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The Frank & Joe Show: Looking for a Long, Happy Run

R.J. DeLuke By

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AAJ: Is this show something you constantly revise if a tune comes to you, or do you kind of stick to a format?

Frank: Every time we play, we have a sound check or whatever you want to call it. Rehearsal. And each time, I try to try something new, whether it's a groove, or whether it's a whole tune that I have, or whether it's Tom Jones' "Delilah." Not that we'll ever perform it, but what it does is open up the way to say, "Hey, that works." Like you were saying before, things either stick or don't stick. So, we're always looking for new material. But at the same time, we realize we have some chestnuts that we really enjoy playing and we know it's going to feel good and sound good, so you would never abandon the top material. But at the same time, always looking for new. A few weeks ago we started this thing with an odd time signature, 7/4 instead of 4/4. After a couple times of that, now we came back with a melody to it. Then we add some vocals to it. It's starting to shape up. So we're always exploring.

Joe: It's a work in progress. I equate it to: If you climbed Mount Everest the last 15 or 20 years. Climbing it now with this project, that's hitting a plateau. Now you're up there. Now you want to spend a good chunk of time once we're there. Put the pole in, the flagpole. We've arrived. Now let's explore what this is. So we're always checking things out and exploring.

AAJ: You're not afraid to go after pop tunes if you like them.

Frank and Joe: Oh, nooo.

Joe: A great melody is a great melody.

Frank: There's a new one we're going to play tonight called "The Bowling Song."

AAJ: I'm sure you guys know you can get vilified for playing pop tunes.

Joe: That's OK. That's alright.

Frank: I think by the jazz press, sometimes.

AAJ: The big discussion now is the Bad Plus because they play some other stuff.

Frank: You know what? The Bad Plus is out there touring all over the place for 80,000 record-buying fans.

AAJ: And they're far from the first ones to ever do that. For some reason, they've stirred up the debate.

Joe: Whenever there's a rebel, they're gonna stir things

Frank: That's a great trio too. They've got a great sound. They put on a real good show, I think. I think it's pretty good. I think it's pretty cool and, you know, I think it's also—they have a band. And whenever you have a band, as opposed to just jazz musicians getting together for a couple of weeks a year, I think you're going to develop a unique sound and unique material, and that's going to open you up to all kinds of criticism. A lot of it will be really positive, and then a portion of it being negative. The same as if we were to do a Django Reinhardt tribute band. We would have a lot of it being positive, and a portion of it saying, "Geez, it would be nice to see them expand and maybe try a '70s tune." You can't really win, you've just got to be honest.

Joe: Enjoy the journey.

Frank: Because for tunes that aren't normally associated with jazz playing, [they work] if you play them honestly, and it really does feel right, instead of trying to do something because you think it will give you broader appeal. That never works. One of my records is like that. Just very poor production. I was trying to do something that really wasn't happening. [laughter] Thinking you can market it anyway because it's "this."

AAJ: So we can expect new things like "The Bowling Song."

Frank: Oh, "The Bowling Song." I'm excited because my bowling career is going pretty well. So it inspired me to write a bowling song. [laughter] It all started when I found out Django Reinhardt only had two fingers, when I was 8 years old. I used to bowl a lot then. I said, "I wonder if he bowled." Then I found out he was not only a great pool player, but he bowled. He was like a bowling shark.

Joe: You notice the shirt that's hanging up there. [Points to where Frank's shirt for the gig is hanging up].

Frank: This is my team shirt.

Joe: It's Frank's team shirt. If you look closely there [in the design], you'll see remnants of bowling.

Frank: So I wear that on gigs too. Sometimes, I come [to the gig] from matches on Sundays, so my hands are a little sore.

Joe: The amazing thing is, he plays guitar righty and bowls lefty.

Frank: So we wrote a little song called "The Bowling Song."

AAJ: You've got all kinds of songs. "Spiderman," "Mozart Jam..."

Frank: Cole Porter, Bach, Mozart...

Joe: Doobie Brothers.

AAJ: You guys are happy with the way it all came together on the record?

Frank: I'm really excited about the record. We were given the opportunity to come up with the best record we can. We were not under time constraints. We spent three days in the studio. The way it actually came about was Joel Dorn signed the Hot Club USA, which was a group that Joe and I co-led. Kind of like a Django Reinhardt band. On the first tune, Joe and I go back into the studio to do a sound check. We did a kind of groove and I started doing "Begin the Beguine" in a Latin ... I hate to call it Latin..

Joe: A little rhythmic flair...

Frank: And he said, "What's that?" "Oh we were working on this... it's kind of what we do." The whole session changed. He said, "That's what I want." A year and a half later there's the record. We did it in his [Dorn's] office. Gene Paul engineered it, who's one of the most brilliant engineers I've ever run across. I play with his dad [Les Paul] all the time on Monday nights. He learned a lot from Les. They spent a lot of hours in the studio together.

Joe: He spends a week on a tambourine hit. Or a week on tuning a guitar string and trying it and living with it for a week to see what it sounds like. He has amazing ears. On tentative mixes, he says, "Hey, what did you think of that?" I said, "Gene, I lost you three mixes ago. My ears couldn't catch what you're going through." He's incredible.

Frank: You had to hope that the elevator didn't come up during quiet recording. All of the sudden you hear the button go, "cha-ching." "Can you shut that damn elevator off!" [laughter] It was recorded in a little office.

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