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Jamie Fox: My Long, Strange Trip

By Published: March 10, 2008
AAJ: So that new record, that's the Rosetta band with Jen, right?

JF: Yeah, basically, because she jokes how she keeps stealing from Stephan's bands for her records.

You know who I didn't talk about, who I should mention too, is Joan Baez, because I played with her for about three years from 1989 to 1991. That was another one of those coincidences. It's like, well yeah, I grew up listening to Bob Dylan and some Joan Baez and folk music, but at the time I was pretty into playing jazz. A singer that I knew told me that Joan Baez was looking for a guitarist. I said, "OK, fine," and drove down to her house in Palo Alto and auditioned and ended up playing with her for two to three years, which was a really interesting experience. For me it was very limiting musically, because she's not as open or free as Jen, for instance. She's very set in how she approaches things musically, and improvising is sort of a mystery, you know.

But it was really good to fit into that concept. My attitude was just sort of like, "OK, this is nothing I would've sought out, but what a great thing to do!" We went to Europe a couple of times and toured the States on really long tours. We were in Eastern Europe right around the fall of the Berlin Wall. You know she's always very politically involved. So it was a really interesting experience playing with her; it wasn't necessarily my musical direction, but I liked it.

AAJ: When I Get Home is your first album as a leader. Why don't you talk a little bit about what it was like being a leader?

JF: What it's like being a leader is spending a lot of money, because, OK, you're the one responsible, and you're writing the checks and stuff too. But writing the music was just something I'd done all along. I'm not super prolific, but I have a lot of music at this point, and a lot of it happens over a long period of time. And then to pull together this project and doing a record, you know, I have many things with other people, but it's about time to collect a bunch of music and just record it as my own. I had Stephan playing bass and Michael Sarin playing drums, and I had met Kenny Werner, the pianist, just through friends. It was great to just kind of take the responsibility for pulling things together and say, "OK, this is my thing." It's great, you know, I'm trying to plan it out for the next one. But I like being a leader—it's a lot of responsibility, and at a certain level of jazz, it's hard to get good-paying gigs, so you have to subsidize it, but that's just how things go. I enjoy it, I'm very happy with the record. I was always pretty hyper-critical of myself, especially on recordings. I went through that phase with this record, but I'm pretty happy with how it came out.

AAJ: Why don't you talk a little bit about writing and the process of writing—I guess some of these tunes came from different places, different times, so just how you write, how often you write, etc.

JF: Yeah, you know, it's something I wish I did all the time. I find that most of the musical time that I have, I just work on playing the guitar. But the songs tend to come out of that. If I'm sitting around playing, a lot of times I'll hit a groove or a melody will come up, so then I have a little song idea. And I'll record it. Once in a while they'll come out pretty much in one piece, but more often it's a fragment that I then have to develop. I find that to be really hard work, but it's just kind of like, you know, I mainly do it just playing the guitar. Just taking my time and trying to fit little bits together with another in my head. It'd be great to get up every day and say, "OK, let's spend some time writing music," and maybe someday I'll get to that point too.

AAJ: So "home" ended up being the theme of this album—what it is, where it is, etc. Why don't you talk a little bit about how that theme came about, and where some of these songs come from.

JF: Well, "When I Get Home" is actually the last song on it, and I really like that song because it does seem to combine a lot of elements I was kind of feeling at the time. Stuff like, for instance, The Band—I was feeling the vibe of that group in this sort of open, little-bit-country, little-bit-bluesy sort of way. But definitely there's some improvising in there, which I always have, and in the outro, we did some horn parts that were a little bit Thelonious Monk-inspired.

Jamie Fox

So the theme of the record wasn't something I started with; it was something, once I saw the music together, that I realized, "Oh, there are things that tie this together." That song "Roll After Roll"—I grew up in the San Fernando valley in Los Angeles, which is basically one vast, huge suburb. But when I was a kid, there used to be a lot of orange groves near where I lived, and I used to go play there, play around in these fields, which were gradually torn down. So "Row After Row" just somehow evoked to me these fields and their gradual disappearance.

"When I Get Home," it's funny, I don't know, the title just came to me. "New News" I wrote shortly after moving to New York, so it's like I'm really psyched to be here, playing new music, meeting new people, so I was kind of stimulated by that. "Mine and Yours" was inspired by a New Orleans kind of feel. And, you know, I just started to feel other musical touchstones that I've felt before. So it kind of made sense to me.

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