Smooth Citizen is a collaboration between vocalist Marriah Iobst and multi-instrumentalist Jon Yates. On their new album, “Shadows of the Fading Light”, they combine the rhythmic and harmonic complexity of jazz with a repertoire covering jazz, rock, folk and blues.
“Cool quasi-jazz transmissions from beyond the shadows.”
Greg DaPonte, KCRW
On the making of “Shadows of the Fading Light” by Jon Yates
So my friend, Schno, says to me, “You should hear my woman sing” - which is how I ended up at a dingy karaoke bar in Hollywood listening to Marriah for the first time. She was, amazing. For some time I’d wanted to do an album of eclectic vocal covers and I after hearing her, I knew I had found the perfect foil for the project.
Once we began recording, she proved as good in the studio as she was live. She was also easier to work with than any other singer I've produced (though perhaps the vodka martinis helped a little).
The resulting album, “Shadows of the Fading Light”, was recently completed.
All the songs on this album are by writers whose stylistic approach and musical sensibilities have been important influences on me. My goal was apply a jazz tinge to material from genres other than jazz.
Some notes on the tracks:
“Touch of Trash” (Patricia Barber)
When we started the project I knew we’d have to do this tune, as the lyrics and style perfectly suited Marriah's approach. The eerie guitar sound comes from a Les Paul played with an Ebow electronic bowing device. The “bass drum of doom” is actually a large floor tom played with a mallet.
“San Tropez”(Roger Waters)
Waters shows us his little seen sunny side. Stream of consciousness lyrics combined with a nice vamp to solo on. Marriah plays with the vocal line to give it a darker edge.
“Congo Square” (Sonny Landreth, Dave Ranson, Roy Melton)
On his original version, Sonny Landreth plays this song as a blistering slide blues. I decide to take a different approach; so I jazzed up the chords and made room for Marriah to sing about drums and snakes. The drum intro is meant to represent a group of drummers playing in New Orleans’ Congo Square.
“Reasons Why” (Sean Watkins, David Puckett)
I didn't mess with the original arrangement too much on this track except to add a lilting piano solo. Marriah nails the harmony in the chorus (naturally).
“Consider Me Gone” (Sting)
Yet another song about inner turmoil from Sting. The incessant counterpoint contributes to its emotional inevitability.
Pentangle's blend of jazz and folk is one of my primary influences. This song comes from Pentangle’s jazzy side and really swings.
“Sunshine, Sunshine” (James Taylor)
A beautiful and bleak song with a rapidly shifting harmonic structure. The most folk oriented song on the album. A favorite (and oft overlooked) JT track of mine.
“The Battle of Evermore” (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant)
Apocalyptic Celtic Paganism meets J.R.R. Tolkien. I kept the basic mandolin pattern (transferred to an acoustic guitar arrangement) and added jazz piano chords and bass for a heavier feel. The Arabic hand percussion is in keeping Led Zeppelin's “world music” roots.
“Lucky Seven” (Chris Squire)
A great vamp in 7/4 time. The enigmatic Bob Margulies provides the angular clarinet solo on the outro. The title of the album comes from a line in this song.
“Pretzel Logic” (Walter Becker, Donald Fagen)
Becker and Fagen are a big composing influence on me, so it made sense to end the album with them. This track starts as a blues but then takes a harmonic left turn which Marriah proceeds to take even further outside.