Jay Graydon’s latest project is simply titled, "BEBOP." This latest CD is a fire-driven collection that offers great interplay between stellar players, in a "fun" and relaxed setting that has some really great moments of jazz improvisation and conversations. Graydon has come full circle from the time he was a young child and spoke about his favorite music. The first thing you hear on "BEBOP" is Jay Graydon’s father posing a question to Jay on a live radio program his father hosted. Jay’s answer to his question was "bebop," and he’s stated his return to the music with this energetic release.
In order to fully appreciate Jay Graydon’s career, one would only need to browse his website and see his achievements and awards. What I found so refreshing was the fire that came from "Mr. West Coast" and the energy that oozes from the disk. While editing a fruitful career would do some injustice to such a great talent, I will introduce Mr. Jay Graydon to you with this brief introduction:
Graydon has performed on soundtracks to "Grease" and "Lady Sings the Blues," while penning film scores to "Ghostbusters" and "St. Elmos Fire." Jay is the guitarist soloing on "Peg" from the Steely Dan release, ‘AJA’ which etched a signature in pop/rock music history forever. He co-wrote "After The Love Has Gone" and "Turn Your Love Around," which both received Grammy Awards for Best R&B song. Graydon also produced Al Jarreau, which garnered much attention as Best Engineered Recording and Producer of the Year nominations for his expertise. He is also running his independent record label, Sonic Thrust, and serving the music industry as a music consultant who helps bridge technology and art together. If this edited listing isn’t enough Graydon is working on a series of books about recording techniques with Craig Anderton. It would be a sure bet the information in these books will be gospel, given the preacher!
In our discussion over a great career and quest for even more success, I couldn’t help feeling like I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a great master of music. Jay is candid, excited, and full of information about his knowledge of what works in the music industry. Graydon definitely likes a challenge and is currently adding educator, industry consultant, and author to his Grammy Awards and Gold & Platinum certifications. Jazz students will be able to perform with Jay and his stellar band mates with his "Music Minus One Series" called "JAM with the Band," CD’s for guitar, sax, piano, bass and drums. Could you see and hear you grooving and soloing with Jay and Dave Weckl? Let’s look into the mind and hands of the music master, while we gain some insight into how a creative mind can touch the collective heart of music peers, the nation, and the world. A beautiful mind indeed!
JazzReview: Greetings Jay, I’m glad to speak with you about your latest recording project, "Bebop," and go to some great highlights of your important impact on the music scene as a guitarist and producer. We appreciate your time.
JazzReview: When you approach a recording project of original material, it must be hard to focus on which style you are going to be packaging because you are so talented, and equally versatile in so many different genres of music.
Jay Graydon: I thank you for your kind words. Regarding "focus", that is not a problem after I decide upon the style of music. Typically, pop music is the type of album I record as an artist. The "BEBOP" album happened quite by accident. I get called to consult and Beta test product from time-to-time. Marcus Ryle (chief designer of the ADATs and much more, and the co-owner of LINE 6 (guitar amps), typically brings me into such projects. I needed to record a project as to beta test the ALESIS M20s. I considered recording a pop record, but that would typically use 16-bit samplers for drums, etc. I decided to record a bebop album as the recorder format is pro and needed real players as to show the sonics in full.
On the pop side of things, around February 25, 2002, I am releasing a pop album that was not available in the states and most other territories. The album is entitled "Airplay for the planet," and includes singers such as Joseph Williams (TOTO), Bill Champlin (Chicago), Sherwood Ball, Warren Wiebe, and Bill Cantos. This album is quality pop along the lines of Steely Dan and the like.
JazzReview: Could you elaborate on your process of evaluating your focus for any project and how "BEBOP" became a full circle return to your initial roots with your father?
Jay Graydon: When I produce an artist, the key is to know what the artist is about musically. The next step is to take them to the next level without hurting their core audience, meaning, "how do I get more sales and still keep them happy?" For the most part, I feel I have done a good job. I took Al Jarreau from total jazz into POP/R&B/AC, similar with the Manhattan Transfer and a few others. The bottom line here is to take chances and hope I first- guessed correctly. In most cases, I did my job.
Regarding my "BEBOP" album, my Dad was in his twenties when bebop surfaced. He was a great pop singer of his era, but not a jazz singer per se. Since he was very musical, he appreciated bebop and opened me up to the style of music at a very young age. This must have been subliminal as I do not remember the content as a kid, but in the "rap" with my father on his TV show in 1950, on my 2nd birthday, I state, "I liked bebop!"
JazzReview: Jay, you have always had a great sound and I believe that is one of the strongest quality a player, especially at your level, can have. As a player, how do you approach getting into a great sound from the roots up?
Jay Graydon: The never-ending story! Obviously, it starts with the guitar. I like low action and light strings. I adjust the neck of the guitar to be almost straight (just a sight back bow). Most important that the high "E" string does not "plunk" out when playing high up on the neck (around the 12th fret and past). This is most important when using a clean sound as with the "BEBOP" album. I decided to record "direct" using an Eddy Reynolds’ direct box that has not been available for many years. I have been looking for Eddy for years with no luck. If anyone knows how to find him, please drop me an e-mail at www.jaygraydon.com.
When going through many guitars for the "BEBOP" CD, I learned something. As mentioned, I want the high "E" (and other strings as well) to sing up high. One of my guitars has a fingerboard that slightly angles down around the 12th fret. This really helps the issue mentioned! Since then, when getting frets dressed on guitars by John Carruthers, I have him file slightly more around the 12th fret and higher. The key is to find the point where the neck bow starts coming back up and then smooth out and down from there to the end of the neck.
When listening to the "BEBOP" record, you will notice what I am talking about, meaning when I play up high, there is very little "fret out." It occasionally happens when I picked too hard, but for the most part, the notes sing.
Regarding a good distortion sound, obviously the amp is very important. I like a smooth mid- range tone without too much top end. My Rivera signature amps have such a tone. These are now only custom built by Paul. Anyone interested can go to www.rivera.com and Paul will build one.
The way I set up these days, in this era, is I always overdub as to have control over the sound. If hired to play solos, it usually requires a distortion sound. The best way to do this is to have the signal to the guitar amp with no effects. The reason being is pitch shifting and delays cause the amp head and speakers to "sweat" in an unfriendly manner. If using the effects after the amp mic, this gets rid of the problem.
Note that I am in the control room. I use my Bossa signature guitar (I am now looking for another signature guitar deal), and plug an Orange Squeezer compressor at the output. The Orange Squeezer output goes into an Ernie Ball volume pedal input. The volume pedal goes into the amp head. The amp bottom is in the studio (another room) and is miked. Miking details will be available very soon in a book series that I am writing along with Craig Anderton, along with full recording techniques.
The mic is routed into a mixer input and bused to a recorder track. The mic module is also assigned to two buses: one routes to a harmonizer, and the other routes to a deal line. The harmonizer returns to a non-used mixer module and the delay returns to another non-used mixer module. Both mixer modules are assigned to the same recorder track as the mic. I set the harmonizer slightly sharp, and set the delay line to 45 milliseconds. I blend in the effects to taste. The bus output to the recorder gets slightly compressed through a GML compressor.
Block diagram: Guitar to Orange Squeezer compressor, Orange Squeezer to volume pedal, volume pedal to amp input, and amp head speaker out to speaker bottom in another room.
Amp miked with Shure SM 57 mic patched into mixer module input bused to three buses one for recorder track, one for harmonizer, one for the delay line. Harmonizer and delay line returns to two unused mixer modules. Both harmonizer and delay line get assigned to recorder track bus. Recorder track bus patches into GML compressor. GML compressor output patched into recorder track input.
JazzReview: Bebop has some great guitar sounds, not to mention the burning solos throughout. I was impressed with how you and the players come across as a band, and not just a bunch of seasoned players just laying down a session.
Jay Graydon: Thanks man! I ran down the sound thing as mentioned above. Regarding the playing, most of the guys in the band rarely play bebop, so the energy and fun factor really sticks out.
JazzReview: When I listen to "BEBOP" as a collection, I sense you had a really great time with this project. With your earlier success with Grammy Awards and songwriter credits, you must feel like you have even more to say now as an instrumentalist. I’ve missed hearing you on the "Thicke of the Night" talk show. I’m glad you’re back.
Jay Graydon: Man, I seem to be answering questions before you ask. Yeah, we had so much fun playing the stuff. I never though I would do an instrumental album, but as I mentioned, this happened quite by accident. Will I do this again? That depends upon the sales. Making a jazz record is fun, but selling such a product is tough.
JazzReview: Were the arrangements for "BEBOP" penned recently or did you get the inspiration over a long stretch of time before recording?
Jay Graydon: I wrote about half the songs in a few days. The others were written with Bill Cantos, and that took a few days as well. The arrangements were simply chord charts with the melody written out. There were a few things written out to catch and some of the stuff was worked out on the session. The tracks were all recorded in one night and typically, only two or three takes per song.
JazzReview: The band really cooks on all the numbers! Beside you, there is Dave Weckl on drums, Dave Carpenter on bass, Bill Cantos on piano and Brandon Fields on sax. You guys play well together. This would be a treat to see live. Do you have any plans to tour around the country with this line-up?
Jay Graydon: That won’t happen, as all the guys in the band are involved with many projects.
JazzReview: I thought your treatment of the Star Spangled Banner was fantastic and seemed to be like an original version, not derivative of any other I’ve ever heard. The rippling harmonics were really beautiful and gave a sensitive touch to the anthem. This piece showcases your great touch.
Jay Graydon: Here is the story. I was in Japan promoting my album, "Airplay for the Planet." I was asked to do a video for a major TV show. They asked that I play the "Star Spangled Banner," starting with a melodic chord melody thing and then break into a Jimi Hendrix thing. I spent a few hours in the hotel working out the chord melody thing. When I got back to L.A., the song came to mind and I finished the chord melody arrangement in full. I never thought I would record the arrangement, but when I recorded the "BEBOP" album, a few of my guitar pals said I should record the arrangement. Most bizarre is that the track has major meaning in this era!
JazzReview: I like the stop time phrases on the head of "Tubs." This piece really lets Dave Weckl showcase his varied swing rhythms and swing dynamics. The band is really jamming on "Tub," while your sound is really thick and the harmony guitar lines work like a horn section.
Jay Graydon: Yeah, this song was written to feature Dave. This is the only song in which I used a distortion sound. I wanted to use the front pickup and most of my amps are set up for the rear pickup, meaning the front pickup sounds too thick and mushy in distortion land. My Cruise amp has a channel blend option that allows 2, 3, or 4 channels to be blended. When in blend mode, the sound gets smaller since blending needs this as to not spread out. I used a clean sound, blended with a distortion sound, that resulted in note definition along with distortion.
JazzReview: Jay, You have had a lot of success in various formats in music. There really isn’t any other instrumentalist that has such a varied music industry appeal. You’ve been able to capture awards for production, engineering, songwriting and with your instrumental prowess. Do you miss the songwriting now or have you passed into a phase of falling in total love with instrumental music and your guitar?
Jay Graydon: Instrumental music does not sell as well as vocal stuff. I truly love playing jazz. If the album sells well, I would do others. In the mean time, I am back to writing and producing.
JazzReview: Your solo in the Steely Dan classic, "Peg," is etched in the history of rock music forever. This must make you feel great. I think you really made a great contribution to the track, but most importantly, you help progress the soloing feel in rock so much. Your work in the 70s & 80s really changed FM radio forever.
Jay Graydon: You are too kind! Playing solos can be scary as I am always on the edge of the chair hoping I can connect ideas that makes sense.
JazzReview: How does this accomplishment feel to you now?
Jay Graydon: It seems that the "Peg" solo is the one mentioned more than others. I truly love the fact that 25 years later, it still gets noticed as a quality solo.
JazzReview: Could you elaborate on your quest for great sounds on the guitar? Did your sensitivity to the guitar opens you to production or did the production help your guitar playing even though your chops were down?
Jay Graydon: I ran that down earlier. Regarding record production, that does not have much to do with the guitar. Arranging and psychology are the keys here. Also, business dealings are added into the equation.
Regarding guitar chops, when producing an artist, even me as an artist regarding vocal records, guitar playing suffers big time! During the course of making a record, I play guitar for about a week and spend months doing all of the other production stuff. In the last 20 years, if I had been playing straight through, I would be a much better guitarist. The trade off was worth it regarding making a living.
JazzReview: The one aspect that hits me when listening to "Bebop," other than the sheer fun of the project, is your energy and passion on all the performances. That passion is rare today.
Jay Graydon: Just doing what comes from the heart.
JazzReview: Do you have any sage advice or words of music wisdom for someone wanting to work more in the jazz and smooth jazz markets?
Jay Graydon: Try to not sound like other artists.
JazzReview: I like the humorous feel that you display on the track "Oh Yes, There Will," where you perform over "There Will Never Be Another You." This is a great tribute to your father and the great musical lineage both of you has recorded for jazz music fans.
Jay Graydon: Many of the titles are intentionally humorous. "My Hot Girth" is an anagram of "I Got Rhythm." "G Wizz" needs no explanation. "Blow Man" is a common term with old-school jazzers when a cat is told to take a solo. "C Bop" is simply Bebop in "C." "Tubs" relates to drums.
JazzReview: I would like to mention to the readers that you have an ambitious project for students where they can perform with you and the band in a "Music Minus One" format. I’m looking forward to trying this out my self. That’s a great idea. Did you get the idea from working with students or just decide now is the time for some teaching materials?
Jay Graydon: There have been similar recordings over the years, but very little with great players in this era (as far as I know). Since I could mix in that fashion, I did so. Yeah, players will have fun jamming with this stuff! I am in negotiations with a major regarding release. You can check my web sight for release information. When released, the buyer gets the "Minus One" CD and a book with all the charts. Also, check out www.line6.com. They have just launched a play-along, online site for guitar players. Three of the songs are available on the site! The site has the charts, as well in real time.
JazzReview: Thanks for your time Jay. We really appreciate you shedding some light on your latest activities and the music of "Bebop." I’ve had a blast listening to your work over the years and who knows, maybe another Grammy is around the corner. Best regards and take care.
Jay Graydon: My pleasure. Hey, another Grammy is always welcome! By the way, one more thing, I am now consulting for D’Addario regarding their cable line called "Planet Waves." This stuff is great for all instruments and consumer-to-pro recording studios!
For more information on Jay Graydon and his massive discography, log on to his website, and for copies of his exceptional "BEBOP" CD, try www.cdstreet.com. Fine!