Birthplace: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Jazz Singer and Songwriter
Residence: New York
When I first heard Sachal Vasandani, it was on my Frank Sinatra playlist on Pandora. His round tone and smooth voice caught my attention immediately, reminding me of a cross between old blue eyes himself and Johnny Mercer. From jazz classics to new, proprietary compositions, Vasandani’s voice is the kind that transports us to a different time when people took the time to get dressed up to patronize classy jazz lounges and jazz singers were as charming as their performances.
A graduate of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Vasandani has had three successful, critically acclaimed albums to date with his fourth, Slow Motion Miracles, due out in Spring of 2015. With each album, he has gained greater numbers of fans and will no doubt continue to do so as he tours internationally. With a combination of reserved mysteriousness and smooth, romantic vocals, Vasandani is set to be one of the major stars of jazz music.
Catch my interview with Sachal below.
As a singular singer-songwriter, Sachal has pivoted into an appealing new direction on his sublime Okeh debut, the aptly titled Slow Motion Miracles. It’s a remarkable 10-track album of top-flight songs teeming with close-to-the-heart personal stories of love and loss, vignettes of fleeting moments and dreamy fantasies—all fluid with the ebb and flow of heartbreak and discovery.
On Slow Motion Miracles, Sachal delivers a full set of multilayered gems steeped in a variety of styles, including indie pop, hip-hop, electronica, Brazilian, Afro-beat, old-school jazz and new-styled jazz. “I’m not limiting,” he says. “I weave my voice through a lot of the music I listen to. It’s still me and just a part of my journey.”
Sachal cites a number of key influences—from Paul Simon, Seu Jorge, Frank Ocean and popular hip-hop, to Fleetwood Mac, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and 19th century German art songs- but says that what it all comes down to is serving his songs in a fresh and resonating way.
“The inspiration for the new album starts with experiences I’ve lived through that evolve into fantasy,” says Sachal. “The songs were germinated from personal moments, then mingled with daydreams to become something new. It was transcendent. The feelings and ideas would float up and soar and would become greater than the original moments.”
Sachal enlisted multi-instrumentalist Michael Leonhart to produce Slow Motion Miracles as well as collaborate compositionally on two songs. Sachal was introduced to Leonhart through a mutual friend and passed on to him demos of soundscapes, orchestration and lyrics he had crafted on a computer.
“As a writer and composer, you’re often in isolation, but sharing these private moments with Michael made him a great partner, a real colleague,” Sachal says. “He has a great ear, plays a ton of instruments, is a wizard with technology and made the sounds sparkle. Plus, with all of what he offered, he retained a human touch. Michael took my initial ideas and brought them to the next level.”
Sachal invited seven other musicians to play on selected tunes—including Taylor Eigsti on keyboards and synthesizers, Gerald Clayton on piano, Ryan Scott on guitars, Buster Hemphill on electric bass, David Wong on acoustic bass, Nate Smith on drums, and Mark Guiliana on drums and drum machines—to contribute short accents, subtle colors and understated grooves within the multilayered songs.
“All these guys are great musicians,” says Sachal, who also contributes keyboard parts, programming and electronics. “It was a challenge to edit, but that was a fun part of the process of making this album. It was about the storytelling and getting an organic feeling from the layers, so that the songs have a place in today’s sound as well as a link to history. Our ultimate goal for mixing all of these great contributions in was to serve the songs and make them come alive”
On Slow Motion Miracles, Sachal swings through the themes of escape, journey and romance. The title track, with an ebullient vocal open and an almost whimsical sensibility, is short in length but potent in meaning. “It’s about wanting to escape, but also be caught by an overpowering, sensual force” Sachal says. Likewise, the catchy melody “No More Tears,” starting off with a stark, reflective vocal followed by organ shading, is a dreamlike search for a fresh feeling. “It’s a clearing of the air to go beyond.”
The sweet, loving “Marie” is a compositional collaboration with David Brophy, a Boston songwriter friend who helped Sachal finesse the song. It is celebratory in nature as well as a trip into reverie. “Sometimes I need an escape,” Sachal says. “The same idea kept popping in my head when I was writing this one- I was out on the open road on a bright day, just cruising and laughing with friends- a great, sunny moment.”
Leonhart co-wrote with Sachal the beauty, “Cover the Water,” which shines as a bright, hopeful number. It’s based on an image that Sachal envisioned on the beach at night and a feeling of youthful affection. “Taking off, and trusting that the universe will take care of you.”
From the beach to home, “Waiting on the Roof” is a daydream based on being able to fall asleep under the stars on a rooftop. “This is a love song with a childlike sense of wonder,” Sachal says. “I’m waiting for romance, but I’m also struck by the grandeur of the stars.”
Amid the Sachal originals on Slow Motion Miracles, he covers two tunes that fit the overall vibe of the album. He supplies his own longing lyrics to Brazilian songwriter Flavio Venturini’s “Afternoon Sun” about gazing at a distant horizon and dreaming, and he closes the album with a lush, moving, soulful rendition of the Jim Weatherly composition: “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye), a tune that Gladys Knight made into a hit with the Pips in 1973. “I came back to the ground to sing this – it’s very visceral to me” Sachal says.
Slow Motion Miracles is Sachal’s most accomplished recording as an artist. This is his fourth album overall (previously he recorded three jazz-infused CDs for Mack Avenue as Sachal Vasandani) and the best showing of his unique voice and his compelling storytelling. He’s looking forward to touring with a simpatico band comprised of some of the studio members. “We had a lot of joy recording this album,” he says. “We’re sharing our creativity. Now, when I go on tour, I get to bring these songs to a new life.”