Guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg releases his exciting first live recording with “CAPTURING SPIRITS – JKQ LIVE! (New for Now Music)
Featuring Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar, Martin Bejerano on piano, Matt Clohesy on bass, and Colin Stranahan on drums.
Combining timeless melodicism with forward–thinking lines and textures, the music of guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg has long connected with the hearts and minds of listeners around the world. This was evident in several studio albums that became modern classics for many in the jazz guitar community. However, until today the energy of Kreisberg’s epic live shows had remained undocumented on record. Now with the release of “Capturing Spirits – JKQ Live!”, listeners will take part in a special evening of improvisational risk taking, instrumental storytelling, and performances of bold new compositions. The album also features JKQ’s new lineup of cuban-american pianist Martin Bejerano (the right hand man of the great Roy Haynes for 10 years, as well as Ignacio Berroa as of late), as well as the sophisticated yet organic groove machine of bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Colin Stranahan.
The album took shape earlier this year while Kreisberg and company were on a whirlwind tour in Europe. “I was feeling great about the direction of this new lineup and the songs were really being explored in new ways every night. I was beginning to plan a studio date to try to document what was happening.” Then the band experienced a tough travel day that stretched the limits of what the usual “new city-new day” jazz tours call upon, and they arrived directly from the airport to the stage in Düsseldorf, Germany. “As many improvising musicians can attest to, there are moments where certain tough life conditions call upon a certain survival mode. It’s usually not comfortable, but it can actually help to cut out the thinking aspect of playing music and deliver the players directly to a performance based on feeling. This was one of those nights for us, and I think it was a special one.”
Upon leaving the stage, the band mentioned to club manager and audio engineer Lars Wallat, “wow! it’s a shame we didn’t record that one!”. Then with a quick and mischievous wink from Lars, Kreisberg realized that he had in fact made a multitrack recording of the gig. It suddenly struck Kreisberg that the music had been best suited for a live album all along. He says of the opening track, “The Lift is in fact all about the connection between jazz musician and listener.” Jonathan’s years of playing alongside Hammond Organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith have provided constant affirmation of his feeling that, “one of the prime purposes we play music is to make people feel something. The Doc and I have always bonded on this subject. Hopefully I can lift up their spirits in some way, especially when they really need it. This in turn lifts mine! That is the central theme of The Lift.”
The title of the swinging second track, Trust Fall, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a team building exercise where an employee falls backward to hopefully be caught by his co-workers. Kreisberg adds, “Trust Falls are actually happening constantly in a great jazz group… and especially live!” The rapport between this particular quartet is living proof of this dynamic in full swing.
“Track three,” says Kreisberg, “began as a simple R and B slow jam that I was having fun with but became something much heavier when I brought it to the band. It really seems to resonate whenever we play it live. The name Everything Needs Something just seemed to fit. It’s about universal emotional connectivity”. The tune features an open soulfulness not normally associated with the current crop of highbrow academic jazz. Matt Clohesy’s masterful bass statement preaches this beautifully. Kreisberg conjures some previously unheard sounds on the solo and the vamp out section.
Then the set picks back up with Relativity, a harmonically complex yet driving piece that is fueled by Stranahan’s uniquely propulsive drumming. It features Kreisberg and Bejerano breaking new ground in exciting solo statements.
Known You Before is a cinematic piece that has two distinct sections. “With all of its textural changes, I would’ve originally imagined it would make sense to record in the studio. But Martin playing the fender rhodes and piano with one hand on each really made it work live. This one has a really different feeling than most of my music and I’d like to explore the direction some more.”
Wild Animals We’ve Seen is the only previously recorded Kreisberg original of the set and a far more fiery version than the studio take from 2014’s WAVE UPON WAVE. “The original recording was a piano-less quartet, but I realized later that the real inspiration behind the tune was a kind of modern approach to the Coltrane Quartet sound, and that the piano was crucial to provide the harmonic power for the composition. After that it became even stronger and took on a new life. I’m so happy to document such a raw and risk taking version on this album!”
Then in an unexpectedly traditional turn of events, the trio of Kreisberg, Clohesy and Stranahan perform an encore of the classic Body and Soul. Kreisberg explains, “Some of our live shows are so intense harmonically and packed with modern music that I love to just call a standard as an encore. It’s also fun to play in a big hall in some far corner of the world and then attempt to transport everyone to an intimate NYC club for a moment!” As an album closer it feels a bit like coming home to earth after an interstellar journey with this crew.
This kind of overarching storytelling spirit is felt in the way Kreisberg structures his live set as well as his playing in general. JazzTimes writer Allen Morrison mentioned, “Despite his sometimes astonishing facility, or maybe because of it, Kreisberg tries to cultivate humility when he plays. His melodies, sometimes acrobatic, sometimes lyrical, often convey surprising emotional depth.” While master vibraphonist Joe Locke has long said, “Jonathan Kreisberg is a great musician whose playing and writing always tell a story. His formidable technique and intellect never get in the way, but only serve the agenda of the heart.” JazzTimes magazine on another occasion also raved of Kreisberg’s “extraordinary melodic, harmonic and rhythmic finesse” and the guitarist’s “vast imagination.”
These accolades and the reputation of his live shows would help explain the repeated requests from Kreisberg’s fans over the years to document the experience. Now with Capturing Spirits – JKQ Live! the wait is over.Come along for the ride as these master musicians push the limits of modern expansive jazz and create an album that truly captures the spirit!