Archive for December, 2020

My 24th album, Hot Tears, is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube and other platforms where music is (still) sold.

This is my first and so far only album dedicated to jazz. Most of the eight songs are cool and modal jazz in the Miles Davis-John Coltrane vein, though I’ve added a couple of ringers: a Louis Armstrong takeoff that was meant to accompany my short film Scrabble Rousers, and a fusion rock piece that owes more to Frank Zappa.

My reasons for doing jazz might seem obvious: I’ve played alto sax since I was 12, and I love postwar American jazz in particular. But there’s a sillier reason: I needed a jazz song for my film, and I don’t like leaving single stray songs lying around unattached to albums. So I wrote seven more to make “Scrabble Rousers” less lonely, less likely to fall through the cracks.

In the age of streaming, I understand that, sadly, the format of full-length albums is dying. And yet those are the formats I love. I love sequencing groups of songs, seeing if their different moods take you on a journey. While I wouldn’t call the Beatles’ White Album my all-time favorite, it’s one of the albums I’m most obsessed with, because I don’t know how you make a long work like that with such a chaotically wide variety of styles and yet still somehow make the whole thing seem cohesive. So assembling albums–trying to yank the listener through as many wide-ranging emotions as possible without losing them to alienation or befuddlement–is a hobby I enjoy almost as much as making the music.

Having devoted myself to an entire jazz album this way, for the dumbest of reasons I concede, I was also curious to see how well my saxophone playing has held up. Although I played it in high school, I put it down for almost 30 years while I pursued a love of rock music and its main sonic vehicle: the guitar. But I picked up the sax again for a couple of songs on my 2015 album Clam Fake, mostly to see how the instrument would sound when sandwiched next to alternative guitar tunings, since guitars tuned Sonic Youth-style tend to sound like horns as well. I figured something interesting would happen.

But now that I’ve tried a whole album of improvising on this, my first instrument, I must say I’m pretty proud of the results. Aside from one tweak of two bad notes and some edits on “Scrabble Rousers” and “A Picture of Lori Looking at the Sky,” the sax solos you hear on Hot Tears (not counting the introductory melodies*) were not heavily chopped up.

I don’t know if I’ll do another jazz album soon (yesterday, I sent the saxophone back to the company that rented it to me, so right now I am sax-less). But after you’ve heard me churn through a few more styles and experiments (I’ve got a country rock coming out next week), maybe I’ll try this again someday.

As always, I composed, arranged, performed and produced the album by myself. I hope you enjoy.

*I should have added for clarity and full disclosure that the opening sax melodies on “Glitching” and “A Picture of Lori Looking at the Sky” were put together from fragments of saxophone runs for the sake of recording speed and simplicity, though only the middle solo on the latter song was edited together from two different improvised takes. I also forgot that I had to piece together the solo on “Scrabble Rousers” from two or three takes, something I should have mentioned in the first draft of this blog post. My apologies.

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