Music producer Jay Denes founded Blue Six after a long career of mixing house and electronic music for various artists on the Naked Music label. Naked Music is known for their sophisticated, elegant, and understated style, words which also apply to Blue Six.
Denes was interested in music from an early age. He told Georg Levin in Soulisms, "I started plunking out bad tunes on my Aunt's piano when I was in my teens. I can clank out the chords and play some funky stuff, unfortunately I'm no virtuoso. I've tried to make up for it with writing and arranging." As a child, he loved the records in his older brother's collection: Santana, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and Stevie Wonder. Later, he moved to jazz, and listened to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and John McLaughlin, and still later, he listened to Roxy Music, XTC, and Talking Heads. He told Levin that his listening progression was "backwards": "I liked popular music more as I got older, I was not in step with my peers."
Denes founded the Naked Music label in 1998 with his partner Dave Boonshoft. He told Levin that it "just seemed like a sensible thing. We didn't want to sell our music to third parties any more. We figured we could do it as well as they do. For the most part that's been true." He said that he enjoyed being in control of the music, and not being told what to do by someone else. He added, "It's continued to evolve, gradually becoming more and more aligned to my truest inclinations." The label soon became known for their compilations of various artists' lush, rhythmic, and sophisticated dance music. Its name referred to the label's emphasis on the music itself, stripped of heavy production elements. The label's director, Bruno Ybarra, explained to Paul Vachier in No End Press, "We felt that the essence of the ‘song’ should be able to stand on its own as a raw vocal."
Denes began working with Naked Music vocalists Lisa Shaw and Aya using a background of ambient sounds and soft but intricately mixed music contributed by a rotating list of guest musicians. He told Levin, "I pride myself on my ability to work with singers, and get their best work out of them. It's taken me some time to understand the nuance of vocal recording." Blue Six's first album, released in 2002, was titled Beautiful Tomorrow. It was a leap for Denes, who told Levin that he was at a turning point in his career and was afraid that Naked Music's fans wouldn't like the new sound of Blue Six: "I'd been put in a rather confined box by Naked's fans, and I didn't want to disappoint them."
Reviewer Laura McDonald wrote in a BBC article that the album had "a summery, light-hearted feel … that penetrates the whole album" and that it evoked feelings of being on the beach or on a Caribbean cruise; she commented that listeners would be left feeling "blissful."
Blue Six's 2007 release, Aquarian Angel, featured a sound that built on the style of Beautiful Tomorrow and added "strong songwriting, compelling rhythms and sublime vocals," according to a reviewer in All Things Deep. The same reviewer noted that some of the tracks were reminiscent of the work of Sade, with their "use of guitar and sparse instrumentation," and that one track in particular, "Woman of the Sea," is "like Sade taken into electronic bliss, with wordless vocals floating above the ethereal music." In Nu-Soul, Norman Mayers called the album "a blissful journey through soulful electronica."
In a review of Aquarian Angel in Remix, Dominic Umile quoted Denes as saying that the album was "a moody and introspective record." Umile noted, "As such, it brims with clearly defined moments of soul-searching and seeking." Umile also praised the album's "stylish buffet of soulful vocals" and "moonlit-beach atmospherics."
Denes told Umile that the focus of the album was "the Aquarian Age, spiritual transformation and that sort of thing. I know it all sounds a bit new age-y, but it's quite the opposite, sonically." He added, "Let's face it, we're going to be needing some angels to make it through this decade."
Denes achieved the album's sound through many-layered sound editing. He told Umile, "It's quite difficult to make a delicate tapestry [of sound] that's unobtrusive and stays out of the way of the vocal." He also noted, "Of course, the whole thing rests on Aya's delivery. It's all about a convincing vocal, and I think she came through with flying colors."
Denes told Michael Paoletta in Billboard, "When it comes to my music, I just do what comes naturally. I always strive to capture that feeling that life gives you when it's all too much, and you almost can't express it in words. In life and love, there are always a range of emotions—and there's no way for these not to come through in my music."
When Denes is not making music, he enjoys writing, photography, and cooking; he told Levin, "I'm the sort of person that other artsy types may find interesting but most people would probably find fairly boring!" He also remarked to Levin that the music business is a difficult field to try to make a living in, and that he feels lucky to have succeeded despite the fact that he's never had a major label hit. "I just want to be better tomorrow than I am today."
For the Record …
Members include Aya, vocals; Brian Denes, keyboards, percussion, producer; Lisa Shaw, vocals.
Released Beautiful Tomorrow, 2002; released Aquarian Angel, 2007.
Addresses: Record company—Astralwerks, 104 W. 29th St., New York, NY 10001.
Beautiful Tomorrow, Astralwerks, 2002.
Aquarian Angel, Astralwerks, 2007.
Billboard, December 15, 2001, p. 30.
"Blue Six," Nu-Soul,http://blog.nu-soulmag.com/?p=35 (June 23, 2008).
"Blue Six," Remix, http://remixmag.com/artists/hiphop_R&B/remix_blue_six (June 23, 2008).
"Blue Six: Aquarian Angel," All Things Deep,http://www.allthingsdeep.com/reviews/blue_six_aquarian_angel.htm (June 23, 2008).
"Blue Six Beautiful Tomorrow," BBC,http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/44rg/ (June 23, 2008).
"Naked Music: Interview with Label Director Bruno Ybarra," No End Press,http://www.noendpress.com/pvachier/nakedmusic/index.php (June 23, 2008).
Soulisms,http://soulismsofficialblog.wordpress.com/2007/10/18/jay-denes-interview/ (June 23, 2008).