Jimmy Herring: The Lifeboat Sessions and More

Phil DiPietro By

Sign in to view read count
I hate that mentality where the instrument is more important than the music, especially guitar, because it's been so exploited.
Jimmy HerringJimmy Herring has transitioned from an underground favorite to one of America's elite guitarists. The resume is now a dream, progressing from GIT to ARU, Frogwings to the Allman Brothers, Jazz is Dead to Phil Lesh and then on to the real thing—the actual Dead, if you will. Herring is the archetype for the melody-drenched lead man that can take it to far off galaxies. Somehow, nobody plays like Herring, but he's always capable of reminding sometimes huge audiences exactly what song he's playing and who he's playing with.

One other thing has remained a constant, even now when he's responsible for providing the melodic contours of the Widespread jam, is that jazz looms large in his arsenal of influence. And it's of the unabashedly electric and exciting sort. Remember, before Herring, Jeff Sipe and the Burbridge brothers formed the now-legendary Aquarium Rescue Unit with the Colonel Brice Hampton, thereby jump-starting the Jamband revolution, they had a fusion band.

Luckily, Herring keeps indulging his jazz "jones" by revisiting it on his own recordings and projects, whether with past post-ARU outlets, like Jeff Sipe's Apartment Projects and Project Z, or his freshly completed and scintillating Lifeboat (Abstract Logix, 2008).

All About Jazz: I just want to begin by noting how amazing it is that you've gone from this cult, ARU guy, to one of this country's exemplary or archetypical guitarists. What you do, very few guys can do—playing the virtuosic lines, but keeping the southern thing in it. With all these iconic American bands like Widespread, the Allmans and the Dead, you're at the pinnacle of where you could be.

Jimmy Herring: I would never have imagined it. I was looking for a band to be in for twenty years or more and ARU was it, but it wasn't meant to be that way. That's what I wanted, to stay in that band forever. But it was meant to do what it did and then move on. One member would leave and another would leave and it just wasn't the same anymore.

AAJ: As a former and current fan I agree, but it's great that you continue on with even still getting some shows together.

JH: Yes, we will be doing some more. We just have to get our stuff together.

AAJ: And you dipped back into that bag, instrumentally anyway, with Project Z too.

JH: See, that was Ricky Keller—we always looked at him like second in command to Bruce—the highest ranking officer. Basically we loved him. He wasn't in ARU but he was in spirit. He ran a studio in town so he couldn't be on the road and stuff. So when ARU was no longer playing and Jeff and I wanted to sort of pick up where it left off and just try to continue on with the idea—well, that's what Project Z was. So we got Ricky to play bass because he understood Bruce's philosophy as well as anyone. Oteil [Burbridge] would have been involved too, but he was playing with the Allman Brothers and some other stuff.

AAJ: You're not that well-known outside of the US, but domestically, you're getting some well-deserved recognition.

JH: I still think, in some ways, it's in an underground kind of sense. I'm so flattered that I've been fortunate enough to get to work with all these great bands. I just haven't done that much playing outside of the country. There have been opportunities, but they just haven't been the right ones yet. Even when I was with Phil [Lesh], we played only US dates and the same goes for when I was with the Allman Brothers for a brief stint and the same goes for the Dead. Panic has toured outside of the country, but not with me yet. We even had opportunities with ARU, but we would have been sleeping on top of each other. I don't think Bruce would have done it, even if better offers than what we got came along.

AAJ: As far as the jazz scene goes, and you're really taking a giant step over in that direction with this record, there's New York, there's LA, and then there's this group of cats down south that consists, basically, of you, Oteil, Sipe, Kofi, Bela and Victor Wooten, that has made significant inroads into the jazz world. How did that happen for you guys?

JH: I came back here [Atlanta, where Herring now lives] after being in California just to go to school at GIT. There were some great musicians there. In fact Jeff Buckley was one of the guys in my class who I used to hang out with all the time. We were always talking about what we were going to do after graduation. This guy Steve Freeman, who was a teacher at school and a brilliant guitarist, had the idea to open a school in the south. He was leaving California to move back to Atlanta. I'm from North Carolina, so he asked me if I'd be interested in moving back to the south since I was a southern guy anyway. I told him I'd be way into it, because LA really wasn't for me. There were a lot of great things about it , but the whole circuit with the play to pay thing was bad. You know what that is, right?

AAJ: You have to guarantee some amount of the door right?

JH: In LA you had to buy a sold-out house.

Jimmy HerringAAJ: That's impossible.

JH: Wherever you were playing you had to buy every ticket and sell the place out. It was up to you to sell the tickets and whatever you didn't sell, you had to eat.

Granted these were not big places, but 500 people when you're just getting started is tough. So when Steve came to me I ended up coming here in 1986. Maybe the second or third day I was in town Scott Henderson was coming into the school to do a clinic and he's one of my favorite players. I had been to school out there and I was always blown away by him.

AAJ: I wanted to ask you about Scott in particular because I really hear his influence in your playing.

JH: Yeah, big time.

AAJ: Angular phraseology and a lot of twisted pentatonic lines and ideas.

JH: I noticed a long time ago that he plays a lot of pentatonic lines, but that they were not from the root of the chord. He does a lot of that. Coltrane did a lot of that and that's probably where he got it.

So Scott's a monster and he's doing the clinic in Atlanta and when I got there he was using local musicians, and one of the guys was Jeff Sipe. So within a couple of days I heard Sipe playing with Henderson and I was saying, "Oh my god! This guy is local? I came to the right place."

So I went right up to Sipe after the clinic and said, "That was amazing! My name's Jimmy and I just moved to town. You're someone I'd love to play with." He said, "Really? What are you doing tomorrow?" And he didn't know me at all.

So I went to his house the next day—no bass, no keyboards—just drums and guitar and we played for five hours. We had this instant chemistry. I knew then that I wanted to play with this guy for the rest of my life.

And then he called me up two weeks later and said, "Man, these two dudes just moved into town from Virginia Beach and they're brothers. It's Oteil and Kofi Burbridge, and by the way they're my roommates!" They had moved into Sipe's house—that's the first place they lived. I remember he said, "You've got to come over here—now!"

So I grabbed my stuff and I got to play with Oteil, Kofi and Sipe within two weeks of moving to town, in 1986. We had a band but we never really gigged because then the situation in Atlanta was, to get a gig, you had to play four sets. We were trying to do all original material. Everybody was hustling and doing other gigs. I was doing some teaching and Sipe was teaching and playing in some different top-40 bands. Oteil and Kofi had become the new guys on the scene so they were in demand on the top-40 circuit. But four hours of music was tough to get together—we had about 90 minutes worth of original music and besides that, it was fusion oriented music, too.

But then Sipe started talking about this guy, Bruce Hampton, saying stuff like, "Man, it's really truly liberating to play with this guy. Everything is real roots oriented, but because it's so simple we can take real liberties with the music—you can go out and come back in. It's just funk meets jazz meets blues." It sounded real good to me. Soon Sipe and Oteil started playing with Bruce full-time. I went to see them and was blown away by what they were doing. When we played together we played more fusion-oriented music that we were writing, but neither Sipe nor Oteil knew I liked to play blues. I thought they'd be bored playing a blues, but I found out they loved it—they were playing it all night with Bruce. They also didn't know I liked playing country-type stuff and I had no idea Sipe could even play a two-beat, let alone enjoy doing it. As it turns out it just exploded—musically, I mean.

Jimmy Herring

The first night the music just took off. Then, Jeff Mosier, a great banjo player who was already in that band, brought in Matt Mundy, a great mandolinist from the bluegrass world, in and the thing really just—at that point we decided, "Oh, we're going to definitely do this." And it wasn't about money. We were playing one night a week at a 99 cent draft beer night or something.

AAJ: It's very cool what you just related. Because what you basically just said was, none of you realized it, but all the musicians involved did everything. The southern contingent is versatile. Speaking of which, I was going to ask you how jazz got in there given some of your older interviews say Dicky Betts and Steve Morse were your primary and biggest influences.

JH: I never thought Steve Morse was jazz, but his music was intelligent and it's instrumental. But I was already into listening to jazz, even though I knew I couldn't swing because I'm a white guy from North Carolina. [laughs] I was inspired by jazz; listening to a lot of Coltrane, and I also really loved Elvin Jones. I always loved jazz—I just never really had it come up in an interview before.

AAJ: Like since you were a kid?

JH: Specifically, I got hip to the Dregs when I was like 17 or 18, but by 19 or 20 I was more into jazz. My brother hipped me to Mahavishnu. That led me to what [John] McLaughlin had done before that with Miles [Davis]. Then I got hip to all the things Miles had done and started realizing I better start studying horn players and listening them for inspiration. I got it into my mind that guitar players were getting their licks from other guitar players, so I listened to a lot of Cannonball [Adderley] and thought he was the greatest, and Bird [Charlie Parker] and Dizzy [Gillespie]. Cannonball is like the ultimate blues man—listen to that album Somethin' Else (Blue Note, 1958)—that's unbelievable.

But then, right after that, I went to school and I heard Scott Henderson and that was like Michael Brecker meets Jeff Beck, which really knocked me out, making me want to hear the guitar in the role of a horn player.

AAJ: It's one thing to be knocked out by it; it's another to learn it.

JH: To be truthful, it's not like I could—I mean Scott was just so good, he was so intimidating because he could play changes like a horn player but he had a delivery like a rock 'n 'roll guitarist. That was just so appealing to me and it made me want to study jazz and work on playing jazz changes. I could learn his lines but I couldn't really understand what went into the composition of the line. It was one thing to transcribe it off a record but another thing to understand what led him to that choice of notes and rhythms. Being in that environment was great because it got me interested in him and in listening to the music he was inspired by.

AAJ: Now he's put it out there for everybody. He has authored more than a few method books and videos.

JH: He's a monster, man.

AAJ: Does he know what you think of him?

JH: I'm sure he does. Actually, I'm scared to death of him. [laughs] When I was a student, at about 22, Holdsworth and Steve Morse were my favorite guys but I wasn't hip into the deep harmony. For instance, I didn't know what augmented major 7th chords were or how to play over them. I didn't know the scales that fit the wild chords.

Scott would do these open counseling sessions which consisted of him sitting there with a Real Book and a guitar and have students come in and play tunes with him. My weakest thing was trying to play Real Book tunes. I dug it but I couldn't play freely through those changes. I would just go in there and listen—I would not play. But then he would start getting on my case like, "Hey! Where's your guitar? You can't get away with coming here week after week with not playing." So I said, "OK. I'll just stand outside and listen." [laughs]. But he told me to get my ass in there in play. See, Scott was tough man—I've seen a few people look pretty much like they wanted to cry. It was inspiring but I didn't have the balls to go in there and play with him. But every album that he'd put out during that time I would get it and listen to it constantly. I would try to learn his ideas -his touch and his tone affected me in a way too.

AAJ: It's interesting because Henderson was your teacher, but he's only four or five years older than you. He's only about 54 or so now.

JH: Yeah I'm 46. Plus he looks incredibly young.

AAJ: So that makes him only 30 when he was your teacher at GIT.

Jimmy Herring / Project ZJH: When I first got there he was playing with Jeff Berlin. He had just put his record out called Champion (Passport, 1985), and Scott's playing on that really made the whole record. Do you remember the Cannonball tune they did "Marabi"? I learned some phrasing from that. Then he put out Spears (Relativity, 1986), with Tribal Tech, and that hit me real hard. I learned some of the lines from that and then I'd go see them play anytime they were playing in Hollywood. One thing that hit me hard again was a time the musicians from Tribal Tech were playing at Donte's, a jazz club in L.A. My mother was actually in town and I convinced her that she had to see Scott Henderson. I mean this was in 1984 or '85, and the lineup was Henderson, Gary Willis [bass], Steve Houghton [drums] and I forget who the keyboard player was [It was probably Pat Coil, the keyboardist on Spears].

I got there and I remember seeing a music stand on the stage and saying "No. They're not going play standards, please tell me." I remember being disappointed until they started playing. They turned those standards into the most interesting tunes I'd ever heard. I was so blown away with what they did with those same tunes I'd hear my friends working on at school. The tunes are hard to play and you have to learn the language if you're ever going to play jazz, but the tunes had never lit a fire under me. But then I heard them play, with a freshness and an over-the-top energy and intense dynamics—they'd be at a whisper and then be raging, blowing the roof off the place.

AAJ: It is amazing the way some of these so-called fusion guys can play standards. The world should hear it. It would change the perception of these musicians that get pigeonholed as fusion guys.

JH: Like who?

AAJ: I just saw a trio with David Gilmore on guitar and Matt Garrison on bass and a drummer named Rudy Royston. I mean they took "Inner Urge" out of the stratosphere.

JH: I know who Matt Garrison is and Gilmore too, that's for sure. Garrison is a freak man. I played a gig with him, a T Lavitz gig at the Bottom line in New York awhile back. We didn't have a drummer or a bassist and T just wanted to go in there and improvise. We didn't even play a bunch of tunes; we just did what I would call experimental, exploratory playing. I was nervous about getting a bassist and a drummer and it turned out to be Matt Garrison and Ben Perowsky. I was like, "Well, we got the right guys here." It was a great time, we had an amazing time. Matt Garrison was brilliant.

We really trusted the force for that gig. I remember at first T wanted to do some tunes, including "Footprints" and "All Blues." I remember telling him, "Look, T, if we play those we're going to have to play 'Stairway to Heaven' and 'Free Bird' too." [laughs] I love all four of those songs, I really do. I mean I love Wayne Shorter, but everybody plays "Footprints." So hopefully, I made a point to him by mentioning those other tunes. So we got out there and we didn't play a single tune and it was smoking. We were just trying to do a cool gig in the off time from the Jazz is Dead project that we were doing at the time, and Derek Trucks was playing on the same bill. We didn't have time to rehearse, so we did the Project Z philosophy of no tunes, without a net, and it was great. We just listened to each other and reacted.

Matt and I had talked about doing something together and we actually were going to do something two years ago in September, but it just didn't pan out because of schedules. I just got super-busy with all this stuff that's going on. I'm dying to work with him.

AAJ: Then now I 'm going to have to ask you about Neal Fountain, another great bassist that I saw you play with.

Jimmy Herring / Jazz is DeadJH: Now that dude, man. How do you know him?

AAJ: I interviewed Neal and reviewed his two records for AAJ a few years ago. He had a serious health scare a couple of years back that he's come back from.

JH: Yes he has in a big way. He is one of the most freakishly good musicians I've ever worked with. I think it was 1992 when I first heard him and he knocked me off my chair. I was like, 'Who is this guy and what planet is he from?' I found out he was from Macon. I remember writing down his number in my address book with a huge exclamation next to it. I wanted to work one day with that guy. So we've done a few things here and there. We did a band with Sipe and Bobby Lee Rogers. Bobby Lee was the songwriter of the band and his tunes were great jumping off points to improvise off of.

AAJ: I saw you with Sipe and Bryan Lopes and Neal back in 1998 or so in Boston. Sipe called it The Apartment Projects.

JH: That was another band where we just went out with no tunes and played. Lopes is another one of those people that's just a crazy fantastic musician. Neal and Sipe together is an incredible force. I just heard some of that recording that Souvik [Dutta, owner of Abstract Logix] recently put out of Neal and Sipe, with the Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek. I think it's absolutely incredible.

AAJ: Did you ever think about doing your own recording previous to the current release?

JH: I always had an idea to do a record with Sipe, Oteil, Kofi and Derek Trucks and also to get Greg Osby to play on some stuff.

AAJ: Osby was always part of the plan?

JH: Greg was something that was imagined to be involved from the birth of the whole thing. He worked with us on Project Z.

AAJ: Not to mention with Phil Lesh.

JH: That all started because Phil mentioned Greg Osby in a Rolling Stone article. They asked Phil what he was in his CD player at the moment and he said "Greg Osby." That made me happy because I was into Osby but I didn't know Phil was. Then Phil and I started talking about it, and then I think Greg contacted Phil to thank him for mentioning his name in the article. Phil basically told him, "You're welcome and by the way come play with us." We had a gig in Philly the next month, so he came down and played and we really hit it off almost instantly. We both felt some chemistry there and he wanted to do something with me. But when we did that last Project Z record we cut it live in the studio and Greg couldn't be there. We were editing the record—I mean it wasn't even supposed to be one—It was pretty bizarre and parts of it were really out- but we made the decision to put it out there. We were in the editing process when Ricky passed away. It was horrible.

But during that editing process I remembered that when we were cutting parts out, we'd say, "If only we had somebody else playing over this part, we wouldn't have to cut it out." It needed another melodic voice. Ricky and I had actually talked about calling Greg Osby. I didn't end up actually doing it until a couple of years later. He came to Atlanta and just played one live pass through the whole thing, just like we did, but on a different day. There were just one or two other things where I played something that sounded like a head, so I asked him to double it with me. Other than that it's completely live. I knew then I really wanted to work with him in a different setting.

So I called him up this time and he flew in and went straight to the studio. He was there for two full days and played his tail off on that stuff.

AAJ: Yeah Greg may have a name for himself as a great jazz composer and conceptualist but as a player, he can reel off chorus after chorus of amazing ideas on any tune.

Jimmy HerringJH: Where I got hip to him was Jeff Sipe. I was really into Cannonball and James Spaulding but as far as alto players it was Cannonball and of course Bird. I really wasn't that up on anybody contemporary, but Sipe said, "Man, you have got to hear Greg Osby." So he hipped me to a couple of his records and I was knocked out of my seat. He immediately became my favorite contemporary alto player. I never imagined getting to work with him. But then, not too long after that, less than a year later, is when Rolling Stone did the Phil article I referred to earlier. So you can imagine my surprise when I show up to the gig and Greg Osby's there—wow! I immediately called Sipe and said, "Greg Osby's here." Jeff was like, "What? Osby is going to play with Phil Lesh's band?" You wouldn't think about someone so deep into the jazz world being connected with the world we were in, but it was really cool.

In fact, Greg is the one who most seriously brought up the touring question with regard to the new record. When we did this record it was a very small budget. It's not like I had a ton of money to pay world-class musicians, so I had to get world-class musicians to do it cheap. I didn't have to talk him into it too hard. I just said, "Man, I'm embarrassed to even ask, you know. Are you sure you are okay with this, for this fee and a flight?" And he immediately said, "Yeah man, that's cool, but I'm hoping there will be some performances down the road." I was hoping so, too, and in that way, once we start playing gigs, it will definitely be worth all of it.

AAJ: I see you are touring with widespread in October and early November and of course, the New Year's Eve dates are set.

JH: Yeah, so it appears I might have some time, say, in the Spring of next year.

AAJ: There's already some stuff on the internet talking about a possible Dead tour next year. Are you the guy for that?

JH: I love those guys tremendously, but I haven't heard from them on this particular topic. I just haven't heard anything from them.

AAJ: I have more than a fair share of friends and a wife that was totally into the Dead, and you are the favorite guitarist of all of them that have played with the band in the post-Jerry era.

JH: They've been very good to me and have been great about giving me room to stretch and go wherever I want to.

AAJ: I just wanted to interject that the people I know love your work with the Dead because of the way you will, either during a solo, or at its beginning will state that melody for them. You really sing it. You're one of the best guys out there at stating vocal melodies with single-notes on guitar.

JH: I just think it's—if you are in that kingdom, playing Grateful Dead music...for instance, Mickey would talk to me a lot about it. He would say, "Okay Jim, now you learned the signature, right?" I didn't even know what he was talking about at first. He means the signature lick or the melody we're referring to. I was trying to stay hip on that kind of stuff by listening to live versions as well as the studio records. There was some stuff Jerry would do on both.

If I heard several versions of a song where he was consistently doing this one thing, that's what I would try to do because the fans were used to hearing it. It was part of the composition—it wasn't something he was improvising, but it was the part leading him into an improvisation. He looked at it as part of the song, so I tried to key in on what those were and try to key into those melodies. It's funny, man—it doesn't matter—you could try to play the most technically challenging thing you've ever tried to play and pull it off but sometimes nobody really responds. But if you come out and play that melody, the place is going to go crazy. It's simple. They love those songs—it's not about anyone's bitchin' technique or checking out a line that's played with a five against four metric modulation.

AAJ: That's what I'm trying to get at. You can do all the difficult stuff, but you are just as able and ready to go to the place where you can do this other basic thing with a feeling that people respond to and love passionately.

Jimmy HerringJH: To me, melody is so important. It's not in an effort to get applause but I'm just glad people notice it. I'm flattered and happy because the melody is so important to me as a musician. This is what the tune's about. Plus, of course, I played with Jazz is Dead with T [Lavitz], Alphonso [Johnson] , Billy [Cobham], [Jeff] Sipe and Rod Morgenstern a few years earlier. So with no vocals...

AAJ: That's what I was getting at—especially in Jazz is Dead, you were responsible for and played the vocal melodies in that band as well as any guitarist, especially in a rock instrumental setting, ever has. That's why people loved to go see that band.

JH: Now I feel like I could do it better. I swear I could.

AAJ: But the melodies you're playing with the Dead or Phil now aren't necessary the vocal melody. It's some other set of signature licks.

JH: But that's what hipped me to all of the melody. I got inside the tunes a little bit with Jazz is Dead, but we played them more like fusion tunes. But then when I started playing with Phil, he really educated me to the true depth of the Grateful Dead catalogue. Through working with him and his band I was able to really see —my god—what a huge amazing body of work they have. So with that, and already being melody-oriented from playing the tunes before with Jazz is Dead, since the vocals were covered in his band I wanted to try to key in on some of Garcia's stuff he played that really got to people. It was great.

I was just trying to start in a place—and people knew—I don't really want to copy anyone, but you cannot play that music without tippin' your hat, you know. It's the same thing with any band you go into where somebody else had already been before you got there, and they were an icon. Whether it be the Allman Brothers or the Dead or Mikey Houser from Panic. These guys all had their own definitive styles—it's a fine line between copying and making sure that everyone out there knows that you didn't forget about them. That's what my thing is. I didn't want anyone to think I was just going to come in here and play this gig like I was going to play any other gig—you have to show respect to the people that created the gig. Since they're no longer here you tip the hat by trying to play some of their endearing lines.

AAJ: You've achieved that. Now about this record you made—I understand Souvik Dutta of Abstract Logix had been after you for awhile.

JH: Souvik's been a really great guy—Sipe had told me years ago that I should meet him and perhaps work with him—that he was all about music moving forward. All the music that we liked, this guy was totally into. He worked with us on this last Project Z release. He's basically been after me for the last few years to do my own album. I never had the desire to do it. Like I said, I don't think I would have been able to get the project together without him but I did have the material.

Like I said before, I always had an idea to do a record with Sipe, Oteil, Kofi, Derek and also definitely get Greg Osby to play on some of it. So as we were getting it together we found out Derek's record company just couldn't allow him to play on the entire record. His profile had gotten really big. He'd gone out and played with Eric Clapton and he'd done some high profile things but he still owed a major label a record. My record was starting to coincide with the time he had to deliver a big record to his label. I had six tunes and two covers I wanted to do so that was eight. I definitely had the two Kofi tunes in mind and I figured Derek would bring in at least a couple of tunes. If he'd done every tune on this record, it basically would have been the first thing that came out after his profile had risen higher and this wasn't supposed to be Derek's new record. So that's when it went from something else, another band, to my record—that's when I knew it was going to be totally my thing.

Souvik just said, "Hey, man. The handwriting is on the wall. It's time for you to do your own record."

Oteil, too, really motivated me, saying, "C'mon Jimmy, it's time for you to do your own record, Just shut up and do it!" [laughs] I was still trying to think of a band name for a while, but they wore me down. [laughs]

As time unfolded I began to want to do it even though there's a lot of pressure on you when you put your name on a record, when it's not a band you're working for but you. I have a lot of respect for people who've been doing that for a long time. You have to be the guy that has to be the heavy. You're the guy that has to say, "That was a good take but let's do another one. I think we can do it better." I hate telling people stuff like that. But I was with my brothers—people I'd been playing with for a long time and they were so supportive of me that it was really easy. They were basically willing to try to do anything. I knew on this record I didn't want it to be what we'd done before. We'd never done a record of compositions. Even though it's a jazz-oriented record I still wanted it to be about the song. The solos were going to just be part of the songs but not he focus of them. They all came together with me and made it happen.

AAJ: I see in the press materials you refer to it as a family record.

JH: Absolutely. That's why it's really hard for me to think of it as my record. Sure, we could have called a lot of different people that are our heroes and we probably could have gotten them to play on it, but the fact is I just wanted to play with the guys I grew up with musically. I've been playing with Jeff, Oteil and Kofi since 1986 and we've never done anything like this before. All the music we played together pretty much has been crazy, improvised stuff, which we love, but I thought it was about time for us to try to do something a little more refined, and to do something where I didn't have to answer to anyone. If I wanted to do a bunch of guitar overdubs to get a point across, I wanted to be able to do it without someone saying, "No, you can't do that." There are things I've wanted to try for years and I've always been told, "No." So from that stance it's was very cool to do my own record.

AAJ: So what are some of those things? Perhaps we can listen for them?

JH: On "Jungle Book," for instance, there's a ton of parts. It's an orchestral piece and I forget how many tracks are on it, and we basically drove the engineer crazy, but luckily, he was a guy I've known for twenty years, so he just took it from me; there was a lot of tracks. After the haunting melody the B section has this orchestral part that sounds like the 1950s—we just called it the "Walt Disney Section." It has a lot of guitar tracks. There are three independent parts.

Also, regarding the kind of reverbs I wanted to use—basically if you're not in control of a project you get no say in what's used. I made a conscious effort not to use any digital delay. I didn't want to use any echo because most producers want to put echo all over your guitar. I worked with Bruce Hampton for a long time and he really hates to hear anything that you can't do with your hands and that was sort of his rule. "Guitarist! If you can't do it with your hands I don't want to hear it." We'd laugh about it because it was sort of a joke, but it was true.

Post a comment



Shop Amazon



All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.