Posi-Tone Records is the model of consistency in the label bringing you some of the finest up and coming talent where swing is indeed their thing! Jordan Young is one such artist who was kind enough to field some questions for us. Be sure and check out my review of his latest Cymbal Melodies along with Jordan Young as the www.criticaljazz.com artist of the month for October.
Tell us a little about the origin of the record and the status of the band at this point.
J.Y. - "Well I had been talking to Posi-Tone records for about a year in regards to doing a record after they heard my debut self-released album in 2010. That album was recorded with pretty much the same band as Cymbal Melodies. We spoke on a lot of different occasions and shared a lot of the same opinions with regard to music, more specifically Jazz. But, I must add that we were just as interested in the Beatles and Led Zeppelin as we were in Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Now granted this is just my humble opinion, but I believe that this is due to the fact that all great artists, regardless of genre, have an extremely strong sense of melody. Which to me is one of the most important elements of music. When you listen to Sonny Rollins or Joe Henderson it's really clear how important melody is. They may be improvising but there is always some sort of basic melodic message running through their body. Most of the music that I listen to and enjoy is based around this concept. Having said that, I also enjoy music that's more from the "avant-garde" world where the idea of the melody, as we know it, is questioned. However, that wasn't what I was going for on Cymbal Melodies. I spoke with the record label about thoughts such as these and we seemed to agree on many of the points. I wanted to make a record that focused on the art of the melody. I feel that Cymbal Melodies, both in solos and melody playing demonstrates a strong melodic sense. Of course, the guys do a great job of that, which is why I chose them. We have been a "working band" in some way or other since 2010. Tenor saxophonist Joe Sucato and I have known each other for about 10 years. But, it was only in the past 3 years that we decided to focus on my group together, although we had played on many different occasions before then. The same could be said for guitarist Avi Rothbard. I knew about organist Brian Charette for a while but never really had the chance to play with him until the past few years. I knew that I wanted to start a group with these gentleman so that's what I did. We all share similar influences, so it was easy to tell where each of us were coming from in a musical sense. Once we got in the studio it only took a short while to get things together. I've always thought if you keep your ears and heart open great music will come. Joe, Brian and Avi are great guys and very giving which makes for great music."
There is an eclectic mix of tunes here. "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" is played with more of a shuffle beat while the cover of the Sting classic " Roxanne" is fairly straight. How were the tunes selected and was there a conscious effort to respect the melody first instead of trying an overly ambitious reharm which some artists seem to insist on?
J.Y. - "I chose these specific tunes not only because I like them, but because they are examples of strong melody writing. Not to mention the harmonies are beautiful and give the musicians some substance to work with. These two ideas of strong melody and harmonic motion have gotten a little lost in most popular music today. Sure you can find it somewhere, but there is something special about that era of popular songwriting. I am referring to the late 60's and early 70's. Two examples on my record of this are "Raindrops..." and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix." A lot of these songwriters such as Burt Bacharach, Carol King, and Jimmy Webb really knew what it was to write a good melody. They knew about harmony and how it functions within a piece of music. Most of these people had some sort of musical training, studying the classics like Back and Beethoven. The great jazz guitarist Pat Metheny said it best when speaking of some of the songs he recorded from this era on his solo guitar record. He said, "It was a period when harmony and melody were still important and viable elements in popular music. Every one of these songs has something going on that is just hip on a musical level, no matter how you cut it." I couldn't agree more Pat.