Remy Le BoeufHeartland RadioSoundSpore Records

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The saxophonist/composer’s latest album unfolds like a road trip playlist that follows his move across the United States from New York to Colorado. Le Boeuf infuses his unique brand of cutting-edge big band jazz with pop, indie rock, soul and electronic music.

On Heartland Radio, the four-time Grammy-nominated composer and saxophonist Remy Le Boeuf finds inspiration in the ever-shifting soundscape of the great American road trip. Through seven tracks of stunning ingenuity and intimacy, Le Boeuf’s large ensemble Assembly of Shadows melds modern jazz language and classical textures with ideas and emotions gleaned from pop radio. Echoes of indie rock, R&B, dance-pop, alternative, and EDM infuse breathtaking orchestral harmony, nimble ensemble interplay and masterful solos — including those by the bandleader, whose crystalline alto work exhibits a depth of understanding that only the music’s composer could attain.

In the process, Le Boeuf bridges the gaps between geographic and artistic communities — jazz and classical and contemporary music, high culture and pop culture — much as he’s done throughout his career. From co-leading the acclaimed Le Boeuf Brothers with his identical twin, to gigging with pop-rock band HAIM and collaborating with producer Prefuse 73, he’s the sort of wide-open musician whose only criterion is quality –– “I’m bringing together everything I love and making it my own.”

The catalyst for Le Boeuf’s cross-country journey was his appointment as the Director of Jazz & Commercial Music Studies at the University of Denver. Le Boeuf and his partner set off from Brooklyn in a 16-foot Penske truck, “and all we did was listen to the radio with the windows down. When you’re driving across the U.S., there aren’t many jazz stations; it’s just whatever comes up. All the songs on the album reflect this transition in my life, and draw on the music we heard along the way.” Heartland Radio, he says, “is about having fun. It’s about wanting to dance and sing along.”

The kickoff title track, which Le Boeuf says, “encapsulates my vision for the album more than any other song,” contains multitudes: drums that evoke the epicness of Bon Iver; influence from Thom Yorke and the British electropop outfit Clean Bandit; a fleeting Justin Bieber quote (seriously); and a rousing conversation between Le Boeuf and trumpeter Philip Dizack––the two musicians reaffirm their fiery chemistry as complementary soloists later on “Golden Handcuffs.”

“Stop & Go,” features a verse/chorus structure with an ’80s-pop feel in the chorus, as well as a guitar solo from Max Light that hits like a master class in narrative development. Thematically, Le Boeuf says, it “captures the craziness of my life at the time — juggling my career, personal life, and my job as a professor while integrating into a new community.

The road-trip playlist hits D’Angelo and Al Green terrain with the neo-soulful “New Beginnings,” a tribute to Roy Hargrove and a “celebration of the trumpet” featuring Mike Rodriguez on flugelhorn. Le Boeuf was fortunate to meet Hargrove, the late, great bandleader and mentor, several times, and counts a concert by Hargrove’s RH Factor — which he surreptitiously recorded to MiniDisc — as one of the “best shows I ever saw in my life.” “Roy set an example for how to mentor and how to support folks through just his being there, his presence in the scene,” says Le Boeuf.

Le Boeuf’s power-ballad, “Walking on Water” — inspired by a stroll across a frozen Brooklyn lake — is a rock-anthem perfectly designed to showcase tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino’s strength and finesse. “Little Song,” by the trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis, with an arrangement and a tour-de-force solo by Le Boeuf, reflects the dynamic pathos of folkie Nick Drake.

The poignant “Barbara” flits the radio dial between classic early ’70s folk-pop and the kind of smart, jazz-tinged singer-songwriter music associated with Brian Blade or Rebecca Martin. A collaboration between Le Boeuf and the poet Sara Pirkle, “Barbara” was written for the California-based sculptor, Barbara Holmes, whose work is featured on the album’s cover. “We’re not in love with Barbara,” Le Boeuf says with a chuckle, “we just think she deserves a love song.” Nonetheless, a deep feeling of unrequited yearning, of impassioned desperation even, fills Julia Easterlin’s vocal performance as well as Martha Kato’s piano solo.

Though “Barbara” is perhaps the most pointed example, all of Le Boeuf’s work communicates sensitivity, intelligence, and empathy — from the way his soloists so often shine in tandem, to the textural use of volume. “I like to connect with people,” he says. “And I like to explore that in music. My music is very personal. We write the lives that we live.”

Personnel and Credits

Gregory Robbins

Julia Easterlin (4)
Danielle Wertz (6)

Remy Le Boeuf / Alto Sax, Flute, Alto Flute
Alejandro Aviles / Flute, Alto Sax
Lucas Pino / Tenor Sax, Clarinet
John Lowery / Tenor Sax, Clarinet
Carl Maraghi / Bari Sax, Bass Clarinet

Tony Kadleck
Tony Glausi
Philip Dizack
Mike Rodriguez

Mike Fahie
Alan Ferber
Javier Nero
Jennifer Wharton

Alex Goodman
Max Light (2)

Martha Kato

Dan Montgomery

Peter Kronreif

Pascal Le Boeuf (1, 2)

Producers: Remy Le Boeuf, Pascal Le Boeuf
Assistant Producer: Erica Seguine
Recording Engineer: Brian Montgomery
Additional Engineers: Charles Mueller, Remy Le Boeuf, Pascal Le Boeuf
Assistant Engineers: Charles Mueller, Urosh Jovanovich
Session Assistant: Danielle Wertz
Mixing & Editing: Brian Montgomery
Mastering: Dave Darlington
Album Art: Barbara Holmes
Graphic Designer: Mitch Kuhn

Recorded March 26-27 and August 14, 2023 at Oktaven Audio, Mt Vernon, NY.

All compositions written by Remy Le Boeuf, except “Little Song” by Nadje Noordhuis (arr. Remy Le Boeuf), and “Barbara” by Remy Le Boeuf and Sara Pirkle.
All compositions published by Le Boeuf Music.