The resulting album experienced a number of changes in its three years of development. "Theoretically, we're coming out of the jazz thing, says Wendel, "but in terms of how long it took to record the record it's almost like we're a rock band. That record was recorded here and there over a period of three years. It's just one of those things, we've been consistently touring through that whole time. Everybody in the band outside of the band plays in a bunch of other groups and with other touring artists. So it's this thing where, whenever we had a chance to go into the studio for a day or two we would track stuff, and then over the period of those three years certain material would get old, other stuff had to be mixed. Just one of those things. Then, the Dave Douglas opportunity came up, and thankfully we basically had an album's worth of material at that point ready to go.
"We're glad it's finally out, says Benjamin, "it took us a long time to finally make it what we wanted to. We ended up with two, maybe three records worth of material. We were eliminating stuff as fast as we were recording it. It took us three years to get both the product we wanted and the right venue to release it. We have five or six full completely done songs that I think are great, but just didn't quite fit into the album as it was. I really hope we find something to do with them at some point.
"That's been the other cool thing, says Wendel, "it's an independent label, but they have distribution through Koch. It's everywhere, all over the country. It's in Tower Records, Virgin Records. A friend of mine just came off tour and said he saw our album in Idaho! We were featured on NPR's Weekend America last weekend, and we just got notification we've gone from #33 to #25 on the CMJ jazz charts. There's stations all over the country rotating the album.
Their growing popularity and the freshness of their sound makes them prime targets for the Acolytes of the Sacred Jazz Flame. "I think it's a natural thing in society in general that at a certain point a musical genre becomes codified and it becomes a museum piece. Wendel observes. "It's human nature to put things in a museum., which is fine. I'm ecstatic that symphonies still exist, that we still hear music that's 400 years old. That's the thing about jazz in the biggest sense of the word. To me, jazz is not a specific era, like the fifties or the sixties. It's the concept of improvising, which in one way has been around forever, but in another way was a brand new sound that happened in the last hundred years. In that sense, the idea of human interaction through music and spontaneity, that's what we want to carry on, the spirit of what I perceive jazz to be. I think a music is not alive unless people are showing up.
"On all these tours we do clinics. We go to schools from junior high, to high school to colleges, we play with these kids and we have them play with us. And sometimes, we'll do club dates where we'll teach the kids one of our songs and then they'll come to the club and play with us. It's really fun because they have such a great open energy. They're not jaded in any way. I think that's the other way the music is going to cary on, for musicians to pass on the torch to the younger kids. I even remember in high school the few times that a clinician would come in and show what he does and even coach the band. You don't forget those experiences, they have an impact.
"It's a big part of our touring, says Benjamin. "At first, we came up with that mostly as a financial mechanism to finance our tours before we could get significant enough guarantees at clubs to really go on the road and make money from that. But now, over the years it's actually developed into a pretty big part of the identity of the band. I can't really picture going on tour with Kneebody without getting up at 7 in the morning to go to some high school or college on most days. It keeps us in touch with the fundamental aspects of music to have to present it ot a new audience and explain it in certain ways, and literally bring people into it. Have people learn the material and play with us, tryout some of our concepts kind of keeps us constantly reinventing the band, keeping a fresh attitude towards it.
After the years of hard work and determination, the members of Kneebody know their on to something special. "It's got an intellectual aspect to it, and it's complex music, says Wendel, "but we don't want it to be something that only musicians can enjoy. Music is music. The more you play the more you realize that that's kind of a special thing that doesn't happen all the time, a sort of immediate natural level of communication. We said let's keep going with this because it was fun.