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Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Three-Way Street

By Published: January 9, 2006
AAJ: So had you played most of these cover songs out before you recorded them?

JS: Not too many times! We had a session where we kind of narrowed it down and really worked on them hard for a couple of days.

AAJ: So Joel Dorn produced this one. Reed, you produced the last album.

RM: Yeah, and I actually had a heavy hand in mixing this record. Joel showed up at the mixing session for about forty-five minutes, said three words and then split.

AAJ: So is he more of a performance type of producer?

The band collectively, almost in unison: Yeah!

RM: Yeah, his thing was all in the buildup to the record and just in directing the session. Doing audio feng shui on us.

BH: Good way to put it.

JS: Which helped it to be one of the loosest, quickest-moving sessions we've ever had.

AAJ: Yeah, you did all but one song—except "Happiness is a Warm Gun, which you recorded live in concert—in one day. That had to be a long day or night. Were they mostly first takes?

RM: No. I think for one of them we did five takes. I think all of them got at least two takes. The Mingus tune ["Fables of Faubus ] was a first take.

BH: And "Davey's Purple Powerline. That was the only take.

AAJ: I really like the sound of the record. Actually, I like the sound of your last two CDs. Nice and dry, not gussied-up, just a small room sound. Was this something you were consciously going for?

BH: Yes, absolutely. We wanted something that was just really simple and clear.

RM: Rudy Van Gelder style, you know.

JS: The rapport of three musicians playing in a room together.

AAJ: The last two albums in particular give the impression that maybe the band is more interested right now in playing acoustically. This really means that Brian plays piano, because Reed plays electric bass on the new record—but Reed, you get that woody sound on electric. But is this true? Are you more interested in the acoustic side of the band?

BH: It's cyclical. And if it's a great piano, why not use it, right? But also, I'm really trying to improve how I play the Fender Rhodes. It's a much more difficult instrument than the piano. I've been playing the Rhodes since I was twenty, and I'm thirty-one. But I started playing the piano when I was four years old, so I'm a lot more comfortable on the piano; I think my ideas are clearer on the piano. I think I play in a more relaxed way. But I'm learning how to play the Fender Rhodes in a much better way, a more laid-back way. I'm learning how to use effects more. I never really started learning about pedals until four or five years ago—I just played clean Rhodes for years. No pedals—just clean, garish, distorting Rhodes and nothing else. So I'm kind of learning how to soften my sound up. We're really influenced by electronica music, and great rock music, so an electric show is a great opportunity to explore those influences in a more obvious way. Part of what makes the new electronica amazing is the tones and textures.

RM: That's often more important than the melody.

AAJ: Sometimes it has to be, because some of those guys are better with gear than they are with—

RM: With composition, yeah.

BH: I'm trying to get better with gear. Reed is a big inspiration to me because he's so good with his gear.

RM: You know, I've sort of been the guy who assembles our records since about '97 or so. And it was Rhodes piano, and only Rhodes piano, on every record. We started making records in '94. So that's all that there was sonically to work with, and having the chance to use pianos—this is our fourth record with piano on it—is just sonically a lot more interesting to me most of the time. Like Brian says, we're getting a lot more colors out of the Rhodes these days, but for a long time it was just that one sound, song after song. To me, the piano has a lot more variety internally.

JS: Live, now that we have the option, we like to use both as often as possible. Anything to add to the textural palate—that's what we're trying to find on all our instruments.

AAJ: So, on this tour, then—does the venue determine what you do? For example, there's no piano at the place you're playing tonight, so you're playing Rhodes?

BH: Exactly. And in Finland, for the Tampere Jazz Happening, they had a Fender Rhodes and a piano there. And the piano was so beautiful, so nice, and we only had an hour-and-a-half, so I didn't even want the Fender Rhodes onstage. But at Tonic, we were doing a two-night run on this tour, and we had the Rhodes onstage both nights, because every night we were doing over two hours of music, and it was two nights, so we wanted to get some variety up there. But you're right; it's really dependent on the venue.

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