Something special today. The story behind a fantastic session by Jeff on the song Drinkin’ Time from the 2001 John Jackson album, ‘Big Easy Rhythm’. It’s a raucous fun, New Orleans vamp that sees Jeff provide one of his only non-jazz horn sessions, playing all the trumpet parts on this great song.
Here’s John in his own words;
(…and please check out the link at the end of John’s story to hear this fabulous cut)
This was recorded in the spring of 2001 at Kensington Sound in Toronto. Jeff came in to the studio and sat down and listened to the track and said, “Nice slide guitar in open G tuning. Is that a 70’s Gibson acoustic?”
“It’s a 1974 Gibson Gospel Jeff.”
“What do you want John?” he said. I said, “A whole New Orleans jazz thing in 4 parts.” This would have to pass as a rehearsal. Jeff smiled a deep knowing smirk and went to sit down in the room in front of a mic and said, “roll it.”
Vezi my producer and I sat in wonder of what he was going to do. The whole first verse went by and nothing happened. He just sat there looking at the mic. Over the first chorus we got 4 three note segments that didn’t really seem to make much sense at the time. This continued to the end of the track and Jeff said, “Gimme another track and roll it again.” We did and the same thing happened. Vezi and I looked at each other in befuddlement. “Roll another one” says Jeff, “I want to try a closed horn.”
“What the heck is a closed horn Jeff?” says I innocently. I was to soon learn that’s when the trumpeter puts a mute in the bell of the instrument and makes a thinner, wailing sound that rattles a little, kind of like a steel bodied National guitar. The same thing happened, just a few seemingly spasmodic notes over the length of the whole track.
What we were soon to learn was that Jeff was placing every note in the whole song especially my vocal and slide part into a map so he could see a clear road that was both supportive and also most importantly totally unoccupied by anybody else. He used the spaces in the music as notes like an invisible melody line. He planned his rest stops along the way first. In doing that he taught me more about arranging that any other master I have ever had the honor to meet.
Take 4 blew the roof off the place. He was everywhere I wasn’t. He could see the coda from the countdown. When we got to the end of the song he was there waiting with the puck and passed it to his team mate and took an assist. Downstairs in the bar in less than one hour later says he, “Just pay me what everybody else is getting as a sideman. I loved the song.” I gave him $150.00 which he accepted graciously humbling me even further and we walked arm in arm out to Spadina Ave. where we flagged a cab to take him to his club.
In all the whirlwind that was life we got to spend just 2 hours alone with our music, two of us quietly with no crowds or noise. It was written in the stars. Thank you Jeff. I’ll never forget it.
John Jackson has spent over twenty-five years working with some of Canada’s top musicians as well as producing many new artist demos and television themes in his own downtown Toronto studio, HUMBLE SOUND.
Jeff and John first met on Queen St. in Toronto, in 1984 -85 or so in a blues club called ‘Chicago’s’…
(Find out more about John and his music – and hear more too – HERE.)
Ah, Humble beginnings! God Bless Jeff! Thanks John, Chicago’s and Grossman’s is where it all began for many of us.