I love that song. It's so fucking beautiful‚ and it plays itself.
I'm still finding a similar thread with your music‚ and we talked about this years ago‚ but that it fits in with the nature of jazz. The way it evolves. I started rethinking this back when you released The Sameness of Difference back in 2005‚ because when I brought this idea up with [former JFJO drummer] Jason Smart‚ he made a good point. He said something like‚ "Man‚ just stop calling it jazz. It's music. It's a lot of different types of music." [laughs] But I still feel like in some degree‚ this is defining the next step.
I think it's fun to do both. It's fun to not call it jazz and let it be music. But I think it's also a lot of fun to call it jazz because in doing so you're acknowledging the truth of the language.
Exactly. Yes.
I think a lot of people like to poo-poo the word jazz or poo-poo any kind of concept of genre‚ but the fact of the matter is‚ as far as art and music goes‚ jazz is one of the only things that I can think of that is truly‚ truly American. And the language was completely created in America. Its origin and its birth is unique to everything that was American during that time. Jazz never could have happened if America wasn't being America at that time. And I love calling what we do jazz. I definitely went through a phase where I said‚ Wow‚ I can't believe we put jazz in the name of this band. But it's just telling the truth. That's the starting point of our language. And hopefully we can do something that is far more accessible and millions of people will listen to it. I think it's beautiful music and deserves that listenership‚ but I love the word jazz even though it has a negative connotation in the marketplace or whatever. But it truly tells the story of Jacob Fred and this language that we're cultivating. I think calling what we do jazz is just telling the truth.
Well said. We talked a little bit about your L.A. show at Largo. How is it playing in L.A.?
Well‚ it's hyped. LA says when you walk in‚ "Oh‚ hi! Who are you? Oh‚ I don't even care." That's LA. "Hi‚ I'm L.A.‚ Nice to meet you. I don't care what your name is and I don't want to know anything about you. Bye-bye." [laughter]
What about NYC?
Oh‚ I fucking love NYC. I think NYC is the opposite of that. The way everyone is all packed in there and stacked on top of each other‚ everybody is important‚ because if one person falls down the domino thing happens. [laughter] Everyone is appreciated in a weird way. I always feel super appreciated in NYC. I don't know that I'd want to live there‚ but the vibe of the city is so right on. I feel it's the opposite of L.A.‚ for sure. NYC is more like‚ "Hi‚ I'm NYC. What you got for me? What are you bringing?" NYC is actually curious. L.A.‚ doesn't even care. [laughter]
Let me ask you a question that I've been asking a lot‚ especially to improvisers‚ like Bill Frisell‚ Kurt Rosenwinkel‚ Jenny Scheinman‚ Mike Gordon--a lot of the people that I've interviewed recently. What do you see when you're in deep improvisational bliss? Do you see things?
No‚ no‚ it's like total void. When I'm in improvisational bliss the best way I can explain it is like I'm taking a hit of DMT. I'm just completely ejected out of my body and there's nothing there. It's total void. When I'm there‚ I'm experiencing meditative emptiness. There's literally not shit going on‚ nothing exists‚ there's no world‚ there's no anything. Nothing there. Total void. It's like true enlightenment. There's no thought. None of my five sense are doing anything. I'm an empty vessel.
Are there varying degrees of it?
Absolutely‚ because you're still onstage. It's comes and goes the entire time. Some shows‚ it stays the entire time‚ which is completely disorientating and bewildering‚ and I always forget to announce that we have a free album for download when that happens. [laughter] Because sometimes that happens‚ where the whole show is bliss state from beginning to end‚ and I get off the stage and I'm like‚ "What happened? What did I say? Did it sound good? Who are you? Why am I here?" I'm completely confused.
When you get to that state‚ do you have any curiosity to become aware of it and potentially mess with it?
That's a good question. I don't know if that state is easily manipulated. I think that state comes from non-action‚ from total emptiness and relief. Have you seen Over the Top with Sylvester Stallone‚ the arm wrestling movie‚ where he just turns his hat to the side?
Yep. [laughs]
That's kind of what it's like onstage. It's like a flip gets switched. I'm pretty much the arm wrestling champion of jazz‚ so it totally makes sense. I can totally fuck up guys with much bigger arms. I'm either the arm wrestling champion of jazz or the Sylvester Stallone of Jazz. It depends on however you want to slant the story. [laughter]
But at any rate‚ it is like that. It's like a switch gets flipped. But at the same time‚ like you were bringing up‚ it's something that can be cultivated. If I feel myself thinking too much‚ I try to do deep slow breaths‚ and generally if I take a few deep‚ slow breaths‚ I totally stop thinking and I go back into that bliss state.
Was there any kind of revelation you had‚ realizing you could accomplish that through music?
Yeah‚ when I was younger I did it often through a combination of huge quantities of Dr. Pepper and loud volume. This was when I was in my early 20s--19‚ 20‚ 21--I'd drink massive amounts of Dr. Pepper and turn my Rhodes up to 11 and beat the shit out of it for three hours‚ and I'd definitely enter some sort of nirvana bliss state though doing that. And now I kind of take the opposite approach. I actually get there through relaxation. It comes out of peacefulness‚ relaxation and deep‚ slow breaths. It can be cultivated. It can be created. It takes work.
I feel really blessed that I get to experience bliss through music‚ meditation through music‚ yoga through music. It's an all-encompassing path.
Yeah‚ it's a great teacher too‚ huh?