Remarkable. Infectious. Soulful. Just some of the words critics have used to describe Stop Time, the new album by singer, songwriter and pianist Jon Regen, out April 28, 2015 on Motéma Music.
Produced by Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Paul McCartney), and featuring Davey Faragher and Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello’s band the Imposters, Stop Time finds Regen at the peak of his songwriting and pianistic powers, with ten original tunes that brim with humor and heart. Songs like “I Will Wait,” “Morning Papers” and “Stop Time” prove Regen a master of the sticky lyric and the penetrating piano hook, recalling the work of forbears like Billy Joel and Randy Newman while simultaneously showcasing Regen’s singular take on modern love. In the words of storied Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, “Stop Time never stops pleasing the ears.”
“The album really began after I met the actor Jeremy Irons at a party in London,” Regen says. “We started talking over ample amounts of wine and soon after, he asked me to play the piano for him. Not wanting to disappoint an Oscar winner, I sat down and started playing a bluesy, New Orleans kind of vamp. Without warning, he grabbed a cello off the wall and started playing it like an upright bass. We jammed together on that one song for nearly fifteen minutes! When I returned home to New York City, I married the bluesy feel of that jam session to a set of lyrics I had written about a guy who becomes dismayed watching his youth slip away. The resulting song “Stop Time” became the anchor for the album that was to come.”
A few weeks later, Regen debuted “Stop Time” to a New York audience that included Motéma Music President Jana Herzen. Intrigued by the song and by Regen’s wit and musicianship, Herzen signed Regen to the label and made plans to record a new album of his original material. When Regen learned that his original producer had to pull out due to a scheduling conflict, a twist of fate led him to Mitchell Froom.
“Right after my producer left, I got an email asking where I had found a particular photo of Mitchell for a profile I had written on him years back in Keyboard Magazine,” Regen recalls. (In addition to his burgeoning musical career, Regen is also a much sought-after music journalist). “I immediately knew he was the guy for the job.” Soon after, Regen reached out to Froom to produce.
“I’ve been a fan of Mitchell’s since I was a teenager,” Regen continues. "I remember literally wearing-out albums he produced for Crowded House and Paul McCartney. The funny thing is, Mitchell actually produced Jimmy Scott’s 1995 album Dream, which I had on heavy rotation for months when I became Jimmy’s pianist back in 2001. His albums always take you somewhere unexpected. Plus, he’s a vintage keyboard freak like me! So it’s a perfect pairing.”
Froom was equally excited to jump into Regen’s new set of songs. “I'm always drawn to working with artists who have a singular point of view,” he says. “In Jon's case, he plays pop music that people might associate with artists like Elton John and Randy Newman, but at the same time, he has a kind of swing in his piano playing that is distinctly his own. I think the result is just a tremendous sense of humanity and positivity that you get listening to him. I feel that I'm catching him at a time where everything is really coming together for him as a singer/songwriter, so I'm naturally thrilled to be involved.”
Along with Faragher on bass and Thomas on drums, Froom enlisted longtime Jackson Browne alum Val McCallum to play guitar on several tracks. Froom would also jump in front of the studio glass himself, playing a myriad of vintage keyboards on various album cuts. Recording began in September of 2014 at Froom’s studio in Los Angeles, California. Adding to the album’s “old school” aesthetic, Regen would sing all of his vocals into his recently-acquired 1957 Neumann U47 microphone that once belonged to John Lennon.
“It was incredible to watch these new songs – some of which had been just fragments of a melody or a lyric a few weeks before, take flight before my eyes,” Regen says. “Mitchell knew exactly what he wanted for each song, and which take had that inexplicable magic we all hoped to capture.
A protégé of the legendary pianist Kenny Barron, Jon Regen began his career as a sympathetic sideman to renowned jazz artists like Kyle Eastwood and Little Jimmy Scott. After releasing a series of critically acclaimed instrumental jazz recordings, Regen made an abrupt left turn in 2004 and released the singer/songwriter EP Almost Home. Recorded in a single day, the album won immediate acclaim and formally announced Regen’s arrival onto the worldwide concert stage. Regen followed the EP with his full-length 2008 release Let It Go, which featured Andy Summers of the Police and Martha Wainwright.
In 2011, Regen co-produced and released the album Revolution. Featuring contributions from Andy Summers, Benmont Tench from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, the album received rave reviews the world over. Bloomberg and Allmusic.com each awarded it “Four Stars,” and USA Today called the title track “bluesy and plucky.” The Philadelphia Inquirer pronounced Regen “a supremely accomplished pop artist,” and JazzTimes described his music “as potent as anything crafted by Sting.” Regen surprised listeners again in 2013 with the release of the instrumental album Change Your Mind, his collaboration with the renowned physician and meditation expert Dr. Mitch Gaynor. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and took the top spot at iTunes and Amazon.com as well.
But for Regen, Stop Time cuts even closer to his core.
"For me, the new album is all about hope and home,” Regen says. “From the optimism of “I Will Wait,” to the reassuring refrain of “Run to Me,” to the realization in “Morning Papers” that what you already have is better than what you once pined for. In many ways, the album is a sort of love letter to my wife, who helped me realize that there is life beyond the breakup song!” (Regen’s May 2014 wedding was profiled in the Vows section of the New York Times). It’s a heartfelt album, but it’s also a humorous one because living in New York City is always an adventure! I decided to call the album Stop Time, because it’s the song that started this whole wild ride in the first place. And maybe if we all could stop time once in a while, we would realize how much there already is to celebrate.”
“There’s a line in the last song on the album “These Are the Days” that says, “These little earthquakes are what hold us all together,” Regen continues. “I think that lyric sums up the journey perfectly for me. Sometimes when you least expect it, everything does come together. That is, if you work your tail off in the meantime!”