Outer Worlds is Umbrello Records first release by Kurt Michaels.
It follows Michaels' 2004
critically acclaimed debut CD, "Inner Worlds--Part One". that won him the title of
"U-Magazine 2004 Ambient Artist of the Year".
Outer Worlds is a compilation of live recordings performed between 2004 and 2006,
featuring Michaels' dreamlike "fourth dimensional" guitar playing framed in an atmospheric
backdrop of sound. The unfolding music sparkles throughout during the completely improvised,
100% live performances. Michael’s guitar playing draws comparisons to some of the more ethereal
works of legendary musicians like Robert Fripp (King Crimson) and Steve Howe (Yes).
01 Senor Wences (13:24)
02 Lamb Chop (5:50)
03 Chucky (2:24)
04 Jade Princess (6:01)
05 Hitch Hiker On Venus (3:56)
06 One (43:50)
Kurt Michaels Guitar on all tracks
Jim Gully Keyboards on tracks 1, 2 3 & 4
Mike Cosentino Electronic Wind Instrument on track 5
John Melnick Keyboards on track 6
The road leading Kurt Michaels to the release of his second CD, "Outer Worlds, Part Two," is a long and winding one. As a child armed with a stack of 45s and a transistor radio, he became immersed in the Top 40 hit makers of the early 60s—Chuck Berry, Spencer Davis, and Otis Day, to name a few. When the Beatles came to America, Michael's destiny became irrevocably cast to a future involving music.
Michaels' 35-year musical career has allowed him to share the stage with many of his jukebox heroes, including Berry, Davis, and Day, not to mention Wolfman Jack, Badfinger, Bobby Vinton, the Marvelettes, and the Chiffons.
"It was a surreal, cartoonish experience, like scenes out of some Fellini movie," he said.
"But in the end what I got out of the experience was just that—out."
"Out," means the development of a harmonic palette that defies conventional parameters.
In addition to the above-named artists, John McLaughlin and Jimi Hendrix also provide a strong influence in Michaels' music as does the progressive rock band Yes, amongst others. Thus, he took a variety of musical genres and mixed them together to produce his own unique sound.
Michaels was initially a self-taught musician, learning about music from the artists he admired by listening and imitating their sounds, eventually developing an understanding of how it all fit together. He took no formal lessons until about age 20, attending Roosevelt University in Chicago where he studied music theory. Michaels also studied classical guitar for a period in his mid 20s, as well as improvisational skills.
As a working musician, Michaels has played on stages throughout the United States and Canada, fronting his own band, working as support for name acts and playing in a wide variety of musical situations. Working in such a manner has required him to transcribe literally thousands of musical works.
"When you do that, you not only develop your ears, you eventually come to recognize patterns and learn about arranging and harmony," he said.
Through the acquired knowledge of patterns, harmony, a trained ear and polished facility, Michaels has developed extraordinary improvisational skills over the years.
"As unbelieveable as it seems, that's why I'm confident enough to get up in front of a club full of people and create on the spot. It's second nature." he said.
Michaels did just that, enduring a trial by fire last year by performing as an opening act for the American debut of the Syn, which featured Chris Squire and Alan White of Yes..
Michaels doesn't listen to music in the same manner that he did when he was a teenager. Back then, he was obsessed with guitar and its role in modern music. Now he listens to music as a whole & complex arrangement, still trying to develop his understanding of why some things work, and some things don't. His first CD, Inner Worlds, Part One, was not so much about his ability to play, but more about his ability to create, arrange and program music in the digital realm.
"People that knew me were surprised that there was so little guitar featured in my first release," he said.
Because he didn't have the desire to recreate Inner Worlds in a live setting, it took Michaels a year to determine how to approach a live performance in the same spirit. Reverting to the guitar, the instrument with which is he is most comfortable, Michaels uses his "whole arranger" approach, playing off a single keyboardist to create soundscapes of surprising layers and depth in real time.
"Having someone to interact with keeps it fresh, forcing me to listen and anticipate where the music will be going next," Michaels said.