Lee Feldman
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Lee Feldman

Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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"Stereophile Review"

Then there's Lee Feldman, a classically trained pop musician who brings a strong if decidedly off-center sense of melody to the art of traditional American songwriting, and whose lyrics betray a poetic sensibility in tune with the best of the 20th-century Americans (especially Theodore Roethke, whose "My Papa's Waltz" could easily hide on one of Feldman's albums). All of which is to say that Lee Feldman is unclassifiable.

Michael Fremer turned me on to Feldman's music when he wrote about it for Listener back in the early days of 2001, and my fondness for the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has since grown steadily. His third album, I've Forgotten Everything (Urban Myth UM-114-2), has just been released, and it's already an indispensable part of my pop-music collection. Almost half of the album's songs discuss aging or abandonment—not in a maudlin or self-pitying way, but impressionistically, with carefully chosen images and scraps of monologue. In "Me and My Sara Remaining," an elderly man talks about his changing neighborhood with a mixture of fear and resignation; in his plaintive, unaffected style, Feldman sings the opening line—"And all of the places are changing"—against a continually changing string of chords that never quite resolve, yet that support a strangely sad melody. And in "Give Me My Money," the album's thematic center, the narrator focuses his motley thoughts just long enough to express his frustration as something tangible:

Give me my money
I'm a human being
I used to write music that people could sing
Give me my footsteps
Where did they go?
I wish I had known that I needed them so

Some of the tunes on I've Forgotten Everything meander in a happy, childlike way— such as the upbeat "Big Women on the Shelves," the album's happiest and most triumphant moment. Others are more serious-minded, such as the stark setting for a creepy-funny lyric titled "Cave." That one opens with a solo trumpet playing a series of descending intervals, then switches to an ascending series of mildly dissonant chords led by a solo cello: It's almost Schmidt's Symphony 4 in miniature. The simplest melody of all is reserved for the closing number, "See You Again"—yet even then, the leitmotif of aging returns, as the final lines are sung by the Northside Senior Center Chorus. From Brooklyn, of course.

Lee Feldman's I've Forgotten Everything is unlike anything else in contemporary pop. The songs are alternately sad, whimsical, harrowing, and very funny (although the album's best laugh may be the visual joke on the disc itself). A third of the tunes are waltzes, and all of the melodies are catchy and challenging in more or less equal measure. Above all, the writing voice behind it all is kind, humane, and clever without being too clever: There's nothing arch about Feldman's music.

Every one of these songs is like a smile you can't read, yet that pulls you along in spite of yourself. Lee Feldman is one of the few musicians in contemporary pop whom I think of as an artist, and I've Forgotten Everything is far and away his best work so far. If you have a passion for good songwriting, you need this album. - Stereophile Magazine

"New York Times"

“Lee Feldman uses a Tin Pan Alley bounce to make twisted or troubled situations sound like parlor songs.” - Jon Pareles - New York Times

"Chigago Tribune"

“Chances are his finely tuned records will continue to be discovered by discerning listeners years down the road.” - Greg Kot - Chigago Tribune

"Atlantic Monthly"

“Lee Feldman plays the piano in just the dry, subtle, understated manner that his dry, subtle, understatedly hilarious songs call for.” - Charles Young - Atlantic Monthly

"Rolling Stone"

“Lee Feldman brings to mind the classic early work of Randy Newman both in terms of timeless songcrafting and ambitious arranging. The often haunting ‘Living It All Wrong’ gets most everything right.” - David Wild
- Rolling Stone

"Time Out New York"

“Feldman's poignant and occasionally disquieting vignettes mine complex truths, finding romance and heartbreak in the mundane details and rituals of daily life. . . . A winner in any year.”
- Time Out New York

"The Village Voice"

“Reviving a bit of Brill Building artistry, this New York piano man
makes you think and swoon and hum all at once.” - Carrie Havranek
- The Village Voice

"Keyboard Magazine"

“Lee Feldman may be one of the best songwriters you never heard of. His tunes have a simplicity and beauty that can only come from compositional maturity and confidence garnered from years of experience."
- Keyboard Magazine


Living It All Wrong (1997) Pure/Bonafide
The Man in a Jupiter Hat (2000) Mercury/Bonafide
I've Forgotten Everything (2006) Urban Myth



“Reviving a bit of Brill Building artistry, this New York piano man makes you think and swoon and hum all at once.” (Village Voice)

For years now, I’ve been trying to integrate a bunch of things that don’t ordinarily fit into pop albums: improvisation; stark emotional honesty; dark and surreal humor; cinematic dream-like narratives; strangely inevitable melodies; chamber music arrangements; experimental values. The goal is to incorporate these qualities into tunes that sear themselves into the listener’s brain and remain fresh and inevitable at each listening.

I was signed to Mercury Records in 1998 because of the unanimously great reviews I got for my first album, "Living It All Wrong." I made that album from money I had saved working for 10 years as a word processor in New York law firms. The songs came from many lonely years spent at the upright piano in my small Brooklyn walk-up apartment.

"The Man in a Jupiter Hat" was the album I made for Mercury. Producer Roger Peltzman and I spent our budget on great New York musicians: Lenny Pickett and the Blues Bros. horn section; downtown string masters Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander; guitar god Dave Schramm; and Cherish The Ladies’ pennywhistle player Joanie Madden, among others. The album came out great, but as soon as I turned it in, Mercury’s parent company, Polygram, was bought by Seagrams’ (Universal) and everything was put on hold. In 2000, I put Jupiter Hat out on my own label (Bonafide), and I got more great reviews -- including a profile on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and a cover story in KEYBOARD Magazine.

. . . which brings us to now. In February 2004, I took the band I had been working with for 6 years -- Byron Isaacs on bass and vocals (he’s also in the band “Olabelle”) and Bill Dobrow on drums (also with Martha Wainwright) into the studio to record the basic tracks for "I’ve Forgotten Everything." Ed Haber (producer of Linda Thompson’s critically acclaimed return to recording, "Fashionably Late"), shared my vision of highlighting this tight, piano-driven trio and trying to make a spontaneous and great-sounding album with echoes of Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, Lennon’s solo work and Cecil Taylor’s anarchism – yet with a coherence and concision all its own. I think we did it!

One good thing about living in New York City (aside from the food and the Metropolitan Museum of Art) is that you can call great musicians, and they probably will play on your record. Teddy Thompson (vocals and guitar), Steven Bernstein (trumpet and slide trumpet), Joel Frahm (tenor and soprano sax) , Rob Burger (Hammond organ), Will Holshouser (accordion) Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Greta Gertler (vocals), Pete Galub and Johnny Spampinato (guitars) -- it was a lot of intense personalities and a lot of fun!

Then to top it all off, me and Ed went out to Connecticut and got Jay Newland (who mixed and engineered the two Norah Jones CDs and a Charlie Haden/Hank Jones album that I love called “Steal Away”) to mix the album! His place was nice, but kind of cluttered with Grammys.

Also in 2004 I completed STARBOY, an animated musical about a 2-dimensional superhero who lives with his uncle, a Mathematician. It's been shown at film festivals in New York and London and will be shown (with live accompaniment) at The Whitney Museum in December 2005.