Keyboardist Erik Deutsch makes American music, pure and simple. Over the last two decades plus, he’s earned a stellar reputation as a bandleader and collaborator, working with artists like Steven Bernstein, Theo Bleckmann, Rosanne Cash, Nels Cline, Charlie Hunter, Shooter Jennings, Norah Jones, Leftover Salmon, Shelby Lynne, and many, many more. At the same time, he’s made five albums under his own name full of willfully uncategorizable compositions that combine jazz, funk, country and rock into a swirling, raucous blend that jumps, struts, croons and shouts. His sixth album as a leader, Falling Flowers, will be released September 14 on LoHi Records.
The title track was co-written with and features vocals by his wife, singer Victoria Reed. Built on a foundation of piano, organ, banjo and slide guitar, the track has the feel of a lost ’70s country-rock classic. The beautiful animated video features a couple escaping a shootout in a gritty piano bar in Mexico, helping to keep each other grounded under duress. Director Josh Clark wanted the video to be feel like a dream and was hoping to tell a love story by showing how delicate it can be and that you sometimes have to fight to protect it from forces around us and within us, much like a flower.
Falling Flowers was recorded at Trout Recording in Brooklyn, with engineers Bryce Goggin and Adam Sachs and mixed by Jeff Hill (Rufus Wainwright, Elle King) at Bass Station. “I wanted a studio with an analog board and I wanted great drum tones,” Deutsch says. “Bryce is a recording genius, he’s made a lot of cool records there in a lot of different genres. He’s fast, his gear works, his drum sounds are amazing, there’s a lot of bleed so it’s got that vibe—I wanted to make the record feel like when we play live, and have that energy, and I think we accomplished that.”
The album kicks off with “Jump Change”, a shuffling New Orleans groove jam with a churning bass intro and a fierce, growling trombone solo. In the middle of the album, things get weird. “Little Bell” is ten minutes long, a quiet, atmospheric piece that gets almost psychedelically abstract in the middle. There’s one cover on the Falling Flowers—a version of saxophonist Mel Martin’s “Mel’s Drive In”, a little-known tune that saxophonist Mike McGinnis also recorded on his 2017 album Recurring Dream. (The connection is pianist Art Lande, a friend of Martin’s with whom Deutsch studied, and who backed McGinnis on Recurring Dream.) “I heard it as this slow, greasy clavinet thing,” Deutsch says. “On the record, it’s a wah-wah Wurlitzer [organ]. It’s essential in our live show, and I just felt like, we’ve gotta put that one on the record.”
The band on Falling Flowers is a mixture of longtime acquaintances and kindred spirits, and Deutsch has nothing but praise for every one of them. He calls Mike McGinnis (saxophone and clarinet) “a great positive energy—he’s always excited to play my music.” Of trombonist Brian Drye, he says, “This is the first record I’ve had a trombone on, and when I felt like this was what I wanted…[I got a] supremely talented, supremely positive, supremely energetic and professional musician. Another guy I love having around.” Avi Bortnick is simply “the best rhythm guitar player on the planet, like Nile Rodgers and Prince level, and obviously a great soloist and sonic contributor as well.” Bassist Jesse Murphy is “insanely talented, next level, one of those musicians who’s every bassist’s favorite bassist, and equally good on electric and acoustic on bass.” Of drummer Tony Mason, he says, “There’s no drummer with a better beat. Something about Tony feels as good as it can possibly feel. He’s just my guy, and we’ve been making music together for nearly 10 years.”
In addition to these core players, two special guests appear. Scott Metzger plays lead guitar on “Falling Flowers” and “Big Bongos”; Deutsch calls him “a great, great soloist, just a crack studio cat.” Andy Thorn, Deutsch’s band-mate in Leftover Salmon, contributes banjo to “Ghostfeather” and “Falling Flowers.” Deutsch says, “He happened to be in town the night I was doing the session with Scott, so I just had him play on the record—it’s fortunate that he was there—he’s the best.”
Deutsch is on the road all summer with JRAD, Leftover Salmon and others but will be performing a small run of Falling Flowers release shows in the fall. A full list of dates can be found below.
Erik Deutsch Tour Dates
Sept 19-20 – New York, NY @ Bar Lunatico
Oct 17-18 – Guadalajara, MX @ Primer Piso
Oct 19-20 – Mexico City, MX @ Zinco Jazz
Nov 1 – Denver, CO @ Nocturne
Nov 2 – Boulder, CO @ Caffe Sole