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Jimmy Herring: The Lifeboat Sessions and More

Phil DiPietro By

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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.


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