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Jonathan Kreisberg: Unearthed

By Published: October 13, 2009
AAJ: On the album's title track, you use a volume pedal to produce a very ethereal vibe during the song's intro. Although other guitarists such as Ben Monder
Ben Monder
Ben Monder
and Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
have used volume pedals in their playing, you have a unique approach to the sounds you can produce with the pedal. Can you talk about why you like to use the volume pedal in your playing, and what you feel it adds to your compositions and improvisations?

Jonathan KreisbergJK: One main reason I use a volume pedal is that I often try to hear my place in the band and find the sweet spot in the "mix." By producing records, I've become pretty sensitive to that. Those types of sounds can be done with your hands, but the pedal gives you a way to do it without changing your attack, which can be a different sound all together.

Another reason is that it can give you a bit of air, or swell. You can make the guitar sound a bit more like a violin or horn, but that's tricky. Overall, I just feel it makes the guitar sound a bit more organic.

AAJ: On the song "Stella by Starlight," you lay down a very elegant chord-melody introduction that provides the listener with a window into that side of your playing. Do you play solo guitar often, and have you ever considered recording an album of solo guitar pieces?

JK: At some point it would be fun, but I'd have to give some thought as to how I'd approach it. I have a lot of respect for that tradition as well, solo guitar. The main issue for me is about trying to strike a balance between arrangements and improvisation.

It's a shame most guys end up arranging too much and trying to sound like a bassist, pianist and horn all at once. There is so much freedom as a solo guitarist to have fun with the keys, tempos, lines etc.

AAJ: Your 2009 CD is the quartet recording Night Songs that was released on the Criss Cross label. While you have recorded for Criss Cross in the past, your last few albums were for the Mel Bay label. What brought you back to the Criss Cross label for this recording?

JK: Well, Criss Cross is a great label with such a quality roster, so of course it's always great to work with them. When Producer Gerry Teekins called, I'd been writing some new originals that I was really excited about, but I wasn't quite ready to go into the studio for that stuff. So we got excited about the concept, which became Night Songs.

AAJ: Night Songs is a collection of jazz and American songbook ballads. What was the inspiration for releasing an album of ballads?

JK: It was a heartbreak-induced episode, and an excuse to record a bunch of my favorite tunes. Also, it seemed like a great challenge to make a compelling disc entirely of ballads. I was thinking of the concept as a whole throughout the process. Hopefully, that translated well onto the recording.

AAJ: You use an acoustic guitar on some of the tracks on the album, on "Laura" for example. Though others have used an acoustic guitar in a jazz setting, it is still a rare sound. What was the inspiration to bring the acoustic guitar sound to your new CD?

JK: Well, I'd already played acoustic on Unearth, so it wasn't the first time I'd experimented with that sound, but it definitely was used more often on this record. It's really just about another color that I can use in my playing and writing.

AAJ: The songs on Night Songs have a very "organic" feel to them. How much time did you spend in the studio recording the album? It sounds as if you guys are just playing live and having a great time laying down each track.

JK: Well, Criss Cross albums are generally done in about 6 hours, so it was definitely a very "live" session. Some tunes were a bit more arranged like "Spring is Here," while others were completely off the cuff. We had never even played "Nefertiti" or "September Song" as a band before, so those were both one-take wonders.

AAJ: What guitars and amps did you use to record Night Songs?

JK: My acoustic is a Collings, my electric is my semi-trusty Gibson 175 and the amp is my blackface Fender Princeton.

AAJ: With your latest album receiving positive reviews from critics and fans alike, are you already working on your next recording project, and if so what can people expect?

JK: There are already some clips on YouTube of some of my new music, so my die-hard fans have already checked some of it out. I've heard via email how excited they are about it, so that's really been inspiring.

I guess it's been interesting coming to terms with YouTube, show taping, downloading, etc., in the past few years, but it really does have its positives. The true fans are really with you through the process. That being said, of course it will be great to go into the studio to officially document the new music. I'm looking forward to it.

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