Joel Frahm's Musical Reunion
Two of the most interesting songs on Don't Explain are also among Frahm's favorite moments on the album; the slower, funky take on Sonny Rollins' "Oleo" brings new life to that standard, while the first of two versions of Monk's "Round Midnight", "Round Midnight #3", begins and ends with a tenor vamp by Frahm that only obliquely hints at the tune's familiar melody.
"There's a moment at the end of ['Round Midnight #3'] where I pick up this vamp again that I started out the tune with that's sort of the underpinning of the whole performance and it gets pretty gentle at the end," explained Frahm. "I play this ending kind of vamp as sort of a retrograde of the first statement that I made and he lets it go ' he lets me have the space to go through it three or four times ' and all of the sudden, he just plays the gentlest substitution, it's just a little minor chord, and it's one of my favorite moments on the record, because it's so gentle and so surprising at the same time.
"He was just listening so hard that he found something that I never would have thought of, but that made that moment much more intense than if he had just played the song. And that's what I love him for, that he can just come up with those things and be so spontaneous yet so perfect in his choices."
Don't Explain is dedicated to the memory of tenor and soprano saxophonist Bob Berg, who was not only a major influence on the young Frahm, but also an inspiration to him much more recently. Berg died in a tragic automobile accident near his Long Island home in December, 2002. He was 51.
"A couple of years before [Bob's death], I was having a tough time," Frahm recalled. "I was pretty depressed and pretty uninspired musically, and I remember coming home one night and just being bummed out and turning on my e-mail. And I got this e-mail saying, 'Hey man, I don't think we've ever met, but I was driving in my car and this minor blues your were playing on your record The Navigator came on. I had to pull over my car and listen to the whole thing. It's so great to hear some great stuff on the radio ...', and it was Bob Berg.
"He found my name on the Internet and sent me this note. And I was so glad I e-mailed him back, because it was only a few months later that he was gone. I told him how much he meant to me as a kid, listening to his records with Cedar Walton, listening to a lot the stuff he had done, his solo records with Tom Harrell. So I wrote him this long e-mail and he got back to me. I think he was really surprised and touched. So I wanted to dedicate this to him. I think it's really unusual for a guy who's been around and who's a pretty established musician to take the time out to just get in touch with someone who they've never met just because they dig their stuff," said Frahm.
Frahm and Berg were planning on hanging out a gig together, but sadly, Berg passed on before they had a chance to meet. "The few times I have gotten to play with my idols, it's just been so electric," said an enthused Frahm. You get so giddy about it that sometimes I can't even play. But it is fun, I really enjoy meeting those people and hanging out with them."
To celebrate the release of Don't Explain , Frahm and Mehldau played a three-night stand at New York's Jazz Standard in January as part of a week-long Palmetto Records showcase.
Frahm is now on a month-long tour with Jane Monheit, with whom he's toured and recorded for the past few years, while Mehldau begins his own tour in Europe later this month supporting his own new Warner Bros. release.
On future performances with Mehldau, Frahm said, "I'm keeping my fingers crossed."