“A one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus.”— The New York Times
Ever since the 20th century turned into the 21st, singer-songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón has earned renown as one of music’s most distinctive and searching voices – “a one-man band… who is spiritually connected,” according to The New York Times, and “an eclectic adventurist,” in the words of People magazine. The New Mexico native, blind since birth, has released eight albums since 1999, including the acclaimed studio productions Don’t Hesitate (Mack Avenue, 2014), Synthesis (Decca/Universal, 2009), A World Within a World (Manhattan/EMI, 2007) and State of Mind (Manhattan/EMI, 2005). Midón’s questing musicality makes him, as the Huffington Post put it, “a free man beyond category.” Attesting to his enduring ambitions is Midón’s ninth studio album, Bad Ass and Blind, due for release via Mack Avenue/Artistry Records in spring 2017.
Search for “Raul Midón” on YouTube and you’ll find a clip of him appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman in 2006. Performing “State of Mind,” the title track from his major-label debut, Midón unveils what would become his signature combination of silky tenor voice and percussive guitar style. His guitar playing is a syncopated, flamenco- and jazz-infused wonder in which bass, harmony and melodic lines fly from the fretboard in a way that seems to belie the fact that all the music is being produced by just two hands. If that weren’t enough, Midón busts out his improvisational mouth-horn technique, in which he creates a bebop “trumpet” solo entirely with his lips, earning himself a spontaneous burst of mid-song applause from the audience in the process. It’s the sort of performance that led the Huffington Post to describe how “he plays with such freedom and joy that his hands smile.” Billboard called him, simply and aptly, “a virtuoso.” Subsequently, Midón’s live 2016 rendition of John Coltrane’s jazz classic “Giant Steps” – which sees him fly through all 12 keys – has earned more than 1.2 million views via Facebook.
Midón’s upcoming Bad Ass and Blind album finds the artist expanding his range compositionally, tapping into the linear modal harmony explored by such jazz composers as Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter. Album highlight “Wings of Mind” utilizes this technique with a sophistication that brings to mind jazz-savvy pop acts like Steely Dan. “As a listener, you don’t need to know anything about the Phrygian or Dorian modes to get this music – it just sounds different, intriguing, exotic,” Midón explains.
Another notable track on Bad Ass and Blind is Midón’s multi-layered cover of the Steve Miller Band’s FM staple “Fly Like an Eagle.” “It was the first record I ever bought – I remember that it was only $5.99!” “The lyrics have some social consciousness, and there’s a groove and simplicity about the song that I think are beautiful. I changed the key, reharmonized it a bit, changed the tempo – customized the song for the way I feel it now.” Reflecting on the exploratory grasp of past and present represented by Bad Ass and Blind, Midón says: “Like with all my records, this album is for those who are interested in going beyond notions of genre – it’s for listeners with open ears, open minds, open hearts.”