Album Premiere: The Hands Free (New Amsterdam Records)

Today, we have a New Amsterdam Records album premiere of the self-titled debut album from the new acoustic band The Hands Free.

The Hands Free is James Moore (guitar/banjo), Caroline Shaw (violin), Nathan Koci (accordion), and Eleonore Oppenheim (bass). The four composer/performers became friends while collaborating in different contexts for 10-12 years, but found the most joy performing together in folk jams.

Here’s what James Moore had to say about the album:

The music for The Hands Free began with sketches and improvisations inspired by a 1937 surrealist collaboration in which writer Paul Éluard poetically “illustrated” line drawings by Man Ray. They assembled their work in the 1937 book Les Mains Libres, or Hands Free, a term they used to describe the free play of the imagination. I sought to illustrate these beautiful and eccentric pieces further with music, and recruited a trusted group of friends with whom I had enjoyed many a late-night session. 

The original material slowly changed and contorted as we each brought new ideas to the table, and our scores reflect this malleable approach. They toggle between chord charts, highly specific notation, improvisational instructions and carefully crafted squiggles. Several of the original references to Le Mains Libres remain in tact: One drawing in the book depicts a thread delicately outlining the silhouette of a woman on a horizon, inspiring the soundscape and melody for Needle and Thread. Another, portraying an older woman and a statuesque young man, became It’s She, it’s accompanying poem providing material for the call-and-response violin solo at the center of the composition.

The result is an intimate and collection of music in which I hear each player’s personality loud and clear. We can’t wait to get this music out there.

The Hands Free is out on May 25 on New Amsterdam Records (CD, digital and vinyl pre-orders available now through Bandcamp), and the group will perform the works at NYC’s The Kitchen on May 30.


About The Hands Free

The Hands Free is an acoustic quartet, which brings together the creative voices of composer/performers James Moore (guitar & banjo), Caroline Shaw (violin), Nathan Koci (accordion), and Eleonore Oppenheim (bass). Drawing from an eclectic array of influences in classical, jazz and folk traditions, the group produces a unique and evocative blend of joyful melodies, lush sonic textures and explosive improvisations.