The Frank & Joe Show: Looking for a Long, Happy Run
AAJ: Your musical association goes back before this record. How did that come about?
Joe: Around dinner time. About a half hour ago.
Frank: 1989 was the first time we played together.
Joe: A mutual friend kept saying, “you got to get together with this guy Frank.”
Frank: And he kept saying, “you got to get together with this guy Joe.”
Joe: And we hooked up. And everybody else got fired and we started playing and never looked back.
Frank: It’s true. It was just really magic from the beginning.
AAJ: This was down in New York?
Frank: This was in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
AAJ: You guys just hit it off?
Frank: I couldn’t stand him [laughs]. The drummer was pretty good and he knew how to do the fastest drum roll in the world, and that hooked up with my [guitar] picking. And it was like... he’s kind of a big jerk.
Joe: Frank stopped drinking coffee, so I had to start — to catch up with his right hand. Actually, it was very exciting to play with Frank because musically... I wanted the opportunity to be challenged musically and to take what’s done on the instrument and explore it with somebody I could have musical empathy with, and play, and break a sweat, and share the musical ideas and excitement, and see where it’s going to take us. So it’s always a challenge. It always widens the scope.
AAJ: You guys had other things in common, like age and the New York thing.
Frank: We know the American repertoire. Songs from Long Island. We know a lot of the same bands outside of jazz. So after jazz gigs we could clear our heads by listening to Frank Zappa and stuff like that. It was just a lot of fun from the beginning and it hasn’t stopped being fun. We just really enjoy each other’s company, and I think that goes for everybody in the band. One of the percussionists actually has chicken pox.
Joe: We quarantined him and left him behind.
Frank: He’s in his room in Brooklyn under quarantine, unfortunately, but he’s been with us.
Joe: His son is named Joseph after me. My godson. He’s 12 or 13. So everybody in the band is good friends, socially.
Frank: Gary, the bassist. I played with him with Les Paul since the 70s, so we’ve been hanging out for about 20 years.
Joe: You met Ken out west. I met Richie through a mutual friend, a drummer friend, about seven years ago. We always joked around that it would be fun to play together, but we’re both drummers. How could that happen? So here we have three drummers. It’s amazing. When something goes on, it just goes on. Things fall into place.
Frank: What’s really cool about everybody is that everybody is such an amazing musician. But everybody finds their role in this band. And everybody just really enjoys playing with one another. Being a part of the same thing, for lack of a better word.
Joe: We look for the collective sound too. We’re all of the same mindset or goal to make the music sound as great as it can. There’s room for spontaneity. There’s room for interaction. There’s room for authenticity. There’s room for arrangements where we see fit. There’s room to explore original material. There’s room for vocals.
Frank: We’re not really boxed in at all.
Joe: Yeah. It’s not a jazz group. People need labels in order to talk about it, which I understand. But it’s just good eclectic music with a rhythmic flair and great textures and harmonies and beautiful melodies that always sing. That’s important.
Frank: Good material really can happen with the repertoire. That’s what Joey and I have always done for years now is to try to find tunes and do something different with it, or just kind of develop our own thing, instead of just picking a tune and seeing what happens.
Joe: We maintain our musical integrity. And we have this innate governor on the music that we do. We’ll try and explore it naturally, and we let it go because it’s not going to be something do again. Or somehow it sticks, and we keep utilizing it and exploring it and putting our little Frank and Joe flair and twist and sound on it. Even with the vocalists on the record. They weren’t just random tunes and random vocalists that we’re fortunate and excited to have on the record. But based on what we do and our sound, the Frank and Joe thing, they fit well into that.
Frank: Joel Dorn was definitely in tune enough to pick the right vocalists and say, “Hey. Why don’t you try this song?” It’s a lot of fun right now.
AAJ: It doesn’t seem like jazz per se.
Joe: And you know what? Interestingly enough, our home base that we have, which is Sweet Rhythm, in New York City, downtown Manhattan, one of the owners, James Brown, said this is a fascinating project because — and these are his words, but I really appreciate what he said — he said because after every one of your shows, the vibe in the room is happy. It’s uplifting. People are enthusiastic and energetic. There’s a buzz. Sometimes you hear music and everybody’s just back in their own head. Here, there’s a buzz. There’s a camaraderie, there’s a friendship. It’s uplifting.