Kaveh Rastegar

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Kaveh Rastegar is a bassist, multi instrumentalist, producer and recording artist who has collaborated with a long list of artists. As a bassist, Rastegar is best known as a founding member of the genre-blurring Grammy Award-nominated quintet Kneebody. He’s also toured the world with superstars like John Legend (and also appeared as his fictional counterpart in the beloved musical La La Land), recorded with artists like Shania Twain, Beck, Ringo Starr, Colin Hay and served as musical director for songwriter/hitmaker Sia, and works with R&B sensation Sabrina Claudio as both songwriter and co-producer. As a songwriter he’s penned songs with and for heavy hitters like Bruno Mars, Ceelo Green, Meshell Ndegeocello, De La Soul, Dawn Richard, Kimbra, Marsha Ambrosious and Ciara among many others. Fresh off his work with the new Bruce Springsteen Western Stars Movie, Rastegar comes out with an accessible Pop / Blues / Americana album set for release on the same day.

Words on "Haunted This Way" by Gary Fukushima:

Who is Kaveh Rastegar? It depends on whom you ask. The general public might know him best as the bassist for John Legend, or as the musical director for Sia or producer and songwriter with artists like Bruno Mars, Sabrina Claudio, Ciara, De La Soul and Meshell Ndegeocello. Jazz heads know him as the low-end anchor for the Grammy-nominated group Kneebody. Yet everyone who has continued to follow Kaveh are now starting to know him as a singer-songwriter with the release of Haunted This Way, a follow-up to his debut solo album, Light of Love. This new album confirms Kaveh’s success in converting his multi-faceted abilities and his deep reservoir of musical experience into new, rock-based creative music made compelling though disciplined thematic and lyrical focus, decorated with kaleidoscopic brilliance by the excellent cast of musicians he summoned from jazz, pop, rock, country, and every other corner of the wide musical tapestry he has traversed.

Even though Haunted This Way is the later release, it was written and recorded before Light of Love, documenting the bassist’s initial serious foray into songwriting. “These songs came about over a long period of time,” says Kaveh. “I had written the music for these songs around the summer of 2011. At this point, all I had was sketches for the songs—chords and melodies.” The songs started to take shape during the initial recording sessions, with drummer Jay Bellerose and guitarist Tim Young. The lyrics came gradually, with help from songwriters Adam Levy and Amy Kuney. “I was really grateful to work with Amy and Adam,” states Kaveh. “They are incredible musicians and songwriters and I love collaborating with them.” Kaveh credits them with helping him to become a better writer. “They helped me,” he continues, “to move out of that ‘one way to write a song mindset,” something he was told to avoid by the rapper Posdnous from De La Soul. Kaveh affirms he has “written with a lot of different artists and would always ask them what their process was,” a process we see coming to fruition in Haunted This Way.

With this release, Kaveh moves into new musical territory as the lead singer for all the songs on the album. Where Light of Lovehad multiple guest singers and many extended moments of instrumental music, Haunted This Way features Kaveh as the first-person protagonist of the stories he has written. He confirms, “My goal as a musician these days has been able to collect songs and play them in different settings no matter how formal or informal. My singing has helped to serve that function.” Kaveh acknowledges that he is “so lucky to have been able to play with incredible singers over the years,” suggesting that he doesn’t put himself in their category. “For me,” he says, “I want my singing to serve the songs—I have so many limitations with my voice that it creates some boundaries and a pallet that can be fun and challenging to work with. All things aside, Kaveh’s raw and honest singing is effective (and affective) as a powerful storytelling device.

Assisting Kaveh on Haunted This Way is a self-described “dream team” of Western all-star musicians. “Every one of these musicians means so much to me,” says Kaveh. “I consider them all some of the best musicians in the world as well as some of my closest friends. Jay Bellerose (and) I had just begun a friendship with when we recorded this. I knew him through my old friend (and producer) Keefus Ciancia who is a Denver friend. Tim Young and I have had a band together since 2003 with Matt Chamberlain(Thruster). They are both incredible. (Organist) Larry Goldings is a legend and one of the funniest and most generous and brilliant musicians. (Keyboardist) Jeff Babko is a dream collaborator and one of my closest friends. (Drummer) Abe Rounds I met through Meshell Ndegeocello and is brilliant. (Guitarist) Josh Lopez and I have known each other since we were 15. (Keyboardist) Jose Fiorilli is a wonderful person and played keyboards with Luciano Ligabue who was an Italian artist I used to play with. With the exception of Jose, all of these musicians are LA based—I guess (keyboardist and Kneebody bandmate) Adam is in Reno now (as well). This city is such a vibrant place for music making. Everyone lives here. 

Other collaborators include drummer Gene Coye, guitarist Chris Bruce, vocalist Sarah Dugas, mixing engineer Pete Min (whom Kaveh credits as a “key player in the making of this album”), and mastering engineer (and Kneebody drummer) Nate Wood.

Consistent with his previous album is Kaveh’s vision on how to put musical ideas together in an engaging, non-formulaic narrative. “I’ve always loved to make things,” Kaveh admits. “As a kid and into adulthood I would draw. When I started on the bass, I learned by writing things—making things up and exploring on the instrument that way.” He continues, “I think that this album is a snapshot of my songwriting and producing. Making an album is always a wonderful lesson in creating and finishing an idea.”

Indeed, the songs are all complete, contrasting, poignant vignettes.  From the upbeat, driving pulse of “The Hand That Holds My Heart” to the slow power waltz of the title track, “Haunted This Way”, to the rubato-rock intro to the ethereal “Atlantis”, the tempos and grooves are wonderfully varied throughout, weaving their own dramas around the lyrics, which give way at times to pleasant surprises, like an a cappella chorus at the end of “Black and Red” or an epic closer of an organ solo by Goldings on “Easy To Please”.

It might seem odd that Kaveh decided to make an entirely different album before presenting these songs in his follow up release, but it was all part of a master plan to transition listeners to a place where they could acknowledge the bassist as also a songwriter and a singer. It was suggested to Kaveh that his debut album reflect his known identity, and Light of Love was just that, a “bass album” where many of the songs began as improvised bass and drum grooves. “I feel like sometimes you need to point listeners in the direction that you're going,” says Kaveh. “You might see your own evolution plain as day but for people to come for the ride or to believe it, they need to see where it came from.” He elaborates, “the songs in Haunted this Way don't have a lot to do with my identity as a bass player. I play bass on the album but there are some songs that don't have bass at all and instead have synth bass...I guess I made Light of Love as a link to this album.”

Juxtaposing Kaveh’s two albums also create a study in lyric contrast, as the titles might suggest. Haunted This Way trends darker than its more carefree, wide-ranging sibling, exploring constant themes of unhealthy, broken relationships, losing loved ones, and regret over mistakes made. “These songs are all very personal to me but they’re not all biographical,” says Kaveh. “Some of these songs might feel heavy to listeners but I want them to know that a lot of times, these songs are about characters—characters in relationships and love.

“And hopefully above all, the music speaks to them.”


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Produced by Kaveh Rastegar
Mixed by Pete Min 

Recorded at Lucy’s Meat Market and The Back House, Los Angeles, 2011-2019 Recording engineers: Pete Min and Kaveh Rastegar 

Mastered at Kerseboom Mastering Mastering Engineer: Nate Wood 

Original artwork/lettering: Kaveh Rastegar Cover Photography: Tarona Leonora
Graphic Design: Paul Rivera

Haunted This Way

Release Date: October 25, 2019

“Half That Holds My Heart” (Rastegar/Kuney)
Gene Coye: drums
Kaveh Rastegar: bass, vocals
Jeff Babko: keyboards
Josh Lopez: guitar 

“Tell Me You Love Me” (Rastegar, Levy)
Kaveh Rastegar: bass, guitar, voice
Jay Bellerose: drums
Timothy Young: guitar
Jose Fiorilli: keyboards 

“Haunted This Way” (Rastegar, Kuney)
Kaveh Rastegar: guitar, voice
Chris Bruce: guitar
Jeff Babko: keyboards, synth bass
Abe Rounds: drums 

“Black and Red” (Rastegar)
Kaveh Rastegar: bass, guitar, vocals
Jay Bellerose: drums
Adam Benjamin: fender rhodes
Larry Goldings: organ
Sarah Dugas: vocals 

“Atlantis” (Rastegar)
Kaveh Rastegar: guitar, vocals
Jeff Babko: keyboard bass
Gene Coye: drums
Sarah Dugas: vocals

“Poor Bastard” (Rastegar)
Kaveh Rastegar: bass, guitars, vocals
Jay Bellerose: drums
Adam Benjamin: fender rhodes
Josh Lopez: guitar 

“Easy to Please” (Rastegar, Kuney)
Kaveh Rastegar: bass, guitar, vocals
Larry Goldings: keyboards
Jay Bellerose: drums, percussion
Timothy Young: guitar
Sarah Dugas: vocals 

“Forgiveness” (Rastegar, Kuney) 
Kaveh Rastegar: bass, guitars, vocals
Adam Benjamin: fender rhodes
Jay Bellerose: drums 

“Open Those Blue Eyes” (Rastegar)
Kaveh Rastegar: bass, guitar, vocals
Jay Bellerose: drums
Larry Goldings: pocket piano
Adam Benjamin: fender rhodes 

“Penny” (Rastegar)
Kaveh Rastegar: bass, guitars, keyboards, percussion, vocals
Josh Lopez: guitar
Matt Chamberlain: drums



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Those who have been paying close attention have realized by now that Kaveh Rastegar has been the secret weapon behind some of the most thrilling music of the last 20 years, across a wide spectrum of styles.

As a bassist, Rastegar is best known as a founding member of the genre-blurring, GRAMMY® Award-nominated quintet Kneebody, though he’s also toured the world with superstars like John Legend (and also appeared as his fictional counterpart in the beloved musical La La Land), recorded with Shania Twain and Beck, served as musical director for singer/hitmaker Sia, and worked with R&B sensation Sabrina Claudio as both songwriter and co-producer. As a songwriter, he’s penned songs with and for heavy-hitters like Bruno Mars, Cee Lo Green, Meshell Ndegeocello, De La Soul and Ciara, among many others.

Now, with the release of Light of Love, Rastegar is intent on being a secret no more. On his debut album as a leader, the bassist and songwriter strides boldly into the spotlight with a set of songs that draw on every aspect of his wildly diverse résumé to create a wholly individual sound. Like its striking cover art, Light of Love is a college – of influences, experiences, and collaborations – that merge to form a mosaic portrait of Rastegar’s talents and interests. Featuring an all-star line-up of gifted singers and musicians, the album (due out August 10 via Ropeadope) features songs as compelling as they are uncategorizable, fueled by entrancing grooves, unexpected twists and captivating storytelling.

Rastegar refers to Light of Love as a “family album,” bringing together a cast of longtime friends and collaborators to craft songs that unite jazz-club virtuosity with pop-chart soul. The roll call of singer-songwriters includes Amy Kuney (aka AMES), Becca Stevens, Gaby Moreno, Dawn Richard, David Garza, Mike Viola, and Rastegar himself, riding the waves of sound created by drummers Chris Dave (D’Angelo, Robert Glasper) and Scott Seiver (Tenacious D, Aimee Mann), trumpet great Nicholas Payton, keyboardists Brandon Coleman (Stevie Wonder, Kamasi Washington) and Jeff Babko (James Taylor, Martin Short), and guitarists Chris Bruce (Seal, Bettye Lavette) and Josh Lopez (Macy Gray, Black Eyed Peas).

“This album is a long time coming,” says Rastegar. “I wanted to make something that bridges the gaps between all the different musical worlds that I find myself in -- music that feels really good and also uses all of these voices.”

The results range from the smoldering cosmic love song “Accidents Waiting to Happen” to the swampy blues-rock lurch of “As Long As You Love Me;” the stripped-down soul of “A Little Too Late” to the intimate but anthemic “Cuento Illogico;” the sensual groove of “Lavender” to the Velvet Underground inspired drone-pop of “Bad Ideas.” The title track basks in its finger-snapping groove while “Roll Call” lays back into a late-‘70s SoCal vibe reminiscent of the Doobie Brothers. “Long March” surges with a bracing stop-start funk, the perfect foil for Nicholas Payton’s acid-tongued trumpet.

If the songs’ memorable melodies wrap around some unfamiliar contours, that’s most likely due to the unique circumstances of the album’s songwriting. Rastegar entered the studio on separate occasions with Dave and Seiver, engaging the inventive drummers in loose, freewheeling jam sessions. Rastegar took those recordings, isolated some of the more inspired moments, and built songs around these improvised rhythm tracks. He collaborated with the singers in different ways; some were sent tracks and composed their own lyrics, while others got together with Rastegar in the studio to hash out the songs together.

“What I’ve learned as a songwriter is that there’s a thousand different ways to write a song,” Rastegar says. “I’ve always been a big fan of all kinds of music, but when I was younger I never really thought about why they were made. I just assumed that they sprouted up like flowers. But as I’ve stepped out as a songwriter and a producer, I’ve found that each song makes its own statement. The way this music came together, with a lot of freedom in the initial recording, there ended up being a lot of surprises that you wouldn't normally have if you’d written the chords and the melody first.”

Several of Rastegar’s improvisations with Dave ended up as compelling miniatures in their own right, elaborated to become instrumentals like the futuristic funk of “Tom Tom” and the shimmering synth-pop of “Cat Woman.” album ends with a solo bass arrangement of Caetano Veloso’s “Luz Do Sol” that shows off the tender beauty of Rastegar’s playing.
“Bad Ideas,” Rastegar’s debut as a vocalist, presages a forthcoming singer-songwriter project that will feature him as sole front-man. With his debut, however, Rastegar wanted to display his panoramic talents through a wider lens. Light of Love does just that, offering infectious tunes and scintillating virtuosity, eclectic approaches with a singular vision.

“…a showcase for Rastegar's songwriting, and a feast of collaborative synergies…” — WBGO


"Jazz observers know Kaveh Rastegar as the bassist in Kneebody, a band that confounds classification at every turn. Light of Love, his debut album as a leader, widens the frame even further…” — WBGO


Light Of Love

Release Date: August 10, 2018

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Credits

1. Bad Ideas (Kaveh Rastegar -bass, guitars, voice, Scott Seiver -drums)

2. Cuento Ilogico featuring Gaby Moreno (Kaveh Rastegar- electric bass, upright bass, guitars, Chris Dave -drums, percussion, Jeff Babko -Keyboards, Gaby Moreno- voice)

3. Cat Woman featuring Chris Dave (Kaveh Rastegar- basses, keyboards Chris Dave -drums, percussion)

4. Roll Call featuring Mike Viola (Scott Seiver -drums, Kaveh Rastegar -bass, Jeff Babko -rhodes, Mike Viola- voice)

5. Tom Tom featuring Chris Dave (Kaveh Rastegar -basses, keyboards, Chris Dave- drums, percussion)

6. Light Of Love featuring David Garza (Kaveh Rastegar- basses, Chris Dave -drums, percussion, Jeff Babko -rhodes, David Garza- voice)

7. As Long As You Love Me (Scott Seiver- drums, Josh Lopez- guitar, Kaveh Rastegar -bass, guitars)

8. Accidents Waiting To Happen featuring Ames (Scott Seiver- drums, Brandon Coleman -keyboards, Chris Bruce- guitar, Josh Lopez -guitar, Kaveh Rastegar -bass)

9. Long March featuring Nicholas Payton (Scott Seiver- drums, Brandon Coleman- keyboards, Garrett Smith - trombone Chris Bruce - guitar, Josh Lopez -guitar, Kaveh Rastegar- bass, Nicholas Payton- trumpet)

10. Lavender featuring Dawn Richard (Scott Seiver -drums, Brandon Coleman -keyboards, Chris Bruce- guitar, Josh Lopez- guitar, Kaveh Rastegar -bass, Dawn Richard -voice)

11. A Little Too Late featuring Becca Stevens (Kaveh Rastegar- basses, guitars, keyboards, Scott Seiver- drums, percussion, Becca Stevens -voice)

12.Luz Do Sol (Kaveh Rastegar- basses, Chris Dave -drums, percussion)

Produced by Kaveh Rastegar

Mixed by Pete Min

Mastered by Pete Min

Songs 1,4 recorded at Loma Lada Studio

All other songs recorded at Lucy’s Meat Market with additional recording and production at the Back House