The Frank & Joe Show: Looking for a Long, Happy Run
AAJ: So we can expect new things like “The Bowling Song.”
Frank: Oh, “The Bowling Song.” I’m excited because my bowling career is going pretty well. So it inspired me to write a bowling song. [laughter] It all started when I found out Django Reinhardt only had two fingers, when I was 8 years old. I used to bowl a lot then. I said, “I wonder if he bowled.” Then I found out he was not only a great pool player, but he bowled. He was like a bowling shark.
Joe: You notice the shirt that’s hanging up there. [Points to where Frank’s shirt for the gig is hanging up].
Frank: This is my team shirt.
Joe: It’s Frank’s team shirt. If you look closely there [in the design], you’ll see remnants of bowling.
Frank: So I wear that on gigs too. Sometimes, I come [to the gig] from matches on Sundays, so my hands are a little sore.
Joe: The amazing thing is, he plays guitar righty and bowls lefty.
Frank: So we wrote a little song called “The Bowling Song.”
AAJ: You’ve got all kinds of songs. “Spiderman,” “Mozart Jam”...
Frank: Cole Porter, Bach, Mozart...
Joe: Doobie Brothers.
AAJ: You guys are happy with the way it all came together on the record?
Frank: I’m really excited about the record. We were given the opportunity to come up with the best record we can. We were not under time constraints. We spent three days in the studio. The way it actually came about was Joel Dorn signed the Hot Club USA, which was a group that Joe and I co-led. Kind of like a Django Reinhardt band. On the first tune, Joe and I go back into the studio to do a sound check. We did a kind of groove and I started doing “Begin the Beguine” in a Latin ... I hate to call it Latin..
Joe: A little rhythmic flair...
Frank: And he said, “What’s that?” “Oh we were working on this... it’s kind of what we do.” The whole session changed. He said, “That’s what I want.” A year and a half later there’s the record. We did it in his [Dorn’s] office. Gene Paul engineered it, who’s one of the most brilliant engineers I’ve ever run across. I play with his dad [Les Paul] all the time on Monday nights. He learned a lot from Les. They spent a lot of hours in the studio together.
Joe: He spends a week on a tambourine hit. Or a week on tuning a guitar string and trying it and living with it for a week to see what it sounds like. He has amazing ears. On tentative mixes, he says, “Hey, what did you think of that?” I said, “Gene, I lost you three mixes ago. My ears couldn’t catch what you’re going through.” He’s incredible.
Frank: You had to hope that the elevator didn’t come up during quiet recording. All of the sudden you hear the button go, “cha-ching.” “Can you shut that damn elevator off!” [laughter] It was recorded in a little office.
AAJ: Do you think the Frank and Joe Show will go on for a while?
Frank: Well, if we have anything to say about it, I think yes.
Joe: We finally got here. It took 20 years to get here. Now I want to stand on that mountain with that flag pole and stake our claim. Now let’s explore for the next 20 years. Make some great music.
Frank: We have a lot of fun being together too, as friends. And that makes, to me, all the difference in the world. When you can have people you enjoy being with, which isn’t bad...
Joe: It’s like a marriage.
Frank: Well, let’s not get crazy. [laughter]... And then at the same time, everybody’s like a great musician and we can make really great music together. I don’t mean that egotistically, I mean it like it feels great to be playing the music.
Joe: It’s life-giving. It’s very energetic.
Frank: After a gig, we can drive back to New York. We could drive to Kansas if we had to. We’ve done it before with other projects.
Joe: If we were working in Kansas tomorrow, we’d drive to Kansas today.
Frank: It’s that kind of enthusiasm. I could live with that.
Joe: And it comes out on stage too. It comes out on stage.
Frank: You know, I often think ... I don’t know why, maybe it’s because Joel Dorn and Gene Paul produced and engineered the Modern Jazz Quartet for Atlantic and they were together 50 years, but I just remember being at a festival and Percy Heath was playing right after John Lewis passed away. Actually, I was in John Lewis’ group, Evolution, the year before. I remember Percy Heath was sitting back stage. All of a sudden he busted out crying. I just happened to be there. It was the first time I’d met him. I was like, “Oh, man...” And he’s like, “You know, it’s the first time it hit me that John isn’t here anymore.” I thought to myself, “Man, these guys were together for fifty years. He told me, “Every time we were getting ready for a tour, I got that same excitement as I did for the first tour. By the end of the tour, I was ready to get away from everybody and go fishing,” because he loves to blue fish. But he said, “A couple of weeks would go by and I’d be dying to see those guys again.” And so that’s why it finally hit him. That’s kind of what I always wanted and why I got into the business is because I’ve always had the concept of: I want a band. I want the same people. I want to really do it with a band, instead of this freelance mentality.
Joe: The first time I’d met Frank and got invited to play the first gig we did together, I was really excited not only for all the musical reasons, but it was because of that thing: there was some arranged parts; there was freedom to play, but it was that ensemble collective sound going on. So it was not just a free for all like jam sessions.
Frank: It’s deep. He [Percy] spent more time with those guys than with his family. And that’s the way it is with musicians, with a band. So that’s kind of what I aspire to is having that kind of longevity with the band. Those guys [MJQ] got along so great. Just to hear John Lewis talk about [MJQ drummer] Connie Kay. He’d be like, “Man, you never got a chance to play with Connie?” After 50 years, he’s still talking so highly about the guy’s musicianship and being. That’s deep, to me, being a musician and all it entails. Sitting on planes in airports, and stranded, and driving through the night to get to the gig together. You got to like the music and then the people.