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Raul Midón

Raul Midón

April 4, 2020

Along with his 11 studio albums as a solo artist, Raul Midón – dubbed “an eclectic adventurist” by People magazine – has collaborated with such heroes as Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers, along with contributing to records by Queen Latifah and Snoop Dogg and the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s She Hate Me. A native of New Mexico who now lives in Maryland after years in New York, Midón has earned acclaim the world over, with a fanbase that stretches from San Francisco to India, Amsterdam to Tokyo. Marveling over his live performances, The New York Times has called Midón “a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus.” He recently performed in a special Homecoming Week music series at his alma mater, the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. He was surprised onstage with the school’s most prestigious honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. Frost’s dean said of the 1990 graduate: “Raul Midón truly personifies what a student at our school can achieve. It’s a thrill to be able to honor Raul’s extraordinary talent and exemplary accomplishments.”

For a glimpse of how magnetic Midón can be live, seek out on YouTube the clip of his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2006. Performing “State of Mind,” the title track from his major-label debut, Midón unveils what would become his signature combination of silky voice and percussive guitar. His playing is a syncopated wonder in which bass, harmony and melodic lines fly from the fretboard in a way that belies the fact that all the music is being produced by just two hands. If that weren’t enough, Midón busts out his improvisational mouth-horn technique, in which he creates a bebop “trumpet” solo with his lips, earning himself a burst of mid-song applause from the audience.

The title of Midón’s Bad Ass & Blind album came from an apt description of its maker that soul icon Bill Withers endorsed; the 2017 release saw Midón collaborating with such top jazz players as trumpeter Nicholas Payton, pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. NPR noted that the disc continues Midón’s “streak of records that cross boundaries with ease and head-turning musicality.” Midón’s 2018 follow-up, If You Really Want, found Midón’s voice and guitar riding the waves of the Metropole Orkest, the GRAMMY Award-winning Dutch ensemble that has collaborated with artists from Al Jarreau and Elvis Costello to Laura Mvula and Snarky Puppy. Midón worked hand in glove on If You Really Want with another renowned GRAMMY winner: arranger and conductor Vince Mendoza. Relix magazine said about the album: “Throughout, there’s that voice – passionate and confident – with Midón giving each word his full attention so that you know he means it.”

Midón’s earlier studio discography includes Don’t Hesitate (2014), Synthesis (2010), A World Within a World (2007) and State of Mind (2005). He also released the CD/DVD Invisible Chains – Live from NYC, which documents an intimate concert in Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater from 2012. Midón’s live 2016 rendition of John Coltrane’s classic “Giant Steps” – which sees him fly through all 12 keys on the guitar – earned more than a million views via Facebook. Ever since being told by some when he was a child that his blindness meant that “you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” Midón has lived a life devoted to beating the odds and shattering stereotypes. “As someone who has never seen, I’ve always felt at a disadvantage in that lyric writing is usually very visual,” he says. “People really relate to images and I’ve never seen images. But what I realized early on is that you have to write from what you know, and I hear, touch and feel intensely – and those are sensations and experiences that everyone can relate to.”

April 4, 2020

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Pedal to the Metal
Raul Midón: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert