Rachel Eckroth Contributed photo

A musical chameleon is coming to Maine for a special show at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 27 in Sun Tiki Studios at 375 Forest Ave. in Portland ([email protected]).

Rachel Eckroth is a pianist, vocalist, keyboardist, composer, producer, arranger, band leader, and sideman with 20 albums (as a leader or co-leader) under her belt, the latest is “The Garden,” which she’ll be celebrating when performing at Sun Tiki Studios this coming Monday evening. Eckroth, who is adept with all kinds of genres, was kind enough to chat with me from her home in Tucson, Arizona recently about her music and the upcoming trip to our fair state.

Q: Let me begin by saying that I’ve never talked to anyone with the amount of diversity —it’s unbelievable!

Eckroth: Thank you (chuckle).

Q: You must enjoy all these different avenues you can go down.
Eckroth: Yeah, I do. You know, I’ve been a sideman for a lot of my career so that means having to learn different styles and that’s why I play all kinds of keyboards and not just piano. So, yeah, it just comes with the territory; but along the way I’ve been able to make my own music just kind of in a bunch of different ways.

Q: Of course this is like asking a parent who’s their favorite child, but is there one style that you prefer over another?
Eckroth: You know, my first love is jazz so I would say that jazz is where I usually end up.

Q: Now, you’re coming over to Maine for a show down in Portland at Sun Tiki Studios. What kind of performance can people expect there?
Eckroth: Well, we’re going to be doing music from my new album called “The Garden” which is now Grammy-nominated, so that’s exciting. So it’s basically kind of keyboard/synth-driven jazz, but it’s a little beyond jazz, it’s improvisational with a lot of melodic and compositional material involved.

Q: Do you perform much in Maine?

Eckroth: This will be my first time as a solo artist.

Q: Well, if you’re a foodie, you couldn’t have picked a better place than Portland.
Eckroth: Oh, I’m excited, I’m definitely excited to eat … I’m always excited to eat (laughter)!

Q: When did “The Garden” come out?
Eckroth: It came out on Sept. 3 on a label called Rainy Days Records and they’re based out of St. Petersburg, Russia.

Q: Russia?!
Eckroth: Yeah, it’s like a very strange connection but it’s through my husband who has played on some of the Rainy Days artists’ records. My husband is the bass player that’s going to be coming with us to Portland.

Q: What’s the history behind “The Garden”?
Eckroth: We started writing this kind of music in the pandemic, my husband Tim and I were stuck at home so we had to make up music on our own without any other people involved, obviously. So we did a lot of improvisational jams at our house with synths and drum machines and instruments, and recorded that stuff just for fun, we made videos and stuff like that. And then the label, Rainy Days, really liked what we were doing so they asked us to do an album kind of based around that sound.

Q: I believe that it was on your website that I found a video with you and your husband: he was playing bass and you were singing.
Eckroth: Right after we made that video for NPR, we did a duo recording which we called “The Blackbird Sessions,” where he’s just playing upright bass and I’m just singing, and we did a bunch of standards. That’s online and it’s something we did in early 2021, kind of for fun to see if we could do it. So we made a whole record of that. I started off as a keyboard player but when I was young I was really singing a lot, too, and I still do; I have a lot of vocal projects that I do. Obviously, “The Garden” is not one of those, there’s only one vocal number on that, so the show in Portland will be more of an instrumental party.

Q: That’s a shame because you have a really wonderful voice.
Eckroth: Thank you.

Q: What is your recording catalogue like?
Eckroth: If you look online there’s a real variety of stuff, I’ve always been a composer so I’ve always tried to write different things. I actually started songwriting with lyrics and stuff about 15 years ago, so I’ve got a couple of records online where it’s vocals, but you’ll hear a lot of my arranging especially on the record called, “Let Go.” There are a couple singer-songwriter records: one is more synth driven and one is with more like acoustic instruments. I’m working on some other stuff now but it’ll probably be like large ensemble stuff, that’ll be my next record hopefully. And I also have a very acoustic singer-songwriter EP with four tracks that I did last year.

Q: Just with this brief overview you are definitely all over the musical map, that’s for sure.
Eckroth: I know, I can’t control myself.

Q: Please—never try!!
Eckroth: It’s too late for that, anyway.

Q: Good. Now, is there anything that you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Eckroth: Yeah, you know what? Just mention that “The Garden” is Grammy-nominated now, and if you would mention the band members’ names that would be good. The drummer is Nate Wood and my husband is Tim Lefebvre, he’s the bassist.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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