Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said 'a cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word' - an opinion, listening to hope, that one imagines Michè Fambro shares. "I don't stew in a cynical view, I'll tell you why, I've got hope", he sings, which in itself would usually be enough for this hardened cynic (I'm a repeat offender) to turn off. Luckily for me, though, Fambro, has a voice well worth listening to, and between the gaps the hardened voice of experience speaks - hope is as much an aspiration as a conviction for this stand-out musician. Remember David Wolf's remark that "Idealism is what precedes experience, cynicism is what follows.� Fambro intriguingly hovers between the two poles, while he dazzles with his technical ability.
Fambro is a one-man performer, a gifted guitarist, and former drummer mixing jazz, pop, folk and flamenco. These recordings, more than anything, display personality. He reminds me, at times, of Ben Harper, or in his more soulful moments (and there are plenty on offer) of master Jazz man Olu Dara - not to forget, of course, Robert Cray.
Originally from West Philadelphia, Fambro has spent years as a journeyman player touring around the States and Canada. His latest album, Caf� Vignettes, was recorded entirely at home - and it sounds that way, in the best sense. When those great minds at MTV thrashed out the 'unplugged' concept way back, they would have benefited from hearing this album, an album that stands or falls on the quality of its songs and performance (they might have spared us some of the orchestra-stuffed-into-the-corner-beside-the-performer's-ego performances which marred the valid idea).
Stand out track is A Bus ticket and American Flag which skilfully matches up the themes of travel and identity. It also perfectly marries together that hope and bitter experience already mentioned, and manages to be proudly patriotic without, ironically enough, engaging in flag waving. It's a song that, on a very personal level, delves into what it means to be an African-American musician:
He's a tom if he's educated,
he's a tom if he leaves the streets
Just watching time redefine what things mean
And what things used to be.
Strawman is another highlight - simple and sparse (like the rest of the songs on offer), but with a momentum and rythm that most rock bands would envy, and a vocal performance full of passion. Its melody and lyric are simple, and remain in the head and the heart long after the song finishes.
Spare some change is a mesmerising display of Fambro's guitar playing, being largely instrumental (apart from the title's refrain, and some skatting). Now, guitarists letting you know how good they are is rarely my cup of tea, but this is well reined in, ensuring that the end product is a song and not simply a showcase.
It's not all good news, though. Always a good boy is based on a simple enough conceit - the cataloguing of various 'bad boy' stereotypes, before declaring himself a 'good boy'. Musically there's nothing amiss, but the whole song seems an exercise based around a flimsy idea.
Much better is the album closer Love Simple which reduces the age-old love song to a bare, vibrant, and excitingly fresh form.
Whether Fambro will manage to move from the local to a national and international audience is anybody's guess. Given his ability to melt the cynicism from this critic's ears, I can only hope so.
A man of many skills, Miché captivates his listeners with his mastery of the guitar. But his mastery of the guitar is not his only forte; Miché is an amazing singer with skills that equally match that of his guitar playing. The bottom line is that Miché knows how to entertain; and he does it well.
One of the magical parts about Miché’s performances is that he fuses elements of flamenco, jazz, classical, pop and soul into a style all his own. But, if you don’t believe me, check out his EPK (Electronic Press Kit) on Sonicbids.com (Music Resources/Submission Giant) for yourself. It is our pleasure to introduce to you this funky fun spotlight of the highly energetic performer, Miché.
Isaac-Joseph: Hello Miché, how are you doing today? I am thankful for this interview with you my new friend.
Miché: I’m doing great and I’m absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to yak to someone other than myself.
Isaac-Joseph: You are amazing with the guitar. Elaborate on your beginnings with the guitar:
Miché: I started out as a drummer. My younger brother was the first musician in the family and I played his drums. When we’d go for walks with my grandmother, we would always pass this pawn shop that had a guitar and amplifier in the window. We thought it was cool, and eventually my grandmother bought it – for my brother. So, then my interest shifted to the guitar. My grandmother wasn’t happy that I was now playing both of my brother’s instruments. Can you tell who she liked better? Anyway, to make a long story short, I developed my guitar/drumming technique as a way of getting even with my grandmother.
Isaac-Joseph: What aspect of making music excites you the most right now as an entertainer?
Miché: One of the things that have been awkward for me through the years is that my taste in music is all over the place. I like a lot of things. I do a lot of things. But, it’s difficult to find situations where you’re allowed to do it all. In the jazz realm, it’s almost as though you’re not permitted to do folk-style music. In a folk context, you’re shunned for singing “Misty.” But as an entertainer, the context shifts and the focus becomes more about whom you are rather than what you’re doing. It’s very freeing. So, I’m claiming that aspect of myself – the entertainer who plays music.
Isaac-Joseph: What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged you the most?
Miché: What I find most discouraging is the fact that in the music business, when you’ve been doing something long enough to finally figure out what you’re doing, you’re considered too old to do it. As an old black guy who looks like a wombat, I find that discouraging. People like their stars to be young and pretty, and I am neither. Dang.
Isaac-Joseph: You have some new releases. Expound on your new project and what can we expect from them.
Miché: Café Vignettes is my latest acoustic project. It’s my second solo CD. I recorded it at home and I really wanted it to capture my essence as a person and as a performer, so this project is a mixture of guitar and monologues. I talk about traveling around the country playing at various cafés. I thought it would be fun to give some context to who was actually playing the music – “What about that guy? Who is this Miche anyway?”
Isaac-Joseph: What's the most unusual place you've ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording (recently moving to Maryland)?
Miché: The most challenging place in which I recorded was certainly the Memorial Chapel at Union College in Schenectady, NY, where I did “The Chapel Session.” I have plenty of experience with recordings. I’ve even produced a number of other acts years ago. But, what made the Chapel Session so challenging was its simplicity. It was an audiophile recording - basically, live, no overdubs – just 2 microphones and the pressure to deliver a performance worthy of the process. I was very nervous and very cold (there wasn’t much heat in the room), and I had to time each song to begin and end before the chimes in the bell tower rang. There were three 8-hour sessions recorded out of which I was only able to use 36 minutes. This was a humbling experience.
Isaac-Joseph: In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music?
Miché: I’m born and raised in Philadelphia but my musical awakening didn’t really begin until I ended up in Upstate NY. That was when I began to do my own material and to discover myself as an artist. During those years, I explored progressive pop with two different bands playing the club scene. I then moved into acoustic music and the café scene where I’ve spent the last bunch of years, including a couple of tours of the US and Canada. When I followed my wife to the DC area two years ago, I knew that it was pretty much a jazz town, and since I was always a difficult artist to categorize, it dawned on me that maybe I should go ahead and embrace the jazz part of myself as a way of having a particular audience to target in this area. So, I began singing jazz, hoping that it would allow the opportunity to get people curious about the other aspects of my music, which has in fact happened. The challenge now is to consolidate all the fans from all over who are interested in the various parts of what I do.
Isaac-Joseph: When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it?
Miché: The last song I wrote was actually a year ago - a Christmas song. I wrote it with my wife who provided the lyrics. For a number of years, we were moving around a lot and people were always hearing the music for the first time, so there wasn’t the incentive to create new music. Now that the motivation has returned, I’ve been thinking that music may not be the best or only medium through which to express myself. I’m playing around with a screenplay about an unassuming but exceptionally talented black guy who’s competing against big personalities, big breasts, big budgets, and big attitudes. He’s quite aware that he’s never going to experience conventional fame. This brother knows he doesn’t stand a chance but just keeps going because … well, he doesn’t really know why. That’s what he’s trying to find out.
Isaac-Joseph: As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people...and why do you think that is?
Miché: That’s an interesting subject for me. You’re talking to a guy who has thousands of record albums (currently for sale). I quit listening to music in the late ‘80s in an attempt to discover who I was. This was courtesy of a trip to Europe. I was really into esoteric, non-mainstream music and went through a phase where anything non-American was hip. I was a buyer of imports at a record store and got to listen to it all. Then I went to Europe where I discovered that they thought everything non-European was hip. I realized that it was time to let go of my heroes and to figure out who I was so that wherever I was or wherever I went, I’d still be me. So, I quit listening to music. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that to others. Anyway, after all this time, I’m enjoying rediscovering music. I love the MySpace thing – not only do you get to hear new music, but to meet and talk to the people who make it. I’m still new to this, but am finding it very exciting.
Isaac-Joseph: Lately, what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? (Old or new music? Music like yours or different from yours?)
Miché: For listening, I certainly like the old stuff. I love listening to the crooners from the 40s to the 60s. I guess I still don’t listen to too much music, but there are some artists I always enjoy … Steel Pulse, Gino Vannelli, Sinatra, and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Isaac-Joseph: Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What's one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?
Miché: Gino Vanelli’s “Brother to Brother” album. I also love Stan Freberg’s “Greatest Hits.” I also recorded a couple of tracks with this rap ukulele player named Jonathan Braman who I think people should check out.
Isaac-Joseph: What is your favorite song of yours that you enjoy performing on stage?
Miché: “Now That You’ve Got Your Girl” - It’s the one song that has the folk thing meshed with The Four Tops, and I love the Four Tops.
Isaac-Joseph: This is what we call our Shout Out time. Elaborate on any and everyone that matters the most to you:
Miché: Shout Out to my family – we’ve been making some serious changes in our lives – my wife left her job so that we could focus on my career. One thing I’ve learned over the years is how easy it is to be rhetorically ambitious. We all want the prize. We all want the goods. But when it comes down to it, most of us decide that it’s either not worth it or asking too much. My family’s answer to this is that we’re selling everything we own in an attempt to accomplish more than I’ve ever done in the past – freeing ourselves to go anywhere and to do whatever we need to do. At worst, we’ll be poor-er. So, I’ve got my family. And I’ve got hope. And somewhere, sometime, something is gonna make some sense.
Miché Fambro's EPK on Sonicbids.com
David Fricke, Senior Editor
Hailing from upstate NY, singer, guitarist and songwriter Miché Fambro specializes in a more quiet storm -
a delicate blend of acoustic chamber folk, Brazilian tropicalismo and metaphysical introspection -
on The Chapel Session (Slidd, CD).
The album was actually recorded in a church a la the Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Session,
and you can practically feel the ambient hush hanging over Fambro's elegant picking and the sweet longing
and devotion in his singing... Beautiful, earnest, soulful. (David Fricke)
Miché Fambro bridges the gaps between several musical styles - classical, folk and jazz.
In fact, he sometimes sounds strangely reminiscent of an improvisationally-
inclined James Taylor who's had a strict musical upbringing.
This diverse way of looking at all things musical could work to Fambro's disadvantage.
Instead, the talented singer-musician uses his flexible voice, and undeniable talent playing acoustic guitar,
and a comfortable attitude toward the addition of subtle percussion and obvious strings
to his already elegant agenda, to wrap up his music in a very pretty package... (Ellen Geisel)
More years ago than I can face head on, Fambro's group, Miché and the Anglos, was the Phish of Flower City,
the Dave Matthews Band of the Genesee Valley, or any analogy that may actually impress you and could easily
|After he went solo, Fambro continued to enjoy a high regional reputation
(his extraordinary guy-and-guitar, over-dub free 1999 CD "My Canvas" was ecstatically reviewed ...).
(Miché's) first tour has given him a new perspective on his talents and potential. "Here's one of the things I've discovered.
I have always been one of those people who was getting told, 'Oh, you have all this promise.
You should be doing this. You should be doing that. What on earth are you doing here?'
Well, you've got to be somewhere," Fambro deadpans.
"Now that I'm going all over the place, a lot of people seem very, very happy with what I'm doing."
Recapturing the Magic
The Verve will play host to world-renowned musicians tonight.
Though legendary performer James Brown is often referred to as the hardest working man in show business,
that phrase isn't far off in describing musician Miché Fambro, a self-taught guitarist who will appear at the Verve tonight...
"A lot of musicians I know are very rhetorically ambitious," Miché explained,
"Either they just don't do the hard work, or they have all types of excuses."
Miché first performed at the Verve in Terre Haute during his U.S. tour that covered 17 states and 40-50 shows.
(When he returned to the Verve on his way back to NY),
"The place just kind of really went nuts...
When you walk inside a place and everybody's chanting your name, it's just magical."
CD Review (The Canvas)
You're gonna love Miché Fambro, Ithaca's newest star. His second acoustic album, My Canvas, mixes jazz,
classical, Latin, and pop influences with his own idiosyncratic technique, and is a real winner.
As a kid in Philadelphia, Miché played the drums. At 14, he picked up a guitar and taught himself to play,
left-handed and upside-down, tuned down a whole step in ascending fourths. Ooops. But it never mattered.
Miché is intricately invloved with the percussive nature of his instrument.
He sure bangs the heck a soaring tenor and a taleout of his guitar! My Canvas is recorded live with no overdubs.
You might think you're hearing a drummer accompanying him, but you're not. It's all Miché all the way.
But he's no sterile shotgunner. He's also got nt for writing poignant songs. In this album dedicated to his daughter,
Miché sings about growing up without a father and about losing a childhood friend to street violence...
I was lucky enough to catch Miché's set at the Ithaca Festival and I was thrilled...
Miché radiates energetic happiness and a generous spirit, the power of a man following his own compass.
Local Musician Croons for a Cause:
Friday, Nov. 23, 2007
…With the help of local musician Miché Fambro, the Twin Beach Players got a little closer to a permanent home. Fambro entertained an audience Nov. 17 with stories and soulful, jazzy songs at a concert to benefit the theater group.
… (Miché) said he started playing when he was 14 years old but had not planned to make a career out of music. He said the turning point in his musical career was when he realized he did not have to sound like anyone else. ‘‘I realized I’ll never sing as good as Stevie Wonder, that I can only be Miché ... and I’m pretty good at that,” Fambro said.
…Fambro performed some of his songs as a soloist and others with a band that he met through bass player Mark Foster of Waldorf. By the end of the first set, the audience was ready for more; many people purchased one of his CDs to have autographed during the break.
…‘‘He’s all the greats rolled into one,” said voice teacher and music therapist, Joyce Whitney Pfanschmidt. ‘‘I love the quality of his voice. He really connected with the audience…It’s healing,” Pfanschmidt added. ‘‘It’s his spirit and his soul.”
…Allison Robinson of Prince Frederick said she saw Fambro a few days prior to Saturday’s concert at a performance in a restaurant and bar in Prince George’s County. ‘‘I am speechless,” Robinson said. ‘‘I saw Miché perform in Upper Marlboro and it was just such beautiful music I wanted to see him again. The music was very emotional.”
…Theresa York of Chesapeake Beach said she was still trying to decide which member of the band was cuter but she also said she loved watching Fambro perform. ‘‘When you watch him it’s like there are three musicians in one,” York said. ‘‘It’s incredible.”
Helenmary Ball and her husband Julian, both of Owings, said they enjoyed the concert very much.
…‘‘It’s absolutely incredible,” Helenmary Ball said. ‘‘I was blown away. I was surprised by his sense of humor and incredible range.”
…‘‘I think it’s awesome,” said Steve Hurley of Owings. ‘‘It’s music that everyone needs to experience because it goes deep down and touches your spirit,” Hurley said.
"It was truly an honor to have Miché perform... a highlight of our summer." (Jason, owner of The Shop - Spokane, WA)
"Yes!!!""Awesome!""Amazing rhythms!""Incredibly musical""Brilliant" (fans in Seattle and Bellingham, WA)
"Your CD plays often at the Hotel Utah." (BobOMagic - host, SanFrancisco, CA)
"You are an amazing musician and an absolute joy to watch." (Billy Harper, fan - Terre Haute, IN)
"The CD is excellent!" (Steve, owner of the Kraftbrau Brewery - Kalamazoo, MI)
"Your Music is fantastic and the world...is hungry for fresh, rich, beautiful Music like yours... It reaches everyone and anyone." (Marcelo Guimaraes, fan - Rochester, NY)
"Extremely Innovative -- a truly gifted acoustic artist." (Jim Turner, BrewHouse Live! owner, La Plata, MD, 11/07)
"Holy S---!!! You're Amazing!!!!!" (Theresa Vermeesch, fan - Ventura, CA)