The video will premiere on Qwest TV.
Michael and Elvis first met in 2007 at the Molde Festival in Norway, where Costello and the late Allen Toussaint shared a double bill with Steely Dan (with whom Leonhart has played since 1996). The two kept in touch over the years, including joining forces in 2015 for an Elvis Costello & The Imposters/Steely Dan tour. Early on in the quarantine, Leonhart sent Costello some instrumental music in need of lyrics, which "Michael sent from New York at the perfect time" states Costello. After finishing the first two songs, Leonhart asked Costello to try his hand at a lyric and melody over an original heavy Afrobeat song started remotely with his Michael Leonhart Orchestra. "I've always been inspired by Elvis' artistic compass which guides him to uncharted waters and towards taking creative risks. I had never heard him over this kind of groove and wanted to see where it might lead him" says Michael. Costello crafted lyrics that exist at the crossroads of political commentary and existential contemplation. Leonhart then asked rapper JSWISS, a frequent collaborator, to write a verse building off Elvis' lyrics. The song also features a fiery bass clarinet solo from acclaimed saxophonist Chris Potter.
"Shut Him Down" will be premiered on Elvis' "50 Songs For 50 Days" playlist, (click here to listen) a-song-a-day rollout of 50 songs and couplets from his catalog leading up to and including Tuesday, 11/3 (Election Day).
The MLO has developed its sound over the course of its monthly residencies at Jazz Standard, one of New York's most prestigious jazz rooms. Pre-pandemic, Leonhart was steadily pursuing his vision there, with unconventional instrumentation and a shapeshifting community of sought-after players from a variety of cutting-edge scenes and disciplines.
Leonhart's approach to the MLO cannot but be informed by his many other activities and wide-ranging credits: he's a top-level jazz trumpeter and longtime member of Steely Dan; a gifted and distinctive pianist; a singer, songwriter and film composer; a session player with credits including the Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson megahit "Uptown Funk"; an accomplished orchestrator (Nels Cline's Lovers) and producer (Donald Fagen's Sunken Condos, Sachal Vasandani's Slow Motion Miracles). The polyglot musical worldview Leonhart has developed as a result stamps the MLO's work at every moment. And the joy he gets from it is infectious.
Hailed as "a blazing hot mess of awesome" by The New York City Jazz Record, the Michael Leonhart Orchestra (MLO) traverses a huge swath of musical terrain, guided by the highly developed ears, ceaselessly omnivorous tastes and playful yet meticulous artistry of its leader, Michael Leonhart.