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Michael Leonhart And The Avramina 7: Merry Abandon

Not surprising for someone who's a member of both Steely Dan's touring band and the most recent incarnation of Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band, Michael Leonhart avoids anything close to the beaten path. The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist mixes and matches funk, world music, jazz and artful pop with merry abandon.

His latest album, Seahorse and the Storyteller, even revels in that now-neglected art form known as the concept album, telling the story of "two mythical creatures who meet, fall in love and begin piecing together the mysteries of each other's past." One of its key songs is "The Story of Echo Lake," sung in the voice of the Seahorse character as he embarks on a search of his family's origins.

Sounds daunting, but it isn't. Perhaps reflecting his Steely Dan stint, Leonhart is smart enough to know that music is as important as lyrics -- and that especially oddball lyrics shouldn't scare anyone off, either. With its sultry pop-noir ambience, "The Story of Echo Lake" could have been produced by Danger Mouse (and sung by a less inscrutable Beck). From its moody, understated groove to its heat-of-the-night sax solo, it's a nimble, insinuating track whether or not listeners know or care about the storyline. It ends as mysteriously as it begins, with a horn-and-percussion coda that seems to come from another, different song. Both Donald Fagen and Yoko Ono would probably approve.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Browne
David Browne is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth and Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Spin and other outlets.