Jason Reolon: Raising the Bar
AAJ: What also pops out on this album is the sound quality. I see it was mixed and mastered in New Yorkhow did that come about?
JR: The album was recorded at the SAE Institute, one of Cape town's major sound engineering schools. It is headed up by Dave Maclean. Just over the road is this beautiful underground studio, now owned by SAE, and we recorded an album there with Restless Natives. In fact, we recorded a triple album that we're preparing for release now. It's been a three-year project.
The way the recording sessions worked for my group was that bands were been given one hour to perform for a live audience comprising mostly students from the school, and the band gets to keep the recording.
I was offered a slot, and I said, "Let's do it." I feel the recording worked because we performed to a live audience. Roger, our recording engineer, would have preferred not to do so, given it was a small space to start with which made his job more challenging, but for me, I perform for people. Working alone in the studio is a dynamic I'm not 100% comfortable with, and having listeners there to bounce the music off was more natural for me. And having only one hour was good as it put the pressure on without the comfort blanket of second and third takes.
AAJ: All first takes, then?
There was one track we decided to rerecord, but that was just because the band didn't come in quite right, and the redone version was a more beautiful take. But otherwise it was first takes. I don't know if I'd do it that way again, but it certainly worked.
Suddenly, I had this recording. I thought to myself, "I can get this mixed and mastered here, or I can try something else." So I went to my CD collection and thought about my favorite jazz albums. It was about four or five that I pulled out, and on them the mixing and mastering was done by the same two guys. What are the chances?
James Farber was the recording and mixing engineer on most of these albums. I reached out to him, and he responded to me! I got an email and thought, "Oh my god, this guy deals with major artists, and here I am!" From the beginning to end, I felt like I had made a friend. Working with James was the most refreshing experience ever.
Because I wouldn't be there for the mixing, I had to pre-edit the album. We decided that James would do it in one 12-hour day, because I couldn't afford for more, given South African rands to American dollars. So I did the pre-editing here, and it worked amazingly. James got a hold of Greg Calbi to do the mastering, and it was sent to Sterling Sound for final mastering.
When the album came back to me, I thought, "That's the real deal!" I started playing it for fellow musicians here, and they were mostly blown away. Because our sound here doesn't usually get captured and engineered properly as jazz recording artists, that's the impression you get of yourself as a musician. If you're playing, you hear the sound, but when you hear a recording, and that sound doesn't translate well, your impression of yourself goes down a notch.
I think this recording has awakened musicians here to what's possible.
AAJ: This is a huge financial outlay. What are your plans moving forward with this album?
JR: I've been meaning to make an album like this, because I recognize the value of having an album of original music. I see myself as a musician living in South Africa, being fed music from the world, but playing it on a South African platform.
I'd like this to translate and equate to playing festivals overseas. And I don't mind how slowly that might happen. But I'd like that to be the eventual outcome. We've got a great scene here and I love Cape Town, but every year I feel like I hit a ceiling and I know there's more to do.
I'm not looking for fame or glory, but I'd like to take the trio, get out of here and play my music, and come back in between.
So on the first of June, we did an album launch, and I went all-out with an incredible venue and had it filmed. To my trio I added Buddy Wells on saxophone, Tony Paco on percussion, and my wife, Ariella Caira, on cello, which took the material to another level. And we added visuals projected onto the stage, created by my designer, Marcii Goose, which brought another dimension to experiencing the music. Having that filmed was my next step, and my idea is to start networking abroad and getting the project out there. That's the ideahopefully the music will do the rest.
Jason Reolon Trio, Outline (Self Produced, 2011)
Jason Reolon Trio, Off the Record (Self Produced, 2007)
Breakfast Included, Night Work Ahead (Self Produced, 2004)
All Photos Courtesy of Jason Reolon