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As a 2012 recipient of a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, Jaimoe needs no introduction. He has been a beloved figure on the music scene for over four decades, as a veteran of the R&B circuit with Otis Redding, Percy Sledge and Joe Tex, and as a founding member of the legendary Allman Brothers Band and the critically acclaimed band Sea Level.
In late 2011 his Jaimoe's Jasssz Band released Renaissance Man (Lil'Johnieboy Records, 2011), an album that is generating well-deserved praise and a lot of buzz. Out front is Junior Mack on vocals and guitar, slide, and dobro, with Paul Lieberman on saxophones and flute, Kris Jensen on saxophones, Reggie Pittman on trumpet and flugelhorn, Dave Stolz on bass, Bruce Katz on Hammond B3 and piano, and, of course, Jaimoe on drums. There is great chemistry and an abundance of talent, and with Jaimoe's musical instincts, the future looks very bright for this band.
Keyboardist Chuck Leavell and now singer/keyboardist Gregg Allman have written biographies, and after an hour of candid conversation with Jaimoe, there's no doubt he could produce a page-turner as well. Amazing stories intertwined with his infectious laughter, what a treat it was to speak with Jaimoe.
All About Jazz: Congratulations on Renaissance Man, this CD was a long time coming, but well worth the wait. It struck me, your band is almost like two bands in one: a jazz band, but when you add Junior Mack to the mix, you also get a blues band with a solid horn section.
Jaimoe: Thank you. Actually, a lot of people had these kinds of bands before, but if you don't tell people something, they'll pretty much go along with what it is. The fact is, jazz is American music. So anything that a musician plays who's coming out of here, it's jazz. It may have originated in Germany, Sweden, Japan or elsewhere, but this is now part of us, and this was developed here. That's what it is, it's improvised music, it's jazz.
AAJ: . Lots of bands would be lucky to have a guitarist with Junior Mack's chops, and most bands would be lucky to have a singer with Junior Mack's voicehe's amazing, you've got the whole package in one, and if that weren't enough, he's writing great songs, like, "Drifting and Turning."
Jaimoe: He's a great musician and a great entertainer, and like you said, he's got the whole package: he plays the guitar, he sings, he writes songs, and he's a businessman. He was a computer specialist for 25 years, and worked for a big computer company troubleshooting, and they laid him off. So he began concentrating on his music, and played what he wanted to.
He ended up never going back. When they tried to call him back in, he didn't do it, and instead he became a fulltime musician.
I met him through a friend of mine named [Hewell] "Chank" Middleton, I've known him since he was 17 years old. We met in Macon when I first moved there in 1968. He kept telling me about Junior Mack. He said, " You don't know Junior Mack!? Frown [Jaimoe's nickname] you gotta meet Junior Mack!"
So one night before I went to the Beacon we met and I said, "Man you got anything I can listen to?" And he handed me this CD, he had it right in his pocket. It was Junior with Dave Stolz, the bassist in our band, and Kris Jensen, our saxophonist, and Dickey Betts. Those guys along with Mark Greenberg, one of Dickey's drummers, and Matt Zeiner his keyboard player, did a gig with Junior and recorded it.
So anyway, I called him up one day and said, "Hey man, I finally listened to your CD. Would you be interested in playing a gig?" Junior said he wasn't too busy, so I called this guy who owns a restaurant called the Double Down Grill in Avon, Connecticut and told him I wanted to do a dress rehearsal. But really it was just a rehearsal, I just wanted to play. I told him he could tell people, it's not going to cost you anything, and you can stay if you want toyou know, I didn't want to interfere with his business.
So I thought, in between the Super Bowl and the last official football game of the season would be the time to do it. We recorded that and put it out as a CD, and I think that's the best thing we've recorded.
AAJ: So that was from the first time playing together, almost like a jam session?
Jaimoe: The first time we ever played together. So there's Live at the Double Down in Avon, and another CD that's a recording of an Ed Blackwell Memorial Concert at Middleton. It's pretty good and the most different thing I've ever done.
AAJ: Ed Blackwell, wasn't he a kind of free-style jazz drummer?
Jaimoe: Yeah, from New Orleans.
AAJ: I've been lovin' the Renaissance Man CD, but I've been mistakenly telling people I think it's one of the best debut CDs I've heard in quite a while.
Jaimoe: Well, Junior and some other people think if your don't make an album in a studio, it's not legitimate.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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