Rebecca Zapen | Japanese Bathhouse

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Japanese Bathhouse

by Rebecca Zapen

The comfy melodicism of lush strings and vocals, ukulele/glockenspiel-sparked quietude, and folksy warmth bring to mind no less than early solo McCartney and Brian Wilson's SMiLE. Japanese Bathhouse is one of those near-perfect hidden gems.
Genre: Folk: Folk Pop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. We Didn't Bother
5:18 $0.99
2. Smile
2:07 $0.99
3. Magnus #1
1:05 $0.99
4. Dolores
2:30 $0.99
5. Some Things Take Time
2:28 $0.99
6. Japanese Bathhouse
1:27 $0.99
7. Shower #2
0:43 $0.99
8. I've Been Dreaming
2:48 $0.99
9. Miss You
3:15 $0.99
10. I Am Fine
3:50 $0.99
11. Pizzicato #1
1:39 $0.99
12. Woe Is We
1:58 $0.99
13. Your Voice
5:02 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Versatile violinist, vocalist, and songwriter Rebecca Zapen's first musical memory was that of sitting under the baby grand piano as a toddler, her ears filled by the sounds of her mother playing Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart. Her college years were filled with opera, orchestra, chamber music, and late night jazz jams. The journey continued to twist and unfold, rich in varied musical experiences: Tom Waits tunes via CB radio and Celtic harp, a four-year trip to the Old World in Klezmania, spoken word with eclectic folk, Gypsy jazz. She walks her present path as a performer of range and depth: a classically-trained violinist, a jazz crooner/violinist in quartet ZapStar, and an award-winning songwriter/composer. Rebecca's dreamy, ethereal vocals swoon and sweep atop sublime melodies and infectiously charming lyrics, instantly hypnotic and effortlessly charming. Accompanying herself on ukulele, guitar, and violin, and joined by double bass, string section, and dobro, Zapen's music is mellow, creative, happy, and smart.

2008 highlights include Rebecca's recent performance as the musical guest on Public Radio International show Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?; original songs in the YOU by Crocs nationally-distributed compilation "The Postcard Collection"; winning 2nd in the Bushman World Ukulele Video Contest and her resulting endorsement with Bushman Music Works. Zapen was a Finalist in the 2007 DiscMakers' Independent Music World Series. Other career highlights include appearances as jazz vocal soloist with the Hollywood Philharmonic Orchestra, and as the mandolin soloist in Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's production of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni. She is an award-winning composer, earning the Silver Medal of Excellence in the category of "Best Use of Music in a Short Film" at the 2008 Park City Film Music Festival for her scoring of A Riverside Evening. As a session musician, Zapen has composed for and performed on recordings for soundtracks, television, public radio, theme parks, and various musical groups. Her music has been featured on NPR's All Songs Considered: Open Mic.

Her beginnings were traditional enough, with a classical music education beginning at age 3 with the Suzuki Method, and culminating with her earning music and biology degrees while attending Florida State University on a music scholarship. Since then, her musical involvements have been with groups whose styles include jazz, swing, classical, klezmer, country, folk, rock, and spoken word. Zapen has performed with or opened for artists such as Vassar Clements, Big Sandy & His Fly Rite Boys, Tommy Womack, Trisha Yearwood, Chris Botti, Anathallo, and David Bazan, and has played in musical groups, symphony orchestras, and music festivals in U.S., Great Britain, Switzerland, and Italy.

Her versatile violin playing, pure clear voice, and ability to write nostalgia-infused music have earned her comparisons to Astrud Gilberto, Suzanne Vega, Leonard Cohen, and The Ditty Bops. Her influences include Stephane Grappelli, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chet Baker, and Nick Drake.

Zapen founded her own record label in 2003, naming it Bashert, which is a Yiddish word meaning "destiny" or "fate". Rebecca's recordings include Japanese Bathhouse, released in Fall 2005 after a European summer tour, with songs about anything from pirate love gone wrong to bread crumb trails to nudity in foreign lands. Relix describes Japanese Bathhouse: "Nothing adequately prepares for the way in which her deeply personal album instantaneously envelops and never loses its grip.... The title song and others bring to mind no less than early solo McCartney and Brian Wilson's SMiLE.... One of those near-perfect hidden gems..." During ZAPENation Tour 2006, Rebecca's acoustic folk-jazz trio (including dobro and double bass) gave 22 performances during its six-week tour of the United States. Her discography also includes debut release Hummingbird (2003), laden with bossa nova and blending violin, voice, sax, marimba, and rhythm section into a warm spacious sound; self-titled folk EP Michelle Payne & Rebecca Zapen (2003); and Songs of Bother and Woe (2005) which gives a taste of her nostalgic indie folk-pop, with a sound that ranges from simple ukulele and vocals to lush arrangements of strings and brass, and musical accents from melodica and glockenspiel. Zapen's jazz quartet ZapStar, co-led by Jacksonville University guitar professor Gary Starling, recorded their self-titled release, ZapStar, in early 2006, which has been receiving praise in the U.S. and abroad.

Quirky talent: strong urge to turn T.V. show themes into bossa novas.

Unusual performing experience: Scrambling down a Mayan pyramid, running across a huge field, and hiking my way up another pyramid, to meet a violinist playing his Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. We met, and I played an American fiddle tune on it. It was rather surreal.



to write a review

TAPE OP MAGAZINE (December 2005)

Zapen not only writes great songs and sings them well, but she also has real arr
TAPE OP MAGAZINE { Nov/Dec 2005 }
This one falls firmly into the 'wow, this is really well (self) produced and (self) recorded at home category.' Listening to this, I would never have guessed this was a home recording, as it sounds super pro, thanks in part to musical and engineering [partner] Christopher Estes. But, I suspect that the old adage that good sounding music is easy to record is also part of why this sounds so good. Zapen not only writes great songs and sings them well, but she also has real arrrangement talents and plays a variety of instruments. The CD has nice packaging to boot. When asked about the recording, Rebecca responds, "As far as the way Chris and I worked together, I must say he has much more engineering experience than I do. We met in 2002 when he recorded my first album, Hummingbird, which is more jazz-oriented." Chris adds, "We recorded it in the house, with vocals done in a carpeted bedroom. We used a lot of dynamic mics for the instruments, with a few condensers (like my big MXL, and Rebecca's AKG). Everything was recorded and mixed using Sony Vegas Video, with Waves plug-ins. We recorded most of the songs as basic tracks with bass, drums, and guitar. Then we added everything else by sections with overdubs. Rebecca doubled and tripled some parts such as violin on a few numbers. The main room we recorded in is a large rectangle with hardwood floors. We used an ART tube preamp and Rebecca's Soundcraft E6 Spirit board for tracking. I used just a few mics at any given time to keep things uncluttered and the phase in line. Not much EQ was used in tracking. I tried to make this album sound as natural as possible. Not much was used as far as compression, EQ and effects. I also tried to be as light on the reverb as possible. Rebecca picks up the thread, "Later, for an EP I recorded, he showed me how to do some mic placement and basic use of Vegas Video. As far as my role in recording this album, I recorded 3 of the songs myself, and also did some additional overdubbing on my own, sometimes layering as many as nine violin tracks -- violin is my first instrument, but I played guitar, ukulele, Magnus chord organ, glockenspiel, melodica, kazoo, and of course sang, on the album. For the song Smile, we had never recorded a tap dancer before but the floor was hardwood so that was convenient. I squatted in front of her with two Shure 57s held at 90 degrees, holding the mic cords and her headset cord in my hands and teeth so nothing would rattle against the floor as she tapped. Also, double bassist Chelsea Chason twisting her endpin against the floor created the creaking sound at the end of We Didn't Bother. We thought it sounded like the rocking of a pirate ship, and added ocean and seagull sounds to enhance the effect. I completed my part of the process with the tracks' volumes and panning set to some extent, but I preferred to leave the real mixing to Chris. In addition to recording, mixing and mastering, Chris played on several of the songs, on trombone, guitar, glockenspiel, and he sang as well. The environments varied. Three of the tracks were recorded in my old house, in a boxy living room with hardwood floors. One song, "Shower #2", was recorded in a professional studio we used to record the soundtrack for a short film for which I wrote the music. The rest of the tracks were recorded in Chris' living room (which was a boxy room with a carpeted floor which later became hardwood) and a carpeted bedroom for vocals. I had instrumentation ranging from quite sparse to quite lush, and also ended up using four different drummers. So, in the end, Chris had to take tracks that had been recorded in essentially four different environments, with a varying roster of musicians and create consistency." Finally, Mr. Estes also mastered the disc at home using SoundForge.
~ John Baccigaluppi

RELIX (Feb/Mar '06) - Jeff Tamarkin

Nothing adequately prepares for the way in which her deeply personal album insta
Rebecca Zapen's classical/jazz resumé gives little indication of what the continually seductive Japanese Bathhouse ultimately reveals: Nothing adequately prepares for the way in which her deeply personal album, the Floridian Zapen's second, instantaneously envelops and never loses its grip. The comfy melodicism of the opening track, "We Didn't Bother," the title song and others brings to mind no less than early solo McCartney and Brian Wilson's SMiLE, while the ukulele/glockenspiel-sparked quietude of "I've Been Dreaming" and the folksy "I Am Fine" are imbued with a welcoming warmth. The word nostalgia is often applied to Zapen's work, but Japanese Bathhouse doesn't so much reminisce as remind. It's one of those near-perfect hidden gems that all too few will hear, but so many would love if they did.
~ Jeff Tamarkin

Sarah Carroll

Whimsical and wonderful!
Rebecca –
Many thanks for the Japanese Bathhouse CD! I’ve been listening to it and loving it – especially the tracks, I AM FINE and PIZZICATO #1! Really whimsical and wonderful!
It was so nice to have you on the show!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sarah Carroll
Whad'Ya Know? Show Manager
Wisconsin Public Radio


Japanese Bathhouse... and more!
Oh my! 'Where have I been all your life', and vice versa!!? What a gorgeous lush jazzy smooth sound.. Just discovered her from the Bushman Ukelele contest video, which led to her Website. I am an instant fan, downloading where possible, and buying CD's when available. Such great tracks like Woe is We, J/BathHouse, and of course SMILE! Gorgeous sounds and such arranging(!) from a gorgeous lady. Please post your next US Tour dates on your Web site; we'll be there...

David Seibert :

Zapen's songs create a rich textural feel and a warm smile
I love the way some of the sections are woven together, especially in "We Didn't Bother" creates such a rich textural feel, while "Smile" feels quite like the warm smile it evokes in me...


If this was on vinyl it would be wearing out already
What a lovely surprise it was to discover Rebecca Zapen! But thanks to YouTube and the Bushman ukulele video contest I did. Every track has something to recommend it, but I particularly like We Didn't Bother, Miss You, and Woe Is We, but most of all I Am Fine. When I heard this song, my first reaction was - why hasn't this been a smash hit the world over! I only have one complaint about this CD - it's too short! I hope Rebecca is going to release more music in the same vein.

Brian Sundholm

Music at its Best
This CD is WONDERFUL!!! I find myself humming melodys from this cd.. 2 and 3 dayz after listening to it! I love all the unique insturmentation and the relaxed vibe. very creative work of wonders!

Margo Strupeck: Celebrity Cafe / CD Insight

Mellow, creative, happy, and smart; this CD reaches out to every demographic and
The past always affects the future. This is especially true with Rebecca’s CD "Japanese Bathhouse," which turned out to be a collection of the old and new. Rebecca performed with groups whose style included everything from jazz to classical to swing to rock. Her eclectic background is present in her creative CD which includes every style possible. A little taste of the past, mixed with that elevator music that you find yourself humming along with, is the best way to describe this CD. I caught notes of my grandfather’s music and even a tap number of two mixed into the background of “Smile.” Mellow, creative, happy, and smart; this CD reaches out to every demographic and is pure genius.


This CD is one of the best CDs I've bought in awhile. The songs are surprising, Rebecca sounds awesome, and the vibe is absolutely enjoyable. I highly recommend this album.

Tasty - SB

Oooh, we like this....a real find.
Oooh, we like this. Title track 'We Didn't Bother' exudes indifference in a soporific folky haze. And even better, it's about a love affair gone wrong with a Lego pirate!
Zapen may sound a few bolts short of a meccano set but from this individual outlook on life a string of unique songs has arisen. 'Smile' sounds like some 1930's picture house soundtrack and I swear it is the only example of a tap dancing break in the middle of a song that I have ever heard. The whole album exudes a nod to the past, deploying sea shanties, nursery ryhme xylophone and country fair accordion. Then just when you think you have finally got inside Zapen's head she throws out a sophisticated lounge bar number in the form of 'Dolores'.

Exquisite mandolin and other finger-picked strings are the mainstay accompaniment to Zapen's dreamy voice. Both beguiling and arresting at will, the vocals lubricate the more challenging changes in key and left field style. A real find.
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