J has recently recruited some of Vermont's finest musicians for her own ensemble and has released a tasty album‚ entitled Fuse‚ fueled with funk‚ soul and jazz compositions. The album showcases her original compositions‚ powerful vocals and beautifully toned trumpet with a bad ass band that pumps it out full steam ahead behind her.
Mike McKinley: Hey Jennifer‚ thanks for talking with me...well‚ how was your day?
Jennifer Hartswick: My day was fabulous actually. It was a lovely day. I did this thing at my old high school teaching a brass masters class to 7th‚ 8th and 9th graders every morning this week actually. We had a lovely session where we learned about New Orleans music and had a big brass band - it was great.
MM: Are these kids receptive to it?
JH: Oh man‚ they were freaking out. There's a brass master class‚ a sax master class and a rhythm master class‚ so we spent ennifer Hartswick is the trumpeter and vocalist from the Trey Anastasio Band. She most of the time working on the New Orleans groove and talking about it. We learned about improvisation‚ and second line stuff and all that and then we joined the rhythm class and put it all together at the end and had this big brass band parading around the room.
MM: Wow‚ that's great! Maybe you'll think this is kind of cool. Today my sister gave birth to a baby boy. I spoke with her on the phone and she was really out of it‚ but completely elated and joyous. And while I was talking with her it really sunk in and all these emotions hit me to the point where my eyes were watering. So I began to think about my day a lot and decided to write this thing to give to my nephew some day when the time is right. Basically‚ it will be about the day he was born and everything I did. And so you're going to be a part of that! On the day you were born‚ I interviewed Jennifer Hartswick‚ and if he has some musical appreciation that could mean something significant. But that will be one of the many things written to him…
JH: (laughing) Yeah‚ that's a really cool idea.
MM: Yeah‚ I think it will be really cool. Well‚ let's talk about your new album Fuse.
JH: Well‚ first‚ it contains some of my most favorite people in the entire world playing on the album. It's sort of...well‚ have you heard it yet?
MM: No‚ I'm looking forward to it...it's kind of funny‚ Ray (Paczkowki) was supposed to send me a copy and I said‚ "I'm coming to see you play‚ give it to me there‚" and then I showed up and he said‚ "Oh shit‚ I forgot it." (Laughter) So he said he would drop it in the mail...
JH: Ray! Give me your address and I'll send you a copy - it will probably get to you quicker that way (laughs).
MM: It's funny‚ Ray said I should call you to do an interview‚ and he said‚ "With Jen‚ she'll get back to you; she has a two-week turn around." Ray does as well‚ huh? (Laughter)
(Note: Ray did send the disc - it arrived two weeks after this interview was conducted)
So you put together this great group of musicians - how about talking about the process of making the album‚ and how some of the compositions you wrote came together.
JH: I've wanted to do this for a couple of years‚ and I didn't really have any material‚ I just thought‚ "I should really do this; this is one thing I have to do." So last summer I had a lot of free time‚ and I sat down and started writing tunes and got better at it. I'm up here in the Northeast Kingdom Vermont in the middle of nowhere‚ and four of the tunes on the album hit me all in one day. So then I began to think about who would be in my ultra-dream band‚ and I called everybody and surprisingly everyone was into doing it. We got together for a half of a rehearsal in Russ Lawton's basement right before we were going on the fall Trey Tour. So we got together for a little rehearsal and Ray was completely late (laughs)‚ it was a two-hour rehearsal and he showed up about an hour and a half into it with no keyboard (laughter). I was like‚ "Hey Ray‚ you're here‚ do you need some help with your gear?" And he was like‚ "Yeah‚ well‚ about that..." Some friend of his needed to borrow his keyboard‚ so he came in an hour and half late without his keyboard‚ so he just sat and listened to the songs and then he said‚ "Wait a minute‚" and he ran upstairs and grabbed two spoons and played those for the rest of the rehearsal (laughs). It was a very discombobulated rehearsal and it was basically like let's feel it out and get the grooves down kind of rehearsal. It was very hang loose‚ which is what I love about the album‚ it's not a loose album‚ but it's a very spontaneous album. We went on tour for a few weeks with Trey and when we came back we recorded the album. We did tracking for two days‚ then overdubs for two days‚ and it was done - it's a four day album. I'm so excited about it and very happy with it. It has a lot of different kinds of music on it; there's some funk‚ there's a lot of soul and this African-type percussion thing. There's this really cool‚ completely spontaneous composition where the tape was just rolling and we had an hour left in the studio; that's "Fuse" which is the title track in which someone just started playing a groove and we all jumped in. So much of it was so good that it had to be on the album.
MM: Wow‚ that sounds really cool‚ some improvisational magic in the studio‚ huh?
JH: Yeah‚ actually there's two tracks like that‚ "Fuse" and "Refuse."
MM: That's interesting; sometimes spontaneity makes a great album.
JH: Yeah‚ I mean‚ it still sounds like a really tight album‚ but a lot of it was very spur of the moment.
MM: What about the day you wrote those four songs?
JH: It's such a cliché‚ cheesy story - it's really funny. My family has a couple hundred acres of land with these absolutely beautiful fields and I was up here visiting them. I started walking around‚ and it was a breezy sunny beautiful summer day and one at a time all in the course of a half of an hour these tunes started falling into my lap. I happened to have a piece of paper and pen in my back pocket and so I just wrote it all down. It's just one of those good days (laughs).