Q: Do you [& Leonard Cohen] sing at home? Anjani: “Yes, just like normal people. We sing his…” (2007)

Do you [Anjani and Leonard] sing at home?

quoteup2
Yes, just like normal people. We sing his old songs like Sisters Of Mercy or Bird On The Wire. He plays a lot of guitar to keep in practice. There is also a synthesizer around, so I can play spontaneously if I want. And sometimes, when friends come to visit, we sing after dinner.quotedown2

Anjani Thomas

From Mit Gedächtnisschwund kommt man schon sehr weit by Von Johannes Wächter. Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin: Issue 17: 2007, an interview with Leonard Cohen & Anjani Thomas about their connection. Quote via Google Translate. Photo by Dominique BOILE.

Signs Of Leonard Cohen: Indigo Event 2006

When Leonard Cohen, Anjani, The Barenaked Ladies, and Ron Sexsmith performed at the Indigo Event in Toronto in 2006, it was Cohen’s first public appearance since 1993. Originally posted May 4, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Also See Videos & Photos: Leonard Cohen, Anjani, Ron Sexsmith, Barenaked Ladies At Indigo – Toronto 2006

“I was starting to sweat because I just didn’t hear anything to sing” Anjani Thomas On The Process Of Recording Morning Glory With Leonard Cohen


Most of the songs on Dear Heather were recorded in Leonard’s home studio. Could you describe the working process? For instance, when recording the background vocals, were the arrangements and lead vocals already done or did the process move back and forth between the leads and backings?

quoteup2
The music tracks were complete but there was some flexibility between the recording lead and bgs [background vocals]; and one may have influenced the other. Leonard has always given me complete creative freedom on vocals. And although I’ve heard a rough track before the session, it doesn’t mean I know what I’ll do when I step up to the mic. This was especially true on Morning Glory. On several occasions we sat for an hour or two listening to the track and he’d say, ‘This is going to be so great! We’ll just chant, ‘morning glory’ and maybe sing a few lines about how beautiful the morning glories are.’ Meanwhile, he hadn’t written or recorded his speaking part yet, so all I knew about the song was that a 7-foot high wall of morning glory vines in his backyard inspired it. He never knew this, but the more he played the tune the more bewildered I became. It was so slinky and quirky that I had no clue what to do on it. I avoided that session for months until it was one of the last things on the record to complete. By then I thought I’d just give it a shot and it wouldn’t be usable, but at least I did some other good work on the record. So we rolled the tape and a minute of his monologue went by and nothing came to mind. Another two minutes passed and I was starting to sweat because I just didn’t hear anything to sing. Leonard was sitting in a chair four feet away from me with his eyes closed and he didn’t seem perturbed; but I felt like I was really blowing it. As his monologue ended I thought, ‘oh, whatever’ and I started singing, ‘oh, the morning glory.’ When it was over I gave him a look like, how horrible was that? He nodded and said it was just what he had in mind. So I tripled that line, added the harmonies, threw in some ‘glorias’ and by then it really was rather beautiful. quotedown2

Anjani Thomas

 

From Interview With Anjani at Dear Heather

The Anjani Chronicles: Escape From New York Meets To Live & Die In LA Meets Back To The Future + The Robert Kory Story

anjchron
Introduction To The Anjani Chronicles
Anjani is the exquisite, exotically featured singer and keyboardist best known for her Blue Alert CD, a collection of elegantly performed songs suffused with evocative lyrics, and her professional and romantic relationships with Leonard Cohen, an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right. My own connection to Anjani began in July 2006 when I posted Music Recommendation That Will Make You Want To Kiss Me, a review of Blue Alert that reflected my captivation with the music. An online flirtation and email relationship between us ensued.1 The Anjani Chronicles is a sequence of posts based on the content of my interviews with Anjani.

The Anjani Chronicles – Episode IV: Escape From New York Meets To Live and Die In L.A. Meets Back To The Future

Now, Where Were We?

We last left our intrepid adventurer at John Lissauer’s New York loft, where she had just met Leonard Cohen. The post describing that encounter, Anjani Goes To New York, Meets Leonard Cohen, and Finds Romance – But Not In That Order, ends with

That meeting led to Anjani performing background vocals on Cohen’s original recording of “Hallelujah,” joining the Various Positions tour as a keyboardist and vocalist, singing on subsequent Leonard Cohen albums, the Blue Alert album, and an intimate relationship between Anjani and Leonard Cohen.

The path to those end points from that first meeting, however, is not a straight line nor is the journey one completed quickly.

But, those are matters for another post.

Welcome to that “another post.”

To this point, we’ve watched Anjani grow up in Hawaii as a talented, music-obsessed youngster lugging a 150-plus pound Fender Rhodes Stage 88 to gigs throughout islands, followed her to Canada for her first full-time professional tour while still a teenager, tracked her to and from Honolulu several times, traveled along with her to Boston for her year and a half of advanced musical studies at Berklee, and sat in the audience as she became a regular in hotel lounge bands in Hawaii. When she was swept off her feet by a New Yorker she met while performing in one of those Waikiki clubs and decided to move to the town so nice they named it twice to be with him, we got on that Honolulu to New York flight with her – and were there a year later when the dissipated romantic liaison was replaced by an arrangement for her to temporarily share the apartment of a musician she had known in Hawaii. Throw in the five years she spent as temporary roommate, the batch of jobs she held during that time playing solo or as backup in clubs, all of which proved more educational than lucrative or career-advancing, the too many jingles she sang to pay the rent, the early stages of her relationships with John Lissauer and, through him, Leonard Cohen, and we find ourselves, along with our songstress, who is still a year or two shy of her 30th birthday, in the latter half of the 1980s.

Now, however, Anjani’s life becomes hectic.

So, buckle up and stay alert. The route is rocky and there are some sudden turns. Those of you prone to motion sickness might want to apply a anti-nausea patch before proceeding.

Going To The Chapel – And L.A.

Guess who got married? That’s right. In 1987, Anjani fell in love with and married Robert Kory, leaving New York to start their married life together in Los Angeles, where he was based.See what I mean about staying alert? You relax for a moment and within two lines of text, Anjani has moved across the continent and acquired a husband.

Eighteen months (and one sentence) later, the marriage is over.

But the story of Anjani and Robert Kory is somewhat longer and considerably more convoluted.

The Robert Kory Story

Continue Reading →

  1. These events and the aftermath are described at Anjani And DrHGuy FAQ. I’ve also published a batch of blog entries about Anjani and the Blue Alert album that can be found at Anjani Thomas. []

The Anjani Chronicles: Anjani Goes To New York, Meets Leonard Cohen, and Finds Romance – But Not In That Order

anjchron
Introduction To The Anjani Chronicles
Anjani is the exquisite, exotically featured singer and keyboardist best known for her Blue Alert CD, a collection of elegantly performed songs suffused with evocative lyrics, and her professional and romantic relationships with Leonard Cohen, an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right. My own connection to Anjani began in July 2006 when I posted Music Recommendation That Will Make You Want To Kiss Me, a review of Blue Alert that reflected my captivation with the music. An online flirtation and email relationship between us ensued.1 The Anjani Chronicles is a sequence of posts based on the content of my interviews with Anjani.

Anjani Goes To New York, Meets Leonard Cohen, & Finds Romance – But Not In That Order

Today’s post, the third of this series, begins at the point The Anjani Chronicles – Anjani Does Waikiki, Boston, and The Slough Of Despond ended, with Anjani’s departure from Boston’s Berklee School of Music and extends through her move to New York and her first meetings with John Lissauer and Leonard Cohen.

Home Again, Home Again

After deciding that she had reached the point of diminishing returns at Berklee School of Music, Anjani returns to Hawaii and to gigs on the hotel lounge circuit. In retrospect, the next major turn in her life seems inevitable: a young, beautiful, talented Anjani performing for audiences in luxury hotels on the romantic beaches of Hawaii falls for a tourist from the mainland.

As she explains the experience in an interview with the Honolulu Star Bulletin,

I was in my 20s, and he was the kind of man that swept you off your feet.

What are the odds?

Anjani is, indeed, sufficiently smitten that, pausing barely long enough to pack up all her cares and woes, her cold weather gear, and her Fender Rhodes Stage 88, she follows the guy back to his home in New York where – well, this isn’t the “they lived happily ever after” part of the story.

For one thing, Anjani is clear that New York was not her choice of ideal locales,

I ended up in New York. (It wasn’t music that drew me there). It was a man. I never would have gone there otherwise, I don’t think.2

Anjani is reluctant to provide details, especially about the New Yorker. With some repeated promptings (OK, after some nagging), she does summarize the experience:

It was crush at first sight but I also had rock fever and he was a good excuse to leave [Hawaii]. It was destined to fail as we were both young and dysfunctional; and I recall in particular dreading the joint Gestalt therapy sessions. I’m more of a feeler than a talker. I’ve since learned to express myself and (gasp) consider someone else’s feelings in a relationship.

A year later, concluding that the relationship “isn’t going to work,” Anjani calls the only other person she knows in New York (another musician of course), who agrees that she can crash at his fifth floor walk-up until she can find a place to live.

When she does find that place to live, five years later, she will be leaving for Los Angeles – to live with her new husband.

But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Just now, in fact, the script calls for a cameo appearance of a beloved character from the first episode of the Anjani Chronicles,

Continue Reading →

  1. These events and the aftermath are described at Anjani And DrHGuy FAQ. I’ve also published a batch of blog entries about Anjani and the Blue Alert album that can be found at Anjani Thomas. []
  2. see PopMatters article []

The Anjani Chronicles – Anjani Does Waikiki, Boston, and The Slough Of Despond

anjchron
Introduction To The Anjani Chronicles
Anjani is the exquisite, exotically featured singer and keyboardist best known for her Blue Alert CD, a collection of elegantly performed songs suffused with evocative lyrics, and her professional and romantic relationships with Leonard Cohen, an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right. My own connection to Anjani began in July 2006 when I posted Music Recommendation That Will Make You Want To Kiss Me, a review of Blue Alert that reflected my captivation with the music. An online flirtation and email relationship between us ensued.1 The Anjani Chronicles is a sequence of posts based on the content of my interviews with Anjani.

Anjani Does Waikiki, Boston, and The Slough Of Despond

Today’s post, the second of this series, begins at the point The Anjani Chronicles – Growing Up Anjani ended, Anjani’s return to Hawaii after performing for six months in Calgary and Edmonton as a member of Kino & The Sands and extends through her early professional career as a keyboardist and singer in the hotel lounges in Waikiki and a student of music in Boston.

You Can Go Home Again – To Play A Few Gigs

After six months of performing in Canada, Anjani returned to Hawaii and was soon back to work.

I got a gig as second keyboardist along with my piano teacher, Clyde Pound. He’s an awesome jazz pianist in the vein of Bill Evans and he was a major influence in my musical education. We backed up a duo2 in their lounge act. They were great singers and it was one of the hippest shows in Waikiki at the time.

Continue Reading →

  1. These events and the aftermath are described at Anjani And DrHGuy FAQ. I’ve also published a batch of blog entries about Anjani and the Blue Alert album that can be found at Anjani Thomas. []
  2. The singers were Teddy and Nanci Tanaka []

The Anjani Chronicles – Growing Up Anjani

anjchron
Introduction To The Anjani Chronicles
Anjani is the exquisite, exotically featured singer and keyboardist best known for her Blue Alert CD, a collection of elegantly performed songs suffused with evocative lyrics, and her professional and romantic relationships with Leonard Cohen, an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right. My own connection to Anjani began in July 2006 when I posted Music Recommendation That Will Make You Want To Kiss Me, a review of Blue Alert that reflected my captivation with the music. An online flirtation and email relationship between us ensued.1

The Anjani Chronicles is a sequence of posts based on the content of my interviews with Anjani. All published Anjani Chronicles posts can be found by clicking on Anjani Chronicles in the links listed under “Categories.”

Today’s post, the first of this series, centers on Anjani’s childhood and adolescence, especially the development of her musical career during this period.

______________________

Anjani And The Fender Rhodes Stage 88

The Fender Rhodes Stage 88

Pictured above is the Fender Rhodes2 Electric Piano (circa 1970s), an innovative instrument that featured a new technology for the creation of musical tones,3 offered an alternative channel for the interpretation of music, and dramatically expanded the potential repertoire of live musical entertainment.

More pertinent to our purposes, one specific Fender Rhodes Stage 88, the virtual twin of the Rhodes Stage 73 shown in the graphic on the right  but possessing a longer keyboard4 and proportionately larger size, illuminates some easily overlooked facets of Anjani’s life and connects those seemingly unassociated points.

And that Fender Rhodes Stage 88 may even offer a useful perspective on and insight into Anjani’s understated but resolute determination and resilience in the pursuit of her goals.

Finally, this machine is, if nothing else, a serviceable albeit unconventional Sancho Panza5 to Anjani’s Don Quixote in those portions of her adventure-filled quest presented in this and the next episode of The Anjani Chronicles.

To engage this point of view, one needs three points of information:

1. By the mid-1970s, the Fender Rhodes Stage 88 was not a keyboard instrument – it was the keyboard for serious jazz and rock musicians.6 The Fender Rhodes Stage 88 was heir to a stalwart heritage, evolving from a prototype that produced its 2.5 octaves from aluminum pipes salvaged from the hydraulic system in the wings of B-17 Bombers, cut to xylophone length, and installed in a suitcase size package. Employed as a therapeutic tool for wounded World War II soldiers, the piano was a success, thousands were produced, and the inventor, Harold Rhodes, was awarded the Medal of Honor. By the 1960s, manufacturing, musicological, and scientific progress culminated in the four instruments, the Fender Rhodes Stage 88, Suitcase 88, Stage 73, and Suitcase 88, that became the standard keyboard instrument for amateur and professional artists.7

2. The Fender Rhodes Stage 88 of early- to mid-1970s vintage weighed 65 kilos (143 pounds) or more.8 The total heft varied by model and year of manufacture with earlier versions being markedly heavier. In addition, accouterments such as the tour rig9 could significantly increase the total poundage.

3. Anjani Thomas persuaded her ambivalent-leaning-toward-reluctant parents to front her the cash for that mass of wood, plastic, metal, and electronics known as the Fender Rhodes Stage 88 when she was 16 years old and weighed 107 pounds. She then repaid this debt by lugging that instrument to a year’s worth of weekend gigs, playing blue-eyed soul and dance numbers (think Earth, Wind, and Fire) for parties, proms, dances, special occasions, and anyone else willing to hire the band.

There is more about this Fender Rhodes 88, and we’ll come back to it, but first, some background on Anjani …

Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Girl In Hawaii

Born the youngest of five siblings (she has two brothers and two sisters) on July 10, 1959 in Honolulu, Anjani Thomas inherited a blend of German, French, Okinawan, Irish, Welsh, and Dutch bloodlines that manifest in her exotically handsome appearance and are integral to her alluring style and presentation.

Her father, as he describes his job, “oversaw logistics activities for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Hawaii, Japan, and Korea. Such activities included property management, air travel, and ground transportation.” Her mother, he goes on, “was a secretary for the Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.”10

When Anjani mentions her parents, her affection for and appreciation of them is patently displayed. Likewise, she appears genuinely fond of her siblings and proud of their accomplishments.

Nonetheless, Anjani admits to wondering, beginning in childhood, if she were adopted.

How else to explain the differences between her and her brothers and sister. She was, for example, the only family member with Rock Fever, that claustrophobic, trapped feeling, usually ascribed only to mainlanders on extended stays in Hawaii, that one must leave the islands. Although other members of her family would spend time on the mainland (e.g., to attend college or law school), they inevitably returned to live in Hawaii. Anjani has reversed that pattern, frequently returning to the family home in the islands but basing her life elsewhere.

Heck, Anjani even confesses to a longing to live in Midwestern climes when she was an adolescent trapped in paradise.

Continue Reading →

  1. These events and the aftermath are described at Anjani And DrHGuy FAQ. I’ve also published a batch of blog entries about Anjani and the Blue Alert album that can be found at Anjani Thomas. []
  2. The sharp-eyed, detail-minded reader may already have noted that the text on the nameplate of the keyboard is “Rhodes” rather than “Fender Rhodes.” The explanation of this apparent discrepancy lies in a short chapter of corporate history. The company that manufactured these instruments was Fender Rhodes for 15 years of its history. In 1974, the name was changed to simply Rhodes but at that time no changes were made other than the one on the nameplate. The “Fender” referenced, incidentally was Leo Fender, who created, in a five year period during the 1950s, the Telecaster, the Precision Bass the Stratocaster, and a line of amps, all of which have become classics. In any case, for many, the 1974 name change is irrelevant and even now, more than 30 years later, it is common to find “Fender Rhodes” used to reference all Rhodes Electric Pianos. Fender Rhodes Super Site. []
  3. See discussion at Wikipedia – Electric Piano []
  4. The “73” in “Rhodes Stage 73” and the “88” in “Rhodes Stage 88” indicate the number of keys in each instrument’s keyboard. Other than the 15 keys difference, the two models are nearly identical []
  5. I don’t recall, for example. Cervantes describing Sancho’s need for an AC power source []
  6. More comprehensively, “The Fender Rhodes Stage 88, along with its stablemate, the Fender Rhodes Suitcase 88 and their older siblings, the Suitcase 73 and Stage 73, was the keyboard for serious jazz and rock musicians.” []
  7. Wikipedia provides a non-exhaustive but rich list of artists and songs linked to the Rhodes piano in one or another of its forms, The first known use of the Rhodes piano on a mainstream recording was by Joe Zawinul with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1967. This inspired Miles Davis to have Herbie Hancock play it too. In fact Herbie had never even heard of the Rhodes piano and thought it was some kind of toy. However he admits to being blown away by the big, rich sound of the instrument,[citation needed] and would go on to be one of its most recognizable exponents. The Rhodes was particularly popular from the early ’70s-mid ’80s, and many of its signature songs date from this period: “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You by The Alan Parsons Project, “Freeway Jam” by Jeff Beck and the Jan Hammer group, “Just the Way You Are” and “James” by Billy Joel, “Ride Captain,Ride” by Blues Image, “Still Crazy After All These Years” by Paul Simon, “Babe” & “Don’t Let It End” by Styx, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” by Stevie Wonder, “Peg” by Steely Dan, “Just You ‘N’ Me” & “Call On Me” by Chicago, “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan, the intro to “Sheep” by Pink Floyd, “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “New Kid in Town” by The Eagles and the theme from Taxi by Bob James. Also, Billy Preston played one on the Beatles’ “Get Back”. The Rhodes also features prominently in the song “Incommunicado” by Jimmy Buffett. Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers also played a Rhodes on, to name just a couple of hits, “You Belong To Me” and “Minute By Minute.” The instrument was also featured in Peter Frampton’s best-selling Frampton Comes Alive album. Other songs include “Who Will Save Your Soul” by Jewel and “Dig” by the Christian band Adam Again. Ray Charles played “Shake a Tail Feather” on a Rhodes during the music store scene in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, and was seen playing “What’d I Say” on a Rhodes on a late 1970s Saturday Night Live appearance (although he played a Wurlitzer electric piano on the original 1959 recording). The Rhodes was also used in jazz-fusion throughout the late 1960s and ’70s. Chick Corea’s album Light as a Feather and Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew featured the Rhodes throughout the whole album. Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, Jan Hammer of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Herbie Hancock also used the Rhodes. Donald Fagen of Steely Dan uses the Rhodes on many recordings such as “Hey Nineteen”, “Kid Charlemagne”, “My Rival”, with a phaser on “The Fez”, and on most of their newer recordings. On tour he brings five of them, and always has his MXR phaser in reach to add when needed. Bill Evans used the Rhodes (often together with a grand piano) on different recordings (including “The Bill Evans Album” and “From left to right”). []
  8. I’ve used numbers from several sources such as Selling & Shipping A Fender Rhodes Piano: “I weighed my Mark 1 88 Stage just before taking it on the road with me around 1974 and it was approximately 200 pounds. That was totally packed, with the legs and pedal in the top and the top attached, ready to go.” and “ready to ship my Rhodes Mark II Stage Piano 73 weighed 66 kilograms.” I have, on the other hand, excluded from these calculations the many claims along the lines of “My Fender Rhodes weighed at least 2,000 pounds.” In any case, according to Answers.com, the lightest Rhodes Piano produced in those models was the Mark V, weighing in at 45 kg (100 lbs). The Mark V was not produced until 1984, a decade later. []
  9. A tour rig typically included a road case for the keyboard, an effects pedals (delay, tremolo, phaser), Quiklok stand, Rhodes sustain pedal and rod, and the road case for holding effects, stand, sustain pedal and cords []
  10. These job descriptions were provided by Anjani’s father, who responded to my query relayed to him via Anjani. I appreciate his help. []

Introduction To The Anjani Chronicles

anjchron

The Making Of The Anjani Chronicles

Anjani is a singer, keyboardist, and musician probably best known to Cohencentric readers for her Blue Alert CD, which features elegantly performed songs suffused with evocative lyrics, and her professional and romantic relationships with Leonard Cohen (an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right). Shortly after I connected with Anjani in 2006, I interviewed her in an effort to bulk up the somewhat perfunctory Anjani Thomas Wikipedia entry only to find that Wikipedia’s policies discouraged, if not precluded, using verbatim information I garnered directly from her. Consequently, we abandoned the Wikipedia project in favor of a biographical sketch of Anjani for this blog.

The Anjani Chronicles Perspective

anjani-hockney1 Continue Reading →