23 Nov 2016

Verse Chorus Verse: Myele Manzanza

10:20 am on 23 November 2016

Myele Manzanza gives us a track-by-track rundown of his new album One Point One.


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Photo: Supplied

Verse Chorus Verse sees local artists break down the stories behind their music. For the latest in the series, Myele Manzanza tells us what’s behind the tracks on his live sophomore album One Point One.


'A Love Eclectic'

For those who know, when you hear this you’ll probably catch that it’s a hat-tilt to John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’. The big free and open intro felt like a good way to start things off as it allowed us to sink into the music and give ourselves and the listener a palate cleanse.

'Absent Fade'

This piece was originally an interlude on my last album at the end of Absent, but the raw material made for a good tune in and of itself. You get to hear Mark de Clive-Lowe really go to town on the piano on some boss dog Kenny Kirkland beast-mode type vibe, which speaks for itself.

This performance is a real showcase of the Quartetto Fantastico string quartet’s ability to flow and expand the music in real time. While they had the melody and some guide chord voicings for the piece, they were able to take them and play with them like putty collectively in real time. Picking the right moments to drop in behind Mark’s solo to push it to further heights.

I guess that comes from years of playing together and honing their craft but it still amazes me listening back how well they were able to pull it off on the night.

'7 Bar Thing'

Originally a more overtly house-type track, this version of '7 Bar Thing' got pulled apart and turned into an almost spiritual Sun Ra-esque type thing here. You can hear the strings sounding like bird calls in the jungle at the beginning while Mark and I are tinkering with percussion programming and drum sounds. The harmony and form of the piece is deliberately unresolved, which I dig as it gives a sense of mystery and open ended feel to it, even when the band starts raging through it. From there we move straight through to …


Yeah, I put a drum solo on the album. It’s my album so I can do what I want. While I don’t like to premeditate my solos too much, I do have themes and ideas that I naturally fall into and sometimes struggle to get out of. One of the great things about this performance was actually a total accident.

Mark’s setup has a mic in the piano which goes to an effects pad that he can manipulate the piano’s sound with, but inadvertently it was also catching my drums too. Instead of turning it off, he let that happen and was stretching and distorting my drum sounds and sending them out front, effectively turning the drum solo into a duet and pushing me out of my usual zone into new territory.

Those circumstances led to something greater than the sum of its parts, hence the title.

'Jeremy Sole Interlude'

Jeremy Sole is a pretty prominent DJ for those in the know. He hosts a show on KCRW in LA and travels the world playing dope stuff. He’s part of a crew called TheLift who do events and they were the team that put this concert together in LA. The engineer managed to record his introduction to the 2nd set and I thought he captured the spirit of the night well so we kept it. Thank you Mr Sole

'Love Is War For Miles'

The first cover on the album comes to us from Detroit’s very own Mr Theo Parrish. I was lucky enough to tour with him in Europe a few months after this concert so maybe it was the universe doing it’s thing there.

While I’m not much into putting genre labels on anything, I’m gonna coin this as “Free House”. Taking motifs from a fairly minimal house / techno track, then dislodge it (and ourselves) into new territory. Deliberate chaos. It takes a lot of trust and listening to be able to play that way with people, and with Ben and Mark I knew we were in safe hands.


Montara is a soul/jazz classic written by the late, great vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson who sadly passed away only a few months ago and I’m gutted I never got to see him play, but his music and approach still lives on.

This tune has been sampled / covered by Madlib, The Roots and many others so I’m glad to contribute this version to the canon. I actually almost forgot to call this song on the night but I’m glad I did as we needed something more in the ballad territory and the band’s performance, led by Miguel’s soaring viola solo and the loose-then-snappy vibe we went to in the piano solo, made this possibly my favorite performance on the album.

'Everybody Isn’t / A Long Walk'

This is a mash up of my track Everybody Isn’t and Jill Scott’s classic A Long Walk. If I’m not wrong I think my partner Hayley Dingwall suggested I do a Jill Scott cover for a concert in NZ a few months before this concert, and it seemed like an easy fit to put the A Long Walk lyrics over Everybody Isn’t as both more or less stay in one key, plus I like how it takes a fairly smooth love song and gives it a grunty edge.

Nia Andrews who was the vocalist for the night totally brought the house down on this one too. Special mention to Daniel Hayles here. He helped me with making a lot of the string arrangements and charts for the concert and that sick turnaround at the top of  the 2nd verse was all him.

'City Of Atlantis'

City of Atlantis is probably the flagship song of the album. I feel that this performance is probably the best showcase of my combined influences and love for jazz, hip hop, classical and soul music to date, and I’m proud of how the piece is able to fluidly move through all those influences while still retaining it’s own cohesive feeling.

Had to fly Charlie K in from Philly especially for this one. He did the original verse for City Of Atlantis and while it was a long way to come just for a 16 bar performance on his part, I couldn’t have done the song without him so he had to be there.

Miguel took the woodwind arrangements that James Wylie did on the original and beautifully transposed them for strings, Nia took Ladi 6’s original part and made it her own, and everyone came together in service of the music which is all I could ever ask for.

'(Bonus) Ben MF Shepherd'

While this doesn’t necessarily flow with the whole vibe of the album, Ben’s bass solo was too ridiculous to not have out in the world. For those who don’t know, Ben Shepherd is originally from Tawa, just north of Wellington, and was the classic child prodigy figure when we were both coming up in the high school music scenes.

He relocated to Los Angeles for study and has since gone on to be a first call guy for artists as wide as Billy Childs, Schoolboy Q, Lee Ritenour, David Archileta, Chance The Rapper and several others across the LA scene and is really doing NZ proud over there putting himself at the forefront of the young bass guitar virtuosos worldwide.