Iowa born / New Jersey based guitarist Jim Yanda recorded his double CD set, Home Road in 2014 although it didn’t come out till 2016. For fans of Jim’s excellent guitar skills Home Road is time well spent. On the double CD set, recorded by Jim Yanda Trio, Jim receives backing from his trio mates, Drew Gress (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums). On Home Road, not only does Yanda shine as an improvising jazz guitar instrumentalist but the album also shines a light on his compositional skills. All the tracks were composed by Yanda except for a trio cover of “My Ship”, written by Kurt Weill to which Jim adds, “It’s a beautiful, poignant song that can be interpreted in myriad ways.” Asked about comparing his post-modern, mainstream jazz sound with harder rocking fusion music, Jim tells mwe3.com, “I want everything I play to swing, regardless of the context or style of music. It’s wonderfully hip and exhilarating to swing over straight rhythms.” Like a colorful scenic sonic journey spread over two CDs, Home Road embraces a range of musical attributes to which Jim adds,”I’m interested in deep-folk traditions, modern classical music, new music, early American music, and world music. Those are some of the sounds and styles I want to incorporate into my playing.” Not exactly fusion and not quite hard bop jazz either, Home Road takes the jazz-based and modern guitar instrumental genre into deep yet calm sonic waters. Also recent on CD from Jim Yanda is a 2017 CD release of his trio album Regional Cooking, recorded in 1987. Guitar fans into timeless, jazzy improvisations will find much to like about Jim Yanda and Home Road. www.cornerstorejazz.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now and what you like best about it? Can you compare growing up and studying music in Iowa with moving to the tri-state area? Seems like you’ve been in the NY/NJ area for over 25 years now. Does the city still have the same magic and lure it did in the early 1980s and what area do you like best in the NYC area?
Jim Yanda: I was raised in the small Midwestern farming community of Anamosa, Iowa. It is incidentally, the home town of the famous regionalist painter Grant Wood. I came to New York after college, lived in Brooklyn for some years, then moved to New Jersey, where life is a little more relaxed but still close to New York.
It’s wonderful that nearly any sizable town now has some kind of jazz scene, if only a handful of players, and so it was in Iowa back in the 1970’s and 80’s. Jazz was clustered around the college towns, Iowa City (U of I), Cedar Rapids (Coe), Cedar Falls (UNI), and Des Moines (state capital). The better musicians were teaching at the colleges, as university jazz programs had begun to flourish. There were a few gigs, and you sometimes had to travel a good way to hear someone great who was passing through. We used to car pool to a club in Ames where I heard Jim Hall and John Scofield. It was an incalculable measure of good fortune that the great trumpeter and teacher Paul Smoker was on the faculty at Coe College where I somehow got accepted into the music program. He changed my life completely and I became thoroughly immersed in music because of him.
New York seemed almost like a different country to me. It is so hip and vibrant, with abundant art and culture, and so many of the great players are drawn there. There’s so much fine music happening daily, it is a paradise for a jazz lover. There were a lot of musicians in my Brooklyn neighborhood and we were always having jam sessions. I would go to the clubs and hear the greats and meet them and try to get lessons from them. It was a fantastic experience and remains so today. I’m still learning.
mwe3: You started up your company Corner Store Jazz way back in the 1980s in Brooklyn. Tell us about your idea behind starting Corner Store Jazz and how does the label / web site operate these days? Are you happy with the way the internet has changed music, both information wise and sales wise and what do you feel could be done to improve sales of CDs online and how about the impact of music streaming, mp3 and downloads and now the resurgence of vinyl? Continue reading interview on Music Web Express→
Guitarist/Composer Jim Yanda Releases Two Albums Spanning the 30-Year Career of His Brilliantly Inventive Trio
Featuring bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes, Regional Cookin’ finds long-overdue release after decades on the shelf, while Home Road captures 2 CDs’ worth of newly-recorded music
Thirty years is a long time to keep any relationship going. It’s an almost impossibly long time to keep a secret. To a large extent the Jim Yanda Trio has managed to do both, creating exhilarating, spontaneous music together while remaining largely under the radar outside of those lucky enough to catch their sporadic performances in the New York area – despite the fact that the trio features Drew Gress, one of the
music’s busiest and most in-demand bassists, and veteran
drummer/experimentalist Phil Haynes.
Yanda is finally ready to let the cat out of the bag – in a big way. The guitarist and composer is set to release two albums featuring three CDs’ worth of music spanning the trio’s long history. Regional Cookin’ dates from the band’s earliest days, recorded in 1987 but never before released, while Home Road fills two discs with newly-recorded material illustrating the trio’s evolution. Both will be released on March 24 through Haynes and Yanda’s Corner Store Jazz label.
Together, these two albums reveal a band with a profound sense of empathy, a thrilling knack for taking sonic chances, deep roots in the blues combined with an era-spanning avant-garde sensibility, and perhaps most importantly, a raw honesty that could only result from such long and enduring friendships – and, Iowa native Yanda might insist, a plainspoken Midwestern directness.
“I think there’s a little more naiveté and abandon on Regional Cookin’,” Yanda says in comparing the two sessions. “I was just trying to hang on for dear life and survive. Home Road is more controlled with, hopefully, a little more maturity and wisdom.”
The fact that a debut as assured and often electrifying as Regional Cookin’ could languish on the shelf for 30 years is a reflection of Yanda’s understated modesty, which in a case like this can allow the perfect to become an enemy of the (very) good. “My initial mistake,” he writes in the album’s liner notes, “of measuring creativity against some idealized version in our mind’s ear while overlooking the achievement of the actual product likely bedevils most recording artists at some point.”
While that error in self-judgment kept this music hidden from the ears of listeners, it fortunately didn’t dissuade Yanda from continuing his fruitful collaboration with Haynes, which stretches back to their student days at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, and Gress, who joined the duo shortly after their arrival in New York City in 1983. Yanda and Haynes shared a Brooklyn storefront where they could both live and play. The drummer, whose extensive credits include releases with Anthony Braxton, Dave Douglas, Mark Dresser, Michelle Rosewoman and Theo Bleckmann, discovered in Gress an ideal rhythm partner, launching a vital and long-lasting collaboration and making a trio meeting almost inevitable. Gress, of course, went on to work with an exhaustive list of jazz’s most creative artists, including John Abercrombie, Ralph Alessi, Tim Berne, Don Byron, Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane, Marc Copland, Fred Hersch, John Hollenbeck, and John Surman.
Yanda began his professional career playing Western Swing in Iowa honky-tonks near his family’s farm. He turned to rock in his high school years, inspired by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers, then finally discovered jazz in college. After a brief tenure in New York he spent six years in Chicago, regularly playing in local clubs, working with drummer/composer Damon Short and the Déjà Vu Big Band, and frequenting the legendary South Side jam sessions hosted by Von Freeman. He made his permanent return to New York in 1992.
Yanda was inspired to form the trio by his and Haynes’ shared mentor, trumpeter Paul Smoker, whose innovative trio work drew from influences that run the length and breadth of jazz history. “Paul went all the way back to field hollers, rags, New Orleans music, Louis Armstrong – primordial pre-jazz up through swing – then through Charlie Parker to free music, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the World Saxophone Quartet. As a listener it was so refreshing and gave the experience so much more depth to be able to draw on the entire history. The straight ahead stuff sounds fresher and the old stuff sounds more modern when you juxtapose those different eras and open up that wider history.”
Yanda decided to pursue a similar path; the strengths that are shared between the two discs of Home Road and the much earlier recordings on Regional Cookin’ include a vigorous swing coupled with a tightrope-walking freedom, a full-throated blues feeling filtered through a sharp-edged modernism. One common ground between the earliest jazz and the freedom of the avant-garde has always been collective improvisation, and Yanda was eager to pursue that concept with Gress and Haynes.
“We always wanted the interplay and the dialogue to continue among all of the players all of the time while the music is happening,” Yanda explains. “In straight ahead music there’s a tendency to have the rhythm section in the background with a soloist in front. We try to let everyone be free to improvise at any given time, so you get much more of a group improvisation feel and it opens a lot of doors for new sounds and creativity. Phil and Drew are masters at that; you’re always aware that they’re listening and reacting and feeding you ideas. It’s a wide open kind of experience.”
It’s an experience that the members of Yanda’s trio have sought to recreate in a number of different contexts. Yanda is a longtime member of Haynes’ “jazz-grass” string band Free Country, whose work spans the breadth of American music, from jazz to country to bluegrass. The pair also makes up two-thirds of The Hammond Brothers, a reimagining of the classic organ trio featuring B3 master Steve Adams. Yanda has also collaborated with trumpeter Herb Robertson.