ROMPING THROUGH THE FIELDS OF MODALITY!

An Interview with Bassist John Jordan - July 2, 1999


 

 

I had a chance to talk to John about the “Only One” sessions after a gig in Omaha, Nebraska. He had just heard the first rough mixes of the album and was on Cloud Nine!

 

 

 

 


Well John, is it what you thought it was going to be - or more?

I’m real proud of it and I hope people enjoy it. When you hear it, it’s just so - ferocious! The ferociousness of it is from the 60s. It’s like those wild, free jazz albums and Jimi Hendrix - a spirit of totally going for it and taking outrageous chances. We just go shooting straight off the cliff going, “AAAGH!!!!!” But that’s the point - to try to get on the edge and stay on the edge until you tumble off. You’ve got to be on the edge. And that’s where I wanted to take these guys, put them right there on the edge and say “Let’s run!” And they were brilliant! When you listen to it, what you hear is this three-way conversation with incredible telepathy going on. I was surprised when listening back to it because there’s these big, huge climaxes, so strange and beautiful, that you don’t hear when you’re playing it. These amazing things occur spontaneously.

 


You did this over 2 nights?

We went in the studio the first night and I showed them the material. I walked them through it. All I said was, “Here’s a simple melody, here’s how I want the groove to be, and these are the scales I want you to work with. I didn’t talk about how long they were or how the endings should be. It was all just total improvisation. I was literally singing the melody to Chris or writing down just a few notes on paper for him, just giving the barest information, showing him the groove. My bass playing on this record is like I’m Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner, trying to be bass and piano - with rather laughable results. But I tried! All these songs were written on piano, except “City Driver”. I showed them some of the songs on piano. The very first thing we did together in the studio was “Prayer”. We sat down, turned on the tape deck, and played. That’s the first thing on the record. It was done in one take that night. The other thing done in one take was “Only One”, a 17-minute long Hendrixian jam.


There’s a lot of takes of “Mother Blues”, were there different styles or arrangements of it?

It’s all the same swingin’ tune, but all these different approaches to it. The thing just kept gradually getting zanier and zanier, so I just kept doing it! Each time it would become more and more perverse and that’s what I was after. Takes 5 and 6 of “Mother Blues” were a real coin toss. One had a more overall deranged vibe so I wound up going with that one. Then I added a prologue and an epilogue to the record. The prologue is actually the intro to “Dance”. It’s kind of a little bass intro thing that sets up the whole “Coltrane Suite”.


How many times have you heard it since you got the tapes?

Maybe four. I sat on the floor and listened to it. When it was done I had worn grooves into the carpet! Frosty is just a miracle. And Chris’ playing is brilliant! The way I set it up is Chris is like a horn player. He’s blowing notes out of his guitar! This is more like a horn trio record in a way because all the chords and stuff I’m doing. It’s really an ensemble kind of thing. Chris is the soprano voice of the ensemble. It’s a record that turns us loose to romp through the fields of modality! The whole album is based on church modes. I’m going back to the most basic of western music really. Just like Miles did and just like Trane did. Just like McLaughlin did and just like Jimi did. The real thing is that these guys sat down and just gave themselves to this idea of mine. They just sat down and gave it their best - and their best is world-class, as you know. It’s very conversational and I’m gonna’ mix it that way. The drums are gonna’ be really hot in the mix and everyone will be completely audible. I’d describe it as, and I don’t want to use the word “jazz” because we’re not jazz musicians, a power trio response to Coltrane and Miles and Jimi Hendrix. We’re responding to these giants of 20th century music. That’s what it is and it rocks! This is a long and challenging record. It challenges me, sometimes just the sheer ferocity of it, but it’s liberating. I somehow kind of lost my way, going through a record company and that whole thing, and forgot for awhile what it’s all about. Then I had a series of epiphanies, realizations, that occurred. The first thing that started it all was an interview we did a few years ago. I was raggin’ on record companies and how they don’t record the artists enough and stuff. The more I thought about it over the next two years, I said to myself, “Just shut up and do it!” Instead of raggin’ on record companies, BE a record company! What is a record company? They’re just people. That’s all. So I just said I’m gonna’ try it and take a risk. I’m free to do it. With a label you’re not free to do it. I remember a gig we did in Amsterdam where this woman came up to me said, “You guys play very well, but I think you should go crazy more!” So she’s kind of responsible for this record, too. This experience taught me what I can do and I think it reminded Chris of how much he’s capable of doing. I think there’s no limits to his ability. He is capable of anything as a player, he’s that gifted. It’s time for the world to hear him for real. I think this record is just an effort towards that. Chris should be doing records with Carlos Santana, you know?


By doing this yourself, it goes to the listener as you intended.

It’s unfiltered. No record company. I’m the producer, so it’s my fault. If you don’t like it, it’s my fault! I’m distributing it myself. I want to get it out straight to the people. I think the Japanese would love it. I think European audiences would freak out on it. I’ve got a lot of records in mind. I’ve got a lot of records that I want to make and this is just the first one. They’ll all be different, but they will all be real. At least try to be real. If you keep an artist
recording, and not make a big production out of it, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, get them into a decent recording studio and regularly make stuff, they’re going to become more and more virtuosic in the process. That’s how music is documented these days, it’s not written down on paper anymore. Both of these players are so special to me. They’re just central to my life as a musician. I just wanted the world to hear some of the stuff that I know they’re capable of doing. The fact that I can be in the same room with them is just a thrill to me. You know, there’s something I wanted to tell you. If a flying dwarf crushes me or something, I want you to see that this record comes out! Frosty and Chris and I owe the world a record and we never did it. Now we’ve done it and it exists! It’s really important to me that it gets out.

Absolutely, John!


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