2. I was allowed to add to the existing structure – this opened up the possibilities for solos, new sections, intros, codas and bridge material.

3. When using any part of Bach’s original music, I told myself not to change it. To do this would also be editing Bach to suit my purposes, and I felt that would be going too far. It had to stay Bach.

4. It was a must to use all essential material of the original music, that being all principal melodic lines and counterpoint. I could, however, decide not to use any inner voice harmonic material in favour of my own harmonic voicings. I could transform them rhythmically as well; for example, substituting a straight quarter note bass line with a rhythmically funkier line. I was able to embellish melodic material where I felt it was appropriate for the arrangement. An example of this is in the D minor “Double” violin concerto.

MC: Singling out the Cello Suite No.1, BWV 1007, you have taken this classic baroque favourite and turned it into a world of romance with a jazzy twist. Walk us through what was going on in your head when arranging this specific composition.

MH: Interesting you singled out this one, as I think this arrangement is somewhat unique on the album. First, I came up with a lush, romantic setting, something like a soft pop ballad feel, which immediately sets the tone for the arrangement. Next, the principle idea was to seamlessly weave the iconic single-line melody between the violin and piano. As I got further into this process and started adding my own melodic material, I realized that Bach’s melody did not necessarily have to be the focus of the arrangement at all times; sometimes I could shift the focus to my own melody and continue Bach’s original line in my left hand as an accompaniment. For example, I liked this idea of the original melodic line swimming through an ocean of lush harmonies; at various points on top, in the middle or below, with new melodies weaving in and out, everything floating by and around each other. I guess you could call this a romantic ideal.

Herskowitz and Quint will be performing Bach XXI in New York at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center on February 18th.

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Bano eeMee

Is it too early to start thinking about spring? December turned out to be quite kind to us Torontians thanks to El Niño and one cannot help but stay optimistic that the winter months will disappear a lot sooner than we usually anticipate. There are so many collections to keep a watch out for this year and here is the first of many “on my radar” posts and interviews.

Stock trader turned fashion designer Aleem Arif has released his latest collection for SS16 for Bano eeMee and they are a far cry from your basic leather statement pieces. The Canadian luxury label, founded in 2012, is also known for producing leathers that are not only quality driven but also sustainable and eco-friendly. His vegetable tanned leathers are produced in Pakistan and have created fair work opportunities for families.

6fdb17cf-7703-4cdc-8963-60034e0f113aMC: Please share how Bano eeMee came to be.

AA: Bano eeMee founded in 2012 is a realization of the dream of algorithmic stock trader turned fashion designer, Aleem Arif who wanted to express his creativity and use fashion to make a difference. The name Bano eeMee comes from a very personal place. His grandma used to call his mum “Bano” lovingly and Aleem’s mum calls him “eeMee” so he combined the two dedicating the line to his mother. Bano eeMee is a proudly Canadian fashion label that is known for its hand distressed, vegetable tanned leathers that are sustainably produced in Pakistan creating fair work opportunities and helping support families and spreading a message of love and togetherness.

MC: The detail work is so intricate from paper-hole perforated lapels to jaw dropping fringes. Can you talk about the inspirations behind these details.

AA: Since we are focused primarily on lamb leather (by-product of the food industry) each season we strive to push the boundaries of designing with leather and use techniques that highlight the beauty and versatility of this age-old fabric creating pieces and silhouettes that our customers appreciate, look amazing in and get to wear lots. We have incorporated laser-cutting, perforation, hand distressing and burnishing to create truly unique and timeless leathers that are inspired by our wonderful customers and our travels around the world.

MC: What does it mean for you when designing sustainable, planet-friendly and ethical apparel.

AA: Sustainability has been the buzz word for sometime now but major fashion industry players have been slow in embracing it. We hope to change that and have built sustainability in to the heart of Bano eeMee. We are great proponents of being conscientious in our practices from the fabric and notions we use to create our designs to the people we work with. We strive each day to use fashion to make a difference and educate our customers on why supporting sustainable fashion Vs. fast fashion is important and that its okay to have a smaller wardrobe of good quality, well produced pieces than having closets full of cheaply sourced fashion because their low price tags do not reflect the real human and ecological cost.

For more information on Bano eeMee check out