James Murrell records new CD “old-school,” with no overdubs.
Recording jazz is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, because musicians never play a piece the same way twice. A successful recording must capture the essence of a spontaneous performance that can never be repeated.
Pursuing that elusive goal, a quintet of local jazz men recently met for a late-night studio session. Guitarist James Murrell is producing a new CD with the help of Hal Melia (saxophones), Brian Cashwell (keyboard), John Toedtman (bass) and Erik Aylesworth (drums).
The musicians faced each other in a large circle, the floor cluttered by microphone cables and sheet music. “We recorded live, with no overdubs, all in one room,” Murrell said. “A completely old-school jazz recording.”
The session began with “Alive & Kickin’ ,” a lively jam written by Murrell. Soloists passed the melody around with a glance or a nod, pointing to their heads when it was time to return to the first theme. Melia bobbed up and down and raised his arms while others took their solos.
The title of the CD is “Jazz Tent Revival,” which describes Murrell’s personal journey as a musician. “I’ve been trying to promote myself as a cross-over artist into the pop-rock genre for the last couple years and in the process of doing so I’ve lost my way,” he said. “I realized that I’m not a pop artist-singer. I’m a jazz guitarist.”
The band then recorded “Simple Solution,” another Murrell original with a slow tempo and complex melody. Between takes they planned solos and transitions, and made minor changes to the score. “The last note in bar 28 should be an e-flat,” Murrell said, making a correction to his chart.
While some takes were clearly discards, others possessed that indefinable cohesion that makes them worthy of keeping and sharing. Due to the straightforward recording techniques used, “Simple Solution” was available on Murrell’s website less than 24 hours later.
The complete CD will be released Dec. 1 at Jazz Central, where Murrell and his band will perform selections from the disc. “It will be a revival of me playing jazz again,” he said.
Adam Alonzo is a contributing writer for the Dayton Daily News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.