Joe Ascione and His Brave New World
AAJ: I just had a crazy thought...in some ways, it's almost fortunate, in the sense that you know your destiny...
JA: Yup. You know what? To some extent, I'm not afraid of death. I know what it is to be scared enough to feel like you're gonna die. Probably that's where those panic attacks came from.
AAJ: Could be, sure.
JA: In other ways it's a blessing because I meet a lot of wonderful people, I can share some stories. And I have such empathy for, let's say, someone who physically is not getting along well. I have great patience now for that. So it's shown me those lessons, and that's pretty neat.
AAJ: Are you working less?
JA: No. The Frank and Joe Show started a tour across America on September 30. We did 14 concerts in 14 days on the road, 14 cities, and we wound up in Los Angeles. I took a red-eye back after the last concert, went into the studio with Jay Leonhart and Eddie Higgins, and did a record ( Christmas Songs ). For two days, we did that, and then for the next three days The Frank and Joe Show recorded their second record. And then right after that we did three days in DC and Virginia, I came home, and then flew to Florida to do this.
AAJ: Oh, my...
JA: It's literally been a marathon since September 30. It's been non-stop. So I haven't worked less, I'm not working less because of it, but I am being smarter, and I'm pacing myself. I'm blessed that I'm able to do that. And it will serve me well in the long term. That's the way it's changed me. Otherwise I'd be much more carefree, and just...go.
I think I have a fun personality, and I like to have a blast. I always like to goof around and have fun. And I still do that, but as soon as the light goes off in my brain that I know I have to get through the rest of the day, that's on my mind, and all of a sudden the comedy stops.
AAJ: Well...you need to have great discipline to be able to play as well as you do, so maybe you're just using that... Fortunately you didn't have to develop it.
JA: Right. Now I use it for management of the day.
AAJ: So when is the new Frank & Joe coming out? I'm drooling.
JA: That excited, huh? (grins) The spring of 2005, around April, Disk #2 will be out on Hyena. This one...it's like you went to a fat farm, and you stepped out the new you... Now the band is a year into the project. For the first one, Frank and I literally did all the tracks with a few bass players, besides the wonderful guests. Then we spent a year playing with steady gigs Sweet Rhythm every Sunday night, everybody there has been great to us. And now we've done a bunch of tours, so the band has really gelled. We went into the studio a couple of weeks ago, and just shredded that place.
I'm really excited about this record, because I don't think it's going to be a part two of the first one. The band has matured, now there's more band sound, there's a lot of original material that's been written. At Hyena [Records] they say that by the third album there will be a great definition of what "this" isthat we're all on this journey together. It's fascinating, it's growing.
AAJ: For all the people who say that they can't categorize you, you've got the core of jazzthats spontaneity, and seeing what happens.
JA: There are boundaries, and there are rules, but you hopefully learn them and they become automatic, and then you create in the moment.
So "The Frank & Joe Show, Disk 2" will be out in April. We'll be in Japan in the fall actually before, in the winter, we'll be in Switzerland, and in Europe, a few spots in February and March, and then April is a big tour, and June is a big tour. So we're really excited about where it's going. That's been taking up a lot of my time, willingly so.
AAJ: Is the first one selling?
JA: Yes. I would say, give or take, probably about 200 disks a week on Sound Scan. So yes, people are appreciating it.
JA: Yaaay! Well, it's nice.
AAJ: Finally... something good is actually making it. I'm so used to the elevation of mediocrity. You almost begin to say well, that's the way it isthat's the way it has to be...
JA: It doesn't. And Frank and I appreciate each other musically, so we're always upping the ante. It's not stagnant, it's always moving. It's very dynamic.
AAJ: What happens when you can't play anymore? Are you going to teach?
JA: Well, I teach now. It's funny you mention that, because when I first got diagnosed, a lot of dear friends wanted to give me money to document my drumming, and put it down in volumes and videos and a series of books on this and that, but it was disagreeing with me tremendously. And I realized, that's not the way I'm looking at all of this.
What I'm doing is like a flameit's lit, and when it burns out, it just burns out. I'm not going to try to keep it going, I'm not going to force it, I'm not going to try to manufacture it.
AAJ: ...or take a video of it?
JA: If I do a video, it's because I'll wake up and say, hey, I want to do something in a video, and I'll do it for that reason.