Stu Mindeman, pianist and composer, is set to release his new album titled Woven Threads (Sunnyside Records) on September 14, 2018. The eight track album is a remarkable journey through themes of distant memories, self re-discovery, and the connection between North and South American cultures. Woven Threads is inspired by Stu’s recent trips to Chile reconnecting him to his childhood memories of the country’s rich culture, vibrant people, and diverse musical landscape. The album also features an impressive array of talents including Francesca Ancarola, Ana Tijoux, Kurt Elling, Miguel Zenón, and Marquis Hill.
Stu, who currently resides in Chicago, spent his formative years in Santiago, Chile when his father took a job with the Santiago Symphony. He elaborates, “My dad would bring home recordings of various Chilean folk music artists and play them for me as a child. A dear Chilean friend of my parents named María would often come to our home, while both of my parents were working, watching after me and teaching me Spanish. I grew up with very little memory of my time in Chile, expect for the echoes of those folk melodies in my ears, and the small amount of Spanish María had taught me.” As Stu began playing music professionally he started working closely with many Latin American artists that spanned Salsa to Afro-Caribbean to Latin Pop leading Stu to tour South America, which helped bring his Spanish speaking skills back. The result led him to yearn for a return back to Chile in hopes to reconnect with his distant memories.
In early 2017, his dreams came true when he finally had a chance to visit Chile. Stu was instantly drawn into the rhythm and vibrant warmth of Chilean culture through his daily interactions with all the new people he met in Santiago. Stu adds, “I immediately immersed myself in the modern music scene in Santiago, meeting many Jazz, Folk, and Hip Hop musicians and I began to take note of the intensely vibrant and diverse art being made in Chile, both rooted in history and the present.”
In May 2017, Stu was invited back to Chile to present a series of concerts and decided he wanted to record a project with the talented Chilean artists he was collaborating with. These profound experiences resulted in Woven Threads and includes the talents of Chilean musicians Carlos Cortes Diaz on drums and Milton Russell on bass, as well as acclaimed Jazz singer Francesca Ancarola and Hip Hop artist Ana Tijoux.
One of the Chilean movements that deeply struck Stu was Nueva Canción, which was rooted in 60s and 70 protest songs about social change and political activism. Artists of the Nueva Canción movement included Victor Jara, Violeta Parra, Ali Primera, and Chavela Vargas. Stu expresses, “In my own life I resonated with the themes in Jara’s lyrics and Parra’s poetry, as well as those of the lyrics of the other South American songs I arranged: unrequited love, the cyclical nature of time, the tender balance between hope and depression, between longing and despair.” Inspired, Stu arranged two Victor Jarra songs, “El Aparecideo” and “No Puedes Volver Atrás” and composed stunning tributes to Violeta Parra in “Woven Threads – What Word” and “Woven Threads – A Thousand Stars.”
The tribute to Violetta Parra also emerges in the album title Woven Threads. Stu describes, “In my exploration of the work of Violeta Parra, I was seized by her works of visual art, especially her tapestries. After some reflection, I realized that the image of woven threads was a perfect metaphor for the entire project: Chilean music woven together with North American music, South American voices and poetry is blended with North American voices and sounds, I’ve woven together my childhood memories with my experience as an adult.”
After recording in Chile, Stu returned to the U.S. and added more layers and orchestration, featuring Jazz singer Kurt Elling, as well as celebrated Jazz instrumentalists like Miguel Zenón and Marquis Hill.
Woven Threads is Stu’s most personal release to date, focusing on his re-discovery of self through his Chilean upbringing and creative journey into distant memories.