The Story of Thistle's Music
Led by composer, singer and harpist Thistle Jemison, the music of THISTLE is primarily that of a story-teller, and is influenced by her studies and collaborations in jazz, western classical and world music. Cello and percussion round out this harp and voice based ensemble, providing a rich cinematic backdrop for a musical style which is modeled on that of the troubadour. Inspired by the writing of Hans Christian Andersen, THISTLE's 2019 debut album on harp "The Ice Maiden Comes," is a collection of original songs each based on one of his stories. For her upcoming release "Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe" Thistle has crafted into songs a handful of Edgar Allan Poe's stories and poems, including "Spirits of the Dead," and "The Raven." In addition to performances of her own music, Thistle is also a performer with Astarte Creative Agency, and has toured as a member of renowned cello rock group Rasputina.
Thistle took piano lessons from the age of seven and has always especially enjoyed playing the music of Bach. She took singing lessons and sang in rock bands while attending The George School, where she also performed the music of Ulali in the Tuscaroran and English languages, with the daughter of founder Pura Fe. At Hampshire College she began an intensive study of singing, theory and composition in multiple genres, using the Five College Consortium to her benefit. These genres included jazz at UMass, improvisation and world musics at Hampshire College, South Indian Classical music at Amherst, and western classical theory and composition at Smith College. Thistle finished her formal musical studies at the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music in Manhattan, achieving a BFA in Jazz Voice with honors. Thistle simultaneously studied Karnatak (South Indian Classical) voice with Saavithri Ramanand in Queens, learning devotional songs of the Brahman caste in the Hindu, Tamil and Sanskrit languages. Before she learned to play the harp, Thistle took up the electric guitar and eventually the drums, creating a three-piece rock band which she named Queen of Sibyls. She recorded an album of songs inspired by the alt rock female-led groups of the 1990's (link to album "Dark Horse" in Music tab).
Thistle didn't take up the harp until adulthood. After a year of studying under Tomoko Sugarawa, a classical harpist and reviver of the ancient Japanese Kugo harp, Thistle purchased her own harp. She did some work as a session harpist and vocalist with bands such as Caitlin Cannon and the Cannon Dolls and Ben Shepard. She also took lessons from Marilu Donovan, harpist in the violin/harp duo Leya. Two years into her discovery of the harp, Thistle "quit" music. During a four year hiatus, she created an interior design firm, built an inn in the Catskills and took drum lessons with Sara Landau of The Julie Ruin. In 2015, when asked to join a band in Brooklyn as a backup singer, she returned to the stage and ultimately to the passion she once had for playing harp and composing. Thusly, THISTLE was born.
Writing and performing music is very much a service to others in the eyes of Thistle, a service that borders on spiritual awakening and recovery. Please take a moment to sign up on the mailing list and follow on social media to enjoy her gift of music.
Over the years, THISTLE has included the involvement of some excellent musicians, both on recordings and live performances. They deserve to be noted here:
Jeff Cook: Jeff began his engineering career in location orchestral recording where he worked with Fort Worth Symphony, Van Cliburn Foundation, and Dallas Wind Symphony. In 2004 he became the director of the recording arts department for the University of North Texas. In 2007 he began working at grammy award winning sound designer Scott Lehrer's studio, 2nd Story Sound. Cook has engineered for many illustrious artists, among them Rufus Wainwright, Meredith Monk, John Zorn, MV Carbon, Lou Reed and Carnegie Hall. He expertly engineered the recording and mixing of THISTLE's "Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe."
Alyssa L. Jackson: Alyssa is a cellist, composer, audio engineer, educator and media artist. She has achieved a BFA in Cello Performance at Brooklyn College, as well as an MFA in media Scoring from the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. She is interning as a composer assistant with renowned LA composer, songwriter, and musician Dave Sardy, and is currently the main cellist involved in THISTLE's live performances. Jackson is featured in the photo directly to the left.
Carolin Pook: Carolin Pook is a German born composer and violinist from Brooklyn/New York. She is a sought after recording artist and arranger and has appeared on over 40 recordings for artists such as Kenny Garrett, Die Fantastischen Vier and Mike Doughty. In 2015 she won the Improviser in Residence at Moers, Germany, and still maintains ties to the city's music festival, interviewing international musicians for local television when they come to play. Pook toured in Germany twice with THISTLE as a duo, and also arranged the music of THISTLE for small orchestra, in which she performed as violinist while conducting.
Nick Jozwiak: Jozwiak is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist, producer and DJ based in Brooklyn, NY. He releases dance, ambient and experimental musics under the name Nick Joz and tours internationally with many ensembles including Peter Evans' Being & Becoming, Jolie Holland and Kimberly Thompson. Jozwiak recorded cello on both "The Ice Maiden Comes" and "Mysterious Star." Jozwiak is featured in the photo directly to the left.
Rami El Asser: Rami performs at concert halls, cafés, theatres, clubs, and festivals worldwide with groups including AlSarah & the Nubatones, Zikrayat, and Raquy DÜM. Rami's grooves also can be found on many recordings, soundtracks, and live theatre productions, recently appearing in the Broadway production of The Band’s Visit. Rami performed the darbouka and much of the complementary, yet suberly imaginative, percussion on THISTLE's "Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe."
Al Cerulo: Al is a classical percussionist and an advocate for the commissioning and performing of new works by both established and up-and-coming composers. He has been praised for his work as a musician and educator both nationally and internationally. Cerulo has performed in THISTLE as a trio and recorded the classical percussion on "Mysterious Star: A Tribute to Poe." Cerulo is featured in the photo directly to the left.
Adam Markiewicz: Adam Markiewicz is a violinist and fellow alum of the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music. He is the violin and voice to Marilu Donovan's harp in the classically inspired yet unmistakably alternative duo Leya who performs both nationally and internationally. Markiewicz arranged and performed several songs on THISTLE's debut record "The Ice Maiden Comes." He also introduced Thistle to Nick Jozwiak.