Mitchell Froom Brings It All Back Home
A Thousand Days is a line from a Louie Pérez poem and the title of Mitchell Froom's third solo release. Froom started out as a popular session keyboard player. In 1984, he released his own LP, The Key of Cool, which was also used as the soundtrack to Café Flesh. His unique style immediately appealed to other artists, setting a snowball in motion. Recording engineer Tchad Blake helped him solidify the signature sound described by All Music Guide as "standard junkyard percussion, clattering keyboards and self-conscious lo-fi effects, all taken to ludicrous extremes". Read on jazz fans.
Froom quickly became one of the few big-name producers of the late 80s and 90s, working with a veritable who's who list (of rock music, anyway): Del Fuegos/Dan Zanes, Crowded House/Neil Finn, Peter Case, Richard Thompson, Suzanne Vega (his wife), Janet Jackson, Eddie Money, Rick Springfield, Santana, Marshall Crenshaw, The Bangles, BoDeans, Paul McCartney, Maria McKee, Los Lobos, Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, T-Bone Burnett, American Music Club, Roy Orbison, The Pretenders, Michelle Shocked, David Byrne, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Cibo Matto, Lisa Germano, the Corrs, Jonatha Brook, Vonda Shepard, Ron Sexsmith, Sheryl Crow, Pearl Jam, and many new artists yet to gain name recognition. In 1998, some of these artists contributed to Froom's second solo release, Dopamine. He is a Grammy, Golden Globe, and Emmy Award nominee. If nothing else, you've heard him on the Los Lobos song, "La Bamba", Suzanne Vega's "99.9°F", or Sheryl Crow's 007 theme song "Tomorrow Never Dies". Even today's teenagers know his work on Music from the O.C.: Mix 1. Whether this is a departure or a return, A Thousand Days is a bewitching set of good-old acoustic piano solos.
Though traditionalists will reject A Thousand Days as strictly jazz, it nonetheless contains pure instrumental music. The Kontext website describes Froom's sound as "melodies between Folk, Jazz, Pop and Classical Music.... reminiscent of Tom Waits, Randy Newman and Elvis Costello." Froom has undoubtedly earned the right to make music any which way he likes, with whomever he likes, which makes this sort of venerability even more surprising.
True to form, Froom's compositions reveal more intention than improvisation. These fourteen little tunes are lean, mature, and emotionally compelling. Perhaps Froom has finally crushed the critics who insistently label him "mushy", "overbearing, or "overproduced". A Thousand Days is stream-of-consciousness mood music and so much more; hopefully introducing his genius to all new audiences. It maybe tough, however, to find people who don't already own one of his 40 million records sold. Highly recommended.
Exquisite cover art and liner notes by Louie Pérez (Los Lobos).
-David Seymour is a freelance jazz journalist in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.