master of both the trumpet and flugelhorn, Bay Area based musician
/ composer Jeff Oster made music fans quite happy with his
recent albums, Next and Surrender and he will
no doubt make those same fans happy again with his 2016 CD Live!
The seven track Live! was recorded at The Fenix venue
in San Rafael California in late 2015 and early 2016. The CD was superbly
recorded with just the slightest audience noises and the recording
sounds great. For his first ever live CD, Jeff is joined by excellent
musicians including Michael Manring (bass), Todd Boston
(guitar), Celso Alberti (drums) and Frank Martin (keys).
Speaking to mwe3.com about the excellent band featured on his first
ever live album, Jeff explains, "It was more of a process
of looking back into my previous albums to find the songs I thought
would translate best to a live show. As you know, many of my recorded
songs tend to be big, in terms of the variety of sounds and colors,
and the live show environment might not always be best to share the
full nuance of some of the songs. It was clear to me after our very
first rehearsal that this group of musicians is very special, and
that only good things could come from capturing them in a live album
recording." Playing before a hometown crowd, Oster proves
to be a truly versatile musician. Drawing upon the best of his studio
work, Live! (including tracks from next and Surrender)
captures one of Americas best New Age / Ambient Jazz artists
in rare form performing before a most appreciative audience. www.facebook.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
JEFF OSTER : The LIVE! interview
After the superstar sessions on next, on the LIVE! CD
did you want to release a live document of who you are as a concert
artist and did you set out choose the best music from your past albums
to feature on Live?
Jeff Oster: It was more of a process of looking back into
my previous albums to find the songs I thought would translate best
to a live show. As you know, many of my recorded songs tend to be
big, in terms of the variety of sounds and colors, and the live show
environment might not always be best to share the full nuance of some
of the songs.
It was clear to me after our very first rehearsal that this group
of musicians is very special, and that only good things could come
from capturing them in a live album recording.
mwe3: Tell us about Serengeti, the first track
on Live! When did you write that track? It sounds like a great
opening number and did you make it extra long to showcase the chops
of the musicians you feature throughout the album? I was thinking
of Todd Bostons great wah-wah guitar solo. How did you come
up with the title Serengeti?
Jeff Oster: "Serengeti" was written back in 2007,
as a part of the album TRUE. At the time, Will Ackerman, the
producer of TRUE, was working with a Ugandan artist named Samite.
As I wrote it, I left space in the middle of the song for Samite to
speak in his language about Africa, and I immediately thought of the
Serengeti. On the album track, he speaks of the circle of life there
in the Serengeti in his language, and it sounds perfect. Heres
For the live version, the song grooves so naturally, and its
been one of my favorite tracks to play live. On this record, everyone
has a chance to stretch out. One of the best parts about working with
this band is each artists stellar talent makes it so easy to
just let them play freely, because I know that performances like the
ones we captured just flow like fine wine.
mwe3: Live! was recorded during two dates, one from
October 2015 and one from March 2016. Did both shows feature the same
tracks and musicians and how would you compare both concerts? Tell
us about the Fenix club in San Rafael. The recorded sound is great
too, did you have some parameters as far as how the recording would
sound? Also its amazing that Merl Saunders Jr. did some live
engineering on Live! His dad is the Bay Area legend who worked
with Jerry Garcia?
Oster: Both shows featured the same musicians, with the addition
of vocalist Roberta Donnay on one of the tracks we recorded in March
of 2016. Each show had two 1 hour long sets, and we played many of
the same tracks in both shows. However, and this is a testament to
the amazing musicianship of this band, two of the songs that made
it on to the album "Once In A Blue Moonlight" and
"Voce Quer Dancar" had never been performed
live. They were included for the first time in the 2 hour rehearsal
wed done the day before the March 2016 show, and then live at
the show. What these artists did with the tracks the first time out
was nothing short of magic!
Wed played several shows as a group between October 2015 show
and March 2016, and I think that on certain songs the band had more
of a settled feel on the March show. The only track we used from October
2015 was Half A Cookie. There was the right amount of
special sauce on that one to add it to the album.
Merl Saunders Jr. is the manager of the Fenix in San Rafael. Yes,
hes the son of that Bay Area legend, and has performed quite
a bit in his own right over the years. This club is made for live
music, and everything from the live stream video system, to the sound
system in the club, and full ProTools audio recording capabilities
is designed to present live music in a most professional way. Everything
from the green room, to the club layout, is designed for a great artist
and listener experience.
When you take Merls skill and eyes and ears, and the live engineering
prowess of Martin V, I had everything I needed to make this album.
Todd Boston not only played on the album, but he also mixed the live
tracks. He is amazing! And when you finish it off with Tom Eaton mastering
it at Imaginary Road Studios, you can certainly hear the results.
For a live album, it sure sounds rich and full!
Tell us about the band you assembled on Live! Thats the
cream of the crop of Bay Area musicians. Frank Martins keyboards
are quite impressive. Tell us how you met both Todd Boston and Frank
and how about using Jeff Taboloff on sax? You usually play most of
the horn parts yourself. Tell us about working with Jeff and the Bay
Area Wrecking Crew.
Jeff Oster: I love it The Bay Area Wrecking Crew
indeed Ive met so many great musicians here in the Bay
Area, and Todds introduction came from my good friend and stellar
guitarist Shambhu Vineberg. We met at a jam session at my house years
ago, and he and I have had the good fortune to work together, sharing
in many really sweet musical moments. Hes one of my good friends
as well as an artist I deeply enjoy working with.
I was introduced to Frank Martin by our drummer, the Man From Brazil,
Celso Alberti. Celso and Frank have worked together for many years,
on many wonderful projects. To have Frank add his amazing talent on
keys to my band is a great gift. You can hear his skill in every note
he plays. He is not only an amazing performer, but also is a fine
teacher as well. He gives back to so many other musicians, helping
And last but not least, theres Jeff Taboloff. This kid is destined
to be one of the great smooth jazz saxophone artists of our time.
I met him in a Motown band I play in from time to time, and he and
I have this really great conversation that I wanted to bring to Jeff
Oster LIVE! He adds so much, and his live performance especially
adds an electricity to my show that I appreciate so much.
Heres a taste.
mwe3: Voce Quer Dancar is track two on Live!
That track is from Surrender, your 2011 CD. What inspired
that track and what about the title? It sounds like the perfect segue
from Serengeti. Is the title Brazilian? It even has a
couple of those hard to pronounce accents in the title! I couldnt
even find the font! Theres another great Todd Boston guitar
solo in that track.
Oster: That title means Would you like to dance in
Portuguese. I remember creating the song on Surrender with
Bryan Carrigan, and the feel of the song felt like a tango, with a
slinky South American groove. Google translate helped with the rest!
And yes, I think that this is one of Todd Bostons best recorded
electric guitar solos, at least of the ones Ive heard. He KILLS
it on this track!
mwe3: Once In A Blue Moonlight is another great
Live! track. Tell us where that one came from and what was
it like working with Roberta Donnay on that song. Her cameo vocals
are great! Is Roberta another Bay Area star and could you see doing
more work with her in the future?
Jeff Oster: Once In A Blue Moonlight was co-written
with the great Jan Pulsford. She is a prolific songwriter and performer,
having worked with Cyndi Lauper on many of her hits and way more.
We collaborated on two songs from my album TRUE back in 2007,
and this was one of the tracks that I felt might translate well in
a live show environment. Boy was I right! Again, this song and "Voce
Quer Dancar" had never been performed live by this band.
Adding Roberta Donnays live energy and powerful vocals to the
song just took it to a whole new level. Roberta is one of the worlds
greatest performers and, with her Prohibition Mob Band, she brings
to life some of the greatest songs from the 1930s 40s
50s and more
she is POWERFUL to see and hear live, and
I most certainly hope to work more with her in the future.
mwe3: I Cant Make You Love Me was a highlight
of next from 2015 and it really works well in a live setting
too. Is that one of your great show pieces? I think youve done
the only instrumental version of that song right?
Oster: This song is one of my favorites ever. Although
made famous by Bonnie Raitt, its been covered SO many times,
I assume both instrumentally and of course with the deep lyrics written
by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin. It most certainly is one that I FEEL
as I play it live, and since its the only cover song I play,
its familiar to audiences which always adds a bit to the performance.
mwe3: Track 5 Half A Cookie is one of your great
tracks. It has that spacy sonic effect that sometimes puts you in
the space jazz genre! The trumpet is a greatly overlooked instrument
in space music, or are you playing Flugelhorn on that track? Whats
the difference between the trumpet and the flugelhorn, for most of
us non-horn players? I just interviewed Mike Metheny and his new 12
For The Road album. I think you and him are now the worlds
greatest flugelhorn players. Would you consider doing an album with
Mike, maybe Pat too? You cant have too much flugelhorn right?
Jeff Oster: "Half A Cookie" is played on flugelhorn,
as are most of my songs. Made popular by Chuck Mangione on his hit
Feels So Good, the flugel is a darker warmer brass instrument,
in the same key as the trumpet. I play it on almost all of my songs,
recorded and live. It just FEELS SO GOOD to me as I play it
its the closest expression of my true musical self.
As you mention, trumpet or flugelhorn is not common in ambient space
music. I describe my sound as Miles Meets Pink Floyd,
just so people have some idea of what to expect. My instrument is
most often associated with jazz standards, Latin and bebop, or classical.
Most traditional horn players dont quite know what to make of
my style, washed in reverb and effects, its almost synthesized
sounding sometimes, and there are purists who arent used to
hearing the horn sound that way.
I play what I feel, and Ive always loved progressive rock music
from YES, Pink Floyd, the Orb and Tangerine Dream, and when you add
in Will Ackerman, Steely Dan and most of Windham Hill, you end up
with Jeff Oster. At least, the Jeff Oster so far. And for you to include
me with Mike Metheny, and to say Im one of the worlds
great flugel players, well, thank you for thinking that. Its
most certainly my goal to play it as sweetly as possible, and if that
leads to Mike and Pat and more, then it is a journey worth taking!
Its been a great one so far.
Track six on Live!, Night Train To Sofia is a great
follow up to Half A Cookie. Another evocative song with
an equally evocative title. Bulgaria? Have you been there yet? When
did you write that and what made you want to cover it on the Live!
CD? Seems like the band is firing on all cylinders here! Can you
compare this live version with the original studio version?
Jeff Oster: This was a track written for NEXT, my 2015
album. The recorded track features Chuck Rainey on bass and Bernard
Purdie on drums, so the feel is just perfect, created by two of historys
greatest and most recorded rhythm players.
I certainly love Europe and hope to tour there someday. The songs
title was inspired by the vocals of Melissa R. Kaplan. Will Ackerman
also co-produced NEXT, and on this track he felt that it needed
something to contrast the groove, to have us taken to a different
space. Melissa created these vocals, and I couldnt help but
think of Bulgaria, and that led us to the capitol city of Sofia. Bernard
and Chucks groove provided the night train, right?
The live version is actually pretty close to the recorded one, except
for the double time groove at the end. Thats the creativity
of my band, and drummer Celso Alberti in particular. His rhythmic
ideas are really the spark of much of the dynamics we create on stage.
mwe3: Tell us about The Man From Brazil. Seems
like a peppy way to end the Live! concert. After the spacier
tracks, did you want to get everyone back on their feet for the trip
home? Seems like Brazil would be a great destination for your music.
Oster: This track is an improv created live by the band from a
loop created by our drummer Celso Alberti. Hes from Brazil,
and most certainly brings that Latin beat and groove to so much of
our music. When I create a live set list, it is a journey of sorts,
and I pay attention to where the audience might go as they come along
for the ride. Since I do have a few songs that tend to be close
your eyes and dream music, I always feel its important
to add a bit of energy as we close out a set. This one most certainly
mwe3: Are you jazzed by the reaction to your music worldwide?
Are fans here and abroad as accepting of American jazz as they were
in the mid 1970s, which is commonly referred to as the golden age
Jeff Oster: I feel that many of the people around the world
that are able to hear my music embrace it quite a bit. Not all of
course, but those that get it really seem to enjoy it.
My music is different, especially as a horn player. This presents
some challenges, especially in terms of booking the band. Its
hard to put my music into a particular genre or box. Its jazz,
funk, space music, New Age, Electronic, a bit of Latin, classical,
and I could go on. You can see how that might make it a bit challenging
for a club owner or record store to put us in one of those more traditional
Im kind of proud of that actually. I think that I make Jeff
Oster music, and I am often told that when someone hears my horn,
they know its me without even looking. THATs success as
far as Im concerned.
mwe3: I know you grew up in South Florida. Do you still have
any roots in Florida? Been some killer humidity here this summer!
Do you ever miss Florida?
Jeff Oster: I spent six years living in Florida, graduating
from Coral Gables High. My parents lived there for the rest of their
lives, and my brother Rick still lives in Jacksonville. I have old
friends living in Islamorada and Key West, and many new friends in
Tampa and Orlando.
spent some incredible years there, those formative high school years.
So many of my experiences were shaped by the unique environment that
is South Florida camping in the Everglades for weeks at a time
with my friends, overnight fishing trips in the Keys, sailing and
boating in Biscayne Bay. I used to spend time in South Beach, back
when it was the place youd go to get away from the crowds!
And yes, I most certainly dont miss the humidity, mosquitoes
and 3 inch cockroaches.
mwe3: I remember speaking with Fiona Joy and she had mentioned
that she was looking to form a band with you and Will Ackerman. What
ever happened to that great idea and tell us about future plans you
have for 2016 into 2017. Looks like its another transition year.
Jeff Oster: That project Fiona Joy was talking about is called
FLOW. That name comes from the artists that are a part of this amazing
project Fiona, Lawrence Blatt, Oster and
Will Ackerman. We have already spent a week tracking at Wills
Imaginary Road Studios, with Tom Eaton co-producing and engineering.
Weve all brought songs to the group and created new ones together,
and as weve all added our touches, a very unique sound has emerged.
We are going back in during November 2016 to add more to the tracks,
and hope to finish and release the new FLOW album sometime
And theres another more secret project I am working
on. It will present my horn playing in ways I never have before. MUCH
different than FLOW, this music is something that pushes the
boundaries far outside of anything
Ive done. This one should also be released sometime in 2017,
and it will be very interesting to watch what happens as this new
music makes its way into the world. Im a really lucky guy. I
get to create with some of the finest artists in the world, and get
to express my joy and pain, happiness and sorrow, and everything in
between through music. I wouldnt have it any other way...