Label: Recent Music
Linger; Mirage; To Be Free (interlude); I Just Wasn't Made For These Times; Cold Spell; Easy; Tribute Valley; To Be Free; Goody Bag; Mo(u)rning.
Additional Personnel / Information
Jacqui Armbruster, viola; John Swana (1); Chris Simonini (8); Tom Spiker (10).
The Witherbees, a sweetheart folk-jazz group, explores, composes, performs, and deconstructs songs. Composed of vocalist/violist/songwriter Jacqui Armbruster and guitarist Mike Lorenz, the Witherbees are the outcome of their collective and collaborative process as performers, composers, arrangers, and producers. Trying to discern or identify influences and inspirations leads to many open doors and windows that the collaborative duo freely and willingly explore, brought into its fullest expression and form when the music is performed with their quartet. Out of their homebase in Bethlehem, PA, they invite the listener on a roundtrip of cozy mystery and blurred edges. Although they met first as teacher and student, Lorenz and Armbruster share a musical connection and friendship that is dynamic, special, and rare. As the story goes, in the summer of 2018, Mike had the idea to record one of Jacqui’s songs with some of his friends from the Philadelphia music scene in a casual, one-off kind of recording session. What transpired was a formative transition from mentor and mentee to a deep musical friendship, and their band, the Witherbees. After a debut record that played out like a “playlist of everyone’s favorite songs,” and which leaned heavily on deconstructed cover songs, Armbruster and Lorenz have built a follow-up that is much more personal and acts as a declarative statement of their collaborative duo. In its broadest sense, the Witherbees works as quartet, augmented by the rhythm section team of bassist Justin Sekelewski and Kyle Andrews on drums. As a duo, Jacqui and Mike mine new territories of their repertoire, exposing wide chasms in their music while leaning into the risk and closeness of a paired down performance. Collectively, the ‘Bees set out to create a 21st-century songbook, a melange of their influences, from jazz to folk, rock to string band swing, chamber music to skronky destructiveness. Their new album, Love Letter, due out June 4th, 2021, inspires keen introspection, emotional response and the occasional touch of cerebral humor. On this 10-song set, you’ll hear bits and traces of influences that showcase the whole band’s love of song as well as their acumen as a real deal improvising jazz unit. Armbruster’s original songs are at the core of the album, providing more than half of its tracks, performed with budding conviction and grace, exploring vulnerability, healing, and strength through her songwriting. Culled from sessions full of living-room intimacy, the songs can soothe, surprise, enchant and perplex, as moody, feathery vocals and tamed, slippery or tangled guitar riffs cast their oft-mysterious spells. Several tracks are augmented by luminaries of the Philly jazz scene, expanding and warming the corners of songs that form the keystone of the record. With this follow-up effort, the group eschews the jukebox nature of their debut (Mike Lorenz & the Witherbees) for a more personal and original approach, exploring songs through the lens of myriad influences. On Love Letter, they might evoke the familiar with a nod to past and plumb current musical depths all delivered with a sense of whimsy and of adventure. Love Letter is due out June 4th.
- Love Letter by Jerome Wilson
Album uploaded by Mike Lorenz