That's exactly what sparked my interest in this whole thing. Obviously it's the role of the writer or the label boss to play the genre game‚ while the musician is better off staying out of that‚ but it seems like there is this new scene ballooning within both of those that doesn't have a particular name‚ and it doesn't seem like this is getting recognized.
When did we really start hearing about the jam thing? It was after Garcia died. The Dead dissipated‚ there were the tail years of Phish‚ and then you started hearing the "jam" genre manifesting itself.
Only within the past few years. Dean Budnick wrote a guide to jambands in the late '90s after he'd been covering Phish for a while and‚ obviously‚ up until that point Phish was the gold standard in that scene‚ but nobody called them jambands. It's like jamband wasn't even a word until Phish disappeared.
But now‚ it's kind of gone through its thing and it's breaking off into this other thing that has a lot to do with strong songwriting and musicianship‚ draws from a lot of places and is improvisational. To take Marco for example‚ one thing I've been going to the press with is that he's an amazing songwriter. He's almost writing indie rock tunes but playing them with this finesse of a jazz musician.

There ought to be a vocalist on Invisible Baby. It's so sing-songy‚ so melodic and accessible. In this sense it sounds like pure jazz to me. Jazz in the way it was originally conceived of. Taking source material from the Great American Songbook‚ Cole Porter‚ show tunes -- stuff that was meant to be sung -- and then taking this improvisational approach to it. Even what I see Marco doing with the post-rock stuff is pure jazz in its method.
I would pretty much agree with that. In terms of marketing‚ that's a hard message to convey. I'd almost rather say it's rock being approached by jazz musicians.
The jazz musician these days is so much freer to move within the classic genres and within rock‚ West African music‚ reggae... There are all these other idioms that are fair game‚ and why isn't this being covered in Downbeat?
I think Downbeat has been starting to do a pretty good job of recognizing it. It's coming along‚ I think. I'm more interested in trying to find a way to get the kids to come along. Marco shouldn't be playing for 100 people on a Wednesday night. He should have people there really listening. But maybe that's the way it's always been. I always hear stories from guys I know who were back there in the day and saw Monk at the Five Spot; there were‚ like‚ 15 people there.
One of the really critical aspects of that burgeoning bebop scene was that these virtuosic musicians were all drawing on the same source material‚ writing incredible tunes‚ and were all playing with one another. The idea of the band has kind of overtaken that idea of collaboration in the jazz scene‚ and that's partly why this Marco project is so interesting to me‚ because it's bringing together musicians from three of my favorite bands [The Duo‚ The Slip‚ JFJO].
The whole residency was based on that idea. It was really cool to see Billy Martin playing with Calvin Weston and Marc Friedman.
That sounded great.
Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't‚ but it was more about the spirit of it. I do‚ however‚ think there's something to be said for the band thing in jazz. The music being such a conversation‚ the better those musicians get to know one another‚ the further they're able to push it out there. And I also like the idea of the improvisational stuff being built out of compositions‚ because‚ for the listener‚ there's less fog to wade through.

Is it harder from your end of things to push a collaborative project like this as opposed to an album by a band that has that name recognition?
It really depends. I feel like we've had a lot of success with Marco. We're pushing the idea of Marco more. Then we've got JFJO‚ who've been a band forever‚ and it's still really difficult. I think the jam thing particularly made it tough for Jacob Fred. They are so much more than that. I don't have a genre to call them‚ but I think they're making earth-shattering‚ mind-blowing music. It does make it really hard to find a consistent‚ commercially -- I hate to use that word -- viable audience and not always be scraping by. Does that make sense? I guess I'm just saying that it's nothing new. It's true for super-creative instrumental musicians; they don't fit easily into a category and they don't always get the recognition they deserve. It's a really old story‚ but it is frustrating to be working with these guys for so long‚ knowing how hard they work... and I think we do make progress‚ slowly.
Does it get frustrating‚ feeling like you might just be treading water?
It does get discouraging‚ but for us‚ there's really no other choice. It's what we believe in and how we live. These guys don't ever compromise‚ and I don't want to speak for these guys‚ but I think it's true for any artist that they want to play for a large audience.