with David Tronzo, electric slide guitar; Christian Kogel, electric guitar; J. Anthony Granelli, electric bass; Jerry Granelli, drums, steel sculpture
Release date: May 8, 2007 (US); April, 2007 (Canada)
Jerry Granelli's career in music spans the last 45 years. Drummer on Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas," cited in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the inventors of psychedelic music, pioneer in world-jazz fusion and electro-acoustic percussion, founder/co-director of the music department at Boulder's Naropa Institute, longtime associate of Mose Allison, Dewey Redman, Ralph Towner, Jane Ira Bloom, Julian Priester, Jay Clayton and Anthony Cox, and with a string of wide-ranging projects under his own name in the last 20 years, Granelli has been on the scene for so long - as percussionist, teacher and bandleader - that there may be a tendency to take him for granted.
Or not know where to pigeon-hole him. His last release for Songlines, Sandhills Reunion (SA1553-2) was an "audio movie" (with spoken text by Rinde Eckert) that covered a lot of musical and poetic ground. V16's first record came out in 2003 (The V16 Project, SA1544-2) with Anthony Cox on bass - though he never toured with the band - and with the current guitar team, the justly acclaimed David Tronzo and the equally talented Christian Kogel, a former student of Jerry's in Berlin and member of his previous two-guitar band UFB. Like those bands, V16 ambles through the jazz cloakroom without hanging its hat. This time round it's even less classifiable, although Jerry says that it "rocks out" but also that it represents "jazz as it can be in the 21st century....The material is plasma-like, always in flux and development. We all have these vast musical lives that we've led and that's what we bring with us....The band offers such a rich sound palette, I think of everybody as sound artists rather than musicians." (By the way, the steel sculpture that Jerry plays was made for him by San Francisco artist Peter Englehart). We've been searching for a tag for this music, but terms like "avant jamband" don't really convey what's going on; descriptions like "spacey ambient/improv/freeform roots'n'blues-cum-chamber jazz" are unwieldy. And partly beside the point - they identify some stylistic markers and approaches but not what makes it all hang together. Jerry's son J. Anthony, who also produced the record, puts it this way:
"We began to feel that instead of improvising around tunes we wanted to find a way to improvise within the tunes as a band. This is different than improvising on 'solo' changes or specific sections. The band became more interested in playing each tune as if we were a single entity, like a big eight-handed musician. In this way the fabric of each song could be stretched and changed as we felt in the moment. We wanted to play compositions that at the same time provided structure but could be deconstructed on the fly. We also started to use a kind of free counterpoint when we played....We are all very comfortable with the idea of using our instruments in a textural way. We approach our playing as if we are composing, but in real time, so this textural use of sound is very important to our process....Our only guideline is to try and convey meaning and depth in terms of the emotional qualities of the composition."
Jerry, who has been part of Halifax's Buddhist community for some twenty years, adds:
"There seems for me anyway to be a couple of things about whether there are limits or how it works. One is giving up the idea of SELF-expression...and being more interested, willing to let the music lead the way. This is perhaps one's primary skill as a spontaneous composer. And I think it takes years of practice - or better, doing - and the right players. That's why this band is so close to my heart. I love them all as people, and we have a past together musically, of different lengths, but we share common feelings about the music - also even the differences are interesting. The process of course involves both listening and responding, but the intention or motivation has to be serving the music, and enjoying the openness of the moment, so I guess there must be an element of fearlessness, and bravery...and trusting each other and the music."
So we made this audiophile recording of the band over two nights at the Halifax studio The Sonic Temple, as part of the 2006 Atlantic Jazz Festival, and you hear the tunes as they went down, unedited and in the order played: seven band originals and a James Brown cover played as a lyrical slow blues. Jerry: "There was a time when people went to clubs and heard a band 3 or 4 times in a week. They could hear the music grow and change, you could even hear 'bad nights' but there would always be something great. Now we seem to constantly search for perfection in music, rather than enjoying the process (nothing wrong with it being great music!). So we decided if we were going to do it, let's let it be the way it happened."